In a post on military corruption on Strategy Page, which is, as usual on that site of wargamer geeks turned armchair experts, all over the place, there’s a little on micromanagement and the media. We’ll pick it up, then, in the middle:
Examples of micromanagement were abundant in the recent Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Washington often had to be consulted before sensitive attacks were made (like having a Predator UAV launch a Hellfire missile at some guy on the ground who might be Osama bin Laden, or some tall Afghan with a beard, a new SUV, and a commanding manner). The JCS Command Post was an attempt to deal with this problem. The JCS and the Secretary of Defense are the president’s senior, and most frequent, military advisors. Ultimately, the buck stops with the JCS. So by plugging the JCS into a world-wide command system, politically sensitive decisions can be resolved quickly (in minutes, or at least in less than an hour). The more frequent contact between the president, the Secretary of Defense, and the JSC with combat commanders might build up a degree of trust that would enable sensitive decisions to be made more quickly. This would happen, in a best case situation, because the JCS Command Post had developed confidence in the judgment of the commanders out there.
But the JCS Command Post has just become another layer of management that slows down decision making without improving the ability of the troops to get the job done. To solve this problem it’s proposed that the CINC be reduced to the status of a staff officer. The CINC and his people (several hundred staff officers and support troops) would be the repository of knowledge about the local situation and would take care of all those logistical and support details that enable the combat operations to happen. So far, the CINCs have successfully resisted this, but it’s happening anyway whenever the folks back in Washington want to throw their considerable weight around.
Speaking of staff work, one thing combat staffs are increasingly concerned with is how to deal with politically delicate situations that the media could run with (often in uncomfortable directions). This sort of thing has been seen frequently since September 11, 2001. For example, when sandstorms seemed to have “stalled” the American advance on Baghdad in 2003, the president, or at least the Secretary of Defense, had to be in touch with the commanders inside the sand storm and then say something to the press that would defuse the story and wouldn’t blow up later if it proved to be false. For those who didn’t catch the follow up on the stand storm, the troops were delayed by the need to resupply (especially fuel for their very thirsty M-1 tanks) and the storm actually helped because the Iraqis thought they could safely move Republican Guard divisions under cover of it. They couldn’t, as there were American satellites, UAVs, and sensors on the ground that could see right through the sand. Iraqi tanks and troops got shot up on a massive scale before they realized that the airborne sand blinded them more than the Americans.
The media, of course, reported the sandstorm story completely differently. It’s important to remember that they’re not anti-war, exactly, they’re just on the other side. They seem to “go there” reflexively, whoever the “other” is: whether it’s the Sandinistas, the Syrians of ISIL, or the Symbionese Liberation Army, if it’s against America, newshounds are all for it.
Hell, they don’t even see ISIL as an enemy when it’s beheading their fellow journalists. (What do they think? “That really sucks for him, there goes his Pulitzer?”) They don’t seem to react to these things like normal human beings, these mole men of the media.
And now the JADE HELM 15 “controversy,” which is only a controversy to the extent that the informed (including you, dear readers) find themselves at cross-purposes with the ignorant, penetrates the mainstream media.
The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe, the sort of reporter who reads a couple of books and becomes the paper’s military expert (for heaven forfend they would pollute their newsroom with an actual, you know, veteran), is a latecomer to the JADE HELM 15 story, and doesn’t entirely get it, but unlike the conspiracy theorists he understands the difference between exercise/notional national entities remapped onto real terrain, and the real-world, non-exercise, persons and institutions on that terrain. Note his “for the purpose of training” below:
The mission is vast both geographically and strategically: Elite service members from all four branches of the U.S. military will launch an operation this summer in which they will operate covertly among the U.S. public and travel from state to state in military aircraft. Texas, Utah and a section of southern California are labeled as hostile territory, and New Mexico isn’t much friendlier.
…the military has routinely launched exercises in the past in which regions of the United States are identified as hostile for the purpose of training.
He then cites several other examples, including some we didn’t know about because they’re conventional exercises of the Sea Services off and onshore in the Southeast, and some we’ve mentioned already, like Robin Sage.
Lamothe has no higher levels of Vitamin Clue than you would expect to find behind a keyboard at the Post, but he’s trying, and that rare degree of effort sets him apart from his peers. He actually contacted a USASOC spokesman and got a quote from him.
What he seems to be missing is that the large areas and cross-jurisdiction operations are necessary to exercise, not special operations actions-on-the-objective, but special ops logistics, the true crux of a global SOF capability. While every SF, SEAL, MARSOC and AFSOC element on the ground will be exercising their thing, the command as a whole will be shaking down the ability to insert, communicate with, command & control, supply, reinforce, and extract special operations forces across realistic distances (1000 km — 1000 miles). Having trained guys who can train, lead, capture and destroy is a fine capability but as we have stressed before, it is no use at all if you can’t get it there.
We don’t know how many teams deploy in JADE HELM 15, but in a 1980s Flintlock, a deployed SFOB (today’s JSOTF forerunner) handled some 54 SF teams and a few foreign or combined teams and SEAL platoons directly, and another 6-18 SF teams through an FOB that was stood up by a Reserve or Guard SF unit. Every one of these had to be delivered and recovered, and in between, fed and supplied; plus there were other missions that required inter-service coordination, like Fulton STAR recoveries and F-111 beacon-bombing missions. To understand SOF, you really need to have experienced both the field, team environment, and the Support, Signal and Operations centers of the deployed SFOB or JSOTF. It’s much easier to train a team than it is to train a Group, let alone an entire joint-service theater special operations command. It’s like the difference between combat-training a rifle platoon and preparing the Invasion of Sicily.
As cool as the stories of the OSS Jeds and OGs and their SOE mates are — and believe us, they’re cool, and we have some more to share with you Real Soon Now™ — the real accomplishment was in the relatively unsung loggies of the “Shetland Bus,” the Carpetbaggers, the OSS Maritime Unit and the construction and development of communications site, staffs and procedures. (Indeed, SOE’s biggest failure came about because they expanded too fast and violated their own communications security procedures. But that is another story).