MORNING RECON: China Puts Bombers on “High Alert"; Army and Marines Tackle Mobility Challenge; North Korea: Is War Near?; MQ-25 Stingray’s Ramp Strike

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Morning Recon

Good Friday morning and welcome to MORNING RECON.  On this day in 1898, the United States Navy begins a blockade of Cuban ports. When the U.S. Congress issued a declaration of war on April 25, it declared that a state of war had existed from this date. The U.S. North Atlantic Fleet, under the command of Rear Admiral William T. Sampson, was ordered to begin the blockade of Cuba on April 21, 1898.  The Spanish-American War had begun.

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Today’s Top Stories

NATIONAL Mattis: Syria Still Has Chemical Weapons
From Robert Burns, AP: “"There can be no doubt in the international community’s mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all," said Mattis. He said he didn’t want to elaborate on the amounts Syria has in order to avoid revealing sources of intelligence." U.S. Gearing Up for Space War
From Clay Dillow, CNBC: “Tapping Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch some of its satellites is only the beginning in a larger top-to-bottom rethink of the way the U.S. Air Force approaches its operations in space. Air Force officials want to move faster when addressing emerging threats and future missions in orbit, and it’s increasingly looking to start-ups to address a deepening sense that America’s dominance in space is eroding."

The Army and Marines Tackle Mobility Challenges
From Phil Goldstein, FedTech: “Unlike the wars of a century ago, today’s battlefield is not static — it’s just the opposite. The armed forces need to be dynamic and mobile, and need technology to keep pace with the speed of their operations. For both the Army and the Marine Corps, that means mobility solutions that are easy to configure and deploy."

Playing Moneyball: The Scouting Report on Light Attack Aircraft
From Joel Bier, War on the Rocks: “As Major League Baseball begins another season, I am once again reminded that the Air Force could learn a lot from the $36 billion industry that is America’s pastime. Just as the Air Force spends tens of millions of dollars per airplane, big league general managers spend tens of millions per player to sign a roster they believe will give them the best chance of winning."

Marine Corps Packs Are Failing in the Arctic
From Shawn Snow, Marine Corps Times: “Marines training in the Arctic region of Norway last year reported that many of the Corps’ standard-issue FILBE pack frames were cracking and breaking because of the intense cold and harsh winter environment."

How The Coast Guard Earned Its Orange And Blue Stripes
From Diana Honings, gCaptain: “In the modern history of the United States Coast Guard, there has been a rapid shift from mistaken identity to a brand identity. The iconic orange and blue Racing Stripe – painted on the bow of every USCG vessel – provides a perfect example of an innovative solution to this identity problem. But where did the idea come from?"

Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray Appears to be Heading for a Ramp Strike
From Jerry Hendrix, The National Interest: “Even as reports surface of American supercarriers and their embarked air-wings hurriedly steaming towards the Korean peninsula, the saga of the Navy’s carrier based unmanned aircraft program seems to have taken yet another turn for the worse.  Instead of adhering to direction by both the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) and the Deputy Secretary of Defense to maximize the strike range of the carrier air wing it appears that naval aviation leadership is placing its finger on the MQ-25 design scale and prioritizing unrefueled endurance for the intelligence/surveillance/reconnaissance (ISR) mission at the expense of great fuel offload for long-range mission tanking. “

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Fear Rogue Insiders
From Tim Johnson, McClatchyDC: “Forget about spies. It’s rogue insiders that cause heartburn at U.S. intelligence agencies these days."

Dead Drop: April 21
From Phil Goldstein, FedTech: “THE NEXT SHOES? Remember when the Intelligence Community said that one of the reasons they were convinced that the Russians were playing favorites in the presidential election was that there was evidence Moscow had hacked both the Democrat and Republican campaigns – but that they chose to use their surrogates like WikiLeaks to release dirt only on the Dems? Well, if President Trump starts to distance himself from Putin, and if his top aides like Pompeo take pot shots at Julian Assange, we might start to see some of the stolen Republican documents surface. We want to stress – that perhaps unlike Roger Stone – we have no advance knowledge of such a release – just sayin’ . . . “

Special Tactics Airmen Receive Air Force Crosses
From Charlsy Panzino, Air Force Times: “For the first time, two airmen were awarded Air Force Crosses at the same ceremony for acts of valor during separate events in Afghanistan."

INTERNATIONAL U.S., ISRAEL: Why Israel Will Warmly Welcome Mattis
From Ben Caspit, Al-Monitor: “Israel sees the April 20-21 visit of Defense Secretary James Mattis as a critical milestone in shaping the new relationship between the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government."

U.S., SYRIA: U.S. Military Expands Its Network of Syrian Airfields
From Paul Iddon, War Is Boring: “A recent article in the Russian state-owned Sputnik Turkey outlet speculated that the airfield the United States built from scratch in the Syrian-Kurdish Kobani region could become a substitute for Turkey’s Incirlik Air Base." U.S., ROMANIA: Romania to Purchase U.S. Patriot Missiles
From Radu-Sorin Marinas, Reuters: “NATO member Romania plans to buy Patriot missiles from U.S. company Raytheon to help protect its airspace, a senior Defence Ministry official said on Thursday." CHINA: China Puts Bombers on “High Alert"
From Ryan Browne & Elise Labott, CNN: “Chinese air force land-attack, cruise-missile-capable bombers were put “on high alert" on Wednesday as the US sees evidence that the Chinese military is preparing to respond to a potential situation in North Korea, a US defense official tells CNN." COMMENTARY & ANALYSIS
Organizational Agility: Winning in Today’s Complex Environment
From Zayn Knaub, Strategy Bridge: “What does it take for militaries to win in today’s interconnected, interdependent, and complex environment? I would argue that in contrast with the battlefield of the past,  today’s environment demands much more organizational agility.  I define organizational agility as the degree to which a team or company is resourceful and adept at flexing in response to both internal and external factors.  An agile organization has the ability to be radically innovative, adapt, and institute process improvement with grace in a rapidly changing, complex environment."   
North Korea: Is War Near?
From Rod Lyon, The Strategist (ASPI): “Despite all the talk of war, no-one’s in a hurry to fire the first shots. Posturing’s cheap but war’s expensive. Besides, the US believes that posturing’s paying dividends: putting Kim Jong-un on notice, while simultaneously encouraging the Chinese to do more to rein in their erratic neighbour. But Kim believes the same: that his posturing is finally attracting the level of attention befitting North Korea’s needs, and that from this latest swirl of attention he might well emerge with yet another deal that offers both a temporary reprieve for his arsenal and international recognition for his regime." 
From Cultural Intelligence to Cultural Understanding
From Lawrence E. Cline, Small Wars Journal: “One of the critical areas in recent operations that has been identified as a major shortfall for the Army has been that of understanding the cultures and societies in which it has been operating.  Virtually every report that has analyzed problems in Iraq and Afghanistan has noted a lack of cultural understanding, leading to difficulties in conducting operations.  In particular, the report from Major General Michael Flynn et al. described a series of weaknesses in understanding the Afghan people and culture. The Flynn report in many ways argued that the U.S. military was not really living up to its doctrine of a more population-centric approach, and considerably greater attention needed to be paid to this aspect of COIN. " 
Afghanistan: The Next Big U.S.-Russia Proxy Battle
From Stratfor: “If recent developments are any indication, Russia is becoming increasingly focused on and active in Afghanistan. The Russian government has held several consultations with Tajikistan on expanding security cooperation on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border and has explored increasing the scope of its Central Asian military bloc, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). It has also increased its diplomatic engagement with the Taliban and, according to Afghan and U.S. officials, may even be providing security assistance to the group. Long a consideration for Russia, Afghanistan is growing in importance to Moscow at both the tactical and strategic levels. And as it does, it is becoming an increasingly important theater for the U.S.-Russia competition." 

A Superpower, But Not Yet a Global Leader
From Yanzhong Huang, Council on Foreign Relations: “In hindsight, China’s international ascendance seems to fit well with the predictions of neorealist scholars like John Mearsheimer. Back in 1974, Deng Xiaoping declared at the United Nations that “China is not, and will never become a superpower." Today’s Chinese leaders might find what he said ill-timed and ill-advised. By the end of 2015, China saw its GDP reach $11.2 trillion, accounting for 15 percent of the world economy (U.S. share: 24.5 percent). If China maintains its stated growth rate, by 2024, its economy is expected to be as large as the United States’. Already, some leading Chinese scholars are using the term “superpower" to describe China’s power status." 

Russia’s Shadow-War in Europe
From Sebastian Rotella, ProPublica: “As the French prepare to vote Sunday in a presidential election marked by acrimonious debate about Russian influence in Europe, there’s little doubt about which candidate Moscow backs." 

There’s More to Life than Zero-Days
From Adam Vincent, The Cipher Brief: “As these zero-day disclosure discussions inevitably continue, we need to bear in mind that the vulnerability alone is not the whole of the operation. Malicious cyber actors still have to identify their targets, employ an attack vector to gain access to an organization, use an exploit to take advantage of the zero-day vulnerability, control the compromised host or move around their network using malware or other tools, and eventually extract data using established command and control infrastructure." 

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