THIS WEEK in the War of 1812: (March 1-March 7, 1815)

Reckoning in Canada.

Sir George Prevost (Courtesy of Canadian House of Commons Collection)

Sir George Prevost
(Courtesy of Canadian House of Commons Collection)

March 1, Quebec City

Word that the Treaty of Ghent has been signed by British negotiators and ratified by the Prince Regent (and future King George IV) finally reaches Quebec, Canada. The provincial governor general, Sir George Prevost, announces the end of hostilities on the Northern Front.

Prevost also orders the disbanding of the militia, which he organized to defend a poorly fortified Canada at the beginning of the War with the United States.

March 2

Ironically, a ship arrives in Quebec the next day carrying Sir George Murray, Prevost’s replacement, as well as orders from London for Prevost to return and explain his conduct during the disastrous Plattsburgh campaign in New York’s Lake Champlain Valley.

After the British naval attack on U.S. ships defending Lake Champlain failed on September 11, 1814, Prevost called off his land attack on the key lakeshore town of Plattsburgh– even though his forces outnumbered U.S. troops defending the town.

Prevost’s key brigade commanders — Manley Power, Thomas Brisbane and Frederick Philipse Robinson — all veteran generals of the Napoleonic Wars under the Duke of Wellington — urged him to continue the assault and complained bitterly when he refused and ordered a withdrawal back to Canada.

(War of 1812 map via wikipedia) Click on Image to enlarge

(War of 1812 map via wikipedia)
Click on Image to enlarge

Historians today see the British defeats at Lake Champlain/Plattsburgh and Baltimore as more decisive battles than the celebrated American victory at New Orleans months later on January 8, 1815.

The three brigadiers’ complaints — as well as those of Admiral James Yeo, the British naval commander in Canada — followed Prevost back to England and he asked for a court martial to clear his name and repair his tattered honor. Unfortunately, a month before the 1816 trial was to open, Prevost died of dropsy.

Denial in the South.

March 5, Cumberland Island, Georgia

Rear Admiral George Cockburn, the driving force behind the British burning of Washington and the campaign against Baltimore, has been shunted aside since the fall of 1814. Based in Georgia, he has been raising havoc along the Southern U.S. coast as a diversion for the main British invasion targeting New Orleans.

Colonial Marine in forage dress, British Army, 1814. (Image by Jakednb vis wikipedia)

Colonial Marine in forage dress, British Army, 1814.
(Image by Jakednb vis wikipedia)

Cockburn plans to attack  Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina from his fortified base on Cumberland Island, Georgia. Cockburn is also recruiting escaped American slaves for the Colonial Marines. As many as 1,700 slaves have converged on British ships.

On February 25, an American officer under a flag of truce informs Cockburn that the peace treaty has been signed, but the admiral declines to suspend hostilities until he hears the treaty has been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

Official word of the ratification arrives on March 2. Cockburn ceases hostilities but keeps sending booty seized from American plantations to Bermuda and collecting more escaped slaves. Three days later a U.S. delegation arrives on Cumberland Island with a newspaper showing the treaty has been signed, sealed and delivered but Cockburn says it is not authoritative. He also refuses to return U.S. property as stipulated in the treaty — including escaped slaves unless they want to go back to their masters. Few of them do.

March 1, 2015 at 4:59 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: DHS Guardians Will Still Be On Job — Without Pay — If Funding Effort Fails

A Matter of Fairness.

Department of Homeland Security seal

Department of Homeland Security seal

If Congress fails to reach an agreement by midnight tonight (Friday, March 27), funding for the Department of Homeland Security will cease.

Pundits, politicians and analysts are quick to point out that the vast majority of DHS employees have been deemed “essential” to national security so the department will not shut down.

There will still be U.S. Border Patrol agents halting people, drugs and weapons smuggling in the Southwest and elsewhere.

There will still be Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel screening passengers and their baggage at more than 400 U.S. airports.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers will continue checking people and cargo coming into the United States on trucks, planes and ships – as well as in cars and on foot at border crossings.

The U.S. Coast Guard will continue its myriad tasks ranging from rescuing people at sea to maintaining security at the nation’s ports and harbors to enforcing maritime safety and environmental laws.

The Secret Service will continuing guarding the president and other top officials.

But the 85 percent of the department’s approximately 240,000 workers who required to report for duty if the funding stops will not be paid until Congress passes a DHS appropriations bill.

“What message does this send … that we don’t think enough of you to pay you?” an alarmed Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire asked in a CNN interview today (February 27) as both the Senate and House of Representatives tried to figure a way out of the political tangle touched off by Republicans’ objection to President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

While some say nothing bad will happen if non-essential DHS workers are furloughed – and others argue something terrible could happen, it is obvious that there are lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who see political gain in a partial shutdown of DHS: either to make the point that the agency’s budget is bloated or to convince voters the other side don’t care about protecting the nation from terrorism in a time of mounting threats.

Following his presentation at a Border Management industry conference earlier this week, we asked Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher what a partial DHS shutdown would mean for his agency’s mission.

“It impacts our operations, no doubt,” he said. But Fisher was confidant his people could still secure the border. “It’s unfortunate if it comes to that, that they will be working without pay, but I will tell you – in terms of their commitment to border security – on that we’ll not falter.”

Transportation Security Officers will be at their posts if Dept. of Homeland Security funding is interrupted. (TSA photo via Wikipedia)

Transportation Security Officers will be at their posts if Dept. of Homeland Security funding is interrupted.
(TSA photo via Wikipedia)

At the same conference (sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement) TSA Chief of Staff Thomas McDaniels Jr. said the approximately 45,000 airport screeners exempt from being furloughed are required to report for work in the event of a funding halt. He noted the average starting salary for Transportation Security Officers, is $25,000 a year. “So we’re asking our frontline homeland security officials who are not making the most money to go without paychecks,” he said. While they are guaranteed retroactive pay once Congress can come to agreement on a funding bill, McDaniels added, “I think that’s a lot to ask of people who may be living paycheck to paycheck.” The last government shutdown to halt TSA paychecks lasted 17 days, he said, but there was no “significant attrition” after things returned to normal.

Wolf Tombe, CBP’s chief technology officer, told conference attendees that the country is confronting new threats from cyber-attacks and lone wolf terrorists, to disease outbreaks like Ebola. “The threat is evolving. We need to evolve with it, to stay ahead of it,” he said, outlining technologies his office is exploring from wearable sensors and cameras to hand launched surveillance drones to thermometers that can take an arriving air passenger’s temperature from a safe distance of 10 feet.

But if Congress fails to reach a compromise on DHS funding “all this gets shut down,” Tombe told 4GWAR “because I’m not considered essential. So my organization gets furloughed.”

February 27, 2015 at 4:07 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 27, 2015)

Boots on the … Air.

Information Specialist Jason Johnston/Released)

Photo by U.S. Army Specialist Jason Johnston

A U.S. Green Beret with the 1st Battalion,  10th Special Forces Group salutes his fellow soldiers while jumping from a C-130 Hercules aircraft over a drop zone in Germany, Feb. 24, 2015. 

February 27, 2015 at 1:15 am Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Customs and Border Protection Exploring Small Drone Use

Wearable Drones.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is exploring the use of wearable sensors -- including a wrist-mounted drone -- to keep agents safe and efficient. (CBP  photo)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is exploring the use of wearable sensors — including a wrist-mounted drone — to keep agents safe and efficient.
(CBP photo)

WASHINGTON — Wolf Tombe has been the chief technology officer of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) since 2003.

He says his mission is to find or develop new gizmos that will enhance the safety of CBP’s 46,657 officers and agents and increase mission effectiveness – all while reducing costs.

“Everything is about ‘How do we train and equip our officers to do their job better?,” he told attendees at a Border Management industry conference this week.

And toward that end, he is looking at wearable technology like heart rate monitors and wearable cameras he told the conference sponsored by the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement. Among the technologies CBP, a unit of the Department of Homeland Security, is considering are small unmanned aircraft, including a drone mounted on the wrist.

Such technology would meet CBP new technology requirements: enhancing officer safety, increasing mission effectiveness — and reducing costs, he said. If it does any or all of those things, “bring it in and we’ll look at it,” he told conference attendees Wednesday (February 25).

Threats to the homeland, whether a disease outbreak like Ebola or lone wolf terrorists, are evolving and “we need to evolve with them, to stay ahead of it,” Tombe said.

CBP Chief Technology Officer Wolf Tombe

CBP Chief Technology Officer Wolf Tombe

In addition to the wrist drone, Tombe said CBP was considering the benefits of small hand-launched drones that Border Patrol agents and other CBP law enforcement officers could carry in their vehicles to get a better situational picture in remote and rugged areas like the deserts of the Southwest or the big woods along the U.S-Canadian border.

“All this technology is consumer grade,” Tombe said, meaning it is generally less expensive than equipment designed for the Defense or Homeland Security departments. He said manufacturers of wearable heart rate monitors and football and batting helmets helmets equipped with impact sensors that can text a high school coach or parent need to consider their law enforcement applications.

While the wrist drone is just in the “late prototype stages” and only stays aloft for 3 to 5 minutes, Tombe said “we’ll bring it in and take a look at it.” Meanwhile, his office plans to test the efficacy of slightly larger handheld drones with DHS operational units as well as local law enforcement departments like the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office.

February 26, 2015 at 11:59 pm Leave a comment

THIS WEEK in the War of 1812 (February 22-28, 1815)

Waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Ink and watercolor by John Rubens Smith. [circa 1814]

Ink and watercolor by John Rubens Smith. [circa 1814]

The war of 1812 is officially over but there are still a few chess moves to complete before the game is up. For instance, British troops in Canada haven’t gotten the word yet about the Treaty of Ghent

However, none of these events occurred this week.

Instead, we thought we’d share the list of books that have informed this weekly blog post for nearly three years.

1812: The War that Forged a Nation by Walter R. Borneman, 2004. Making sense and nation-building in “Mr. Madison’s War.”

1812: The Navy’s War by George C. Daughan, 2011. Despite its title, a detailed account of the war on land and sea.

Union 1812: The Americans Who Fought the Second War of Independence by A.J. Langguth, 2007. Profiles of the war’s winners and losers.

The Dawn’s Early Light by Walter Lord, 1972. The firts book we read on the War of 1812, an accessible, popular history.

Through the Perilous Flight: Six Weeks That Saved The Nation by Steve Vogel, 2013.  A Washington Post writer brings a historian’s eye and a reporter’s writing to the story of the battles that didn’t destroy the United States.

Our Flag Was Still There: The Sea History Press Guide to the War of 1812 by William H. White, 2012. As one would expect, lots of naval history, but key incidents on land are not ignored. Very accessible and simple.

The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory by Robert V. Remini, 1999.  Simply the best book on this momentuous battle.

Andrew Jackson and His Indian Wars by Robert V. Remini, 2001. The Indians of the Southeast called him “Sharp Knife,” and it wasn’t a compliment.

Patriotic Fire, Andrew Jackson and Jean Laffite at the Battle of New Orleans by Winston Groom, 2006. Groom plugs some of the holes in Reminis ‘s battle narrative, and brings some insight — and interesting facts about the pirate who saved America.

This post isn’t the end of THIS WEEK in the War of 1812. There are still the formalities of war: turning over captured territory; determining the fate of captured privateers; seamen rioting in a notorious British prison, rising stars and shattered careers. And much more …!

February 24, 2015 at 11:41 pm Leave a comment

HOMELAND SECURITY: Challenges Mounting for Secure Borders

Redefining “Secure Border”

Border Traffic at the San Ysidro (California) Primary Port of Entry. (Customs and Border Protection photo)

Border Traffic at the San Ysidro (California) Primary Port of Entry.
(Customs and Border Protection photo)

More than a dozen years after the 9/11 attacks showed that America needed to do a better job securing its borders, a debate continues over the best ways to manage who gets in and out of the country.

The number of U.S. Border Patrol agents has mushroomed to more than 20,000 since 2001. There have been numerous border enforcement programs like teaming Border Patrol agents with National Guard troops, flooding areas reporting high levels of illegal border entries with large numbers of Border Patrol personnel and equipment. There was even a failed program to build a physical and virtual fence along the border with Mexico — to the tune of $3.5 billion.

Now law enforcement officials are worried abou radicalized U.S.-citizens-turned jihadis coming back from fighting in the Middle East — with skills that could be used for terrorism. And Congress and the White House are embroiled in a political battle over millions of illegal immigrants already in the United States, a battle that threatens to shut down the Department of Homeland Security.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol leaders say it is time to rethink what we mean when we talk about securing the border. Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher told a Washington think tank gathering last month that a secure border — where no one can cross illegally at any time — is virtually impossible, without doubling the number of Border Patrol agents and boosting the agency’s budget by $97 billion.

Since late 2013, the agency had moved away from determining its effectiveness by counting every person it apprehends trying to cross the border illegally. Instead it has re-evaluated “what it means to secure the border,” Fisher told a border security discussion at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Rather, the Border Patrol characterizes a secure border as one of low risk – where there is a high probability of detection coupled with a high probability of interdiction.

“Border security is not an end state to be achieved and revisited every five years,” Assistant Chief Michael Schroeder told the audience. “It’s a continuous struggle,” he added. Schroeder is the author of an explanatory paper, published by the Border Patrol, detailing how and why it developed the low-risk idea in its 2012-2016 U.S. Border Patrol Strategic Plan. Instead of arrest statistics or measuring resources like number of agents or the size of the agency’s budget, the Border Patrol had to develop “a preliminary set of risk indicators”  to analyze risk along U.S. borders.

Fisher is slated to be one of the government and industry speakers this week at a Border Management Summit in Washington Tuesday and Wednesday (February 24-25). You can learn more at the website of the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement, the conference sponsor.

Two CBP Predator surveillance drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). (Customs and Border Protection  photo)

Two CBP Predator surveillance drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
(Customs and Border Protection photo)

The Border Patrol is using technologies like moveable ground radar, biometric identification obtained from first-time illegal border crossers and unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to acquire more data on border activity and shifts from past patterns. The situational awareness provided by UAS “is something we’ve never had before. It’s led us to the metrics we have today,” according to Schroeder.

Apprehensions of people trying to cross into the United States illegally are down to 1970 levels. So the Border Patrol is using intelligence and analysis to predict where the high risk areas are — and when and where to move law enforcement resources when drug, gun and people smugglers change tactics.

But a recent report by the DHS inspector general’s office (OIG) casts doubt on the value of border surveillance by unmanned aircraft — and the information they gather.

For starters, the report contends CBP has yet to prove the value of its UAS program while drastically understating the costs. The OIG’s second audit of the program since 2012, found the effort by CBP’s Air and Marine Office “still has no reliable method of measuring its performance” and that its impact on stemming illegal immigration has been minimal.

“We see no evidence that the drones contribute to a more secure border , and there is no reason to invest additional taxpayer funds at this time,” said DHS Inspector General John Roth.

February 23, 2015 at 11:58 pm Leave a comment

FRIDAY FOTO (February 20, 2015)

Desert Lights.

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal William Hester

U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal William Hester

A U.S. Marine Corps assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) pauses during the Integrated Training Exercise 2-15 Tank Mechanized Assault Course (TMAC) at Marine Air Ground Combat Center in Twentynine Palms. AAVs are used to get infantry in the fight fast. But they are an aging technology that has been part of the Corps since the early 1970s. The AAVs used during the TMAC are with Company D, 3rd Assault Amphibian Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force. 

(Click on the photo to see enlarged image.)

February 20, 2015 at 1:53 am Leave a comment

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