Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Triumph for JSOC

When a U.S. Navy SEAL forced his way into Osama bin Laden's bedroom and put two bullets into the al-Qaida leader, it marked the culmination of a manhunt that stretched back to the 1990s, and a vindication for Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).
Born from the ashes of Operation Eagle Claw, the disastrous 1980 attempt to rescue 53 American hostages from the U.S. Embassy in Iran, JSOC is part of three-decade effort to ensure that when the nation called again, the military's most elite units would be up to the task.
In the years that followed, the Defense Department stood up several organizations, filling capability gaps exposed by the failure at Desert One. JSOC was among the first, starting up in December 1980 as a two-star command designed to command and control Delta Force and other elite units in the conduct of counterterrorism missions. It later added operations to counter weapons of mass destruction to its mission profile, with regular exercises aimed at neutralizing the nuclear forces of a country such as Libya. It would ultimately become, arguably, the pre-eminent three-star command in the U.S. military.
The command had some early successes, notably the rescue of American Kurt Muse from Panama's Modelo prison during Operation Just Cause in December 1989.
But it suffered a setback in October 1993 in the Somali capital of Mogadishu when a daylight operation to capture leaders of the Habr Gadir clan was thrown off course by the downing of an MH-60 Black Hawk helicopter.
In the ensuing battle, the JSOC task force killed hundreds of Somali militiamen, but 19 U.S. troops also died, the vast majority of them members of the task force.
The JSOC commander at the time, and the man who ran the U.S. side of the battle, was Army Maj. Gen. Bill Garrison. The commander of the Delta troops in the battle was William "Jerry" Boykin, a Delta Force officer on the hostage rescue mission who would go on to retire as a three-star general. Boykin called Garrison the leader who began turning JSOC into the formidable force it is today.
"Bill Garrison did a great deal to improve the headquarters by getting beyond a strict focus on just the operator in the Rangers or the SEALs or Delta or anything like that," Boykin said. "He established a strong ethos of 'Everybody's a team and you all contribute to the success or the failure of this organization, so even if you're not in the battlespace, necessarily, your contribution is equal.'"
Turning Point
But JSOC's star truly began to rise when then-Maj. Gen. Stan McChrystal took command in 2003, said one recently retired SEAL officer.
"Look at JSOC from 1980 to 2003, and there was a series of progressions that was on a very similar path … and then look what happened starting in 2003 to today, how radically different it is," the SEAL officer said. "Look at the level of respect it gets in the interagency. Look at the level of respect it gets in the conventional forces."
Before McChrystal, who spent much of his career in the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment, "we were really good at what we did [in JSOC], but we were pirates and totally disorganized," the retired SEAL officer said. "McChrystal took the Ranger discipline, applied it systematically to the organization and then completely changed the way the organization works within the government, within the Defense Department and then within the greater interagency."
McChrystal's vision and force of personality molded JSOC, its component units - and, crucially, its partners in the intelligence community - into a force that took its ability to conduct precision raids to an industrial scale.
This allowed creation of multiple task forces across Iraq, who conducted raids nightly to destroy Abu Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaida in Iraq network, and finally killing Zarqawi himself in a June 2006 airstrike.
Under McChrystal, who led the command until 2008, JSOC became a global actor with small elements deployed to many countries outside the combat theaters. In 2006, it was elevated to a three-star command.
McChrystal "came up with a way to command and control his forces so that with a limited number, he could service efforts in truly a global game," said retired Army Capt. Wade Ishimoto, who was on the ground at Desert One as Delta's acting intelligence officer and is now an adjunct faculty member at the Joint Special Operations University at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.
Special operations sources said Vice Adm. Bill McRaven, the SEAL who commands JSOC, has continued to improve the organization.
As the Iraq war winds down, the Afghan campaign has heated up, and JSOC's task forces appear to be returning to the operational tempo of Iraq in 2006 and 2007. It is the main force going up against the Haqqani network, which U.S. commanders consider the most dangerous Afghan insurgent group.
"McRaven's going to get the credit [for the bin Laden mission], and he deserves it because he's continued the legacy," said the recently retired SEAL officer. "But make no mistake, this house was built by Stan."
Ishimoto paid tribute to McRaven, but said that others beyond the past two JSOC leaders played key roles, including Boykin, who served as deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence under President George W. Bush, and McChrystal's intelligence chief at JSOC, now-Maj. Gen. Mike Flynn of the Army.
"We had a good cast of the right people in the right places at the right time to make this kind of progress," Ishimoto said.
The Special Operators
The Obama administration has not identified the units that took part in the mission to kill bin Laden.
But the stealth MH-60 Black Hawks that carried the SEALs to the compound were almost certainly flown by crews from the Army's 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment (Airborne), another unit created in the 1980s. The unit went by a series of different names in the 1980s before acquiring the 160th SOAR(A) moniker in 1990.
The SEALs who killed bin Laden, his son and two male couriers - as well as, accidentally, a woman in the compound - came from another unit formed to fill a capability gap identified after Operation Eagle Claw: Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU, popularly known as SEAL Team 6.
"DEVGRU was created specifically as a result of [Eagle Claw]," Boykin said. "It was created to give this new joint command a maritime capability."
Multiple sources in the special operations community said the operators who conducted the bin Laden mission were drawn from DEVGRU's Red Squadron, chosen because it was ready at DEVGRU's Dam Neck, Va., headquarters and available for tasking.
"It was Red Squadron," said the recently retired SEAL officer. "They were not on alert and they weren't deployed."
Each squadron has about 50 operators, "of which they picked about half … for this thing," he added.
The selection of DEVGRU to conduct the bin Laden mission has irked some in Delta, who are miffed that their organization - traditionally considered the pre-eminent special mission unit for direct action operations on land - was overlooked.
"The infighting between the tribes is at an all-time high," said a field-grade Army special operations officer. "People [in Delta] are livid."
Some Delta personnel think that because SEALs command both JSOC and U.S. Special Operations Command - Adm. Eric Olson in the latter case - that was a critical factor behind DEVGRU's selection for the mission, the field-grade Army special operations officer said.
But other sources said a bigger factor was likely the fact that DEVGRU has worked nonstop in the Afghanistan theater since 2001, while Delta spent much of that time focused on Iraq.

India's Joint Ops Doctrine Slowly Takes Shape

NEW DELHI - A joint warfare doctrine adopted in 2010 is slowly improving coordination among India's military forces, but some experts question how effectively this is translating into real-world scenarios.
"Optimum synergy in the Indian armed forces is an oxymoron. While there is a general agreement among one and all that jointness is essential, implementation of this sentiment is lacking, in particular over ownership of assets, and professional nepotism is marring synergy today," said Rahul Bhonsle, a retired Indian Army brigadier and defense analyst here.
In 2010, India defined the joint air-land operations doctrine that seeks to harmonize operations among the three services in important military matters and greatly improve joint fighting capabilities, said a Defence Ministry official.
"On the ground, close coordination between the three wings does gets disrupted, on some occasions due to lack of understanding, which will get sorted out in the time ahead," said Mahindra Singh, a retired Indian Army major general. As future wars are likely to be short-lived, coordination among the three services is vital, he said.
The joint doctrine lays down organizations and procedures to leverage available technology toward the application of air power; however, no details are known of its operational aspects.
Defence Ministry sources said that, based on the joint warfare doctrine, more joint commands are likely to be established in addition to the Andaman Nicobar Command (ANC), which is a joint force of the Army, Navy and the Air Force.
The ANC has pooled its assets and is primarily engaged in protecting the eastern border, especially from a likely threat from China at sea. The Indian Coast Guard also has participated in several ANC exercises since the command was set up 10 years ago.
India has Army, Navy and Air Force troops on the 572-island chain, which lies less than 100 kilometers from the Indonesian coast. A joint command was established there in 2001 as part of a $2 billion plan to boost India's ability to rapidly deploy troops in the region.

European Union Imposes Arms Embargo on Syria

BRUSSELS - An arms embargo imposed on Syria May 9 by the European Union applies to weapons, ammunition, military vehicles and equipment, paramilitary equipment and spare parts. It also covers equipment of this kind that might be used for internal repression.
Syrian army troops are seen pulling out of the southern protest hub of Daraa on May 5. (Louai Beshara / AFP)
According to the decision, published in the EU's official journal May 10, it does not apply to "the sale, supply, transfer or export of non-lethal military equipment or of equipment which might be used for internal repression, intended solely for humanitarian or protective use, or for institution building programmes of the United Nations and the European Union, or for European Union and UN crisis management operations".
Nor does it apply to noncombat vehicles that have been manufactured or fitted with materials to provide ballistic protection for EU and EU member state personnel in Syria. Also exempt is protective clothing, including flak jackets and military helmets, temporarily exported to Syria by U.N. personnel, EU or EU member state personnel, representatives of the media and humanitarian and development workers and associated personnel for their personal use only.
"The EU has decided to impose restrictive measures against Syria and persons responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria. These measures include an embargo on arms and equipment that may be used for internal repression, as well as an asset freeze and a travel ban targeting a list of thirteen individuals," Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, said in a May 9 statement.
"The EU calls on President Bashar Al-Assad to choose the path of reform and national inclusive dialogue and avoid further bloodshed whilst the door remains open," she said, adding that EU foreign ministers will discuss the situation in Syria at their meeting later this month.

For U.S. Navy, Time To Say 'No'?

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - The high pace of operations demanded by combatant commanders in the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and on terrorism is taking its toll on the U.S. military, a top commander said May 10.
As budget growth flattens at the Pentagon, the need is becoming stronger to re-examine those demands and, in the meantime, look for ways to dial back on the response.
"There's an insatiable demand for our forces," Adm. John Harvey, head of U.S. Fleet Forces, told a lunchtime audience at a joint war-fighting conference here.
"The requirements are being driven by the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan," he said, without questioning those war-fighting operations. But for other missions, "in my view we haven't really prioritized them."
A mechanism is needed, Harvey said, to "bring these combatant commands together."
All the armed services are charged with meeting the requirements of combatant commanders, the all-important commanders of joint commands such as Central Command, which oversees operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Last May, for example, Gen. David Petraeus, in charge of operations in Afghanistan, asked the Navy to ratchet up operations to maintain two, rather than one, carrier strike groups on station in the Arabian Sea to support combat operations in Afghanistan.
The Navy turned to its Fleet Response Plan (FRP), a post-9/11 effort to make the fleet more responsive to meet operational surges. The Navy found it could not meet Petraeus' 2.0 carrier group requirement, but has been able to sustain a 1.7 level, meaning two groups are on station about 70 percent of the time.
Currently, the Enterprise strike group is supporting Afghan combat operations, with the Ronald Reagan group having just relieved the Carl Vinson group in the region.
Adm. Gary Roughead, chief of naval operations, said earlier this year that the Navy was prepared to sustain those forces in the Central Command region for up to two years.
But the FRP was never meant to be a long-term solution, Harvey said.
"Surge capacity has become routine delivery," he declared. "For almost 10 years the Navy has essentially been operating on a demand-driven model. We have to hit the reset button."
"Over the past 10 years, meeting the demand has generated a price to be paid," Harvey said. "The piper will be paid in his time."
Part of that price has come in missed routine maintenance periods for ships, resulting in reduced service life and measurable increase in the number of failed material readiness inspections, Harvey said.
"Since 2005 an average of 50 ships a year violate our maintenance red lines in order to meet our operational commitment," he noted, adding that the number of ships failing inspections doubled from 2005 to 2009 to about 14 percent.
Harvey and his commands have been striving to reverse the worst of the trends. "We are doing an FRP reset," he said, looking at maintenance and training schedules and manning levels.
"I truly believe we have begun to reverse the most worrisome trends," he said. "We are seeing marked improvements in the material condition of our ships."
But, he said, "we have a long way to go."
"We need to take care of our ships and sailors and Marines and make sure that in the future we have the force wended," Harvey said. "Perhaps that means saying no to things today so we have the wherewithal to have the forces we need tomorrow."
At the heart of the discussion is "the sustainment of our force for the future," he declared. "The answer is a really hard look at the demand signal, how we respond to that signal."
"There has to be a conversation," he pleaded. "It has to take place. My belief is it's pretty much a one-way conversation."
The first step, he said, "is to establish a truly sustainable deployment level."
The problem is affecting all services, Harvey said. "For way too long, we have assumed the services are able now and will continue to be able to provide the same capability and ability as they have in the past," he said, calling that "an increasingly shaky presumption."
"We are each part of the greater whole. The individual components must be strong and whole."
"You cannot separate the performance of the joint force from the unique capabilities each service delivers to the joint force," he said. "At some point you have to have more certainty in terms of deployment, maintenance, training. That's what we are aiming for."
"Making the hard decisions concerning what, when and where we will dial down is a far better path to follow than the past of least resistance and take a percentage cut of what we are trying to do," Harvey said.

BAE To Provide Interim Basic Flight Training to Australia

MELBOURNE - BAE Systems Australia has won an 86.6 million Australian dollar ($93.24 million) contract to provide interim basic flight training to the Australian Defence Force over the next six years.
Beginning in January, the contract will provide initial flight screening and basic flight training until the Defence Force's new pilot training scheme, Project AIR 5428, enters service around 2017.
The contract has the option of six one-year extensions if AIR 5428 runs late.
BAE Systems has been the service provider for the Australian Defence Force Basic Flying School since 1999, operating Pacific Aerospace CT-4B Airtrainers from its facility in Tamworth, New South Wales.
"BAE Systems looks forward to maintaining and improving our partnership with defense to continue to deliver the highest quality flying training for the young men and women of the ADF," said John Quaife, general manager for aviation solutions. "We are delighted at the prospect of continuing to work with the ADF to provide all the basic pilot training requirements until a new pilot training system is determined."
The contract requires the CT-4B fleet to undergo a crashworthiness upgrade to bring it into line with the ADF's Crash Protection Policy and contemporary civil standards. BAE Systems and Aeronautical Engineers Australia tested the modifications in February, paving the way for a Supplemental Type Certificate in accordance with Federal Aviation Regulations Part 23 for crash protection requirements.

Russia's Lavrov In Baghdad To Boost Military Ties

BAGHDAD - Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov pushed for stronger military ties with Baghdad during talks with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari on a visit here Tuesday.
"We are ready to continue collaboration in different fields, especially in the military field," Lavrov told reporters at a news conference. "It is an important element to maintain the sovereignty of Iraq and unity of its land."
It was unclear how long Lavrov would be staying in Iraq, or which other Iraqi officials he would meet with.
The Iraqi military was dismantled and disbanded shortly after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to oust Saddam Hussein, and it has been taking steps to rebuild ahead of this year's American pullout.
In November, Iraq took delivery of eight Russian-made multipurpose helicopters in a $156-million deal.
It has also signed an order for 140 American M1A1 Abrams tanks, and inaugurated the first in a fleet of 15 high-speed U.S.-built patrol boats in September.
Iraq was on the verge of signing a $900 million deal with Washington to purchase F-16 fighter jets earlier this year, but diverted the funds to food for the poor amid protests over weak public services.
The 45,000 US troops currently in Iraq must withdraw by the end of the year, according to the terms of a bilateral security pact.

Taiwan To Delay Buying Arms From U.S.: Lawmaker

TAIPEI - Taiwan plans to delay buying weapons from the United States to save money so that it can phase out its decades-old conscription system, a senior lawmaker and media said Tuesday.
Taiwan's defense ministry intends to push back the due date for buying Patriot missiles from 2014 to 2017 and postpone buying Black Hawk helicopters from 2016 to 2019 or 2020, according to a statement from lawmaker Lin Yu-fang.
Lin, a defense expert, said the delay was due to the huge price tags of the weapons as well as Washington's later than expected approval of the arms sales.
Local media said the military is tightening its spending to raise money to hire professional soldiers so that it can scrap conscription in the next few years.
The United States last year unveiled a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan, including the Patriot missiles and Black Hawk helicopters, triggering an angry protest from Beijing.
Washington has recognized Beijing officially over Taipei since 1979, but remains the island's main arms supplier.
China considers Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary, although the two sides have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949.
It has warned Washington repeatedly against arms sales to the island.
A defense spokesman said he could not immediately confirm the reports.