Hello & Welcome

Welcome to my Blog! Thanks for stopping by. I'll be posting from time to time my adventures in writing and my trials and tribulations in the publishing world, along with anything relevant in regards to current events, the U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Intelligence community that appears in the press. Please note that anything I post is not reflective or representative of any official position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Air Force; only my views and opinions as a private citizen.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

U.S. Withdraws From Iraqi Cities

Today, many Iraqis celebrated the withdrawal of most American forces from their major cities. This is a tremendous milestone on the road to Iraq's complete sovereignty and Iraq's citizens have every right to be thankful and happy that this day has finally come. Another strong step towards an Iraq governed by its people has been made, and there are more to come as Iraqi leaders and the Iraqi people step forward to choose their own destiny.

The political justification offered to the American people for invading Iraq was, as we now know, based on poor or "cherry picked" intelligence and overly rosy views of the occupation to come.

Personally, I believe that the removal of Saddam Hussein, his corrupt and evil sons, and the Bath Party from power in Iraq provided an opportunity for a democratic process to take root; rather than continue to permit the perpetuation of a depraved dictator's rule and the brutalization and exploitation of 31.2 million people and their national resources. Women in Baghdad need no more fear Saddam's son's choosing one or more of them off the street for rape and perhaps death. Saddam, his family and his political party will no longer plunder his nation's resources for personal profit and aggrandizement.

The conquering of Iraq (the actual War) was won quickly and decisively. The occupation of Iraq was mismanaged in same haphazard manner our own government usually operates here at home. Decisions were made by senior leaders with apparently incomplete facts; or worse yet, with an American-ized view of the situation, not understanding the culture of the nation we just invaded. One such example was the complete disbanding of the Iraqi Army. Instead of removing only the senior army leadership loyal to Saddam, or excising specific divisions like the Republican Guard who were intensely loyal to him, leaving us a corps of Iraqis willing to protect their country in cooperation with their liberators; we created an instant pool of unemployed young men, disgraced by summary discharge, unable to feed their families. They became a perfect group of willing recruits for the insurgent leaders willing to pay them, or who told the more anti-western leaning among them that the western "crusaders" had returned and they must defend the Arab world against them.

We all know our poor effort at nation building suffered greatly in the initial years, as the insurgency gathered momentum and spiraled nearly out of control; then improved as coalition forces learned to respect Iraqi and Islamic cultural norms and adapt their occupation and counter-insurgency efforts to the objective realities on the ground. I laud our troops and their commanders for their courage, fortitude, and cunning in adapting and overcoming on the battlefield and the city with their Iraqi partners.

As is the case in every war, there have been casualties on all sides. Innocent Iraqis caught in the wrong place, at the wrong time, when a coalition missile or bomb obliterated a target; Iraqi military members who died in service to their nation, coalition troops who answered their nation's call, and people in all three categories who were killed during the insurgency. While a full accounting of the death and suffering may never be accurately determined, that suffering and those deaths will not be forgotten.

No democracy is every born bloodlessly. Our own freedom cost the lives of 25,000 Americans during the Revolutionary War. The Civil War ravaged our land and cost another 646,000 American lives, World War I and II cost more than 1.3 million American lives.

While we now know that the threat to the U.S. from Iraq was effectively non-existent, 4,300 American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines have given their lives in what I hope has been the birth of Iraqi freedom after a long dictatorship. The Iraqis, by one estimate, have also lost more the 110,000 people to the war.

The next major step comes in January of 2010, the next major Iraqi election. The Iraqis must provide fully for their own internal security between now and then as the U.S. readies a major draw down in troops in 2010.
If the Iraqis do not seize this opportunity, step forward boldly, and continue the progress made since the U.S. troop surge through to the end of 2010 to secure their new liberty; then they will have rendered the deaths of those 114,300 people and the suffering of tens of thousands of American and Iraqi wounded meaningless.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Disclosing Classified Information a Crime?

Fox News reported today that Senator Dianne Feinstein (D - California), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (SSCI), during a public committee hearing last week, apparently compromised the use of a Pakistani airbase by U.S. Predator drones. The SSCI was questioning the new Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair about the threat assessment he had just delivered to the committee. The Fox News article quoted her as follows:

" 'Mr. Holbrooke, in Pakistan, ran into considerable concern about the use of the Predator strikes in the FATA area of Pakistan," Feinstein said to Blair, referring to Richard Holbrooke, President Obama's special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan. "And yet, as I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.' "

The fact that Predators were flying from a Pakistani airbase had apparently been determined to be a classified fact by the Department of Defense and presumably by both President Bush's and President Obama's administrations. As a member of the SSCI, Senator Feinstein, along with members of her professional staff, would have been required to sign non-disclosure agreements formally acknowledging that she was obligated to protect classified national security information and ensure it was not improperly disclosed to unauthorized individuals.

Had a professional member of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), or Intelligence Community (IC) had publicized or provided to a member of the news media this fact, they would likely have been guilty of violating U.S. Code, Title 18, Part I, Chapter 37, Section 793, paragraph D of U.S. law.

Assuming the professional member of the DoD or U.S. IC had been identified and prosecuted, the penalty under the law, as identified in 18 USC, Part I, Chapter 37, Section 793 is a fine and/or ten years imprisonment. The individual would also have had his or her security clearance rescinded immediately, and have likely had been placed on administrative leave.

If, in fact, the presence of the Predator airbase inside Pakistan was a classified fact, and that Senator Feinstein was informed that this information was classified; you would expect that she would be prosecuted for this violation of law.

I would I sincerely hope that the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, and the FBI Field Office, would conduct an investigation into this disclosure. However, I'm quite sure that as a sitting U.S. Senator, she will be given far more latitude for her verbal faux pas, the internal embarrassment an admittedly imperfect ally must now suffer, and her potential violation of U.S. law.

It's a shame that the more common U.S. citizen or career employee of the U.S. government would not likely receive the same treatment.

Monday, February 16, 2009

America's CEO and His Travel Costs in a Down Economy

As the Chief Executive of the United States, and the Commander-in-Chief of our nation's military forces, the President of the United States has many responsibilities and has some unique security requirements and communications needs when he or she is away from the White House.

As many Americans know, the aircraft the President generally travels on is known by the military designation VC-25, a heavily modified Boeing 747, costing $325 million each (we bought two back in 1987). The VC-25 is often mistakenly referred to as Air Force One. The call sign 'Air Force One' is used only when the President is aboard the VC-25 or any aircraft.

What is lesser known, is that Presidential airlift missions, managed and operated by the U.S. Air Force, include the movement of Secret Service personnel, armored cars, and other support equipment and personnel. The Air Force usually moves these people with two or more C-17 or C-5 heavy lift aircraft.

According to an article in USA Today in June of 2004, operating the VC-25 costs roughly $56,800 per hour. In 2009, with fuel costs higher than in 2004, we can probably make a good guess that a flight hour for the VC-25 is in the $65,000 - $75,000 range, but I'll use the $56,800 per hour rate for this discussion.

According to a GAO report on Presidential travel costs issued during August 2000, operating a C-17 cost $6,664 per flight hour. The GAO report was requested by Rep. Henry Waxman (D), of the 30th District of California.

If we assume that a quick trip to Phoenix by the President requires two C-17's to move the support personnel and equipment, and the use of the VC-25 for four hours for the actual presidential movement, the total cost just on the air travel side alone would be $280,512 one way and $561,024 for the round trip. These costs are obviously conservative, given that they have likely increased over time. They also don't include: the cost of the helicopter flight to and from Andrews AFB, to board/de-plane from the VC-25, the salaries of the Secret Service advance and protection details, gas for the convoy of cars he'll use while he's there, or the helicopter they may fly him around in.

I sincerely hope, that in addition to:

  • Trying to end inflated executive compensation packages for bankers and other businessmen who oversee failing institutions
  • Mandating that members of his administration have their pay frozen
  • Cheering on (properly) as his former congressional colleauges disparage Detroit automakers fly on private jets (at roughly $20,000 round trip)

The President takes a serious look at how he spends taxpayer dollars on his own travel.

Certainly the President has unique security and communications needs. But he can take smaller Air Force jets, costing less to operate, or better yet, he can use a Video Teleconferencing system like other corporate leaders, rather than traveling at all. Surely, the White House has one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A New President

I've just finished watching the inauguration of President Obama, and have yet again marveled at, and been pleased to see, the peaceful transfer of executive power in the United States.

It is a goal that many nations may desire and strive for, but few have so far achieved. In witnessing it again, I am reassured that the ideals our nation was founded on prevail, in spite of war, bad economic times, or the people's disillusionment with government as is sometimes the case.

In this inaugural, we have been additionally privileged to witness the swearing in of our nation's first African American President. I believe his presidency will mark the beginning of an era where his successors will be not just African Americans, but Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and others who more fully represent the many races and beliefs of our citizens. We all share in the common dream that is America, the shared history of sacrifice and hard work that has built America, and the shared freedoms that make America one of the great nations of the world. Thanks to Mr. Obama, our future Presidents will no doubt more fully reflect that.

Today, America has renewed itself, as it does every four years when the President takes the oath of office. Today, all Americans find hope that in new leadership, our nation will again make its best effort to improve itself. Time will show us if Mr. Obama's leadership and stewardship of our nation is all we hope it will be, but for today, we wish him and his new administration well.

Good Luck Mr. President.