Archive for May, 2010

A few weeks after the USNI blog disclosed that the non-profit group once slated to receive the ex-USS IOWA (BB-61) was more hot air than substance, the Navy is now re-opening the bidding process for the ship!

It’s sure nice to know the Navy listens to the blogosphere…

Anybody interested in working to see the Iowa preserved in San Francisco? If so, let’s talk. Shoot me an email.

For the rest of the story, go here.



In the Milblog world, the discussion of DADT has popped above the ambient noise again with a joint statement on the topic by a gaggle of the front-line milbloggers that is worth your read. I think the last part summarized the issue well.

The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without compromising its mission. Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.

Last year on my home blog, I reinforced my long held position that we need to go from “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” to “Don’t Care.”

… ending DADT is the right move. In Phib’s world, we would simply go to “Don’t care” and move on. I know though that it won’t be that easy – and it will be painful – though not in the way many think.

Sailors will nod their head and move forward. Heck, we all know we have gay shipmates anyway, and the younger the Sailor, the least they care. Sure we will have a violent idiot here and there (as we have with blue-on-blue sexual harassment) – but they will be a small and easy to deal with problem as we already have the UCMJ and “unofficial” ways of dealing with those attitudes and actions in the workplace; so no problem.

Let’s move on. The Brits survived WAR PLAN PINK just fine – so will we. When homosexual radicals try to go too far, push back. 90%+ gay servicemembers probably feel the same way. Just let them be themselves – they will do the same, just like they do now.

For the readers of this blog – we joined the discussion in FEB of this year with Claude Berube’s thoughtful piece,

Some individuals on ships can already have significant personality differences based on a number of factors, yet they do their jobs regardless of those differences. If we have done our jobs as parents, as teachers, as military leaders, then we must trust the next generation that they will all do their job as well. If we don’t have that trust, then we have far more to be concerned about with the future of our nation.

In the end, nothing matters except ability to do the job. The real eyes on the prize should be about how the Navy can optimally perform through individual performance and contributions to the whole. Modifying Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to Didn’t Know, Don’t Care would accomplish that goal.

We also discussed it for an hour over at Midrats.

I think from a USNI POV, we should nod our heads that we were on the early edge of the discussion of DADT in the milblog world, and hopefully put out the message that the discussion among those affiliated with the military is just as varied in opinion as those outside – that we did not fit the stereotype others made for us. By doing so, I think we set the table for what is needed – an open and frank discussion of its impact on readiness.

Some may not like that we discussed this topic here – but I would ask them to review USNI’s Mission & Vision Statement.

The U.S. Naval Institute Mission Statement

Provide an Independent Forum to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense.

Vision

Through intellectual rigor and honesty second to none, the Naval Institute will be the organization that tests the conventional wisdom and explores the power of new ideas on National Defense, the role of the Sea Services in preserving it, and our commitment to those in uniform who provide it.

Sounds right – fold that into the “creative friction without conflict” that represents the best of the Milblog world – and yep; I think we hit it just right.


UPDATE: USNI has a page on DADT as covered over time, here.



If I had to choose one word to sum up the second day of the Conference, it would be “communicate.”

Of course underneath that terms comes a slew of of add-ons:
1. Always be honest in your communication. With others, with yourself. Always.
2. Make sure your “say” and your “do” match up.
3. Understand how others might receive your message.
4. Seek to understand the messages you are getting from others.
5. Understand your audience
a. don’t assume they have same time lines
b. don’t assume they have same urgency
c. put yourself in the shoes of the audience
6. Share your message and your thoughts behind it to enhance communication
7. Double check to make sure your message was taken how it was meant
8. KISS
9. Train together so that communication is more easily grasped in context
10. Train together. Rehearse. Train like you’ll fight.
11. Create teams that are used to communicating together so that not much communication is required.
12. Technology is a tool that makes communication easier. It is not the final answer. If the tech tool breaks, find go arounds. Keeping communicating as you can. Runners can carry messages if needed. It may slow you down, but it won’t stop the show.

With that in mind, here’s a look at the conference second day:

Started with NATO Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, Gen. Stephane Abrail, French Air Force discussing transformation as nations get used to working in coalitions in various operations. Fundamental to success in such operations is – communication. Information sharing breeds trust. Communications systems should be interoperable to avoid mis-communication and unnecessary expense. My perception in this is that inherent in this process is a common understanding about what the communication means – which can be eased by regular exercises and working out kinks. Everyone has to know with a degree of precision what to expect when rubber meets road.

Second session, “What Needs to Be Done to Make the Interagency Pieces Work?”, mostly was a look at internal U.S. agency communications between the DoD forces, the State Department diplomacy efforts and the Agency for International Development (AID). As history has shown, ad hoc coordination between these agencies can cause a degree of friction in many areas -friction that can be lessened by learning to speak the same language (or at least to understand the agency-speak of the other agencies) and by making sure the roles of the agencies are understood before everyone get tossed into a crisis. More embeds (military into State), rehearsals and fiscal equality all would help. Much more effort on presenting a coordinated U.S. effort with goals understood across the board (what we Cro-Magnon military types call “unity of effort”) instead of “coincidence of effort.” Congress could help. Part of the problem lies in the differing time lines under which the above agencies operate, with State’s interests being much longer term and AID even longer. State and AID assert a need for more people and a follow up on the “expeditionary capacity” effort that was started under the Bush administration.There was also a suggestion of the need for a “NATO of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)” to smooth out the efforts of these international agencies. Working with NGOs can be challenging. Again, communications and training together could smooth out some of these bumps.

Emphasis on training together, training, training, training. You get the idea.

Third session: “Battles of Competing Narratives: Why Do They Matter?” Again, communicating effectively means that the “enemy’s narrative” has to be defeated – communicating with the target audience in terms they can understand what it is your are about and why your narrative is more trustworthy than the enemy’s narrative. As LTG Huber put it “Operations happen at the speed of trust.” Honesty is everything. While none of the panelists brought him up, I was reminded of Saddam Hussein’s spokesman, old “Baghdad Bob” as an example of how not to set the narrative. One of the keys is that every soldier/sailor, etc is a “strategic communicator.” Since we are apparently intent on relearning lessons from the past, I refer you to General Charles Krulak’s The Strategic Corporal.

Lunch speech:
General Petreus’s remarks. Given the time he had, the general did make several valuable points, especially regarding “information sharing” – he stated the focus should be on “need to share” instead of the old standard “need to know.” Maybe – there’s a discussion of this concept in the final paragraph of the work found here. Apparently the idea is sweeping into many governmental levels:

One of the things that truly stuck with me from the panel discussion came from Richard Boly, at the State Department. He talked about how, during the Cold War, everything was on a need-to-know basis. Everyone was so paranoid and afraid of leaks and security issues that communication was absolutely kept to a minimum.

We’re living in very different times. No longer is it need-to-know, Boly said. We’re moving on to a “need-to-share” phase of government.

There are a lot of pros to this. Empowered employees, increased collaboration, greater openness and transparency, increased interaction with the public, bridging the divide between private industry innovation and government advances–the list could go on and on.

Well, maybe.

Speaking of the “Strategic Corporal,” the fourth session was on “Small Unit Excellence; What Will It Take?” More missions are being driven down to the small unit level. To succeed in those missions, the units need communication to insure they are on top of the strategic vision of the highest command levels and are properly trained and equipped for their missions.

Right training, right equipment, right personnel, right communications and honesty, honesty honesty. Walk the talk. Train like you’ll fight. And that includes insuring the trainee is getting the strategic vision.

One of the issues facing the chain of command is making the dollars flow to the areas of greatest need, which means the point of the spear – that Strategic Corporal again.

The lack of effective use of the standard institutionalized “lessons learned” was discussed. If you assume that the discussion could have been held 5 years ago, 10 or 20 or 30 years ago, you might sense the frustration with field forces on that topic.

Final session: “How Do We Fight Through a Digital Meltdown?” I’m no techno geek, but it sounded like the answers are being worked on – but the best answer is back to that Strategic Corporal – when you can’t use the high tech tools, revert to the “old school” techniques – and the “digital meltdown” may slow you up, but it won’t stop you. Back to the basics, you know.

UPDATE: More here.



“Joint Warfighting 2010 Conference: ‘Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What Will They Need Five Years From Now?’” through the first day.

Now, remember this, I spent 30+ years hanging about the U.S. Navy, full or part time. I point this out sort of like a sociologist so that you can judge whether or not my perceptions are not “value free” but carry a bias toward the naval side of the spectrum.

Having taken care of that, this is a big show. There’s a large exhibition hall full of a variety of vendors of various goods and services that might be of interest to military professionals – and these vendors help defray the costs of the conference.

In the first morning session, the speaker was Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates of the Joint IED Defeat Organization. His organization put out a press release on his speech:

The director of the organization tasked with overcoming the challenge posed by improvised explosive devices (IED) spoke about the future of counter-IED efforts to kick off the 2010 Joint Warfighting Conference (JWC) today in Virginia Beach, Va.

The theme for this year’s three-day conference is “Combatant and Coalition Commanders: What Will They Need Five Years from Now?” Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates, Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) director, told the audience that IEDs represent a threat that will grow in number and complexity in coming years.

“We will see IEDs or their derivatives find their way into civilized society in greater numbers,” he said. They’ll be used by criminal enterprises. They’ll be used by hybrid threats that seek to seek partners – either in the drug trafficking enterprise or other commercial business – to destabilize societies. We will certainly see them in the combat sphere for years to come and we’re going to see the technology of these devices become more difficult to defeat.”

Oates said that information sharing and analysis is crucial in enabling tactical commanders to stop IED networks. “I absolutely believe that we have got to find a way ahead immediately to improve our information fusion, these databases for our tactical commanders,” he said. “There is no shortage of data. There is a dearth of analysis.”Oates also focused on the need to deliver battlefield requirements quickly.“We have got to rapidly receive demands from the field and turn a product back to the wartime commander in a time that he can use it,” he said. “The timeline at JIEDDO is zero to 24 months and I think we are failing. We need to turn some of these capabilities much faster. Days are like years for combat commanders. Their sense of urgency has got to be replicated within the industrial portion of the U.S. and our allies.”

Oates concluded his remarks on a note of optimism.”I do believe that this is winnable. I do believe that if we put our efforts together as partners with industry, academia, media and the national security apparatus, I do believe that we can make great progress toward defeating this capability or at least rendering it much less effective in the very near term. That is what I believe we need to provide to the combatant commanders, not in the next five years, but certainly in the next year to 18 months.”

One audience member asked whether IEDs are really “new” – a point earlier made by General Oates when he mentioned Japanese Kamikaze attacks off Okinawa during WWII – but it does suggest to me that naval mine warfare is very similar to the current land IED issues. Perhaps there is some common area of interest between those communities. General Oates did point out that as compared to “booby traps” in Vietnam and other mine warfare, the key issue with current IEDs is increasingly sophisticated weapons and remote triggering techniques.

With ground forces, the need is to get inside the enemy’s OODA loop by cracking networks and taking out key nodes (by co-option if possible, but if not, then …)

As with sea mines, the IED weapons are both tactical and strategic – and play hell with maneuver warfare. Just ask any Task Force Commander.

The second session was a panel on “Power Shifts: Who’s Up? Who’s Down? What’s Changing?” Here a panel of experts got to expound on the upcoming threats or concerns. As MG Scales referred to it, the 800-pound gorilla in the discussion was China. And China. And China and, by the way, India, and, maybe North Korea (because of current instability). So, the “Ups” were China, India and the U.S. NATO was sideways and Russia “down” (but maybe working back into “Up”). Until an audience question there was no discussion of Mexico (that unstable country on our southern border) – this prompted some brief discussion about the potential problems, but . . .

Next:

Panel: What Should Be Done to Secure the Homelands?

Moderator: David Hartman, former host, Good Morning America (Confirmed)
ADM Timothy J. Keating, USN (Ret.), former Commander, Northern Command/U.S. Pacific Command (Confirmed)
The Honorable Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Founder & Chairman of the Chertoff Group, LLC (Confirmed)

Opened with some historical look at the issues that faced the U.S. right after 9/11 and the massive restructuring of the government that resulted in the Department of Homeland Security. Phased into a discussion of risks now facing the U.S. – WMD, homegrown or naturalized citizens and self-taught wackos. Better info sharing helps defeat most of these – and a great of luck. China pops up again as Admiral Keating gets asked about it. Apparently, China treats “transparency” differently than we do.
Chertoff takes off on Chinese cyber attacks on U.S. government sites and industrial sites – information being power, after all, including info on how to get into such systems if – you know- there were some urgent need on China’s part. Like a war, perhaps? Transparent like lead. Keating asks if cyber attacks constitute an act of war. Hartman asks who it is who addresses such issues. Hard to say, I gather.

Hartman being funny as he asks Chertoff to comment on the current offshore oil spill and to compare and contrast with Katrina. Chertoff is polite – “black swan events happen only very rarely.” Keating gets to take a shot at the fact that the initial reaction to Katrina was a sigh of relief that Katrina missed New Orleans – until the levee broke . . .

Hartman how do you deal with the unpredictable? Keating (essentially): “Be prepared. Be flexible. Have good people.”
Hard to argue with that.

Remember, I am a guest of USNI at this thing.

UPDATE: Tony Germanotta ‘s report which reports on Admiral Harvey’s opening speech my notes of which seem to have disappeared. Good quote, though:

“No matter how much time or how much money we spend preparing for the future, our chance of getting it exactly right is exactly zero,” Harvey said, explaining: “I think your purpose here this week is to ensure that we don’t get it completely wrong.”

Which is, of course, perfectly right.



These past few weeks SECDEF Gates has turned to the perennial question of “how much is enough?’ and in the process, has on a couple of occasions called out Navy for its overwhelming capacity in certain areas – subs and aircraft carriers immediately come to mind. That carriers get highlighted is not surprising – they are after all, a large, highly visible symbol, representative of the collective industrial and military power of the United States.

It is perhaps fittingly coincidental that this discussion falls between the anniversaries of the Battle of the Coral Sea and Midway – signatory engagements that both changed the direction of the war and sealed the role of the aircraft carrier and her embarked airwing as a preeminent weapons system (along with the submarine) in taking back the Asian Pacific areas invaded and occupied by the Japanese empire.

It also guaranteed that the carrier would have a huge “bullseye” on it post-war as the budgeters’ drew their long knives. Yet it was the aircraft carrier that less than half a decade later, provided the needed close air support to UN forces in the face of the North Korean onslaught, when the airfields in Korea were overrun and the “safe” fields in Japan and Okinawa were too far away to provide the kind of overhead persistence carrier aircraft could provide until land-based fields could be secured and more aircraft brought in.

I bring this up as a preamble to highlighting an “interesting” comparison made of the numbers we maintain vs. “other countries” – like these lines from the 3 May speech before the Navy League Sea-Air exposition:

In assessing risks and requirements even in light of an expanding array of global missions and responsibilities everything from shows of presence to humanitarian relief some context is useful:

  • The U.S. operates 11 large carriers, all nuclear powered. In terms of size and striking power, no other country has even one comparable ship.
  • The U.S. Navy has 10 large-deck amphibious ships that can operate as sea bases for helicopters and vertical-takeoff jets. No other navy has more than three, and all of those navies belong to our allies or friends. Our Navy can carry twice as many aircraft at sea as all the rest of the world combined.
  • The U.S. has 57 nuclear-powered attack and cruise missile submarines again, more than the rest of the world combined.
  • Seventy-nine Aegis-equipped combatants carry roughly 8,000 vertical-launch missile cells. In terms of total missile firepower, the U.S. arguably outmatches the next 20 largest navies.
  • All told, the displacement of the U.S. battle fleet a proxy for overall fleet capabilities exceeds, by one recent estimate, at least the next 13 navies combined, of which 11 are our allies or partners.
  • And, at 202,000 strong, the Marine Corps is the largest military force of its kind in the world and exceeds the size of most world armies.

All interesting and makes for nice bits for the 30-second news report of preservation of column inches – but it lacks context. For example – at a recent press conference for MDA’s FY2011 budget, the Agency’s Executive Director indicated a total buy of 430 SM-3 across the FYDP extending into FY16. That’s a pinch over 5% of the 8,000 VLS launchers SECDEF referred to, and yet if you tally up open source numbers of SRBM/MRBMs, you can find in some theaters commanders are facing a ballistic missile threat on the order of 500-1000 missiles.

In one theater.

Additionally, not all Aegis ships are configured for BMD, which further limits flexibility in deploying forces and increases the demand signal for the ships that are configured.

Subs – I’ve yet to hear anyone looking at the growing threat posed by regional powers deploying AIP subs armed with the latest generation of supersonic cruise missiles (SS-N-27/Klub) that we have too many SSNs. And carriers? Again, show me a COCOM who hasn’t placed a significant demand signal on carrier generated sorties over the past 7 years that thinks we have too many carriers.

The rub here, and again to put this in context, is that a simple 1:1 map of capabilities with other nations isn’t realistic in that it ignores a fundamental geographical principle – as an island nation (globally speaking) we have greater distances to surmount, lack access to interior lines of communication and have to bring our logistics with us. Nothing new here – the principles are the same today as they were in 1933 when Navy finally realized the effect of the Washington Navy Treaty had on the fleet and our warplanes – that instead of a dash and smash against the Japanese to defend the Philippines, we were going to have to take a 3-5 year slug it out approach to work our way back across the Pacific.

While it is true that post-Cold War our Navy has decreased in size while others have followed suite – still others are reversing that trend. Not to repeat here as it has been and will be discussed at length at other times and venues, but it is no secret that China, for example, is growing its navy and Russia has recently announced its intent to plus up its navy in terms of numbers and blue-water capacity (though there are doubts based on several factors, industrial capacity and capability being but one, that it will be able to do so). Still, it would be erroneous for us to “build down” to their numbers since, as either regional powers and/or occupants of the greater Eurasian continent, the imperatives that drive their strategies, their force structure and their operational construct are different than ours.

So what would be a construct for force sizing? Navies in particular are hard to quantify in one neat measure. In the past we’ve used number of hulls, gross tonnage, etc. mostly in isolation and usually to our detriment. In another forum I participate in, there has been discussion of other measures, like dwell time. It seems to me that measure may be the better measure. If, for example, we cite all the bi- and multi-lateral engagements and agreements advocated by the 2007 Cooperative Strategy for Seapower in the 21st Century, we might well find ourselves in a situation where our deployed-to-in-port ratio stands at 1:1, which we historically know is unsupportable. Perhaps that measure (dwell time) could be further refined, taken another page from SECDEF’s speech, and apply a tonnage modifier, being as how it has been said that a warship’s displacement is the best measure of its capability[1]. In that case, the requirement would follow from the COCOM requirements and warplan constructs (or use the force planning constructs in the QDR). One possible hint may be in the (still) forthcoming NOC, which may be released, though in classified form, in the coming week.

The simple fact of the matter, however, is that SECDEF has set his sites on making a resource constrained budget and has in the process, identified initial areas to be explored – and that there apparently will not be any sacred cows left untouched (e.g., personnel costs, FO/GO billets). Unlike ships (or aircraft) billets can be re-added downrange in a quicker manner than say reconstituting a class of ships or mission capability and hence, as a service, Navy needs to ensure it is entering the forthcoming discussions knife fight well prepped with a force sizing construct that yields a force economical not only in dollar cost to build and support, but in mission capabilities.

Interesting times ahead indeed for all…


[1] Till, Geoffrey. 1975. Biggest or Best: The Navy and its Great Ships. The RUSI Journal. 120(3):54-58. < http://www.informaworld.com/10.1080/03071847509420851 >. (accessed 11 May 2010).

(Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com)


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One of the unresolved issues with dealing with the pirate problem off Somalia is what do you do with pirates that you capture?

Kenya has stood up and offered to try pirates in their courts. However, as a result their court system is now trying to deal with over 100 pirates captured at sea and deposited on their shores and now they are resisting the pressure to accept more of them.

A number of pirates have been simply released, either back ashore or back to their boats, after being disarmed of any weapons that they didn’t already throw overboard themselves prior to capture.

The Russians have come up with a nastier version of this tactic, basically abandoning the pirates far at sea with only the most basic of supplies. Oddly enough, they did want to prosecute the pirates back in Russia, but abandoned that idea because the ship’s crew of the attacked vessel, were not able to directly identify the pirates, given that they were holed up in a secure room, unable to negate the pirate claims that they too were victims of other pirates who got away.

Russia frees suspected pirates

RUSSIA has freed a group of suspected pirates captured when its navy stormed a hijacked tanker in the Indian Ocean.

One pirate was killed and 10 suspects seized when marines from the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov recaptured the 106,474dwt Moscow University yesterday, a day after it was seized.

The detainees were expected to be tried in Russia. But after a day of contradictory public announcements and debate among prosecutors, military officers and the Kremlin, the navy was ordered to cast the suspected pirates adrift.

Their release took place after a source at the defence ministry announced: “Unfortunately … legal rules for the prosecution of pirates operating in Somalia did not exist, and thus they [the suspects] do not fall under the jurisdiction of any state and international law.”

Defence ministry spokesman Colonel Alexei Kuznetsov later said the release was required “due to the imperfection of the international legal framework”.

There were no witnesses to substantiate the identities and actions of the suspects because the tanker’s 23 Russian crew members had secured themselves in a safe-room.

And after they were captured, the suspects reportedly claimed that they were not pirates but rather hostages of the real attackers.

In June, the chief Russian prosecutor in charge of piracy, Alexander Zvyagintsev, told Fairplay that Russian law clearly allows for military action against pirates, but it was less clear what could be done if pirates were captured.

“The problem of what to do with the pirates who have been arrested remains undecided for the majority of countries,” he explained. “That adds to the confidence of the pirates that they can go on acting with impunity.” – Fairplay News

Not mentioned in the article is that apparently the Russians stripped the boat of any navigational equipment before setting them free with a tank of fuel. There are also apparently concerns in the media that the Russians simply did away with the pirates and provided this cover story, all because there were no press to witness the freeing of the pirates. Personally, I do not believe that the Russian Navy would do such a thing, given that what they had admitted to doing already gives the pirates a poor chance of survival. And I do not blame the Russians for not inviting the press to document this form of punishment. Actually, I would hope that they marked the sides of the vessel with ‘DANGER – PIRATES’ so as to warn passing ships of the risk of assisting them. One thing is for sure, pirates will not mess around with the Russians once word gets out about what happened to their fellow bandits.

Question is, is this a solution that other Navies can employ? The EU has been targeting motherships. The effect is similar for any pirates at sea dependent on those captured motherships for fuel and food. Going after supply lines is a classic military strategy. However, those at the end of a disrupted supply line at sea are as doomed as the pirates the Russians ‘freed’ at sea. The only difference is that the Russians caught them and then let them go.

UPDATE – 11 May:

Here is the latest news noting that the pirates did not appear to have gotten very far:

Freed Pirates May Have Drowned

Ten pirates released from a Russian warship 300 miles out to sea may have drowned, according to Russian officials and colleagues of the pirates, raising fears of retaliation against other vessels plying East African waters.

The pirates were captured last week after they hijacked the Moscow University, a Liberian-flagged, Russian-operated oil tanker sailing off the Somali coast. A Russian warship came to the ship’s rescue and apprehended the pirates. But after determining it would be too difficult to obtain a conviction, Russian officials said that they dropped plans to take the pirates to Moscow for trial.

Instead, like many other warships that have intercepted pirate skiffs, the Russian marines released the pirates — but not before removing weapons and navigation equipment from the boat several hundred miles from shore. Russian officials gave no explanation for removing the navigation equipment.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said radio signals from the boat disappeared about an hour after the release. “That could mean that they are dead,” the spokesperson said.

Fellow pirates in Somalia also said they lost contact with the boat after their separation from the Russian warship. “We will hold Russia responsible if any harm comes to them,” said a pirate commander, Abdi Dhagaweyne, in a telephone interview. “I’m not sure of their safety now because we have since lost contact.” – Wall Street Journal



NATO has taken flak for the last few years for the numbers of civilian casualties occurring in the Afghanistan campaign. With the war’s military leadership, especially General Stanley McChrystal, emphasizing the need to win the support and confidence of the civilian population, there has been serious pressure on commanders to limit civilian deaths whenever possible. Despite this, civilian deaths have risen in the country since last year.

Now, NATO has come up with a new plan to reduce civilian casualties: The Courageous Restraint Medal:

“British Maj. Gen. Nick Carter, the NATO commander of troops in southern Afghanistan, proposed the idea of awarding soldiers for “courageous restraint” during a visit by Hall to Kandahar Airfield in mid April. McChrystal is now reviewing the proposal to determine how it could be implemented, Hall said.” …

“There should be an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the troops who exhibit extraordinary courage and self-control by not using their weapons, but instead taking personal risk to de-escalate tense and potentially disastrous situations,” the statement said.” …

“NATO commanders are not planning to create a new medal or military decoration for “courageous restraint,” but instead are looking at ways of using existing awards to recognize soldiers who go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties, Hall said.”

Okay, so maybe there is not really going to be a medal, but still, recognizing restraint in combat? That is a world away from traditional medals which highlight martial qualities.

Will it work? Not a chance.

I typically avoid discussing internal Armed Services politics for a simple reason: I am not in the military. However, nothing in my experience with servicemen and women leads me to believe they want to celebrate ‘restraint’. There is a poignant Marine Corps saying, attributed to a Korean War veteran: “Never send a Marine where you can send a bullet, and the bigger the bullet the better”. Any act of courageous restraint, by definition, sends Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen in first. And there lies the problem. Winning a medal for courageous restraint would be a scarlet letter, warning that the owner put his subordinates or compatriots at risk when he did not need to, when a bullet would do.

There are ways to reduce civilian casualties, but this is not one of them.



The first women selected to serve onboard submarines have been identified. Some questions are worth asking…and they deserve answers. In the interest of transparency, the Navy owes the public – at the very least the sub community – an explanation of how these ladies were chosen for this elite duty. How many competed for selection? And how will future female submarine assignments be made?

USNI Blogger MIDN Jeff Withington recently described the rigorous screening process he completed for selection to nuclear power and the submarine community. Considering that annual nuke power and sub assignments were made last October, was a similar selection process held recently for these female candidates? Was some other process used?

Because the first group of females did not compete for assignment in October, they apparently didn’t compete against anyone except themselves. Until we know how many women applied, we won’t know how tough (statistically at least) the competition was. In the future, women should compete against for assignment to the submarine community without quotas, on equal footing against men and each other. Certainly the ‘right’ number of women need to be selected to fill staterooms and not leave a ship’s manning unbalanced, but otherwise, women should compete against every other applicant for assignment to this community.



…just saying…

This from Flag Gazer:

Ben Stein, a television personality and writer, wrote this for an Army newsletter, The Strykers, out of Ft. Lewis, Washington. It was addressed to one of the wives of the soldiers. I wrote to him and asked for permission to share it, and he told me to share it as often as I can. On, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, I share it with all of the military spouses – thank you all.

Dear Karen,

I have a great life. I have a wife I adore, a son who is a lazy teenager but I adore him, too. We live in a house with two dogs and four cats. We live in peace. We can worship as we please. We can say what we want. We can walk the streets in safety. We can vote. We can work wherever we want and buy whatever we want. When we sleep, we sleep in peace. When we wake up, it is to the sounds of birds.

All of this, every bit of it, is thanks to your husband, his brave fellow soldiers, and to the wives who keep the home fires burning while the soldiers are away protecting my family and 140 million other families. They protect Republicans and Democrats, Christians, Jews, Muslims and atheists. They protect white, black, yellow, brown and everyone in between. They protect gays and straights, rich and poor.

And none of it could happen with the Army wives, Marine wives, Navy wives, Air Force wives – or husbands – who go to sleep tired and lonely, wake up tired and lonely, and go through the day with a smile on their faces. They feed the kids, put up with the teenagers’ surliness, the bills that never stop piling up, the desperate hours when the plumbing breaks and there is no husband to fix it, and the even more desperate hours after the kids have gone to bed, the dishes have been done, the bills have been paid, and the wives realize that they will be sleeping alone – again, for the 300th night in a row.

The wives keep up the fight even when they have to move every couple of years, even when their checks are late, even when they have to make a whole new set of friends every time they move.

And they keep up the fight to keep the family whole even when they feel a lump of dread every time they turn on the news, every time they switch on the computer, every time the phone rings and every time – worst of all – the doorbell rings. Every one of these events – which might mean a baseball score or a weather forecast or a FedEx man to me and my wife – might mean the news that the man they love, the man they have married for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, is now parted from them forever.

These women will never be on the cover of People. They will never be on the tabloid shows on TV about movie stars. But they are the power and the strength that keep America going. Without them, we are nothing at all. With them, we can do everything.

They are the glue that holds the nations together, stronger than politicians, stronger than talking heads, stronger than al Qaeda.

They deserve all the honor and love a nation can give. They have my prayers, and my wife’s, every morning and every night.

Love, and I do mean love, Ben.



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Sure, blogs are fun and all – but is that all you need? What is the use of subscribing to Proceedings? Hmmmm ….. interesting questions.

Well, one thing that makes it worth your time – it keeps you informed enough of developing ideas and concepts bubbl’n in the background, so when they break above the ambient noise you can say, “I know what the SECDEF is talking about – I remember reading …. ”

Case in point; SECDEF’s speech on 03 May 2010 to the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition. There are more than a few comparisons to make – but I want to focus on two concepts.

First, SECDEF quote 1.

The pattern of engagement is reflected in a range of activities around the world that would no doubt leave Alfred Thayer Mahan spinning in his grave: building partnership capacity through the Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea; training with friends and allies to secure vital shipping lanes in Southeast Asia; digging wells and building schools in Djibouti; leading multinational efforts to counter the scourge of piracy around the Horn of Africa; dispatching hospital ships to treat the poor and the destitute; helping with crises like the oil spill along the Gulf Coast; and responding to natural disasters, most recently in Haiti – efforts that demonstrate our servicemembers’ incredible compassion and decency.

SECDEF quote 2.

… aircraft carriers. Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040 and it’s in the budget. And to be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys. Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one? Any future plans must address these realities.

Two issues: engagement and the need for carriers.

Now something that came out last year in the APR 2009 Proceedings, CDR Henry J. Hendrix’s Buy Fords not Ferraris; gave the reader some Indications & Warnings – here’s how.

From CDR Hendrix’s article; quote 1.

Creating 16 of these squadrons, ten in the Pacific, six in the Atlantic, would allow the Navy to forward deploy six to eight squadrons at any given time, expanding American influence around the world. Pacific-based squadrons would routinely deploy to the east coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, the waters off Malaysia to include the Strait of Malacca, the archipelagic waters of Indonesia, the waters in and around the Philippines, and the regional waters near Japan and Korea.

Atlantic-based squadrons would visit the Caribbean, South America, the north and western coasts of Africa as well as pushing up into the Black Sea to visit Georgia, the Ukraine and other partners in the region. Sometimes, however, Influence Squadrons, no matter how well they are placed, will not have the necessary concentration of capabilities to meet the emergent challenges. It would be at this point that the next force along the scale of naval response would be dispatched.

Quote 2.

Currently the U.S. Navy has 11 CSGs (although it is temporarily seeking permission from Congress to dip below the legislatively mandated 11 carriers to decommission the long-serving USS Enterprise [CVN-65] prior to the USS George H. W. Bush’s [CVN-77] entering full service). At a conservative estimated price tag of $30 billion to construct and a daily operating cost in excess of a million dollars, carrier strike groups are quickly becoming prohibitively expensive to both build and deploy. When these characteristics are considered alongside rising threats and increasingly challenging operational environments, even more questions arise.

Step one is to abandon the idea of a Navy built around 11 or 12 carrier strike groups. These have become too expensive to operate, and too vulnerable to be risked in anything other than an unhostile environment. This is not to say that the carrier strike groups must be done away with, however, but the discussion of how many and where they fit in a new strategy comes later. Suffice it to say, dollars and billets recouped from a lower number of carrier strike groups should be invested in ships that are well suited for low to medium engagement.

If you want to see what other of Jerry’s ideas might pop out, EagleOne and I had him on Midrats as a guest twice, once on the subject of Preparing for the multi-polar world and a second time to talk about International Navies. You can also read his latest work in Proceedings, More Henderson, Less Bonds. CDR Hendrix is just one example of a professional who is competing in the market place of ideas. He’s in the game. You don’t have to agree with him – but he and the rest of those in the game make you think. Thinking is what free people do.

Who is leading the way on this new wave of naval strategic thought? Well – those who are in the game are. Those who are driving the creative friction that helps get a better view. A lot of them can be found right here. In the magazines, books, and dare I say blogs at USNI.

Get your puzzl’r puzzl’n. Feed your brain and get a year ahead of everyone else – heck, you might even get promoted for it.



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