June 2010 Archives

CWID 2010 Closes

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Last week we completed Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) 2010. My last blog post on the US Joint Forces Command blog was posted here today. With luck, I'll pick up again next June for CWID 2011.

Another blog post at U.S. JFCOM posted this moring. This one dicusses some technologies developed for battlefield use but also have civilian applications.

Joint is Part of Calition

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Yesterday I posted this on the U.S. Joint Force Command blog as part of their CWID 2010 blogging. A few more posts are planned.

Today was media day at CWID and I toured some media representatives and then was on a conference call with JFCOM and reporters discussing CWID and my observations. I was not alone--I had my friends from the National Guard and the U.S. Marine Corps with me as well. It is a privilege to work with such professionals.

Over the next week I will be blogging some on my experiences at the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (CWID) on the U.S. Joint Forces Command blog. The blog itself can be found at www.usjfcom.dodlive.mil and my first post, actually poste last Friday, can be found here.

Several others at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahdlgren will also be posting and there will also be posts from other sites.

The more I work with and use computers, the more convinced I become that all come with a gremlin.

I arrived at CWID today and we attempted to connect my computer to the unclassified network so that I could do the reports I usually have to do. It worked fine when I left the room this morning, and it worked fine when I left work earlier this week; but it did not work when I connected to the unclass net. We tried everything we could and had no joy.

The crack technician Charles, who said he wanted to be mentioned in the blog, tracked down a few issues, found that DHCP was not running on the network (by design) and I needed a dedicated IP address. He assigned that address and still, no joy. I had booted and rebooted, and rebooted and still couldn't get it to work. Finally, I decided to try the good ole power down and start from scratch. It worked!

The good news is that more senior folks are coming in next week and will have the same issue. Now we know what to do. Thanks, Charles!

As Thomas PM Barnett reports in his post on the Financial Times reporting, the workers in China are revolting. Low wages worked for a while but now the Chinese want more. I can't blame them. The problem with cheap labor is that it is seldom, if ever, cheap for long.

This is what bothers me about some states in the Southeastern US. With the high wages paid to auto workers in the Northern states, arguably because of labor unions, companies have moved south to cheaper labor. It is a good move by the companies because it allows them to produce products at lower costs thereby allowing them to either selling that product at lower prices and higher volumes, or have a larger profit margin. It works great for all concerned until cheaper labor is found somewhere else. That cheaper labor may be found in another state, or in Mexico. Once that happens, where does that leave the Southern auto workers? Easy answer, we only need to look north to see what happens.

Cheap labor may work for a while but, as we see in China, it is not sustainable. I can't say that I am opposed to the auto companies, and other manufacturing companies, moving south, but I do hope that work continues to work on developing the high-tech R&D capabilities. That, as I see it, is the long-term solution to a sustainable economy.

I look at blogs on a fairly regularly basis and I have my favorites but my all-time favorite is Thomas PM Barnett. It is posts like this one entitled "Smart guy, dumb book: US grand strategy completely misrepresented" that keep me coming back. No doubt Barnett and I differ on some of our politics but I cannot fault a guy who is so even handed in his analysis. He calls them as he sees them: right or wrong, left or right.

Globalization is perhaps one of the greatest things to have happened to mankind in recent history and how it can be ignoed in a book on strategy is beyond me. I am nearing the begining on my dissertation on change in professions, specifically engineering, and globalization will figure prominently in my arguments. To ignore it in a US grand strategy will surely produce a "dumb book".

Eye-Opening Theology

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I have to admit that the PC(USA) Church and I disagree on many issues but those issues are mainly political, dare I say conservative vs. liberal issues. What I really like about the denomination is that it encourages intellectual curiosity and questioning. Being reared a Baptist and converting to Presbyterianism, formally, about 30 years ago but having known I was not a Baptist for much longer; I have certainly enjoyed the adventure. It is difficult to determine when you actually realized what your were, or what you weren't, but for me I think it came as an early teen when my grandmother told me that there were some things about God and the Bible that should not be questioned. My grandmother has been a great factor in my faith and spiritual development, but I simply could not accept that statement. I now realize that I don't have to.

Our guest speaker for Vacation Bible School at First Presbyterian Church in Starkville is the Reverend Dr. Andrew Purves from the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. He taught a very moving and inspirational Sunday School lesson on cancer which is one of the best lessons I have heard.

Sunday night he began a series of lectures on the Five Solas. That in itself is one thing that is very different from my childhood VBS--we had a lecture, not a sermon. I can't begin to describe everything that was covered but there are couple of key points that show how my Reformed Theology differs from what I learned a child. First, the Bible is under God, it is not God. God cannot be reduced to words in a book and our goal is to get to know God, not the Bible. Knowing the Bible is a way to get to God but it is not God. That means that the confessions of the church are also useful in getting to know God. Second, Dr. Purves in no uncertain terms explained the Trinity to me. Jesus is not second in command; He and God are One in the same along with the Holy Spirit. Wow! They have always been here, Jesus did not "come in the middle", He was here in the beginning, He is he Word.

After the lecture tonight I have never felt better about my faith. Whereas my Baptist rearing was focused on fear and having to do something to be saved, my reformed faith says that is not necessary, we are imperfect yet loved by God even before we are born. I have no problem with that for I know how much I loved daughter before she was ever born, even when we didn't know if she was a she or a he. I loved her even before I married my wife and she was conceived. Of course I still have questions but that is okay too. Faith allows us to have some unanswered questions.

Purves has helped cement some thoughts I've had for a while and I'm glad he is the speaker this year. I look forward to the next lectures and the challenges he will present to us.

Strategy or Tactics?

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"Strategy vs. Tactics in Afghanistan", by Ann Marlowe. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. A19, 02 June 2010.

Ms Marlowe has done some research on counterinsurgency strategy and has some interesting and telling comments. She points out that "good counterinsurgency can't make up for the lack of a political plan" and she is absolutely correct. This is actually a strategy of tactics according to military historian Col. Gian Gentile at the USMA, meaning there are actions being taken on the ground but there is no overall objective. I find that troubling given Clausewitz states that "war is politics by other means". Without the politics are we not in some difficulty?

It is also interesting that counterinsurgency has worked in the past but in those situations there was a good government in place. Such is not the case in Afghanistan. Will that be the downfall of the COIN strategy or will it be an exception to history. I don't know but I hope for the exception.

This summer Ms Marlowe is to publish a monograph on David Galula, a French COIN theorist through the Strategic Studies Institute. I'll look forward to reading it.


"Most Consumers Unaware of Broadband Speed", by Amy Schatz. Wall Street Journal, Vol CCLV, No. 127, p. B4, 02 June 2010.

A survey by the Federal Communications Commission indicates that most consumers are not aware of exactly what their broadband speeds are. Even not knowing what the speeds are, nine out of ten surveyed indicated they were happy with their speeds.

I do not fall into that 9 out of 10. I do know what speeds I am getting and I am not happy. The fastest speed I can buy via AT&T right now is 3 Mb. I usually only realize a speed of about 2.5 Mb and sometimes less than that. Of course AT&T has their own specification of what those speeds really mean within tolerances, whether you like those tolerances or not.

The real question though is are American's getting what they are paying for? Another question would be, are we paying too much for what we are getting. The Internet has become ubiquitous on our lives and I would much rather lose voice comms than I would electronic comms. Perhaps it is time for the FCC to rethink the whole communications paradigm.

EcoCAR-Year-2-Winning-Team-.jpg

After winning the ChallengeX completion a couple of years ago, the Bagley College of Engineering at Mississippi State University entered the EcoCAR challenge last year. The second year of the competition has just completed and Mississippi State won. But rather than saying MSU won, you really need to look at the numbers to see by how much they won. The point spread between first and second places is 153 point; the spread between second and third is 71; and between third and fourth is 59.

Listed below, in ascending order, are the universities and their total point scores. The maximum possible total points were 1000.

Michigan Technological University 97.58
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology 161.31
Missouri Science & Technology 175.74
Texas Tech 198.59
Georgia Tech 212.69
West Virginia University 230.85
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University 251.65
University of Wisconsin-Madison 253.79
University of Waterloo 291.42
North Carolina State University 448.75
University of Ontario Institute of Technology 471.48
The Ohio State University 527.41
University of Victoria 564.8
Pennsylvania State University 620.22
Virginia Tech 691.35
Mississippi State University 844.04

Some of the other awards won by MSU were:

* Best acceleration
* Best autocross
* Best fuel consumption
* Best tailpipe emissions
* Best well-to-wheels greenhouse gas
* Best well-to-wheels petroleum energy use
* Best Mechanical Systems Presentation
* Best Controls Presentation
* Best Vehicle Design Review Presentation
* Best outreach
> Best media relations program
> Best education program
> Best creative promotion of EcoCAR
> Best website

Congratulations EcoCAR Team!

Politics of Disaster

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ARTICLE: "The Politics of Disaster". By Lexington. The Economist, 08 May 2010, p. 36

Lexington points out that, at the time of this article, the President had done little for which he could be faulted. Some have referred to the Gulf of Mexico spill, if spill is the right word, as "Obama's Katrina" but it has not yet stuck. Now, several weeks later, the name may be sticking a little more.

The President continues to say that he is in charge and that BP is doing nothing without approval. I fail to see the advantage of this. No one has more reason and incentive to stop the oil from leaking into the Gulf than does BP and the President lacks any special expertise in petroleum engineering to make his oversight of any significant value. He seems to be setting himself up for blame for any failure yet will never get any credit for a solution.

The President continues to say that BP will pay to clean up the spill but is that true? What if BP refuses (unlikely), or goes out of business (perhaps also unlikely)? Why is BP being held to a higher standard than the financial institutions were held when the financial crisis was caused by greed but the oil in the Gulf was apparently an industrial accident? What has happened in the Gulf of Mexico is indeed a tragedy but it was an accident. Everything we do in life carries some risk and we, as individuals, companies, and even governments, tend to engage only in those activities in which the benefits will outweigh the risks. Such was the case here. There were risks involved in drilling for oil off the coast but the benefits of a domestic supply of oil outweigh those risks.

The flow of oil will eventually be stopped and the cleanup will be accomplished. The greater question is what will this do to domestic oil exploration? Will we continue to drill off shore or will we now consider more drilling on land and perhaps in areas such as ANWR? And who will make these decisions? I fear the decisions will be made by the politicians based on politics and not by the engineers based on reason. Decisions may well be made based on emotion or re-election concerns rather than sound engineering reasoning. This is an area in which engineers must play a greater role. They need to explain the risks and benefits of oil exploration as well as the risks and benefits of other energy alternatives. Then, and only then, will we be able to make sound decisions which minimize risks.

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