Archive for September, 2013

Please join us live on Midrats this Sunday, 29 Sep 13 at 5 pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 195: The Pacific Pivot Ground Element:

What is the role of ground forces as the conversation revolves around the Air Sea Battle Concept?

Is an emphasis on air and sea power sending the right message, driving balanced thinking, and sending the right messages to our friends and competitors?

Building off his article in the May 2013 Armed Forces Journal, Back To Reality, Why Land Power Trumps in the National Rebalance Towards Asia, our guest for the full hour will be Major Robert Chamberlain, USA.

He has served two tours in Iraq (2003-4 and 2007-8), studied refugees at Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, and is currently finishing his dissertation in Political Science at Columbia. He teaches International Relations at the West Point and, of course, the views he is about to express are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Military Academy, the Army, or the Department of Defense.

Join us live or listen from the archive later – if you can’t join us live – by clicking here.



Speaking at the Association of the United States Army on the 12th, Admiral James Winnefeld, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the audience that in future ground wars the tempo will be “shorter, faster-paced and much harder” because America’s adversaries will work to create a “fog of war.” Thus, the Admiral suggested that the Army “place more emphasis on the growth industry…of protecting American citizens abroad” in order to adapt to the fluid geostrategic environment.

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VCJCS Admiral James Winnefeld speaking at the Association of the United States Army on September 12th.

Indeed, since the sequestration went into effect in March, many defense experts have been debating what the future may hold for the Army, the Marine Corps and the Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Whatever their respective views may be on the utility of landpower in future wars, all seem to agree on one thing: that in the sequestration era, the ground components must fight leaner and smarter.

For John R. Deni, a research professor at the U.S. Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute, the answer seems to lie in the “Army-led military-to-military activities” which may provide stability in politically volatile regions “if only because most military forces around the globe are army-centric.”

Others beg to differ. Generals James Amos and Raymond Odierno and Admiral William McRaven seem to second Admiral Winnefeld’s claim when they argue that today “the need to conduct large-scale aid and consequence management missions, both within the United States and internationally, is certain to grow.” General James Amos, the Marine Corps Commandant, also recently echoes this view when he advocates a lighter but mobile Marine Corps because he believes tomorrow’s conflicts will likely involve “violent extremism, battles for influence, disruptive societal transitions, natural disaster, extremist messages and manipulative politics.”

However, if the United States Armed Forces is truly concerned about raising a cost-efficient and versatile ground force, it can merge the Army, the SOCOM and the Marine Corps into one unified service branch. This idea is not new. As far back as 1994, the late Colonel David Hackworth advocated the merger of the Army and the Marine Corps because their missions seemed to overlap. He went so far as to claim that the Department of Defense (DoD) could save “around $20 billion a year.” Nevertheless, absent in Hackworth’s column was a coherent blueprint for how the DoD could effectively unify its ground components into a cohesive service because Hackworth did not flesh out his strategic vision for what 21st Century wars may look like.

Which raises a very salient question as to what America’s strategic priorities should be. In a perceptive op-ed, Mark Fitzgerald, David Deptula and Gian P. Gentile aver that the United States must choose to go to “war as a last resort and not a policy option of first choice.” To this must be added another imperative. The United States Armed Forces must prioritize homeland defense as its primary mission and rethink the mistaken belief that the United States can somehow secure its interests through “lengthy military occupations of foreign lands.”

Thus, this newly merged service must redirect its focus towards countering cyber warfare and CBRNe (Chemical, Biological, Radiation, Nuclear and explosives) attacks and should work towards bolstering its counterterrorism (CT) capabilities. This is because, due to the convergence of the global community, the United States may be vulnerable to attacks from within by homegrown terrorists and drug cartels—all of which may wreak havoc and may even cripple America’s domestic infrastructures.

Reorientation of its mission focus may also require that the new service reconfigure its size. After all, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey wrote in Foreign Affairs, “Washington should remember that the size of the armed forces is not the most telling metric of their strength.” One solution is to adopt the so-called “Macgregor Transformation Model (MTM)” centered around the combat group concept which may reduce the strength of the new service “yet in the end produce a force that has greater combat capability…[and] more sustainable.” This model may provide the United States with a deployable fire brigade in the event of a national emergency or an international crisis. Already, the bases from which to adopt this viable model exist in the form of Army brigade combat teams (BCTs) and Marine Air-Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) of various sizes.

Should the United States decide that it needs to project its hard power abroad to guard its interests, it could deploy the Special Operations Forces (SOF) components of the new service in tandem with UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) to selectively target and neutralize potential threats. While the SOF and UAV surgical raids should not be viewed as substitutes for deft diplomacy, they can provide cheaper and selective power projection capabilities. Moreover, doing so could minimize the risks inherent in power projection and anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) missions which may potentially mire the United States in messy and protracted conflicts.

Marines from MARSOC honing their rifle marksmanship skills. Photo by MARSOC Public Affairs

Last but not least, this new service could buttress interoperability and capabilities of allied forces around the globe through military-to-military exchanges. Although Deni was referring specifically to the Army-led initiatives when he suggested this, he may be correct that military-to-military engagements may help to promote America’s image abroad as a trusted guarantor of peace. But even more important, such activities may “mean fewer American boots on the ground.” However, implementing what the retired Marine General James Mattis refers to as the “proxy strategy” may be a better means by which the United States could “lead from behind.” Under this arrangement, while “America’s general visibility would decline,” its allies and proxies would police the trouble spots on its behalf.

Contrary to what many in the defense establishment believe, the austerity measures wrought by the sequestration have not been entirely negative. If anything, this perceived “crisis” has provided the much-needed impetus for innovative approaches to national defense. The proposed merger of the ground forces may provide the United States with most cost-effective and versatile service branch to defend the homeland and safeguard its interests abroad.



The oldest commissioned vessel of the United States Navy, the U.S.S. Constitution, has a storied history that stretches back over two hundred years. “Old Ironsides” has an iconic place in American naval lore. This wooden model accurately represents her accurately represents her construction, AND unlike many of our objects we can still see the original ship in person. The real Constitution looks nearly the same as she did two hundred years ago, and can be visited in Boston where she remains on permanent display.



Please join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) on Sunday 22 Sep 13 for Midrats Episode 194: “DD214, Unpacked Boxes and the road ahead”:

When a few years turns in to many. When all of a sudden you seem to be the oldest guy in the room. When you have but days of memories of your kids and in the blink of an eye they are a year older – eventually everyone on active duty reaches the point where it is time to pack the sea bag one more time and put it in the attic.


It is time to retire or leave active duty. Better or worse – it is time to go.

What are the paths someone follows to reach that point? What decisions and inputs lead to that point where you say, “It’s someone else’s turn.”

What are the important things you learn in the process of leaving going out that you wish you knew earlier? What are the myths about transitioning to the civilian world – and what are the no-kidding hard truths?

How do you interact differently with the civilian world? What must someone leave behind, and what are those things that if you want them or not, they will always be with you?

To discuss this and more on the subject of “what’s next” when you leave active duty will be out panel with returning guest Commander James H. Ware, USN (Ret.)., and former active duty Sergeant Marcus Penn, USMC.

Join us at 5pm on Sunday 22 Sep 13 or pick the show up later by clicking here.



Looking for that special gift that will have that certain special warship/navy geek in your life sitting on the floor oohing and cooing like little kids used to do with the Sears Christmas toy catalog? Or, are you that person who needs to drop a hint that, while gifts of new ties, sweaters, new tires and the like are nice and all, what you would really like is . . . THE NAVAL INSTITUTE GUIDE TO COMBAT FLEETS OF THE WORLD, 16th Edition Their Ships, Aircraft, and Systems by Eric Wertheim:

Called “the nation’s premier naval reference book,” Combat Fleets of the World is internationally acknowledged as the best one-volume reference to the world’s naval and paranaval forces. Updated regularly since 1976, it has come to be relied on for all-inclusive, accurate, and up-to-date data on the ships, navies, coast guards, and naval aviation arms of more than 170 countries and territories. Large fleets and small maritime forces get equally thorough treatment. Comprehensive indexes make the book easy to use and allow for quick comparisons between ships and fleets.

So, just what kind of naval force does Thailand have? What about Brunei? Brazil? Switzerland?

Yes, it’s all there. And if you think that I am joking about the hours of fun your friendly neighborhood wannabe naval expert can have with this book, I invite you to check with my wife.

I think that she’s around here someplace, but I haven’t seen her since my copy of this book arrived in the mail . . . well, perhaps after I read about Montenegro’s fleet, I’ll try and find her.



Posted by Mark Tempest in Books | No Comments

corbIn September 1992, the Naval War College gathered naval experts from around the world to examine the works of Sir Julian Corbett and Admiral Sir Herbert Richmond in the post-Cold War context. From the conference papers, the book “Mahan is not Enough” was published.

One excellent article from this compilation that remains particularly relevant today is “Process: The Realities of Formulating Modern Naval Strategy” written by Dr. David Alan Rosenberg.

Rosenberg uses the works of Corbett and Richmond to illustrate the importance of leveraging and integrating the expertise of naval historians and naval officers to fully understand naval strategy.

The key takeaway from this piece is a valuable framework for understanding the modern naval strategy-making process. It includes a list of seventeen topics for investigation, and while delving into each factor is too lengthy for this post, a cursory examination reveals the complex nature of naval strategy:

  • The nature of training and education programs, career patterns, and professional specialization of officers in the naval service;
  • The career patterns and operational, technical and staff backgrounds of individual naval officers in significant leadership positions;
  • The procurement costs, capabilities, operating patterns and sustainment requirements of naval weapons systems;
  • Changes in tactical doctrine and/or naval art;
  • The administrative structure, operational doctrine, strategic plans and command and control organization of tactical units beyond individual ships;
  • The sources of intelligence information;
  • The process of intelligence production, analysis, and dissemination;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of naval service-wide strategic planning;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of naval service-wide program and procurement planning;
  • The state of research and development progress of a nation’s naval warfare technology;
  • The state of the national scientific and industrial infrastructure for research, development, and production of naval warfare technology;
  • The character and personalities of naval service and national leadership;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of national strategic military planning;
  • The structure, organization, and procedures of national program and procurement planning;
  • The character and personalities of national defense leadership;
  • The character and structure of the national political system as it relates to defense issues;
  • The character, structure, and status of national financial and economic systems as they relate to national defense.

While this framework is valuable for researchers and students of naval strategy, it also provides a useful guide for aspiring naval strategists to consider. To become a proficient naval strategist, a broad knowledge-base attained through experience, education, and professional reading is essential.

For those interested in learning more about the history of naval strategy, the Center for Naval Analysis provides a repository of their superb work on this topic. Each of their products provides a thorough examination of navy capstone documents and covers the political, economic, and military context within which it was formulated.

As a reminder for those interested in naval history, the United States Naval Academy hosts the 2013 McMullen Naval History Symposium in Annapolis, Maryland, on 19-20 September 2013. The list of presenters and topics is impressive and the event provides an excellent forum for naval officers and historians to interact.



Russia has saved the world from loose WMD before; in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s dissolution, Russia arranged the Lisbon Protocols with Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus to systematically destroy or return massive nuclear stockpiles. If only Syria had the stability of post-Soviet chaos. If the Syrian “Lisbon Protocol” fails and the regime collapses, the presence of WMD is a guarantor of intervention, most likely by the US.

Yeah, these are some nice WMD. It would be a shame if, let's say, my guards disappeared and someone stole them.

Yeah, these are some nice WMD. It would be a shame if, let’s say, my guards disappeared and someone stole them.

The Russian arrangement is not yet official and may be Assad’s play for time. The chemical weapons are potentially more powerful against the US than rebels. Likely, a reality causing Secretaries Kerry and Hagel to eschew the term “regime change” is that the danger of Syria’s chemical weapons (CW) to the US increases as Assad teeters. Though rightfully loathed, Assad and his men secure their CW and have so far resisted handing party favors to associates.

As the regime crumbles, CW facilities may find themselves overwhelmed or guards shifted to critical fronts, doors open to terrorists or unscrupulous brokers. Though some argue we do not have a dog in Syria’s fight, a whole henhouse is under threat if those dogs break loose. There are only three likely solutions if a Russian deal fails:

  1. This can work for both of us. "Kill yourself," is my final offer.

    This can work for both of us. “Kill yourself,” is my final offer.

    We understand your position. Meet us halfway at, "die and go to hell."

    We understand your position. Meet us halfway at, “die and go to hell.”

    Political Agreement: If only all parties could agree to a two-part plan to stop murdering one another and share power. Guards stay on post, conflict ends, and world moves on after the noble work of aiding refugees. The rump of Assad’s regime keeps its pulse and constant pressure to the switch. Unfortunately, with parties whose non-negotiable point is that the opponent “die”, and multiple Al-Qaeda (AQ) militias, this seems nigh impossible.

  2. Who needs norms, human rights, or excuses when you have Machiavelli and a hand cannon?

    Who needs norms, human rights, or excuses when you have Machiavelli and a hand cannon?

    Russian Military Operations: Russia is a big fan of Syria. Russia has a naval presence in the country and a large portion legitimacy and energy policy invested in the management of the regime. Russia would like to keep Syria’s CW from groups connected to their own domestic extremistss. Most cynically, with very public domestic problems, military operations to save the world from CW seem a likely move for President Putin. In the words of Orwell, “War is Peace.”

    Russia has particular advantages in their contact with Assad’s regime. They likely could access exact locations for the regime’s CW in a pinch. The world has no high standard for Russian intervention, so a sting operation to grab or destroy the vast stores of CW without any follow-on reconstruction would not be shocking to the global community. This also serves as a guise for direct military support for regime survival.

    That said, Russia has managed the Syria narrative well and knows the US could not abide Assad’s weapons falling to extremists. Russia has enjoyed the umbrella of security provided by primarily US operations against extremists in the Middle East and likely has no desire to get bogged down or gain unwanted attentions. Russia is still just “a” rather than “the” “Great Satan.” It would likely leave the mess to the final and least pleasant option:

  1. It has gotten very... VERY old.

    It has gotten very… VERY old.

    American Intervention: In a conflict with too many “thems” and not enough “us’s”, the fog of Syria’s war is thick. Unfortunately, nothing is unclear about the peril of loose CW or the peril of a necessary US military response.

    Boots: The number and location of  all weapon sites remains a mystery, requiring resources spent in the search phase of “seek and destroy” operations. The time or scale necessary also removes the critical element of surprise. A lengthy chain of smaller operations warns enemies to secure weapons at un-sanitized sites while they still can. A massive simultaneous operation would strain an already creaking military budget and drop the US fully into the war, leaving the US in control of large swaths of territory and people it could not just leave to extremists.

    Strikes: Dead suffocated civilians, lack of verification, and PR for terrorists lies at the end of an aerial campaign. Though the US has invested in weapons that can neutralize chemical weapon stockpiles, most leave a large margin of error or have almost as toxic byproducts. The explicit refusal to consider striking Assad’s chemical weapon stockpiles should be evidence enough of the unsavoriness of such an operation.

    Unfortunately, loose CW is not an option in a war-torn hellscape crawling with groups who have plotted against US interests and citizens for over two decades.

Ghost of Christmas Future! I fear you more than any spectre I have seen.

Ghost of Christmas Future! I fear you more than any spectre I have seen.

Though an embarrassing stolen march, the Russian deal is the US’s best chance is to avoid Syria. Nonetheless, US policymakers must plan for the worst while stumbling upon the best. The US must accept the real-world possibility of Assad’s collapse and subsequent unlocking of Pandora’s Chemical Box; many rightly desire to have nothing to do with the conflict, but while we may not be interested in Syria, Syria is very interested in us.

This article was originally posted at CIMSEC.

 



One of the most famous naval battles in history occurred between the U.S.S. Monitor and the C.S.S. Virginia. Although the battle itself it ended in a draw, the introduction and successful use of ironclads nevertheless was a pivotal moment in naval history, and made wooden ships irrelevant. Dr. Scott Harmon, former Director of the USNA Museum discusses two historic pieces of iron that came from the battle’s participants.



washington_dc_075_national_mall_view_from_capitol_big
Run your memory back a decade or so ago if you will, especially in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.

Even before 9/11, there was a lot of discussion how as the WWII generation passed on and retired, that fewer and fewer members of Congress had military experience. With each generation, fewer and fewer people served in the military as a percentage of the general population, and you saw a similar drop in those in political power who had even a few years of seeing the world through that lens. When it came to making decisions about war and peace, that lack of experience at the national leadership and policy making levels was not seen as a net good.

While superior ideas, leadership, and vision can come from those who never served one day in uniform – it is always helpful to have a cadre of those who know the practical vice the theoretical working of the military. If they can do both, then even better.

As the build-up and discussions on if we should lead an invasion of Iraq gained steam, when you looked around the Hill, there were a scattering of WWII, Korean War Veterans, as well as a Cold War skirmisher here and there, and even closer in time – a core of Senators, Congressmen and members of the Executive Branch who served in Vietnam.

Experience with actual combat covered the spectrum. Some with quite substantial exposure to combat and sacrifice you could find humble in word, and often in the background providing counsel. On the other end, there were some with limited service who seemed to crow and remind everyone at every chance about their “special” perspective – and would take a peer out in the rush for a camera.

As their experience was varied, so was their advice in quality and quantity. What was generally appreciated, from exceptionally honorable service on left and right such as Senators Inouye (D-HI) and McCain (R-AZ) on down, was that in the Hearing Room and briefing table, there was someone who at least had an understanding of the “So What” and “What Next” when someone gave them the “What.”

Some memories fade with time, and the experience in one conflict may not translate well from then to now – but for those being asked to go unto the breach once more – it was reassuring to know that someone knew what they were asking other to do.

Veterans-and-Congress_2

So, here we find ourselves a dozen years in to war – and of this cohort of veterans quite a few have made it in to Congress. Not just the professional politicians who are also Reservists JAGs and Intel Officers (not that there is anything wrong with that); but combat arms personnel who, after their service, decided to serve in another way.

As we look to opening a door to a dark room again, before we step in, to answer the question, “Where do these veterans in Congress stand?”, I think we have our answer.

Via TheHill;

The majority of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans serving in Congress are lining up against President Obama’s plan for military action in Syria.

Of the 16 veterans of those two conflicts serving in Congress, only GOP Reps. Adam Kinzinger (Ill.) and Tom Cotton (Ark.) have publicly supported the White House’s plan.

Three other members — Iraq War veterans and Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio, Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) — are undecided.

A fourth, Scott Perry (R-Pa.), said he hasn’t made up his mind either, though he told a town hall this week he wasn’t inclined to support a resolution authorizing force.

Ten of the remaining members have announced their opposition to a military strike.

As of Saturday when that article came out, that is 2/10/4, for/against/undecided.

Two of the more vocal opponents are of the President’s own party – one from his own state and the other from his adopted state; both Army;

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii bemoaned the carnage in Syria after a chemical weapons attack, which the U.S. says killed hundreds of civilians, including children, last month. However, after participating in public and private sessions on Capitol Hill, she said a U.S. military strike would be a serious mistake.

“As a soldier, I understand that before taking any military action, our nation must have a clear tactical objective, a realistic strategy, the necessary resources to execute that strategy, including the support of the American people, and an exit plan,” Gabbard said in a statement. “The proposed military action against Syria fails to meet any of these criteria.”

Gabbard, who served near Baghdad for a year and was a medical operations specialist, is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Gabbard joins other Democrats from Obama’s native state, including Sen. Brian Schatz and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, in opposing aggressive U.S. military intervention in the Syrian civil war.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., lost both legs and partial use of an arm in a rocket-propelled grenade attack in Iraq. She has not made a final decision on whether she would vote for a resolution authorizing force, but the freshman lawmaker from Obama’s adopted state has serious reservations about any strike.

“It’s military families like mine that are the first to bleed when our nation makes this kind of commitment,” Duckworth has said.

Seniority means a lot in DC – but so should personal authority, one would hope. Many in DC asked for more military experience in Congress, well they have it in both parties. The Long War Caucus seems to have reached a bi-partisan consensus.

Does it matter?



This is a model of HMS Minerva, one of the last new warships produced by the British navy during the 18th century. As the dominant maritime power for centuries, the influences of the British navy were significant in the U.S. Navy’s development. From force structure and operational style, to ranks, to ship and cannon technology, the American navy relied heavily on the influences of its precursor, and many of those influences are still seen today. The Minerva was innovative in many ways, but today Naval Academy Museum education specialist Grant Walker takes us through two of the biggest.



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