U.S. official says Army’s industrial base in “death spiral”

The Association of the United States Army (AUSA) is a private, non-profit educational organization that represents America’s soldiers and supports the U.S. Army – Active, National Guard, Reserve, civilians, retirees, government civilians, wounded warriors, veterans, and family members.

Stew Magnuson reports for National Defense that on Oct. 15, 2014, the final day of the AUSA’s annual conference in Washington, DC, a panel of officials, industry leaders and academics spelled out all the problems with the U.S. armed service’s research, development and acquisition enterprise.

The panel’s moderator asked at what point will Army readiness be compromised by sharp reductions in research, development and acquisition spending.

Heidi Shyu

Heidi Shyu

Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Heidi Shyu replied, “We are already at that point” and that the Army-owned manufacturing facilities are in a “death spiral.”

Shyu said R&D and acquisition accounts have dropped twice as fast as the Army top line budget over the past three years, due to overall budget cuts, last year’s government shutdown, and furloughs of the civilian workforce. Parsing out the design and development accounts, the Army now has the smallest budget of all the armed services. All of which ” is very disconcerting for our future.”

Shyu said budget cuts do not equate to less work, but equate to more work as programs are strung out. That means more contracts have to be issued. Meanwhile, the vital contracting workforce is being “slashed and burned.” One-third the budget does not mean the Army needs one-third the number of personnel to carry out the acquisition duties, she added.

With the possible return of sequestration in 2016, the Army might be writing two budgets. “It creates an enormous amount of additional work and churn on all the folks that we have in the acquisition workforce,” she said.

The furloughs had an “incredible impact on the civilian workforce’s morale,” she said. The attrition rate is increasing. “We are starting to lose people we don’t want to lose.”

As acquisition programs are stretched out, it causes more inefficiencies. Purchasing items in smaller quantities equates to higher costs as opposed to buying in bulk. Referring to the Defense Department’s Better Buying Power 3.0 initiative, Shyu said, “It’s not better buying power. It’s much worse.”

The Army acquisition enterprise is being asked to deliver systems the Army needs but can’t currently do so in a timely manner. Because workloads are going down substantially in the organic industrial base — manufacturing carried out by government-owned plants — the rates the Army must pay are going up. That results in fewer items that can be purchased.

“This is a death spiral that we’re in,” she said. Congress won’t allow a Base Realignment and Closure process to reduce capacity, so there are few knobs the Army can turn.

Patricia McQuistion

Patricia McQuistion

Lt. Gen. Patricia McQuistion, deputy commanding general and chief of staff of the Army Materiel Command (AMC), said the impact of budget cuts on AMC’s personnel “cannot be overstated” and that “It is having a significant impact on our people and their ability to do their work.”

The budget slowdown means AMC is being given tasks to perform incrementally, which actually requires more work on the part of contracting specialists. That creates headaches for industry as well, which “really is the most inefficient way to do our operations,” according to McQuistion.

~StMA

Explosion shut down China’s first aircraft carrier in recent sea trials

liaoning

Robert Beckheusen writes for Medium, Oct. 19, 2014, that China’s aircraft carrier Liaoning, a potent symbol of the growing naval power of the revived Middle Kingdom, is prone to engine failures.

The 53,000-ton, 999-foot-long carrier’s previous incarnation was as the ex-Soviet carrier Varyag that China had bought from a cash-strapped Ukraine in 1998. An unnamed PLA officer told the Chinese media site Sina.com that Varyag was a “basket case.”

In 2005, the People’s Liberation Army’s Navy began modernizing the warship into the Liaoning by rebuilding the carrier from the inside. New electronics, self-defense anti-aircraft guns and new engines were just some of the upgrades.

But on at least one occasion during recent sea trials, Liaoning appeared to suffer a steam explosion that temporarily knocked out the carrier’s electrical power system.  Sina.com says the engine failure was due to a leak in “the machine oven compartment to the water pipes.”

Outsiders, however, know very little about the carrier’s engine problems, what’s inside the ship, or even what kind of engines Liaoning has. Adding to the opacity is the fact that the Chinese government doesn’t like to admit to problems with its military hardware. When it does, the admissions often come months or years after problems come up.

In the case of Liaoning‘s recent accident, according to Sina.com, hot water and steam began “spewing” out of the engine’s oven compartment. One cabin became “instantly submerged in water vapor.” The crew immediately evacuated the cabin, with one officer apparently pulling a sailor out by his collar to save him from the boiling hot steam. The carrier then lost power, but the crew “eventually restored power to ensure the smooth operation of the ship.” That suggests that the accident wasn’t a catastrophic boiler failure of the kind that would unleash almost instantaneously lethal, high-pressure steam. Instead, it appears Liaoning suffered a low-pressure steam release involving a faulty heat exchanger. Vessels commonly use heat exchangers to control water temperature necessary for regulating internal power and heating.

Engine failures are not an unknown phenomenon aboard ex-Soviet carriers. As examples:

  • Two years ago, India’s 40,000-ton displacement carrier Vikramaditya—first a Soviet Kiev-class carrier commissioned in 1987 and sold in 2004—temporarily shut down at sea after a boiler overheated.
  • The 50,000-ton Russian carrier Admiral Kuznetsov goes nowhere without a tug escort in case her engines break down.

As Beijing’s first serviceable carrier, the Chinese navy isn’t going to get rid of Liaoning any time soon. The ship is a valuable resource for naval flight operations. Even if China never sends her into battle, she’s useful for training and learning how carriers work.

But powerplant problems can also make it so China can do little else. Failures can add costly repairs, shorten the vessel’s lifespan and force her to crawl along the water at slow speeds. Beijing also lacks large overseas naval bases—a necessity if trouble arises while Liaoning sails far from China’s shores.

Given all that, Liaoning is more similar to its ex-Soviet cousins than different—confined to home ports and restricted from challenging rivals like India.

In 2010, writing in the Chinese-language Global Times, military analyst Liu Zhongmin admitted that although “China began to send navy convoys on anti-piracy missions to the Gulf of Aden and the Somali coast in 2008, the lack of overseas bases has emerged as a major impediment to the Chinese navy’s cruising efficiency.

To this must now be added Liaoning‘s engine problems.

See also:

~StMA

Obama’s ISIL strategy reexamined: air strikes ineffective; weak coalition

One month 4 days after President Obama’s grand announcement of a U.S.-led coalition to combat ISIL/ISIS or Islamic State (IS) “terrorists” (Obama says they’re neither Islamic nor jihadist!), as predicted by analysts, including members of this Consortium (their comments below are colored green), the “counterterrorism” strategy is failing.

Air Strikes

“Every analyst recognizes that attacks from the air may degrade (to a certain extent) the enemy, but not destroy him.” -A. James Gregor

“Well, airstrikes usually don’t amount to much. In the classic reason: You fly in and drop bombs, your aircraft run low on fuel and leave, and the locals declare victory and display pieces of a plane they shot down there because they’re still alive and in charge. Unless some key thing of the enemy’s got specifically attacked and destroyed in the raid, it doesn’t accomplish much….  Unless we concentrate force from the air upon ISIS in order to get them to do something particular (unlikely, since we’d have to kill a lot of them and in a manner not rewarded in the afterlife to reduce their will to fight) somebody will have to go in there and make them stop. Probably our guys, too.” -Anonymous

“Air strikes are useful, indeed essential, but they are only the first step in attacking ISIL…. Air strikes can disrupt communications, slow down movement, destroy supplies and logistical support assets and blunt enemy attacks. They will make the enemy slower to react, weaker at the attack point and less flexible in operations. All of these are desirable, but they cannot retake lost ground or destroy the will of the enemy. Only ground troops can do that.” -rthurs

Islamic State advancesClick map to enlarge

From the Wall Street Journal, Oct. 12 ,2014:

Islamic State militants have gained territory in Iraq and Syria despite weeks of bombing by the U.S. and its allies, raising questions about the coalition’s strategy of trying to blunt the jihadists’ advance while local forces are being trained to meet the threat on the ground.

In Syria, fighters from Islamic State, also known as ISIS, have taken large sections of the city of Kobani in recent days, said Ismet Sheikh Hasan, the defense minister of the city’s Kurdish administration. “Most of the eastern and southern parts of the city have fallen under the ISIS control,” he said. “The situation is getting worse.

This comes despite a week of heavy airstrikes around the city to help local Syrian Kurdish fighters keep Islamic State forces from the city center.

In Iraq, militant forces operating in a swath of territory the size of California have extended their control of the roads and commercial routes in strategically vital Anbar Province, which connects the capital Baghdad to Jordan and Syria.

Anbar, which has critical infrastructure and whose eastern edge lies only about 25 miles from Baghdad’s center, is also in danger of falling wholly under Islamic State control despite weeks of U.S. strikes aimed at weakening the group, local officials say. [...]

Neither of the allied forces the U.S. had been counting on for help in the near term—the Iraqi army in the south or Turkish forces in the north—have been of much help, officials say. Iraq’s army has often proven unable to stop Islamic State forces, and Turkey hasn’t engaged in the fight despite its professed desire to halt the jihadists.

Which brings us to . . . .

A Coalition of the Unwilling

“In effect, there is no ‘broad coalition’ anywhere ready to support the ‘new’ strategy….” -A. James Gregor

“Turkey has a formidable army and can be decisive in Syria, but it lacks the political will to do so. Arab countries have some good troops, but lack the logistical base to project power into Syria and Iraq. And most of them are Sunni-dominated and are reluctant to fight other Sunnis.” -rthurs

“It is evident why most of the Arab nations make only modest and hesitant contribution to the “coalition against the network of death.” They have no assurance that the United States will stay the course…. The coalition cobbled together by the President is composed of participants (apparently now including Britain and France) prepared to lend a few aircraft to the bombing missions intended to ‘degrade’ ISIL forces, but there is no rush to supply ground troops essential to the ultimate defeat of the ‘radicals.’ ” -A. James Gregor

Immediately after Obama’s ISIL speech, Arab countries allied with the United States issued a joint communiqué supporting the U.S. strategy and vowed to “do their share” to fight the IS.

That was all lip service.

A day after Obama’s ISIL speech, Mark Sappenfield reported for the Christian Science Monitor that the speech “has been met with only slightly more than a shrug” among Arab countries — not so much because they are ambivalent about IS, but because “intersecting allegiances and strategic aims mean some Arab countries feel they must tread cautiously.”

Turkey: As a neighbor of both Syria and Iraq, Turkey would seem to have the greatest interest in stemming the influence of the Islamic State. But doing so might endanger Turkish national unity by empowering the Kurds, who are angling for an independent state of their own.

Other Arab states: Similar concerns weigh against strong support for the US in Sunni Arab states such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Defeating the Islamic State could give Iran, the region’s leading Shiite power — more scope to exert its authority.

Syria: Ironically, the Arab government most eager to join a coalition against IS was that of Syria, which Obama had already ruled out as a partner for what he described as terrorizing its citizens. (See Pulitzer-award journalist says Obama admin made up intelligence for war on Syria.) When the country most eager to help you is the one you have sworn to overthrow, that is not a good sign.

Gopal Ratnam and John Hudson write in Foreign Policy, Oct. 13, 2014:

Obama administration insists that it has a large and growing coalition of nations arrayed to fight the Islamic State . . . [but] the alliance may be far less robust than Washington says.

The latest row concerns the key question of whether Turkey, which hosts a sprawling American air base, will let U.S. warcraft fly from it into Iraq and Syria to batter the militant group. U.S. officials said Sunday that Ankara had given the green light. Less than a day later, Turkish officials categorically denied that they’d agreed to allow their bases to be used against the terror group.

[...] Incirlik Air Base, located about 50 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea in southern Turkey, is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 39th Air Base Wing and about 1,500 American military personnel and is key to protecting NATO’s southern flank.

[...] Washington may be consistently misreading its partners and overestimating just how committed they are to the fight. [,,,]Ankara wasn’t the only capital to experience a fit of stage fright after its potential involvement in the anti-ISIS coalition went public.

In September, when Foreign Policy reported details of a secret offer by the nation of Georgia to host a training camp for anti-ISIS fighters, the story prompted a strong public backlash in Tbilisi due to security concerns for the tiny Caucasian nation of 4.5 million. Within 24 hours, Georgian officials denied having made any such offer.

“I categorically rule out any military participation or training base in Georgia,” Georgian Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said.

Last month, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar said his government opposed terrorism, but expressed annoyance that his country was included in the U.S. government’s official list of anti-ISIS partners without being informed.

[...] Administration officials have said that at least 60 countries are part of the anti-ISIS coalition, but the vast majority aren’t contributing militarily.

In other cases, the United States has boasted about allied commitments of ground troops to fight ISIS, but the offers never materialized.

“We have countries in this region, countries outside of this region, in addition to the United States, all of whom are prepared to engage in military assistance,” Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS last month. He insisted that the United States would not send ground forces but that other countries “have offered to do so.” However, none of the Arab coalition partners, the nations most likely to provide ground troops, have yet to make such commitments in public. (In September, the Times of London reported that Jordan offered to send its Western-trained special forces to combat ISIS in Syria, but the Arab monarchy has yet to confirm the offer.)

The United States has also struggled to explain its relationship with another key player, Iran. The majority-Shiite country has a vested interest in eradicating ISIS from the region but Washington insists it is not coordinating directly with Tehran, though some discussions on the topic have clearly taken place.

“We’re not in coordination or direct consultation with the Iranians about any aspects of the fight against ISIL,” White House National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on Meet the Press on Sunday, using another name for the militant group. When pressed, she noted that “we’ve had some informal consultations” with Iran about regional issues on the sidelines of the ongoing nuclear negotiations in Vienna, but did not elaborate. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, by contrast, said Sunday that the two countries had exchanged messages regarding the fight against ISIS. Outside of Syria, hundreds of Iranian troops have crossed into Iraq to fight against ISIS forces.

[...] During his visit to Colombia on Oct. 10, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told reporters that the United States would like to get access to Incirlik as a base from which to launch strikes against Islamic militants, according to the Associated Press.

[...] Turkey wants the United States to get involved but differs on the goals…. Turkey wants the coalition to focus on removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, while President Barack Obama wants to keep the focus on the Islamic State and preventing the fall of Baghdad….

[...] The Obama administration’s criteria about what it takes to be considered a member of the anti-ISIS coalition requires little effort on the part of coalition members.

Kerry and Hagel have listed five lines of effort against the terror group: providing military support to the coalition; impeding the flow of foreign fighters; stopping the group’s financing; addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region; and exposing ISIS’s “true nature.”

Given the limited effort it takes to release a statement in opposition to the terror group’s ideology, which technically would merit inclusion in the coalition, it’s little wonder that the United States was able to boast a list of 60 nations. Still, such rosters do little to indicate the depth of commitment any one nation may be offering. Slovakia, for instance, said it won’t send soldiers to the effort, but that it would contribute $25,000 to the International Organization for Migration in northern Iraq — not exactly a game-changing move, but sufficient to merit inclusion on the list.

See also:

~StMA

GOP Congressmen urge U.S. military generals to resign en masse

Six years into his presidency, all signs point to Barack Obama’s relations with the U.S. military — both top officials and rank and file — being in disrepair.

Obama seems to routinely ignore the counsel from military leaders. For their part, active and retired military officers publicly have stated their differences, while the rank and file distrust and have no confidence in their commander-in- chief. A recent Military Times survey found that support for Obama among the military has plummeted to less than 15%. See, for example:

It is in the context of Obama’s deteriorating relations with the military that reports of members of Congress having covert talks with U.S. generals take on significance.

Obama disses Marines On Sept. 23, 2014, Obama was deplaning Marine One after landing in New York for the UN General Assembly. This pic of Obama saluting the Marines while holding a beverage container has gone viral because it’s symbolic of his contempt for the military.

Rep. Doug Lamborn

Rep. Doug Lamborn

Corey Hutchins reports for Medium, Sept. 25, 2014, that according to Congressman Doug Lamborn (R-Colorado), members of Congress have been talking to U.S. generals behind the scenes and urging them to publicly resign “in a blaze of glory” if they disagree with how the White House is handling conflicts in the Middle East.

Lamborn represents Colorado’s military-heavy Fifth Congressional District anchored by Colorado Springs, a Christian conservative stronghold that’s home to Focus on the Family and five military installations including the Air Force Academy. In 2012, Mitt Romney carried the district with 59% of the vote. Lamborn was named the Most Conservative Member of Congress by the National Journal in 2009, 2010, and 2011. His committee assignments include serving on the House Armed Services Committee and House Veterans’ Affairs Committee. His top five campaign contributors include Lockheed Martin and Koch Industries.

Lamborn made the startling remarks at a Sept. 23 liberty group meeting in the basement of a Colorado Springs bar.

During a question-and-answer portion of the forum, a military service member urged Lamborn to work with his congressional colleagues in both parties to “support the generals and the troops in this country despite the fact that there is no leadership from the Muslim Brotherhood in the White House.”

Lamborn responded, “You know what, I can’t add anything to that, but do let me reassure you on this. A lot of us are talking to the generals behind the scenes, saying, ‘Hey, if you disagree with the policy that the White House has given you, let’s have a resignation. You know, let’s have a pubic resignation, and state your protest, and go out in a blaze of glory.’ And I haven’t seen that very much, in fact I haven’t seen that at all in years.”

The congressman’s comments didn’t stir much of a response from a crowd of about 50, not all of whom were friendly to the four-term incumbent who narrowly squeaked by in a bitter Republican primary.

Irv Halter

Irv Halter

But Democrat Irv Halter, a retired Air Force major general who is running against Lamborn, seized on his opponent’s comments, accusing the congressman of politicizing the military. Halter said in a statement, “Our elected officials should not be encouraging our military leaders to resign when they have a disagreement over policy. Someone who serves on the House Armed Services Committee should know better.”

Halter so far has raised more money than Lamborn. The latter, when asked by a voter why his Democratic challenger is out-fundraising him in a conservative district, said, “If you’re perceived as being in a safe district, there is a limit to people contributing to you. I’m just not considered to be in a dangerous situation.”

A Pentagon spokesperson did not reply to an e-mail for comment by the time this story was published on Medium.com. Nor did a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee or Lamborn’s communications director.

~StMA

Taiwan to replace Navy with all domestic production

Clearly alarmed by China’s increasingly assertive irredentism in the South and East China Seas, the surrounding Asia-Pacific countries are beefing up their military. (See “China threatens war in South and East China Seas“)

According to naval analysts at AMI International, the Asian-Pacific region is currently the No. 2 market for naval arms sales globally. AMI estimates that Asian and Pacific nations will build upwards of 1,100 warships during the next 20 years, and spend $200 billion building them.

More interesting than the new Asian-Pacific arms race is the fact that, instead of purchasing them from the United States, some countries are seeking to build their own arms — a commentary on their perception that Washington is unreliable and undependable. (See “U.S. Pacific Command Adm. Locklear says China is eclipsing U.S. in Asia”)

As an example, Japan is considering building its own fighter jets.

Now, it is Taiwan.

Taiwan StraitMilitary experts say that the Taiwanese Navy, once the island nation’s most neglected military service, has lately come to be viewed as “the most important” arm of the Taiwanese military because the Navy holds the power to save Taiwan from an invasion by mainland China. Accordingly, the Navy is now the focus of Taiwanese military investment.

Last month, Taiwan’s government released preliminary details on a new 20-year plan to modernize its Navy. Currently composed primarily of hand-me-down U.S. and French warships (Perry-, Knox-, and La Fayette-class frigates, and Kidd-class destroyers) and domestically-built supporting Kuang Hua 6 fast-attack missile boats and Ching Chiang-class missile patrol boats.

Taiwan plans to replace this current fleet with one that’s entirely domestically built, by relying on the combined efforts of its Ocean Industries Research and Development Center for design, the Taiwanese military-run Chungshan Institute of Science and Technology (CSIST) for systems and integration, and the Taiwan-based China Shipbuilding Industry Corp. for construction.

Producing them in Taiwan creates jobs and skills, reduces reliance on restrictive US government export policies, and reduces corruption, the Navy official said. US and European defense companies have a history of hiring local agents with ties to organized crime and Beijing’s intelligence apparatus.

Taiwan’s plan is to spend the next 5 to 10 years designing:

  • a new 10,000-ton destroyer
  • a 3,000-ton catamaran-like frigate
  • an amphibious transport dock (often dubbed an “LPD” or “landing platform/dock”)
  • a new 1,200-3,000-ton diesel submarine.

After that, Taiwan will spend the succeeding 10-15 years building:

  • 4 destroyers
  • 10 to 15 frigates
  • perhaps 11 LPDs
  • 4 to 8 submarines

Details of Taiwan’s naval modernization program will be released in November, but Navy officials provided some information about the scope of the massive build plan during the live-fire field training event during the annual Han Kuang exercises off the east coast of Taiwan on Sept. 17.

The fact that Taiwan wants to invest in developing its homegrown defense industry, and build these ships entirely at home, means there’s precious little opportunity for foreign defense contractors such as General Dynamics and Huntington Ingalls — America’s two biggest military shipbuilders — to participate in the project. The loss in revenues to U.S. defense contractors is estimated to be $6.9 billion — about a year’s worth of business for General Dynamics’ Marine Systems unit, or a year’s worth of revenues for all of Huntington Ingalls.

All is not lost.

While they might not get a chance to build Taiwan’s ships, they might very well be able to play a role in building the weapons and electronics systems that go into those ships.

Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense is still open to the idea of hiring foreign defense contractors to provide “assistance on various components and systems” that will be installed in its new navy. Taiwan has shown particular interest, for example, in acquiring RIM-161 Standard Missile 3 anti-aircraft missiles built by Raytheon, to replace the Standard Missile 2s that currently outfit its Kidd-class destroyers (now dubbed “Kee Lung-class” destroyers).

The Taiwanese navy’s modernization program will face hurdles from budget declines in coming years. The military’s finances will also be put to the test as it reduces personnel and implements an all-volunteer force. (See “Taiwan military to be downsized and all-volunteer“)

Sources: Defense News; The Motley Fool

See also:

~StMA

Associated Press: 8 ways Obama admin restricts press freedom

The Obama presidency began on a promise of being the most transparent administration ever.

The reality, however, turns out to be quite different. Instead of transparency, the Obama administration is opaque and hostile to the Constitution’s First Amendment promise of a free press.

Sally Buzbee

Sally Buzbee

The Daily Signal reports on Oct. 3, 2014 that at a recent joint meeting of the American Society of News Editors, the Associated Press Media Editors and the Associated Press Photo Managers, the Associated Press’ Washington Bureau chief Sally Buzbee detailed eight ways the Obama administration is restricting access to information.

1. Journalists are barred from seeing the fight against Islamic militants: Buzbee contends Americans are being kept in the dark about recent military action, noting that journalists aren’t allowed to take photos or record video of bombers when they take off.

2. Journalists often are barred from Obama’s meetings with world leaders: Buzbee says previous administrations advocated for journalists to be present during the president’s meetings with world leaders when he is abroad. This change, she says, sends the wrong message to the rest of the world.

3. Access to upcoming 9/11 trial is restricted: Journalists do not have access to court filings in real time, Buzbee says, and even access to nonclassified information about the trial has been blocked or delayed.

4. Coverage of Guantanamo is ‘virtually nonexistent’: Information normally released by the previous administration is now nearly impossible to come by. “The military won’t release the number of prisoners on hunger strike or the number of assaults on guards,” Buzbee says.

5. Press sources are being intimidated: Sources have told Associated Press reporters they could be fired for talking to the media. Buzbee called the intimidation tactics “chilling,” adding: “Government press officials say their orders are to squelch anything controversial or that makes the administration look bad.”

6. The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is ‘under siege’: FOIA requests have become so expensive and delayed that many organizations are forced to sue federal agencies to get a response at all.

7. The White House uses FOIA requests to monitor what news organizations will cover: Political appointees use FOIA requests as a “tip service” to gain insight into upcoming stories, Buzbee says. At the agency overseeing Obamacare, political appointees have been put in charge of FOIA requests.

8. State and local governments release less information: The Obama administration has tried to dictate to state and local governments what they can and cannot reveal, particularly when it comes to surveillance programs.

James Risen

James Risen

Months ago, on March 21, 2014, Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times’ foreign policy reporter James Risen had called the Obama administration “the greatest enemy of press freedom that we have encountered in at least a generation,” warning that the White House seeks to control the flow of information and those who refuse to play along “will be punished.”

Sharyl Attkisson

Sharyl Attkisson

Sharyl Attkisson, an award-winning investigative journalist and former CBS Washington bureau correspondent and occasional CBS Evening News substitute anchor, found out the hard way.

In May 2013, as she was doggedly pursuing the truth behind the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, someone hacked into her personal and work computers. The hacking was confirmed by CBS News.

On March 10, 2014, after 21 years with the network, Attkisson resigned from CBS News, reportedly due to frustration over what she perceived to be the network’s liberal bias and lack of dedication to investigative reporting. She is working on a book tentatively called Stonewalled: One Reporter’s Fight for Truth in Obama’s Washington, on the difficulties of reporting critically about the administration.

Here she is warning about journalism’s dangerous trend:

See also:

~StMA

70% of active military oppose ground troops in Iraq because they distrust their commander-in-chief

A fascinating survey by Military Times shows that as many as 70% of the military’s rank and file are opposed to deploying U.S. combat troops to Iraq and Syria to combat the scourge of the Islamic State (IS) or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) — in spite of recommendations by top military leaders, including Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (See “U.S. military does not support Commander-In-Chief Barack Obama“)

That is not because active members of the U.S. military are shirking their duty. Rather, their opposition to “boots on the ground” in Iraq is due to their doubts about their commander in chief, President Barack Obama.

no boots on ground in IraqAndrew Tilghman, et al., report for Military Times, Sept. 29, 2014, that as the tide of war rises again in the Middle East, the military’s rank and file are mostly opposed to expanding the new mission in Iraq and Syria to include sending a large number of U.S. ground troops into combat, according to a Military Times survey of active-duty members.

The survey was conducted online this summer and concluded in August just as President Obama was ramping up the air campaign against the Islamic State group.

On the surface, troops appear to support Obama’s repeated vows not to let the U.S. military get “dragged into another ground war” in Iraq. Yet at the same time, the views of many service members are shaped by a deep ambivalence about this commander in chief and questions about his ability to lead the nation through a major war, according to the survey and interviews.

The reader survey asked more than 2,200 active-duty troops this question: “In your opinion, do you think the U.S. military should send a substantial number of combat troops to Iraq to support the Iraqi security forces?” Slightly more than 70% responded: “No.”

“It’s their country, it’s their business. I don’t think major ‘boots on the ground’ is the right answer,” said one Army infantry officer and prior-enlisted soldier who deployed to Iraq three times. He responded to the survey and an interview request but, like several other service members in this story, asked not to be named because he is not authorized to discuss high-level military policy.

Peter Feaver, a professor and military expert at Duke University, said that lack of support for Obama may underpin some service members’ views on Iraq today. In an interview after reviewing the results of the Military Times poll, Feaver said, “It’s very hard to mobilize the military to follow an uncertain trumpet. If they have doubts about the commander in chief, they are going to have doubts about a major military operation. It is possible that the military is making a judgment that while a different president might be committed to a major operation, this president is not — so there is no reason to do one.

As the U.S. expands that air war into Syria and increases the number of U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq — topping more than 1,700 total — service members say their feelings about the crisis and the U.S. response to it have intensified.

In barracks and staff offices, on smoke breaks and over after-hours beers, troops’ conversations about Iraq have shifted abruptly from reflections on the past to questions about the future that are fraught with concerns about the wisdom and scope of new missions. Troops are raising new questions about why the U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011, what went wrong and why.

Many simply wonder why anyone should think the long-term outcome will be any different this time. “It’s kind of futile in the end — regardless of how well we do our job, the Iraqi government isn’t going to be able to hold up,” Marine 2nd Lt. Christopher Fox said.

And many share the views of one Navy hospital corpsman second class at Camp Pendleton, California, who said his multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a toll on him mentally, physically and personally. “We’re burned out,” he said.

Other findings by the Military Times survey include:

1. Opponents of an expanded mission fall into two camps:

  • Some troops think the U.S. should simply stay out of the conflagration engulfing the Middle East.
  • Others take a more nuanced view. One Air Force lieutenant colonel said he supports taking the fight to the Islamic State militants, even if that involves a large number of U.S. combat troops. But he worries that the country’s leadership will not completely see the mission through. “If we do it halfheartedly, we shouldn’t do it at all,” he said, adding that America should expand its military mission in Iraq “only if we’re committed to complete victory. I’m not hearing that now. There’s political fear of blowback for making such a declaration. War, as ugly as it is, should be done in a very overwhelming and clear fashion.”

2. Troops intuitively understand that final decisions ultimately land on Obama’s desk. And support for Obama within the military — never especially high — has dropped significantly since he took office, according to the Military Times survey — from 35% of service members in 2009 who approved of the way Obama was “handling of his job as commander in chief,” to below 15%  this year.

3. Questions and pessimism about the 8-year Iraq War that supposedly ended in 2011: Only 30% of active-duty troops surveyed say the Iraq War was “very successful” or “somewhat successful” — down from about 64% who had expressed positive views in a similarly worded question in 2011 as the war was winding down. Marine Sgt. Darrell Priestley, 39, a combat engineer who deployed to Iraq in 2009, said,“It’s a kick in the rear because [the Iraqi extremists] are making a comeback and everything I did was for naught. … Those are some of the thoughts that go through my head.” Questions about the value of Iraq War reach the highest levels of the military command. Responding to a question about morale in a recent interview, Marine Gen. John Kelly said, “It’s certainly an emotional moment for anyone who has ever been there. I’d say to Marines: ‘We don’t get a vote. We go where the nation sends us. Our job is to win — we won.’ ”

Service members are not questioning the reasons for invading Iraq in 2003 or the execution of the 8-year combat operation. Instead, they focus their pessimism on the stewardship of Iraq after U.S. troops withdrew in 2011 — both by the Iraqi government as well as the Obama administration, which has essentially taken a hands-off approach to Iraq for nearly three years. Professor Feaver said, “If you piece all of those together, what you get is a military viewpoint something like the following: We left something like success behind, and since then events since then have wrecked that. The majority of the military would probably reject the interpretation that, ‘Oh, this was a chimera in 2011, this was fake success.’ I think they would say ‘No, it was real, but it was undone.’ ”

4. At the center of those debates is the commander in chief, and renewed criticism of Obama for his decision to withdraw completely in 2011. Some military leaders had wanted to keep a residual force of 10,000 to 20,000 troops. At the time, that decision was driven by the Iraq parliament’s refusal to approve a status of forces agreement granting legal protections to U.S. troops. Nevertheless, many service members believe the current crisis in Iraq may have been avoided if Obama was more aggressive about securing approval for a substantive residual U.S. force beyond 2011. Army Capt. Eric Hatch, a logistics officer at Fort Bliss, Texas, said, “I know there are other political issues, but for our job, we should have stayed until it was secure. I think we were close to being done [in 2011], but I think we could have stayed another year or two. If you’re going to commit troops to do a mission, you should stay until the mission is complete.

5. Active-duty members may be more opposed to sending troops back to Iraq compared with veterans of the Iraq War who have left the military, said Yinon Weiss, founder of Rally Point, an online military community where hundreds of members are involved in various discussions about the U.S. military action in Iraq and now Syria. Weiss, a former Army Special Forces officer, said, “Most veterans we see on [Rally Point] are very supportive of boots on the ground. I would say with service members, it is much more mixed, in that many question whether the U.S. military has the endurance to potentially open up a new ground front. But [for] those who were in Iraq … there’s this kind of notion of, ‘We don’t want our previous gains and losses to be in vain.’ ”

See also:

~StMA