Archive for October, 2010
Project Valour-IT, in memory of SFC William V. Ziegenfuss, helps provide voice-controlled/adaptive laptop computers and other technology to support Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines recovering from hand wounds and other severe injuries. Technology supplied includes:
- Voice-controlled Laptops – Operated by speaking into a microphone or using other adaptive technologies, they allow the wounded to maintain connections with the rest of the world during recovery.
- Wii Video Game Systems – Whole-body game systems increase motivation and speed recovery when used under the guidance of physical therapists in therapy sessions (donated only to medical facilities).
- Personal GPS – Handheld GPS devices build self-confidence and independence by compensating for short-term memory loss and organizational challenges related to severe TBI and severe PTSD.
View the graphic at the top right of this page to see our goal and where we are at so far.
We need your help because they need your help.
J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation, has the most thankless job in the Pentagon. This guy, more than anybody else, knows where the bodies are buried on various platforms–and nobody listens to him.
As a weapons tester and evaluator, he is hated by program managers, dismissed as a cantankerous, meddling fool by the programs dinged by DOT&E testers, and yet, sadly, his data-driven critiques are often right.
J. Michael Gilmore was the one who first raised the red flag about the Virginia Class–and it’s issues with troublesome subsystems. The Program Managers pushed back, got their two-hull per year production agreement inked and then, in the space of a few weeks, three Virginia Class subs showed up with their Special Hull Treatment in tatters. I blogged about it, and then the story went national.
J. Michael Gilmore is changing DOT&E. Usually public DOT&E stuff is buried in a hard-to-reach annual catalog for Congress, little-reported upon beyond the cozy confines of the Inside the Navy subscription wall (and, well, this blog and maybe Tim Colton). But things are changing. DOT&E reports are now posted, here.
And J. Michael Gilmore is talking.
When you mention the possibility of an Electro Magnetic Pulse attack (EMP) – people have a reaction of, “What?” – either that or they get all fidgety or roll their eyes. Is the EMP threat trick or treat? Join us this Halloween to discuss the issue with their guests Jason Sigger, defense policy analyst, opinion writer and blogger (Armchair Generalist) for the first half of the hour. For the second half of the hour, James Carafano, Ph.D., Deputy Director, The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies and Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation.
For a recent Armchair Generalist blog post on EMP, see here.
For a recent Dr. Carafano piece on EMP, see here.
Wikipedia on EMP.
Not really a debate, but . . . how big a threat? Listen and then decide — how afraid to be.
Walking into the banquet room at the Annapolis Marriot Hotel, I realized I was the only person below 0-3. Slightly outranked, I mingled my way to the cheese and crackers. With the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, the SACEUR, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a host of flag and general officers present, I didn’t exactly want to draw too much attention to myself. Where was I? The Naval Institute’s Honors Dinner, which I was fortunate enough to attend. But, I must admit, I didn’t know what to expect.
After devouring some of the delicious food, I began talking with the other guests about life at the Academy and general naval issues. I met dozens of successful active and retired officers- all dedicated to our country and our Navy. During the dinner, I sat next to “he who must not be named,” a former naval aviator.
During the dinner, ADM Stavridis, SACEUR, delivered the keynote address. I had the chance to interview ADM Stavridis a month ago and very much looked forward to meeting him. He gave me his coin, an autographed copy of his book Destroyer Captain (a very interesting read), and a shout-out in his speech. We midshipmen rarely interact with any flag officer, much less the SACEUR, so I feel extremely lucky to have had the opportunity to both interview and meet him.
After the event, I fully comprehended the importance of the Institute’s work. Any organization entrusted with the responsibility of defending a nation should have an independent think-tank to stimulate ideas and encourage innovation. The Institute receiving too many articles to print highlights an important and positive fact. For naval officers, the possibility of publishing their own articles encourages them to reflect on ways to better our Navy. Even if their articles never make it into Proceedings, they still benefit by writing about original solutions to complex problems.
In the week following the 2010 USNI History Conference; Piracy on the High Seas, there are two points that have staying power for me. They help describe why we are having such a difficult time fixing a relatively basic function of a sea power with literally the entire written history of mankind to tap into for examples about how to solve it.
This isn’t a new problem even if you have a shortsighted view of history. Just sticking to “new media” – our friend EagleOne was blogg’n about piracy from the start – well before piracy was “cool.” Check out his archive and you can see the arch from SE Asia to the Horn of Africa and a few other garden spots in between.
The problem isn’t piracy itself; it is our inability to take decisive action to eliminate it. Once again, it boils down to solid, informed leadership – leadership that is allowing itself to be confused by two things – the same two things that are still bouncing around my nogg’n a week after the conference.
Peer Review vs. Prop-wash
The first problem was indirectly pointed out by LCDR B.J. Armstrong, USN via his opening statement during the first panel;
“Hey, I’m just an operator … ”
… at the assembled academics and recidivist Staff Weenies encircling him.
His opening reminded me of a very clear point; in piracy like many things, we are suffering from analysis paralysis. Academics, researchers, and historians are very important parts of the discussion, but when we give them too much weight – and minimize the opinion and the observations of the operator – then we get what we reward; talk and discussion – and the finer points of rejoinders to introspective quandaries. I call it The Darfur Effect.
In The Darfur Effect, we have a very serious and very difficult problem that all agree is very serious and very difficult. As any good academic, researcher, and historian will tell you – the best response to such things is to get grant money, organize symposiums, publish some papers, and even better get some time in front of a Congressional committee or a temporary assignment with an IO, NGO, or GO working on a White Paper on the subject.
That is all good and well – but if that is your primary focus, and you give most of the time, money, and power to that focus – nothing really is done. Like Darfur, after the clucking of tongues and interviews on PBS’s Frontline – few are saved and the problem isn’t solved. Well, in the case of Darfur where each new finds that there is a very limited and dwindling number of Darfuris to save, eventually there are few to none to save and the problem solves itself, in a fashion.
Piracy is different in one respect. Unchecked, it grows. Unlike the case of Darfur where the people there are trying to be eliminated faster than they can replace themselves – with piracy like all lawlessness – it grows when ignored. Mitigation or elimination requires decisive operations. Yes, we have anti-piracy operations, but are they really that effective? The proof that we are still talking about this after so many years shows that no, they are not effective.
Does anyone think that we have not talked enough about piracy? In more time than we took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, we are still roughly talking about the same issues we were in 2005.
Ideas we have – good Direction and Guidance based on a sound Operational Concept derived from the best ideas we do not have.
DC-10s, Pintos, and Kismaayo
The best speech for its substance, subject, and delivery was at lunch by a non-military, non-historian, non-academic; the Senior Vice President of Maersk Line, Limited – Stephen M. Carmel.
He had no difficulty in getting people to stop chewing for a moment as he came of the blocks with his spines out and claws extended. He wasn’t hostile – but he gave a delivery in a manner that told you he knew that many people would not like what he had to say, many have never thought of things from his point of view – and something that warmed my heart – he had a BM1’s sense of not suffering fools lightly.
Mr. Carmel knows his business. Unlike most, he has to know his business – he has a firm understanding of sunk cost, opportunity cost, cost benefit, and comparative advantage. He actually has metrics that cannot – legally at least – be fudged or pushed into the next fiscal year. He doesn’t work in a career that is based on the conveyor belt mentality of promotion – he must perform or he will be replaced.
Such an environment can do much to clear the mind, and his presentation was focused and fact based. I won’t go into the double-ledger aspects of it all, but let me summarize it for you; piracy is a commercial non-issue for him and his company. They have, do, and will pay ransom when needed. They can mitigate piracy’s impact on their bottom line. If you need a justification for doing something about piracy – don’t use Maersk’s business needs as it.
From his area of responsibility, he has a point – but I don’t think he has the final answer either. When the green eyeshade becomes the green blinder, we often find ourselves in trouble. There were very sound business decisions made concerning the DC-10 and the Ford Pinto – but they were morally indefensible. I don’t think leaving hundreds of men languishing off some septic Somali port for hundreds of days is moral.
Though Carmel’s thoughts should be part of the discussion – it should be but a small part of a balanced view. Piracy is part of the general cancer of maritime disorder – a violent symptom along with its less directly dangerous pollution and industrial fishing sisters. Piracy is a barrier to freedom of the seas, and if left alone will grow and impact what was once an area where goods were free to flow to markets with minimal external interference.
It will grow along the same lines as the “broken window” theory of crime states that if not aggressively countered, crime will continue to grow and alter the larger culture in ways not fully understood – but never in a better way.
Those are the macro reasons – the micro ones are even more important. Hundreds of people are being held against their will as hostages by pirates. If those people were mostly Canadian, American, British, and German as opposed to South Asian and Philippino – does anyone here think that we would be sitting here talking about it being a non-issue? Really?
That is the moral reason. Sometimes, like with the anti-slavery operations by the British in the 19th Century – you do things because it is the right and moral thing to do, especially in those things that do not require a lot of blood or treasure to execute. Political and economic benefits will follow the moral – and if they don’t at least you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning.
In an age of moral equivalence and a bias against stating what is or is not acceptable, doing things because it is “the moral thing” to do is problematic perhaps – but ponder this: what makes you more uncomfortable – setting an acceptable price on another man’s freedom, or punishing those who decide to earn their living from crime and the enslavement of others?
ADM James Stavridis has blogged most of the contents of the speech he gave at the US Naval Institute awards ceremony last Wednesday night. As I mentioned last week, I was in attendance of this event sitting right in the middle of the room with one of the very few Navy Junior officers in attendance. Read the Admiral’s blog post in full, then come back.
I am only 34 years old, and I was easily one of the youngest people in the room. I note this because I also noted there were only a handful of other younger folks in attendance for honors night. There were exactly two naval officers under the rank of Captain in the room who didn’t have “aide de camp” identification on their uniform (LCDR BJ Armstrong and LCDR Claude Berube – both of whom were part of the USNI History Conference earlier that day). The other younger people in the room consisted of one Marine Corporal who was attending out of uniform, my fellow USNI blogger midshipmen John (Jack) James, CDR Salamander, and the Admirals daughter.
That’s it. Everyone else in attendance was older and in some way had almost certainly been part of the Naval Institute family for years, if not decades.
Read the speech by Admiral Stavridis again and ask why in that room of dignitaries that included some of the most accomplished Navy writers over the last few decades; a 4-star Admiral gives a speech that in my mind specifically targets the smallest audience in the room – younger folks – and encourages them to write.
Only the Admiral knows why he chose to make that speech in that room, but I believe observers can safely draw two conclusions. First, Admiral Stavridis has a deep, personal passion for writing, and second – I believe the audience was bigger than that room.
As I encounter junior officers in the maritime services who want to write, but haven’t quite figured out how to start, I’d point out something ADM Stavridis mentioned in his blog post a great starting place.
Write about what you actually know something about.
That may sound like simple advice, but it is important. When I run into junior officers who express the desire to write, but haven’t quite figured out how to get started – I usually probe the officer with a few questions on the subject they want to write about. One thing I typically find among young Navy officers who want to write about their profession is that they have a really solid historical background on their profession. In my opinion as a reader, history is always a great place to start with writing.
Just ask ADM John Harvey Jr., who on Monday posted about the Battle of Leyte Gulf on the 60th anniversary of the largest naval battle in history. I have read both Last Stand of The Tin Can Sailors and Sea of Thunder: Four Commanders and the Last Great Naval Campaign 1941-1945, but that didn’t make ADM Harvey’s version any less interesting – indeed the way he personalized the historical event into the context of today is precisely what made his comments interesting.
As I noted the other day on my blog, the winner of the Proceedings writer this year who was honored last Wednesday night was Captain Vic Addison, who in addition to his 4 Proceedings articles this year also wrote two articles on my blog over the last year.
If you consider publishing in a magazine a step too far for a first shot at writing and would like an opportunity to publish on a blog – even if it is just for practice – let me know and I will help facilitate your effort as best I can. I do understand there are conditions younger officers encounter where your chain of command only prefers you to publish to certain accredited organizations – and in that case I already have permission to publish articles here on the USNI blog if Information Dissemination isn’t suitable to your requirements.
The messages both direct and by example that both ADM Stavridis and ADM Harvey are sending is critical. We are in the early stages of a global, social information sharing age where power exists in ideas, and the benefits of shared ideas can and often do extend beyond the periphery of our intended audiences. The message of the maritime services is ideally advocated and evangelized by those inside the bubble who put pen to paper, and at no time in history has their been a better opportunity to join the conversation than right now with the emerging social mediums.
At a time when we are seeing generational turnover within the officer ranks of the maritime services, there is also no better time to evangelize the ideas of the maritime services in the pages of Proceedings and Naval History magazine. As Admiral Stavridis points out, “if you write a page or a paragraph here and there—while on an airplane or in a car ride—eventually you’ll have a good piece. Do that in an organized way over a year, and you’ll have a book. What seems like a big commitment in time is so often just a series of small steps.”
There is good news on the piracy front as a pirate attack is foiled through the use of a ‘Citadel Room’. Here is the story as found on Fairplay Shipping News:
Beluga crew evades pirates
THE GERMAN multipurpose ship Beluga Fortune has resumed its voyage to South Africa after a failed hijacking attempt by Somali pirates.
The pirates boarded the 12,744dwt vessel about 1,200 n-miles off Kenya on 24 October, but were unable to navigate the ship towards the African coast, the ship’s owner Beluga said. The engine and bunker feed systems had been shut down by the ship’s 16 Filipino, Russian and German crew members, who were hiding in a citadel room.
The attackers fled yesterday when the British frigate Monrose arrived at the scene.
Beluga managing partner Niels Stolberg lauded the crew for its “cool-headed” behaviour and for undertaking professional safety measures.
“We are very proud of our team aboard the ship. It confirms our strategic view that investments into safety are good investments,” he said. – Fairplay
As you can imagine, a ‘Citadel Room’ is a secure hiding place for the crew. This space gives naval forces the time needed to get to the scene of the attack. As the old saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Traditionally naval forces have declined to intervene once pirates have boarded a ship out of concern for harming crew members in any action to retake the vessel. This has been a problem because it was almost impossible for naval forces to respond in time given that it only takes a couple of minutes for pirates to board vessels and help is often at least 30 minutes away. However, when the pirates fail to capture crew members, they are left exposed to attack by the next passing naval force. And in this case all it took was the appearance of a naval vessel, and the inability to navigate the vessel, to convince the pirates to abandon their catch.
Merchant ships have a guide they can use to prepare for transiting pirate-infested waters. It is called the Best Management Practices 3.
Best Management Practices 3 (BMP3) is now available for the public in booklets and on www.mschoa.org. It represents a real step change; the booklet will significantly encourage wider adoption of self protection measures by ships transiting the High Risk Areas and ultimately help reduce the number of pirated ships off the coast of Somalia.
The purpose of the Industry Best Management Practices (BMP) is to assist ships to avoid, deter or delay piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden (GoA) and the Arabian Sea. Experience, supported by data collected by Counter Piracy Forces, shows that the application of the recommendations contained within this booklet can and will make a significant difference in preventing a ship becoming a victim of piracy.
BMP has become fully recognized as the standard for guidance and protection for shipping from piracy off the coast of Somalia across the Global Maritime Community. 25,000 copies of the booklet will be published and the intentions of Industry are to make the booklet freely available and ensure wide and effective distribution of this booklet is achieved so that the booklet will become standard documentation on the bridge of all Merchant Ships. Where possible, this booklet should be read with reference to the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa website (www.mschoa.org), which provides additional and updated advice. As intelligence has been gathered and lessons learned evaluated, industry has been able to update and revise this guidance, which has been harmonised and coordinated by all concerned parties during the revision process. – EU NAVFOR Somalia
You can view the manual here: http://www.mschoa.org/bmp3/Documents/BMP3%20Final_low.pdf
The guide comments on Citadels as follows:
(ii) Citadel Guidelines:
A Citadel is a designated pre-planned area purpose built into the ship where, in the event of imminent boarding by pirates, all crew will seek protection. A Citadel is designed and constructed to resist a determined pirate trying to gain entry. Such a space would probably have, but not be limited to, its own self-contained air-conditioning, emergency rations, water supply, good external communications, emergency shut-down capability for the main and auxiliary engines,
and remotely operated CCTV cameras.
A Citadel is to provide longer term protection of the crew.
Ship Operators and Masters are strongly advised to check directly with MSCHOA regarding the use of Citadels (see contact details in Annex A).
The whole concept of the Citadel approach is lost if any crew member is left outside before it is secured.
The ability to communicate is very important as the crew needs to be able to confirm that they are all in a secured space and that anyone a potential boarding party encounters can safely be assumed to be hostile.
The guide is negative on the use of defensive force such as weapons and pyrotechnics, which I disagree with (As noted here ‘Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem‘ and here ‘On Defending Unarmed Merchant Ships Against Pirates‘), but otherwise it is a good guide and resource for vessels transiting the area to reduce their risk of being taken over by pirates.
If you were unable to attend our 2010 History Conference, Piracy on the High Seas: Can History Help Defeat Present-Day Pirates?, you missed a thought-provoking speech by Stephen M. Carmel. Mr. Carmel is Senior Vice President, Maersk Line, Limited. He is responsible for all technical and operating activities at MLL. He previously held positions in operations and finance for U.S. Marine Management, Inc. and MLL.
Steve began his career sailing as a deck officer and Master primarily on tankers for Maritime Overseas Corp. and the Military Sealift Command.
In 1979 Steve graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and holds a M.A. in Economics and a M.B.A. from Old Dominion University. Steve is currently pursuing a Ph.D. with an emphasis in International Political Economy. He is also a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and is Certified in Financial Management (CFM). Steve is also on the Chief of Naval Operations Executive Panel (N00K).
Good afternoon distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to offer my views on the current forms of piracy in a historical context. I think this is a great topic because trying to understand modern day piracy, and especially Somali piracy, by looking at the past can lead to a distorted view of what’s happening off the Horn of Africa now. It is very possible to learn the wrong lessons from history and distorted perspectives lead to distorted policy. It seems to be very popular amongst the press and talking heads to compare, at least on a high level, today’s situation off the coast of Somalia with that of the Barbary pirates during the tenure of Thomas Jefferson. The quote, often attributed to Jefferson, of “millions for defense, not a penny for tribute” is usually tossed out with gusto during this comparison. The general thrust of that comparison is that the US knew how to take care of business back then, unlike now where we’re letting the pirates win. But, as with much else about equating Somali pirates to those of Barbary, attributing that quote to Jefferson is wrong. Thomas Jefferson did not say that, at least not originally. Charles Pinckney said it in 1798, during the Presidency of John Adams, in reaction to a French demand for what amounted to tribute after they had seized 300 or so US merchant ships – in what became known to history as the XYZ affair. The quasi war with France is what prompted Adams to approach congress about funding a Navy and completing the three ships remaining of the 6 ordered under the Naval Act of 1794. So since one of the central rallying cries of the “Somalia is a modern day Barbary” crowd is suspect, I’d like to explore that comparison a little more, and as many of you that know me and my somewhat contrarian outlook on this whole topic would expect, I find that comparison wanting.
So, what exactly was the situation regarding the Barbary pirates. Since this is a history conference you’ll no doubt get a detailed discussion of that topic from others more qualified than me. In fact I tread into this area with some trepidation given the stature of the real historians in the room. I am an ex-ships master and current participant in international trade professionally, and an economist academically – none of which qualifies me as a historian. So it is with all due respect to Dr. Murphy, Dr. Lunsford, and the other real historians with us today that I’ll make a stab at it and cover some high level issues that I think are worthwhile and have relevance to policy discussions.
First we have the overall position of the US in world affairs. Back then the US was a fledgling nation whose primary concern was survival. We were at odds with the dominate powers in the world, especially France and Britain. As I noted, the French were busier seizing American merchant ships than were the pirates, and demanding tribute to stop the practice. The French actually seized about 3 times more US flag ships than we currently have in our entire foreign going fleet. Overall the US lost over 600 merchant men to all actors of all stripes. Our relationship with Britain was not good to say the least, with the English kicking the US out of the Caribbean / US trade, the dominate trade of the US merchant marine then, and of course our trade with most of Europe was difficult at best. That is why the US headed to the Mediterranean to begin with – we had few other good options for trade and during our time as a British colony we had developed a very profitable trade with Med countries under the protection of the British (including the payment of tribute) so it was a logical place to look.
At approximately 1100 today, General James T. Conway, 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps, will relinquish his duties to General James F. Amos.
General Conway was the first Commandant since General L. F. Chapman nearly forty years ago not to have served in Vietnam, and the first Commandant to have had command of Marines in the Iraq war. General Conway commanded I MEF during OIF I and OIF II, during which time the Commanding General of I MEF’s 1st Marine Division was none other than MajGen James N. Mattis. The combination of the skill, fortitude, and personal courage of these two men cannot be underestimated when recounting how US forces (with a significant US Army presence) held the field during the dark days in 2004-05 in All Anbar Province. We stayed, and fought, and held, and won because of men such as General Conway, even as voices from all corners told the world it couldn’t be done.
General Conway’s tenure as 34th Commandant of the Marine Corps has been marked by an unwavering focus on the Marines in the fight, which is precisely where it needed to be. The Marines, from the most junior Private to the senior Generals, are grateful and honored to have served for and with this Warrior.
General Conway also held the line with his convictions as a Marine and a leader, when he must have faced enormous pressure to otherwise relent. He is a Marine’s Marine, and he will be missed.
General James F. Amos now takes the con. The wisdom of selection of an Aviator to command the most infantry-centric fighting force in America’s arsenal can be debated. But General Amos is a Marine Aviator, and is imbued with the spirit and character that is the hallmark of all Marines, that every Marine is a rifleman, and it is the rifleman who has the hardest fight, and the rifleman who wins us the battles.
General Amos will have the exceptional good fortune to retain the services of SgtMaj Carlton W. Kent as Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps. SgtMaj Kent, whose legacy as a Warrior and leader of Marines is as strong as any Marine, enlisted or commissioned, will continue to be the guidepost of professionalism for our superb SNCOs, NCOs, and junior Marines.
God Bless and Godspeed to General Amos as he begins his time as the Commandant of our beloved Corps.
Fair Winds and Following Seas to General Conway. He has left a deep and indelible imprint on the Marine Corps, and on the many thousands of Marines whose mettle was tested in the furnace of combat under his command and leadership. His place will be prominent in the Corps’ legacy of valor. The Warriors always are.
General Patton, the Army’s Halsey, was one of the most energetic and colorful officers in WWII. From rescuing the 101st Airborne Division at the Battle of the Bulge to turning around the U.S. campaign in North Africa, Patton succeeded as a combat leader. Patton’s success as a military officer and leader laid in his enthusiasm. Patton wanted to lead men into combat and devoted every ounce of energy to better his ability to do so.
Where does one get enthusiasm? Patton certainly developed his at an early age. As a boy, Patton learned cavalry tactics from none other than Colonel John Mosby, CSA. Col. Mosby, a Confederate cavalry officer, established his own unit, “Mosby’s Rangers,” and waged guerrilla warfare against Federal troops in western Virginia. Mosby re-enacted his battles on horseback with the young Patton, teaching Patton the value of a quick, aggressive attack against your enemy. This interaction inspired Patton to eventually lead his own cavalry units in combat. And Patton would, just with mechanized cavalry. In North Africa, Patton adapted Mosby’s tactics to tank warfare against the infamous “Desert Fox.”
Of course, we don’t all have the opportunity to learn from famous Civil War officers. Most enthusiasm stems from wanting to do a job well, not necessarily from job satisfaction (though that helps). You may hate your actual job, but you can still stay enthusiastic if you want to do that miserable job well. Patton believed his destiny was to lead men into battle, but during the inter-war years, he didn’t get that opportunity. Even so, his enthusiasm for the military caused him to stay enthusiastic during this “off” period and prepare himself for possible future battles. He published innovative ways to employ the Army’s new armored units, studied heroism citations to figure out how to instill heroism, and lobbied Congress for more funding for armored units. Again, this research was not Patton’s real passion; he wanted to employ his tank tactics, write heroism citations for his own men, and maneuver his army in the tanks Congress appropriated. But the knowledge Patton acquired during this time certainly paid great dividends during the WWII.