Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Maneuverability

Speed is the essence of war. - Sunzi

In combat, there is always a trade-off between speed, maneuverability, carrying personnel ability, high impact firepower and armor.

Sometimes there are those who consciously believe that they are in midst of a video game and are moving at mind-breaking speed. Their perception is that they are invincible

When negative consequences strike, injuries occur, they realized that they are not playing in a video game and their reality is painful and harsh.

Sidebar: When building a Tangible Vision of this magnitude, one must properly decide on the ranking of the technical values. It should be based on time, resources and tangibility.

An Intangible Vision is Always Unrealistic
Paraphrasing from the essays of Master Ghost Valley, "Perception is not always reality."

To achieve the essence of "perception is reality", the task-objectives of competitive intelligence and strategic assessment must be consummate and continuous.

Sidebar: Other people have believe that their state of conscious awareness can be heightened through the various practice of yoga and internal martial arts.


March 10, 2009
Too Much Armor Robbing Marines of Speed in Combat


Filed at 1:23 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Using heavy layers of armor to keep troops safe from bullets and bombs is making the Marine Corps too slow on a battlefield where speed and mobility are critical, a senior military leader said Tuesday.

With 8,000 Marines about to be sent to Afghanistan to quell rising violence, Lt. Gen. George Flynn cautioned members of Congress against wrapping them in so much protective gear they can't hunt down more agile insurgents who use the country's rugged peaks and valleys to their advantage.

''The bottom line is that the focus on armor as the principal means of protecting our force is making us too heavy,'' said Flynn, deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for combat development and integration, during a hearing held by the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

The weight of personal body armor and steel-encased vehicles limits the speed and maneuverability that make the Marine Corps ''more effective and deadly to the enemy,'' he said.

Body armor has been a proven lifesaver of U.S.. troops. But the vests weigh as much as 34 pounds each. When body armor is added to the assault rifles, ammunition, water and other essential gear troops are required to carry, they can be lugging as much as 80 pounds into combat. Besides moving more slowly, overburdened troops tire more quickly and are prone to orthopedic injuries that can take them out of action, officials say.

Convincing a war-weary public of a less-is-more approach won't be easy, they say. If a commander decides the gear shouldn't be used for a particular mission and a service member is killed, there could be a backlash, said Jean Malone, deputy director of experiment plans at the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab in Quantico, Va.

''We've got to have the internal fortitude to come back and say: 'We have the data. We made the right decision. We can't guarantee you that nobody will die in this war,''' he said.

Paring down the amount of armor could actually make troops safer on the battlefield, officials say. Speed and maneuverability give them the best chance of killing or capturing the Taliban and other militants before they can set roadside bombs or get in position for an ambush.

''Being able to maneuver and fight and chase down a fleeing enemy; that's actually where your protection is (versus) armoring up and being more static,'' said Brig. Gen. Tim Hanifen, deputy commanding general of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico.

The loads carried by modern American troops are equivalent to those ''the medieval knight wore into and out of battle back in the year 1000 until about the 16th century,'' he said.

Bomb-resistant vehicles that are light and nimble enough to handle Afghanistan's primitive roads are also needed, Flynn told the defense subcommittee. He outlined plans to buy an all-terrain vehicle strong enough to blunt improvised explosive devices and still have the mobility of a Humvee.

The defense subcommittee is holding oversight hearings Wednesday and Thursday on force-protection programs, readiness levels, and ergonomic injuries. Senior Marine Corps and Army leaders are scheduled to testify.

As troop levels are surging in Afghanistan, so are roadside bomb attacks, according to the Pentagon's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

In January and February, 52 IED attacks in Afghanistan killed 32 coalition troops and wounded 96 more, according to preliminary figures from the organization. During the same two months in 2008, 21 IED attacks killed 10 troops and wounded 39.

Body armor has become a focus of Marine Corps efforts to lighten troop loads because it weighs so much more than the other gear. The standard kit consists of hardened composite plates inserted into a ballistic vest. The vest and plates protect the upper body from armor-piercing bullets and shrapnel.

Personal armor made of substantially lighter composite materials that are more effective than current models won't be available for several years. So the Marine Corps is looking for near-term solutions.

The Marine Corps is buying 65,000 vests called ''scalable plate carriers'' that weigh under 20 pounds. The carrier, which uses the same plates as the standard vest, doesn't cover as much of the torso. About 14,000 of the plate carriers have been fielded and the feedback has been positive, according to Marine Corps officials.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Compass AE: A Strategic Decision Guide for All Seasons

Someone recently asked us, " What can our Compass AE process do for their company?"

Compass AE is a strategic decision guide that enables a project team to do the following:
  • minimize costs;
  • mitigate risks;
  • maximize opportunities;
  • accelerate delivery; and
  • ensure quality.

By looking at their project from a top down view of their goal and their objectives, t
hey are able to see the technical connections between the milestones in terms of costs, risks, opportunities, accelerated dates and ensured quality.

If the team makes a strategic decision regarding to the above points, they would know which of the five values would be directly affected.

Our strategic process is not dependent
on the technology, the project management process, the project culture and the distance.

In a future post, we will talk more about the basics of the Compass AE.

If you are interested in knowing more about our Compass AE process, please contact us at service[aatt] collaboration360[ddott]com


Collaboration360 Consultants (C360 Consultants). Copyright:2009 © All rights reserved
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Transforming Chaos Into Opportunities (3)

The intelligent ones do not only look at opportunity first. They assess their global settings, pontificate their options and slowly decide.

Not only do they maintain the gathering of internal information about the strategic disposition of their targeted party, they constantly assess it. Waiting for that grand advantageous moment when the target is at its weakest state ever. They pursue it without any emotion. Conclusively, they maximize their opportunity to the fullest.

In California and other parts of the world, it is hunting season for the bargain hunters. .

US buying trip just hype?
By Hu Yuanyuan and Wu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-03-16 08:01

Yin Guohua heaved a sigh of relief last week as his plane touched down in Beijing after an 11-day tour of the US.

As a member of China's first-ever delegation to shop for American real estate, Yin was prepared for hectic travel, endless showings, and pushy salesmen.

He was not prepared for the reporters.

"Everywhere we went, there were cameras chasing us," Yin said ruefully.

The novelty of Chinese shopping for American property guaranteed publicity for the 21-man delegation, which visited Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, and Boston. Another 19 delegates, most of them 35-50 years old, missed the trip because of visa problems., the real estate portal, organized the trip but did not announce the results.

Yin, a lawyer who had said he intended to buy a $1 million apartment in either Los Angeles or New York, also declined to say whether he had made a deal, but said the trip met his expectations.

"In fact, we had a wider range of choices than we expected," he said.

Industry experts said the trip did not appear to be a serious attempt to buy property.

Howard Rosen, a senior manager at Grubb & Ellis, a New York-based property agency, said he does not think most Chinese individuals are qualified to purchase real property in the US "unless the money is here."

Investors with deposits in Hong Kong may qualify, he said, but assets on the Chinese mainland will not satisfy US sellers, Rosen said.

In addition, foreign investment in US property requires a lengthy process, according to Rosen. Without "certainty of disclosure," Chinese investors will not be taken seriously, he said.

Rosen also questioned Chinese investors' interest in the US real property market, as the Chinese stock markets begin to rebound.

Even if they are interested, he said, there are still many questions investors must answer before they make such an investment, such as "what kind of investment returns they'd expect" and "how long will they expect to invest."

Chen Yunfeng, secretary general of the China Real Estate Managers Association, said he also doubts that the time is right for Chinese to buy US investment property.

"Given the current US economy, there is no sign that the price of property will appreciate strongly in the short term," said Chen. The price may even continue to slide if the crisis worsens, he said.

More buying trips are likely, however, as China's new millionaires look for places to invest their wealth.

According to a report by the Boston Consulting Group, China had the world's fifth-largest population of millionaires in 2008 with 391,000, up 20 percent from the previous year.

The growing interest among Chinese in buying overseas properties is not focused solely on the US.

"There are more people coming to us, asking about the process of buying an overseas property," said Rainer Schleif, a manager of Aimeilan Consulting (Beijing) Co Ltd, a company that deals mainly with Australian and Singaporean real estate.

Desire to emigrate and the sharp depreciation of the Australian dollar have piqued investors' interest, Schleif said.

(China Daily 03/16/2009 page7)

Chinese 'Buying' Tour May Have Been a Bust

You probably read -- or saw something on TV -- about a group of Chinese investors who toured the U.S. shopping for bargain basement real estate in San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Boston and Los Angeles.

One man's foreclosure is another man's profit.

While the tour made headlines -- most of which were fairly alarmist -- the trip seems to have amounted to naught, according to a China Daily report.

Turns out, unless Chinese investors have their cash in Hong Kong or U.S.-based accounts, they probably won't qualify to buy U.S. property. And there were other reasons why industry insiders were skeptical of the trip: For one thing, of the 40 people who were supposed to come, only 21 investors made it, and it's not clear how many of those who attended actually placed offers on properties. (The 19 investors that didn't come reportedly had visa problems.)

Still, that's not to say Chinese buying tours won't eventually become commonplace, but probably not until the U.S. market delivers more predictable short-term returns.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Dao of Strategy: Integrating Strategic Rules of Go with The Strategic Principles of Art of War's

Go is one of the most popular board strategy game in Asia. While this game takes less than one hour to learn and a lifetime to master, it has more technical complexity than Chess.

Unlike the game of Chess, the top masters of this game have not been defeated by a computer. This game was developed in ancient China and refined in Japan. It is called WeiQi in Chinese or more popularly known by the Japanese word Go. The literal meaning is to surround. (As a side note, Go is called Baduk in Korea.) For this post, the term Go will be used to describe this mysterious but ancient Asian board strategy game.

Historically, Go was considered one of the four great accomplishments of ancient China, one of the worthy pursuits of a lifetime, along with poetry, archery, and calligraphy. It is both an art and a mental exercise - ingeniously disguised as a game. People of all ages can play and enjoy Go, from children of five or six to people in their nineties. Not only was Go popular with royalty, it was also a favorite exercise for warriors, scholars and philosophers.

The object of this game is simple: control the greatest quantity of territory by surrounding your opponent's stones in a 19 x 19 gridded board with the minimal amount of pieces. Stones are placed on any of the three hundred sixty-one intersections. To some enthusiasts of Go, there is a philosophical bent to it. As in martial arts, a player's Go game is an extension of their view of life.


Go originated in China about 4000 years ago. Japan imported the game of Go around the eighth century. Players in eastern Asia have excelled at this game throughout modern times. Go reached the western hemisphere in the late 1800s. Completely logical in design, the game of Go has withstood the test of time. Today Go survives in its original form as the oldest game in the world. It has been said that there are over 100 million devotees of this game.

Asian Go masters considered the Go board to be a microcosm of the universe - an extremely complex and chaotic universe. In their eyes, an empty game board is a visual paradigm of simplicity and order.

In fact, the possibilities of game play are endless. The ancient Go masters has said that Go games are just like snowflakes – no two games are alike.

Playing the Game

A typical game of Go starts with two players and an empty game board. Players would alternate putting black and white stones on the board to surround an area or territory. Whoever has more territory at the end of the game is the winner. There are nineteen horizontal and nineteen vertical game lines on the standard board,which forms a grid of 361 intersections or "points."

During a typical game of Go, the four major goals of each player are the following:

  • Surround territory.
  • Reduce their opponent's territory.
  • Capture enemy stones.
  • Protect their own stones.

The winner is always the player who has accomplished these goals more efficiently.

The goal is to make the opponent to say, "‘I pass," meaning there is no way of achieving any of the above goals. The game is then over.

Passing presumes that all claimed territories are completely surrounded (all fence sections are in place) and no stones are in atari (a position to be captured) along the borders between opposing live groups.

To win in Go, all you have do to control a minimum of 181 points of the board. Sound simple?

Learning Curve

It has been said that Go is a game that takes a minimum of nine minutes to learn and nine years to win. In reality, it usually takes a lifetime to master.

After hundred of games, one gains the experience that spending too much time looking at the small-scale tactical side of a confrontation can cause one to miss the large picture and as a consequence, lose badly. On the other hand, if one sets up patterns of safety or executes attacks without caring to examine and adapt to the changing situation, the other player can prevail. In both cases it becomes difficult to win.

The consummate Go players are those who don't waste a move or a resource. Every move that is executed should serve a small but continuous move toward the long-term objective of the player. It has been said that the three attributes of a consummate Go player are patience, persistence and the ability to adapt to any game situations.

Playing Against Go Computer Software

While Go is a simple game to learn, with its endless permutations it is almost impossible to master. Currently, the brute force of computers like Deep Blue, which can rapidly explore the possible outcomes of a game and choose the best course of action, is overwhelming chess masters. This "brute force" approach is not applicable to Go. For one thing, brute force depends on the ability to perform a quick, accurate positional analysis, but it is qualitatively more difficult to evaluate a "Go" position than a "Chess" position. To succeed in the game of Go, deep analysis is often required just to decide which strategic position favors one side or the other. A single mistake in this analysis could fatally throw off a computer evaluation.

As a result, Go is a much more interesting computing problem than Chess. Go programmers must try to replace exhaustive search with expert knowledge, as human players do. They must approximate human perception judgment and reasoning. So far there has been little success: the best Go computers today play at the level of an experienced beginner.

Comparing the Game of Go to the Game of Chess

Before a Go game starts, the board is empty, whereas in Chess the game board is full of pieces. In a game of Chess, from the start to finish pieces are usually exchanged and positions are minimized to an empty board with a few men left standing. The winner is when one of the player's kings is captured.

Compared to Chess, Go is a total technical paradox. A typical Go game starts with an empty board and usually ends with a full board with the occupation of pieces by both sides with some exchanges of pieces for the control of selective territory. What makes Go more distinguishable from Chess is that all of the pieces possess equal importance.

Someone told me that comparing the technicalities of Go to that of Chess is like comparing philosophies of two different cultures - Asian and Western. This quote from Descartes describes an aspect of the Western culture and the game of Chess: "I think, therefore I am." Where the quote "We think therefore I am…" illustrates a basic of Asian culture and the game of Go.

The success of a winning Go game is when all of the pieces can work together, whereas in the game of Chess an uncertain number of pieces are usually sacrificed for the single aim of victory.

A quote from Trevanian's book, Shibumi, is a good representation of the metaphorical difference between Go and Chess: "Go appeals to the philosopher in any man and Chess to the merchant in him."


What the game of Go has taught a budding player is to think from a grand view. Do not take anything only at face value: Examine the possibilities. Test them if possible. Anything you do (practice, perform, and produce) is only as good as you are. To succeed in life as in the game of Go, one must start by occupying a strategic corner, then develop a strategic sphere of influence by focusing on continuous progress toward long-term strategic supremacy.

If you want to learn a discipline that focuses on developing a strategic sphere of influence by forsaking short-term territorial gains and concentrating only on continuous progress toward long-term dominance, the game of Go may be the answer that you are seeking. It only takes less than an hour (nine minutes if you were a genius) to learn Go, but do you have a lifetime to master this game?

Following is our example of combining the Ten Golden Rules of Go (围棋十决) with some of the principles from the Art of War:

1. Tan Bu De Sheng (贪不得胜)- The greedy does not succeed.
"And for this reason, the wise general in his deliberations must consider both favourable and unfavourable factors. By taking into account the favourable factors, he makes his plan feasible; by taking into account the unfavourable, he may resolve the difficulties." - The Art of War, 8

2. Ru Jie Yi Huan (入界宜缓)- Be unhurried to enter opponent´s territory
"In level ground occupy a position which facilitates your action. With heights to your rear and right, the field of battle is to the front and the rear is safe." - The Art of War, 7

3. Gong Bi Gu Wo (攻彼顾我)- Take care of oneself when attacking the other
Anciently the skillful warriors first made themselves invincible and awaited the enemy's moments of vulnerability. Invincibility depends on one's self; the enemy's vulnerability on him. It follows that those skilled in war can make themselves invincible but cannot cause an enemy to be certainly vulnerable.
Therefore it is said that one may know how to win, but cannot necessarily do so. Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack. One defends when his strength is inadequate; he attacks when it is abundant. The experts in defense conceal themselves as under the ninefold earth; those skilled in attack move as from above the ninefold heavens. Thus they are capable both of protecting themselves and of gaining complete victory. - The Art of War, 4

Generally, he who occupies the field of battle first and awaits his enemy is at ease; he who comes later to the scene and rushes into the fight is weary. And therefore those skilled in war bring the enemy to the field of battle and are not brought there by him. One able to make the enemy come to his own accord does so by offering him some advantage. And one able to prevent him from coming does so by hurting him. - The Art of War, 6

4. Qi Zi Zheng Xian (弃子争先)- Discard a stone to gain sente

"When torrential water tosses boulders, it is because of momentum; When the strike of a hawk breaks the body of its prey, it is because of timing. Thus the momentum of one skilled in war is overwhelming, and his attack precisely regulated. His potential is that of a fully drawn crossbow; his timing, the release of the trigger. - The Art of War, 5

"When campaigning, be swift as the wind; in leisurely march, majestic as the forest; in raiding and plundering, like fire; in standing, firm as the mountains. As unfathomable as the clouds, move like a thunderbolt." - The Art of War, 7

/// note: The proverb is about sacrificing time, space and resources to continue one's momentum.

5. She Xiao Jiu Da (舍小就大)- Abandon small to save big
Ground in which the army survives only if it fights with the courage of desperation is called 'death'. And therefore, do not fight in dispersive ground; do not stop in frontier borderlands.
Do not attack an enemy who occupies key ground; in communicating ground do not allow your formations to become separated.
- The Art of War, 11

6. Feng Wei Xu Qi ((逢危须弃)- When in danger, sacrifice
In enclosed ground, resourcefulness is required. In death ground, fight. - The Art of War, 8

7. Shen Wu Qing Su (慎勿轻速) - Make thick shape, avoid hasty moves
"When you plunder the countryside, divide your forces. When you conquer territory, divide the profits. Weigh the situation, then move. ..." - The Art of War, 7

8. Dong Xu Xiang Ying (动须相应) - A move must respond to the opponent's
"In planning no useless move. In strategy, no step is vain." - Chen Hao

9. Bi Qiang Zi Bao (彼强自保) - Against strong positions, play safely
When the army traverses mountains, forests, precipitous country, or marches through defiles, marshlands, or swamps, or any place where the going is hard, it is difficult ground.
- The Art of War, 11

10. Shi Gu Qu He (势孤取和) - Look for peace, avoid fighting in an isolated or weak situation
You should not encamp in low-lying land. In communicating ground, unite with your allies. You should not linger in desolate ground. - The Art of War, 8

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (9): Assess, Position and Implement

In terms of strategic project over-viewing, Gates assessed the grand picture, understood the rule of "economic laws never change, while technology changes", and made the wise decision on focusing on the "75% solution" approach instead choosing the "gold plated" solution.

Due to the urgency of their current needs and the constant change of technology, it was more efficient for the Dept of Defense to focus on a series of pragmatic solutions.

Good strategic planning and decision making depends greatly on one's assessment of themselves, their opposition and what is the possible reaction from the opposition. Then building a plan upon that evaluation.

Against a "poorly resourced" opposition, one has more latitude in their decision-making. He can afford some loss of time and resources.

When competing against an
unknown opposition with greater resources, there is always uncertainty in their reaction. Regardless of their resources, there is always an weakness lurking somewhere in their armor. The underdog must properly assess the opposition in order to detect that "Achilles heel."

When leading with Sunzi’s strategic principles, one focuses on defeating the opposition in the least amount of time, with the minimum cost and the smallest damage to the grand settings.

The approach sounds conceptually simple.

The question is: does the company have the experienced professionals that are required to complete this objective? ... It is always a challenge to complete an objective on time, on budget and on target.

Strategic Disposition
After completing the assessment, the next stage is developing one's strategic disposition through solid planning and the understanding of each competitor's strategic disposition.

When developing the game plan, one determines whether to be flexible or efficient in their strategic approach.

Chinese strategy classics emphasize the importance of focusing on flexibility and being efficient in an unpredictable setting. While completing short term goals and objectives, one builds momentum for a forthcoming predictable setting.

When implementing in a predictable setting, focus on becoming efficient while minding the grand settings.

By using our Compass AE process, you are able to do the following:
  • Focus on the current objective while minding the Tangible Vision (the big picture);
  • Avoid negative circumstances while focusing on positive circumstances;
  • Maximize opportunities;
  • Adjust strategically;
  • Shape the Tangible Vision; and
  • Lead with strategic leadership .
By following your strategic dispositions, you can make better decisions. You will stay on course and complete your goal regardless of the circumstances.

Does your current plan do that?

What is the Tangible Vision?
The Tangible Vision is a goal, a plan that you work with. It also emphasizes a clearly-defined vision or mission statement that you believe in.

The first step is establishing your desired "end-in-mind" with specific details. The ideal outcome must have the value points and a tangible model that you can relate to. It also encompasses the contra-position of the desired outcome.

The next step is building the specific guidelines for each milestone. Those guidelines are based on the priorities, the approach and various circumstances for that phase.

The final step is outlining the operational steps that match the specific guidelines for each milestone.

The guidelines stated in the Tangible Vision become the strategic standard for the implementer to make decisions with. They know the positives and the negatives based on anticipated situations.

The Tangible Vision also guides the implementer on when and how to adapt the changes, what are the contingencies, etc.

In a future post, we will talk more about the basics of the Tangible Vision.

If you are interested in knowing more about our Compass AE process, please contact us at service[aatt] collaboration360[ddott]com

Copyright: 2009 Collaboration360 Consultants (C360).
Copying, posting and reproduction in any form (without prior consent) is an infringement of copyright.


March 17, 2009
Drones Are Weapons of Choice in Fighting Qaeda

A missile fired by an American drone killed at least four people late Sunday at the house of a militant commander in northwest Pakistan, the latest use of what intelligence officials have called their most effective weapon against Al Qaeda. And Pentagon officials say the remotely piloted planes, which can beam back live video for up to 22 hours, have done more than any other weapons system to track down insurgents and save American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The planes have become one of the military’s favorite weapons despite many shortcomings resulting from the rush to get them into the field. An explosion in demand for the drones is contributing to new thinking inside the Pentagon about how to develop and deploy new weapons systems.

Air Force officials acknowledge that more than a third of their unmanned Predator spy planes which are 27 feet long, powered by a high-performance snowmobile engine, and cost $4.5 million apiece have crashed, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pilots, who fly them from trailers halfway around the world using joysticks and computer screens, say some of the controls are clunky.

For example, the missile-firing button sits dangerously close to the switch that shuts off the plane’s engines. Pilots are also in such short supply that the service recently put out a call for retirees to help. But military leaders say they can easily live with all that.

Since the height of the cold war, the military has tended to chase the boldest and most technologically advanced solution to every threat, leading to long delays and cost overruns that result in rarely used fighter jets that cost $143 million apiece, and plans for a $3 billion destroyer that the Navy says it can no longer afford.

Now the Pentagon appears to be warming up to Voltaire’s saying, The perfect is the enemy of the good.

/// Perfection is the state of mind. Being good is not enough. Focus on becoming excellent is the key.

In speeches, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has urged his weapons buyers to rush out 75 percent solutions over a period of months rather than waiting for gold-plated solutions. And as the Obama administration prepares its first budget, officials say they plan to free up more money for simpler systems like drones that can pay dividends now, especially as fighting intensifies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

/// At this level, it is all about choosing a set of simple solutions that can provide immediate wins. Against the weak opposition, simplicity is acceptable. At some point of time, the superior competitor will compete against a greater opposition with the similar technology with advanced features.

A rare behind-the-scenes look at the use of the Predator shows both the difficulties and the rewards in pushing out weapons more quickly. I’ll be really candid, said Col. Eric Mathewson, who directs the Air Force’s task force on unmanned aerial systems. We’re on the ragged edge. He said the service has been scrambling to train more pilots, who fly the drones via satellite links from the western United States, to keep up with a near-tripling of daily missions in the last two years. Field commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the Air Force is in charge of the Predators, say their ability to linger over an area for hours, streaming instant video warnings of insurgent activity, has been crucial to reducing threats from roadside bombs and identifying terrorist compounds. The C.I.A. is in charge of drone flights in Pakistan, where more than three dozen missiles strikes have been launched against Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in recent months.

Considered a novelty a few years ago, the Air Force’s fleet has grown to 195 Predators and 28 Reapers, a new and more heavily armed cousin of the Predator. Both models are made by General Atomics, a contractor based in San Diego. Including drones that the Army has used to counter roadside bombs and tiny hand-launched models that can help soldiers to peer past the next hill or building, the total number of military drones has soared to 5,500, from 167 in 2001. The urgent need for more drones has meant bypassing usual procedures. Some of the 70 Predator crashes, for example, stemmed from decisions to deploy the planes before they had completed testing and to hold off replacing control stations to avoid interrupting the supply of intelligence. The context was to do just the absolute minimum needed to sustain the fight now, and accept the risks, while making fixes as you go along, Colonel Mathewson said. It is easier, of course, for the military to take more risks with unmanned planes.

Complaints about civilian casualties, particularly from strikes in Pakistan, have stirred some concerns among human rights advocates. Military officials say the ability of drones to observe targets for lengthy periods makes strikes more accurate. They also said they do not fire if they think civilians are nearby. The Predators were still undergoing basic testing when they were rushed into use in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s and then hastily armed with missiles after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. But it was only after the military turned to new counterinsurgency techniques in early 2007, that demand for drones became almost insatiable.

Since then, Air Force Lt. Gen. Gary North, the air-component commander for the combined forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the service has gone to amazing lengths to increase their use. The Predators and Reapers are now flying 34 surveillance patrols each day in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from 12 in 2006. They are also transmitting 16,000 hours of video each month, some of it directly to troops on the ground.

The strains of these growing demands were evident on a recent visit to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Ariz., one of four bases where Air National Guard units have been ordered to full-time duty to help alleviate crew shortages. The Guard members, along with Air Force crews at a base in the Nevada desert, are 7,000 to 8,000 miles away from the planes they are flying. Most of the crews sit at 1990s-style computer banks filled with screens, inside dimly lit trailers. Many fly missions in both Iraq and Afghanistan on the same day.

On a recent day, at 1:15 p.m. in Tucson 1:15 the next morning in Afghanistan a pilot and sensor operator were staring at gray-toned video from the Predator’s infrared camera, which can make even the darkest night scene surprisingly clear. The crew was scanning a road, looking for but not finding signs of anyone planting improvised explosive devices or lying in wait for a convoy.

As the Predator circled at 16,000 feet, the dark band of a river and craggy hills came into view, along with ribbons of farmland. We spend 70 to 80 percent of our time doing this, just scanning roads, said the pilot, Matthew Morrison.

At other times, the crews monitor insurgent compounds and watch over troops in battle. When you’re on the radio with a guy on the ground, and he is out of breath and you can hear the weapons fire in the background, you are every bit as engaged as if you were actually there, Major Morrison said. When Predators spot possible targets, officers monitoring video at command centers in Iraq and Afghanistan decide whether to order an attack.

Col. Gregg A. Davies, commander of the group that flies Predators for the Arizona Guard, said fighter planes with bigger bombs are often sent in to make the strikes. In all, the Air Force says, Predators and Reapers shot missiles on 244 of the 10,949 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007 and 2008. Air Force officials said a few crew members have had a difficult time watching the strikes. And some pilots said it can be hard to transition from being a computer-screen warrior to dinner at home or their children’s soccer games.

Another problem has been that few pilots wanted to give up flying fighter jets to operate drones. Given the shortages, the Air Force has temporarily blocked transfers out of the program. It also has begun training officers as drone pilots who have had little or no experience flying conventional planes.

Colonel Mathewson, director of the Air Force’s task force on unmanned aerial systems, said that while upgrades have been made to control stations, the service plans to eventually shift to simpler and more intuitive ground systems that could allow one remote pilot to control several drones.

Now, pilots say, it takes up to 17 steps including entering data into pull-down windows to fire a missile. And even though 13 of the 70 Predator crashes have occurred over the last 18 months, officials said the accident rate has fallen as flying hours have shot up. All told, 55 have been lost because of equipment failure, operator errors or weather. Four were shot down in Bosnia, Kosovo and Iraq; 11 were lost in combat situations, like running out of fuel while protecting troops under fire.

Given the demand for video intelligence, the Air Force is equipping 50 manned turbo-prop planes with similar cameras. And it is developing new camera systems for Reapers that could vastly expand the intelligence each plane can collect. P. W. Singer, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution, said the Predators have already had an incredible effect, though the remote control raised obvious questions about whether the military could become more cavalier about using force.

Still, he said, these systems today are very much Model T Fords. These things will only get more advanced.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (8): Assess the Big Picture, Moneyball Style!

Professionally, one is only as good as their last performance.

Every smart business decision maker plays their own form of "Moneyball." "Getting the most bang for the buck" is the the goal of all good strategic decisions. It starts by understanding what are the active variables. Then defining the positive and negative situations in terms of the grand picture. The key is to see if one's grand picture has the positive leverages set for that marketplace.

The objective of Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager is to always look for low cost players who can do many things well.

Some of my favorite "moneyball" players were Jason Giambi and Nick Swisher. They generated numerous walks and possessed a high OPS (On-base plus slugging (OPS) is a baseball statistic calculated as the sum of a player's on-base percentage and slugging percentage. ...). Both Giambi and Swisher also had great hitting power. When the price got too expensive, it was for them to move to Yankeeland.

In terms of baseball, the "Moneyball" process is about leveraging market efficiencies in building a competitive MLB roster" while minding what are the market in inefficiencies. It is not about "waiting for a 3-0 count or a 3-1 count".

With the right data, the Moneyball thinkers assessed the grand picture, position themselves with the the right process and implement with precision and conciseness.


Beane's latest strategy has A's in the chase again
Bruce Jenkins

Monday, March 9, 2009

(03-08) 19:13 PST -- As we enter the 42nd season of a nonexistent Bay Area baseball rivalry, the A's and Giants drift yet farther apart, different in most every way. That goes for the stadiums, the payrolls, the philosophy, the fan base, the future and the specific nature of this year's lineups.

The Giants have undergone a significant change, abandoning their Bondsian obsession for an emphasis on pitching and the draft. As for the A's, it's nice to see one of the most tiresome catch-terms in sports, "Moneyball," get tossed onto the shelf - forever, if we're lucky.

"Moneyball" was a compelling book about a specific period of Billy Beane's stewardship, but people have spent the ensuing years trying to package Beane's strategy in a nice little box - and they've been hopelessly wrong. Beane reacts to the climate he has been given, and this year's program marks a dramatic departure.

Regrettably, for A's fans passionately devoted to the team, one factor remains the same: You'll barely get to know "your guys." While the Giants build a future around Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Pablo Sandoval, Buster Posey and a bunch of prospects they wouldn't trade for the world, the A's revolving door knows no favorites. With very few exceptions (Mark Ellis comes to mind), they're all just passing through. But few general managers have been as sensitive to the economic crisis, while still improving his team, as Beane.

You can't get too upset about the Giants' overly generous pursuit of Edgar Renteria, Jeremy Affeldt and Bobby Howry. They targeted some needs and addressed them with haste. But it was fascinating to watch Orlando Cabrera and Nomar Garciaparra stroll into a conference room together for a news conference at Phoenix Stadium the other day. These are quality veterans with a mural of postseason history, and Beane's strategy - waiting until he could sign each man at a one-year bargain - was masterful.

He might not be through, either. The A's draw ever closer to a team capable of passing the Angels in the AL West ("We want to take over," as Cabrera said), and another starting pitcher or two just might do the trick.

Beane was frankly disgusted as he watched his lineup perform last year, and who wasn't? Around the infield horn, each man had the lowest batting average at his position. Daric Barton, heralded as the essence of Beane's preoccupation with on-base percentage, consistently produced the most tedious at-bats in either league. Now he's piling up injuries and losing status, although he's young enough to have some trade value.

Matt Holliday and Jason Giambi are two guys who go up there hacking, not looking to run a 3-1 count. There's another such slugger in the minor leagues, Chris Carter (39 homers at Stockton last year), and two of the A's best infield prospects, second baseman Jemile Weeks and shortstop Corey Wimberly, are flashy, speed-burning types.

Frustrated A's fans tend to focus on Beane's mistakes, and like any general manager, he's had some beauties. Perhaps they don't give enough thought to the A's dated stadium, dreadful attendance, low-rent payroll or the very real speculation in baseball that they're on some sort of "contraction" list. That would take years to actually execute, but believe this: If you're stuck in a repulsive ballpark, while consistently failing to get a new one built, Commissioner Bud Selig and his cronies wouldn't mind wiping you off the map.

It's abundantly clear that we've watched the likes of Carlos Peña, Andre Ethier, Dan Haren, Joe Blanton, Rich Harden and Carlos Gonzalez leave town too quickly. We also witnessed a run of five postseason appearances in seven years (2000-06), a feat most of Beane's fellow general managers consider to be miraculous. If there's a difference in this year's A's, it's that the future isn't so much in play. Beane is making a run for the playoffs right now, with a collection of hitters infinitely more watchable than those across the bay. Any time there's a chance both teams could reach October, please, stash the complaints.

E-mail Bruce Jenkins at


Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (7): The Importance of Intelligence Gathering

Assessing intelligence is one challenge. Gathering intelligence is another challenge. ...

Why is intelligence gathering important?
"One who confronts his enemy for many years in order to struggle for victory in a decisive battle yet who, because he begrudges rank, honours and a few hundred pieces of gold, remains ignorant of his enemy's situation, is completely devoid of humanity. Such a man is no general; no support to his sovereign; no master of victory. " - Sunzi (Griffith translation)

Of all those in the army close to the commander none is more intimate than the secret agent; of all rewards none more liberal than those given to the secret agents; of all matters none more confidential than those relating to secret operations. ... He who is not sage and wise, humane and just, cannot use secret agents. And he who is not delicate and subtle cannot get the truth out of them. ... Delicate indeed! Truly delicate! There is no place where espionage is not used.
- Sunzi (Griffith translation)

What is the Benefit of Gathering Intelligence?
Of old, the rise of Yin was due to I Chih, who formerly served the Hsia; the Chou came to power through Lu Yu, a servant of the Yin. ... And therefore only the enlightened sovereign and the worthy general who are able to use the most intelligent people as agents are certain to achieve great things. Secret operations are essential in war; upon them the army relies to make its every move.
- Sunzi
(Griffith translation)

# # #

A spy’s lament

By Vikram Sood
Tuesday, 03 February , 2009, 18:18

Vikram Sood was Secretary, Research and Analysis Wing and is currently Adviser to the Chairman, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi.

‘Nothing should be as favourably regarded as intelligence; nothing should be as generously rewarded as intelligence; nothing should be as confidential as the work of intelligence.’ - Sun Tzu, The Art of War

It is possible that had the state paid any attention to Sun Tzu’s principles, our systems might have been better equipped to handle events that led to and occurred on 26/11.

In India we have violated all these principles, more or less consistently but especially in these last few years, since after the time of Rajiv Gandhi. In the aftermath of the Mumbai massacres, and even before that, throughout 2008 questions about intelligence failures have been raised after each major terrorist act.

However, Mumbai was more than just intelligence failure. Like Kargil, it was also a systemic failure. But the starting point was inadequate intelligence, the failure to connect the dots within the system. The rest just happened, as the world saw on TV.

It is unfortunate that for a country like ours that has had to deal with insurgencies and unending terrorism for 60 years, the political leadership and a civil bureaucracy has viewed the business of intelligence collection with disdain. Efforts at control have usually meant putting roadblocks and reducing intelligence functions to bureaucratic practices.

Any state that seriously wants to preserve or enhance its national interests needs statecraft that is a mixture of diplomacy, intelligence, military technology and economic power. No single instrument is powerful enough in the pursuit of national interests and all instruments have to be sharp and powerful but intelligence is an important function at all times, peace or war or in between.

Unless leaders equip themselves with a strong intelligence arm, they will continue to be surprised and make wrong choices.

In understanding the role of external intelligence we must first accept a few basic truths.

Even the best intelligence will not be a guarantee against all terrorist attacks or other nasty surprises but it will make the price higher, will be a deterrent and of immense help in investigations, instead of what happens at present where the investigating agencies are blindsided.

Second, intelligence is not just by the IB or R&AW or DIA; in case of terrorism it is the local state units in the district and the sub-division that have to perform.

Third, since external intelligence operates on foreign soil, it is an extra-legal or even illegal activity. That is why governments need the cover of plausible deniability since relations between sovereign powers could get adversely affected or even ruptured because of clandestine activities.

That is also why preserving an intelligence operative’s identity becomes vital but is often not understood. It is not a quirk of personality or a desire for mystery that makes an intelligence operative uncomfortable when he is exposed, as so often happens in India. In fact, the best intelligence operatives are those who have a passion for anonymity, although in the Indian system this is impossible.

Further, intelligence is often an amalgam of information and data from various sources — technical of various kinds and human sources — all of which is converted into knowledge by skilled analysts. But all this is not enough because intelligence is as good as the process that converts this information into knowledge and the ability of the ultimate user to assimilate this intelligence.

Intelligence is generally considered evil because it is secret, therefore it must be controlled by transients who are either biased or ignorant about the methods and needs. There is therefore an absurd expectation among some wise people that intelligence agencies and their methods should be made transparent.

At the other end of the spectrum is the declining professionalism among agencies where they have been resorting to leaks to protect themselves. Presumably in an atmosphere of uncertainty and a highly politicised bureaucracy, this is another way to save one’s gaddi — when sycophancy ceases to work.

There are other things that are wrong today within the agencies. The first aspect is to consider whether the present system of recruitment and manning of the intelligence organisations is the best that is possible, given the present nature and level of threats.

National threats have changed. There are other transnational threats that no single agency or a single country can handle. Besides, there is no knowing how new threats will evolve. The rapidly changing technological applications bring their own threats.

Catastrophic terrorism, cyber terrorism, remote control missile attacks and virtual wars are the other new threats. International trade and commercial transactions have become faster and more intricate; banking transactions move at the speed of lightning.

The IT-driven globalisation also covers the criminal world. Interaction between narcotics smugglers, arms merchants, human traffickers and terrorists is that much easier, faster and safer. They all have access to sophisticated denial and deception techniques. Add to this, radical religious terrorists who are affecting India most dramatically and are supported by Pakistan in every way. The normal civil servant, however bright just does not have these skills or the aptitude.

Within organisations there has been an increasingly greater reliance on techint (technical intelligence) in preference to humint (human intelligence) capabilities. No amount of techint is a substitute for an intelligence operative or an astute and experienced analyst. The best techint is of little use if this is not preceded or accompanied by effective and sound humint capacities. Techint will give facts but not intentions and particularly in the case of counter terrorism, humint is an absolute must.

Intelligence collection and operations are increasingly becoming highly specialised skills. This is not something that can be handled by men and women who seek to join an intelligence agency as a temporary haven or as an opportunity to treat the organisation as a secondary foreign office with no commitment to the profession. These are jobs meant for professionals committed for a lifetime, who acquire their skills in tradecraft, languages, areas and issues over a long period of time.

Besides, relatively small organisations like the R&AW cannot have a revolving door where officers enter and exit every few years. The R&AW is the only major external intelligence organisation in the world that has a fixed quota for seconded officers to man its clandestine and analysis desks. In an era of specialisation, this means that these very skills are lacking; so is the commitment.

This means a loss of talent every few years, apart from other drawbacks. Once an officer walks away with operational secrets, he can be vulnerable.

The R&AW was not conceived as a central police organisation. It was Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the organisation’s founding fathers, Rameshwar Nath Kao and Sankaran Nair, who repeatedly stressed that the R&AW should not become just another police organisation, and should draw talent from wherever they could find, including other services of the Government of India.

Recruitment to what would be a new service began in 1971 and many other lateral entrants later got absorbed in a service that became their new life. It was during the watch of Gary Saxena that the service rules were formalised; later other lateral entries were possible.

The underlying principle of this was intelligence collection, and operations were not assumed to be the preserve of any particular service. But unfortunately the Indian Police Service still assumes it should have primacy in the R&AW, and the result has been a constant and a debilitating battle between the in-house service and the IPS.

Apart from calamities like Morarji Desai that befell R&AW in the ninth year of its existence, the organisation has been subjected to periodic attempts at reforms which have been little better than merely reorganising quotas among various services or creating more promotional avenues.

These reviews and committees have attempted to exercise external control and succeeded in creating only road blocks. This has only meant increasing bureaucratisation of a profession which by nature has to be unconventional, and needs imaginative and flexible handling far away from stodgy bureaucrats who feel at home only in carefully structured and rigid systems. For this mindset, the process and not the result, is an end in itself.

Drawing the right talent has been an increasing challenge in the government. It is more so in the R&AW. The UPSC route may have been the more transparent, but it now seems increasingly unimaginative and irrelevant to the needs.

This is not to overlook that the IPS has contributed some truly outstanding intelligence officers, but these officers would have been outstanding anywhere. It is just that the requirements have changed today.

Besides, an exam passed five, ten or twenty years ago does not qualify a man or a woman as an intelligence officer. The former Naval Chief Admiral Arun Prakash highlighted the kind of problem that exists in his recent article “The clear and present danger from 6th CPC.”

He pointed out the difficulties R&AW had in accommodating Naval officers on secondment because of the equivalences laid down by “the Kafkaesque Department of Personnel.”

This comment underscores the problem of manning that afflicts both the intelligence agencies and the armed forces because as with the Navy, so with the Army and Air Force.

There are other problems in a world where threat perceptions are changing rapidly and where the terrorist is invariably a step or two ahead of the counter-terrorist. There is a need to break out of the hierarchical system introduced in intelligence agencies where promotions within the organisations must lag behind the superior service, the IAS.

Since personnel of intelligence agencies seek promotion within their own agencies there is need to change the nomenclature of their ranks, to break free from the system of equivalence with the hierarchy, and strike out on one’s own. The same principle could apply to the armed forces, who do not have to be bound down by archaic principles of equivalence. They can still be answerable to the civil authority of the government.

The regular UPSC recruit, however bright, will not suffice. The brightest no longer join the civil services. And an intelligence agency needs language skills, in-depth knowledge about the target country and its cultural mores, computer whiz kids, technology experts, military men, financial experts and bankers who can help trace the financial trails of the terrorist, as well as the ability to link the terrorist with the arms and drug smuggler.

It needs economists, scientists, area experts, political analysts, university dons, journalists and those with skills similar to those of Connie Sachs in John le Carre’s “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

Ideally, therefore, an external intelligence agency should be able to pay its personnel well but be able to hire and fire non-performers. It cannot afford to carry disgruntled men and women in its ranks. Promotions throughout will have to be performance-based, and not linked to seniority. There has to be a fasttrack for those who excel. Since everybody cannot climb the ladder and there has to be some sidelining of even the bright ones, it is best for the government to consider the system of flexible pay bands so that officers can at least hope to end up with a better pay packet at the end of the day.

This means having to break out of the iron cage of bureaucracy. It also means recruiting in the open market from colleges and universities as all the well known agencies of the world like the CIA, the SIS and the Mossad do. 'Catch them young and then mould them' is the motto.

In the present system, the man joins an organisation when he may be in his mid-twenties or if he is seconded, even much later. Most have got accustomed to the frills of bureaucracy, are married and have children. They are just too rigid to learn anything new and too old to take any risks or gamble, so essential for an intelligence operative.

It is of course unrealistic to expect any banker or finance wizard to give up his fancy job and work for a still lowly paid government assignment.

The CIA, faced with budget cuts in the Clinton era, got over this problem by outsourcing which has now become an intelligence-industrial Complex rather like the military-industrial Complex that has typified US capitalism. It is estimated that today, outsourcing is a 50 billion dollar business annually and consumes about 70 percent of the budget of the US intelligence community and this includes those working on covert operations.

The CIA, the National Security Agency and the Pentagon now have partnership arrangements with giants like Lockheed Martin, IBM, CACI and Booz Allen Hamilton.

This may not be the model for India to follow but there is no way that there can be any effective functioning of intelligence agencies in the future without some involvement and reliance on the private sector. This involvement is going to be inevitable and necessary chiefly because it could be in the interest of the private sector to be participatory in the security of the country and it has the means and the resources to do so. The private sector could provide the technological inputs in battling terror.

In a fast changing world with a rapidly changing threat perception, intelligence agencies have not been nor allowed to be flexible to meet the evolving threat. There is hardly any surge capability where the agency can, on its own, shift manpower and resources to meet the new threat.

The present system is far too cumbersome and slow to allow any rapid redeployment and by the time the new system is put into place the quarry has moved on, either morphed into something different or has just become too big so that the changes originally proposed become inadequate. The head of an intelligence organisation must have the flexibility and authority to move men and material around.

None of these freedoms would be available without checks and balances and accountability or oversight. We are perhaps not yet ready, as a people, to have the US system but the British system is better for us where accountability is to the Cabinet.

A great deal would depend on the prime minister who needs to choose his chiefs of intelligence with great care. Past experience, career performance and integrity should be the main guiding factors and not seniority.

All this is meaningless unless there is a systemic overhaul. Both Mumbai and Kargil were as much systemic failures, yet the target always is the intelligence system.

Mumbai occurred because the lessons of Kargil were not adequately learnt. Intelligence reforms without police reforms are pointless because the local policeman develops the strategic intelligence given by the central agencies. Police reforms without civil service reform are equally meaningless. And civil service reform without political reform is similarly meaningless.

Given the needs of the hour, the threats that we face and will continue to face in the future, the country can no longer afford to have nothing but the best.

The views expressed in the column are the author’s and not of

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