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October 25, 2006

They're playing my tune, now.

Here's an interesting collection of stuff from yesterday's MSM articles... a little window into the minds of the 4-baggers (that's 4-Star Generals for you normals).

First up, the Army. Heh. You could always call us auld pharts back... it's all we know how to do. Which Ry keeps kicking me in the teeth about.

Warfare skills eroding as Army fights insurgents By David Wood Sun reporter Originally published October 24, 2006 WASHINGTON // Pressed by the demands of fighting insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Army has been unable to maintain proficiency in the kind of high-intensity mechanized warfare that toppled Saddam Hussein and would be needed again if the Army were called on to fight in Korea or in other future crises, senior officers acknowledge.

Soldiers once skilled at fighting in tanks and armored vehicles have spent three years carrying out street patrols, police duty and raids on suspected insurgent safe houses. Officers who were experienced at maneuvering dozens of tanks and coordinating high-speed maneuvers with artillery, attack helicopters and strike fighters now run human intelligence networks, negotiate with clan elders and oversee Iraqi police training and neighborhood trash pickup.

The Army's senior leaders say there is scant time to train troops in high-intensity skills and to practice large-scale mechanized maneuvers when combat brigades return home. With barely 12 months between deployments, there is hardly enough time to fix damaged gear and train new soldiers in counterinsurgency operations. Some units have the time to train but find their tanks are either still in Iraq or in repair depots.

Read the rest of the Sun article here. Interesting for all the ghosts of arguments seen in this space...

Then there's this bit about a meeting of Air Force heffalumps:

DJ US Air Force Inner Circle Tackles Combat, Budget Dilemmas

By Rebecca Christie
WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--Top Air Force generals gathered at Bolling Air Force
Base here for a series of high-level insider meetings on the war, the budget and
the state of their service.
Gen. Michael Moseley, the Air Force's chief of staff, urged his three- and four-star generals to speak up for their service's future. To be successful, he said, the Air Force needs enough money to keep its planes in the air. It also needs more military sway, so those planes can provide the most help to troops on the ground.
"The conventional forces still believe we're going to do this and you guys just fall in on this, we don't have to tell you what's going on," Moseley said at last week's Corona conference, a meeting of the Air Force inner circle that dates back to 1944.
"We're almost speaking two different languages here," Moseley said. Moseley was discussing the difficulty of tracking Army patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Air Force would like an explicit role in the nation's counterinsurgency strategy, and it worries that the Army's Future Combat Systems modernization program doesn't take air support into account.
But this sense of "us" and "them" took many other shapes. Military and civilian. Government and private sector. Western and Arab. Even the four-star generals and their wives.
Last week's conference aimed to bridge as many of those gaps as possible in a two-day span. Spouses were invited to sit in, Middle East experts offered a guided tour through the Sunni-Shia divide, and reporters were granted entry for the first time in the event's history, which predates the Air Force's official 1947 founding.
Dow Jones Newswires was the only news organization invited to sit on the proceedings. Other news outlets were invited to a Bolling media briefing with Moseley and Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne that touched on many of the event's key themes.
First on the agenda, Moseley and Wynne made a public break from fighter jets in a bid to reshape the service's fundraising pitch. Competition for the Pentagon budget has grown tighter in recent years, despite soaring U.S. defense spending, and the Air Force has been hard pressed to explain why the service needs two next-generation fighter planes.
The fighters are still there - internal budget plans show no cuts to either the F- 2 Raptor or the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter over the next five years. But tankers are now at the top of the wish list, followed by a new search and rescue helicopter and space communications programs. All of these programs have had a tough time winning funds from Congress in past years.
"We have been painted along the way as a bunch of people who only care about one particular flying machine. And of course, we know that's not true," Moseley said, laying out the new strategy for the generals. They got roughly the same pitch as the journalists, and for the same reason - the Air Force is counting on its commanders to reinforce its marketing efforts.

A new Air Force strategy calls for the service's top officials to make three public appearances per month, accompanied by two media engagements and one internal speech. Other generals and senior executives should aim for one of each category per quarter, said Brig. Gen. Erwin Lessel, the Air Force's director of communications.
"We're an unknown quantity. We're stealthy across most of America," Lessel said. While the Air Force is trying to bridge the culture gap at home, it also is keeping an eye on culture gaps abroad. The service has snagged Marcelle Wahba, a fluent Arab speaker and Middle East expert, as its new policy adviser on loan from the State Department.
At Corona, Wahba said the Middle East needs a more comprehensive strategy that takes into account the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as well as the war in Iraq and the Iran issue. She urged Air Force leaders to consider Arab sensitivities to the perception of being dominated or occupied.
For example, Iraq is unlikely to allow forces from other nearby countries inside its borders, even for military training or reconstruction aid. Also, local leaders will adamantly defend their independence. She offered the following assessment from one contact in the region: "We grudgingly put up with our own dictators, but we will never accept a foreigner dictating to us." Wahba disagreed with the notion that there is widespread support for a "caliphate," or massive pan-Arabic state. Most Arabs see this as a "ludicrous fantasy" of militant extremists, not a real or desirable goal, she said.
That viewpoint may be a tough sell within the Bush administration. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has frequently invoked the caliphate as al Qaida's ultimate goal. Army generals, too, sometimes cite the push for a unified Arab nation as the root of violence in the region.
Some Air Force generals had similar starting points. During an active panel discussion, officers asked Wahba and two other Middle East experts what role Islam should play in identifying potential U.S. enemies.
The panel unanimously urged the military not to see Muslim faith as a sign of terrorist inclinations. But Air Force adviser Lani Kass, a contributor to the U.S. strategic plan for the terror war, said extremists have to be taken seriously.
"They want to restore Islamic glory by the sword," said Kass, a former Israeli Army officer. In their view, "In my view, saying this is a minority view - and it is - does not rightly approach the problem."
The Air Force discussions were punctuated throughout the conference by the noise of jets overhead. But none of the airplanes were homegrown - instead, the backdrop was the relentless commercial rhythm of Washington National Airport.
Bolling doesn't have its own airstrip any more. Likewise, Air Force officials may no longer be able to count on flying alone to take their service forward.
By Rebecca Christie, Dow Jones Newswires