Archive for July, 2010
Twelve pages into Samuel Eliot Morison’s The Two-Ocean War and I’ve already found myself setting the work aside and getting lost in thought regarding the stark similarities between the interwar Navy of 1917-’41 and the Navy I serve in today. I feel compelled to quote from it at some length. The Author received a letter from VADM Deyo while he was still writing the work.
The surface Navy, despite lack of funds from Congress or interest by its civilian heads, produced a reasonable semblance of a balanced fleet and operated effectively as one in its training. The spur of officer selection and ship competition was most noticeable. But gradually the means became the end. Thus, while everyone worked hard, we began going in circles. The Fleet became more and more tied to bases, operating out of Long Beach–San Diego on a tight fuel budget, chained to the increasingly artificial, detailed mandates of the Office of Fleet Training whose word was law. The pencil became sharper than the sword, everyone tried to beat the target practice rules and too many forgot there was a war getting closer. There was a waiting line for top commands, and tenure of office was so short–often only a year or less–that high commanders came and went, leaving little impression. Paper work wrapped its deadly tentacles around cabin and wardroom. Smart ship handling, smart crews, eager initiative received little attention, as did the reverse. Glaring defects in guns, ammunition, torpedoes, battle tactics, went unnoticed for so long as the competition rules made due allowances and gave everyone similar conditions.
The Competition the Admiral is speaking of is the Battle Efficiency Competition instituted by President T. Roosevelt in 1902 as a solution for the Navy’s poor gunnery in the Spanish-American War. The competition worked Morison says, for the first seven years. After which time however, the competition became institutionalized and the effort became more about the process itself than it was about increasing our efficiency in battle.
Looking at where we are today, we find ourselves in a very similar situation. The Commands charged with the training of the Fleet have changed, the methods by which we choose to train have changed. But, the same basic problem with ‘process worship’ or ‘churn’ exists today.
One issue that seems to be a constant undercurrent is the amount of time, resources, focus and energy we spent on establishing, refining, and participating in various processes instead of on the actual output of the process. This worship of process over product (“churn”) results in people going through the motions, with little to no understanding of its original purpose, resulting in very little output.
Admiral Harvey said that at his place last April. The solution to churn in ’35 was that CNO Admiral Standley ended the battle efficiency competition and had his Fleet train in more realistic and less idealized conditions. What ADM Standley did was not exactly innovative, rather it was new for the time. I am sure that the salty old Chiefs at that time were telling their Sailors that ‘this is how we used to train’ or ‘we’re getting brilliant on the basics’. From what I have read, he didn’t institute a replacement program–as large and complex as the original–for the Battle Efficiency Competition program. Rather, he just removed what was not necessary and counterproductive, adding only small substantive changes.
Any process over time will accumulate churn, or become bloated. We should assume this to be unavoidable and accept that we must eliminate major portions of programs and start anew with the same basic goal we had with the initial program, so that that this cycle can start over again, as those who’ve gone before us have had to do.
Midrats is back live and coming at you with a packed show. Today, Sunday 11 JUN 2010 at 5pm EST for a full hour.
Please join my co-host and fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne as we to discuss everything from making the case for the Navy, the coming budget crunch, piracy, Haiti, to the response to the BP oil spill – and more.
Our guests will be Dr. Daniel Goure, Vice President with the Lexington Institute, Professor Robert C. (Barney) Rubel, Dean for the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the United States Naval War College, and another USNIBlogg’r – our resident Merchant Marine expert extraordinaire, Fred Fry.
Join us live if you can and pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room during the show where you can offer your own questions and observations to our guests. If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.
So if, over the next two years, the 7,804 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells in the surface fleet suddenly acquired a Prompt Global Strike capability? It’s gonna happen.
As I wrote over at defensetech.org:
Putting PGS into the VLS does something far more interesting than just “add capability”. It changes everything. PGS on a surface ship transforms the largely “defensive” nature of the U.S. surface combatant/carrier escort to, well, “offense”.
And that shift from the “Missile Defense” destroyer or “Air Defense” cruiser of old to a “Global Strike Combatant” will pose a real conceptual challenge for everybody–from those walking Aegis deckplates to any potential adversaries.
The idea that America’s 7,804 VLS cells may soon gain the ability to rain almost instant havoc on targets some 2,000 nm away should put a bit of a damper on those who counted on overwhelming a hunkered-down and relatively passive “defense-oriented” AEGIS fleet. It’s a big deal.
You heard it here first–A shift of the U.S. surface combatant fleet from defense to offense is a real game changer.
This is one of the best posts on Strategic and Operational Planning that I have read since I taught the thing.
There is so much good there, I had trouble getting a pull quote – but here is a teaser that hits on a lot of the problem the Navy has had from DDG-1000 to LPD-17′s diesels.
In the past, priests created complex liturgies, lawyers created complex law codes, and scribes created complex writing systems. The complexity they introduced and strove to maintain created information asymmetries that allowed them to maintain their power and control over the masses. In our times, the same thirst for control led to the creation of intentional complexities like collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), credit default swaps (CDSs), mortgage-backed securities (MBSs), littoral combat ships (LCS), thousand page legislative bills, ever thickening law books, capstone concepts, and, yes, magic bullets. Complexity is power and credentialed complexity is more power. Given enough people creating enough information asymmetries, whatever feedback loops left standing become so calcified that the whole social system becomes fragile.Ideas of strategic paralysis, where victory is dependent upon an intentional complexity of knowledge so perfect that you can identify enemy centers of gravity exactly and target them exactly and hit them exactly, are equally prone to failure. The possibility, as Kiras points out, of friction destroying the best laid plans, turning the tables, and surprising a budding wielder of strategic paralysis is even greater than the chance to inflict strategic paralysis on the enemy. The user of strategic complexity is as likely to be caught in his own trap as he is to spring it on the enemy. He has a big target on his chest that is clearly labeled HIT ME WITH A BLACK SWAN. PLEASE.
A strategy of attrition is more robust: create a strategic margin of safety and poke the other guy till he gives in. Tactics used in a framework of strategic attrition are small, discrete, and compartmentalized. One mistake isn’t fatal. Attrition supports an iterative approach where trial and error can be employed. The tactics that work best can be learned and shared. The tactics that fail can be abandoned and forgotten. If attrition had a slogan it would be REDUNDANCY, REDUNDANCY, REDUNDANCY. Diversify. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Attrition is the strategy your grandmother would follow if your grandmother happened to lead a war effort.
Unfortunately, contemporary Americans are obsessed with the comparative advantages of efficiency. The coming of the spreadsheet and other information technology enabled a generation of MBAs and their fellow travelers to practice false prophecy and false economy on a scale beyond the imagination of previous generations. Redundancies make the MBA and the quartermaster blue; there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth in the Gehenna of accounts payable. It is tactically logical to eliminate redundancies as inefficient: the human mind is inherently reductionist.
Something we once knew – but got too “smart” to remember. Read it all.
Hat tip AndrewB.
Holidays always have a uniqueness to them while deployed. Since ’06 I’ve been gone for every Thanksgiving, two Christmases and three New Years (including duty days). Just to name the ‘big ones’. This fourth however, is my first while not in the States. Does it bother me? Not really, I’ve always been with good people during the holidays. Everyone in the States seems to bend over backwards to make sure we all know that we’re being thought of, prayed for, significant others looked out for–basically anything we could hope for while gone. Care packages are everywhere, just about everyone gets them, I really can’t think of anyone who doesn’t.
The following I wrote to the Editor of my hometown’s local paper, if I am remembering correctly I sent it to them back in October and it was published in November. Being deployed during a holiday is worth it because of what we have to return to. In this letter, I tried to make that point.
I am a Sailor in the United States Navy, on my second deployment in support of the Global War on Terrorism. During my first deployment, this time last year, my Father posted my picture and my address in the Transylvania Times. I received over two-hundred letters and care packages from you. I can not thank you enough for taking the time out of your day to stop and think about me and those of us deployed around the World. Sentiments such as many of you expressed mean more to me and the others like myself than words can express. However, If I can ask one thing for you to do for me in lieu of sending cookies or care packages, to honor those of us who are in harms way, it would be this: Take the best care of each other and our home as you can.
I am over here, in Afghanistan, to make sure that home and the world as a whole is safer. I am doing all that I can out here. But, I am out here; not at home. There is little I can do to take care of you and the mountains that I love. We are out here fighting this war because our home and our way of life is worth fighting for. I can think of no better ‘thank you’ that anyone could give a Service Member than having him return to a home that is better than he left it. Seeing the world as I have, from the shores of Somalia to, now the Hindu Kush of Afghanistan, you learn one thing: That a location is only as good as its people allow it to be. Transylvania County is a special place, unlike anywhere I’ve been out of twenty-two Countries. Please do everything you can to take care of and cherish it.
Very Respectfully, Henry Lucien Gauthier III
Petty Officer Second Class (Surface Warfare) United States Navy
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan
During this fourth, don’t just think of us over here as being who made our Nation as good as it is. Just the same, all of you make home worth fighting for.
Happy fourth! And if you would, drink an extra beer for me!
Breathes there a soul so dead that these words don’t send a chill through the spine?
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them,…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,…
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States;
Read the entire docment here.
The parchment is aged and water stained, the ink faded and behind the thick, bullet proof glass it is difficult to discern. And yet — and yet the power of those words have shaken empires to their very roots and given hope to generations. The future they but dimly perceived, we live today. This is what it means to risk it all – in the hope, fear and prayer that the course you are charting will mean a better tomorrow; to know that there is no out, no “Plan B”…
There is a common thread found in most MISHAPS, especially when the primary cause was a breakdown in fundamentals – such as running a ship aground on a charted reef in broad daylight, or running a perfectly good aircraft off a perfectly good runway in perfectly good weather.
Another common thread is the sad and unfortunate end of the life or career of good officers because of a breakdown and lack of focus.
If you can keep focused on fundamentals – don’t run your ship aground and don’t cause a Class A MISHAP – then the other things usually fall in to place nicely. Distractions, holding an award’s ceremony or investing your days in paper and face-time, pull your attention away from the important things and put you in danger. The further disconnected the distractions are from your core mission, the greater the danger they are to you and those you lead.
I would offer two things for your consideration. First, grab a drink and then come back. If you don’t have the redacted IG report on VADM Fowler’s stewardship of funds at USNA – you can get it here.
Now that you have it, I would like you to do two simple word searches. Do a search for “Diversity” and then for “football.”
If you are looking for contributing causes of VADM Fowler’s ignominious exit from USNA – poor financial management being the primary cause – then I think you have it in the breathless pursuit of Diversity and D1 football.
Look at how many of the problems outlined in the IG report – inside, on, and outside the lines of acceptability – were related to the pursuit of Diversity and D1 football. This isn’t surprising.
Diversity (with at capital “D”, that is bad – as opposed to diversity with a small “d” that is good) as it is practiced by the USN in general and USNA in particular is not about equal opportunity, broadening the pool of potential officers, or even making the USN look “more like the nation it serves.” No, it is a retrograde socio-political theology grounded firmly on racialist theories from the 1970s that have no relevance in the 21st Century. It is pushed by agenda driven politicians and opinion makers bolstered by a Diversity Industry that needs sectarian division in order to make payroll. It is enabled by uniformed leadership that is willing to sacrifice integrity and youth in order to curry favor for money, status, awards, and the privileges of seniority.
It is well documented that USNA takes exceptional measures in the recruitment, retention, education, and treatment of select Midshipmen for the expressed purpose of being able to play Division One football.
Let’s look at USNA’s Mission:
The Mission:To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character, to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.
USNA’s pursuit of the corrosive sectarianism of “Diversity” and the “living vicariously” immature vanity that is D1 football at a Service Academy are unnatural acts in pursuit of their mission. Like all attempts to do something unnatural – to make it happen takes measures well out of line of what is normally expected – and usually ultimately destructive.
To make it worse – the Command Climate at USNA has not been welcoming to those who voiced concern with the direction it was going in pursuit of Diversity and D1 football.
The results of this toxic soup? Well – read the report. It speaks for itself.
The lesson? Get back to fundamentals. Get back to objective standards. Focus on all of the Midshipmen. Focus on what a Service Academy is supposed to do – build leaders to bring Sailors and Marines to victory at war.
We are better than this.