Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Who or what is a 'leading military planner'?

Rodger Shanahan comments on the claim that Abbott wanted to invade Iraq

During my Army career I was a military planner. I worked on lots of plans. Most were never executed, but others were. Some were standing plans that were annually revised, while others were worked up at the behest of someone higher up the operational chain. I got to know the ADF planning process pretty well and became someone that could be described as a 'military planner'.

In the ADF, you could say the Chief of the Defence Force is formally the 'leading military planner', given he is the one who provides military advice to the Government and 'owns' Joint Operations Command. In practical terms though, the Chief of Joint Operations has carriage of developing operational plans, so he is really the ADF's leading military planner.

Service chiefs would have input into the plans as they are developed, but they aren't planners in their own right. They have a 'raise, train and sustain' responsibility, but not a operational military planning function.

So when The Australian penned this exclusive expose of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's plan to invade Iraq, I was intrigued.

According to the story, the PM raised an operational planning idea in his office and then sought the advice of Australia's 'leading military planners'. Not the normal way of doing things, for sure, but plausible. By the time I got to the second paragraph, however, my 'sloppy journalism' warning light began flashing. And when I noticed that the article failed to define who 'Australia's leading military planners' were, the light stopped flashing and just stayed on.

Then the Chief of Defence Force weighed in to say the matter had never been raised with him formally or informally, and the vultures began to circle over the entrails of The Australian's sensational but poorly researched exclusive.

I assumed that a correction would ensue and that the journalist would have been advised by a military planner of the dictum that one should 'never reinforce failure'. So when The Australian clarified the situation this weekend I was somewhat surprised to find more imprecision and hype.

The previously reported 'unilateral invasion of Iraq' that was discussed with 'leading military planners' was now a dinner party discussion where the PM expressed frustration at the slow pace of deployment of ADF elements into Iraq (damn that Iraqi sovereignty issue) and perhaps asked aloud why we couldn't just take Mosul quickly. The main guest was the Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, who The Australian breathlessly claimed was 'the Pentagon's senior official overseeing the US-led war against Islamic State in Iraq'.

Even though the term 'overseeing' is left undefined, I'm pretty sure that the senior Pentagon official overseeing the war would be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force provides air force capabilities to the CENTCOM commander (based in Florida), who actually oversees the operational conduct of the war. The US Navy, Army and Marine commanders do the same for their service branches.

But never mind, one shouldn't let inconvenient facts get in the way of a good story. Rather, my attention was focused on the fact that the people objecting to the PM's proposal had in the space of a week gone from 'Australia's leading military planners' to 'others at the table'. Perhaps the confusion over who Australia's leading military planners are could be put to bed if the list of those attending the dinner was published by the newspaper.

After reading both stories all I know is that if, during my time in the Army, I briefed an operational plan to a real 'leading military planner' that was equally poorly staffed and thought through, I would have been told in no uncertain terms where I had failed to meet expectations 

To use a military planning term, it would appear that in writing about the military planning process the journalist in question has, either wittingly or unwittingly, been part of someone's anti-Abbott 'shaping and influencing' operation.


Historic documents show half of Australia’s warming trend is due to “adjustments”

Adjustments that cool historic temperatures have almost doubled Australia’s rate of warming

There was a time back in 1933 when the CSIRO was called CSIR and meteorologists figured that with 74 years of weather data on Australia, they really ought to publish a serious document collating all the monthly averages at hundreds of weather stations around Australia.

Little did they know that years later, despite their best efforts, much of the same data would be forgotten and unused or would be adjusted, decades after the fact, and sometimes by as much as one or two degrees.

Twenty years later The Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics would publish an Official Year Book of Australia which included the mean temperature readings from 1911 to 1940 at 44 locations.

Chris Gillham has spent months poring over both these historic datasets, as well as the BoM’s Climate Data Online (CDO) which has the recent temperatures at these old stations. He also compares these old records to the new versions in the BOM’s all new, all marvelous, best quality ACORN dataset. He has published all the results and tables comparing CDO, CSIR and Year Book versions.

He analyzes them in many ways – sometimes by looking at small subsets or large groups of the 226 CSIR stations. But it doesn’t much matter which way the data is grouped, the results always show that the historic records had warmer average temperatures before they were adjusted and put into the modern ACORN dataset. The adjustments cool historic averages by around 0.4 degrees, which sounds small, but the entire extent of a century of warming is only 0.9 degrees C. So the adjustments themselves are the source of almost half of the warming trend.

The big question then is whether the adjustments are necessary. If the old measurements were accurate as is, Australia has only warmed by half a degree. In the 44 stations listed in the Year Book from 1911-1940, the maxima at the same sites is now about half a degree warmer in the new millenia. The minima are about the same.

Remember that these sites from 1911-1940 were all recorded with modern Stevenson Screen equipment.  Furthermore, since that era the biggest change in those sites has been from the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect as the towns and cities grew up around the sites. In some places this effect may already have been warming those thermometers in the first half of the last century, but in others UHI can make 5 to 7 degrees difference.

If Australian thermometers are recording half a degree higher than they were 70 – 100 years ago, we have to ask how much of that warming is the UHI effect? Common sense would suggest that if these older stations need any correction, it should be upward rather than downward to compensate for the modern increase in concrete, buildings and roads. Alternatively, to compare old readings in unpopulated areas with modern ones, we would think the modern temperatures should be adjusted down, rather than the older ones.

Chris Gillham discusses the potential size of the UHI changes:

“In 2012 and 2013 it was anticipated that UHI warming in south-eastern Australia will continue to intensify by approximately 1C per decade over and above that caused by global warming (Voogt 2002), with tests in 1992 showing a UHI influence up to 7.2C between the Melbourne CBD and rural areas. [PDF]

Smaller but significant UHI influences were found in regional towns, with a 1994 test observing a UHI intensity up to 5.4C between the centre of a Victorian town and its rural outskirts.” 

The situation with adjustments stays roughly the same if we go back even further. Gillham compared 226 stations during the period from 1855 -1931 and the average is about half a degree less than what it is now — from 2000-2014.

The first station in the CSIR record, Melbourne, starts in 1855. Each year, new stations came online. By 1865 there are ten stations and by 1880 there are nearly 30.

Ideally we could compare 50 stations which didn’t move or start and stop over the same period, but even the ACORN dataset in the 1900s doesn’t do that, introducing new stations up to the 1970s.

It is hard to draw conclusions from the CSIR record as is. But neither can it be ignored. Roughly two thirds of the temperatures were recorded on Stevenson screens, but much of the data in the 1800s was recorded on screens, sheds and shades until Stevenson screens were introduced across Australia over the 20 year period from 1887 – 1907. And scientists in the 1930s were very much aware of the effect of slight changes in screens as one long running comparison of different screens side by side had already been going for over 30 years in Adelaide. (I’ll write more on that soon).

It’s rough but, as rough guides go, it’s the only data we have. Other peer reviewed papers have estimated Australia’s average temperature change to 0.09C  in 1000AD based on two groves of trees in Tasmania and New Zealand. Wouldn’t thermometers be kinda useful?

One small piece of good news is that at least the early CDO records maintained by the BoM online appear to match the averages within the Year Book and CSIR tables. At least the copies of the original data put online are accurate as far as these rough tests go.

The Bottom line

There is a treasure trove of information in these historic documents for people interested in long-term climate.

The difference between the original records and the adjusted ACORN dataset suggests that the adjustments cooled original temperatures by 0.4C between 1910 and 1940, which means that around 45% of the modern “warming” trend is due to these homogenisations and adjustments which have not been independently justified and oddly appear to go in the opposite direction to what common sense would suggest might be necessary. In the older and larger CSIR tables, there is an overall cooling adjustments of 0.5C.

Thanks to Chris Gillham for the massive amount of data crunching and tracking it takes to provide meaningful numbers.

Chris Gillham’s Conclusions:

Downward ACORN adjustment of historic temperature records from weather stations before 1940 adds 0.3C or 0.4C to Australia’s rate of climate warming since 1910 but the reason for the downward adjustments is unclear.

Various timescale and station comparisons show insignificant changes or warming up to 0.5C from 1931 to 2000-14. These temperatures from 1855 to 1940 are compared to what the BoM describes as the hottest decade ever recorded in Australia (2014 claimed as the third hottest).

Other historic documents add weight to the evidence that pre-1910 temperatures were not significantly cooler than current readings.

For example, On the Climate of the Yass-Canberra District published in 1910 by Commonwealth Meteorologist Henry Hunt shows temperatures at 10 locations were on average 0.1C warmer in all years before 1909 than in 2004-2013. Hunt also presents 1909 summer and winter mean temperatures at six northern Australia locations which average 0.2C warmer than those locations in 2004-2013 (download PDF).

The CSIR and Year Book temperature datasets are unadjusted records compiled by Australia’s leading scientists and weather experts in the mid 20th century and are accurate but differ from BoM records that are adjusted in both RAW and ACORN.

Their dataset timescales include the first 85 years of temperature recording at most weather stations across Australia in a network more than twice as large as ACORN, and their averages are a legitimate historic record indicating climate warming has been significantly less than calculated with adjusted data since 1910.


Huge debt left for Australia by irresponsible socialists

AUSTRALIA faces a debt bomb so huge it will represent half the nation’s entire economy within two decades unless tough action is taken, according to Joe Hockey’s intergenerational report.

The long- awaited report has delivered a stunning warning to Labor, the Senate and voters on the huge challenges the nation faces if political leaders fail to act.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott dropped a hint yesterday the unpopular Medicare co-payment would be dumped, admitting it was “no secret’’ he was rethinking the policy.

However, the intergenerational report warns higher taxes or lower spending on health and education face future generations unless tough action is taken now.

The report, to be released on Thursday, reveals if the Government did not change Labor’s current budget settings, net debt would represent a 50 per cent share of the nation’s entire economy within 20 years.  Currently, Australia’s net debt represents 15pc of gross domestic product.

Modelling by PricewaterhouseCoopers has previously suggested the debt is on track to reach a trillion dollars by 2037, even if savings stalled by the Senate are factored in.

Without change over the next 50 years, net debt will swallow the economy and be equal to 100pc of the entire Australian economy by 2065.

Tony Abbott plans to use the report to help reset his government after weeks of leadership speculation.  Yesterday, he predicted the report would help explain to voters why he had taken tough action in the budget to reduce spending.

“One of the things that you’ll notice when the intergenerational report comes out at the end of the week, you will notice what the impact of last year’s structural reforms would be on our long-term fiscal situation,’’ Mr Abbott said.

“You’ll understand better why we ... put forward these long-term structural reforms, but what you will also notice is the extent of the progress that has already been made.

“The extent of the fiscal repair that has already been achieved under this government ... At the moment there is an out-of-character tendency on the part of Australians ... to focus on the glass half empty.  “What I think we will be able to much more clearly see (after the report’s release) is the glass half full.’’

Labor leader Bill Shorten is blocking $4.5b in budget measures his own party proposed when in government including cancelling tax cuts linked to the carbon price.

According to the budget papers, Australia’s debt was $224 billion. Australia paid $10 billion in interest payments on that debt — around $1 billion a month — last year alone.

But while Australia’s debt is expected to be among the fastest-rising in the world over this decade, it is modest by international standards.

Australia’s gross domestic product (GDP) is a measures of national income and output and is equal to the total expenditures for all goods and services produced.

When the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Labor government left office it recorded the second largest debt position of all previous governments over the reporting period with only the Hawke/Keating Labor government experiencing a higher debt position.


Taxman takes aim at dodgy colleges

DOOR-TO-DOOR selling, cold calling and other aggressive marketing tactics helped two private colleges sign up more than 10,000 students to expensive taxpayer-funded Business Diplomas in 2013, many of which will never be completed.

Careers Australia Education Institute, a subsidiary of Acquire Learning, signed up 6,165 students to the popular course in 2013 — an extra 5,266 students from the year before — for a total of $51,227,115 worth in government loans.

That represented a 586 per cent increase in students on 2012.

At the same time, the Australian College of Training & Employment, trading as Evocca College, signed up 4,047 students for $39,127,500 worth of government loans. That represented an additional 1,858 students on the prior year, or a 118 per cent increase.

Only two other private colleges came close: Productivity Partners Pty Ltd, trading as Captain Cook Colleges, signed up 736 students for $6,064,000 worth of loans, while Study Group Australia Pty Ltd, trading as Taylors UniLink, signed up 330 students for $3,259,670 worth of loans.

The Business Diploma gold rush highlights just part of the bigger picture, with growing signs of a crackdown on the current sector arrangements which allow private colleges to make massive profits through state and federal government funding.

A Senate inquiry into the vocational education and training sector will table its first interim report today. The report is expected to raise concerns about the vast profits being made by private companies, with public hearings in coming months tipped to focus on the economics of allowing for-profit vocational training.

According to a University of Sydney study, some of Australia’s largest training companies have reported profit margins of more than 50 per cent.

Figures released by Assistant Training Minister Simon Birmingham last week revealed the government spent $1.615 billion in VET FEE-HELP loans last year for 189,000 students at 254 training providers, representing a blowout of $315 million.

Modelling by the Grattan Institute estimates 40 per cent of those loans will never be repaid, as many debtors’ salaries won’t reach the repayment threshold of $53,345, meaning taxpayers will foot the bill.

Education Department data shows only 26 per cent of the 30,595 students who enrolled in vocational education and training FEE-HELP courses in 2011 finished their course within three years, with just 7 per cent completing their online course.

Senator Birmingham last week announced audits of 23 colleges to investigate “allegations of unscrupulous marketing and other practices intended to exploit” the VET FEE-HELP system.

In its submission to the Senate inquiry, the Redfern Legal Centre highlighted the case of one of its clients, ‘John’, a Disability Support Pensioner who lives in public housing in Surry Hills in inner Sydney.

John is from a non-English speaking background and suffers from acute mental illness, including schizophrenia and trauma-related illness.

“In early 2014, a door-to-door marketing agent, acting on behalf of a [registered training organisation], knocked on John’s front door,” the Centre wrote.

“The marketing agency was very pushy and kept telling John he would receive a free laptop and tablet — all he needed to do was sign up for this ‘free government funded course’.”

According to the Centre, John was enrolled in two different ‘business management’ style courses with two separate RTOs. With the help of his social worker, John found a few months later that he would be liable for more than $10,000 in course fees.

“John’s story highlights the impact of misleading and deceptive marketing practices, which target and exploit vulnerable consumers,” the Centre wrote. “Unfortunately, John’s case is far from uncommon.”


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