It ain’t over till it’s over

Article on ISIL: Fight against ISIL not over yet


  1. ISIL fighters are able to move through parts of Syria that they (the international coalition) is unable to target (meaning Syrian government controlled areas).
  2. There is an estimated 1,000 – 2,000 ISIL fighters are left fighting around the desert between the Iraqi and Syrian border.
  3. Maj. Gen. Gedney warned that as ISIL lost control of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq, it will try to “vanish” in the population, before transforming itself into a more traditional insurgency (just to state the obvious).

Speaking of North Korea….

Spotted this article yesterday on intercepting North Korea: Can U.S. Stealth Fighters Shoot Down North Korea Missiles

This caught my attention in light of our past discussions:

The Pros And Cons Of Shooting Down North Korean Ballistic Missile Tests

A few highlights from the article:

  1. It will be a little bit before the F-35 is capable of shooting down North Korea ballistic missiles. There are some “slight tweaks” that have to be done.
  2. There is THAAD, which in a recent test the system in Alaska intercepted a U.S. ballistic missile fired over the Pacific.
  3. There is GMD, which according to Atlantic magazine is 55% effective. Last May it did intercept an ICBM that was launched from 4,200 miles away.
  4. They could develop drones with lasers
  5. “Of North Korea were to launch only one missile at us, we could probably shoot it down…But their new missile could carry some very simply decoys, and it’s not certain that the missile we send out will be able to tell the difference between debris, decoys and a real warhead.”
  6. There are several interesting links in the article.

As we note have noted:

North Korean Missile Likely Broke Up on Re-Entry

Year Three

As of today, the blog is two years old. The question is…….where does it go from here and what do we do with it?

Year Two

The blog now consists of 545 posts and we have 366 comments (that we did not consider to be spam). That comes out to 259 posts and 104 comments last year and 286 posts and 262 comments this year.

The question is…where do we go from here. Right now, our answer is the same as last year, which is to keep-on-keeping-on. Pretty much just keep doing what we are doing. Now, there is much more we could do with the blog, but, any major improvement requires an investment of time and money, and…….

We have considered bringing in more bloggers, having a paid employee posting daily defense news (so we can compete with the other blogs and news services), and having a paid blogger do more military history material (which we know this is of interest to a number of our readers)…but…this means our primary business during the day would be maintaining and developing the blog. Our interest is in study and analysis, not journalism. We think there is still a severe shortage of good fact-based analysis of defense affairs. We do not think there is a shortage of journalists and news sites. So for this next year, it does appear that this will continue to be a “not-to-interfere” effort while we pursue our various writing, marketing and analytical efforts.

Hope you all a happy New Year and hope that 2018 will be a great year for you all.

TDI Reports at DTIC

Just as a quick easy test, I decided to find out which of The Dupuy Institue (TDI) reports are on the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC). Our report list is here:

We are a private company, but most of these reports were done under contract for the U.S. government. In my past searches of the DTIC file, I found that maybe 40% of Trevor Dupuy’s HERO reports were at DTIC. So, I would expect that a few of the TDI would be filed at DTIC.

TDI has 80 reports listed on its site. There are 0 listed on DTIC under our name.

There are a significant number of reports listed based upon our work, but a search on “Dupuy Institute” yields no actual reports done by us. I searched for a few of our reports by name (combat in cities, situational awareness, enemy prisoner of war, our insurgency work, our Bosnia casualty estimate) and found four:

This was four of eight reports we did as part of the Capture Rate Study. So apparently one of the contract managers was diligent enough to make sure those studies were placed in DTIC (as was our Kursk Data Base), but since then (2001), none of our reports have been placed in DTIC.

Now, I have not checked NTIS and other sources, but I have reason to believe that not much of what we have done in the last 20+ years is archived in government repositories. If you need a copy of a TDI report, you have to come to us.

We are a private company. What happens when we decide to close our doors?


Basements appear to be very important in the world of studies and analysis. That is where various obscure records and reports are stored. As the industry gets grayer and retires, significant pieces of work are becoming harder to find. Sometimes the easiest way to find these reports is to call someone you know and ask them where to find it.

Let me give a few examples. At one point, when we were doing an analysis of Lanchester equations in combat modeling. I was aware that Bob McQuie, formally of CAA, had done some work on it. So, I called him. Turns out he had a small file he kept of his own work, but he had loaned it to his neighbor as a result of a conversation he had. So…..he reclaimed the file, two of our researchers drove over to his house, he gave us the file, and we still have it today. Turns out that much of his material is also available through DTIC. A quick DTIC search shows the following:

Of particular interest is his benchmarks studies. His work on “breakpoints” and comments on Lanchester equations is not included in the DTIC listing because it was published in Army, November 1987. I have a copy in my basement. Neither is his article on the 3:1 rule (published in Phalanx, December 1989). He also did some work on regression analysis of historical battles that I have yet to locate.

Battle Outcomes: Casualty Rates As a Measure of Defeat

So, some of his work had been preserved. But, on the other hand, during that same casualty estimation methodologies study we also sent two researchers over to another “gray beard’s” house and he let our researchers look through his basement. We found the very useful study called Report of the Model Input Data and Process Committee, reference in my book War by Numbers, page 295. It does not show up in DTIC. We could not of find this study without a visit to his basement. He now lives in Florida, where they don’t have basements. So I assume the remaining boxes of materials he had have disappeared.

I am currently trying to locate another major study right now that was done by SAIC. So far, I have found one former SAIC employee who has two volumes of the multi-volume study. It is not listed in DTIC. To obtain a complete copy of the study, I am afraid I will have to contract someone else and pay to have it copied. Again, I just happen to know who to talk to find out what basement it is stored away in.

It is hard to appreciate the unique efforts that go into researching some of these projects. But, there is a sense at this end that as the “gray beards” disappear; reports and research efforts are disappearing with them.

TDI Friday Read: How Do We Know What We Know About War?

The late, great Carl Sagan.

Today’s edition of TDI Friday Read asks the question, how do we know if the theories and concepts we use to understand and explain war and warfare accurately depict reality? There is certainly no shortage of explanatory theories available, starting with Sun Tzu in the 6th century BCE and running to the present. As I have mentioned before, all combat models and simulations are theories about how combat works. Military doctrine is also a functional theory of warfare. But how do we know if any of these theories are actually true?

Well, one simple way to find out if a particular theory is valid is to use it to predict the outcome of the phenomenon it purports to explain. Testing theory through prediction is a fundamental aspect of the philosophy of science. If a theory is accurate, it should be able to produce a reasonable accurate prediction of future behavior.

In his 2016 article, “Can We Predict Politics? Toward What End?” Michael D. Ward, a Professor of Political Science at Duke University, made a case for a robust effort for using prediction as a way of evaluating the thicket of theory populating security and strategic studies. Dropping invalid theories and concepts is important, but there is probably more value in figuring out how and why they are wrong.

Screw Theory! We Need More Prediction in Security Studies!

Trevor Dupuy and TDI publicly put their theories to the test in the form of combat casualty estimates for the 1991 Gulf Way, the U.S. intervention in Bosnia, and the Iraqi insurgency. How well did they do?


Dupuy himself argued passionately for independent testing of combat models against real-world data, a process known as validation. This is actually seldom done in the U.S. military operations research community.

Military History and Validation of Combat Models

However, TDI has done validation testing of Dupuy’s Quantified Judgement Model (QJM) and Tactical Numerical Deterministic Model (TNDM). The results are available for all to judge.

Validating Trevor Dupuy’s Combat Models

I will conclude this post on a dissenting note. Trevor Dupuy spent decades arguing for more rigor in the development of combat models and analysis, with only modest success. In fact, he encountered significant skepticism and resistance to his ideas and proposals. To this day, the U.S. Defense Department seems relatively uninterested in evidence-based research on this subject. Why?

David Wilkinson, Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review, wrote a fascinating blog post looking at why practitioners seem to have little actual interest in evidence-based practice.

Why evidence-based practice probably isn’t worth it…

His argument:

The problem with evidence based practice is that outside of areas like health care and aviation/technology is that most people in organisations don’t care about having research evidence for almost anything they do. That doesn’t mean they are not interesting in research but they are just not that interested in using the research to change how they do things – period.

His explanation for why this is and what might be done to remedy the situation is quite interesting.

Happy Holidays to all!

Strachan On The Changing Character Of War

The Cove, the professional development site for the Australian Army, has posted a link to a 2011 lecture by Professor Sir Hew Strachan. Strachan, a Professor of International Relations at St. Andrews University in Scotland, is one of the more perceptive and trenchant observers about the recent trends in strategy, war, and warfare from a historian’s perspective. I highly recommend his recent book, The Direction of War.

Strachan’s lecture, “The Changing Character of War,” proceeds from Carl von Clausewitz’s discussions in On War on change and continuity in the history of war to look at the trajectories of recent conflicts. Among the topics Strachan’s lecture covers are technological determinism, the irregular conflicts of the early 21st century, political and social mobilization, the spectrum of conflict, the impact of the Second World War on contemporary theorizing about war and warfare, and deterrence.

This is well worth the time to listen to and think about.

The Principle Of Mass On The Future Battlefield

Men of the U.S. Army 369th Infantry Regiment “Harlem’s Hellfighters,”in action at Séchault on September 29, 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. [Wikimedia]

Given the historical trend toward battlefield dispersion as a result of the increasing lethality of weapons, how will the principle of mass apply in future warfare? I have been wondering about this for a while in the context of the two principle missions the U.S. Army must plan and prepare for, combined arms maneuver and wide area security. As multi-domain battle advocates contend, future combat will place a premium on smaller, faster, combat formations capable of massing large amounts of firepower. However, wide area security missions, such as stabilization and counterinsurgency, will continue to demand significant numbers of “boots on the ground,” the traditional definition of mass on the battlefield. These seemingly contradictory requirements are contributing to the Army’s ongoing “identity crisis” over future doctrine, training, and force structure in an era of budget austerity and unchanging global security responsibilities.

Over at the Australian Army Land Power Forum, Lieutenant Colonel James Davis addresses the question generating mass in combat in the context of the strategic challenges that army faces. He cites traditional responses by Western armies to this problem, “Regular and Reserve Force partnering through a standing force generation cycle, indigenous force partnering through deployed training teams and Reserve mobilisation to reconstitute and regenerate deployed units.”

Davis also mentions AirLand Battle and “blitzkrieg” as examples of tactical and operational approaches to limiting the ability of enemy forces to mass on the battlefield. To this he adds “more recent operational concepts, New Generation Warfare and Multi Domain Battle, [that] operate in the air, electromagnetic spectrum and cyber domain and to deny adversary close combat forces access to the battle zone.” These newer concepts use Cyber Electromagnetic Activities (CEMA), Information Operations, long range Joint Fires, and Robotic and Autonomous systems (RAS) to attack enemy efforts to mass.

The U.S. Army is moving rapidly to develop, integrate and deploy these capabilities. Yet, however effectively new doctrine and technology may influence mass in combined arms maneuver combat, it is harder to see how they can mitigate the need for manpower in wide area security missions. Some countries may have the strategic latitude to emphasize combined arms maneuver over wide area security, but the U.S. Army cannot afford to do so in the current security environment. Although conflicts emphasizing combined arms maneuver may present the most dangerous security challenge to the U.S., contingencies involving wide area security are far more likely.

How this may be resolved is an open question at this point in time. It is also a demonstration as to how tactical and operational considerations influence strategic options.

TDI Friday Read: The Lanchester Equations

Frederick W. Lanchester (1868-1946), British engineer and author of the Lanchester combat attrition equations. []

Today’s edition of TDI Friday Read addresses the Lanchester equations and their use in U.S. combat models and simulations. In 1916, British engineer Frederick W. Lanchester published a set of calculations he had derived for determining the results of attrition in combat. Lanchester intended them to be applied as an abstract conceptualization of aerial combat, stating that he did not believe they were applicable to ground combat.

Due to their elegant simplicity, U.S. military operations researchers nevertheless began incorporating the Lanchester equations into their land warfare computer combat models and simulations in the 1950s and 60s. The equations are the basis for many models and simulations used throughout the U.S. defense community today.

The problem with using Lanchester’s equations is that, despite numerous efforts, no one has been able to demonstrate that they accurately represent real-world combat.

Lanchester equations have been weighed….


Trevor Dupuy was critical of combat models based on the Lanchester equations because they cannot account for the role behavioral and moral (i.e. human) factors play in combat.

Human Factors In Warfare: Interaction Of Variable Factors

He was also critical of models and simulations that had not been tested to see whether they could reliably represent real-world combat experience. In the modeling and simulation community, this sort of testing is known as validation.

Military History and Validation of Combat Models

The use of unvalidated concepts, like the Lanchester equations, and unvalidated combat models and simulations persists. Critics have dubbed this the “base of sand” problem, and it continues to affect not only models and simulations, but all abstract theories of combat, including those represented in military doctrine.

Wargaming Multi-Domain Battle: The Base Of Sand Problem

Isolating the Guerilla

The Vietnam was significant in that it was third bloodiest war in U.S. military history (58,000 U.S. killed) and the U.S. Army choose to learn no lessons from it !!! This last point is discussed in my book America’s Modern Wars: Understanding Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

In 1965 Trevor Dupuy’s HERO (Historical Evaluation Research Organization) conducted a three-volume study called “Isolating the Guerilla.” It was an interesting survey of 19 insurgencies that included on its research team 26 experts. This included General Geoffrey Lord Bourne (British Army, ret.), Andrew C. Janos, Peter Paret, among others.

These guys:,_Baron_Bourne


The first volume of the study, although developed from historical sources, was classified after it was completed. How does one classify a study that was developed from unclassified sources?

As such, the first volume of the study was in the classified safe at DMSI when I was there. I was aware of the study, but had never taken the time to look at it. DMSI went out of business in the early 1990s and all the classified material there was destroyed. The Dupuy Institute did not have a copy of this volume of the study.

In 2004 we did our casualty and duration estimate for Iraq. It was based upon a survey of 28 insurgencies. We then expanded that work to do an analysis based upon 89 insurgencies. This was done independently of our past work back in 1965, which I had never seen. This is detailed in my book America’s Modern Wars.

As this work was being completed I was contacted by a Lt. Colonel Michael F. Trevett in 2008. It turns out he had an unclassified copy of the study. He found it in the Ft. Huachuca library. It was declassified in 2004 and was also in DTIC. So, I finally got a copy of a study after we had almost completed our work on insurgencies. In retrospect, it would have been useful to have from the start. Again, another case of disappearing studies.

In 2011, Michael F. Trevett published the study as a book called Isolating the Guerrilla. The book is the study, with many of the appendices and supporting data removed at the request of the publisher. It was a self-publishing effort that was paid by Michael out of his personal/family funds. He has since left the Army. I did write the foreword to the book.

What can I say about this case? We did a study on insurgencies in 1965 that had some relevance to the wars we entered in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. It remained classified and buried in a library in Ft. Huachuca, Arizona and at DTIC. It was de-classified in 2004 and came back to light in 2008. This was through the effort of a single motivated Lt. Colonel who was willing to take the time and his own personal money to make it happen.