Archive for November, 2012

Join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on 2 Dec 12 for Episode 152: “Navy Next, Interrupted” on Midrats

Elections have consequences. There are paths not taken, and paths that remain.In the last election, national security was very much kept in the background, but once you peeled away a layer or two and looked carefully, there was a lot of “there there” – and a lot of it involved what to do with the direction of the US Navy.

The erstwhile nautical corner of Team Romney had a direction they wanted to take the Navy.

What was that direction? What informed it, and what were the guiding requirements that shaped their concepts?

For the full hour we will have a Midrats regular, Bryan McGrath on to discuss this and more.

Bryan McGrath is a retired Surface Warfare Officer. He commanded USS BULKELEY (DDG 84) from 2004-2006, and finished his career by leading the team that wrote the nation’s current maritime strategy.
He retired in 2008 and is currently a Washington DC based defense consultant at Delex Systems. From August 2011 to November 2012, he served on the Mitt Romney for President Defense Policy Working Group.



BREAKING NEWS…Secretary of the Navy, the Honorable Ray Mabus has just announced that the next Ford Class Carrier, CVN-80 will be named USS Enterprise during his speech at the inactivation ceremony for CVN-65. Long live the name Enterprise!

The USS Enterprise (CVN 65) is slated for “inactivation” tomorrow in a ceremony at NOB Norfolk, bringing to close a half-century of service to this country around the globe. She was (is) a one-of-a-kind ship and for all of us who have stood watch and flown from her deck, we count that time as something special – my last trap and flight in an E-2C Hawkeye as CO of VAW-122 was on Enterprise, and the first chapter of the next phase of my Navy career began on her bridge a scant four months later. I’ve thought long and hard about making the trip down to Norfolk for the ceremony, but having been a part of too many squadron and ship decoms already (and witnessing one of those ships being slowly cut to pieces by the ship breakers), it frankly would have been too painful.

I choose instead to remember Big E in her heyday – deck packed with Sailors and warbirds, a bone in her teeth and course set for the distant horizon. Ave atque vale Enterprise, ave atque vale



26th

Over to whom?

November 2012

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With the Big E coming home for good, the NIMITZ acting a bit old and busted, there has been a lot of discussion as of late about the ability of the US Navy to do what she has become accustomed to doing; projecting power globally from the sea with almost impunity – and the large-deck carrier being the tool primarily used to do so.

Through gross program mismanagement, myopic POM-centric rice bowl games, and simple parochialism – much of the nuance, depth, and flexibility of what was on those decks are gone as well, most notably the loss of the S-3, ES-3, organic tanking (fighters tanking don’t count, silly goose), and independent long range strike – gone and replaced with a deck of jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none RW and light fighters with AEW thrown in for character.

Add to that the ongoing “to the right” extended deployment of our Amphib “small deck” carriers (yes, I know, I know, I know) and their ARGs, funkyesque methods of Fleet number counting, and the expected contraction in shipbuilding budgets that all but this ordered to say otherwise accept will be the new norm – then more and more smart people are trying to step back and get the larger view.

What exactly are the larger Strategic implications of the clear decline in the US Navy’s global reach?

As is often the case, to help break the intellectual gridlock, it is helpful to bring in outside views. Over at the UK blog Thin Pinstiped Line, Sir Huphrey speaks with big medicine. The whole post is worth a read – but everyone should ponder the below a bit.

The reality is that the USN now is probably in the same place as the RN found itself in the mid-1960s – mid 1970s. Reduced budgets, elderly vessels still in service, while the new designs (T42s, 22s) were taking longer than planned to come into service, and yet operationally committed across the globe.

The ability of the USN to operate with impunity across the globe, steaming where it wanted on its terms, and able to stand its ground against almost any aggressor has gone forever. Todays’ USN remains a fiercely capable and strong navy, but its ability to exert unlimited and unchallenged control of the high seas has gone, probably forever. Instead it would be more realistic to judge that the future USN will provide a capability to deploy power into some areas, but only at the cost of reducing capability and influence in others.

In a classic, “over to you” moment as the Royal Navy slowly retreated West of Suez after the late 1950’s unpleasantness, and with the final moment by Prime Minister Wilson in the annus horribilis that was 1968 – the world approaching mid-21st Century is stuck with a quandary.

The British at least were handing things off, indirectly, to her daughter; a relatively smooth transition to a nation that was cut from the same cloth and whose interests were more often than not those interests of Britain.

If, as Sir Humphrey states, we face a future where the global capability of the US will decline in proportion to her navy – then who will be there to fill the gap? Multiple smaller regional powers? A rising power? Status quo, but thinner? Nothing?

None of those three are in the interests of the US.

Willfully abandoning territory – enough of the “global commons” PR stunts, please – to the whims of whatever power has the will to take it, is a classic description of a nation in decline. In our case, that would be a willful decline – but almost all declines are willful.

Is everyone on board with that? It is a choice.

Hat tip BJ.



21st

For the Reading List

November 2012

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Last week, I read one of those books that is impossible to put down. I read it—devoured it is more like it—in about a night-and-a-half of reading instead of sleeping. That’s something I don’t do these days, but I had to finish it.

It was weirdly familiar and hard to read, and in many ways it resonated. It’s called After Action: The True Story of a Cobra Pilot’s Journey, and it was written by Dan Sheehan, a fellow Cobra pilot. It’s—sort of—a recall/analysis of his time in Iraq in the early days of OIF and a discussion of the aftermath. I haven’t flown since 2010, but while reading his book, it felt like yesterday. I could smell the cockpit like the blades had just stopped turning, could feel the switches and gauges under my fingertips again, and remember well the post-mission stupor exacerbated by the dull, strong whomp-whomp of the blades echoing up my back.

Dan is an acquaintance; we both served as instructors at the Fleet Replacement Squadron right before we each left active duty. I don’t know him incredibly well, but he’s got a stellar reputation and was exceedingly competent. But that’s not why I hope people read his book.

I hope people read it because what he writes about is important. Yes, flying is interesting, and he describes what that’s like so expertly and eloquently that it made me physically miss it (as if I didn’t miss it enough already). So if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to fly and fight a Cobra, he’ll tell you. But the beauty in this book—if I dare use that word to describe the critical part of his story—is his ability and willingness to stand up and put a face to what so many veterans have experienced and continue to experience.

It’s a book that may not get a huge following, as it’s kind of in its own category. But if it doesn’t get widely read, then it’s a crying shame. Despite the fact that we’ve been at war for over a decade, less than 1% of Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan (yet many of those endured multiple deployments), and I find myself repeatedly surprised by how few citizens have a real awareness of just what has been happening since 2001. I want people to read Dan’s book, both those who have served and those who have not. Those who have might see traces of themselves in his story, and those who have not served need the perspective. Thank you, Shoe. Keep writing.

 



America’s “longest war”—now in its eleventh year in Afghanistan—has proved a source of frustration to policymakers, military strategists, and academics alike. Hypotheses abound about why American progress appears sluggish. Everything from failed tactical objectives, fractured civil-military relations, and an unbridgeable cultural divide have been scrutinized.

One theory, postulated by Thomas Ricks, an author and senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, suggests that “serially rotat[ing] our top war commanders” on an almost-annual basis has contributed to this stagnation. Writing in a New York Times op-ed article, Ricks notes that there have been 11 officers to lead the war effort in 11 years. “Rotating troops is appropriate,” he observes, “especially when entire units are moved in and out.” However, replacing commanders is inefficient and counterproductive.

Ricks may have it backwards: Perhaps the reason why the U.S. has not fully met its operational goals in Afghanistan is precisely because the military is not rotating its top commanders through the country with sufficient frequency. One need only look at U.S. naval operations during the latter part of WWII to find a useful case study for how pragmatically swapping theater commanders yielded myriad benefits in prosecuting the war.

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Join us this coming Sunday at 5pm Eastern U.S. as we talk with Capt. Wayne Hughes, USN (Ret)on Midrats, Episode 150: “Policy, Fleet Size, and the Navy Next” on Blog Talk Radio:

“If we cannot have the navy estimates of our policy, then let’s have the policy of our navy estimates.”—- Lieutenant Ambroise Baudry, French Navy

As our guest this week noted in his book Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice, “These are the watchwords for the twenty-first-century American navy.”

As we leave our land wars in Asia and look forward to the future maritime challenges of our nation, what size and kind of Fleet should the US Navy have?

How will budgets impact the size and nature of our Fleet, and how will that impact the ability of the Navy to meet what it will be asked to do?

What are the major schools of thought on what should drive our Fleet design, and what does history have to tell us about where we should head, and what we should be cautious of?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and a lot more will be Wayne Hughes, Captain, USN (Ret), who in addition to being the author of innumerable books and articles, is a Professor, Department of Operations Research at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA.

Captain Hughes received an MS in Operations Research from NPS in 1964, and returned in 1979 and continued as a civilian instructor for thirty-two years, including 5 years as Dean of the Graduate School of Operational and Information Sciences, he is a Distinguished Alumnus of NPS.

On active duty he commanded a minesweeper, a destroyer, and directed a large training command. Ashore, he was Deputy Director of the CNO’s Systems Analysis (OP-96), and Aide to Under Secretary of the Navy R. James Woolsey.

Join us live here (and you can listen/download the show from there later, too) or pick the show up on iTunes here.



Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy, Podcast | 1 Comment
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Dear U.S. Naval Institute:

You have many wonderful programs and forums that are held in Washington, DC, Norfolk, VA, Annapolis, MD and San Diego, CA.

I would like to attend them all. Sadly, though, I do not live in Washington, Norfolk, etc.

In order to attend a forum in DC, for example, I would have to incur travel costs including airfare, hotel, meals, cab fare and/or gas. In addition, it means time off from work or projects.

Even if the admission to the forum is free or at a reduced price I am still looking at substantial out of pocket costs.

So, here’s a plea from the hinterlands, next time you plan an event like the 2012 Defense Forum Washington: The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?, please consider offering an option of allowing virtual attendance – I’d be happy to pay for the privilege of being able to watch and listen in on my laptop or desktop computer. Since my admission price to the live event is $15 (being a USNI member), I’d pay that (and perhaps a little more) to save the hundreds of other dollars of having to travel hither and yon.

The quality doesn’t have to be particularly high. The main thing is the access for me and others who would love to join in. Virtually.

Virtual attendance may allow younger officers and junior enlisted to join in while remaining at their duty stations.

I know that there are companies that provide technical assistance in such things here in the 21st Century.

I also note that may other organizations put on live video programs including The Heritage Foundation and The Cato Institute.

Please consider this idea.

Thank you.

MT



13th

Power and the Fallen Man

November 2012

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A couple of years ago here, I posted about the danger of getting too close to the media, I described what is the downfall of many GOFO;

Vanity. Non-mission related, non-value added vanity that degraded or destroyed the “brand” of men who gave decades of service to their nation and rose to its highest levels.

In his self-immolation, General Petraeus, USA, has provided, in a fashion, a very good object lesson for leaders from LPO to CNO. It is not a new lesson, it is not a unique lesson – as a matter of fact it is a lesson that echoes throughout human history. It isn’t limited to the military environment either, it is just part of the human condition; ego, power, and sex.

Do we talk about this enough? Not really. Not in the direct manner we need to. We talk around it. As it can be a bit touchy for some in a socio-political context, usually we only discuss the second and third order effects after it all goes south. We are more than willing to talk about the externalized manifestation of the ego-power-sex dynamic; the person who abuses their power to gain sexual favors or to force themselves on subordinates, but we do not talk enough about the internalized version of it; the magnetic draw and seductive nature of power itself, how it warps the ego, and how it morphs in to the emotional and mammalian drive towards sex.

Power is an aphrodisiac that can make even the physically or personally repulsive person attractive. It draws in certain personalities to men with power and influence. Can it happen male to female as well as female to male? Sure, I’ve see the “scalp hunters” in action – but that would be the extreme exception to the rule, and frankly silly to discuss. In the real world we are talking about the man in power and the women who are drawn to them. We see that dynamic at NJP, in the relief of Commanding Officers, and all the way to the 4-star level.

Perhaps some leaders who are not fully self-aware may have missed it, but in a gender mixed environment, almost all male leaders will have females of lower status attempt to get closer than they should – in a heterosexual context via a way a male colleague cannot. We are all adults here, we know how the bouncing ball goes from that brief moment of enjoying the company of a woman’s voice a little longer than one should.

About the whirlwind unleashed by General Petraeus’s very human weakness, more details will come out, and others will be writing about every aspect of this for awhile. Get used to it, as this has all the aspects of power, sex, infidelity, and intrigue that a story with legs needs. It is much more interesting to the general public than sequestration, the Afghanistan withdraw, or fiscal cliffs. Let that work its way out, but for us – what is the base lesson that should come out of this at the deckplate level – specifically for male leaders?

It is simply this; you will find yourself in a place sooner more than later where a female subordinate will make herself available to you. It can cover the entire spectrum from raw and physical immediacy, to a slow growing relationship based on professional respect and friendship that intensifies with proximity.

There was more than one decision point in the relationship that brought down General Petraeus where he should have diverted then-Major Broadwell back to the gym solo, but he didn’t. As a result, a reputation is in tatters, a critical agency has lost a leader, a war’s leaders are distracted, and two families are in turmoil. In time I am sure we will all know more than we want to, but one thing is clear. He is the person responsible for this. He was senior in age (almost two decades) and position (at the start we think O-4 to O-10). It was his inability to control his weakness, his ego, and his actions that brought him here. He knows this too, or at least he does now.

As young leaders grow in positions of authority they need to keep simple human nature in mind. You will be tempted, even if you try to avoid it. You can end it as quickly as it comes up, and all will go along as before. We are all human, and at a weak moment, you may pause – but don’t pause long – there are too many lives, families, and careers that are riding on you being a leader and doing the right thing.

If you fail, that is on you. Same with General Petraeus; this is on him. Not the woman on the other side of the story; not the media; not the FBI; not his staff; not anyone above him in the chain of command, other agencies, or political parties.

There are many positive things to benchmark with General Petraeus’s career, and now you have a negative one. Don’t want to have all your hard work blow up in your face? Look at the poor decisions he made, and look for those decision points in your life where you will have to make the call – you will be there – do it right.



10th

Happy 237th, Marines!

November 2012

By

Marine Corps’ 237th Birthday.

Marines.

Don’t leave home without them.

For 237 years, we haven’t.



We often hear how the younger generation doesn’t appreciate many of the things that make this country great, the people responsible for our enduring freedom, and the sacrifices required to keep it that way. This essay should assuage some of those concerns.

Veterans Day is an important day, but few recognize what it really means. To some, it is just an ordinary day. To others, it is just a day off work, a day to sleep in and relax. But to others there is a much deeper meaning behind this holiday. To those people, it is a day about remembering, commemorating, and praising those who have served this country as military professionals.

My mom, my dad, my stepdad, my stepmom, my uncle, my grandfather, and my great-grandfather all served in the military, and I grew up as a Navy Brat. At the time, I did not know what that meant. All I knew was that I was sick of leaving my friends and starting over every few years. All I knew was that I was sick of temporary houses; I just wanted a home. All I knew was that I was jealous of anyone who had the same friends from Kindergarten. I am not going to sugarcoat it, sometimes things were rough. And that is how it is for every military family.

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