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“Why is the Naval Academy Museum hosting a debate on the future of aircraft carriers?”

It’s a question I was asked earlier this week about the debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath at USNA’s historic Mahan Auditorium. So let’s break down that question and answer it.

First, why is the Museum hosting this? Part of the Naval Academy Museum’s mission is to educate Midshipmen and the general public on the history of the Navy. While this debate is about the future of aircraft carriers, both debaters and the moderator are extremely well versed in the utility of carriers for much of the past century. In addition, the event was promulgated with additional information about the historical debate on aircraft carriers from the pages of Naval Institute Proceedings since 1922. In conjunction with the debate, the museum also has a special exhibit during January on the history of aircraft carriers. We’ve also produced through LTjg Christopher O’Keefe, the History of the Navy in 100 Objects which includes many videos on aircraft carriers. Our mission also includes demonstrating to the public the contributions of Academy graduates. It would be difficult to imagine today’s utility of aircraft carriers without the contributions of graduates such as Admirals Halsey, Mitscher, and others during World War II or nuclear propulsion guided by Admiral Rickover. This debate is open to the public.

Second, why a debate format? That’s simple. We are very fortunate at the Naval Academy to host a number of informed and recognized guest speakers and lecturers. The Museum, for examples, has a regular lecture series throughout the academic year. Although it may have happened in my ten years teaching at the Academy, I don’t recall a debate about a national security issue. It’s a great format to get to issues a single presenter might not. And, historically, there’s a real periodic tradition of debating naval issues among officers and civilians at least as far back as the Naval Lyceum and Naval Magazine in the 1830s. Both Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath are well-versed in our naval history, articulate, and serious informed navalists whose voices are important in our greater concepts about national security. I, for one, look forward to learning from each side.

Third, why is the Museum involved in a debate on the future? That’s simple. We’re a teaching museum. Ideas about the future, whether they’re about operations, platforms, or strategies, simply don’t occur out of a vacuum. As they say, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. At the museum we’re trying to bridge the gap between our naval heritage and the future. For example, we try to integrate our artifacts in applied history projects with the midshipmen such as with the recently-acquired Mount Suribachi field glasses. In addition, our moderator is Captain CC Felker, USN, Chair of the History Department at the Naval Academy. He’s the author of “Testing American Sea Power” and holds a doctorate in history.

Finally, I owe mention to our partnership with the United States Naval Institute on this event. For those interested and unable to attend, the United States Naval Institute is livestreaming the event. The Museum and the Institute have a long history going back to when Preble Hall was built in 1939 and housed both the Museum and USNI. USNI left the building in 1999 for Beach Hall at Hospital Point but we have an excellent working relationship. We rely heavily on their photographic archives for some of our exhibits and they take photos of some of our collection for their book catalogues and Naval History Magazine.

Members of the Naval Institute will be familiar with the phrase for “To provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write.” Now it’s time to debate. We hope you’ll listen and join in on the discussion in the pages of Proceedings, elsewhere, or on Twitter (#CarrierDebate).



Ho Chi Minh & Company

As the U.S. considers directly arming rebels in Syria, it would do well to heed the lessons of history and examine the positive, negative, and almost entirely unpredictable outcomes of such efforts. History is replete with such lessons including not only the obvious parallels to arming of the mujahedeen in Afghanistan but also the original story of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

In September 1940, the Japanese took control of French Indochina which had, during the Second World War, been governed by the Vichy government in France. To the north was pre-Maoist China, with Chiang Kai-Shek’s forces working with the U.S. military. General Claire Chennault’s 14th Air Force was based in Kunming, China, along with the area’s headquarters for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS.) The head of OSS, Major General William Donovan, was a highly decorated veteran of the first World War. When it came to Indochina, his direction to the base in Kunming was clear: “use anyone who will work with us against the Japanese, but do not become involved in French-Indochinese politics.”

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When I joined the Editorial Board of Proceedings two years ago, I conducted a brief survey of the magazines articles from 1875-1919. The primary purpose was to determine what ranks were more likely to write for and be published in Proceedings. The post and results can be found here.

One of the common concerns I’ve heard as Chairman of the Editorial Board is that Proceedings “only publishes articles by Admirals and Generals, especially the CNO.” I admit that I didn’t know how to answer until recently. Proceedings receives submissions from most ranks and civilians and while articles published by flag and general officers are sometimes cited by other media, I wanted to know so that I could give an informed answer to people who asked. Therefore I conducted a new brief survey of articles from Proceedings beginning with the February 2011 issue and concluding with the January 2013 issue. I tallied the articles based on the rank of the author. In the case of multiple authors, each author was included in the tabulation. Articles by regular columnists like Norman Polmar, Norman Friedman, Eric Wertheim, Tom Cutler, and Senior Chief Jim Murphy were not included in the tabulation.

To answer the question at hand, in a two-year period only 1.8 percent of published articles were the product of a service chief – including two by the Chief of Naval Operations, one by the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and one by the Commandant of the Coast Guard. In fact Ensigns and 2nd Lieutenants (with 2.8 percent) and Lieutenants junior grade and 1st Lieutenants (with 2.3 percent) published more than the service chiefs. Of published articles by military personnel, Navy Captains and Marine Colonels were the most prolific with 11.9 percent. Of all articles published in the past two years, the category “Other” (comprised primarily of OSD/DoN civilians) and “Faculty/Think Tanks” – those whose primary job is to think and write – dominated the pages of Proceedings with 16.5 percent and 16.1 percent respectively.

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The Editorial Board reads every article provided to it by the Proceedings editorial staff. We evaluated each of those articles based primarily on how well the author has developed and supported a particular concept. We debate the merits of each article and not necessarily who submitted them, although we do look more closely at articles generated by enlisted and junior officers to see what the next generation offers.

Therefore, if you want to be part of the same forum for debate that led young officers like Lieutenant Ernest King to write, if you have a new idea or perspective, if you think you can make the case for that perspective, then I encourage you to write and submit to Proceedings. Your idea might challenge or support conventional wisdom. It might be something that no one has thought of – or has taken the time to pen. It might be an idea on how the sea services improve processes, support people, or modify platforms. Don’t be satisfied with what “might be.” Write. Engage. Be part of the debate. Start the debate.

“Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”



Navy Lt Kurt Albaugh’s recent piece (“The Return of the Privateers”) at news.usni.org is valuable in the discussion about an old concept made new in response to the challenge of Somali piracy off the Horn of Africa and the Indian Ocean. The private sector is adapting to new markets. In this case, a private security industry has emerged to address the needs of the private sector’s threat by pirates, especially in that region of the world.

Appropriate terminology is the first step in understanding this issue. Privateers were ships authorized by states to engage in armed conflict against another state’s commerce. Letters of marque were issued by a state to formalize that authorization. They were considered such an integral part of naval warfare that the founding fathers included that specific power for Congress in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. During the War of 1812, for example, the U.S. government with a small navy of approximately sixteen ships at the war’s outset, issue some 500 letters of marque to privateers which, subsequently, captured more than 1,300 British prizes (see Charles Brodine, “The War’s Pervasive Dimensions,” Naval History, June 2012). Letters of marque were later issued by the independent Republic of Texas in the 1830s and the Confederate States of American during the Civil War. The Treaty of Paris (1856) (see “Contracts of Marque,” Proceedings, November 2007) ending the Crimean War banned the use of privateers by the war’s combatants. The U.S. later signed the Hague Convention of 1907 signaling its own end to the use of privateers.

Consequently, the term “privateer” is not an entirely accurate reflection of today’s emerging maritime security industry since the companies are a) not hired largely by states and b) not engaged to seek out and capture or destroy enemy commerce. The current termed that has gained acceptance is “PCASP” – Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel. This includes both the armed guards hired on board ships and as well as a subset of the maritime security industry.

The proposed Convoy Escort Programme, a private naval force underwritten by Lloyds, despite indications otherwise in the past several years appears poised to finally materialize. This concept is not new. Since 2007, when piracy began to emerge as a threat to shipping at first in the Gulf of Aden, several firms have claimed they had or intended to buy ships. While the former Blackwater was the first to produce a ship – the former NOAA ship McArthur – it arrived in the Red Sea without any clients and the ship never provided protection to commercial clients as intended. Other firms, including U.S. and French companies, made bold assertions that they had many boats at the ready, but upon investigation none existed and the stories rapidly changed. (see “Private Security Companies and Piracy,” Jane’s Intelligence Review, March 2009). Several companies have, however, had platforms in the region including Protection Vessels International (PVI) which has operated three escort boats on a consistent basis. Other firms have also emerged providing logistics platforms such as “floatels” (floating hotels).

The response to piracy has included both state navies and a far more robust response from the shipping industry including improvements to Best Management Practices as well as the reluctant acceptances of on-board armed guards. State navies have existed for thousands of years and control of the seas were determined by battles such as Salamis between the various Greek city-states and the Persian Empire or Actium between the competing Roman and Egyptian forces. But, on occasion, usually out of necessity, states and shipping companies (such as the East India Company) have turned to the private sector, right or wrong, to supplement their numbers or address other shortcomings.

Lt. Albaugh piece echoes the fundamental questions of accountability, rules of engagement (or in PCASP parlance “use of force”), and interests of the state – or more appropriately the shipping companies, are important. These and other questions are being debated but the answers are by no means set. Finally, the market itself may change as radically as it has in the past five or six years.

With some 20,000 ship transits in the Gulf of Aden annually, the opportunities for maritime security companies seemed encouraging, but the actual number of vulnerable ships to pirates is far less depending on the speed and ship structures which are both preventative to most attacks. Six years ago, only six to twelve firms offer armed maritime security guards (according to my co-editor on “Maritime Private Security”). Today the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) has over 120 firms as members. Some estimates suggest the number of firms is higher than 200. Arguably not every firm has the same capability, offers the same services, or is as robust as others. Some may simply be an individual through whom other contracts and resumes are processed. The number of Gulf of Aden transits will not markedly increase. With the proliferation of PCASPs and the decreased number of successful attacks (primarily due to armed guards), it is possible that if these conditions hold the market in that region has been saturated, that opportunities with it will diminish and marginal PCASPs with no other choice than the leave the market or to find other markets, should they arise, such as the Gulf of Guinea.

Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube is the co-editor of “Maritime Private Security: Market Responses Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century” (Routledge, 2012). His articles about private security as sea have appeared since 2007 in Orbis, Jane’s Intelligence Review, the Washington Times, Forbes.com, and Naval Institute Proceedings. He serves on the Editorial Board of Proceedings.



Jane Taylor at the U.S. Naval Academy

“The world is a vampire.” So begins every episode of Animal Planet’s top-rated program “Whale Wars,” about the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s efforts to stop Japanese whaling in southern waters. One of the crew members featured on Season Two was Jane Taylor, a 2002 Naval Academy graduate and former Surface Warfare Officer. During a recent visit to Annapolis, Taylor also took the time to answer some questions for the U.S. Naval Institute Blog. She spoke to a broader audience at USNA sponsored by the Forum for Emerging and Irregular Warfare Studies – that talk was taped by the U.S. Naval Institute and can be found at the end of this post. For additional perspectives on Sea Shepherd, readers are welcomed to read Chris Rawley’s posts at Informationdissemination.net.

USNI: The missions of the Navy and animal rights activists are different. Why did you apply to the Naval Academy?
Jane Taylor: In high school I participated in the Junior ROTC program; it was the Army side and I knew that I wanted to pay my own way through college so I applied for ROTC and the Service academies. I did know it was going to be Navy because I’m a water person and so when I got my appointment I accepted the Naval Academy based on the beautiful catalogue and my father urging me to go there as opposed to a civilian school with ROTC.

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Nigeria has the second largest oil reserves in Africa and is the fifth-largest exporter of oil to the U.S., approximately eight percent of U.S. oil imports, according to the State Department. This rich resource in the Niger Delta and Gulf of Guinea has been a source of internal dissention and attacks on oil and gas platforms, largely by the militant group Movement for the Emancipation of the Nigerian Delta (MEND).

According to the 15th edition of the Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, Nigeria’s Navy includes two frigates, two Erin’mi-class patrol combatants, two operations patrol craft, three non-operational fast patrol boats, fifteen 25-foot boats, and some auxiliary ships. Last month, the Nigerian Navy acquired the former U.S. Coast Guard Cutter CHASE.

Whether the country assesses its assets are insufficient to deal with the threat or another reason, the Nigerian government has awarded a ten-year contract worth USD$130 million for maritime security. The awardee, Global West Vessel Special Nigeria Limited (GWVSL) will provide platforms for tracking ships and cargo, enforcing regulatory compliance, and surveillance of the Nigerian Maritime Domain. The firm is run by Government Tompolo, a former senior MEND militant.

The background of the awardee aside, the contract is opposed by some in Nigeria who believe that maritime security should rest with the Navy and Coast Guard.

This raises two issues: 1) if any state is unable to secure its waters or its commercial assets, who fills the maritime gap, and 2) if PSCs – or, rather, maritime security companies – fill that need, how should they be vetted?

The past few years have boosted the maritime security industry due in no small part to instability and piracy in the Horn of Africa and the need for shipping companies to hire more armed guards. More companies and countries have gradually, albeit reluctantly, recognized that armed riders may be a necessary addition to the cooperative efforts of state navies. (The Philippines just became the latest country to permit its flagged ships to use maritime security.)

I first interviewed Dominic Mee, CEO of Protection Vessels International, two years ago about maritime security companies offering escort vessels. “We would welcome more regulation…this would help the reputation of the industry.” Just last week, the Security Association for the Maritime Industry (SAMI) announced that its International Accreditation Program will include a three-stage process of due diligence that includes: financial and legal checks, physical verification, and checks on deployed operations (source: MarineInsight.com 4 February 2012). Such efforts might improve, as Mee said, the reputation of the industry and, more importantly, accountability.

Lieutenant Commander Berube is the co-editor of the recently published “Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century.” These views are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy.



Last night the U.S. Naval Academy’s ship selection night was held in Mahan Auditorium where the future surface warfare officers from the Class of 2012 picked the ship for their first tour as commissioned officers. Setting the stage were Admiral John Harvey’s inspirational words about leadership and service in the Navy in every part of the world where “there is no place you will go that is quiet.”

Admiral Harvey also commented on the history at the Naval Academy, a place where all midshipmen, wrapped up in getting to the next class or event, will simply walk past some of the most remarkable items in our naval history – the cannons and monuments, the flags taken in battle, the portraits in Memorial Hall and elsewhere. In the course of everyday activities, “we lose the meaning of those faces in paintings, those names on a plaque.”

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The Telegraph’s Jonathan Sibun reports that a new company has been formed to provide security escort vessels protecting commercial clients from acts of piracy off the Horn of Africa. British entrepreneur Anthony Sharp has assembled a team of ex-Royal Marines to provide security and a leadership team that includes General Francis Richard Dannatt , former Chief of the General Staff and a former defense advisor to David Cameron. An animated video shows Typhon’s assets or intended assets – motherships, helicopters, and small boats.

Sharp’s told the Telegraph that “The Typhon force will be the first of its kind for probably 200 years and will protect private shipowners’ assets at sea.” The statement is incorrect since several other companies have either attempted to provide this type of private security or have actually conducted operations. The former company Blackwater offered a decades-old NOAA ship, the M/V McArthur, RHIBs and an embarked helicopter with the intent to protect ships from pirates. But the ship arrived in the Red Sea without clients; absent business, the ship left the region and the industry. Since then several companies have either claimed to have vessels or intended to procure them for the purpose of maritime security specifically in the Gulf of Aden. Others, like Protection Vessels International (PVI) have operated several security vessels.

According to the Telegraph article, Sharp “hopes to have 10 vessels on the water within 24 months.” This is an ambitious number particularly since other companies have made similar unfulfilled projections, such as one U.S.-based company which initially claimed it had fourteen vessels. It isn’t clear if the current level of piracy will support additional vessels. To date, no commercial ship with an embarked private security detachment has been taken by Somali pirates. The threat of piracy in the Gulf of Aden may have already peaked. According to the International Maritime Bureau’s just-released 2011 piracy report, annual actual and attempted piracy attacks in the Gulf of Aden were as follows: 2007 – 13; 2008 – 92; 2009 – 117; 2010 – 53; and 2011 – 37. This downward trend can be attributed to the increased use of private embarked armed security (as well as private armed escort vessels), improved Best Management Practices by the shipping industry, and the creation of Combined Task Force 151 as well as other international maritime operations in the region.

While piracy attacks in the heavily-trafficked Gulf of Aden have decreased, incidents have increased elsewhere in the Indian Ocean. If Typhon and other firms are interested in filling that maritime security gap, they will have to identify larger ships that have the range and speed or improve their logistics that can support clients in a broader region.

LCDR Claude Berube, USNR, is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Reponses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks of the 21st Century (Routledge, 2012). The views expressed are his own and not those of the U.S. Naval Academy or U.S. Navy.



They’re not military drones. And the fleet isn’t a state navy. Sea Shepherd, the maritime environmental organization has announced that it is now using commercial drones. On Christmas Day, they launched a drone from on of their ships, the Steve Irwin, and found the Japanese whaling fleet.

Sea Shepherd is one of many non-governmental organizations and non-state actors operating on the global maritime commons. Understanding this organization’s operations, logistics, and tactics is one way of understanding how non-state actors might behave in the future. The use of commercial drones to augment their surveillance capabilities (currently mostly with the use of a helicopter) is yet another demonstration of Sea Shepherd’s innovative methods to improve their ability to engage with the Japanese whaling fleet.

Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube is the co-editor of Maritime Private Security: Market Responses to Piracy, Terrorism, and Waterborne Security Risks in the 21st Century (Routledge, February 2012). He is a frequent contributor to Naval Institute Proceedings and Naval History and currently serves on the USNI Editorial Board. The views expressed are his own and not those of the Department of the Navy.




On May 26, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger signed an agreement aboard USS Iwo Jima “formalizing their intention to reinstate Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) programs at Columbia” after an absence of 40 years. The history between the Navy and Columbia dates back to at least the Jacksonian era.

On February 3, 1830, Columbia College President William Alexander Duer wrote to Commodore Isaac Chauncy – then in command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – offering schooling at Columbia for local young naval officers under certain specified terms. Chauncey forwarded the suggestion to Secretary of the Navy John Branch: “This proposal is a liberal one, not more expensive than the navy yard schools…I certainly should prefer a Naval School, if Congress would authorize one.” He echoed this sentiment to Duer: This proposal seems to me to be liberal and fair, and I am sure that great good would result to the service by accepting it.” Chauncey recommended to Branch attaching a naval officer to the college for “superintending the young officers, and enforcing discipline.”

It’s unclear if any naval officers were non-matriculated students at Columbia that decade, but if President Duer made the recommendation to the Navy, perhaps it was because he had some familiarity with the organization.

Following is a summary from Christopher McKee’s A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815*:

Duer was the son of William Duer, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton; his maternal grandfather was Revolutionary War General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling.) Duer went bankrupt when his extensive private speculations collapsed and he died in debtor’s prison in May 1799. The younger Duer was “forced to abandon legal studies at the height of the Quasi-War with France to accept an appointment in the navy” and assigned to the frigate John Adams in the Caribbean On June 16, 1800, in Martinique, one of his fellow midshipman claimed Duer stabbed him in the thigh. Admonished by Lieutenant Francis Ellison, Duer again attempted to draw his dirk then struck Ellison and stated that he would murder him and others on the ship. He was ordered to stand trial by court martial.

Duer’s mother, Lady Catherine Duer appealed directly to President John Adams that her son be allowed to resign his commission rather than stand trial. Adams “urged [Secretary of the Navy] Stoddart to accept the resignation of ‘this unhappy youth,’ and threw most of the blame on [the frigate] Adams’s commander, Richard V. Morris, for not controlling the amount of wine consumed by the midshipmen’s mess at Dinner.” Duer returned to law school, practiced law, and became a politician and judge before becoming president of Columbia College.

LCDR Claude Berube is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation about Andrew Jackson’s navy.

*This correspondence can be found at the National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives (House Committee on Naval Affairs, HR21A-D17.5).

*Duer/Chauncey Correspondence courtesy of Columbia University Archives



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