Michael G. Vickers to AFA: US Air Force across the spectrum of conflict

Michael G. Vickers, often referred to as the principal strategist for the largest covert operation in CIA history — think Christopher Denham in Charlie Wilson’s War , spoke to a room full of Airmen on strategy.

Senior generals with decades of military experience and junior airmen with only a few years in service listened intently about a host of issues, threats and potential adversaries.

Has Afghanistan turned out the way you thought it would, one attendee asked? “Afghanistan was a key point in ending the cold war,” he said. “The most important line in the movie was actually from Charlie Wilson to ‘not dis-engage from Afghanistan and Pakistan’ and is a mistake we don’t want to commit again. If there’s one thing we learned it’s that we can not dis-engage.”

According to the DOD Website, he provided strategic and operational direction to an insurgent force of more than 300 unit commanders, 150,000 full-time fighters, and 500,000 part-time fighters, coordinated the efforts of more than ten foreign governments, and controlled an annual budget in excess of $2 billion in current dollars.

Vickers has presented many times, see the presentation to the HASC: The House Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

Posted by Capt. David Faggard, Air Force Public Affairs

Dr. Robert Pape to AFA: How The Next President Can Win the War on Terror

Al-Qaeda is much stronger today than they were in 2001,” said Dr. Robert Pape, author, and expert on homeland security during his talk at the 2008 Air Force Association’s Conference in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 15, 2008.

During one of the breakout sessions at the conference, called “How the Next President can win the War on Terrorism”, Pape proposed removing ground troops from various locations throughout the Middle East, and the use of air and sea forces in a doctrine known as “offshore balancing” in an effort to deter future suicide attacks.
During his presentation, “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism,” Pape proposed to the audience of about 150 Airmen and civilians that the reason many Islamic societies began, and continue to launch suicide attacks against westerners has less to do with religion, and more to do with the United States and its allies occupying territories in the Middle East deemed valuable by Muslims.
Based on research Pape gathered from several sources between 1980 and 2001, which he complied in two studies, “Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism,” and “The American Political Science Review, 2003”, he said many suicide groups are quite proud of their activities. He cited one example from the Tamil Tigers, based in Southeast Asia. The group has a “yearbook” filled with photos and biographies about their members who have dedicated themselves to suicide attacks.
Dr. Pape’s study further concluded that ordinary terrorism and suicide terrorism incidents are moving in opposite directions. While there were only three incidents of suicide terrorism in 1980, that number rose to a total of 50 between 2002 and 2003. Conversely, ordinary terrorist attacks (non-suicide), dropped from 666 in 1987, to 383 in 2003.
“Suicide terrorism is conducted by non-state actors who lack the support to influence the larger population into siding with their goals,” he said.
There has been a large shift in motivation for the terrorists since the U.S.-led invasion into Iraq, Pape said.
Pape illustrated three patterns. The first is timing. He said suicide attacks rarely occur as random or isolated phenomenon, instead, he added, they happen in clusters. The second is their goal, which has more to do with driving the U.S. and its allies out of lands the terrorists prize. The final pattern is target selection. Democracies are widely viewed by terrorist groups as “soft”, and easily influenced by terror attacks.
After months of analyzing the terrorists backgrounds, including those who participated in the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Pape and his researchers found majority of the suicide attackers were from Saudi Arabia.
“The United States first began to station combat forces there in 1990,” Pape said. He added that though the U.S. had a military presence in Saudi Arabia prior to 1990, there was a marked increase in the number of ground troops stationed there after 1990.
“It’s crucial to see the presence of U.S. combat forces on the Arabian Peninsula is the best motivation for recruitment of new terrorists,” he said. “Al-Qaeda members are ten-times as likely to come from a Sunni controlled state that has U.S. combat forces stationed [there], than a Sunni controlled state which does not have any U.S. combat forces,” Pape said.
Pape added that Al-Qaeda has moved “pretty far forward in their plan, hitting military allies of the U.S. in order to remove them from the Iraq picture.” He used the Madrid bombings and subsequent removal of troops by Spain’s government, as an example of the success of their plan.
Iraq continues to be the largest campaign for terrorist attacks, with Afghanistan a distant second and growing. In the first 24 years of suicide terror attacks, Pape said, barely 5% were directed at U.S. citizens. In 2008, almost 90% of terror attacks are directed at U.S. military members, their allies or their operations.
Iraq is a prime example of strategic suicide campaigns, Pape said. Since the U.S. invaded Iraq, attacks on allied and U.S. troops have grown steadily, with all attacks being Sunni based. Furthermore, the reasons for suicide attacks are rooted in anti-American sentiment—a feeling the Shia community does not share. This, he said, is clear evidence the attacks are not based on religion.
But Iraqi Sunnis are not solely to blame for the attacks, Pape said. According to his data, there are two main groups involved in the terror attacks and suicide bombings, with the other group primarily comprised of Saudis. While others come from countries bordering Iraq, including Kuwait, Syria, Jordan and a few from Yemen, Pape’s data clearly shows the attacks are not based on a global jihad.
“This is a pattern of opposition to American presence in the region,” he said.
Pape said the current battle raging in Afghanistan mirrors this trend. During the first few years of the U.S.’s involvement in Afghanistan after 2005, suicide attacks in that country skyrocketed. The rise in attacks correlates closely with the rise in NATO ground troops, but more importantly, the changing geographic deployment of the ground forces.
Prior to 2005, Pape said majority of the U.S.’s ground troops were located near Kabul. Shortly thereafter, these troops were relocated to the southern and eastern provinces—areas populated primarily by Pashtos (who are kindred with the Taliban). This change, he said, correlates closely with a sharp rise in terrorist attacks by Taliban-based forces.
“I think in Afghanistan, we need to make a serious decision,” Pape said. “Are we going to deny Bin Laden his sanctuary in this region? Because he is operating out of this area, and planning attacks on the U.S. and its allies.”
Pape did not have a rosy outlook for the War on Terrorism. He said since 2001, the War on Terrorism has taken a turn for the worst. He cited the current administration’s argument that terrorism is based on religious affiliation and fanatical Islamic teachings. On the contrary, he said
“The data shows these attacks are not tied to religion, rather the stationing of U.S. and allied ground troops in the region,” Pape said.
“We need to think of an alternative strategy to our current plan in the Middle East,” he added.
Pape concluded that the next president of the United States needs to develop a new military strategy to deal with the region. Suggesting removal of ground troops, with the institution of a light security force, in addition to stationing Air and Naval forces in the region in what is known as “offshore balancing,” ensuring security over “our vital interests in the region,” he said.

We would love to hear your comments and opinions on Dr. Pape’s presentation.

Posted by Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Air Force Public Affairs

Dr. Linda Henman to AFA: Lead Your Team Beyond Tactics

One thing the Air Force is really good at is solving tactical issues. The challenge, is to get out of being a tactician and to think strategically.

In other words, getting out of the “trenches” and being able to see the organization from the 30,000-foot view is pivotal to the organization’s success.
As author of “The Magnetic Boss”, speaker Dr. Linda Henman, is known throughout civilian sector as an authority on leadership. She spoke to a group of about 25 people at a breakout session at the Air Force Association Conference on Sept. 15, 2008.
“There is no universally accepted definition of leadership,” Henman said.
Leadership is about getting people to disrupt their lives and to implement change, she continued. To do things they wouldn’t normally do because you as their leader motivated them to do it.
Many organizations have a number of challenges facing their leaders. Henman said there are three main qualities of a magnetic leader; they set the direction, they make high caliber decisions and develop the benchmark.
Henman defined strategy as knowing what to worry about tomorrow. She illustrated this by the example of the gas crisis of the 1970s, citing the resistance at Ford Motor Company to produce smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
Their failure to anticipate market trends, and to think strategically, caused them to lose market share to foreign car companies who saw the writing on the wall, she said.
According to Henman, in order to be successful, every organization needs a mission statement. An effective mission statement answers three important questions: Why do we exist?; Who are our customers?; and, What do our customers expect from us?
“Mission, vision, values. Once you have those three in place, you move beyond the tactical and into the strategic,” Henman said.
“A tactic done twice becomes a procedure,” she continued. “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the best practice.”
In order to improve any strategy, Henman recommends brainstorming. She implored the audience to ask the question, “What if?” Coming up with possible answers to that question will allow you to prepare a “way ahead” strategy, she said.
One point Henman presented pertained directly to the Air Force.
“What if we lose our talented people?” she asked. Preparing for the loss of talented employees will prepare the organization to effectively recruit and train new people, she added.
Henman said leaders must make high-caliber decisions. She added that effective leaders have three important qualities; 1. Agility of thought; 2. Good listening skills; and, 3. The ability to get along with others (to be selfless in your dedication).
She also stressed that good leaders should stop expecting their workers to listen to managers, and instead, to get managers to listen to their workers.
“But don’t go on hearsay,” Henman warned. “Become fact-driven. Don’t rely on hunches or guesswork,” she said. “Take the time to check the facts.”
She also recommended bending the golden rule when it comes to managing a workforce.
“Don’t treat people the way you want to be treated,” she said. “Instead, treat them the way they need to be treated.”
Another quality of a strategic leader is to motivate the workforce. Henman stressed that by delegating authority and responsibility to the top people in any organization, the workforce is automatically motivated to success.
Finally, effective leaders know when to let people go.
“Fire when necessary,” she said, adding, “The best thing you can do to avoid firing people is to hire the best person for the job in the first place.”
Henman said leaders need to ask themselves three important questions about prospective employees; Can they prioritize tasks?; Can they get to the core of what the organization needs?; and finally, Are they are flexible? (in other words, can they morph their skill set and knowledge to suit the organization’s needs?)
“If you can say yes to those three questions, then you are a strategic and effective leader,” Henman said. “Then you mentor the top 20-percent,” she added.
During the question and answer session, one question came up regarding civilian versus military employees. Henman said top performers share three traits: They are hard working, they are smart, and they have integrity. “Top performers are exactly the same regardless if they’re in uniform or not,” she said.
While Dr. Henman’s talk was inspiring and informational, the challenge of those in attendance is to take this information back to their perspective units and to dovetail some of these new skills into their organizations.
One other question from the audience had to do with generational differences. They asked how should Generation-X be treated differently from Generation-Y, or the “Millennials“.
Henman replied, “If you are a top performer, it doesn’t matter what generation you’re from. They’re all the same.”
It appeared there were several members in the audience who questioned her findings about generational differences. Furthermore, it is the understanding of this author that countless studies show that Gen-X’ers, Baby-Boomers and Millennials see the world differently from each other, with the latter group more interested in “making a difference” and being a part of a team. Baby-Boomers are most often motivated by money and gifts (and promotions), while X’ers can sometimes be motivated with money and gifts, but most Millennials want time off, recognition and praise.
Millenials, who are now entering the workforce, also want time off and praise for a job well done, but come to many organizations with a sense of entitlement—something the the Baby Boomers and Gen-X’ers don’t necessarily share with the younger generation.
Dr. Henman would do well to incorporate a discussion on these generational differences into her presentation, and present data found in many studies on these differences. True, her assertion that regardless of which generation a worker hails from, all top performers appear to be similar, but there is no denying that their motivations come from vastly different origins. Moreover, to lump three different generations of workers into two groups labled “Top Performers” and “non-Top Performers”, ignores the value each generation brings to any organization.
Feel free to discuss this topic with comments of your own.
Posted By Tech. Sgt. Nick Choy, Air Force Public Affairs

AFA Conference Discussion: Emerging Cyber-Threats on the Web

As technology becomes more prevalent and people increasingly turn to the Internet to manage their lives, cyber criminals are keeping pace and causing millions of dollars of damage and loss of productivity. Dr. Neil Daswani discussed some of the common types of cyber threats and what people, and organizations like the Department of Defense, can do to minimize those threats.
Two common types of Internet damage include data breaches and malware.

Data Breaches have caused big problems in recent years. TJX (parent company of TJ Maxx and Marshalls), the Veterans Affairs Administration, and CardSystems credit card payment processors were all victims of major data breaches where information was stolen. The theft generally affects customers (the end user) of the organization that is breached and can result in stolen money, or stolen identity. Breaches are a big problem because millions of people can be affected at once.

How do data breaches occur? The three most common events resulting in theft are stolen equipment (35%), lost equipment (5%), hacking (60%). These breaches have resulted in over 230 million lost or stolen customer records since 2005. It is not surprising that hacking is the most common form of theft. Because criminals are keeping up with technology, it is imperative that when developing a Website or new software, you have to assume that criminals will try to hack into it and steal information.

What can we do to protect ourselves?
Dr. Daswani suggested that individuals and organizations alike arm and educate themselves. He recommended some online resources to learn about security.


He also suggested that a security czar is elected for each project and you create a secure development lifecycle.

Malware results in damage to your network or computer when somebody captures your keystrokes, thereby resulting in stolen usernames and passwords. The end results could be that your system is forced to join a botnet (network of bad machines) and sends email spam from your machine, among other countless malicious acts you may not know are occurring.

What has changed in Malware Distribution?
–Old style: email, peer to peer
–New style: infect web pages and drive-by-downloads.
Because Websites are being targeted more, it is imperative that developers create safer sites, and end users know where they are going online. Many cyber criminals use social engineering to get you to hit their sites (phishing). For example, they might send emails with breaking news headlines that then takes you to a botnet site. When you click on the phony link, you are taken to a malware site that may log your keystrokes and you end up infecting your computer. Therefore, malware is a very significant threat.

What is industry doing? To reduce malware attacks, Google, for example, is adding a note to search results that states: “This site may harm your computer.” This warning is added to sites that are known, or suspected, to be malicious. If the end user clicks on the site anyway, Google gives you another warning that the site may harm your computer. The user has to physically copy and paste the link if they still want access.

How can you protect yourself?

–Change passwords on home routers and wifi systems.
–Use a firewall and anti-virus software
–Install patches and updates immediately. Use auto update.
–Make backups or used backup service.
–Use browsers with malware protection (eg. Chrome, Firefox)
–Choose good, strong passwords.
–Use bookmarks for financial sites instead of typing the URL each time.
And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is.

Posted by Mr Paul Bove, Air Force Public Affairs

Live from the AFA Air and Space Conference–Day 1

Greetings from the AFA Air and Space Conference and Technology Exposition. Today is day one of the three-day event and there are numerous speakers and topics being discussed. Air Force Live is going to try to bring you notes, blurbs and highlights from as many as we can. Take a look and let us know what you think. Additionally, our colleagues are reporting stories we’re unable to catch, so look for links to http://www.af.mil/ when those are published.

Acting Secretary of the Air Force, Michael B. Donley, just gave his “State of the Air Force” address. Below are some quick notes from SSgt Julie Weckerlein. Look for the full article in tomorrow’s coverage.

–The Air Force is not about senior leadership, the focus should be on warfighting capabilities of total force, we are all ready to move forward and focus on

–Sec. Donley is delighted to have Gen. Schwartz on staff. His joint experience is much needed in the AF.

–First order of business is to address immediate concerns on the nuclear and acquisition enterprise. Modify Airman training programs. And decision to focus on current problems with uniforms (PT, Apex), uniforms.

–On the way ahead: Use time wisely to prepare for a new administration. We’ll need to take care of Airmen and families. We’ll also need to get back to modernizing our aging air and space fleets. First priority must be nuclear work. Corrective actions underway. We established a task force in June to review nuclear from strat perspective. Review progress with senior leaders and other partners in OSD {Office of the Secretary of Defense} and department of energy at a nuclear summit. Improve focus on nuclear capabilities, and how to manage theater and global missions both conventional and nuclear.

–How Airmen are in the fight: 33,000 Airmen deployed worldwide, 26,000 in 36 locations. Airmen make critical contributions every day. 157,000 have shouldered the burden of multiple deployments. Operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Airmen 145 airlift sorties per day, moving people and cargo. We’ve airlifted over thousands of MRAP vehicles, once in theater, dozens of satellites watch over them. Airmen facilitate joint combat control.

–Some final food for thought: How can AF best prepare for transition? We need to be certain who we are. We are adjusting skill sets/force structure accordingly. Daily adjustments contribute to AF trends. Need to focus who we are becoming. We are providers of tremendous capability of air and space. All Airmen in every function speciality are contributing. Second, we need to prepare to engage, debate major issues facing AF. Our midterm studies are in step. As we do so, we cultivate reasoned perspective.

Look for more information and the full story later.

Posted by Mr Paul Bove, Air Force Public Affairs

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