Archive for February, 2004
This was in WorldNet Daily, which is obviously slanted. But the Brookings Institution transcript backs it up. WorldNet Daily wrote
Clinton then noted that during the 2000 campaign, Vice President Cheney said there is almost nothing you can do to improve the quality of a military force created by your predecessors.
Cheney, she pointed out, wrote a letter to former President Reagan “thanking him for building the military that fought so capably.”
“Well, I don’t know, but I don’t think any letters have yet arrived on the desks of anyone associated with the Clinton administration,” she said.
You are DAMN RIGHT they haven’t.
That. Is. The. Stupidest. Thing. I’ve. Ever. Heard.
I understand, and supported, the need to cut back the military after the victory over the USSR in the Third World War. But it was GUTTED in the 1990s to get budget surpluses. Many of the best and brightest stayed on, of course, and many programs reached fruition during the decade. But the depth and redundance of the force was severely compromised.
Not that I’m suggesting that we should have kept all of them, but if we still had 18 divisions instead of 10, there wouldn’t be any National Guardsmen in Iraq today, we’d have more troops in Afghanistan, AND we’d still be able to carry out another major campaign somewhere else.
I welcome anyone to comment about how Bill Clinton is more responsible for our military’s successes in the Fourth World War than Ronald Reagan is.
UPDATE: Not that I expect an answer, but I contacted Senator Clinton’s office about this matter. Here is the text of the letter I submitted through her site:
I was quite surprised to hear your remarks of February 25th, 2004 at the Brookings Institution regarding the fact that no one from the Bill Clinton administration had received a thank-you note from Vice President Cheney for the military that has performed so spectacularly over the past few years.
I publish a small weblog primarily devoted to military matters at http://www.murdoconline.net. My feeling is that the military, which underwent an incredible transformation during the Reagan and Bush administrations suffered pretty badly during the Clinton years, but I could be wrong. I posted about this on my site here: http://www.murdoconline.net/archives/001055.html . I readily admit that I used strong language in my post. Upon reflection, however, I have realized that I don’t have all the facts.
If you would care to explain how the military of 2001-2004 is better off than the military of 1991 because of new policies enacted during 1992-2000, I will gladly publish your comments, in whole, on my site, along with my own commentary. If you check out my site you will see that I strive to be level-headed and open-minded about issues, especially those concerning our military.
One of the strongest anti-Clinton reactions I’ve encountered is that against the perceived gutting of the US military by President Clinton, and if we are mistaken this is a chance to reach a small number of knowledgeable, open-minded followers of military policy. Many of my regular readers publish their own blogs, and if you can convince us, you will convince many others.
Please take the time to respond with the reasoning behind your statement. I will listen with an open mind and will publish your response verbatim.
Although the name “Murdoc Jern” is a pseudonym that I write under, the mailing address I provided is accurate. I’m sure that if my real identity is required, it can be obtained easily enough. If not, just tell your people my house is the one with the US flag by the front door 24/7/365.
I look forward to hearing from you.
UPDATE 2: I should have known. Less than five minutes after I sent off my message, I received this reply:
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and concerns with me via e-mail. I hope you will understand that, because of the volume of e-mails I receive from residents of New York State, I cannot at this time respond to messages received from residents of other states. I encourage you to contact your U.S. senators if you have an issue or concern that needs immediate attention. You can access your senators electronically by visiting http://www.senate.gov/contacting/index_by_state.cfm for a listing of their contact information. If you are still interested in learning more about the work I am doing on behalf of New York State, I hope you will continue to monitor my work through my website at http://clinton.senate.gov.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton
New York State
Of course, I could resend the letter with a New York address, but that would be lying. I could also set up residency in New York just so I could contact Senator Clinton, but that wouldn’t be right either. Would it?
Hell in a Handbasket noted a Strategy Page entry about the upcoming Silent Hammer exercises which are a proof-of-concept test of the Navy’s new Cruise Missile Submarine (SSGN) plan. MO mentioned SSGNs here.
Noted is the USS Georgia, one of four Ohio-class ballistic missile subs slated to be converted to SSGNs instead of being decommissioned. The Georgia and the USS Virginia, the Navy’s newest attack sub, will participate in Silent Hammer, performing Special Forces operations and other covert missions. Go check out the posts for some good info.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the Georgia has NOT yet undergone the SSGN conversion process. Exactly how the Navy is simulating the new capabilities, I’m not sure. In exercise Giant Shadow last year, a rubber raft was used to simulate the nifty high-tech ASDS mini-sub.
In any event the Georgia will not begin her year-long refueling process, which takes place before the SSGN conversion, until next spring. The Ohio recently finished her refueling and began the conversion. The USS Michigan took the spot of the Ohio on the refueling slip. The conversion takes two years after the completion of refueling.
Recently, the captains of all four SSGN-bound subs met to discuss the future of their commands.
Also, joining Rear Adm. Williams was Rear Adm. Paul Sullivan, Commander Submarine Force, U. S. Pacific Fleet, who presided over a redesignation ceremony for the USS GEORGIA and the USS MICHIGAN, which changed their status from SSBN to SSGN.
“Congratulations on achieving this Navy milestone. The task in front of you is not easy. There is a lot of hard work ahead for the SSGN crews. A lot is expected of this program and there are still unknowns and challenges ahead but the character of our Sailors are formed during these challenges,” said Sullivan while Sailors from USS MICHIGAN and USS GEORGIA symbolically switched their headgear from ballcaps with the SSBN logo to SSGN.
I’m not exactly sure why the Michigan and Georgia changed status already. I guess since they will no longer perform their ballistic missile sub mission, they’re guided missile subs. Whatever floats your boat. So to speak.
Also, it seems to me that proof-of-concept work should have been done before the billions of dollars had been budgeted and conversion work already begun. But maybe that’s just me.
First of all, Airborne Combat Engineer has expanded his earlier post about the Army Times review of the XM8. He points out a time/datestamp recorder for every shot fired from the weapon. (If only Lee Harvey’s Mannlicher-Carcano had been built with such a gadget!) Go check out ACE’s post for more info and links.
Even more inpressively, ACE left a long, insightful comment on the XM8 piece I posted yesterday. Go check out the post for the full comment (lots of good stuff in there) but here are some highlights:
The question we have to ask ourselves, when we think of adopting this as our service rifle, is: Do we want most of our troops to carry a weapon which is optimized for close quarter battle? (Yes, I realize a slightly longer barrel can be attached for sharpshooting, but how many of those will be issued?)
Most of the reliability problems of the M16/4 AR family have been ironed out over the past four decades. (Only support troops who don’t clean their weapons experience jams.) The problem we’re hearing more often now (beginning in Somalia) is related to the cartridge, not the rifle. Urban assault troops prefer at least a .308 round, and troops in Afghanistan what something with at least the same effective range as the AK-47 the enemy uses.
The weapon does look good in general, and can accomodate field interchangeable barrels, so perhaps the slightly better 6.8mm round will be adopted later.
I’m still not convinced that a full service conversion from the M16 to another weapon which still fires the 5.56 is worth the cost (as the round, not the rifle, is our problem at this point). If our goal is to equip our troops with CQB [close quarters battle] assault-type weapons which can spray bullets without careful aiming, this looks like a good choice. But sometimes, our soldiers need to take careful aim and accurately place a shot in a guy’s chest or head. As the M4 has demonstrated, very short barrels reduce accuracy and terminal punch, as some of the powder is burning outside the barrel.
Personally, since I don’t have to lug lots of ammo around, I’d would love to have one of these weapons which could fire a 7.62-39mm short Russian round. A non-fragmenting FMJ 7.62 round will put more than an ice-pick hole in an enemy, so he’ll have a bleeding problem even if you miss a major organ.
ACE hits a major issue here. There seems to be almost no doubt that the XM8 system is superior to the M4/M16 system, in terms of weight, cost, reliability, and future upgrades. But the superiority isn’t significant, and in some cases is very slight. As ACE points out, this is a lot of excitement over a weapon that throws the same 5.56 round that so many troops are upset about right now.
Please forgive me for quoting myself, but I believe that this is central to the issue of a new assault rifle. In August I wrote
There is a lot of debate over the 5.56mm round. Many troops question its stopping power, especially when fired from shorter barrels like the M4 or the proposed standard barrel of the XM8. While perhaps not as much of an issue in the narrow streets and alleys of Baghdad and Tikrit, it could become an major issue in a more open setting, like the hills and mountains of North Korea. In fact, a number of reports from Afghanistan indicate that special forces units using M4 carbines were unable to effectively engage forces at times due to the range and power limitations of the shorter barrels. Perhaps an option would be to include a fourth barrel length, longer than standard but not “machinegun weight”. Another option would be to just keep one or two men in each squad with M16s as “sharpshooters”. This would dilute the advantage of using a universal infantry weapon, however. Maybe some M8s could be modified to fire the 7.62mm round, as some M16s have been. This would increase the firepower of the weapon, but, again, it would negate the commonality that the XM8 hopes to bring to our ground forces.
I’m concerned that a lot of work is going into a weapon that is only a slight improvement over our current systems. Instead of throwing out over 40 years of experience with the M16 for incremental improvements in an entirely new gun system, maybe we should work to make those improvements to our current guns. I’m certainly no expert, but it seems to me that we’re investing an awful lot of time and money into this and not getting a lot of bang for the buck. At the same time, I see good value in some of the ideas the XM8 brings to the table, and am quite interested to see how it performs in tests and with the troops.
If it sounds like I’m waffling, it’s because I’m waffling. This new rifle appears to be awesome. But once you start building millions of them and putting them into the hands of troops in the field, we are going to begin finding out things that the testing missed. I’m just not convinced that all the expense and trouble is worth it if we’re still going to be using the 5.56 round. ACE points out that the XM8, with it’s modular design, could probably be easily modified to fire the 6.8mm round, but so could the M4/M16 with the new 6.8 SPC uppers (mentioned here on MO and also tracked extensively at ACE).
On the other hand, unless the XM8 has a ton of problems that we don’t know about (and the testing closed to the media won’t help matters there) I’m not exactly sure what the risk is. Over time, the M8 will be slightly less expensive than the M4/M16, and cleaning-time savings, reduced weight, and other small improvements will be welcomed by the troops. There doesn’t really seem to be a downside with the XM8, just a missed opportunity.
As for front-line units not having real issues with jamming, I’d suggest that the M8′s reduced cleaning time would make support personnel more likely to clean their weapons regularly, and the M8′s supposed reliability would lessen the chance of failure even if not cleaned as often as called for. Still, every soldier should be a rifleman, and riflemen know that their lives depend on that rifle. To expect a weapon to make up for lack of care or training is barking up the wrong tree.
I still cautiously approve of the move to adopt the XM8, but I suspect that, instead of the long-barreled sharpshooter XM8, squad sharpshooters may end up using the M14, like the squads in the Stryker Brigade. The fact that units currently equipped with the M16 are using M14s (which fire the 7.62mm round) for their sharpshooters indicates to me that it’s the round, not the barrel length, that’s the limiting factor here.
Check back here for more info and opinion as it becomes available, and by all means, even if you don’t return to MO, do not forget to keep an eye on Airborne Combat Engineer.
UPDATE: One of the most common complaints I’ve heard about the XM8 is that it looks like it’s made of plastic. I’ve pretty much dismissed these criticisms, but this afternoon when my 6-year-old girl saw it, the first thing she said was “It looks like plastic.” Not good.
A reader gave me the heads up on an Airborne Combat Engineer post about the Army Times story on the XM8. I had seen the headline yesterday and spent a fair amount of time looking for the story, but it was “For Subscribers Only.” Somehow, ACE found a working link. Great job!
Go check the story out. Most of the items will be familiar to MO readers, because my January post on the weapon still brings in about half of my daily traffic. But some items of interest are
So far, all of the testing of the XM8 has been open to press coverage. But the senior leadership at Benning recently decided to deny access to reporters to ensure an unbiased assessment environment free of outside distractions, said Rich McDowell, Benning’s public affairs officer.
Although the tested weapons had only a semi-auto/full auto selector switch, company literature indicates a two- or three-round burst selector will be available as an option on production weapons.
Earlier, reports indicated that burst settings would not be available. Studies had said that properly trained shooters were just as accurate on full-auto and that leaving the burst capabilities off would make it slightly lighter, easier to clean, and less prone to malfunction.
The Army is considering adding some type of lifetime monitoring system to each weapon, Army Times has learned, so data such as the number of rounds fired during a particular timeframe or over the entire life of a weapon could be retrieved by waving an electronic reader over the weapon. The system might also include the ability to inventory the weapons with an electronic reader.
There are a number of videos available, but they were overloaded yesterday and remain so today. Everybody’s hopped up about this weapon.
Cassini will be sending back images each week as it nears Saturn. It will enter the Saturn system on May 18th. Check out the story for awesome desktops of this image, and compare it to the image I posted in December.
In the coming months, imaging highlights will include near daily, multi-wavelength imaging of Saturn and its rings; imaging of Titan beginning in April; Titan movie sequences starting in late May, when the resolution exceeds that obtainable from Earth; and a flyby of Saturn’s distant moon, Phoebe, in June, at a spacecraft altitude of 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles).
Israelis and Arabs Receive New F-16s (Feb 27, 2004 entry)
The first batch of F-16I Soufa (Storm) fighters arrived in Israel. I mentioned them here in November. Also noted in the Strategy Page entry is the fact that UAE F-16s are rolling down the assembly line next to the Israeli F-16s.
The Strategy Page category is “How to Make War.” Indeed.
Still, my post mentioned the fact that Libya would be within Israel’s range when the new fighters arrived. Maybe that won’t be necessary.
The iPod mini includes a $480 Hitachi 4GB microdrive. The iPod mini costs $250.
So the best deal on buying a MicroDrive for my D100 is to buy a iPod mini and take it apart. You get the MicroDrive for almost 50% off and you get a free pair of headphones. Slap an old compact flash card into the mini and keep on rocking.
Ingenious. (via J-Walk Blog)
Wow. That guy has put almost every round on the target.
Iraqi police cadets training under US supervision. The US soldier doesn’t appear overly thrilled. (from Army Times Frontline Photos (Feb 24, 2004))