Author Archive

So far in 2014, the big lesson is what people have known for centuries; in Eurasia you cannot ignore Russia. The cliché is accurate, Russia is never as weak or as strong as she seems.

What do the developments so far mean not just for Ukraine, but for all the former Soviet Republics, slumbering Western Europe and Russia’s near abroad?


To discuss this and more, for the full hour we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, an author, and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.


Dr. Gorenburg focuses his research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journals Problems of Post-Communism and Russian Politics and Law and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here



Please join us at 5pm EDT, 27 April 14 for Midrats Episode 225- “The Long War Becomes a Teenager,” with Bill Roggio

It hasn’t gone anywhere, the Long War, that is.

People may be suffering whiplash having to look back to Europe in the middle of a Pacific pivot, and the Arab spring wilted in to extremism and bloodshed – but the war against the West still goes on from lone wolf attacks at home, to drone strikes across the swath of southwest, south, and central Asia.

Coming back to Midrats for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Bill is also the President of Public Multimedia Inc, a non-profit news organization; and the founder and Editor of The Long War Journal, a news site devoted to covering the war on terror. He has embedded with the US and the Iraqi military six times from 2005-08, and with the Canadian Army in Afghanistan in 2006. Bill served in the US Army and New Jersey National Guard from 1991-97.

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.

If you have questions for Bill, please join in the chat room and we’ll pass on what we can.



Please join us for Midrats Episode 223: 12 Carriers and 3 Hubs with Bryan McGrath on Sunday 13 April 2014 at 5pm (EDT).

“Where are the carriers?” Regardless of the writing, talking, and pontificating about “Why the carriers?” – when there is a real world crisis – leaders still ask, “Where are the carriers.”

Since we waived the requirement for a floor of 11, we have drifted to the new normal of 10 CVNs – without dedicated additional funding, even 10 isn’t an accurate number. With one undergoing nuclear refueling – you really have 9. Knowing what it takes to deploy, train, maintain and all other preparations – in normal times we require 9 carriers to make three available now – if you are lucky. If you have an emergency that requires multiple carriers on station – you can run out of options very fast, and the calendar gets very short.

Surge? If, as Rear Admiral Thomas Moore said last year, “We’re an 11-carrier Navy in a 15-carrier world.” – what risk are we taking with 9 carriers that can get underway?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Bryan McGrath, CDR, USN (Ret.), Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group. We will use as a basis for our discussion the article he co-authored with the American Enterprise Institute’s Mackenzie Eaglen, America’s Navy needs 12 carriers and 3 hubs.

Join us live at 5pm on the 13th or pick the show up later by clicking here.

If you are feeling daring, you can even join us in the chat room.



7th

Fuel From the Sea

April 2014

By

What’s cooler than an “electromagnetic weapon at sea?” How about converting seawater to fuel?

Those wild and crazy Naval Research Lab folks and some Navy Reserve help have found way to convert sea water into hydrocarbon fuel. Proof of concept including fueling a model airplane for a test flight, as set out in “Scale Model WWII Craft Takes Flight With Fuel From the Sea Concept”:

Navy researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), Materials Science and Technology Division, demonstrate proof-of-concept of novel NRL technologies developed for the recovery of carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen (H2) from seawater and conversion to a liquid hydrocarbon fuel.

Fueled by a liquid hydrocarbon—a component of NRL’s novel gas-to-liquid (GTL) process that uses CO2 and H2 as feedstock—the research team demonstrated sustained flight of a radio-controlled (RC) P-51 replica of the legendary Red Tail Squadron, powered by an off-the-shelf (OTS) and unmodified two-stroke internal combustion engine.

Using an innovative and proprietary NRL electrolytic cation exchange module (E-CEM), both dissolved and bound CO2 are removed from seawater at 92 percent efficiency by re-equilibrating carbonate and bicarbonate to CO2 and simultaneously producing H2. The gases are then converted to liquid hydrocarbons by a metal catalyst in a reactor system.

“In close collaboration with the Office of Naval Research P38 Naval Reserve program, NRL has developed a game changing technology for extracting, simultaneously, CO2 and H2 from seawater,” said Dr. Heather Willauer, NRL research chemist. “This is the first time technology of this nature has been demonstrated with the potential for transition, from the laboratory, to full-scale commercial implementation.”

***

The predicted cost of jet fuel using these technologies is in the range of $3-$6 per gallon, and with sufficient funding and partnerships, this approach could be commercially viable within the next seven to ten years. Pursuing remote land-based options would be the first step towards a future sea-based solution.

***

The process efficiencies and the capability to simultaneously produce large quantities of H2, and process the seawater without the need for additional chemicals or pollutants, has made these technologies far superior to previously developed and tested membrane and ion exchange technologies for recovery of CO2 from seawater or air.

So, let’s see – with a large enough ship with a large enough plant on it, you could fuel the gas turbine powered fleet and its aircraft for . . . or, each ship could …

Ashore? Making fuel from seawater? Why that’s enough to help everyone with ocean access toward energy independence . . . I assume a small nuclear power plant could provide the energy to drive this process . . .

More from Physics.org. Might help with countering ocean acidification, too.

And about this from India’s Economic Times “game changer”:

The development of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is being hailed as “a game-changer” because it would signficantly shorten the supply chain, a weak link that makes any force easier to attack.

The US has a fleet of 15 military oil tankers, and only aircraft carriers and some submarines are equipped with nuclear propulsion.

All other vessels must frequently abandon their mission for a few hours to navigate in parallel with the tanker, a delicate operation, especially in bad weather. ****

Way, way cool.



Please join us on Sunday at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 222: USS PONCE (AFSB(I)-15) Lessons with CAPT Jon N. Rodgers, USN

As with most concepts and good ideas, you really don’t know what you need and how you need to do it until you put Sailors to task and head to sea.

The idea of an Afloat Forward Staging Base has, in a variety of forms, been a regular part of naval operations arguably for centuries under different names and with different equipment.

What about the 21st Century? More than just a story about the use and utility of the AFSB concept, the story of the USS PONCE is larger than that – it also has a lot to say about how one can quickly turn an old LPD around for a new mission, and how you can blend together the different but complementary cultures of the US Navy Sailors and the Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Captain Jon N. Rodgers, USN, former Commanding Officer of the USS PONCE AFSB(I)-15.

Either join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.



Please join us on 30 March 2014 at 5pm (1700) EDT for Midrats Episode 221: “Officer Retention with VADM Bill Moran and CDR Guy Snodgrass

This Sunday, join our guests Vice Admiral Bill Moran, USN, Navy Chief of Naval Personnel, and Commander Guy Snodgrass, USN, Prospective Executive Officer of Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE, in a discussion of the challenge of officer retention that is facing our Navy.

As over a decade of major combat operations ashore winds down, economic and budgetary stresses grow on defense spending, a strategic re-alignment combined with a generational change are coming together in a perfect storm of challenges to keep the intellectual and leadership capital our Navy needs to meet its nations challenges in the coming decade.

What are those challenges? What lessons can be drawn from past retention problems, and what is different this time? What steps can be made in the short term to address this, and what longer term policies may be put in place to mitigate the systemic problems that are being looked at.


Our guests will be with us for the full hour, and the foundation of our discussion will be CDR Snodgrass’s Navy officer retention study, Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon: A Navy Officer Retention Study (as posted on the USNI Blog – original study here)

Also see VADM Moran’s USNI Blog post A Navy needs critical thinkers … those willing to share their ideas.

The show goes live at 5pm EDT you can listen then or pick it up later by clicking here.

Update: Fixed date of show issue – show is Sunday, 30 March 2014!



I’m sure my invitation to this got -um- lost in the mail, but if, like me, you find that you were unable to attend this 24-26 March 2014 U.S. Naval War College Symposium on “Maritime Security, Seapower, and Trade,” then I can recommend that you follow that link to learn about the symposium and then visit the working papers link for some interesting reading.

Some of the usual suspects were there, Claude Berube, B. J. Armstrong and Dr. Martin Murphy – but there are many others who names presently may not be known to you, but whose papers will both inform and raise new questions for you to ponder.

The symposium goal:

To make sense of the relationship among maritime security, seapower, and trade, the EMC Chair will convene a symposium that brings experts from industry, the policy community, and the sea services. Participants will reflect on the importance of classic maritime thought and how changes in the shipping industry, trade patterns, and non-state use of the oceans impact future naval operations. The implications are important for understanding the types of missions combatant commanders will execute and the types of equipment and training the Navy must provide to support these missions. Keynote speakers will address the diplomatic and operational considerations of maritime cooperation.

Sure would like a webcast of these things . . . but without that, go read and enjoy.



A month or so ago, I put up a post on my home blog about Sea Blindness, by which is meant the seeming inability of Americans to grasp that, while “the U.S. is not quite an island nation, it is a nation deeply dependent on the seas and the free flow of commerce across them.” During Midrats Episode 216 (at about 19:51), I asked our guest, Seth Cropsey, about “sea blindness” and whether the time had come for our senior naval leaders to tell the elected civilian leaders that the Navy has reached the point at which there are missions and areas we cannot perform or cover with the size Navy we currently have and are projected to have in the near term.

A couple of weeks ago, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Greenert went before the House Armed Services Committee and did a little “Counter-Sea Blindness” work, both in his written testimony and in his spoken words.
First, from his prepared written testimony:

Chairman, as I testified before you in September 2013, I am troubled by the prospects of reverting to the BCA revised caps in FY2016. That would lead to a Navy that is just too small and lacking the advanced capabilities needed to execute the missions the nation expects of its Navy. We would be unable to execute at least 4 of the 10 primary missions that are laid out very clearly in the Defense Strategic Guidance and QDR.

Even more, according to Military.com, “CNO Tells Congress the US Needs 450-Ship Navy”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert told lawmakers Wednesday that the Navy would need a 450-ship fleet in order to meet the global needs of combatant commanders.

“For us to meet what combatant commanders request, we need a Navy of 450 ships,” he told the House Armed Services Committee.

Officially, the Navy’s position is to achieve a 306-ship fleet by the end of the decade, service officials said. At the moment there are 289 ships in the Navy, according to service officials who said the number reflects a new method of counting ships.

As Claude Berube wrote somewhere, when the big headline news was the Army being cut to pre-WWII levels, the Navy had already been cut to pre-WWI levels. See here, where it shows the fleet in April 1917 had 342 ships.

Admiral Greenert and Secretary Mabus deserve praise for standing up on this issue.

However, that message needs to be spread further and faster – that the U.S. Navy – the flexible forward presence that this country depends on for freedom of the seas and protection of both vital sea lines of communication and helping its allies abroad- is becoming too small to carry out 40% of its primary missions. We are, even given the more generous counting system, about 170 ships short of what we need. It does little good to assert that today’s ships are much more capable than the ships of yesteryear – even a more capable ship can only be one place at a time and can only occupy so much sea space.

When you are short of ships you resort to other ways to maximize presence – longer deployments, crew-swapping, more rapid turn-arounds between deployments, deferred maintenance. All of which lead to burn outs of personnel and equipment.

This is not something sprung upon us overnight. In 2011, Mackenzie Eaglen and Brian McGrath wrote a excellent paper on Thinking About a Day Without Sea Power: Implications for U.S. Defense Policy and noted the effects of fleet size reduction:

Building the current level of American sea power has taken enormous resources and many decades, and the size of the fleet is not likely to be dramatically reduced in the near term. More likely, incremental cuts based on faulty premises and a lack of strategic direction will, over time, diminish American sea power as the country’s vision of itself becomes more modest and its sense of destiny and centrality is reduced. While ill-considered procurement reductions will slowly reduce the number of ships and aircraft in the Navy, financial decisions could also erode the Navy’s ability to deploy credible and relevant forces persistently, regardless of how many ships the Navy may have.
Today’s Navy is experiencing extreme levels of stress. While the fleet has shrunk by about 15 percent since 1998, the number of ships deployed overseas has remained constant at about 100. Each ship goes to sea longer and more often, resulting in problems such as the well-publicized shortfalls in surface ship condition. With no surge capacity left in the fleet, each new casualty ripples through the schedules of dozens of ships. With the end of supplemental funding, Navy maintenance funding will be cut by almost 20 percent this year. In this context, a relatively small additional reduction in maintenance funding could render a Navy with 250–280 ships capable of keeping only 50 to 60 ships at sea.

You can listen to Mackenzie and Bryan discuss this paper on Midrats Episode 74.

Those “faulty premises and a lack of strategic direction” are exactly the symptoms of “Sea Blindness” that have gotten us this tipping point of fleet size.

As stated above, it is good that the CNO and SecNav are speaking out on this issue- but that is not enough. More voices need to spread the word of the vital importance of sea power to this country and the facts of what the reduction of fleet size on this country.

The cure to “sea blindness” is sunlight – shining light on the situation. Those of us who believe in a strong Navy must spread the word of what the Navy does and why a larger fleet is vital to our national interests and defense.

“Help cure sea blindness” by writing and speaking at every legal opportunity about the danger of the reduced size of our fleet.

SecNav and CNO have made a start.

The follow-on is up to us.



Please join us on 23 March 14 at 5pm (EDT, U.S.) for Midrats Episode 220: CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell

The Chief of Naval Operation’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) was established in 2012 in order to provide junior leaders with venue to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that they see needed in the Fleet.

Who is in the CRIC, how do they get there, and what are some of the projects they have been working on?

Join us this Sunday for the full hour with Commander Ben Salazar, USN, Director of Innovation (N93) with CRIC, along with other members of his team.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.



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Please join us on Sunday 16 March 14 at 5pm EDT for Episode 219: The USMC Post-QDR with Dakota Wood

With the new defense budget out, new QDR out, the withdraw of maneuver forces from Afghanistan, rising interest in INDO-PAC operations, and a resurgent Russia: after over a decade of COIN and land wars in Southwest and Central Asia – what is the status of the United States Marine Corps?

Materially, intellectually, and culturally – is the USMC set up to move best towards the expected challenges and missions?

Our guest for the full hour will be Dakota L. Wood, Lt Col, USMC (Ret.), Senior Research Fellow, Defense Programs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Following retirement, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Most recently, Mr. Wood served as the Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command.

Mr. Wood holds a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy; a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College.

Join us live at 5 or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here.



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