Facts & Figures for Global Defense Spending [TABLE]

Strategy Page has a comprehensive article about global Defense spending, full of facts and figures. Whenever I deal with with a report with lots of numbers, I arrange the most salient figures in a table, so I can comprehend them more easily. Below is a table with data pulled from the Strategy Page.

Defense table

Some key take-aways include:

  1. America continues its dominance in the global arms market, despite impressive gains by Russia and China.
  2. Global defense spending as a whole is growing.
  3. If you are an American arms salesman, whose territory includes the Middle East, you are a happy person.
  4. There are people out there in the world who actually want F-35s, and are willing to pay for them.

AMREL makes rugged mobile computer solutions that have been used by warfighters for 30 years.  While we mostly service American Defense needs, we have noticed an increase in international interest for certain products, especially the Flexpedient® AT80 Rugged Tablet.

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Why Can’t We Beat ISIS?

“What’s the point of having this superb military that

you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Madeleine Albright, former Secretary of State

 

Recent attacks by terrorists have highlighted the issues of ISIS and the eternal mess that is the Middle East. Why does it seem that we have no good options for fighting ISIS? Why can’t we use our enormous resources to exert our will?

Contrary to what you have heard, we are not “doing nothing” about ISIS. The US and its allies have launched 6,700 airstrikes in the last year. Well-known intelligence analyst Jane’s estimated  that ISIS has lost 9.4% of its territory (US estimates are higher).  Indeed, some think that the attacks in Paris were done to bolster ISIS’s image in the face of battlefield losses.

Yet, victory against ISIS still seems far away.  Considering our enormous military budget, shouldn’t we be getting more bang for the buck? What’s wrong with us?  Why can’t our military fix this?

And the problem is not just ISIS. Copious amounts of blood and treasure devoted to Iraq have not yielded positive results. Is our Defense budget a waste of money? Do we need a bigger budget? Why can’t we win?

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Incompetence

I asked for the opinion of Robert Culver, AMREL’s Director of Business Development Programs (DOD), who has had a long career in both Pentagon procurement and the Army.  Culver replied:

“The problem is: I think we have lost our doctrine.  By our doctrine, I mean military doctrine. We’ve replaced military doctrine with political doctrine or convenience.  Rumsfeld’s decision to use smaller quantity of forces at the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom was not based on Military Doctrine. It was based on political optics.”

In the lead up to the Iraqi invasion, Army Chief of Staff Shinseki advocated the deployment of hundreds of thousands of soldiers. Critics charged that Shinseki was forced into early retirement because his views clashed with the Bush administration who wanted minimal levels of troops. This perfectly illustrates Culver’s point about the dominance of political doctrine over military.

Culver holds critical views about certain members of the military leadership, political class, and commercial interests. He feels that there is pattern of suborning national interests to personal political goals and interests. Furthermore, the absence of commitment and realism by the public has abetted the lack of integrity in leadership.

 

Boots on the ground

I asked Culver to assume a perfect world in which our political and military leadership were fully competent and the public had realistic ideas about our capabilities. What would our actions against ISIS look like? Culver drew heavily from the ideas of Leonard Benton, a retired Army NCO, and answered:

“Amphibious Landing.  Establish Beachhead.  Seize port facilities. Move forward. Clear and establish and expand foothold. Invite any of the Syrians that want to be safe to come inside the containment area, employ them to help expand the safe zone/containment area. Continue to expand and also repatriate Syrian refugees from Europe. Eventually the safe zone will occupy most of Syria.  Which means we’ve displaced Daesh and safeguarded Syrian lives at the same time.  And yes, we would be the ‘occupying forces’ for a while, despite the worldwide criticism that would ensue.  The US would bring in civilians (you know, like W.E. Deming) and help train the Syrian people to build their economy. Our military would continue to police and provide security whilst civilian police experts are brought in to establish police academies etc. Eventually we would hand over control of small portions of Syria to the Syrians until all we have are the port facilities. Eventually we would withdraw completely or maybe the Syrians would invite us to stay.”

Students of counter-insurgency will recognize this as a variation of classic oil-spot strategy. It also mirrors fairly closely what retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs (now a military analyst for the media) has said:

“…we’d need several hundred thousand troops on the ground. It would take another commitment of ten years…. you’re not going to be able to do it by dropping conventional bombs on people. Militarily, the only purpose for bombs is to pave the way for people on the ground to seize and hold terrain long enough to create an environment in which there can be a real government to take out the trash. We’re not doing it and it takes a quarter of a million people to do it just in Syria.”

 

The American people

I am sure most of you have spotted the flaw with this strategy. The American public is exhausted of war. We have no appetite for another long, expensive invasion that places our soldiers in harm’s way. This suggests that this really is a problem of politics and leadership, as Culver has said.

Or maybe not. Maybe the American people are right, and ISIS doesn’t pose enough of a threat to warrant sacrifice on national scale. Whatever the wisdom this lack of martial initiative may or may not posses, very few politicians, despite their bellicose talk, are willing to advocate this type of commitment.

If the American people lack the will for overseas operations, is our military worthless?  What’s the point of our military, if as Albright says, we don’t use it?

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If you want peace, prepare for war

I always hated the above truism. Arms build-ups frequently precede war. What one side sees as defensive measures, its neighbor sees as offensive threats, which then justify their own war preparations. By and large, history makes a mockery of “arming for peace.”

However, when considering the current state of military affairs, I must admit there may be some truth to this notion. To explain, let me tell you a story about World War II.

Abraham Wald, a Hungarian mathematician was asked by the Allies to determine which areas on a bomber needed additional armor. Observers had examined returning bombers, and had assumed that the planes needed armor where the bullet holes were located. Wald startled his colleagues by advocating the opposite. The bombers needed armor where the bullet holes weren’t.  They were only examining bombers which has survived their missions and returned.  Therefore, the bullet holes were located in non-critical areas.  The planes that had been hit in critical areas didn’t survived. Therefore, the additional armor was needed in areas where the surviving planes had no bullet holes.

I think we may be facing a similar situation on a global scale. ISIS and terrorists in general, are fighting a kind of war we can’t respond to, because our strength has eliminated all the other kinds of military actions. In other words, they have learned to shoot where the bullet holes are not.

US dominance has shaped and defined the world’s battle space. National wars are relatively rare and tend not to last long.  There have been comparatively few all-out traditional nation-state wars since World War II, because the US military superiority, as well as its extensive network of alliances, has made them pointless.

While it is easy to focus on the few national wars that have occurred, the modern world is remarkable for the ones that are not happening. For a thousand years, the French, Germans, and British fought wars one generation after another. In today’s world, a major war between Western European nations seems farfetched. The Chinese and Russians build warplanes, but no one expects them to invade US airspace. The Koreans and Japanese have centuries of long simmering ethnic hatred, but they are not likely to attack each other.

Even the feud between India and Pakistan has been curtailed by Pax Americana. Their last war in 1999 was ended by direct US diplomatic pressure. Their previous war was almost 45 years ago, lasted only a few weeks, and resulted in 9,000 deaths. That’s a lot of people, but considering a single day of battle in World War I or the American Civil War often had higher casualty rates, one starts to appreciate just how few people these two large populous nations have lost in their decades-long hostility.

What this means is that while ISIS can kill Frenchmen, they can’t kill France. The United States may lose the World Trade Center, but New York itself is free of the specter of bomber fleets that tormented cities in the World War II. Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq are a mess, but the very fact that there is so much attention focused on them demonstrates just how rare large-scale war has become.

I feel really bad that we have no effective solution to ISIS and terrorism. However, this doesn’t mean that the US military is not doing its job.  The very existence of terrorism means that it is.

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Illegal immigration debate, a family story

The topic of illegal immigration usually inspires technical talk at AMREL. Is the handheld biometric XP7-ID a preferred solution for border patrol agents, or do they favor the wider display of the Flexpedient® AT-80B tablet? Which components of the compact 19”/2® Network Servers are appropriate for a mobile communication solution that would service the remote areas of the American Southwest? Can the positive experiences that the military had with our Operator Control Unit (OCU) solutions for unmanned systems be repeated with the recently ramped up border security forces?

However, one afternoon we shelved talks of networks and laptops for a more personal approach. In a typical “water cooler” conversation, we discussed our attitudes toward this hot topic. What I noticed was that even though everyone had been born in this country, our opinions had been shaped by our families’ experiences with immigration. Americans like to think of themselves as independent of history, and that our views are purely rational, but it seems to me in this instance, what you believe reflects who you are and where you come from.

I asked my fellow co-workers to write down how their family histories affected their views on immigration. You may be surprised at who expressed what views.

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William Finn
AMREL Senior Editor & Copywriter

Most of my family tree dates back in this country to the late 1800s. They fled pogroms, 25-year draft sentences, and whatever delightful things Eastern Europeans had reserved for the Jews.

We were legal immigrants, but more significantly America was the first country where we were legal residents. Despite having lived in some European communities for over a thousand years, we never had the privileges and rights afforded our Christian neighbors. United States was the first country to ever recognize us with actual citizenship. As a result, I don’t think anyone was more pro-American that my grandparents and great grandparents.

Our current generations are deeply involved with the law (family dinners often include probation officers, and a judge). We take the rule of law very seriously, but that doesn’t mean we take a hard line on immigration.

Despite generations of American privilege, the ghosts of rampaging Cossacks, bone crushing poverty, and tyrannical bureaucrats still haunt us. Our family history is full of ancestors who had no documented status in the towns where they were born. We understand better than most what a desperate person will do to protect their loved ones. We look at illegal immigrants and see ourselves.

Illegal immigration is unquestionably a problem for some. Economists tell us that for the country as a whole, the financial pluses and minuses of illegal immigration average out. The problem is that no one lives in the “country as a whole.” Whenever a politician talks about illegal immigration, I never hear them offering solutions for the people and communities negatively affected by illegal immigration. Sometimes, I think they care more about hurting illegals than they do about helping our country.

Frankly, I just don’t see illegal immigration as that big of a deal. Maybe if I was a construction worker who lost his job to an illegal immigrant I might feel differently. Maybe if I hadn’t grown up in the Arizona, where I spent afternoons with my father watching bullfights on a local TV station, and my family argued over guacamole recipes, I might view Latino culture as foreign rather than intrinsically American.

I do see other problems in this country:

  • In 2007, the world economy lost 8 trillion dollars due to irresponsible deregulation and shenanigans by the financial sector. Like millions of others, I lost my job and my house. No one responsible went to jail. I don’t think any of the main players even lost their job. The country still hasn’t fully recovered.
  • The infrastructure of this country is decaying and needs a massive build up, but Congress has done diddlysquat about this problem.
  • Our doctors may be great, but our healthcare system is the most expensive in the world. It is a drag on the economy, with every business paying an invisible tax to this terribly inefficient system.

I could go on, but what do all these problems have in common? They have nothing to do with illegal immigration.  Remind me again, why are we talking about this?

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Richard Barrios
Web Marketing Specialist

I am proud of my heritage and the roots of my family.  As my Dad would say, “I am an American not a Mexican.”

Immigration is a very personal issue for me.  My mother’s side of the family came here from South America on visas and worked their way to citizenship.  My father was born in the United States from immigrant parents that came to the US in the 1930’s.  My wife and her family are also naturalized citizens, but from the Philippines.

I am Hispanic and grew up in a Hispanic home and in a Hispanic neighborhood. I know that many will call me a self hating Hispanic and racist. However, illegal immigration and the activism to legitimize it is a slap in the face to my family.  Plain and simple.  Both my family and my wife’s do not understand the fight to legalize those who broke the law and want preferential treatment.

My wife’s cousin, who lives in the Philippines, has applied to come to the United States and has to wait 10 years.  He is a registered nurse and runs his own business.  Meanwhile, illegal immigrants sit in the United States and wait for the next amnesty law to take effect.  The illegal works here, establishes himself with references, and has children.  The children are citizens and now this illegal alien has additional arguments to stay in the country (Dream Act).

Federal Government is asked to protect the border and won’t do it.  Instead they spend millions on amnesty programs and trying to convince Americans that Mexico and Mexicans are not the problem.  I have heard many people say that it is impossible to deport or send 11 Million illegal aliens out of the United States. Then how did 11 Million people come to the United States if it’s impossible to move that many people in the first place?  How about they leave the same way they came and all others on a case by case basis.

Something that many haven’t taken into account are the resources that are available.  From money, to housing, to jobs, legal immigration, roads and natural resources. The child of an illegal is eligible for welfare and thus qualifies the family for all the other benefits.  Another way to qualify is using false papers.   Stealing Social Security numbers and paper work of legal immigrants is very common.  How do you think 11 Million illegal aliens live and work in this country? Without closing the border and creating a legal way in, the money that needs to be allocated to support less fortunate can never be assessed correctly from year to year. This unchecked immigration issue also hinders people that want to come here legitimately.  My wife’s cousin for example.

Natural resources, like water, also becomes an issue.  In order to support a population one needs to have control over how many people come into the environment.  Governor Brown of California said recently, said “If they did so, the state would not only support its current population of 39 million, but probably could accept at least 10 million more residents.” If illegal immigration is left unchecked we will quickly exceed the numbers we can support.  At current rates California should reach 50 million residents by 2050, then what?

Growing up, I found an overwhelming majority of Mexican Americans, even US born, consider themselves Mexicans first and Americans second.  Stark contrast to the vast majority of Asians, Europeans and Africans who immigrate to this country and are proud to be called Americans.

Today, the distinction of rights afforded to an American citizen and an illegal alien is nearly gone.  What is left?  There are over 200 sanctuary cities across the country who have explicitly committed themselves to ignore federal law and will not cooperate with ICE.  Public policy has given illegal aliens more rights than an American citizen under the law.  If I break a state or federal law is there a sanctuary city for me?  If I break the law (non violent) and get sent to jail for a number of years, is the state not separating me from my family and taking away the bread winner?

Tens of thousands of American service men have bled and died for the rights and freedoms we have in the United States, not for Mexicans to have rights to the United States.

 

Albaro Ibarra
Senior Marketing Manager

Both of my parents came to the USA from Mexico legally. My mother went through the process at a young age and secured her Green Card. Her older brother that came here first then helped the other siblings. My father received his Green Card with help from his boss when he was working in the fields of Coachella picking vegetables.

When both were in their 40’s, they finally became US citizens.   Both initially had thoughts of returning back to Mexico, but when they had kids they realized that a better life could be had here. The USA is their home. Their roots are now here. They would not return to Mexico, but they call themselves Mexicans.

My brother and I are First Generation Americans. My primary language is English, but I can read and talk in Spanish (not as fluent in writing). My mind thinks in English first and when I am around Spanish dominant speakers my mind thinks in Spanish until I come across a subject or word or phrase that I don’t know. I tell you this, so you can understand how a First Generation American thinks, compared to someone that grew up in Mexico or a 2+ generation American.

The latest census says that the amount of Latinos in the USA that were born outside of the USA is smaller than those born here. This is a recent change; before the ratios were reversed.

This generation will be bilingual or English dominant. They consider themselves Americans but have Latino cultural ties. The concern I have is that those cultural ties are weakened with each generation. It is a conscious effort on the behalf of my wife and I to have our kids speak Spanish and understand their grandparents’ rich culture.  They want to learn, but they can’t relate. When I took them to Mexico on a visit, they were seen as America, not Latinos. The more generations that go by I fear those connections to the Latin cultural will be weakened to the point where one of my great grandchildren would not know they are Latino until they do a school project to check their family tree.

I believe a balance is the best thing. If you are born here, you are American but you should not be punished because of your cultural ties. What makes America so great is its diversity. It is that diversity that makes us stronger and more exciting as a people. We are that great melting pot that has food and spices from all over….what a delicious dish. Who want to eat the same thing every day?

I do believe in enforcing immigration laws, but not building a huge wall. I believe we should have a form of identification for everyone who lives in the USA, because I believe it would help identify potential threats to our country, and help improve the situation about undocumented people receiving medical aid or other State or Federal Services. I am not a cruel beast and don’t believe that if you are here illegally you should not receive basic human rights. What I am against is the people that want to take advantage of the system and the lack of tracking or documentation costs us millions.

My parents believe the same way, even though I do have family members that are very well off, but work the system to get FREE State of Federal aid. I don’t think that is a Latino thing, more a moral thing.

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Conclusion
There you have it. Three different people with three different family histories on immigration, and three different attitudes toward illegal immigration. Even though we disagree, we respect each other’s opinions. I think a large part of that is that we understand how our past and our family histories have shaped our experiences. Hopefully, others will have the same tolerance in this contentious debate.

The opinion expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not reflect the positions of AMREL, its partners, or its other employees.

Do you have an opinion? Send it to editor@amrel.comBe advised we may use the content of your email in a future blog post.

 

5 mobile mistakes made by businesses

More and more enterprises are adopting mobile solutions. Mobile devices boost employee satisfaction, enhance productivity, increase efficiency, and improve communication.

They also cause headaches. BIG headaches.  In order to have a smile on your face, instead of pain in your head, take a quick look at some common business mobile mistakes that you want to avoid.

 

Bring Your Own Problem

Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is very popular. Employees like doing work on their own devices, and not having to learn a new operating system. Employers like the fact that employees are paying for their own business equipment.

In fact, BYOD is a big success, except when it isn’t.  Some common problems enterprises run into are:

  • Support for cross-platform applications. Listen carefully, and you will hear the sound of IT support personnel all around the world pulling out their hair as they try to ensure that the latest program upgrade is compatible on Windows, Windows CE, Android, and Apple platforms. One of the big drawbacks of BYOD is that IT guys must become overnight experts on everything.
  • Information “walking away.” So you fired that one problem employee who made life miserable for everyone. Good for you! Did you notice that he walked off with a ton of proprietary information in his personal mobile phone? Didn’t you install a remote wipe function? Oops.
  • Industry specific problems. If you work in the medical field, you have to ensure all devices meet rigorous HIPPA standards. If you are working in the Defense industry, everything has to be encrypted. Making sure all your employees’ personal devices meet your specific industry requirements and work together with each other is not impossible. But it’s no fun either.

This is by far not a conclusive list. For a more details on the joys and tribulations of BYOD, see BYOD Pros & Cons [INFOGRAPHIC].

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Cheap is expensive

You decide BYOD is not for you. The next step is to buy the right mobile device for your staff. Of course, you want to save money, so you buy the cheapest decent mobile device you can find.

Turns out that the initial cost of a purchase is a minor part of the Total Cost of Ownership.  A study by VDC Research raised some eyebrows when they reported that for mobile computers, the expenses of repair, replacement, missing data, and lost productivity were far larger than the initial cost.

They recommended investing in “rugged” computers, which often have a higher purchase price than their commercial counterparts. These durable devices have been hardened to withstand shock, temperature extremes, dust, water, and other severe environmental factors. Popular with military and police, these tough computers are also being adopted by businesses in order to save money in the long term.

 

Don’t forget the connectors

Considering the myriad of details that one must evaluate during a mobile device purchase, it’s easy to overlook something a prosaic as connectors. However, humble connectors can have a surprising impact, especially when you are dealing with legacy or heterogeneous equipment. Field technicians may need to download information from remote sensors. Repairmen might require a mobile device that can interact with a testing machine. Warehouse workers may need a mobile platform that can directly connect to the company’s mainframe. All these tasks may necessitate specific kinds of connectors, or even customized ones. Be sure to check out the connectors before you purchase.

 

Ask for the moon

“What I really need is a mobile device that has an RFID reader, a Point of Sale device, and a fingerprint sensor. Of course, such a thing does not exist, and I can’t afford to build one from scratch.”

No matter how ridiculous you think your request is, ask. If you are reading this article, there is a good chance that you are not an expert in this field. You do not know what is possible, and there is a chance that a professional will know of a solution that would have never have occurred to you.

 

Think big. Buy small.

When you are dealing with a challenging purchase, there is a temptation to rely on the big well-known brands. The problem is that the larger a company, the less agile it is.

For example, you want the value of a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) product, but you have specific needs that cannot be met by the standard offerings. Customization is expensive, and often requires unreasonably large orders.  Wouldn’t be great if you got the best of both COTS and customization?

There is such a thing and it is called “Customized COTS,” which has been embraced by some of the smaller mobile device manufacturers. Due to their smaller size, they are able to deliver products that have the value of COTS and the advantages of customization even for low value orders, often with minimal Non Recurring Engineering (NRE) fees.  Seek and you will find them.

Of course, there are many other considerations one must weigh before buying mobile devices for your enterprise.  If you have any questions please consult the experts at AMREL.  Call (800) 882–673, email cdinfo@amrel.com, or visit computers.amrel.com.

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The highly selective “truths” of the Iran deal [OPINION]

Did you know the Bible commands us to commit adultery? Sure you do, it’s right there in the seventh commandment, which begins “Thou shalt…” and ends with “…commit adultery.” What could be clearer?

Of course, what I did was edited out significant words, and misleadingly quoted out of context.  Something like this is happening with the Iran deal. People with no background in arms control or nuclear technology are making a lot of questionable assertions based on highly selective interpretations of the proposed agreement.

Below are four highly publicized falsehoods. I also threw in some speculation at the end.

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Side deals allow Iran to self-inspect

First off, this accusation refers to one facility, the Parchin site, which, admittedly, is an important one. Virtually the entire Iranian nuclear infrastructure – from the mines to the processing plants – will be subject to onsite 24/7 inspections by 130 to 150 independent workers of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). This kind of unfettered access is unprecedented. No nation, in peacetime, has ever allowed this before.

This accusation is based on an AP story which has been changed several times and is viewed skeptically by nuclear experts. As noted in previous the blog post, the Iranian deal represents a gold mine of intelligence information. To mitigate this, the Iranians have insisted on certain limitations, including the right to do some of their own sampling.

However, the sampling is supervised by IAEA inspectors, and is subjected to rigorous verification and authentification procedures. For a detailed discussion of the verification methods, see the always wonderful War on the Rocks.  In this article, Cheryl Rofer, 35 year veteran of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, points out how the AP story suspiciously leaves out critical aspects of the inspection regime. She details the rather rigorous verification procedure for the samples, which include videotaping and GPS information.

In the video below, another expert, Dr. Jeffry Lewis, finds this criticism so preposterous he can barely stop from laughing. He makes it clear that independent inspectors will be onsite, examining the controversial Parchin facility.

The United States is giving Iran hundreds of billions of dollars in previously frozen assets

Most of the frozen assets are held by non-American entities, so we are not “giving” them anything. Media Matters cites Center On Arms Control and Non-Proliferation (CACNP), who in turn draws on a CIA report:

“Critics of the Iran deal like to exaggerate the amount of blocked funds Iran will receive, claiming that Iran will receive up to $300 billion in sanctions relief. According to US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, that figure is more like $50 billion. Iran owes at least $20 billion to China in addition to tens of billions in non-performing (unpaid) loans and has around $500 billion worth of pressing domestic investment requirements and government obligations.”

Iran will unquestionably benefit economically from this deal, but to what degree and how much money will be channeled to terrorist proxies is very much in dispute.

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The restrictions lasts only 10 to 15 years

According to the Arms Control Association (ACA) (emphasis added)

“The agreement will set up a multilayered system to monitor and inspect every aspect of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and fuel cycle, including continuous monitoring at some sites for 20–25 years. Other elements, including access to a wider number of nuclear sites—notably centrifuge manufacturing sites — and inspections on short notice under the terms of Iran’s additional protocol, will be permanent. Inspectors will have timely access to any site, anywhere, including military sites, if there is evidence of suspicious nuclear activities.”

Click chart below to enlarge

iran chart

All the economic sanctions will be lifted immediately on Iran

You could be forgiven for believing this, since the Iranian proponents of the deal are telling this to their own people in order to drive up support. The reality is lot more complicated:

  1. Before any sanctions can be lifted, Iran has to prove that it “…has taken steps to limit its uranium-enrichment program, convert the Arak heavy water reactor, provide required transparency, and give the IAEA the information needed to resolve questions about past activities with possible military dimensions.” (ACA). Some are guessing that this could take 6 months. Others are saying that it could take a lot longer.
  2. The sanctions against trade for technology that would enable nuclear-capable missiles will last at least 8 years.
  3. American economic sanctions based on human-rights violations will last indefinitely, or until Iran becomes a Jeffersonian democracy, whichever comes first.

Of course, sanctions could be “snapped backed” with evidence of violations. The effectiveness of this provision has been criticized as unrealistic. The one thing that is unquestionable is that it is historically unprecedented that China and Russia gave up their prized veto for this provision.

 

Iran has a nuclear weapons program

I cannot definitely state that Iran has no nuclear weapon program. In fact, I would not bet money on this assertion.

However, this contention has surprisingly strong backing. For one thing, both the IAEA and the CIA concluded that Iran had abandoned its weapon program years ago (12 years ago is one estimate). Luminaries, such as David H. Petraeus, Leon E. Panetta and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, have agreed with this assessment (New York Times).  Bizarrely, the IAEA and the CIA shave stuck with this conclusion, even after admitting that Iran had been conducting suspicious enrichment activities.

This leads to a speculative theory, which again, seems odd, but has surprising merit: the entire Iranian nuclear weapons program is a scam. What is known is that Iran has been trying for decades to get relief from economic sanctions.  After an unceremonious rejection from President Clinton (he wouldn’t even talk with them), Iran decided they needed something to trade in exchange for the lifting of the sanctions. Hence, the Iranian nuclear program was born.  Not because they wanted a bomb (their theocratic leaders have publicly ruled nuclear weapons to be contrary to their religion), but because they wanted economic relief.

Of course, there is a contravening theory that the US and its allies have scammed Iran. After all, the sanction regime, which is one of the most severe in history, was never expected to last under any circumstance. Essentially, we are getting them to throttle their nuclear program in exchange for something (sanctions relief) that they would have gotten anyway.

Whatever the truth is, we can all hope that the proposed agreement will do what it is supposed to do, i.e. prevent the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Let’s just pray that we are all around in 25 years to see if it actually worked.

This post is the opinion solely of the author and does not reflect the positions of AMREL or its other employees.

Do you have an opinion? Send it to editor@amrel.com. Be advised we may use the content of your email in a future blog post.

 

 

 

The Iran Nuclear Deal is a Disaster. I support it. [OPINION]

“The first three things I asked my briefers about when I woke every morning were Iran, Iran and Iran,”

-Marine Gen. James Mattis (Washington Times)

The recent nuclear arms control agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (UN Security Council members plus Germany) is one of the most important diplomatic agreements of this generation. It has spurred heated controversy, and has been shrouded in endless accusations and misinformation. While this is an opinion piece, I have striven to develop and present positions that are informed and balanced.

 

What does the deal say?

Currently, Iran is estimated to have enough enriched uranium to make approximately 10 to 12 nuclear bombs in a few months’ time. With this deal, under the watchful eyes of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA):

  • 98% of the enriched uranium stock will be destroyed.
  • 14,000 of Iranian 20,000 centrifuges will be taken out of commission.
  • Iran will be forbidden from enriching uranium beyond 3.67% enrichment, a far cry from the 90% necessary for weaponization.
  • The core of the controversial Arak plutonium facility will be exported or destroyed.

In return, some economic sanctions will be lifted on Iran, and some frozen assets will be released.

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Isn’t there a danger of the Iranians cheating?

 “Inspectors will be monitoring the only two mines where Iran can get uranium ore, the fuel for a bomb, and the mills where it’s processed. They will keep tabs on every single centrifuge in the country, as well as the centrifuge factories, the machines that could be used to make a centrifuge, even on imports of technology that could be used to build a machine that could be used to build a centrifuge.”

Vox

“I spent many hours of my youth watching, in some cases covering as a newspaper reporter, Senate hearings about nuclear arms treaties that the Carter, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton administrations had negotiated with the Russians. These were contentious hearings, but I don’t remember anything as plainly vicious—and utterly divorced from substance—as the Republicans’ behavior at Thursday’s briefing.”

 Fred Kaplan on Congressional hearings for the Iranian agreement, Slate

By far and away, the biggest lie of this controversy is the accusation that the inspection regime enforcing this deal is toothless. I am using the word “lie” intentionally, because it is simply not possible to reach this conclusion with any kind of dispassionate analysis.

In regards to the inspection regime imposed by the agreement, I did something that very few people have done; I read what experts had to say. While the track record of the inspectors at the IAEA is not perfect, it’s still a pretty good one. For example, when the whole world was screaming about Iraqi nuclear weapons, they repeatedly and correctly maintained that there was no evidence of their existence.

You can read arms control expert opinions here and here.

While the reaction of the IAEA staff has not been unanimous, it has been overwhelming one-sided.  They are astounded.  Over and over, I read quotes of their disbelief that the P5+1could get a deal this good. The idea that somehow we can get a better deal is completely unsupportable.

The consensus of the vast majority of experts I read is that this deal is the most stringent, detailed, and most comprehensive arms control agreement ever reached in peacetime. The imposed inspection regime on Iran is a foot on the throat of their entire nuclear program.


foot on throatFoot = Inspection regime

Throat = Iranian Nuclear program

 

What about the “two-week delay” in inspections?

When I researched this issue, my favorite quote came from Foreign Policy, who in an attempt at journalistic impartiality was able to find a few experts who had reservations about the deal. When asked about the famous “two-week wait,” Finnish nuclear weapons expert Heinonen stated, “From an investigative point of view that is a little bit not good.”

This wait period doesn’t apply to the entire known Iranian nuclear infrastructure. As mentioned above, the fact that international inspectors have real-time access to virtually every level of the nuclear industry is unprecedented. The wait period only applies to suspect facilities not officially part of the nuclear infrastructure.

Detecting nuclear weapons and the industrial infrastructure that produce them has been a top priority of the major powers for over 60 years. As a result, the technology for doing so is robust and fairly reliable.

The President was right to mock Netanyahu’s analogy of police warning a meth lab of an impending search. For one thing, most meth labs do not have high powered satellites watching their every move. Secondly, nuclear technology is heavy, clumsy, toxic and radioactive. Nuclear plants, typically, take years if not decades to decommission. In the entire history of nuclear weapons, none have ever been developed in mobile facilities.

nuclear plant

Not mobile

Most arms control experts that I have read dismissed the significance of the waiting period.  It is almost impossible to “scrub” a site of any importance in two weeks.

One of the great things about this agreement is the bonanza of intelligence it will provide about overall Iranian capabilities. In an attempt to stem the flood of data that will be flowing from Iran, their military refused unrestricted access to their entire country. In the history of arms control, no nation, who had not suffered a military defeat, has ever agreed to “anytime, anywhere” inspections.

Could the Iranians cheat without being discovered? With typical bureaucratic caution, a few experts say that it is theoretically possible, but it is highly unlikely. Considering the resources involved, the infinitesimal results such a covert effort would yield, and the overwhelming likelihood that they would be caught, cheating would be a very high risk, very low benefit endeavor.

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War is the only reality

 “Certainly, it can be delayed a month, six months, 18 months. What do you do with the delay is the question. The military can buy our diplomats some time, but it cannot solve this problem straight up.”

-Marine Gen. James Mattis (Washington Times)

Mattis description of 18 months being the maximum amount of delay that can be inflicted by military actions appears to be a consensus opinion among experts (see previous blog article about military options). All likely military scenarios are dangerous, unproductive, and will yield temporary benefits at best.

Continuing or strengthening sanctions will be impossible. It took the President 6 years to get sanctions this tough. The sanctions were only achieved by the President promising that they would lead to a nuclear arms agreement. If the US walks away from this deal, sanctions will unquestionably collapse.

Considering the agreement will delay the development of nuclear weapons far longer than any likely military actions (including nuclear attacks), why is there so much opposition to this deal? Some people oppose this deal for purely partisan reasons. Besides this, there are two major causes for opposition: one legitimate, one not.

Let’s play a game. Remember when the President said that Syrian use of chemical weapons was a “red line?” Let’s suppose in an alternate reality, he ordered a military strike on chemical weapon facilities. He goes on television and announces that he has confidently destroyed between 80 to 100% of the Syrian chemical capabilities. He is hailed as a hero who stood strong.

In reality, the President did destroy 80 to 100% of the Syrian chemical capabilities. However, he did it through diplomatic means. Since he didn’t kill anyone doing it, people accuse him of backtracking and spinelessness.

In the political arena, peace deals and arms control agreements are consistently judged by standards far stricter than military operations. Peace deals must be 100% foolproof with no possibility of anything going wrong. No one goes to wars with this type of assurance. Many assume war to be less risky, and more realistic than diplomacy. Anyone who questions the effectiveness of military solutions is considered a wimp.

mattis

General Mattis

Not a wimp

Recently, I discussed the Iranian nuclear agreement with an informed, intelligent acquaintance. Even after describing the stringent inspection regime, he dismissed the deal. “I don’t trust the Iranians,” he said. “It’s too much of a gamble. We should nuke them.”

I was flabbergasted. This man blithely assumed that the option of using nuclear arms was less dangerous, more certain, and more realistic than a diplomatic agreement.

I don’t understand why so many people think war is always a more reliable solution. I’ve notice true warriors tend to be far more hesitant about committing bellicose actions and will often seek less violent alternatives. It is no coincidence that the one person in the Bush administration who expressed reservations about the Iraqi invasion was combat veteran Colin Powell.

While the “war solves everything” argument is clearly not a valid criticism of this deal, some of the opposition is motivated, by what I consider legitimate reasoning.

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Israel opposes the deal.  It would be absurd for them to do otherwise.

Most countries in the Middle East, not just Israel, are suspicious of this agreement. Beyond question, this accord will empower Iran politically, militarily, and economically. This deal will give Iran enormous resources to fund Hamas, Hizballah, and Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Yemen.

While the agreement will likely succeed in its primary objective – delaying the development of a nuclear bomb – it will do so at a price that the people of Syria, Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, and Israel will have to pay. For them, this is no “peace” deal; it is a disaster.

Is the deal worth the cost? I think so, but as someone who lives in America, I do not have to pay the price. I support the deal, but I sympathize with the opposition of the Middle Eastern countries to it.

The President has addressed this criticism, but not I think convincingly.  Netanyahu has repeatedly attacked the agreement on the basis of its supposed ineffectiveness, or the delusional stance that the Iranians will agree to an even more demanding accord. I think this is a mistake, because it not only undermines his credibility, it also distracts from the legitimate argument that this agreement empowers a terrorist state.

 

War is not certain

While the nuclear agreement could increase tensions in the Middle East, due to the greater resources available to Iran’s terrorist proxies, it also may not.  For one thing, Iranian aggressiveness has provoked its adversaries into forming an informal alliance.

Here are the official members of the Saudi-led military forces that are fighting Iranian-backed insurgents in Yemen: Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Morocco, Senegal, Sudan, Somalia, and the United States. By some accounts, Turkey is also supporting Saudi Arabia.

This is not an insignificant group of nations, and the nuclear deal could strengthen their ties. The power of this coalition (which in the future may unofficially include Israel) could be an effective counter to Iranian belligerence.

The true wild card in this situation is not whether Iran will cheat or take advantage of their new found economic power. The real question is “How will the deal transform Iran itself?” While the President expressed hope that the Iranians would learn to play nice with their neighbors, he has also expressed strong doubts that they would do so.

Iranian hard liners have been as ferocious in their criticisms of the agreement as their American counterparts have been. It’s easy to see why. Their country will now be crawling with analysts from international agencies collecting valuable intelligence. Their nuclear program, a symbol of national sovereignty, will be dramatically throttled back.

Even more significant is that the rationale behind their tyrannical government – protection from foreign imperialists – will be severely undermined. It is not an accident that the Russian communist party lost its grip on the Soviet Union after glasnost.

Can we count on the Iranians undermining their autocratic regime? No, but nor can we dismiss the possibility.

After the deal was announced, Iranians took to the streets, celebrating the easing of the economic sanctions. One image I saw on television is evidence that change is already occurring. A group of young people chanted “Death to no one!” and were waving their smartphones in the air. What was on their smartphones? Pictures of the American flag.

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This post is the opinion solely of the author and does not reflect the positions of AMREL or its other employees.

Do you have an opinion? Send it to editor@amrel.com. Be advised we may use the content of your email in a future blog post.

Are soldiers turning into police? An informal conversation

Sometimes the best way to learn about a subject is just to listen to a bunch of well-informed people sit around and casually discuss it. This is the basis of AMREL’s Rugged Radio Podcast, in which we talk about the so-called “militarization of police.”

William M. Arkin, writing in Gawker, has turned this controversy on its head by contending that soldiers are becoming more like police. His article is worth reading in full and you can access it here.

Arkin cites the rise of biometrics enabled intelligence as well as forensics enabled intelligence as evidence of how soldiers are adopting police tactics.  For reasons unclear to me, he writes that counter-IED efforts are also police-type activities. He ends his post with the dramatic, if somewhat ominous, “The world has become a crime scene.”

I was curious what AMREL’s local military experts thought about this article. So I sought the opinion of Rob Culver, Director of Program Management for AMREL.  A former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier (AKA Green Beret), he has 23 years of experience in the Army.

Rather than describe his reaction, I’ll just let you read it in a slightly edited form:

“This is the most ****** up article I’ve read in a while.

“Arkin is skilled at weaving words to create the semblance of a pattern that does not exist.

“He goes from the assumption that ‘forensics is a police-only tool to the conclusion that the ‘world has become a crime scene.’  Catchy.   What the hell does that mean anyway?

“What he describes as forensics can also be termed Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB).  In the conduct of IPB, you evaluate the terrain.  Slow go/no go terrain.  Swamps, rivers, bridges, mountains, open spaces.   You also evaluate population density and characteristics, i.e. who supports U.S. activities versus those who oppose us. Also, you evaluate ever increasingly the more complicated relationships such as Sunnis and Shias and Kurds etc…   Frenemies.   It gets complicated.  But, it has always been part of military training and operations.

“When the Indian scout jumps off his horse and examines the hoof tracks and droppings in the trail, he can tell how long ago the enemy was there,  how many, how heavy, the condition of the horses as well as what the horses have been eating.  Using his special Indian scout database (all that information stuck in his brain by his elders, training, and experience), he determines where the closest food source is for what the horses have been eating, and…. abracadabra – forensics! It has been a part of warfare since a patrol from one tribe started tracking a raiding party from another tribe.

“As for biometrics, it has always been part of military operations and population and movement control. Special Forces teams in Vietnam used fingerprints identification to ensure they were not double paying local guerrilla forces (Montagnards, etc.).The difference is instead of using our eyeballs to observe and measure, we have high tech gadgets. Still does not make it police work.

“Everything Arkin refers to can be found in the ‘Small Wars Manual: United States Marine Corps 1940.’  Yep. That is pre WW II. The only difference is the technology and terminology.

“For some reason Arkin states:  ‘The Navy, always the single manager for explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) technology, which includes technical exploitation of recovered explosives, explosive devices, and other explosive hazards, is more heavily involved in weapons technical intelligence and exploitation than ever before.’

“To which I reply, yes. IEDs are an explosive hazard and in the past decade posed a greater threat to our forces than previously. What is your point William?  How is protecting military forces and local populations during operations NOT a military responsibility?

“Arkin also states ‘Because, ironically, if military’s role is merely collecting evidence, then the fundamental post-9/11 talking point that terrorism is not a law enforcement matter needs to be revised.’ This premise is so flawed; I gag and do not know where to begin.  If you think, all our military is doing, is collecting evidence these days… I don’t even know what world you inhabit.

“Also, ‘…as if the experiences of the past 14 years governs or should govern how the United States forms, trains and equips its military.’   Why yes it should, William. Along with, and in context with our previous 200 years of warfare.  Or, Mr. Arkin, do you suggest we ignore the lessons learned of the past 14 years of conflict?   Again, this article is so flawed from the very beginning of its premise; I do not know where to start.

“In this article, Arkin referenced his other article Improvised Explosive Devices Are Reducing Our Freedoms. From that I found this excerpt.  ‘But now wherever and whomever the perpetrator, ‘bomb’ has been rebranded as IED and turned into a supposed tool and act of terror.’

“Yes William, IED is a newer and more accurate description of some types of bombs. For those who have driven through an IED ambush, there is no doubt that an IED is a ‘tool and act of terror.’  Nothing ‘supposed about it.

“Arkin, you are wrong.”

For those who don’t know Rob, he is a pretty easy going guy, so his strongly worded response was a bit of a surprise. I found some of Rob’s points convincing, but I think he may be missing the bigger picture. My reply to him:

“I think you may be right on the money on the specifics, but not the overall point. Sure identifying the enemy and collecting intelligence have always been traditional activities in war. While military operations have always involved elements of policing, haven’t policing missions overwhelmed what has been regarded as traditional military actions? Isn’t this a natural consequence of asymmetric warfare?

“Seems to me that at the beginning of the Iraq/Afghanistan mess, I heard more than one brass hat complaining that the military was doing a job it wasn’t trained for.  In other words, we know how to take out tank formations and infantry in trenches, but how are we supposed to patrol neighborhoods?

“When I lived in Israel, I heard this argument a lot.  The military was worried that their decades-long mission of patrolling the disputed territories was eroding their abilities to fight a traditional war. Israel’s less-than-stellar performance during the Second Lebanon War seemed, to many, to reinforce this fear (Personally, I blame the Lebanon fiasco on staggeringly incompetent civilian leadership).

“You are right that stuff like biometrics and ISR have always been the province of the military.  But the missions have changed.  Most of the wars fought post-World War II have not been World War II style wars.  The only one I can think of was the First Gulf War.  That war was a cakewalk, because our military was designed to fight it.  Everything else has been a problem, and despite everyone’s efforts, it doesn’t seem like we have figured out a solution.

“Three other points:

  1. In the wake of Ferguson there’s has been a lot of talk about the militarization of police.  I read comments in news articles by veterans stating they would never act as the police in Ferguson do.  Trained in counter insurgency, soldiers know better than to point automatic weapons at peaceful demonstrators. Furthermore, the veterans thought the police were wildly over armored and over armed for their mission. Also, soldiers look for ways to deescalate a situation, something some cops obviously haven’t learned. As I have written before, I think the problem is that the police are not militarized enough.
  2. 9/11 was in some ways the beginning of the ‘War on terror.’ The NYPD declared the ruins of the World Trade Center a ‘crime scene,’ and repeatedly reminded everyone about this. Indeed, the ‘world is a crime scene.’
  3. The article mentioned the old argument ‘Is the terrorism a criminal or a military problem?’ It’s a military problem when we want to use the military. It’s a criminal problem when we want to ignore the military code of justice (Sorry Red Cross, no prisoners of war here!). It’s a military problem when we want to ignore the constitutional rights of accused criminals. Those special courts in Guantanamo are a travesty and ineffectual as well. US prosecutors have had a better success record in regular courts.

“As I wrote above, I agree with your criticisms about the article, but I think his overall point may be valid.”

Rob wrote back:

“You might be right.  You do make your points.   Arkin, tho’, has a track record.

“We got fat and lazy.  The only war we (The Military) were gearing up and training for, involved the godless communist hordes roaring across the Fulda Gap, where we would stop them, standing toe-to-toe, trading tactical nuke for tactical nuke.  Thank God that didn’t happen.  But it was easy on the military mind. Might and Right.

“But where do these wars fit in? Barbary Wars, the Banana Wars, Spanish–American War, Philippine–American War, Moro Rebellion, Boxer Rebellion, Poncho Villa Expedition, etc.

“I guess you have to start with a definition of traditional military actions, which means ensuring we differentiate between the mission of the infantry and the mission of our nation’s military. I would argue that our nation’s military is a tool with applications far beyond ‘close with and destroy the enemy.’

“The US Military is conducting joint airborne operations with Latvian forces this week.  Just a training exercise.  But why?  To get better at jumping?   Or does it have something to do with containing Russia?

“Yeah, it is a lot simpler when the bad guys wear bad-guy uniforms and the good guys wear US uniforms and the civilians live somewhere completely ‘not here.’  But that nostalgia is based on fantasy.  It never has been that way. During World War II in Europe, homes were bombed and civilian lives were shattered. Crime was rampant.

“War has never been simple. It has always been messy. And there is always some ***** that thinks we should ‘kill them all and let God sort them out’ or ‘bomb them back to the Stone Age.’ Anything less is ‘not our job.’  But despite TV, movies, and brass-hatted jack assess, that has never been ‘The Mission’.

“Is terrorism a crime or an act of war?  I think, in general, what we frequently call domestic terrorism should be treated as a crime. Terrorism can be a tool of criminals such as drug cartels and mafias, as well as military. Terrorism on US Soil conducted by outside elements is war. Terror conducted by US Citizens, overseas, against US asset is war. Was Johnny Walker Lindh a criminal or an enemy combatant?  We already know he is a dumbass.   I say ‘enemy combatant.’ I don’t think he belongs in a penitentiary; he belongs in a POW camp.  Nor do I think he deserved a civilian trial.”

I’ll let Rob get the last word (for now).  What do you think? Have the military’s missions become mere policing? Is terrorism a legal or military problem? Send your opinion to editor@amrel.com

 The opinions discussed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of AMREL, its employees, clients or partners.

US military options for Iran’s nuclear program

As I write this post, nuclear negotiations with Iran are nearing a conclusion. I have no idea whether a deal will successfully be made or not.

During the heated debate about the wisdom of a negotiated settlement, I’ve noticed an almost complete lack of informed opinion about military options. I have a nagging suspicion that few involved in this controversy have actually thought through what military strikes would look like.

One group of people who have thoroughly examined this issue is the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS). A well-respected Washington DC think tank, they have published Analyzing the Impact of Preventive Strikes Against Iran’s Nuclear Facilities.”

CSIS’s comprehensive analysis contains highly detailed scenarios of military actions against Iran and their aftermath. The report is a bit dated (2012), but it’s the best analysis that I have encountered. You can download or read it here.

In brief, CSIS is not enthusiastic about using military strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear capabilities. The three big lessons I draw from the report are:

  1. Only the US can use military force to significantly hinder the Iranian nuclear program. Israel does not have and never has had the capability to do so.
  2. The most plausible military actions against Iran are unlikely to affect its nuclear program for more than a few years.
  3. Even limited military actions could lead to severe consequences for virtually the entire world. There is no way of estimating accurately the full scale of these consequences.

One person whose views fueled CSIS skepticism is the legendary General James Mattis.  You can read his opinion here.

Some of you might dispute the report’s conclusions. Whether or not you agree with CSIS, powerful people take this sort of analysis seriously, and plan accordingly. I strongly recommend you at least take at least a brief look at the entire report.

Revolutionary Hawkeye 105mm Control Unit [VIDEO]

Built by the Mandus Group, the Hawkeye 105mm Weapon System is a revolutionary system that decreases recoil by 70% without degradation of performance. Recoil is dissipated by a hybrid of the traditional oil & gas system and what is known as a “soft recoil” system.  Watch the video below to see the mobile howitzer in action.


Notice that before the Hawkeye discharges, the barrel is cocked slightly forward.  This is part of the “soft recoil” control.

Recoil is so reduced that the Hawkeye can be mounted on a truck with only four bolts. The lack of recoil (and light weight) means the Hawkeye can be used on a wide variety of military vehicles including those that are wheeled, tracked, towed as well as rail, watercraft, and aircraft.

This mobile, powerful weapon is controlled by AMREL’s ROCKY DK10 Rugged Tablet. The Mandus group chose this 12.1” tablet because they needed modifications for a low volume order, which is AMREL’s specialty.

In order to be the Hawkeye’s Operational Control Unit (OCU), the DK10 tablet was modified to have thumbwheel connectors and joysticks. The DK10 OCU:

  • Issues elevation and transverse commands
  • Manages sensors
  • Engages the safety system
  • Enters firing missions & controls direct fire
  • Interacts with laser range finder
  • Interfaces with internal navigation system and electrical control box

In addition to functioning as a handheld control unit, the DK10 can be used in cab for navigation.

To learn more about AMREL customized table solutions, click here.

Why can’t the DoD pass an audit?

On February 6, 2014, Defense and media personnel gathered in the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes, not to award a medal – which is the hall’s normal use – but to celebrate a bookkeeping milestone. The Marine Corps had done something that no other military branch had done: passed an audit.

The labyrinthine Defense budgets have proven immune to normal accounting procedures. The Department of Defense (DoD) is the only government agency that has failed to comply with a 1992 law that all departments get their records in order. No one is even going to try to audit the Pentagon itself until 2017. The Marines had been the only service to pass an audit.

Unfortunately, the number of military services that have passed an audit have once again returned to zero. On March 23, 2015, the DoD’s Office of the Inspector General revoked their earlier glowing recommendation of the Marines’ record keeping. There are allegations of sloppy paperwork, missing records, and independent auditors who may not be so independent.

According to news articles, folks high up in the Inspector General office ignored their team’s report on the inadequacy of the Marine’s accounts. Furthermore, a civilian auditing team that was supposed to bring in an outside point-of-view may have been compromised.

This is not a small matter. As the Reuters’ news service noted:

“Chronic pay errors damp troop morale. Incompatible logistics and personnel systems complicate deployments. And the lack of reliable accounts conceals huge sums lost to waste, fraud and mismanagement.”

Reuters’ did an investigative piece about the failed audit (evidently a few investigative reporters still exist). To read it, click here.

We asked for an opinion from Rob Culver, AMREL’s Director of Business Development, DoD Programs. In addition to his career in Special Forces, he spent a number of years in procurement.  As someone who has been an end-user, a vendor as well as an acquisition officer, he has a unique perspective.

According to Mr. Culver:

“Part of the problem is the fact that DOD is not a team.  There are more than 30 different bureaucratic entities involved in procurement and financial management. Don’t forget the sixteen Assistant Secretaries of Defense, four Deputy Secretaries of Defense, five Undersecretaries, Joints Chiefs of Staff with their ten subordinate directorates and on and on.

“Most of the above is duplicated by the individual military services (USA, USN, USAF, USMC). This doesn’t include the fifteen+ independent agencies under OSD as well as the nine Unified Combatant Command. Of course, there are the ever present meddling fingers or Congress and the Whitehouse.

No one, absolutely no one in any of these individual fiefdoms, is ever rewarded for cooperating outside their own little DoD entity. Employees are rewarded for protecting their bosses’ turf.

“I don’t have an answer. I’m just pointing out the inherent dysfunction of DoD’s highly politicized, bureaucratic labyrinth. Soldiers don’t run DoD; civilian politicians and political appointees do.  DoD is criticized for not being able to pass an audit, but I suspect the last thing Congress wants is for DoD to completely and unabashedly open its financial kimono.”

Whatever you think of Donald Rumsfeld, Mr. Culver feels he hit the nail on the head with this speech, given early in his term as Secretary of Defense:

“… The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. This adversary is one of the world’s last bastions of central planning. It governs by dictating five-year plans. From a single capital, it attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans, and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk.

“Perhaps this adversary sounds like the former Soviet Union, but that enemy is gone: our foes are more subtle and implacable today. You may think I’m describing one of the last decrepit dictators of the world. But their day, too, is almost past, and they cannot match the strength and size of this adversary.

“The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes. Not the civilians, but the systems. Not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them.”