2016:

YEAR OF DECISION IN AFGHANISTAN

with

MAJOR-GENERAL RICK OLSON (USA-Ret)

Former commanding General, 25th U.S. Infantry Division in Afghanistan

and with a commentary by

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID (USA-Ret)

Former Commanding General, U.S. Central Command

The Ramada, Friday, May 6, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

After more than 13 years of war, the United States again faces a major decision point in Afghanistan. Specifically, what troop levels are required for success in that conflict and what tactics/strategies should be employed.

The President and his key national security advisors are considering revising troop levels and deployment patterns at this time.  President Obama appears to be inclined toward restraint with respect to force levels and enhanced intervention in that troubled country.  In contrast, his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and several national security experts, have expressed concerns that if the United States does not enhance its presence on the ground in Afghanistan, the weak government in Kabul will lose additional territory to various insurgent groups, principally Al Qaeda.  The President and his national security team must consider force levels and deployments in the context of escalating tensions and challenges in the broader Middle East.  This includes the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria, and various radical Islamic groups in Libya, Somalia, Nigeria and other areas.

General Olson will review the observations/recommendations made by the outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Campbell, and will analyze the vision and expectations laid out by General Nicholson, who replaced Campbell. Olson will provide a candid assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and will look at what key decisions will need to be made (e.g., what sort of “end state” is envisioned, what forces will be required, and for how long should we anticipate maintaining these forces and capabilities). He will summarize by forecasting what we can “hope for” by the end of 2016, vice where we “should expect to be”.

A West Point 1972 graduate, General Olson has commanded at every level from platoon to division, including his last three years of service as the CG of the 25th Infantry Division (light), including in Afghanistan.  General Olson also served as the Commander of Combined Joint Task Force 76, responsible for all security and reconstruction operations in Afghanistan.

We are pleased that General John Abizaid will offer comments on Olson’s presentation and security challenges in the region.  Abizaid is the former Commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), overseeing American military operations in the 27-country region from the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, to South and Central Asia.  In that role he commanded over 250,000 U.S. troops and oversaw the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP by e-mailinginfo@nationalsecurityforum.org. Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be pro-rated membership applications for the July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.

Summary of the presentation on….

FLY, FIGHT, LEAD—WIN!

with

Rear Admiral Scott Conn

Admiral Scott Conn, the Commander of the Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, presented a fascinating briefing on the training conducted at the Fallon Naval Air Station.  Conn pointed out that the Center teaches advanced methods of strike-fighter employment through various courses, including the famed “Top Gun” program.  Personnel are trained in air-to-air and air to ground roles, as well as electronic warfare (EW), battle management, and airborne C2 (command and control) missions.  The Fallon NAS provides advanced tactical training, not just for strike fighter aircraft like the FA-18E/F, but for E-2 Airborne Early Warning (AEW), EA-18G Airborne Electronic Attack and their MH-60 S/R helicopters as well.

A key point made by the Admiral was that the primary goal of the intense training conducted at the Center was to achieve “asymmetrical advantages”, specifically in graduating pilots and crews who possess superior tactical knowledge and capabilities than that of adversarial forces.  As the Center’s guiding principal states, “Excellence is its own reward.  Strive to be the best in the world in everything we do”.  Or, as the Warfighting Development Center model states, “Fly, Fight, Lead– Win!”.

The Admiral traced the evolution of the missions performed at the NAS from the famed “Top Gun” in 1969 to the multiple missions performed by the Warfighting Development Center today.  Pilots train on fighter aircraft, such as the F/A-18 (A-F); the EA-18G Growler, the F-16 A/B; and specialized aircraft, such as the E-2C (AEW), and MH-60 S/R helicopters.  This is all conducted, Conn noted, in the Fallon NAS training area which encompasses more than 13,000 square miles, including four bombing ranges and six restricted areas!  Training is conducted not just against inanimate objects, but involves “real world opposing forces”– pilots flying adversary forces fighter aircraft, EW platforms, and today, drones.  Conn emphasized that training at Fallon is “real world driven”; that is, against notional adversarial forces with highly sophisticated air defense capabilities.  Quite often training is also conducted in conjunction with Nellis Air Force Base to the south, in increasingly important joint operational missions.

While we cannot summarize the Admiral’s remarks in other areas that were “off the record”, Conn did respond to questions regarding recent challenges that U.S. military forces are encountering throughout the world.  This includes Russian actions that threaten the Baltic States (which are part of NATO), including recent tactics that were highly unprofessional (barrel rolls near U.S. ships in the region).  He also presented his observations on issues regarding the “Rules of Engagement” in conflict areas ranging from the South China Sea to the Middle East.

In all, a most professional and informative presentation! The link to Admiral Conn’s PowerPoint is below.

NAWDC Command Brief DHQ April 20

Save the date for the upcoming presentation on….

2016: YEAR OF DECISION IN AFGHANISTAN

with

MAJOR-GENERAL RICK OLSON (USA-Ret)

and with a commentary by

GENERAL JOHN ABIZAID (USA-Ret)

The Ramada, Friday, May 6, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

After more than 13 years of war, the United States faces again a major decision point in Afghanistan. Specifically, what troop levels are required for success in that conflict and what tactics/strategies should be employed.

General Olson commanded the 25th Infantry Division during simultaneous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. He will review the observations/recommendations made by the outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General Campbell, and will analyze the vision and expectations laid out by General Nicholson, who replaced Campbell. Olson will provide a candid assessment of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan, and will look at what key decisions will need to be made (e.g., what sort of “end state” is envisioned, what forces will be required, and for how long should we anticipate maintaining these forces and capabilities). He will summarize by forecasting what we can “hope for” by the end of 2016, vice where we “should expect to be”.

General John Abizaid, who as CENTCOM Commanding General oversaw the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, will offer comments.

No need to RSVP at this time.  The full announcement will be forthcoming about a week before the event.

Summary of the NSF Discussion on….

 The Apple-FBI Encryption Dispute

with

Robert Gast and Tony Rucci

The National Security Forum hosted a most interesting discussion/debate over the issue of the standoff between the FBI and Apple over the locked I-Phone formerly in the hands of the terrorists who committed the mass murders in San Bernardino.  Former Assistant Director of the FBI, Robert Gast, laid out the Bureau’s position, while Tony Rucci, who has extensive experience in the U.S. Government counterintelligence community as well as the civilian IT world, initially presented the Apple position.  They explained and discussed the technicalities involved, the dangers of unsecuring encrypted devices, and the implications for both national security and communications privacy.

The FBI and Apple have been locked in a strenuous dispute over Apple’s encryption of its iPhone devices.  The terrorists had destroyed their personal phones; however, a work phone issued to one of the attackers by his employer was recovered intact (the phone was locked with a 4 digit password). The FBI sought and received orders from various United States courts, seeking to compel Apple “to use its existing capabilities to extract data” from locked iPhones; Apple continued to refuse to comply.  Specifically, the court orders as requested by the FBI sought to compel Apple to “design new software to let the Government circumvent the device’s security protocols and unlock the phone”.

President Obama laid out the stark choice here, asking “Can we strike a balance” between privacy and strong encryption on the one hand, and national security imperatives on the other?  As the President stated, “If there is no way to gain access to new communications devices, then how do we solve or disrupt a terrorist plot?”

In the interim the FBI said that a “third party” had come forward with a solution to unlocking the phone that was successful, and has abandoned its attempt to force Apple to cooperate.  Our two discussants generally agreed that the Israeli company, Cellibrite, with likely ties to Mossad, had devised a method to unencrypt the phone.  Gast and Rucci agreed that while this single case is over, the larger questions still remain valid, principally between our right to privacy and the need to provide security for the population.

Apple CEO Tim Cook stated that, while Apple respects the FBI, the request the Bureau made “threatens data security by establishing a precedent that the U.S. Government could use to force any technology company to create software that would undermine the security of its products”. In fact, following the cracking of this device, Cook says Apple will “make more of its devices and services inaccessible to law enforcement”.

The presentations and discussions were very thorough and interesting. However, due to their current and former positions within both the intelligence/law enforcement communities and the IT sector, it was necessary to have this NSF session strictly “off the record”. To not do so would have greatly restricted the ability of the speakers to be candid and open regarding their observations and remarks. Sorry! But we can provide you with these insights:

Gast emphasized that investigations of terrorism groups are difficult in the best of times, and made more so if legal barriers inhibit law enforcement’s ability to protect the public.  For example, these groups are very small and hard to penetrate and to develop sources.  Access to communications data is, therefore, “vital to our efforts”, he added.  Secondly, Gast stressed that he believes “the FBI is just as interested as anyone in protecting individual privacy, particularly in view of the fact that we have seen cases in the past die in court due to privacy concerns.”   There are also strict procedural guidelines governing access to phones, Gast added, indeed for all types of communications, including review and approval at a number of levels prior to authorization. And finally, Gast underlined the fact that trust and cooperation by the public and corporations are essential to the FBI “if we are expected to be successful in discharging our many responsibilities.” A public dispute such as the one between Apple and the FBI does neither any good, with the real winner being the “bad guys” who now have more information as to what and what not the FBI can do in investigations.

Rucci stated that, while it’s certainly difficult to argue that the law enforcement community did anything inherently wrong in this matter insofar as their affidavit to the courts, he believes they felt they had no other recourse once they realized they were holding a self-destructing device in their possession and with every failed attempt to access, their case might be losing valuable tactical intelligence value. While the “All Writs Act” was a far reach in any sense of the argument, he thinks they felt it worthy of taking a shot and all the courts could say was “No”. While the FBI was able solicit the support of an external, private entity to gain access to the device in question, they quickly learned the technical process used doesn’t allow them gratis access to the multitude of other like-devices in custody in evidence rooms across the country. Currently, their bypass solution only works for iPhone 5c and earlier models, so the target solution is limited in scope.

Now, the question is out there whether the FBI, with knowledge of a software/hardware vulnerability in Apple’s IP, will do the right thing and divulge the vulnerability and exploitation to Apple to afford them the opportunity to patch and issue protection to the millions of private citizens, organizations, and government entities currently using their vulnerable product. This is the expectation and norm in the tech industry… not to mention the responsible thing to do, Rucci added.

This is the final announcement for the most timely presentation on….

FLY, FIGHT, LEAD—WIN!

Developing Naval Aviation Warfighting Skills

 at the Fallon NAS

with

ADMIRAL SCOTT CONN

Commander, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center
at the Fallon NAS
The Ramada, Wednesday, April 20, 2016, 9:00 a.m.

The Navy’s Fallon Naval Air Station (NAS) teaches advanced methods of strike-fighter employment through various courses, including the famed “TOPGUN” program. Aircrews are trained in air-to-air and air-to-ground superiority roles, as well as airborne command and control, Airborne Electronic Attack (AEA), battle management, and electronic reconnaissance missions. The Fallon NAS provides advanced tactical training at various levels, not just for Strike Fighter aircraft like the FA-18E/F, but rotary wing (helo) employment as well. Admiral Scott Conn will give NSF participants a sense of the missions his students train for and how combat missions against a notional “aggressor” force are flown. Don’t miss this one!

Rear Admiral Conn has in excess of 4,800 Flight hours and 1000 arrested landings during seven deployments. He has flown in excess of 100 combat missions over Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He has commanded VFA-136, VFA-106, Carrier Air Wing ELEVEN on board USS NIMITZ and has Commanded the Naval Aviation’s Warfighting Development Center in Fallon since June of 2014.  In addition, he has served in various staff assignments in Joint organizations, the U.S. Navy Fleet Headquarters and the Pentagon.

Please join us for what will be a very interesting discussion. A full breakfast will be served ($15 Members, $25 Non-Members, and $10 for students with ID and military personnel in uniform; free for WWII Veterans). We recommend that you arrive by 8:30 to enjoy some breakfast, coffee and conversation.

You are encouraged to RSVP by clicking HERE. You may also RSVP by e-mailinginfo@nationalsecurityforum.org. Just a reminder, after the forum, we will be pro-rated membership applications for the July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016 period. Forms will be available at the forum, though you can also access the application form by clicking HERE. For your convenience, we accept cash, check and credit card payments for both the breakfast and membership fees.