Archive for June, 2012
During my busy day I had a little time to think about the ruling that was just handed down from the U.S. Supreme Court citing that the Stolen Valor Act shall be struck down as being unconstitutional. In the end I came to the determination that the decision, made by our highest court- though sound, is wrong.
The basis of the 6-3 judgment is a sound one based on the oldest laws of the land; the first amendment may indeed have been violated. However, the spirit of the violation is really what was at stake here. As a blogger I am, by default, for our first amendment rights of free speech. On the same note I’m also a member of the U.S. Coast Guard and a former member of the U.S. Army- two of our five military branches; this is where I begin to cringe.
The First Amendment, as read in the Bill of Rights, and interpreted by Cornell Law states (as it pertains to free speech):
The right to freedom of speech allows individuals to express themselves without interference or constraint by the government. The Supreme Court requires the government to provide substantial justification for the interference with the right of free speech where it attempts to regulate the content of the speech.
If need-be, reread that and pay attention to the second sentence in particular. The words “substantial justification” can be clearly articulated in nearly all the cases involved with bringing charges against individuals under the Stolen Valor Act. I’m kind of confused on how bringing charges against someone isn’t justified if that someone lies about their military services and/or decorations, and there is substantial proof via an individuals military record, or lack thereof?
I’ve heard people tout that people pretending to be military heroes is akin to those who dress up in those costumes at Disneyland; after all it’s just pretend right?
Impersonating a hero of war, or any current or former military member in general, is of the utmost disrespect to the service members of this nation. Those who’ve sacrificed their daily freedom to be part of a military force, and those who’ve died as part of the same forces have an extreme level of pride in what they do (or did) as the case may be. They’ve worked hard to obtain their position, from E-1 to O-10, they’ve all had to work to get to that place in their lives. For someone to simply walk into their local Ranger Joes or Army/Navy store and buy their way into the service is as low as one can be. If you want a Purple Heart join the military, go to war and get one (that’s from my 9 year-old daughter).
The Supreme Court has taken the side of the people, as they are supposed to. But in doing so they’ve alienated those who protect the freedoms of the United States. They’ve allowed the liars, heart-breakers, thieves, and con-artists of the U.S. win. While they win the service men and women of the United States have seen their sacrifices being lessened. If anyone can claim to have a Medal of Honor what’s the point of even being presented with one (No, I don’t really belive this but I’m trying to make a point). I’m grateful for people like those who run This Ain’t Hell for watching out for the rest of us.
It would seem that the word “solidarity” doesn’t mean what it used to.
Turkey, a long-time member of NATO, invoked Article 4 of the Charter, which calls for emergency consultation of all 28 member states, in response to the Syrian downing of an RF-4E reconnaissance aircraft. While not as serious as Article 5, which is invoked in the defense of a NATO ally that has been attacked, Article 4 has generally been seen as a preliminary to discuss options short of armed response. Turkey had threatened to invoke Article 4 back in April, when a cross-border incident in a refugee camp left five people, including two Turkish officials, dead.
From the meeting in Brussels, all Turkey got was the expected condemnation and the assurances of NATO togetherness. Turkey may have been expecting little else. Which is a good thing. In the case of Turkey and Syria, NATO is contemplating no such thing as armed intervention, or intervention of any kind. Not least of which because of Russia’s stance and Putin’s support for Syria’s embattled Assad, combined with the general and embarrassing lack of credible capability demonstrated by NATO in Libya last year.
Despite a WAPO article with some speculation that NATO would consider sidestepping the UN and a certain Russian veto for real action against Syria, the chances of such a sidestep are virtually nil. Turkey knows that, Russia and Syria (and Iran) do, too. Making invocation of Article 4 a symbolic gesture by Turkey toward an increasingly impotent NATO, whose only action was to “condemn in the strongest terms”. I am reminded of one of my favorite Daffy Duck lines. “I will do everything in my power to help you. Which will be nothing!” The rather unimpressive response to Turkey’s Article 4 declaration bodes ill for any NATO member that might possibly wish to invoke Article 5, particularly if Putin and Russia wait in the wings.
Visegrad Group, anyone?
I wish him and the Academy the best of luck. I am sure that he is more than qualified to handle the job at hand (other than my 1 reservation noted below). Then again, so was his predecessor.
I am more and more convinced that there are two distinct skill sets required for this position. The first involves overseeing the ongoing training of a school full of Midshipmen. The second skill set, involves dealing with both an entrenched civilian infrastructure and the Maritime Administration as overseer. So far, it seems that it is easy to find people with the first required skill set. Finding those with the second skill set has been much harder, most likely due to the fact that no one has been able to define the actual skills required. One thing for sure, it seems that understanding how the DOD functions does not help in successfully navigating through the Department of Transportation, and perhaps even results in friction with those who oversee the school.
Personally, I think the best chance of success for the new Superintendent rests with a change in the Administration as a result of the upcoming election. It also wouldn’t hurt if the school was better integrated into the logistical training infrastructure of the US Military.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out the new Superintendent’s lack of Maritime experience. Imagine if you will, Colonel Helis being named the next Superintendent of the US Naval Academy. You can thus understand how the USMMA ‘King’s Point’ alumni feel. It is a shame that the Maritime Administration could not find a person from within the Maritime Community to fill the job. Then again, The Maritime Administrator, David Matsuda, has no Maritime background either. One should not forget how the previous Superintendent was treated either.
Colonel James Helis Announced as New USMMA Superintendent
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today named Colonel (ret.) James Helis, Ph.D., as the new superintendent for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Helis, a 30-year Army veteran, will begin work at the Academy next month after spending the past eight years as a department chair at the United States War College.
“Colonel Helis is an ideal fit for the Academy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “His extensive military and academic experience reflects the Academy’s mission of both training and educating its students to support our country’s maritime needs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure a strong future for Kings Point.”
Since 2004, Colonel Helis has led the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. During his 30 years in the U.S. Army, Colonel Helis served as an Army Ranger and master parachutist and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served as Chief of Plans for the NATO International Security Assistance Force. His professional foreign travel includes Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Haiti, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden.
“I am deeply honored and very excited about the opportunity to serve at Kings Point,” Colonel Helis said. “I am eager to join the team of faculty, staff, and most of all midshipmen, all of whom daily live by the values of honor, service, and excellence.”
Helis received his Doctorate of Philosophy in International Relations from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He holds masters degrees from both the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the University of Pennsylvania, and he earned his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.
Colonel Helis and his wife, Jan, have two sons, Corbin, 22, a 2011 West Point graduate, and Ian, 18, who joins the Kings Point Class of 2016 this summer.
“Thanks to a thorough search process involving faculty, staff, midshipmen, parents and alumni, we have identified a true leader in Colonel Helis,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “As Superintendent for Kings Point, he will bring energy and experience to our team and will help ensure that the Academy continues to chart a course for future success.”
The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, including the hiring of key Academy positions. As part of the selection process, Colonel Helis also met with a number of midshipmen, faculty and staff from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, as well as alumni and industry leaders.
U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590
DOT 71-12 – Monday, June 25, 2012
Contact:US DOT Press Office – Tel: 202-366-4570
As a growing maritime power, when China looks east, southeast, and south – how does it see its neighbors?Even more importantly – how do its neighbors see it?Is Russia even a top-tier concern?Our guest for the full hour will be Wendell Minnick, author, commentator, journalist and speaker who has spent two decades covering military and security issues in Asia, including one book on intelligence and over 900 articles.Since 2006, Minnick has served as the Asia Bureau Chief for Defense News, a Washington-based defense weekly newspaper.From 2000-2006, he served as the Taiwan Correspondent for UK-based Jane’s Defence Weekly.
The following letter is dated June 22, 2012. This is a good question.
Dear Admiral Greenert:
We appreciate your renewed emphasis on the principle of “Warfighting First” for our Naval forces. As part of this focus, you have discussed the imp01tance of the U.S. Navy being prepared for the maturing anti-access/area-denial (A2/ AD) threat environment, and specifically the “challenges posed by emerging threats to access like ballistic and cruise missiles, advanced submarines and fighters, electronic warfare and mines.” One of the places where we know these challenges exist is in the western Pacific Ocean, where the Department of the Navy is attempting to provide the military resources to support the Administration’s “rebalancing” initiative. Given these developments, we believe that the growing A2/ AD capabilities in this region, combined with other immutable characteristics like the geographic “tyranny of distance,” demand a careful review of our future capabilities.
As you know, our eleven nuclear-power aircraft carriers (CVN) give us the ability to surge combat power to a regional crisis at the time and place of our choosing, making them a critical component of our focus on the Indian and Pacific Oceans. However, the long distances in the region combined with A2/ AD challenges raise questions about the future strike power of the Carrer Air-Wing (CVW). As we posture our forces, is the planned CVW of the 2020s structured to meet the range, persistence, stealth, ISR, and payload demands that will be required to operate in this theater? We would appreciate your help in understanding the cost and capability trade-offs that you are considering as you plan the Carrier Air Wing of the future. As always, thank you for your service to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, and the Nation.
J. Randy Forbes
Member of Congress
Member of Congress
Those were Adolf Hitler’s words in December of 1940, as he revealed to his senior Wehrmacht Field Marshals and Generals his plans for the invasion of the Soviet Union.
At a few minutes past 0300 on the morning of 22 June 1941, the rumble of 8,000 artillery pieces shook the western positions of the Red Army, all along the new borders of the Soviet Union. Simultaneously, more than 3,300 aircraft roared overhead on their way to attack Soviet airfields, troop concentrations, command posts, and artillery positions. The most fateful day of the Twentieth Century had begun.
In the west, the Wehrmacht of Hitler’s Third Reich consisted of 2.5 million men and more than 4,000 tanks comprising 180 divisions, organized into three massive Army Groups, which were poised to smash their ideological and political enemies, the Bolshevik dictatorship of Stalin’s Soviet Russia.
Opposing the German onslaught was more than 3 million soldiers of Stalin’s Red Army. Numerically superior to its German opponent in men, aircraft (4,000), and tanks (more than 7,000), the armies on the Soviet western boundary were nonetheless abysmally led and poorly trained. Still reeling from Stalin’s 1937-39 purges of most of its officer corps, and from the bloody humiliation of the disastrous “Winter War” with Finland in the winter of 1939-40, the Red Army was ill-prepared for war against a modern western foe.
The Wehrmacht, on the other hand, was a finely tuned weapon of mechanized warfare, having conquered Poland two years earlier, and overrun France in less than six weeks in 1940. Superbly trained and equipped with modern armor and the most advanced combat aircraft, the three German Army Groups shattered the Soviet forces opposite them. The Luftwaffe swept the Red Air Force, the VVS, from the skies and smashed it on the ground. By the end of the second day, more than 2,300 Soviet aircraft had been destroyed. The Red Army was already being shattered and destroyed piecemeal, in what would be the “great battles of encirclement” of that summer and autumn of 1941, from which few escaped death or captivity. The eradication of the VVS was nearly complete. Nearly. The Red Army almost bled to death. Almost. Yet, somehow, they held on.
Operation BARBAROSSA, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, more than any other, was Hitler’s war. It was the war of Mein Kampf, the war for Lebensraum in the East, whose purpose was to open the great steppes for colonization by the Aryan race. It was a war not just of conquest but of subjugation and annihilation, fought with a brutality that had not been seen in Europe since the Tatar conquests of seven centuries before. It was a war of unspeakable horror and unimaginable suffering, by soldier and civilian alike. Prisoners on both sides died by the millions, worked to death as slave labor, starved, or simply shot or hanged out of hand. But it was also a war of grim and fatalistic heroism on both sides. The German-Soviet conflict, when it ended in the rubble of Berlin nearly four years later, would take the lives of almost twenty-three million souls.
Some of the most enduring images of the Eastern Front, and for the Soviets the Great Patriotic War, are of columns of Russian and German prisoners forlornly marching to their fates (the Russians seemingly always in the dust of the summer, the Germans in the bitter cold of winter). And of grainy images of executions and hangings by the German SS Einsatzgruppen, and far less publicized, of the execution of suspected Russian collaborators by field units of the NKVD, the terror apparatus of Stalin’s brutal regime.
There are lessons and cautions abundant in examining this titanic struggle. Cautions about underestimating one’s enemy, his will to fight for family and homeland. The Russian soldier, deemed racially inferior and incapable of waging modern war, proved individually tough, able to endure hardship and privation in startling measure. He was also fanatical in the defense, fierce in the attack, and bore a hatred of the “blue-eyed oaf” that would be carried across the borders of Prussia with terrible effect.
The Russian was also capable of producing simple but highly effective weaponry, and of mastering its employment. The T-34 and KV-1 tanks that began to appear in the autumn of 1941 were superior to any German design. Soviet aircraft began to close the technology gap with the Luftwaffe far faster than anticipated. Soviet artillery, superior to the Germans even in June of 1941, would dominate the battlefield as the Red Army’s “God of War”. All these would surprise and confound the German commanders who were told to expect an enemy of limited intellect and poor character.
There are also many myths and misconceptions surrounding the struggle between these oppressive dictatorships. Here are two:
- The Wehrmacht was not capable of winning a short (ten-week) war against the Soviet Union.
Because the Germans did not win does not mean they were not capable of winning, or the Soviets capable of losing. Had the Ostheer kept its focus on Moscow as the main objective (the plan was to surround, not enter the city), and had Hoth’s Panzers been unleashed in the first week of August, rather than frittered away in other operations until October, the capture of the European capital of the Soviet Union was within its capabilities. Perhaps even more important than the purely political prize was the massive Soviet war industry that occupied the so-called “Moscow-Gorky Space”. Siberian forces did not begin to arrive to defend the city and its immediate area in significant numbers until late September, 1941. The capture of the Soviet war industry, which included the massive tank works at Gorky itself, and the aircraft engine factory at Kuibyshev, would have deprived the Soviet Union of its most valuable asset, the ability to replace the massive combat losses with more modern and capable equipment. Had those factories been destroyed or fallen into German hands, there would have been no MiG or Yak fighters, no Il-2 Sturmoviks, no PE-2s, or any of the other increasingly modern aircraft that would eventually sweep the Luftwaffe from the sky. There would have been no replacement divisions of T-34/76 and /85 tanks, no self-propelled guns, no artillery pieces to replace those lost in the massive battles or worn out in extensive combat. Without those factories and the hardware they produced, there would have been no rehabilitation of the VVS or of the Red Army into the juggernaut that crushed Army Group Vistula into bits and eventually subsume eastern Germany.
- The Soviet Union was capable of defeating Nazi Germany without Allied assistance.
While it is true that the Soviet Union bore the unquestioned preponderance of the weight of German arms (at various times, 80% of German combat power was employed in the East, and nearly 80% of all German losses were inflicted by the Soviets), and the suffering and casualties of the Soviet military and civilian population exceeded the rest of the Allies combined by a wide margin, Stalin’s Russia could not have won the war without Allied, and particularly American, assistance. While many are familiar with pictures of some of the 9,000 US and British tanks shipped to the Soviets under Lend-Lease, these represented only about 20% of Soviet tank production during the war. There is little question upon any examination, however, that there were two absolutely critical areas of direct assistance were the linchpins of the survival of the Soviet Union in the dark days of 1941-43, and their drive to ultimate victory in 1944-45. The first of these areas was in food production. The United States shipped more than seventeen MILLION tons of food, wheat and canned goods, to the Soviet Union whose agricultural bread basket was under German occupation. That food sustained the Red Army and Russian war industry workers when none other was available. Without it, the prospects for Soviet victory would have been slim indeed. The second item so critical to the Soviet war effort was the supply of more than half a million American trucks. Tough, six-wheel drive vehicles which carried logistical supplies from the rear areas to the front, and which mounted the famous 122mm Katyusha rocket launchers by the tens of thousands, allowed the Red Army to supply itself on the battlefield in the defensive struggles of 1942 and carried that Army to the great offensive drives that eventually smashed the German Ostheer. Those trucks represent more than 70% of total Soviet vehicle production, freeing their industries to produce the war weapons, tanks, artillery pieces, and armored vehicles that equipped the Red Army.
The final victory of the Soviet Union is, however, a testament to the tough, fierce, and brave Russian soldier. His image, the hardened veteran soldier sitting atop a T-34 with PPSh in hand, scanning for a glimpse of the hated enemy, his mustard-colored quilt uniform covered with dust and snow, will endure for centuries in the collective consciousness of the Russian people.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union has never been comprehensively treated. The subject is far too large. It is too complex and incapable of being understood, except gradually, within the context of its salient events, and those of the rest of the world during and since. A thousand volume work on the subject would still require an explanation and a qualification that such a work was by no means all-inclusive. Yet, it remains one of the most compelling subjects for historians, social and military, because of the world-altering impact of the events themselves and their decades-long aftermath. The magnitude of the struggle defies modern understanding. As does the agony of the armies and the peoples locked in the grips of that mortal struggle.
And so it is likely to remain. And it began with the flash of cannon and the roar of engines, in the morning darkness, seventy-one years ago today.
(Cr0ss-posted at Bring the Heat, Bring the Stupid)
Two professors teaching a cyberwarfare course sought to teach creative thinking. Their method? An impossible test with the idea that students must cheat – and that not getting caught cheating was what the test was actually about.
In other words, they stole the concept of Kobayashi Maru.
Why? The introduction to their paper sums it up:
“Adversaries cheat. We don’t. In academic institutions around the world, students understand that they will be expelled if they violate their college’s honor code or otherwise fail to play by the institutional rules. The dissonance between how our adversaries operate and how we teach our students puts our students at a distinct disadvantage when faced with real world adversaries who inevitably do not play by the rules. Breaking through the paradigm where students self- censor their ways of thinking to a new paradigm that cultivates an effective adversary mindset is both necessary and possible.”
The paper itself details the methods and manner each student used. And in each case the student exploited a loophole in the teacher’s rule set.
Sometimes the phrase “Red Team” or “Red Cell” is used to describe those who are designated to exploit our potential weaknesses. I prefer the term “Devil’s Advocate” – the Catholic concept of bringing evidence against canonization of a Saint. Why? Because the Devil’s Advocate can’t just say “well, what if?”. The Devil’s Advocate must make his case. He must be able to actualize his contention.Too many Red Teams just say “what if” and walk away. Their concept or challenge must not be realistic, achievable, or anything other than a wrench in the machine, and that is not creative thinking – it’s is disruptive, destructive, and dangerous because it does nothing but cause trouble. It does not seek to exploit or identify a loophole.
The paper’s conclusion…
“Teach yourself and your students to cheat. We’ve always been taught to color inside the lines, stick to the rules, and never, ever, cheat. In seeking cyber security, we must drop that mindset. It is difficult to defeat a creative and determined adversary who must find only a single flaw among myriad defensive measures to be successful. We must not tie our hands, and our intellects, at the same time. If we truly wish to create the best possible information security professionals, being able to think like an adversary is an essential skill. Cheating exercises provide long term remembrance, teach students how to effectively evaluate a system, and motivate them to think imaginatively. Cheating will challenge students’ assumptions about security and the trust models they envision. Some will find the process uncomfortable. That is OK and by design. For it is only by learning the thought processes of our adversaries that we can hope to unleash the creative thinking needed to build the best secure systems, become effective at red teaming and penetration testing, defend against attacks, and conduct ethical hacking activities.”
The final kicker? This was done at the US Military Academy…
As a military we prize conformity. And that conformity in the main is a good thing. But we also need people who are capable of thinking – and actualizing – “what if”. What if we loaded up our carriers with airplanes and launched from maximum range on a Sunday morning? What if we hijacked and piloted fuel laden commercial jets into office buildings? What if we designed a computer virus geared to do one thing and one thing only? What if we use runners for messages and small speedboats to attack the carriers?
Not “What if someone took over a LNG tanker and blew it up” without describing the how, what, why, and physics behind it.
The paper is a quick read. Take a look. Then think about how you can teach your people to think creatively for the betterment of the next operation, next mission, next maintenance, next training. But make them do so in a manner that is achievable. Make them “cheat” – and not get caught.
(h/t Bruce Schneier)
* Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace The Bad Old Days
Get out your white suit, your tap shoes and tails
Let’s go backwards when forward fails
And movie stars you thought were alone then
Now are framed beside your bed
Don’t throw the pa-ast away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
- Peter Allen, ‘Everything Old is New Again
There was a point, a decade or so ago (OK, maybe two decades back), when I thought some of my bete noirs, like medium- and intermediate range ballistic missiles and long-range cruise missile-armed supersonic bombers were going to go skulking off into that not-so-gentle night. Alas, it appears not so:
A move by Russia to sell its production line of Tu-22M3 long-range bombers to China for US$1.5 billion to China was confirmed by the US-based US-China Economic and Security Review Commission two years ago and the bomber’s name will be changed to the Hong-10, reports the state-run China News Service … The Hong-10, whose components will all be produced in China with the exception of the engine, is expected to fly in the second half of next year, and the country will produce 36 aircraft in the first batch to be delivered to the air force. One of world’s fastest long-range bombers which can also carry atomic weapons, the plane can cover the South China Sea, East China Sea and even the western Pacific. Sources here and here.
So now, along with pondering MRBMs that may be the Pershing II re-incarnated, alongside bulked up Badgers, we have the prospect of the Backfire being introduced into the increasingly volatile mix that constitutes the Far East Theater. Mah-velous. Previously rebuffed in the late 80’s/early 90’s by the Russians who didn’t want to upset the balance of forces in theater, the Chinese evidently closed the deal in 2010 to domestically produce up to 36 Tu-22M3 Backfires (Domestic designation: H-10) with the engines to be supplied by Russia – an agreement all the more curious because of the very real anger the Russians have (had?) over the Chinese knock-off production of the Su-27SK that formed the basis of the J-11 family and the navalized J-15 without paying the attending license-fees.
While it is easy to wave the “game changer” flag, the appearance of the H-10 in the region, especially in terms of coverage in the SCS and as a possible LACM platform for strikes against Guam, will be cause for more concern and an additional complication in the “Pacific pivot.” Already, H-6’s and H-6K’s running around the region with a variety of sub- and supersonic cruise missiles are cause for concern, and now, just as in the ‘Good/Bad Old Days’ the appearance of the Backfire on the stage once again places a premium on our ability to reach out and touch at long ranges, the archer before he has the option to shoot his arrows – rebuilding the Outer Air Battle as it were, but in an updated form to handle an updated threat and under conditions we didn’t necessarily have to face in the Cold War. It also means stepping up our training and putting renewed emphasis on countering the reconnaissance-strike complex that would support the H-6/H-10 (and ASBMs for that matter) – time to get serious about OPDEC, EMCON and a host of other TTPs we became very practiced with during the 80’s but have let atrophy over the years. Oh, and did I mention the need for some really, really good AEW?
And do-on’t throw the past away
You might need it some other rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When everything old is new again
When everything old i-is new-ew a-again
Crossposted at steeljawscribe.com
He who joyfully marches in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
– Albert Einstein
Your definition of diversity is probably flawed in application of this blog post, because you are being indoctrinated to think it means something else.
I had the great pleasure of going to the Naval War College last Thursday to attend a few events ranging from a promotion ceremony to the semester awards ceremony for the Naval War College graduating class of 2012. As many of you know, the annual Current Strategy Forum was also held last week, a forum with a great tradition of being highly informative and intellectually challenging.
While on campus I took the opportunity to solicit opinions from several students regarding this years Current Strategy Forum, and everyone tended to focus on one specific panel of General and Flag officers that was moderated by Undersecretary of the Navy Bob Work. The single most noted characteristic of this particular panel was how one could not slide even a piece of paper between the opinions and positions of the uniformed officers; they all spoke from the same piece of paper.
Of all the ways to describe any panel at any forum, I’m not sure one could describe any such panel in a more disturbing and insulting way.
I imagine the current administration is very proud that publicly there is no disagreement among General and Flag officers on any particular issue, but I can think of no greater marker that should concern a citizen of this nation – a nation that has been fighting wars since September of 2001 where all General and Flag officers appear to agree on everything in public. We are seeing a wider variety of different opinions publicly in print today from the Peoples Liberation Army Navy even under existing Chinese censorship laws than we are from leaders of the United States Navy in a land of free speech – and that is simultaneously remarkable and disturbing by any metric. We casually dismiss such things to the alter of partisan politics, an alter not worthy of the worship it is granted during any period of war for a superpower.
This policy of everyone in the DoD speaking from the same sheet of paper that was enforced by Secretary Gates and now Secretary Panetta is a real problem, because when every leader in the US military has the same opinion in a public forum – particularly at someplace like the Current Strategy Forum at the Naval War College – all but one of those leaders is redundant. In unison the whole of the Department of Defense is publicly saying the world is simple, and they know the answer to every question. Any organization with such public hubris deserves to be destroyed, and if that destruction is by budget then that result is earned rightfully. There is no defense for solidarity of mind among leaders for any organization intrusted with so much responsibility. Under no theory of order has solidarity of opinion been a strength in a free thinking society, and in the highest funded government agency where national security and means of arms is stated as purpose, that kind of oligarchy is dangerous to any free society.
“If you and I think the same, then one of us is redundant…. Diversity is what leads to better problem solving and more creative ideas that can help build an organization and build a business. People should be seeking out more diversity, not settling for less.”
-Tim Penner, Procter & Gamble Canada
A couple weeks ago I wrote a blog piece that asserted that the naval conversation has lost a vital piece, tactics. We as a naval service have focused the professional dialog on the strategic level while the tactical level has largely been neglected. I got a good response to the piece but one frequent criticism that I received was that many believe the discussion of tactics belongs in the classroom and wardroom, but not the open forum. I disagree. The navy has many schools that focus on sharpening tactical skills. These schools, in combination with vibrant discussions in wardrooms and ready rooms around the fleet can effectively cover the tactical baseline for each community; however, the connective tissue, that forms the bridge between communities, known as Fleet Tactics, is left completely void.
“Trackin Devil Dog, Good to go, Err, Hoorah.”
The Marine Corps perhaps is the best example of a cohesive fighting force. Because every Marine is a rifleman and all the officers went through TBS, they are able to speak the same language and anticipate the actions of their fellow Marines, whether they are in the air or on the ground. This is a trait that distinguishes them and makes them a much more deadly force than they would be as individual units. By contrast, we as a naval force speak different languages and have no common experience or training to connect us. Each community studies its own tactics, some more than others, but none fully understand what to expect from our brethren in the other communities.
As a SWO I would love to say that every Naval Officer should be a ship driver but that is impossible for many reasons, least of which that we do not have enough ships to facilitate it. However, there does need to be some common thread, some common tactical language that can be fused together so that the Navy, if required, could move forward as one Fleet and know exactly what to expect from the other units in the force, without having to have them explicitly stated in a 300 page OPORD.
It starts with a Conversation
I believe that void, that deficiency in training, can and should be filled in part by a robust professional tactical discussion that could occur fleet wide. Not only can we as a naval service step up and have a more robust conversation that brings in junior and senior officers alike, but can come together as one so that aviators understand and predict what the SWOs are going to do in a tactical engagement, and SWOs understand what the Submariners are going to do etc.
This dialog does not have to be in Proceedings or on a blog. I would argue that at one point in naval history this void might have been filled by discussions that happened around a pint in the officer’s club. Whether this dynamic discussion happens in print, in symposiums, around the wardroom, or in a new school, the crossing of those barriers is vitally important and is something to be aspired to. Now that the money is drying up, we have to be more effective with what we have, and the best way for us to be more tactically effective is to be a more cohesive fighting force. That means that we need to double down on Fleet Tactics.
LT Robert McFall is a Surface Warfare Officer that did two tours on USS WINSTON S. CHURCHILL. He is currently the Vice Chairman of the Editorial Board of the United States Naval Institute and on the Board of Directors of the Surface Navy Association.
- Midrats 21 Sept 14 – Episode 246: “When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty”
- Back to Basics: Restoring the United States Merchant Marine
- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN
- Five Enduring Lessons from Arabian Gulf Patrol Craft Operations
- Solution to the Russian Mistral’s Conundrum: NATO Flagships