Archive for March, 2013

It seems inevitable when the fiscal environment wanes toward austerity that there are calls for reducing forward presence in those regions of the world that concern us most. Some have argued that our forward presence is too expensive in relation to the immediate threat. They would advocate pulling back our deployed maritime forces and allowing our allies to take on a greater share of their own defense. These critics further imply that the Navy is deployed everywhere, all the time, without a clear mission other than simply being out and about.

Does the Navy have a counterargument to this view, and if so how do we characterize it? The U.S. Navy has long maintained that our strategic value to the Nation is predicated on our ability to operate forward. We have long used the phrase forward presence to emphasize this posture and convey both a robust operational tempo and a readiness for any crisis. We characterize it within our Maritime Strategy as a “core capability.”1

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Interesting opinion piece from Professor Jim Homes of the Naval War College at USNI News, Opinion: History’s Costliest Fleet Auxiliary:

Carriers started off as fleet auxiliaries a century ago, scouting and screening for the battle line, before taking their place as the chief repository of U.S. Navy striking power during World War II. The CVN could trace the same trajectory followed by the battleships—from capital ship, to expensive fleet auxiliary, and into eventual obsolescence and retirement.

Why is he thinking this way?

This is a milieu populated not just by adversary cruisers and destroyers, but

Old “Silkworm” Anti-Ship Missiles

by missile-toting subs and fast patrol craft. This is also an age of land-based sea power. Extended-range fire support has come a long way since the days of Corbett and Mahan, when a fort’s guns could clear enemy vessels out of a few miles of offshore waters, and that was it. Tactical aircraft flying from airfields ashore, batteries of antiship cruise missiles, and even an exotic antiship ballistic missile are among the weaponry with which U.S. Navy defenders must now contend. This latter-day, hybrid land/sea flotilla menaces not just CVNs but all surface forces that venture within its range.

Modern Iranian Chinese C-801/2 Dispenser

Actually, it is a return to the old days, when Lord Nelson’s adage “A ship’s a fool to fight a fort” was the wisdom of the day.

Anti-access weapons and capability have just added to their range, as land-based powers seek to convert their “near seas” into safe, controlled space.

What does it mean if Professor Holmes is right?

I would suggest starting with building up the submarine fleet. A slew of diesel/AIP boats would be good (in theory, cheaper than nukes). Or something different – submersible missile hydrofoil ships? Break out the old Tom Swift books and see if anything makes sense.

I should also note that one of the original arguments for something like the Littoral Combat Ship was that it was an inexpensive asset that could be put in harm’s way . . . to keep the sea lanes open among other things.

The U.S. Navy needs to be very careful to the avoid the hammer/nail approach to problem solving.



As the budget cuts kick in – I’m having a few flashbacks to the 1990s “peace dividend” era. The key to getting through this process is communication. It takes away some of the uncertainty, and in a way it focuses attention to priorities. It is always interesting, and instructive, to see how different organizations start the process of thinking about what should and should not get the cut.

Via the SalamanderUnderground, the following notes from a Chief of Naval Personnel recent all-hands call is helpful, and adds a bit to Ryan’s post from the 21st.

VADM Van Buskirk’s MT&E priorities are to STABILIZE (at 320,000 personnel), BALANCE (overmanned and undermanned ratings) and DISTRIBUTE (between sea and shore) the workforce. Sailors need to be ASSIGNABLE, DEPLOYABLE and DISTRIBUTABLE in order to meet the Chief of Naval Operations tenets to be WARFIGHTERS FIRST, OPERATE FORWARD and BE READY.

In order to meet these goals, his emphasis is to attack undermanned ratings and increase the quality of recruits as currently evident on entry level exam scores. Quality of recruits is key to keep apprised and abreast of technological changes. He noted that Perform to Serve (PTS) is at 90 percent acceptable in-rate quotas with averages at over 95 percent over the last four months. Retention is historically high but a continued focus is on resiliency of the force. He indicated continued FY funding for sailor support and family readiness programs.

Q&A session discussion included impact of sequestration/CR regarding as well as the following topics:

– USN continuation of tuition assistance (TA) through this FY (all other Services have curtailed this benefit). 45 thousand sailors are recipients of TA with over 90 percent receiving degrees.

– Possible changes in advancement to include consideration of multiple scores such as sea duty.

– Priority of Cyber training but fiscal pressures including civilian furloughs may slow training pipelines.

– Attack undermanned rates with new accessions. YTD have had 41,000 new accessions. Previous years were approximately 35,000-37,000. Looking at a summer surge of recruits.

– Provision of health care with possible civilian furloughs requiring referrals to civilian specialists in town. Possible contributory payments for pharmacy co-pays and increased retiree payment for Tricare for Life.

– Discussion of option to obtain NECs on-line leveraging technology for training. Limitations include current training infrastructure and classification limitations.

– Active duty IAs (except for specific specialties such as dog handling) will be transferred to reserve component. Expect closure of Gulfport MS and other IA training centers.

– STA-21 IW program closed this year. Accession options adjusted based on ROTC, OCS and related accession pipelines. Look for adjustments in future cycles.

– Number one priority is stabilizing the work force ensuring proper distribution and balance. Cross deck sailors may receive special pays and other incentives.

This is going on throughout the Navy and other services. As budgets continue to contract, expect to see more and more of this.

Priorities; time to rack-n-stack ‘em.



Join us Sunday 24 Mar 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 168: “USCG and the Arctic” on Blog Talk Radio:

There is a fair bit of talk about the rush for the arctic for economic and strategic reasons – and where there is international interest on the seas, the nations involved need to think about what is the best way to secure their interests.

While the initial thought might be Navy – is the natural answer really the Coast Guard? If the USCG is the right answer, is it trained, manned and equipped for the job?
What does it need to do in order to fulfill its role – and why may it be the best answer to the question – who will show the flag up north?

Our guest this Sunday for the full hour from 5-6pm EST will be U.S. Naval War College Associate Professor James R. Holmes. As a starting point for our conversation, we will use his latest article in Foreign Policy: America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight: As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.

Join us live or later by going to Midrats on BTR or picking up the show later from our iTunes page (lately there has been some delay in getting the show to iTunes, though, and the link may require iTunes).



I can hear the backlash from that title from here. However, before you put me in a position to be stoned by the masses I’d like to make my case and open the floor to your thoughts too.

My military service has been good to me. I have fairly good healthcare, I get paid well, I’ve learned a lot of life skills, and my jobs haven’t been all that bad either. I’m sure we can all agree that our education benefits over the last ten years or so have been rather awesome too. As a matter of perspective, if not an admission, I was able to pay for about 90 percent of my bacholor degree by way of tuition assistance (TA) while serving in the Coast Guard.

As a one-time Education Services Officer and full time education evangelist I can say that TA was an awesome tool. Times were great, until March 1st, 2013 came and messed that all up.

The deed known as Sequestration became a reality at the beginng of this month and immediately started changing things. From travel to schools and conferences in between life as I/we knew it had begun to alter.

In the Coast Guard alone our operational budget had to be cut by some 25 percent. As I actually type that out it doesn’t seem too bad. That is, until I remember that the word “operational” means search and rescue, among other things. As a measure to ensure the Coast Guard is able to continue saving lives and protecting the nations shores our leaders had to look around to find ways to fill that 25% gap with “non-operational” funds. It’s no surprise that TA was eliminated. I am surprised, however, it didn’t happen sooner if only as a cost saving measure.

Over the last year, give or take, the question of when/if TA is going to be cut or reduced had been broached by many. Though I had no official word from higher authority my gut told me it was in trouble; with or without sequestration. Nonetheless, in the end four of the five military services, USCG included, killed their TA funding.

As of today only the Navy is holding on to its TA program, at least through the end of the current fiscal year (FY13). Congress saved TA for everyone but the Coast Guard.

Aside from obvious fiscal savings- the act of dropping TA may be a subliminal tactic to keep only the best and the brightest in the ranks of our military. I don’t think you’ll actually hear anyone comment on that nor do I think it was a real reason to drop it. However, one has to remember that TA was not only a awesome deal but a recruiting and retentention tool too. How better to thin the ranks outside of the avenues already being taken?

So this leads me to why this ordeal is good. As mentioned this may be a way for the Coast Guard, and others, to retain only the best of their service, or at least the best educated. From my personal observations, with no real data to back it up, I’ve noticed that most of our senior Enlisted folks, as well as most Officers above O-2, hold some sort of degree or are perusing such. With the TA program currently dismissed, and the next fiscal year expected to bring only a fraction of the funds back for use, only those who are truly dedicated will get their education on their own dime*.

As I understand it NAVADMIN 263/04 (the link is broken to the actual message) from the Navy states, in so many words, that beginning in fiscal year 2011 an associate degree or equivalent that is rating-relevant will be a prerequisite for advancement to senior chief petty officer for active and reserve personnel. If this were true across all services then only the best educated would be the leaders.

It’s true that an education doesn’t mean you’re going to be a great leader but one has to admit that if we were required to get a degree in our specialty our military would be better for. We don’t need a retained workforce, we need an educated workforce to move forward in today’s world.

So the removal, or reduction, of tuition assistance will allow the Coast Guard to keep only the best and brightest in its ranks. If they were to go one step further and require certain degrees for certain jobs or certain ranks then we could truly be one of the best educated fighting nations in the world.

Does removal tuition assistance suck? Yes. But will it help the Coast Guard and other services in the long run? Also yes, if it is leveraged correctly.

Any thoughts on the matter?

Update 22 March 2013: The Coast Guard also reinstated its TA (http://www.uscgnews.com/go/doc/4007/1732873/)

* Rumors are tuition assistance in the Coast Guard is going to be back, but not nearly as robust as it once was.



Join us this Sunday at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for a different sort of discussion about the process of academic freedom and the intellectual preparation of our officer corps during our

Episode 167: Intellectual Integrity, PME, and NWC

How do we advance the intellectual development of leaders through Professional Military Education, the Naval War College, and else where?

What is the purpose and how are we trying to achieve the goals to best serve our nation? Are we doing it right? What are the trends, and what could we do better?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island. Her publications include: Heavenly Ambitions: America’s Quest to Dominate Space; Space As A Strategic Asset, and over 80 journal articles. She is a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics, and a member of the Editorial Board of China Security. She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, and is regularly interviewed by the media, including CNN, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC, on space issues. She also teaches courses on Globalization and US National Security, and Space and Security, at Harvard Summer and Extension Schools.

Join us live here (or listen later or download it later from that same location) or from our iTunes page (perhaps, someday iTunes will catch up with our episodes).



gfdsI still remember the first time ME1 (formerly MK1) Sean Lawler called me up to tell me about this guy who decided he was going to run the Keys 100 (in Key West, FL) in remembrance of Coast Guard members who’d fallen in the line of duty. To put it bluntly I thought it was a crazy idea- ambitious- but crazy. However, as I started to work with ME1 on getting the word out, the more I realized that I actually knew little about those who’ve died in the line of duty. Short of Douglas Munro, and the smattering of Shipmates lost during the 2011 timeframe, I was ill equipped to know who they were.

LT Brian Bruns, that ambitious individual, had a goal of not only bringing awareness to those who’ve fallen in the line of duty but was also looking for a way to bring awareness to the Coast Guard Foundation’s Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Bruns’ and Lawler’s plan worked. Enter the 2011 Coast Guard Run2Remember; in the end LT Bruns ran the 100 mile ultra marathon in memory of 90+ Shipmates who had fallen since 9/11. Donated funds came in at around $2,000 all of which were donated to the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Not too bad for a single runner and a few followers.

Last year’s second annual Coast Guard Run2Remember (2012) got a whole lot bigger, and LT Lucy Love entered into the coordinator’s seat. After seeing the impact the first event had on the families of the fallen, LT Love stepped up and took the initiative to ensure a 2nd event took place. With LT Bruns deployed, she assumed the reins and transformed a one-man event into a movement. She continued to work with ME1 Lawler and together they renewed a campaign to bring further awareness to the Foundation’s scholarship fund and the Coasties we’ve lost.

Their hard work paid off. LT Love involved not only some 93 people to run the Keys 100 but also individual events at units throughout the Coast Guard. Units from Virginia to Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, and even Kuwait were holding their own Run2Remeber events. While Love worked to coordinate the actual running in Key West (yes, another crazy one!) and help the individual event holders at units around the globe, Lawler was (and still is) hard at work getting the word out via their Facebook page, unit event pages, Twitter, and in general online social interactions. Lawler is also the designer, three years running, of their logos and images. It’s a lot of work on top of their day jobs.

As a member of the Coast Guard, I was part of our local Run2Remember here in Juneau, AK last year. We had a turnout of about 50 or so people all wearing the t-shirts with the names of the fallen on the back. I still wear mine knowing someone is reading the back. At the end of the 2012 campaign, LT Love and ME1 Lawler’s work enabled them to donate $12,000 dollar to the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. Awesome!

The event has kind of taken a life of its own without a doubt. I admit I never saw it getting as big as it has. With that in mind I wondered if the Coast Guard as an organization would have taken notice- they have. Though the event isn’t sponsored by the Coast Guard it definitely is supported. Which is good enough for me.

The 2013 campaign has changed a little. After listening to both participants and wishful participants of last year’s event the duo set in motion a change of name and a change of participation. Starting this year the formerly named Run2Remember has officially been changed to CG Remember (it will be held 17 & 18 May 2013).

Why the change to such a successful event? Well, in short, not everyone runs or can run. So the name change opens up the event to not only runners but also bikers, rowers, rollers skaters, house sitters, and your backyard Bar-B-Q. “Virtually any event can be used as a remembrance event. It’s not about the exercise or running, it never was, it’s about remembering.” says ME1 Lawler.

The goal hasn’t change though. The event is still here to help the Fallen Heroes Scholarship Fund. What has changed, along with the name, are the t-shirts. Over the past two years the shirts have listed the names of the fallen since September 11, 2001; 90+. This year that number has risen to 126 fallen Shipmates going back to 1982 1978. It will also include the most fallen Shipmate, [Senior] Chief Petty Officer Terrell Horne III, who died in 2012.

ME1 Sean Lawler said it well in a letter to 2012 participants writing, “To the families of the fallen members, we know that nothing will ever ease the pain you have from losing a loved one, but you need to know that every member of the Coast Guard is with you, thanks you, and will always remember your sacrifice. Our uniforms have our names on the right side, but bear the words [U.S.] Coast Guard on the left…and that makes us all family. We will always remember our family.”

I look at the work that is being done here as Coasties helping Coasties. We’re known as an organization that is always there to help the public; however, we’re also just as capable with helping each other.

Now the easy part: getting involved. If you’re in the Coast Guard it’s likely that your unit is already planning something. Check the list of participating units at event page which will have your local point of contact.

If you’re not in the Coast Guard, or you’d rather not participate in an event but still want to help Coast Guard Foundation Fallen Hero Scholarship fund, you can purchase your own t-shirt for $20. The best part is 100% of the proceeds go to the scholarship fund. If you’d rather just donate without anything in return you’ll also find the address to mail donation on that same page. Either way it’s a great cause.

Thank you LT Love and ME1 Lawler for keeping this annual remembrance in motion.

LT Lucy Love was the Coast Guard’s Shipmate of the Week on 15 March 2013.



This Sunday March 10 at 5pm (don’t forget the time change “spring ahead”) Episode 166: ‘Expeditionary Fleet Balance” on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio:

Do we have the right balance between strike as embodied by carrier air and expeditionary forces based around amphibious ships?

What capability is most cost effective and gives the combatant commanders the most flexible assets in their area of responsibility?

What is driving our Fleet structure, and do we have the right mix? What is informing our decisions, and what should be informing it?

Our guest for the full hour will be Lieutenant Colonel James W. Hammond III, USMC (Ret), senior manager at WBB.

Prior to retirement in 2005, he was Director, Commandant’s Staff Group.

As a starting point for our discussion, we will review his points in the FEB13 Proceedings article, “A Fleet Out of Balance.” Previous published articles and letters in the Naval Institute Proceedings and the Marine Corps Gazette have dealt with Naval Surface Fire Support, Counterbattery support from the Sea, Electronic Attack, Revolution in Military Affairs, and Provisional Rifle Companies.

Listen live (or download later) here or on our iTunes page.



From The Jaws of Victory

The final battle of Epipole showed the pitfalls of over-reliance on communications and single circuits. During the Athenian siege of Syracuse during the Peloponnesian War, the Syracusans countered the attempt of Athens to wall in the city by building a counter-wall past the projected path of Athenian battlements. The Syracusans had gained a critical blocking position, and Athenian General Demosthenes concocted a plan to dislodge the defenders. Athenian forces found themselves stalled during the daytime battles outside the counter-wall, when their enemies could easily observe and rally against them. General Demosthenes planned a night-time strike on the counter-wall. The well-organized night-time attack completely overwhelmed and nearly destroyed the first garrison. As the alarm was sounded, the Athenians rushed forward before allowing themselves to re-organize and re-identify. When the first real resistance was met, the ensuing disaster is worth citing in full:

IFF degrades to, “is this person stabbing me in the face?”

IFF degrades to, “is this person stabbing me in the face?”

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LexLeFon

To the scribes, to the thinkers, to the families, to those in the arena…in honor of one who served our Navy well in each of these roles. http://www.neptunuslex.com/

 



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