5 NatSec Things, 30 January 2018 edition

Revue
 
Today's things: USAF spec ops get special PT test; Somalis kill kids while SF watches; USAID bailing
 
January 30 · Issue #23 · View online
5 NatSec Things
Today’s things: USAF spec ops get special PT test; Somalis kill kids while SF watches; USAID bailing on Tillerson; A-10s new wings; Russian AI.

Air Force decides not everyone should take the same PT test
Looks like the Chair Force is leading the way in the physical training (PT) department by making special operators take special tests. Because the career fields for those particular airmen require a higher level of fitness to be successful. And it’s initiatives like this that are going to make assimilating women into jobs previously closed to them easier. 
Let me explain.
This isn’t just about the Air Force, it’s about the Navy, Army, and the Marines. Because all services currently have two PT standards: one for men, and one for women. So, the argument goes, even if a women scores as high as a man on her PT test, she’s still not as good at the PT as the man is. Even though said PT test is a little outdated in terms of how we actually do war now. 
Units have, for years, had additional standards for their PT that weren’t necessarily tested. By changing that and making it official, the military removes one more barrier to full integration. Because even though a lot of the women who’ve already made it past initial selection points for combat arms and special operations units can do PT better than dudes, this levels that playing field a little more.
Somali soldiers gun down kids while Americans watch Somali soldiers gun down kids while Americans watch
This was supposed to be a good news story: Somali forces with US advisors raided an Al-Shabab school posing as a legit madrassa and rescued around 30 boys from the insurgent military camp adjacent to the educational facility. Somewhere in the confusion some of those kids got killed. 
Here’s where the AFRICOM statement is bullshit: lean into this, PAOs. Lean. Right. In. And be honest and open with your assessment of the situation. And try to be human with your apology. Or whatever passes for human for the press release. 
Because wording it differently means acknowledging that some of the men who killed those kids? Had kids of their own. And realized once the rounds stopped moving and the smoke cleared that they just killed a child. Accidentally, of that I have no doubt. 
Instead of dodging it, maybe: “Some of those killed in the engagement were children. We deeply regret the loss of any innocent life, and especially any life with so much promise still ahead.”
USAID to Tillerson: Nah, we're not gonna work on Saturday
Rex “I put the ‘ex’ in 'Exxon’” Tillerson loves to be part of redesigns at companies where he’s in charge. And it’s become a bit of a thing a the State Department. Where USAID, always a reluctant partner to their snooty State brothers and sisters, are quietly not showing up for meetings that support the Secretary’s initiative. 
The redesigned redesign of the State Department is now working to bring an agency that hates change almost as much as they hate Afghan kids into the latter half of the 20th century. And take a peek over the edge into the 21st. And get rid of some dead weight along the way. 
I know: smarter people that me with a lot of years inside the beltway working for State are bemoaning the loss of talent. At the same time, when is the last time that the dead whale on the international beach that is US diplomacy effected real change? Or did so in anything like a responsive, agile manner?
DoS needs a redesign. It needs to be better at addressing a changing world. Except that Tillerson’s hand on the tiller is going to run the SS State Department right into the rocks of irrelevance faster than Hazelwood did with the Exxon Valdez.
Change needs to some. 
Just not with Rexxon at the helm.
All the A-10s want is a few new wings
People get…emotional…when discussing the A-10 Warthog. Particularly people whose lives have been saved by the beast. And that minigun. Lordy.
Awww you've got an assault rifle. That's cute.
The Air Force keeps trying to get rid of the airframe, making argument that the money spent on the fleet would be better spent on other more effective systems. Ground troops in other branches, like the Army, are pretty clear that they like the A-10 they have today, rather than the F-35 or whatever’s coming next tomorrow. 
It’s an older airframe, and the wings on all of ‘em are needing replaced. And the Air Force was leaning toward not doing the needing “re-winging,” since the contract to do so with Boeing was pretty pricey. And in this age of shrinking budgets, sentiment plays a lesser role. 
But just like Bo Jackson just needed some new hips, someone’s made the argument that hey, we can do it for less. Which extends the service life of the airframes a little longer. Leaving the A-10 fleet free to continue to rain down death from above. But only on the bad guys. 
Russian AI on the battlefield? Nyet...or...not yet
Russia, as it turns out, is at least as concerned with the coming of our robot overlords as the Americans. Because even as they move forward with increased reliance on robotic battlefield systems, Moscow is still reluctant to remove humans completely from lethal decisions.
The rest of the article goes on to detail how the Russians are better than the Americans at unmanned ground vehicles. Because they’re not just thinking about automated pack mules, and instead of thinking about things like how getting humans out of gun platforms should be a good idea.
Which would mean that a single operator could, in theory, control several vehicles, bringing more fire to bear as a result. The challenge there is automating functions like loading and reloading the guns, because there’s a whole lot more than goes into tank ops that would never come into play for airborne unmanned aerial vehicles. 
Where we need to worry is when, not if, Moscow figures out how to do all of those things. And starts fielding related systems faster than the US can. Which is going to happen, that’s certain. Less certain? Whether that deficit translates to real differences on the battlefield. 
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