Archive for May, 2016

Fighter Aircraft and 21st Century Threats

Chris Wiley is a Veteran and Contributing Fellow for the NCPA:

“Simply put:  the A-10 Warthog’s lethality and simplicity have ensured its longevity.

I will get to the specific merits of the A-10 Warthog in a bit, but we must first revisit history to reinforce my premise.  When I entered the Air Force Academy in 1993, the post-Cold War era was in full swing.  And the ensuing “peace dividend” defense budgets ushered in a period of downsizing for the U.S. Air Force.

The prospect for a “near peer” or force-on-force air war had greatly diminished with the collapse of the Soviet Union, resulting in Fighter Wing de-activations, aircraft retirements, mandatory Reductions in Force (RIF) and drastic contractions in forward deployed assets.  These factors compelled the Air Force to embrace an “Expeditionary” model; a smaller, modular concept used by the Marine Corps for decades.  The Marines’ dependent relationship on their Navy “big brother” had molded them into a lean, nimble Combined Arms weapon, at the ready for our nation.

Initially, the Air Force invented the Composite Wing, which clustered Air Mobility, Tactical Aviation and the requisite logistical support together organizationally, and stationed the Wing at a common base to provide Major Command leadership “chess pieces” for rapid deployment.  The Composite Wing then evolved into the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) which packaged existing, but often geographically separated, units into packages available for deployment.  As flare-ups emerged in the Middle East, the Air Force supported U.S. Central Command by developing a rotation schedule that balanced deployments across combat units and offered the ability to tailor capabilities to mission requirements.  This model continues to the present.

Under this strategy, my A-10 unit, the 355th Fighter Squadron then stationed near Fairbanks, Alaska, and with a primary mission to defend South Korea from North Korea, still held a spot in the Central Command’s expeditionary rotation.  Our unit deployed in support of Operations NORTHERN and SOUTHERN WATCH in Iraq.  We also deployed several times to Kuwait and Afghanistan.  And the post-9/11 world has not permitted a slowing of this “Ops Tempo,” or the frequency at which units deploy.  The Air Force has essentially maintained this robust expeditionary posture for over 20 years.

Why then is the A-10 often considered for “mothballing” when it remains the best fit for this intense and longstanding expeditionary model?  After all, ongoing engagements make the current system incredibly expensive.  As I mentioned, ops tempo remains high and, therefore, transit costs or those monies used to pay for units to rotate in and out of theaters 3 to 4 times annually remain incredibly high.  Until planners use basing arrangements like those used for the Korean Peninsula –‒ a model in which personnel serve one or two year “remote” tours, but the airframes and the logistical support stay in country ‒‒ the A-10 will remain the most appropriate aircraft for this model.

Indeed, we have Warthogs presently headlining the Air Force’s new expeditionary package in reaction to Russian aggression in Eastern Europe.  The A-10 is adaptable and has proven capable of immediately allying with host-nation air forces to demonstrate NATO’s cooperative power.  Additionally, more than one stateside A-10 squadron has deployed to Europe and showcased its unique ability to land at bare-base situations.  The risk of damage to the A-10 from foreign objects is far lower than other Air Force fighters, which allows Warthogs, for instance, to operate from un-maintained runways and even dry lake beds.

Moreover, the United States’ engagements at the center of this expeditionary model remains ill-suited to the new 5th Generation weapons platforms currently being pursued by the Pentagon.  The Air Force has focused its acquisitions process on replacing 4th Generation tactical aircraft, like the A-10, with technologically advanced and exorbitantly expensive aircraft designed primarily for massive, full-spectrum wars –‒ the types of conflict that waned with the Cold War’s conclusion.

Instead, the Air Force’s lowest technology tactical airframe, the A-10 Warthog, has proven itself the optimal Close Air Support (CAS) platform for current engagements, namely global terrorism.  Rugged, simple, survivable – the physical attributes of the A-10 Warthog are not “Expeditionary” by chance.  During conceptual development, the Air Force envisioned the A-10 deploying to Forward Air Refueling Points (FARP) in West Germany to support NATO ground forces against a Warsaw Pact invasion.

The takeaway for our citizens, Congress, and the Air Force is to embrace the Warthog for a few more years.  No plane flies forever, but the Air Force cannot retire a capability so appropriate for the current expeditionary engagements without a viable successor.  The proposed successor may be a quantum technological leap beyond the A-10, but is it expeditionary and ready to supply close air support today, or ever?  The Air Force needs to be honest with their sister services, Congress and the taxpayers.”

A Must See Video on Military Readiness!

The president recently threatened to veto the National Defense Authorization Act — the bill that annually funds our military — currently being considered in the House of Representatives.  The administration wants to continue its high level of “overseas contingency operations” without the funding and training necessary to do so.

This video is a moving demonstration of why this policy has deadly consequences.

The NCPA is proposing a viable course to achieve a fiscally responsible military that will keep America safe. Join us in this endeavor as we focus on the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act at and our Provide for the Common Defense Now! Petition.

Is the Iran Deal on the Rhode to Recovery?

This originally appeared in my townhall column:

“I always figured a breach in the seemingly impenetrable circle surrounding the administration and its puzzling national security solutions would be the result of loose lips, rather than revulsion at the troublesome ideas circulating therein. And now deputy national security adviser for strategic communications Ben Rhodes is trying to take back his words.

Most know by now his admission that the White House misled the public on the purpose of the deal, and acknowledged that many of his media “compadres” serve as palace guards for the Obama administration. But retrieving words once spoken is like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube. And now Congress needs to step in. The Senate should consider using the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to protect the country and our allies from the administration’s “agreement” with Iran.

Apologists are trying to save face in the wake of these comments by attempting to rebrand the deal as a clumsy product of group think; or the hurried maturation of a bad idea in a space completely insulated from counter-arguments. An “echo chamber,” as Rhodes called it.

My father has a better term: group stupid. He correctly reasons that we do things in a group that we would never consider on our own.

In any case, group stupid now remains the most attractive excuse for this pitiful agreement, simply because critics will often extend grace to the hapless. After all, most observers recognize actions of group stupid to be reckless and impulsive, and if given a second chance, believe those involved would generally avoid the same course of action.

Rhodes’ comments, however, confirm that the Obama administration brokered the agreement with full knowledge of its terrible structure and unbalanced conditions, and then sold it as something else. That’s premeditation, not imprudence.

Rhodes has verified this deal to be as solid as a pinky swear with an Ayatollah missing both hands.

Congress can begin to fix it, here’s how.

The NDAA, the annual bill that sets the military budget, has arrived in the Senate. As part of funding our defense force, the Senate could also consider adding portions of proposed legislation as amendments to the NDAA to rectify this miserable pinky swear agreement.

First, the Senate could consider using excerpts from H.R. 3662 Iran Terror Finance Transparency Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), as an amendment. In one instance, the proposed bill legislates congressional authority wherein “Any rule to amend or otherwise alter a covered regulatory provision regarding sanctions on Iran shall be subject to congressional review requirements.” In other words, this statue prevents the executive branch from unilaterally and arbitrarily applying or rescinding sanctions. This would curb the excesses of an otherwise emboldened executive branch and limit future administrations who harbor similar ambitions.

Congress could also consider including excerpts from of H.R. 4342 Iran Ballistic Missile Prevention and Sanctions Act introduced by Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.), as another amendment as a means of penalizing Iran for its missile tests.

Indeed, as one can see, the Iran issue has bipartisan support. Adding amendments of this nature could find backing across party lines. And the American people would love to see such compromise, especially on an issue in which they so stringently disagree with the administration.

The Rhode to accountability starts with the NDAA.

The NCPA is proposing a viable course to achieve a fiscally responsible military that will keep America safe. Join us in this endeavor as we focus on the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act at and our Provide for the Common Defense Now! Petition.”

The Texas Electric Grid on U.S. National Security

I had the privilege of speaking to a crowd of nearly 200 people at the 2016 Texas Grid Security Summit in Austin, Texas on the importance of Texas to U.S. National Security.

Watch brief highlights of my presentation here.

I was joined by a host of other national security experts, like former CIA Director James Woolsey and Ambassador Henry Cooper, in order to explain the threat to the Texas electric grid and how it can be protected.  The major U.S. military presence in Texas, as my work highlights, means the country’s defense readiness depends on the Lone Star state.  The threat is real and Texas must take steps to protect the grid, not just for the sake of Texans, but for the country.

My longer study shows that as Texas goes, so goes our nation’s defense.