Archive for August, 2013

A project about stories also has its own story, and this series is no exception. In 2010, Midshipman (now Ensign) Chris O’Keefe, Naval Academy Class of 2012, conceptualized the series after listening to the BBC’s own podcast series about the history of the world. Since then, he and cameraman / editor Matt McMahon have filmed dozens of interviews and conducted research into the 100 objects presented in this series. Volunteers provided assistance and support in various ways, from Midshipmen helping with the early research, to the staff of the United States Naval Institute with technical support, and of course the assistance of the staffs of both the Naval Academy Museum and the Nimitz Special Collections and Archives. The series helps link the tangible items located at the Naval Academy with the ethereal figures of the past, and in doing so tells the wonderfully fascinating history of our Navy.

Ensign O’Keefe has started publishing these videos, which we’ll be posting here as well. Naturally, his first video is about John Paul Jones.

Often when telling a story, its best to start at the beginning. In our case, although the United States Navy didn’t begin with John Paul Jones, he is nevertheless considered the Father of the American Navy. Born in England, he cut his teeth as a sailor in merchant fleets, before coming to the United States. When war broke out, he joined the fight on the side of the upstart colonies, and won fame for his daring raid on English soil and his victories over British ships. After the war, he accepted a position as an admiral in the Russian navy. After a short time, he returned to Paris in poor health, and died shortly after in 1792. In the tumultuous days of the French Revolution, Jones’ grave was lost and it wasn’t until 1905 that it was rediscovered. After discovery, and with great ceremony, his remains were transported across the Atlantic. After several years were finally interred in the crypt underneath the iconic Naval Academy Chapel, where they remain today. This is the story of Jones in life, and in death.



Considering the current fiscal climate and pressure to reduce defense spending, policy makers and military leaders are looking for innovative ways to reduce operating costs. The Pentagon is not alone in this endeavor and the entire federal government is undergoing similar belt-tightening efforts.

One approach directed by the President’s Office of Management and Budget in its Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Guidance is the increased use of evidence based decision making as a way to reduce costs and improve program effectiveness. This aligns well to the old management axiom “you can’t manage what you don’t measure” and should be applied to the ongoing effort to Reduce Administrative Distractions.

When one compares defense acquisitions to product development in the private sector, the amount of oversight and administration in defense programs are significant factors in the cost-per-unit disparity. Every private American automobile, aircraft and ship manufacturer would certainly be bankrupt if they had to contend with the excessive oversight each defense program must endure.

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Join us on 25 August 2013 at 5pm (Eastern, U.S.) for Midrats Episode 190: “Crowdsourcing the Admin Overhead”:

If the CNO’s #1 priority is war fighting, how do leaders focus on that priority inside a 24-hr
day?

In a complicated structure of Administrative and Operational Chains of Command and the unending hunger of a bureaucracy for metrics and the reports that feed them – when does a system itself become and “Administrative Burden.”

On person’s administrative burden is another person’s critical requirement – so how does an organization’s leadership balance subordinate priorities so they do not interfere with #1?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Rear Admiral Herman Shelanski, USN, Director, Assessment Division, (OPNAV N81). Specifically, we will discuss the CNO’s crowdsourcing initiative “RAD” (Reducing Administrative Distractions) specifically looking at removing those non-value added distractions in the Fleet keeping Sailors away from the Navy’s top priorities.



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I wrote this piece shortly after my first deployment in 2010, mainly to organize my thoughts and keep a record of my personal reflections. I captured what I considered to be the pertinent points of the experience and put the article away until I recently reopened the file for the first time in three years. There are a few parts that reflect the natural naiveté and pride of a first deployment JO, but I believe there is value in sharing the words as we continue to look back at lessons learned from various phases of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade. Particularly, I hope others use the occasion to capture their own personal CAS/COIN lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan as we all return to more traditional, pre-9/11 mission sets such as counter-maritime, counter-air, etc. I haven’t made any edits to the original piece.

Carrier-based tactical close air support platforms have proven to be valuable resources for ground commanders and war planners conducting counterinsurgency campaigns

In a remote village near Herat, Western Afghanistan, a mounted convoy of Marines travels en route to conduct a Key Leader Engagement with the village elder and local leaders. The opportunity to discuss economic issues, insurgent activity, and security concerns serves as a keystone in the effort to maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with the community. As the convoy navigates the small, winding roads, the lead vehicle strikes an IED and insurgent gunmen open fire from behind the walls of a compound 300 meters north of the friendly position. What might have been the obvious response in prior years, an immediate strike on the enemy position executed by aircraft overhead, now requires much more consideration. Following the tenants of Counterinsurgency (COIN) Strategy, as detailed in the Counterinsurgency Field Manual, the collateral effects of the bombing, to include potential effects on civilians and major damage to infrastructure, would likely negate the hard-earned good will critical to a successful COIN strategy. Additionally, the unintended effects could harm ISAF efforts in the long term by fostering resentment and reducing the credibility of friendly forces, ultimately driving local support to insurgent fighters.

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(This article appeared at RealClearDefense and is cross-posted by permission.)

In previous writing about the ongoing East Asian naval race shortly after the launching of the Japanese helicopter destroyer Izumo (DDH-183), I noted that the feverish naval race may be rooted in historical grievances, fierce competition for scarce resources, and the recent sequestration cuts within the Department of Defense, which may make it more difficult for the United States to “manage its alliances and strategic partnerships in the region.”

Izumo

The launching of the JDS Izumo (DDH-183) Photo: Associated Press/Kyodo

As some of my readers have pointed out, I may have appeared somewhat biased against Japan because I did not fully account for other dynamics of the regional naval competition. However, it is not my intention in any way to accuse Japan or its neighbors of espousing expansionist tendencies. I should, therefore, point out that the factors behind the ongoing naval race may be more complex than they appear at first.

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This article was originally featured at Real Clear Defense.

“Show me the money” is the mantra of those analyzing Chinese defense budgets, searching for every defense dollar hidden behind state-owned defense enterprises and construction projects. But perhaps what they should be asking is, “where’s the beef?”

Every traveler knows that money is only as good as what it can buy. What you find on the dollar menu on one side of the border may cost $2.05 on the other. A lack of this purchasing-power-parity perspective is a major flaw in standard comparisons of annual defense spending. Analysis of the U.S. and Chinese defense budgets should not concentrate on dollar-vs-dollar, but rather the meat of what those budgets can buy.

For a quick non-scientific assessment of defense budgets weighted by purchasing-power, we look to the Big Mac Index (BMI, no pun intended). In 1986, the Economist developed the BMI as a humorous way of gauging the accuracy of currency valuations world-wide. What started out as educational humor became a serious academic endeavor. The BMI is so effective that the infamous currency manipulating government of Argentina’s Cristina Fernández de Kirchner has passed laws regulating the sale and marketing of the Big Mac. Although the Economist has produced a “gourmet” version controlling for local factors such as differences in labor costs, it is those local market defects that make the raw BMI appropriate for defense budget analysis – the analysis is not of currency on the exchange floor, but on the shop floor.

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There is something very wrong going on at the very highest levels of our uniformed leadership, they are not standing up for the honor and reputation of their Sailors, Marines, and our other brothers and sisters in the profession of arms.

This failure goes beyond individual failure; it is a systemic failure negatively impacting everyone from the deckplates, to the Beltway, to the post-active duty unemployment line.

I remain perplexed by the supine masochism displayed over and over in the face of weak-at-best accusations made against the culture, morals, and character of our military in the last year. Though even a cursory examination easily shows either the inaccurate, skewed, or downright malicious warping of data concerning sexual assault, suicide, and PTSD in the military – our leaders have surrendered the field without returning a single shot; accepting the agenda and smears of those who are focused on one thing; bringing down the level of esteem our nation holds the military and veterans in.

This should not be a shock to anyone, we have seen this movie before – and people inside and outside the military have been warning this would happen – again.

We saw it after the Vietnam War like in no other period, and again in a very political form following the glow after DESERT STORM. With the counter-culture reeling from the shock of the military being held once again in high regard, it was no shock that the usual suspects made the most out of the bludgeon we gave them at Tailhook to go after the military culture root and branch.

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Please join us for Midrats at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday, 18 August 13, for Episode 189: “The Union and Confederate Navies”:

19780807835883The War Between the States, the American Civil War – whichever description you prefer – this crucible on which our nation was re-formed has legions of books, movies, and rhetoric dedicated to it. Most of the history that people know involves the war on land, but what of the war at sea?

What are details behind some of the major Naval leaders of both sides that are the least known, but are the most interesting? What challenges and accomplishments were made by the belligerents in their navies, and how do they inform and influence our Navy today?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be James M. McPherson, the George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, Crossroads of Freedom (which was a New York Times bestseller), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the Lincoln Prize.

As a starting off point for the show, we will be discussing his book, War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865.

Please join us live or listen later by clicking here.



Posted by Mark Tempest in Army, Navy, Podcast | No Comments
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On August 6th, the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) ran a feature on the latest Japanese helicopter destroyer, the Izumo (DDH-183). CIMSEC contributor Miha Hribernik observed that the Izumo, which is supposedly capable of carrying an aviation squadron and boasts a 814 feet-long (248 meters) STOBAR (short take-off but arrested recovery) flight deck, is “sure to cause concern in China…[since the launching of the ship] presents a potent addition to the operational capabilities and strategic reach of the JMSDF.”

22ddh-comp

Aircraft carrier classification and comparison according to globalsecurity.org

According to Business Insider, the launching of the helicopter destroyer “came in” shortly after China’s recent statement that it is in “no rush [to sign the proposed Code of Conduct] since [Southeast Asian nations involved] harbor unrealistic expectations.” Japan’s territorial row involving Diaoyu/Senkaku coupled with threats emanating from the DPRK (Democratic Republic of Korea) might have triggered increased defense spending. However, the two aims of Japan’s burgeoning defense spending, pre-emptive strike capabilities and the creation of an amphibious assault unit similar to the United States Marine Corps, have made its East Asian neighbors uneasy. As for America’s reaction, Zachary Keck believes that while it is “unclear” how the Obama Administration will respond to Japan’s pre-emptive attack on its “adversary’s bases,” the Obama Administration could become “vocal” should Japan act upon its “threats to review [its] past apologies.”

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Five months after the much-dreaded sequestration went into effect, many defense analysts and military officials alike are worried about the negative repercussions of the drastic budget cuts on military readiness. In his latest commentary, the rightwing commentator Alan Caruba declared that “The U.S. military is on life support.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also argued in his Statement on Strategic Choices and Management Review (SCMR) that “sequester-level cuts would ‘break’ some parts of the strategy, no matter how the cuts were made [since] our military options and flexibility will be severely constrained.”

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers reporters' questions during a Pentagon press briefing on the recent Strategic Choices. Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., right, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Hagel for the briefing. (DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel answers reporters’ questions during a Pentagon press briefing on the recent Strategic Choices. Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., right, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, joined Hagel for the briefing. (DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett)

To its credit, the SCMR seemed to hint at operational and structural adjustments underway by offering two options—trading “size for high-end capacity” versus trading modernization plans “for a larger force better able to project power.” Nevertheless, one important question which went unasked was whether or not the US Armed Forces alone should continue to play GloboCop.

The current geostrategic environment has become fluid and fraught with uncertainties. As Zhang Yunan avers, China as a “moderate revisionist” will not likely replace the United States as the undisputed global champion due to myriad factors. As for the United States, in the aftermath of a decade-long war on terror and the ongoing recession, we can no longer say with certainty that the United States will still retain its unipolar hegemony in the years or decades to come.

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