by Jon Schwarz. The Intercept
LAST WEEK The Intercept published a package of stories on the U.S. drone program, drawing on a cache of secret government documents leaked by an intelligence community whistleblower. The available evidence suggests that one of the documents, a study titled “ISR Support to Small Footprint CT Operations — Somalia/Yemen,” was produced for the Defense Department in 2013 by consultants from IBM. If you look at just one classified PowerPoint presentation this year, I recommend you make it this one.
Like a good poem, the ISR study has multiple meanings, and rewards careful attention and repeated reading. On its surface, it’s simply an analysis by the Defense Department’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) Task Force of the “performance and requirements” of the U.S. military’s counterterrorism kill/capture operations, including drone strikes, in Somalia and Yemen. However, it’s also what a former senior special operations officer characterized as a “bitch brief” — that is, a study designed to be a weapon in a bureaucratic turf war with the CIA to win the Pentagon more money and a bigger mandate. The study was also presumably an opportunity for IBM to demonstrate that it can produce snappy “analysis” tailored to the desires of its Defense Department clients, as well as for current Defense employees to network with a potential future employer.
By Kelly Martin, David Vine
Even though the U.S. military has fewer bases that it did at the end of the Cold War, it has increasingly inserted itself into new corners of the globe with the help of small, often secretive “lily pad” bases; today, there are bases in around 80 countries and U.S. territories — roughly twice as many as in 1989.
Formally called “cooperative security locations,” lily pads are small, spartan installations that often house prepositioned weaponry and allow troops to deploy quickly into battle, like frogs jumping across a pond. While the new bases appear to offer a low-cost, low-profile alternative to giant, city-sized installations, lily pads can easily transform into larger bases and commitments, potentially plunging the country into new, little-known conflicts.
Click on the image and then on the symbols for more detail about particular bases.