A-10 cuts update

Frustrated that the Air Force hasn't explained why it wants to cut the A-10 from its fleet, one of New Hampshire's senators has placed a "hold" on the nomination of the Air Force's civilian head. In Senate decorum, this means that the nomination won't proceed (usually) until the Senator removes the hold.

WASHINGTON — Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., has placed a hold on the White House’s nominee for Air Force secretary, blocking the confirmation process of Deborah Lee James until questions are answered regarding potential cuts to the A-10 Thunderbolt attack aircraft, according to an Ayotte aide.
“Yes, she has placed a hold until she gets answers on the A-10 issue,” the aide told Defense News Wednesday evening. “She (as ranking member of the readiness subcommittee) views this as a readiness issue. Until we have a replacement for the A-10, why would the [Air Force] try to eliminate it? She isn’t necessarily saying we must retain the A-10, but wants to ensure there isn’t a capability gap that could result in lost American lives.”

My new assistant

She's not much on dictation, but no deer have come into the office while she's been on the job.
The Iranian killer in Syria

From the New Yorker:

[Qassem] Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”


Few Americans realize the extent to which Iran caused destruction, death and chaos in Iraq, nor its continued drive for influence in that country. Quds Force and Hezbollah (and their antecedents) have been critical instruments for some four decades, and have had far greater impact than nuclear weapons ever will.

Memorial edition

Coming in October

Thanks, everyone, for your help. Details forthcoming.
Insecurity . . .


(Reuters) - Federal prosecutors have documented at least 350 instances of faulty background investigations done by private contractors and special agents for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in recent years, illustrating what some lawmakers call systemic weaknesses in the granting of federal security clearances.

Never could have guessed. Full story from Reuters here.

Meanwhile, in Syria

Asad wanted to use gas . . .

. . . says key general.


Brigadier-General Zaher al-Sakat, a former chemical weapons chief in President Bashar al-Assad's own army . . .
. . . says he was ordered three times to use chemical weapons against his own people, but could not go through with it and replaced chemical canisters with ones containing harmless bleach.
He also insists that all such orders had to come from the top – President Assad himself – despite insistent denials by the regime that it has never used chemical weapons.

Story in UK Telegraph.
Can you live with the bomb?


SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korean scientists are able to build crucial equipment for uranium-based nuclear bombs on their own, cutting the need for imports that had been one of the few ways outsiders could monitor the country's secretive atomic work, according to evidence gathered by two American experts.
The experts say material published in North Korean scientific publications and news media shows that Pyongyang is mastering domestic production of essential components for the gas centrifuges needed to make such bombs. The development further complicates long-stalled efforts to stop a nuclear bomb program that Pyongyang has vowed to expand, despite international condemnation


The remarkable part of the story is not North Korea's continued development of nuclear weapons, but the restraint thus far by South Korea and Japan, which could quite easily develop their own devices. The logic of a first-strike blow against the North Korean nuclear armory - which would be much easier with nuclear-tipped penetrating weapons - is overwhelming. Even if one thought that retaliation by China was inevitable, a first-strike against North Korea would probably result in less overall damage (on both sides) than waiting for an attack and then retaliating.

Meanwhile, as the export of North Korean military technology continues, the goal of nonproliferation becomes more and more difficult. Iran will not be the last country to join the nuclear club.

Chinese UAVs


BEIJING — For almost two years, hackers based in Shanghai went after one foreign defense contractor after another, at least 20 in all. Their target, according to an American cybersecurity company that monitored the attacks, was the technology behind the United States’ clear lead in military drones.

Full story.

The piece is more than a little breathless, and misinformed (or maybe purposely under-informed) about U.S. capabilities, but must reading anyway.

The next air war

It's the mindset . . .

. . . not the plane.


“The fifth generation pilots are going to have to be trained that firing first is not their core con-ops.  Giving validated targets to other shooters is the ‘to be’ condition,” Wynne said. “This is reversing decades of training and experience where the instinct is to fire first and ask questions later.
“With fifth-gen aircraft you are setting up the air space for air dominance, and weapons are delivered from assets throughout the managed airspace.  Without the fifth generation aircraft you have to fight your way in and expend significant effort just trying to survive.  With the fifth generation aircraft you are setting up the grid to shape the offensive and defensive force to achieve the results which you seek.”
Full article.

Fifth generation = F-22 and F-35. The article is an excellent summary, though since it's by necessity it skims the surface and doesn't mention other technologies that are changing the entire shape and demands of the battlefield. (Think UAVs for starters.)

(Thanks DR, for the link.)

Now available for Nook

Ugly hurts . . .

. . . . the enemy, that is.

Book 3 of the Hogs series is now available for the Nook. Preview and download here.
An adjunct's life and death

Ever wonder where the tens of thousands of dollars students spend each year on college tuition goes? Evidently not to teachers:

As amazing as it sounds, Margaret Mary, a 25-year professor, was not making ends meet. Even during the best of times, when she was teaching three classes a semester and two during the summer, she was not even clearing $25,000 a year, and she received absolutely no health care benefits. Compare this with the salary of Duquesne's president, who makes more than $700,000 with full benefits.

There's more to the story.
Franzen goes off

Jonathan Franzen, from a long but tart rant:

In my own little corner of the world, which is to say American fiction, Jeff Bezos of Amazon may not be the antichrist, but he surely looks like one of the four horsemen. Amazon wants a world in which books are either self-published or published by Amazon itself, with readers dependent on Amazon reviews in choosing books, and with authors responsible for their own promotion. The work of yakkers and tweeters and braggers, and of people with the money to pay somebody to churn out hundreds of five-star reviews for them, will flourish in that world. But what happens to the people who became writers because yakking and tweeting and bragging felt to them like intolerably shallow forms of social engagement? What happens to the people who want to communicate in depth, individual to individual, in the quiet and permanence of the printed word, and who were shaped by their love of writers who wrote when publication still assured some kind of quality control and literary reputations were more than a matter of self-promotional decibel levels? 

The rest of the article. (Starts slow, and probably a little esoteric for most, but gathers steam.)

For a limited time

Fires of War is available free for the Kindle via Amazon's UK site.

Fires is the third book in the First Team series, which features Bob "Ferg" Ferguson as a free-wheeling, smooth-talking CIA officer who works with a group of special operators and is backed up by a Special Forces unit.

You can download the book here. The free offer expires Monday.

(I know it's book three, but you can certainly read them in whatever order you want.)
Hog haircut

What an A-10 looks like up close and personal . . .
Coming soon . . .

. . . to a Nook near you: We're putting the finishing touches on the Nook version of Book 3 in the Hogs series; it should be available on the Barnes & Noble site soon.
Meanwhile, in Iran . . .

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said Tuesday that Iran will not forgo any part of its nuclear program, Iranian news agency Mehr reported. The president also said his country would not relinquish its right to nuclear technology, which he called "complete."
Prior to Rohani's remarks, Western commentators had been optimistic that Iran was undergoing a policy change with regard to its contested nuclear program. Iran recently announced its Foreign Ministry would take over nuclear talks with world powers, removing conservative hardliners from the negotiations.

The likely legacy of the authorization debate

Ah, you might say, but if Congress actually votes the Syria authorization down, then future presidents will feel constrained by the threat of a similar congressional veto whether they want to emulate Obama or not. Except that it’s actually more likely that future presidents will look at a congressional rejection in the case of Syria and see a case for going to Congress even lessfrequently than recent chief executives have done. The lesson will be clear enough: Presidents who ignore Congress’s Article I powers (Clinton in Kosovo, Obama in Libya) get away with it, while presidents who respect those powers set themselves up for a humiliation. 

Douthat blog.

Read the entire entry for the (highly unlikely) impeachment scenario.

One argument Douthat doesn't make, but fits in with his logic (and would have made much more sense, to the extent that sense is to be found in the situation): The authorization for force should have been sought BEFORE the use of chemical weapons. Then it might actually have had a deterrent value, which frankly is more than half its worth.

Landing in the dark

This was actually the first time on a ship; the aircraft had landed vertically at night several months ago.

(Note to purists: Yes, of course - the USS Wasp is an amphibious assault ship, not a carrier. Sorry for the earlier slip.)

Coming down easy

Phenomenal forced landing . . . and I thought my flight instructor was good.

Hog story

Birthday in Iraq

The story is still available at this link here, but unfortunately can no longer be offered for free. (Amazon's rules, not mine. It's set at the lowest price I'm allowed.)

Thank you, everyone, for checking it out. and happy birthday!

The last war

It's often said that generals prepare for the last war they fought. The debate over what to do in Syria shows civilian leaders and the media do that to the nth degree. Many of the comments that are being made by politicians and the so-called analyses by pundits have a lot more to do with the situation in Iraq pre-invasion than Syria (or the region) now.

I expect the strike will be approved. I also expect it won't have any effect on the civil war itself, partly by design. What the effect of the debate will have is yet to be determined.

The real question that should be debated - and is in some quarters - is this: What should be done to countries that commit murder on a mass scale using weapons that are universally detested? It's a valid question at any point, but especially this week.

If the answer is not swift, direct, and intense military punishment, then how do you ever justify taking action against a country because it uses nuclear weapons, let alone acquires them?

Happy birthday

Last day . . .

. . . for the free story.

(And thank you for lifting it into the top 100 on Kindle.)


Punting on first down . . .

. . . is a good way to lose.


(Reuters) - Syria hailed an "historic American retreat" on Sunday, mockingly accusing President Barack Obama of hesitation and confusion after he delayed a military strike to consult Congress.

These are the sort of mistakes that have grave consequences as time goes on.