Mil Times: VA Doctor Regrets Post Telling Gun Advocate to ‘Off’ Himself

Gregg-Gorton-Facebook-Post

So typically VA.

Gorton was responding to a post that came through his Facebook page by an apparent gun-rights supporter, according to images posted to the website Imgur and described by the newspaper.

“I am all for gun control,” the user wrote. “If there is a gun in the room, I want to be in control of it.”

Gorton replied: “Off yourself, please.”

Gorton said he would not call himself a gun-control activist.

“I have concerns about gun violence, but many of us do,” he said.

He should have concerns about his next paycheck, because he should be fired immediately.

For what it is worth, and it is worth a ton, the VA Hospital in Philadelphia commented on the incident, as the AP tells:

“The post was totally inappropriate and does not convey our commitment to veterans. We are taking steps immediately to address the situation,” the VA told the newspaper.

Yes, it perfectly portrays your commitment to Veterans.   And is a symptom of a much larger problem.

In an unrelated matter, VA officials told Congress this month that nearly a dozen employees at the regional office in Philadelphia could face discipline over their errant handling of a backlog of benefit claims.

The VA’s inspector general had found that Philadelphia staff neglected mail, altered claims dates and reviews and made $2.2 million in duplicate benefit payments as it tried to reduce backlogs.

Unrelated, my ass.  The debacles in Phoenix and in Philadelphia and across the VA system should result in people being charged with criminal misconduct (including Federal charges relating to retribution against whistle-blowers), and if clinicians are found to have had knowledge or willfully participated in the scandals, they should have their licenses to practice medicine revoked.

The VA is an unaccountable, unresponsive, inefficient, bureaucratic nightmare, where medical care is decidedly uneven.  There are good people trying to do good work, to be sure.  But far, far too many who are of the ilk that begets the kind of despicable and dishonest mismanagement we hear about daily from the VA.  Secretary Bob McDonald, who took over for Eric Shinsecki, needs to fire people, loudly and publicly.  Heads on plates.  Gregg Gorton’s should be among them.  Along with his newly-revoked license to practice psychiatry.   If Gorton’s head is not on that plate today, perhaps Bob McDonald’s head should be served.

How the sequester is crippling the Army

As a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative, we fully support the sequester. A line in the sand must be drawn against the ever increasing levels of federal spending. And if that impacts the budget of the armed forces, so be it. Even in a world with multiple and complex security challenges, the stupendous levels of federal debt are our greatest national security threat.

But the problems the sequester foists upon the services are real, and are having real, immediate impacts upon the services.

The actual monetary cuts the sequester imposes on the services are fairly modest. Under FY13 (last year) the main cause of pain was that the full dollar amount of savings had to be realized in only half the fiscal year.  The Obama administration fully expected a deal to avoid the cuts to be inked, and so steadfastly prohibited DoD and the services from even planning for the possibility of the cuts until the very last moment.  The way monies are allocated to the DoD meant that most funds for the FY were already allocated or obligated. In short, the only places it was even possible to make any cuts were in Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and Personnel funds. Some O&M funds simply had to be spent, merely to continue operations (like, say, Afghanistan) already underway. So the training budget for units not tagged to deploy were slashed.

And the passage of a Continuing Resolution, while providing somewhat reasonable levels of funding for the Army, is still disastrous in the long term. Why? Because the CR is just that, a continuation of previous funding authority. In effect, the Army cannot move funding levels from one account to another, and are locked into the spending priorities set well over three years ago.

I’m not the only one who sees things this way:

When I first joined the military the United States Army alone had some 780,000 troops in 18 divisions. It was near the end of the Cold War, the inter-German border still represented a very real potential combat zone and — if one was looking only at the numbers — this was probably about the high-point of the “peacetime” Army. We had the manpower we needed. The “Big Five” combat systems were coming into the field* and most of the detritus from the post-Vietnam period had been flushed from the system. Plus, in the past several years the Army had well and truly taken to the philosophy of honest and hard free-for-all training as a means of evening the gap by developing quality whereas our potential opponents had the quantity. This was best exemplified by the National Training Center (in the Mojave Desert of California) and the Combat Training Center at Hohenfels, Germany.

We trained hard and in all environments across the planet, and at any given moment we had at least a dozen “combat ready” divisions. (A division was, at that time, anywhere from 17-23,000 men.) And because good equipment and hard training costs money, it cost a lot of money. But in the wake of nearly perpetual poor performances of the US Army in the first battles of every war, our late-70s leadership decided “Never Again.” American units would train to the highest levels, with exacting but realistic standards, and we would do it so comprehensively that we would win, the first time, every time. In the process we would be saving innumerable lives, not only our own, but all sides because we would be able to fight so fast that the wars would be shorter. Only when a unit was fully trained would it be certified as “combat ready,” and that status would only last so long before it had to be trained again.

According to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army, as of yesterday, the entire US Army currently has only two combat brigades ready for combat.

Why? Well, we are not that much smaller than we were a few months or years ago. Though the drawdown has begun, it is only just starting and it should last four years. Oh, wait, that was the plan… until yesterday. Now we are cutting 80,000 in just two years. Perfect. (Hyperlinks in original)

You’ve probably seen where the Army Chief of Staff announced that only two Brigade Combat Teams are fully trained right now.

WASHINGTON, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Two years of budget cuts and fiscal uncertainty have forced the U.S. Army to greatly curtail spending on training, leaving it with only two combat brigades fully prepared to go to war, the Army’s top officer said on Monday.
“Right now, we have in the Army two brigades that are trained. That’s it. Two,” General Ray Odierno told a news conference at the annual conference of the Association of the U.S. Army.
Odierno’s comments came as he and Army Secretary John McHugh discussed the impact of the recent U.S. government shutdown as well as across-the-board budget cuts that forced the military to slash spending in March, nearly halfway through its fiscal year.
McHugh and Odierno both appealed to Congress to find a way to give the military more financial predictability so it can plan effectively. McHugh said that with the way the military is currently funded, budgets that are approved today are based on planning that occurred three years earlier.
“You can’t run the most important military on the face of the Earth locked into three-year-old budgets,” McHugh said.
The Army was hit particularly hard by the cuts in March, known as sequestration, because of higher-than-projected Afghanistan war costs and the need to make up those funds from its operations accounts, which include money for training.
“We had to stop training, basically, in the last six months of the year,” Odierno said.

That doesn’t mean all training has ceased, but virtually all training above the individual, squad and platoon level has been curtailed. It costs a lot of money to send a company of tanks to the field for a week or two. Fuel, food, spare parts, ammunition, batteries and all sorts of sundries add up quickly. Even more expensive is sending an entire Brigade Combat Team to the field. Few posts actually have sufficient real estate to conduct quality training for an entire BCT so there’s the added expense of shipping the BCT’s people and equipment to a training area large enough to handle that size unit. And since that’s money the Army doesn’t have, they just aren’t doing it.

But units that haven’t trained together for their wartime mission, as integrated units, will find it difficult, if not impossible, to successfully complete those wartime missions. As friend-of-the-blog Esli has often noted, so many troops have had multiple wartime deployments, but virtually no experience in maneuver warfare combined-arms operations at the company level, let alone at the BCT or division level.

If a crisis comes (and sooner or later, they always do), the Army will deploy troops as needed. And those troops will pay a price in blood to learn lessons they were supposed to pay for in sweat.

Artillery Organization

When the Marines defend their huge investment in Close Air Support, it’s largely because they need it. They simply don’t have a lot of tube artillery available for support. Why? Because they will never have enough amphibious shipping to move it.

The Army, on the other hand, has since the middle of the 19th Century had a long tradition of excellence in artillery, and accordingly places a lot of faith in a lot of guns.

Let’s compare some of the fire support available to a division. Organic to the Marine division is an artillery regiment. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, this regiment had three battalions of light artillery, 105mm tubes, and one battalion of 155mm artillery. All four battalions had towed pieces.

At first glance, Army artillery seems quite comparable.  A light division had “Division Artillery”~ effectively a brigade, with three battalions of 105mm guns, and one battalion of 155mm guns, all towed.   Seems pretty comparable.

But if we leave the light divisions, and look at the Army’s heavy divisions, we see a somewhat more robust organization. Each mechanized or armored division had a similar organization, but different armament.

Heavy divisional DivArty had three battalions of self-propelled 155mm guns (each with a self-propelled ammo carrier). It also had a battalion of self-propelled 203mm (8”) guns. Eventually, the 8” battalion would be replaced by a single battery of MLRS 270mm rocket launchers.

But the story doesn’t end there. Army divisions in Europe were intended to fight as a part of a corps, and indeed, as a part of a field army. And a great deal of the combat power of a corps or field army is located in units outside of the divisions. Each heavy corps typically had two separate artillery brigades, each with four battalions, usually three of 155mm and one battalion of MLRS, as they phased out the 8” tubes.

One of the key precepts behind US Army artillery doctrine has always been concentration. If it’s worth shooting at, it’s worth shooting at a lot. So it would be typical for the main effort of a corps operation to receive the support of both corps artillery brigades. And within that main effort  division, it would be typical for the maneuver brigade forming the main effort to receive the support of all the guns of both the division and the corps artillery, or at least a priority claim to their fires.* Conceivably, one maneuver brigade of three battalions would have the support of 12, or even more, battalions of artillery. That’s a level of fire support a Marine regiment commander could only dream of. And that doesn’t count the attack helicopter and Air Force tac air support our notional Army brigade might receive.  And because all these heavy artillery brigades were self-propelled, they could rapidly shift support from one area to another.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Army no longer faces the spectre of a single division having to stem the onslaught of an entire Russian tank army. And the past decade of limited warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has seen a much smaller need for massed artillery fires.

Instead, today’s artillery has shifted emphasis from massing fires to longer ranges and greater precision, via such tools as rocket assisted projectiles, guided unitary warhead MLRS rockets, and guidance kits for conventional 155mm artillery that permits a limited “boost/glide” profile.  The battlefield a single maneuver brigade occupies is much larger than in years past, even as little as 20 years ago. And simply to cover that area, the supporting artillery either needs a longer range, or the greater lethality of guided rounds (that way, smaller units of artillery, such as a battery or even just a platoon can disperse over a wider area to support more units and cover more battlespace).

*I’ll leave it to URR or Esli to explain the doctrinal niceties of attached, OPCON, Direct Support, General Support, or General Support Reinforcing.

End of an Era

Since September 1943, with the amphibious landings at Salerno, Italy, the US Army has maintained armored formations in Europe. Until now.

The U.S. Army’s 69-year history of basing main battle tanks on German soil quietly ended last month when 22 Abrams tanks, a main feature of armored combat units throughout the Cold War, embarked for the U.S.

The departure of the last M-1 Abrams tanks coincides with the inactivation of two of the Army’s Germany-based heavy brigades. Last year, the 170th Infantry out of Baumholder disbanded. And the 172nd Separate Infantry Brigade at Grafenwöhr is in the process of doing the same.

On March 18, the remaining tanks were loaded up at the 21st Theater Sustainment Command’s railhead in Kaiserslautern where they then made the journey to the shipping port in Bremerhaven, Germany. There they boarded a ship bound for South Carolina.

When  I arrived in Germany in 1989, the principal US ground force was the US 7th Army.  It consisted of two corps, the V Corps, and VII Corps.  Each corps consisted of an armored division, a mechanized infantry division, a seperate heavy brigade, and an armored cavalry regiment.* Very roughly, that’s a little over 1500 tanks. That didn’t count the tanks of the German Bundeswehr, the British Army Of the Rhine (BAOR) or any of the other NATO nations. Then there were the POMCUS sites. Prepositioning Of Materiel Configured in Unit Sets- basically, if the US needed to reinforce Germany, the entire III Corps (headquartered at Ft. Hood, TX,  but with units also at Ft. Stewart, GA) would fly to Germany. Since getting all their equipment there would take time and shipping that likely wouldn’t be available, complete sets of the needed equipment were stored in Germany, just waiting for troops to draw them.  Call it roughly another 1000 tanks.

In addition, war replacement stocks were on hand, though I honestly don’t know how many there were. At any event, there were a couple thousand M1 tanks in Germany when I arrived.

With the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, obviously much of the need for a strong forward US presence in Germany went away.

And so we find ourselves, for the first time in decades, without a forward deployed armor unit in Europe. If you’d told me in 1989 that we’d come to this, I’d have thought you crazy.

H/T to Jason for the Stripes article.

*These were merely the principal ground maneuver units. Each corps also had an array of combat support and combat service support brigades such as artillery, aviation, intelligence, engineer, military police and logistics.

John Boyd And The OODA Loop

I was reminded today that Hugh Hewitt still hasn’t returned my biography of John Boyd that I loaned him a decade ago. I’m starting to think it won’t be forthcoming.

John Boyd went from  a brash young fighter pilot, to a tactical thinker who (with others) greatly changed the way the US thought about, and trained, fighter tactics. He also, based on his tactical thought, had a good deal of influence in the decision to design and purchase the F-16, a plane optimized to fight using his E/M(or Energy/Maneuverability) theory of fighter combat.

That alone would have made him a pretty memorable fellow. But building on his tactical thought, he leveraged that to an operational and strategic level theory that has been popular in both military and civilian circles for some time now. His theory became know as the “OODA Loop.”

Boyd posited that we respond to any situation or environment via a process with four elements.

  1. Observe
  2. Orient
  3. Decide
  4. Act

We observe a situation via our senses, or other methods of gathering information. We orient this information this information based on past experiences, culture, analysis, an our heritage. We make a decision based on this orientation, and then act to fulfill the decision.

But the process is not linear, as read above, but rather continuous, with each element generated feedback in the process, hence the term “loop.”

http://xbradtc.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/11_ooda_loop.png?w=300

Click to greatly embiggenfy.

The goal of consciously using an OODA loop in combat is to speed up the process of making a decision. By running through the cycle faster than an opponent, his previous observations, orientations and decisions are rendered useless by the newest observations (that is, the results of your decisions and actions). By continuously operating inside an opponent’s decision cycle, his level of chaos and confusion is greatly increased, and the validity of his own OODA loop is degraded until such time as it is worthless.

The Army has never specifically, doctrinally endorsed the OODA loop, though virtually every field grade officer is familiar with the concept. In AirLand Battle, the term of art used was “agility” which, rather than a purely physical concept, was very much a mental one, sharing the same goal, the ability to adjust to conditions and make and execute decisions faster than the enemy.

The current Army capstone doctrine no longer lists agility as one of the tenets of warfare, but does list adaptability:

ADAPTABILITY
28. Army leaders accept that no prefabricated solutions to tactical or operational problems exist. Army leaders must adapt their thinking, their formations, and their employment techniques to the specific situation they face. This requires an adaptable mind, a willingness to accept prudent risk in unfamiliar or rapidly changing situations, and an ability to adjust based on continuous assessment. Perhaps equally important, Army leaders seek to deprive the enemy of the ability to adapt by disrupting communications, forcing the enemy to continually react to new U.S. operations, and
denying the enemy an uncontested sanctuary, in space or time, for reflection. Adaptability is essential to seizing, retaining, and exploiting the initiative based on relevant understanding of the specific situation. For example, Army leaders demonstrate adaptability while adjusting the balance of lethal and nonlethal actions necessary to achieve a position of relative advantage and set conditions for conflict resolution within their area of operations.
29. Adaptation requires an understanding of the operational environment. While impossible to have a perfect understanding, Army leaders make every effort to gain and maintain as thorough an understanding as possible given the time allowed. They also use the Army’s information networks to share their understanding. Understanding a specific situation requires interactive learning—intentionally and repeatedly interacting with the operational environment so to test and refine multiple hypotheses. Army leaders expand
their understanding of potential operational environments through broad education, training, personal study, and collaboration with interagency partners. Rapid learning while in combat depends on life-long education, consistent training, and study habits that leaders had prior to combat.

You don’t have to dig deep in those two paragraphs to find analogs to the four processes of Boyd’s loop.

For a theory first applied to the realm of jet fighter combat, where 90 seconds is an eternity, it actually found its greatest fanbase in the Marine Corps, where he is often credited with helping (along with a great many others) reviving Marine interest in maneuver warfare.

And while the OODA loop is a popular subject among many business managers, they tend to be the of the fad of the moment type presentations. Boyd, on the other hand, was very much a numbers guy. He and two other folks, dubbed the “Fighter Mafia” developed much of the theory while working on the LFX program, that later became the F-16 and eventually spawned the F-18. Of the two other members, one was a fighter pilot and the other was a civilian statistician. Boyd himself was an industrial engineer.  They approached the theory from a systems analysis point of view.

Interestingly, as one of the more influential strategists of the second half of the 20th Century, Boyd never wrote a book on strategy. Rather, he spread his gospel via a series of briefings. These slide decks are a good resource, but sadly, without the context of actually having Boyd brief them, much is lost.

Boyd died in 1997.

A collection of his briefings can be found here.