Archive for April, 2012
On the eve of the centennial of the Titanic disaster, Proceedings Managing Editor Fred Schultz caught up with Hollywood director and deep-sea explorer James Cameron. They talked about the history and current exploration of the deep ocean, modern construction of deep-submersibles, and the importance of Navy (and Naval Institute) involvement in all of it. He made it clear from the start that he was speaking to a Navy “forum.”
The College of the Holy Cross is a small Jesuit four-year Liberal Arts college ensconced on a breathtakingly beautiful campus on Mount St James, in Worcester, Massachusetts. A top academic institution, Holy Cross was once a national powerhouse in football, basketball, and baseball. Today it retains its academic standing, while its sports teams boast a more modest level of excellence.
Its small enrollment of 2,500 belies an amazingly rich and significant Naval Service heritage. Holy Cross was the site of one of the first Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps units, established in 1942, and was one of the very few NROTC to survive the anti-military backlash during and after the Vietnam War. Among the fifteen graduates of Holy Cross who have worn stars in the Navy and the Marine Corps are Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, BGen Michael P. Downs, and USNI’s own VADM Peter Daly. Captain Tom Kelly, USN (Ret.), who wears the Medal of Honor, is another alumnus. Assistant Marine Commandant General Joe Dunford was the Marine Officer Instructor at Holy Cross in the late 80s.
Yet two of the most distinguished servicemen from Holy Cross never came near the General or Flag Officer ranks. Their stories are quite remarkable on their own. How they and their lives are intertwined is truly extraordinary.
John Vincent Power was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1918, a week after the Armistice which ended The Great War. He was smart and athletically gifted, and graduated from Worcester’s now-defunct Classical High School in 1937. From there, John attended the College of the Holy Cross, where he played basketball and football, and golf. John graduated in 1941, in the last of the peacetime classes, as war clouds once again gathered in the east and west. In July of 1942, John enlisted in the United States Marine Corps, was sent to OCS, and commissioned in October of 1942. Like so many of his age and time, John died on a far away battlefield, in a place few had heard of. On 1 February 1944, while leading a platoon of K/24th Marines on Namur, First Lieutenant John V. Power was killed by enemy fire while charging a Japanese emplacement. He was not yet 26. But his bravery did not go unnoticed. Power was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. He is buried in St Mary’s Cemetery in Worcester.
While John V. Power was a student at Holy Cross, he took two courses in Mathematics from a bespectacled, gray-flecked professor who was the head of the Mathematics Department. That professor was Father Joseph Timothy O’Callahan, SJ. “Father Joe”, left Holy Cross in 1940, to join the Navy as a Chaplain. While serving as Chaplain (for less than three weeks) of USS Franklin (CV-13) on 19 March 1945, while the carrier was operating near Honshu, Lieutenant Commander O’Callahan ran repeatedly into the smoke-filled, flaming carnage that was the hangar deck to save sailors trapped below. The famous picture of Chaplain O’Callahan ministering Absolution on a tilting flight deck is one of the iconic images of the Pacific War. For his heroism, Father O’Callahan was awarded his own Medal of Honor.
Their time together at Holy Cross, student and teacher, and their “conspicuous gallantry” are, incredibly, not the only connections between these extraordinary men. Father O’Callahan left the active Navy and returned to the classroom at Holy Cross in 1948. Near the end of his life, while in St Vincent’s Hospital in Worcester, one of the attending nurses for the ailing Father Joe was was Patricia (Power) Rose, sister of 1stLt John V. Power. Father O’Callahan died in March of 1964. He was just 58. He is buried in the Jesuit Cemetery on the Holy Cross campus.
CDR Salamander and I venture again into the world of live internet radio Sunday, April 15 at 5pm (1700) U.S. Eastern with our Episode 119 Offshore Balancing the Indian Ocean 04/15 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio:
What is real, and what is a mirage? Can something be a cost effective strategic option, or a fool’s errand?As outlined by our guests in their lates work in the periodical, Asian Security: An Ocean Too Far: Offshore Balancing in the Indian Ocean; the United States is beset by war weariness after over a decade of war and a half century plus of global committments. We find ourselves with a stagnant economy, and skyrocketing defense procurement costs. It is seductive to think of retiring from continental Eurasia, but if history calls us back – returning in times of systemic conflict would be problematic – even in the relatively accessible rimlands of Western Europe and East Asia.In a part of the world with the planet’s largest democracy – offshore balancing is close to impossible in the Indian Ocean.As it turns out, offshore balancing in the Indian Ocean may be no balancing at all.
From “The complex network of global cargo ship movements” by Pablo Kaluza, et al. (oval added)
Our guest for the full hour to discuss their article will be U.S. Naval War College Associate Professors James R. Holmes and Toshi Yoshihara.
Offshore balancing? What the heck is that? Tune in and find out – and, if you can’t make the live show because you are buried in receipts and other paper as you try to reduce your tax burden before April 17 – well, join us in the “not so live” downloads from here or from the Midrats iTune page.
In many ways, for critics of LCS this evolution was as inevitable as it was self-evident. As more hulls were pier-side speaking truth than PPT illuminating briefing rooms, expectations would have to change to stay inside the lines of credibility.
Dreams of stopping the run and pivot to building a better platform reached the equal-time-point an election cycle ago. We will have LCS, and it will inside a little more than a decade form a larger percentage of our Fleet. The question remains – what will we actually be able to do with it given its known limitations, unknown tactical utility, and completely undeveloped mission modules that are the only thing that prevent it from being a +$600 million mobile 57mm gun with a flight deck?
Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. at AOLDefense has a nice review of the CNO’s speech at the National Press Club breakfast 12 APR that touched on LCS. Let’s do a little light fisking this Friday morning, shall we?
“These are not large surface combatants that are going to sail into the South China Sea and challenge the Chinese military; that’s not what they’re made for,” Greenert said of the LCS class.
OK. A warship that is 1.5′ longer than a Fletcher Class DD is not a large warship … but she is not small. South China Sea?
The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean, encompassing an area from the Singapore and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi). The area’s importance largely results from one-third of the world’s shipping transiting through its waters, and that it is believed to hold huge oil and gas reserves beneath its seabed.
The South China Sea contains over 250 small islands, atolls, cays, shoals, reefs, and sandbars, most of which have no indigenous people, many of which are naturally under water at high tide, and some of which are permanently submerged. The features are grouped into three archipelagos (listed by area size), Macclesfield Bank and Scarborough Shoal:
So, we have a warship that has both “Littoral” and “Combat” in its name that we do not intend to challenge a regional navy with in an area full of littoral waters? Do we really mean that – or are we trying to tell the Chinese that even though we are putting Marines in northern Australia and warships in Singapore; we are only there to have quick access to nice liberty ports? Either way – that isn’t impressive.
As Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work likes to tell us, the United States Navy does not need frigates. Think back to how we have used our frigates since the Vietnam War, and then square this statement;
“Littoral Combat Ships will tend to displace amphibious ships and destroyers in Africa and South America. That will free up surface combatants, more high-end ships … “
That is what your classic multi-mission FF/FFG has been doing for decades – a much more useful ship than a low endurance uni-mission LCS. Just saying.
The next fisk is sad.
I intend to go in harm’s way.
– John Paul Jones
That is what we said once as a Navy. What do we say now?
“I don’t worry per se about its survivability where I would intend to send it,” Greenert said of the LCS. “You won’t send it into an anti-access area.”
Back that up a bit. Littoral is near land. Any land mass is, by its nature, going to be an anti-access area in a non-permissive environment. Are we really going to have a foundation Class of warship in our navy that we will not put in harm’s way?
That is just silly – of course we will. When it is the only ship around and you need things done, either you don’t do it or you ask LCS to. Also – why does it have weapons if you don’t need them against someone who can shoot back? We did build a Fletcher Class sized warship as “Level I” for a nation that is casualty adverse – so I guess that reality is sinking in.
This final bit of reimagining is actually a re-invention.
On that crisis, the CNO tried to strike a delicate balance between confrontation and conciliation. The US and its Asian partners must stand ready to “confront” the Chinese when they trespass on international norms, Greenert said, but the real solution is to prevent a crisis in the first place through quiet confidence-building — including the kind of low-profile partnership and presence missions for which the Littoral Combat Ship is suited.
That describes something the Chinese are very familiar with – the gunboat. I think he is humming CAPT Henry J. Hendrix, Jr’s tune, but others may hear it differently.
The thing is – in the 20th century, we didn’t plan to have such a large portion of our Fleet be gunboats. Most of the low-level missions described above were handled by destroyers and cruisers for most of the century, joined by frigates in the later part … which did a good job in peace, and when it came time for war – were of actual use to the Fleet commander. LCS?
On balance – all the snarky fisking aside – this was a very good admission by the CNO. Though we won’t know for sure until an actual FMC mission module makes an appearance later this decade (we think) – at least we are as an institution starting to talk clearly about the sub-optimal nature of LCS and its limited utility.
Why is that good? It is good because when you send under-armed, under-manned, fragile warships in harm’s way – Sailors die wholesale. It is better to admit that in peace, than to learn it in war.
The Pentagon, South Korea and Japan are all reporting that the North Korean Unha-3 satellite launch vehicle (SLV) failed shortly after launch at 0739 local time Apr. 13. Flight time was reportedly on the order of only one minute with a claim that , but reports are still spotty. The western media invited to North Korea for the launch appears not to have been invited to the actual event, so the prospect of footage is limited.
As SteelJaw has pointed out, this was a new launch facility on the west coast and a southerly launch for a sun-synchronous polar insertion — a shift from previous launches from an east coast facility. And though Kim Jong-Un, Kim Jong-Il’s son and predecessor, continues to work to consolidate his power in Pyongyang, the preparations for this launch likely pre-date his father’s death.
And while there will be much mockery of the failure, it is also worth remembering that despite the crude nature of the Unha SLV, North Korea stunned the world in 1998 by very nearly succeeding with its first-ever launch, demonstrating staging and successful separation of the first two stages without previous full-scale flight tests. The North is admittedly one of the more entertaining and idiosyncratic places in the world, there is a logic behind their behavior, which goes to the heart of the remarkable way in which the long-isolated pariah state of North Korea has kept itself at the center of international diplomacy and has captured and held on to the attention of the world’s major powers.
North Korea is a long way from being able to put a deliverable nuclear warhead atop such a missile, there have also been intentionally-visible preparations for a third nuclear test — preparations that were intended to convey that the international community can respond to the launch by either continuing to follow through with a February agreement with Pyongyang or by breaking with the agreement and accept the consequence of a third test.
Stick around any job long enough and pretty soon you’ll find a pattern of repetition or cycles will emerge. When on active duty, it was inexorably tied to the CVW turnaround training cycle. This year we are now on the threshold of the 3rd North Korean space launch vehicle (SLV) attempt since 2006 and the 4th overall since 1998 and my third participation in one form or another thereof (for the record, they are batting .000 with an Oh-for-3 record since 1998 – kind of like how the Red Sox and Yankees started the year, eh?). At least this time they had the good grace not to screw with a 4-day holiday weekend. Given this Northeast Asian 21st century meme, I thought we might take a moment and breakdown aspects of the launch and the SLV as it will provide a basis for comparison with the next in the series on the Atlas – our first ICBM and workhorse SLV from almost a half-century ago.
As the US military faces an “austere budget environment” in the coming years, senior officers have been quick to trot out the Winston Churchill’s quote “Gentlemen, we have run out of money, now we have to think.” It appears to be a line appropriate to today’s challenges. However, the fact that senior leadership has latched on to this quote is disturbing, primarily because it begs the question: “what exactly have we been doing for the past twenty five years?”
Military affairs, and the conduct of war, are a thinking man’s profession. Brute force, attrition strategies, and the reality of death and destruction is, and will always be, a central part of the military profession. But to use another Winston Churchill quote, “Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the general, the more he contributes in maneuver, the less he demands in slaughter.” Thinking does and always has mattered in the conduct of war.
This past week Lieutenant Ben Kohlmann, an F/A-18 driver from the West Coast, wrote an article entitled “The Military Needs More Disruptive Thinkers” for Small Wars Journal that has garnered attention. MAJ Peter Munson and the beloved Superhero-of-Sanity Doctrine Man, and the comment sections in a number of blogs, have added to the debate. The discussion of “disruptive thinkers” and the apparent embrace of “thinking” by today’s senior leaders appears to be a natural combination. But that’s not necessarily the case.
There are places and people that have a long tradition of creative thinking, problem solving, and innovation. A great deal of military innovation throughout history has come from junior and mid-grade officers. LCDR Claude Berube has documented the Naval Institute’s history of junior officer innovation and the rise of the Institute from a small group of officers on shore duty to a pre-eminent thought center. There is a movement within USNI that is growing to bring JO’s and mid-grade Officers back to the pages of Proceedings with their innovative thoughts. This is important, but not enough by itself.
Ben Kohlmann brings up some very interesting points in his essay on “disruptive thinking.” I wholeheartedly agree with the overarching thesis of his piece: that the military services need to be more open to new ideas and need to figure out how to educate officers in critical thinking and innovation. However, there are a few areas where I differ with his details. Personally, I think the U.S. Navy’s focus on providing our officers graduate education in the field of business (MBA’s) and engineering rather than subjects like history, political science, and other social science fields is a net negative for our service. Most MBA curricula don’t really focus on innovation and new ideas, instead they teach number crunching and bureaucratic organization. Steve Jobs, used by Ben as an example in his essay, was a great innovator…he dropped out of college, never mind getting a graduate degree from any of the schools Ben suggests. Alfred Thayer Mahan warned us to “avoid the administrative mindset” and I don’t know that a Navy filled with people who have mastered business administration really makes us better or more innovative warfighters. Ben is 100% right, however, when he points out that we should be encouraging interaction between our officer corps and thought leaders from other fields, I just don’t believe the business field is the one we should be focusing on.
I also think that Ben is catching some flak for his use of the term “disruptive.” I think we all know why. We’ve had them in our ready rooms or wardrooms, that “disruptive JO” who constantly mouths off about what he or she hates but never has a constructive idea to attempt to solve the problem. Disruptive behavior doesn’t exactly sound military, and by itself it doesn’t give us innovation or solutions.
Disruptive thinking is, however, the starting point. We need critical thinking that starts with new ideas and we need to develop those into innovative solutions that are researched and workable. Just pointing out problems doesn’t get us anywhere. John Boyd, another great example from Ben’s essay, always did his homework and knew exactly what the staff-pukes were going to ask at the end of his briefs. Their questions were usually intended to try and derail him or embarrass him. But, he used his research to set traps for them, using their own questions and lack of homework against them to help push his ideas through the Pentagon bureaucracy. He wasn’t just disruptive, he had the research done in advance and the solutions ready which made him unstoppable.
So where do we go from here, whether we’re talking about disruptive thinking or contrarian ideas? First, we need to know what we’re getting ourselves into. John Boyd never commanded a fighter squadron, he made too many enemies to survive a selection board. Then again, ADM James Stavridis has had a career which has taken him to the pinnacle of the naval profession. If you’re going to be disruptive or you’re going to put your ideas out there, you have to do it aware of the risks and possible feedback. But, if you’re already that kind of person then you probably agree with Mahan that “failure to dare is often to run the greatest of risks.”
Second, we need to develop our ideas properly and do our homework. This includes figuring out how to best introduce them. Writing for professional journals is frequently a great way to launch innovative ideas and solutions. Whether we’re talking about traditional journals like Proceedings or new online mediums like Small Wars Journal or USNI Blog, discussion of a new idea can start quickly once you summon the courage to publish it (just look at the debates swirling around Ben’s article on social media sites). In 2008 Proceedings had a pair of articles that help give us some guidance. ADM Stavridis’ article “Dare to Read, Think, Write, and PUBLISH” charts a course for us, or at least gives us a point to begin our own dead reckoning. The process of writing should help us develop our ideas and force the right research to defend them. Captain William Toti followed a few issues later with “Write with Your Eyes Wide Open,” which helps develop our sense of the I&W as we enter the battlefield of ideas.
Third, and finally, we need senior leaders who believe what they are preaching. If we are going to “start thinking” what that really means is that leadership has to “start listening.” General George Patton once said that “If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking.” For over two hundred years Sailors have been offering new ideas, whether we’re talking about Sailors figuring out how to repair their systems instead of using contractors at the turn of this century or a young William Sims fighting his superiors to improve gunnery practices at the turn of the last century. Ideas are already out there and leaders need to encourage them to develop, while at the same time growing new thinkers and ideas. The question isn’t whether or not we need to start thinking, the question is whether or not the decision makers are willing to listen, and willing to help. As General Mattis once told a group of officers, “Take the mavericks in your service, the ones that wear rumpled uniforms and look like a bag of mud but whose ideas are so offsetting that they actually upset the people in the bureaucracy. One of your primary jobs is to take the risk and protect these people, because if they are not nurtured in your service, the enemy will bring their contrary ideas to you.”
Sixty-one years ago today, April 5th, 1951, Judge Irving Kaufman sentenced Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to death by electrocution. They had both been convicted seven days earlier of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union. While there has been some attempts to claim their innocence and attribute the Rosenbergs’ conviction to a post-war “Red Scare” and paranoia of Communism, the evidence was overwhelming in 1951, and has become even more so in the decades since. The opening of Soviet archives in 1992-3, the 1995 release of the decoded VENONA cables, and several books by former Soviet agents point to a far more widespread espionage effort than the United States had heretofore acknowledged, and also removes any doubt as to the guilt of the defendants. The Soviet spy ring which successfully infiltrated the Manhattan Project included both of the Rosenbergs, Ethel’s brother David Greenglass, German scientist Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, and others, is estimated to have obtained information that allowed the Soviet Union to develop their own atomic bomb a decade before otherwise possible. The Soviets successfully detonated an atomic device in late-August, 1949. At the sentencing of the Rosenbergs, Judge Kaufman remarked:
I consider your crime worse than murder… In committing the act of murder, the criminal kills only his victim… But in your case, I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason.
As we enter our second decade of the 21st Century, it is somewhat disconcerting to recognize that the massive efforts which the Soviet Union expended to infiltrate US government and scientific research, the expenditures of millions of dollars, lengthy and risky recruitment of American Communists who were willing to betray their country, NKVD and GRU operatives working from US and Canadian cities, the transmission of stolen secrets via encrypted cables and microfilm, all are largely unnecessary today. In this, the information age, penetrations of computer networks of both Government and industry can obtain results very similar to Soviet efforts regarding “Enormous”, the NKVD code name for the Manhattan Project. Industrial espionage is exceedingly widespread, the vast majority of it from compromised computer networks that hemorrhage proprietary information to rivals businesses and foreign governments, to include those of our enemies and potential enemies.
While some traditional HUMINT espionage undoubtedly still exists and has its uses, the fact of the matter today is that the great balance of the damaging espionage work done by the Rosenbergs, and Greenglass, and Harry Gold, and Kim Philby, Donald MacLean, Klaus Fuchs, and the others recruited and employed by the Soviet Union, is now performed by for-hire hackers, often called “Black Hats”, working for those rival businesses and governments. Gaining access to sensitive information has become infinitely easier, cheaper, and far less risky than ever before. The days of photographing stolen documents and making “drops” of bundles of information are all but ended. Often these hackers are operating outside the United States, in areas where arrest and prosecution are not options, even if the hackers were caught. With the ability of these skilled “Black Hats” to cover their tracks, and indeed their presence, attribution to the hackers themselves is all but impossible without other corroboration, and the entity or government paying for the hacking can only be surmised.
However, like the Rosenbergs’ treason moved the Soviet Union a decade ahead in its atomic efforts, stolen technology and data from both military and industrial networks have greatly accelerated technological developments in The People’s Republic of China, and in other places where economic and military rivalry with the United States is seen as a reality. The compromise of classified and sensitive information has also allowed hostile entities to have an inside look at vulnerabilities of critical US infrastructure, as well as preparedness efforts and response capabilities to certain threats, information which can be exploited to increase the damage and disruption of an attack on US infrastructure or our populace. Much like the Soviet espionage of the Stalin era, the infiltration and compromise of US industrial and government information systems is likely more widespread than previously acknowledged.
There is another down side to the shift from traditional espionage to network exploitation: It doesn’t lend itself nearly so easily to parody. Maxwell Smart is nowhere near as funny if you put him behind a laptop. No shoe-phone or cone of silence. No Hymie in the mailbox. Same with Boris and Natasha. If they do all their work from Pottsylvania and never come to Frostbite Falls, where’s the humor in that? If “fiendish plan” means stealing the formula for Upsidaisium via computer hacking, it just isn’t the same.
Last week, Sen. McCain delivered a speech to the Brigade of Midshipmen as part of the Forrestal Lecture Series. Like most USNA graduates who return to speak at the Academy, Sen. McCain began his speech by joking about his terrible performance as a midshipman.
Sen. McCain discussed the differences between leadership and management. He believes the nation is producing too many managers and not enough leaders- citing the increased number of MBA graduates as proof of this trend. Being a manager is easy, as the manager must merely maintain the status quo. Leaders must motivate and inspire subordinates to reach new limits.
Lamenting the military’s one strike policy on mistakes, Sen. McCain noted that most great U.S. Navy leaders would not have made it out of the lower ranks had they served in today’s armed forces. This intolerance towards failure of any kind has caused our military to become more risk averse than ever before.
While Sen. McCain criticized changes in military policy, he vehemently stated that America was not on the decline. Supporting his opinion, he remarked that the U.S. political and economic system is still the golden standard. This part of the speech sounded very much like President Obama’s recent State of the Union address. They both chastised and dismissed those skeptical of long term U.S. standing in the world, while conceding that the U.S. will face difficult choices in the years ahead.
Sen. McCain then switched gears and discussed current decisions facing the country. He deplored the fact that people are fighting and dying in Syria for what Americans fought many years ago for and receiving no help from the U.S. Criticizing Obama’s inaction in Syria, he quoted Gen. Mattis that replacing the Assad regime would cripple Iran. He did not mention the possibility that the U.S. aiding the Syrian rebels might cause Russia to counter by escalating their help to Assad.
When asked if he had ever sacrificed his morals for political expediency, he at first said no, then he changed his mind and called himself a “coward” during the 2000 GOP primary in South Carolina. At the time, the hot issue in South Carolina was whether or not the state capital could fly the Confederate flag. He said it should be left up to the states to decide, when he personally felt it was wrong. After the election he went to South Carolina to apologize. I think the entire Brigade was amazed that someone who survived over five years in a Vietnamese POW camp could call himself a coward.
Answering a question about Obamacare or Obama cares (depending on your political leanings), Sen. McCain said he thought mandatory health care was unconstitutional because it violates both the Commerce Clause and the 10th Amendment, which gives all powers not delegated to the federal government to the states. Furthermore, he reminded the audience that President Obama promised medical costs would drop, and they haven’t (though since the act doesn’t take effect until 2014, I don’t think anyone can say for sure how the act will affect health care costs).
In conclusion, the Brigade enjoyed hearing from a legend. Next week, Secretary of State Clinton will speak to the Brigade. The Naval Academy, while an imperfect institution, does do a great job of bringing in interesting speakers.
By Mark Tempest
A continuation of a 60 year alliance and a message:
ALAN DUPONT, INT. SECURITY STUDIES, UNSW: It’s not so much the Marines themselves but it’s the symbol – the signal it sends to the region that Australia is – and the United States are working together to meet these common challenges. So I think it’s quite an important shift.
UPDATE: Robert Kaplan has a related analysis at Stratfor America’s Pacific Logic:
Were the United States not now to turn to the Indo-Pacific, it would risk a multipolar military order arising up alongside an already existent multipolar economic and political order. Multipolar military systems are more unstable than unipolar and bipolar ones because there are more points of interactions and thus more opportunities for miscalculations, as each country seeks to readjust the balance of power in its own favor. U.S. military power in the Indo-Pacific is needed not only to manage the peaceful rise of China but also to stabilize a region witnessing the growth of indigenous civil-military post-industrial complexes.
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- On Midrats 16 November 14, “Episode 254: John A. Nagl: 13 Years into the War”