Archive for January, 2014
Even as the most powerful battleships ever to float were still under construction during the first decades of the 20th century, they nevertheless were on the verge of being made obsolete by a new emerging technology, the airplane. Although much of the naval senior leadership still believed in the concept of the battle fleet, even in the early days there were visionaries in naval aviation who saw the potential of this new technology. Most of the first naval aviators conducted their training right on the banks of the Severn River across from the Naval Academy, and they used aircraft identical to our object today, a replica of one of the earliest naval aircraft built by the Wright Brothers.
In Helene Cooper’s New York Times piece published this Wednesday, “Nuclear Corps, Sidelined in Terror Fight, Produces a Culture of Cheating,” several former “missileers” offered justification for a recent spate of somewhat unsavory behavior among their ranks, to include a General’s drunken antics while on official visit in Moscow, violation of key security procedures, and a newly unearthed culture of cheating. The excuse? Excessively high standards maintained in a post 9/11 era which did not prominently feature a likely role for the American nuclear arsenal. Most tellingly, Mr. Brian Weeden, a former Air Force launch officer from Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, was quoted as saying, “The mantra had always been that the nuclear deterrent would keep America safe. But it didn’t. So I felt, not only did we fail to deter those attacks, but we couldn’t do anything about it after.”
As a Marine officer, my branch of the service never has nor will have any part in the “nuclear triad” comprising our nation’s nuclear defense from the air, land, and sea. The closest link I can claim to our nation’s nuclear defense is an undergraduate course in nuclear thermodynamics and a few classmates who serve as junior officers in our submarine fleet; I definitely do not know the first thing about serving in a missile silo. I do know, however, that regardless of mission pertinence – something Mr. Weeden hugely (and incorrectly) undervalues about his own community – elite standards are an asset for leaders to ensure mission readiness, not an obstacle to be circumvented for appearance’s sake. As such, unethical compromise of standards is not a failure of mission applicability, but a failure of leadership.
As it stands, though, the claim that the nuclear deterrent failed to keep America safe from September 11th (and using it to justify slacking standards in the wake of declining morale) is akin to saying that mouse traps failed to rid a house of pests because a fly came in through the window. While the “classic” Soviet challenge has been removed, threat of nuclear war still hangs as a mushroom shaped cloud over the international arena. There exists an entire legitimate body of scholarship debating the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence (with Thomas Schelling as its father), but to dismiss even minimally deterrent nuclear arms as failing to deter a terrorist attack misses their point completely. Our nuclear stockpiles are primarily designed to deter other states – not individual actors – from attacking the United States (in a nuclear capacity or otherwise). Regardless of individual terrorist attacks, other nuclear states – not all friendly – still exist in the world. As such, the mission of our nuclear triad remains necessary.
Independent of the relevance of the nuclear corps’ mission, however, to blame excessively high standards, backed by “few carrots for rewards and far more sticks for retribution,” for a culture of cheating is sorely misguided. The stakes in a hypothetical nuclear exchange are undoubtedly higher than perhaps any other military mission, but soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines all train to missions of substantial gravitas, where expectations should be – and usually are – high. In these cases, no matter how many “sticks” are doled out for failure, it is incumbent upon the leadership in a given unit to enforce those high expectations. Not meeting such standards is one issue; deceitfully circumventing them is entirely another. To dishonestly sidestep those standards, at best, keeps a leader wilfully ignorant of his unit’s shortcomings, and, at worst, leaves our nation woefully underprepared.
Sunlight has obviously proven the best disinfectant for our missileers; individuals are being held accountable, and appropriate action being taken. More troubling is the emerging justification of mission inapplicability (no matter how misguided) for such behavior. Immediate threats to national security will constantly be in flux; leaders’ obligation to remain prepared while serving as moral and ethical reference points for their subordinates can never be.
Benham Talebleu joins us to discuss Iran’s new President, their nuclear weapons program, and the larger strategic aims of the Islamic Republic. Remember to subscribe on Itunes or Stitcher Stream radio! Leave a comment and a five-star rating before telling all your friends.
Please enjoy Sea Control 19: Rouhani, Nukes, and Iran (download).
The major overhaul and construction efforts of the US Navy from the 1890s into the 20th century were dwarfed by those of Germany and England. A massive naval arms race was underway, catapulting the world towards its first world war. When the United States finally was pulled into the conflict in 1917 with the commencement by the Germans of unrestricted submarine warfare, one of the first naval undertakings was the laying of massive mine fields to combat the German submarine force. However, mine warfare was nothing new to the US, because we had been developing and using mines since the Revolutionary War.
Lost to many whose news sources in the USA consists of the major newspapers and the standard networks, for most of the last dozen+ years, the conflict in Afghanistan has not been a USA-Centric battle; it has been a NATO run operation.
When the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force has been an American 4-star, the visuals can be misleading.
For most of the last decade, American forces were dominate in only one region of Afghanistan, the east. Other NATO nations from Italy/Spain in the west, Germany in the North, and Commonwealth nations and the Dutch in the south.
More important than the actual numbers involved, it was the Rules of Engagement, caveats, and the fickle nature of national politics that drove what effects those forces had on the ground.
The good, the bad, and the ugly of modern coalition warfare was all in view for all in Afghanistan, but outside small circles, has yet to be fully discussed.
Our guest for the full hour will be Stephen Saideman.
Stephen holds the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict and For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres) and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and other work on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations. Prof. Saideman spent 2001-02 on the U.S. Joint Staff working in the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate as part of a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship. He writes online at OpenCanada.org, Political Violence at a Glance, Duck of Minerva and his own site (saideman.blogspot.com). He also tweets too much at @smsaideman.
Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.
If you have had the pleasure of participating in coalition warfare you should find this interesting. If you haven’t, you might find it instructive.
Since its inception, the Navy has been a leader in science and technology in the United States. Less known, however, is that several famous U.S. scientists have had close associations with the Navy, including Nobel Prize winner Albert Michelson, Naval Academy Class of 1873. The establishment of formalized scientific research in the Navy was spearheaded by another famous scientist and inventor, Thomas Edison, with the establishment of the Naval Research Laboratory. So it is fitting we use our object today, a rotating mirror used by Michelson to study light, to talk about science and the Navy. Michelson’s studies would win him the Nobel Prize in physics and helped another Albert develop his famous theory of relativity. It all started at the Naval Academy on the banks of the Severn River.
Cross-posted by permission from CIMSEC’s NextWar Blog
Within the U.S. Navy, routing up correspondence seems fairly straightforward, but in the execution there always seems to be issues that make it anything but. In some commands, dozens of pieces of correspondence are routed per day, and in even the best commands, an occasional piece of correspondence tends to either get lost or misplaced. Conversely, if leaders aren’t accountable, correspondence may be held onto for longer than standard policy, contributing to a negative climate. Either way, it seems like locating correspondence is always a hot topic. One thing I’ve noticed, when managing an administrative department at sea, is that most of the e-mails, questions, and drop-ins we received were related to the tracking of correspondence.
There is no standard issued software to administer the routing of correspondence at sea, so we decided to create one with support from other members of the administrative department and the CMC. The software, called eCART (Electronic Correspondence and Routing Tracker), is used to track all correspondence that goes up through the ship’s office to the XO and/or CO. Correspondence is still placed in a traditional folder with a routing slip, however, leaders now input the correspondence name into the eCART program for tracking. When it’s hand carried to the next person that it’s going up to, the user clicks a button in eCART to mark it as being “routed” to that next position in the chop chain. The program then automatically sends them an e-mail informing them they now have custody of that certain piece of correspondence. For ease of use, the e-mail contains a link that takes them to the eCART program, where they themselves can continue routing the correspondence up the chain.
When a user is routing up correspondence via eCART, they can add comments electronically. These comments, as well as the full chain of custody with dates and times, are seen both up and down the chop chain to increase transparency in the process.
When there are new comments to be read, there will be an asterisk preceding the subject that alerts the user. The interface is very straightforward and is broken into two tabs – “My box” and “My Correspondence”.
“My box” displays all the pieces of correspondence that the user’s position has custody of. “My Correspondence” displays all the originating correspondence from that user whose routing is still in progress or marked as completed/returned. For personnel that wear more than one hat, they could switch back and forth between their positions in the program by selecting their role in a drop-down box (ie: OPS may be the Safety Officer, and STRIKE may be the Legal-O). This allows any number of authorized users (even a whole office) to control one box and all receive e-mail notifications. It also allows another authorized user to fill into a position as “acting”. Thus, the routing process can still function when someone goes on leave or TAD. Since having several users control a box could create a problem with accountability, the program always logs the specific person that takes any action.
Included is a complete administrator interface, which allows designated managers to add, modify, and deactivate users and positions. There is also an option that allows the user to skip all e-mail routing notifications, which may be useful for VIP positions like the XO and CO that receive many pieces of correspondence. However, for the XO and CO, who may not want to be bothered to use the program themselves, it is more likely for designated authorized users, such as members of the ship’s office, to go in and record a change every time correspondence is transferred in or out of their boxes.
The program is built entirely on Microsoft Access. One Access file (acting as the database) is put onto a hidden directory on the ship’s shared drive or exchange server. A second Access file containing the user interface on top of 850 lines of VBA scripting acts as the client and is also put on the shared drive or exchange server as read-only and distributed to users. The client calls and communicates with the Access database on the network, which allows it to serve as a de facto software and database package, supporting up to 50 users accessing it simultaneously. The database file can easily be saved, backed up, and even transferred between LANs by simply compressing it into a zip file. The program calls and interacts with Outlook e-mail through an appropriate reference, and automatically detects the Windows’ user and alias information, so it automatically logs in the appropriate user when opening the program.
eCART is a finished product that can be deployed at any command, but is specifically intended for commands at-sea. Initially, it may be hard for all leaders in a command to adopt this new process, but with proper training, and even the implementation of policies such as one that rejects any correspondence not logged in eCART, it can easily become second nature.
Chuck Hill joins Matt to talk about design, use, and possibilities of naval corvettes, reflecting on the articles from 2013’s Corvette week. From definitions, to potential employment, to interdiction operations during Vietnam… this podcast runs the gamut. Please enjoy, Sea Control Episode 18: Naval Corvettes (download).
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Last week we looked at the implications of the Great White Fleet’s cruise around the world. This week, we look at the voyage itself, and what better way to remember a long trip than through a scrapbook. Today’s object is the scrapbook of a crew member who was a part of this famous voyage, and it helps tell the story of what it was like to sail around the world as part of the one of the most powerful naval surface fleets ever assembled.
By Mark Tempest
Please join us at 5pm Eastern U.S. on 19 Jan 14 for Episode 211: 4th Anniversary Free For All :
That’s right … Midrats has been on the air four years. This week we aren’t having guests, just the two hosts and any listeners who want to take the opportunity to call in or throw a question or topic to us in the chat room. Breaking news, regular topics, or whatever you pull out of your seabag – we’re going to cover it
Green range, as it were.
As usual, you can join us live or download the show for later listening here.
By the way, did you know it is possible to watch football with the sound on mute?
Just sayin’ . . .
- Join Us for Midrats 26 Oct 14 at a Special Time for Episode 251, “DEF2014 wrapup, and the budding question of veteran entitlement”, starting at 6:30pm EST
- No Boots on the Ground, No Victory
- Join Us for the Midrats’ 250th! 19 October 14 at 5pm (EDT)
- Sea Control Podcast 56 – Forgotten Naval Strategists
- Building to Strength