July 1, 2013

Commanders Are Critical

“To truly turn the corner on sexual assault, we must thoroughly consider every reasonable alternative. … It will be important for us to remember that commanders are … the key to permanent organizational and environmental change. … Changing views on respect and dignity does not happen overnight and it requires consistent leadership focus. We must avoid creating an environment where commanders are less accountable for what happens in their individual units. … If we are serious about change, we must reinforce to commanders that success depends on their sound judgment in all matters involving good order and discipline, not separate them from the problem.”—USAF Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, Chief of Staff, on calls to take sex-assault cases from unit commanders, Senate Armed Services Committee, June 4.

Commanders Are Suspect

“You have lost the trust of the men and women who rely on you that you will actually bring justice in these cases. … Not every single commander necessarily wants women in the force. Not every single commander can distinguish between a slap on the ass and a rape.”—Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), leader of drive to strip unit commanders of authority over sex crimes, remarks to the service Chiefs, Senate Armed Services Committee, June 4.

DOD’s One-Way Street

“What we’ve learned from the last drawdown, where we cut 200,000 civilians from the Defense Department, was that the work didn’t change, and so some other way was found to do the work. What are your choices there? Either the military does it, which is the most expensive way to perform almost any task, or you hire contractors. That’s fine as long as it’s for a surge capacity and then you reduce it, but what we’ve seen over the last 20 years is they bring it up and never draw it back down. In the 2000s, we built up the defense budget tremendously, but we only added about four percent to military personnel. We had an increase in civilian personnel of up to 60 percent by some measures, and doubled our contractors. … We have to find the things we can stop doing.”—David J. Berteau, Center for Strategic and International Studies,, June 4.

Syrian “No-Fly” Zone

“It is quite frankly an act of war and it is not a trivial matter. It would absolutely be harder than [the 2011 air campaign over] Libya. This is a much denser, much more capable defense system than we’d faced in Libya. I know it sounds stark, but what I always tell people, when they talk to me about a no-fly zone, is … it’s basically to start a war with that country, because you are going to have to go in and kinetically take out their air defense capability. These are some very capable systems that are being talked about. … Completely eliminating them, controlling them, containing them—each of those requires a different level of effort, none of them easy. As long as the weapons can move about the country on the surface, it is a problem of controlling battlespace. I think that it is a tough mission set.”—USAF Gen. Philip M. Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, on dangers of setting up a “no-fly zone” over Syria, Stars and Stripes, May 31.

Far East Center of Gravity

“The US Air Force has allocated 60 percent of its overseas-based forces to the Asia-Pacific—including tactical aircraft and bomber forces from the continental United States. The Air Force is focusing a similar percentage of its space and cyber capabilities on this region. These assets enable us to capitalize on the Air Force’s inherent speed, range, and flexibility.”—Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, remarks to Singapore defense conference, June 1.

An “Uh-Oh” Convergence

“A special case of … convergence is emerging in the cyberworld, where the greatest mismatch between the level of threat to our country (high) and our level of preparation (low) is evident. High-threat packages move through the world’s servers, fiber-optic cables, and routers in the service of nations, anarchic organizations, and garden-variety hackers. Trillions of dollars’ worth of cybercrime occurs each year; if the cyber-capability and the resultant cash converge with terrorist groups or pariah states such as Iran and North Korea, the potential for catastrophe is high.”—Retired Adm. James G. Stavridis, former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, op-ed in Washington Post, May 31.

Mystery of Defense Market

“The [defense] sector never really dropped. It never really collapsed, even when people thought it might. The index is higher than it’s ever been, which means that we actually have a higher [stock market] valuation of defense companies now than we did when we hit the peak in defense spending during the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars. I’m really not sure what to make of that.”—Scott Sacknoff, manager of Spade Defense Index, on the impact of the federal budget sequester, Defense News, June 3.

He Means “China”

“We will oppose the change of status quo by force by anyone. We need to retain the status quo until we get to a code of conduct or a solution.”—Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, US Pacific Command, remarks to reporters in Malaysia about rival claims to disputed areas of the South China Sea, Associated Press, June 4.

Save the Nuclear First Team

“The people who design, build, and maintain America’s nuclear weapons are the only ones who have the expertise to anticipate and deter the nuclear threats that adversaries dream up. They’re the same men and women who build the sensors that can detect nuclear explosions from space. And they’re the same professionals who know whether to ‘cut the red or blue wire’ in a terrorist device. When dealing with a threat this serious, we can’t afford to have second-rate talent hastily trained in nearly forgotten methods. That’s why the esoteric knowledge these first-string weaponeers possess—gained over decades working on nuclear weapons—is invaluable. … Zeroing out the US nuclear stockpile means also zeroing out the nuclear-talent stockpile, with potentially catastrophic results.”—Col. J. Douglas Beason, USAF (Ret.), chief scientist of Air Force Space Command, Wall Street Journal, May 31.