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FRAMEWORKS_17OK, with the core topic of this post, “Russians” may be a bit of clickbait, but they actually are a large underlying flavor to this stew history is cooking up.

This is the stew of the realists and their allies the antitransformationalists – something we should have a hearty appetite for after a few decades of the toasted rice-cakes fed to us by the Cult of Transformation.

The last year has seen a welcome shift in the center of gravity for navalists in the national security arena in a direction that will help our navy rebalance towards the end of the Terrible 20s that will be defined by budget stress and an excess number of sub-optimal platforms warping our perception of per-unit power projection. It took a few decades for us to get here, so let’s look at how we got here.

Dizzy in the head following our victory in the Cold War, a large cadre of people came in to positions of influence that really thought that not only was the world new, that war itself was new. They thought they had found a new world via an ahistorical, blinkered perspective of technological progression limited to their professional lifetime. Not unlike the nuclear weapons fetishdom of Eisenhower’s “New Look” – they thought they had a gift of being at the right time in a technological leap where their brilliance will be able to facilitate a transformation that decades and centuries of prior leaders could not make happen.

Aggressively following the post-Goldwater-Nichols diktat of Jointness, they picked up the McNamara Era mindset that, like GM made Pontiac, Chevrolet, and Oldsmobile versions of the same car by changing the grill and a few other items – all the services should be able to make do with the same kit.

Using carefully crafted green eyeshade practices that would make Quartermaster Bloomfield proud, they were convinced that the warfighter needed to make compromises to make the metrics fit in DC, regardless of the actual combat utility of the item in question. A penny-silly and pound-foolish track record only brought in more “oversight” and regulations – further compounding a system with each passing year decoupled from operational experience.

Few breaks were in place to counter an almost pentecostal fervor toward what was becoming a personality based procurement process. Any opposing ideas, cautioning, or points-of-order were seen as naïve at best, disloyal at worst. As dissent was silenced and blind endorsement rewarded, humility – and a refined evolution of systems gave way to an ego driven revolutionary movement.

Initial warning signs were seen as early as the Bush-41 administration, but the transformationalist party culminated at the opening of this decade when the grim truth of what we bought with this new movement began to displace water and make shadows on the ramp (if they made it that far).

What did we get? I’ll leave the other services alone, but what we got was A-12, ACS, titanium fire mains, warships without the ability to engage other warships, an entire class of sub-optimal hulls we still do not know what to do with, a Joint Strike Fighter that no one is happy with, technology demonstrators made of balsa wood, EFV, and flight decks full of light fighters circling CVN in some strange mobi-strip VFA-centipede refueling each other.

Yes, that does need to be reviewed almost monthly if for no other reason than as a warning to future generations.

So, what have Neptune’s copybook headings brought us that should give us cheer? Let’s go to the title of the post.

Range: Jerry Hendrix’s paper from CNAS last month, Retreat from Range: The Rise and Fall of Carrier Aviation continues to get traction. The first phase of this argument started when Jerry and I were barely LTs with the coming death of the A-6 and towards the end of that decade, the light attack mafia’s destruction of the VF bloodline. That argument was lost. The results are clear.

The end of the Cold War – followed by the decision to cancel the replacement aircraft for the A-6 Intruder, the A-12 Avenger II – began a precipitous retreat from range and the deep strike mission that had long characterized the carrier air wing. The rapid successive retirements of the A-6 Intruder, F-14 Tomcat, and S-3 Viking that followed, and the decision to replace these aircraft with variants of the F/A-18 Hornet – originally designed as a replacement for the short-ranged fighters and light attack aircraft – shrank the average range of the carrier air wing from over 800 nm in 1996 to less than 500 nm by 2006. This occurred just when competitor nations, led by China, began to field A2/AD systems with ranges of 1,000 nm or more.

Just in time for the design of the replacement for the F/A-18 that will patch over not just the range issue, but the shortcomings of the F-35C and the significant capability gaps that will exist in whatever carrier based drone fleet we develop. The heavy fighter should be back.

Reach: Now that potential challengers on the high seas are leaving brown and green water, another screaming voice can no longer be ignored. We really do not have a way to reach out and touch anyone. Those few ships that can carry a ASCM are stuck with an old but useful Harpoon, a weapon modern AAW defenses have made much less effective. Other nations have one to two generations better ASCM than we do. We are making progress towards something better, but for now – there isn’t much to distribute in our distributed lethality. The transformationalists were so busy looking in to the far future, they forgot that the now and near future may have to go to war at sea.

The joint DARPA/ US Navy LRASM program was initiated in 2009 to deliver a new generation of anti-ship weapons, offering longer ranges and better odds against improving air defense systems

Faster please.

Risk: Rest assured, the transformationalist have been chastened but not humbled in the last few years. Ignoring their track record, may of them have moved on to one of the last areas where PPT seems to trump physics, technology, and ROE – unmanned systems. Even there, smart voices are saying smart things that should help us be able to get something useful for the fleet. Not something ethereal that never makes it like the A-12, but perhaps something usable like the VIRGINIA Class SSN.

One of the better points in this regard was made recently by Bryan McGrath;

The Unmanned Carrier-Launched Aerial Strike and Surveillance program proposes one jet to do both jobs, but ongoing argument between the Navy and Congress has delayed its request for proposals: Some lawmakers want Naval Air Systems Command to focus on strike capabilities, but the Navy wants to maintain an emphasis on a long-range surveillance platform.

“The problem is, if you try to stuff both missions into one airframe, you end up sacrificing one,” former destroyer skipper retired Cmdr. Bryan McGrath told Navy Times. “We need both strike and surveillance, and we probably need them in two separate aircraft.”

More of that thinking will get shadows on the ramp sooner.

Russians: Ah, yes. Russia. As Dr. Dmirty Gorenberg pointed out this summer on Midrats, from a naval perspective, the Russians will have a lot of work to do in modernizing their fleet. Though we have their most high profile ship off Syria, the Slava Class Cruiser MOSKVA, she is just what is left of the former Red Banner Fleet of the Soviets. Russia is working now on her smaller ships and submarines, and then we’ll see what she can do later in modernizing larger ships. As she showed in the Caspian, her ships have quite a bit of punch relative to their size and have a good bit of kit.

With her navy again at sea – and this time putting ordnance down range – and her submarines once more haunting the shores of other nations, this is a great opportunity to bring out the realists cudgel against the ever-present Beltway transformationalists who are happy to spends billions of dollars for programs that never deploy, while Sailors and Marines are ordered to go in to harm’s way without the tools they need.

There is a lot to be positive about in the change of the conversation looking forward to the next year. This should help steer the development of unmanned systems, the replacement for the F/A-18, DDG-51, and the LCS albatross in a direction that will give us products we can be proud of. Programs that reach for a solid hand-hold before progressing forward, as opposed to making a leap of faith that results in to a fall in to the abyss.

LoneSailorBillThere is a gap in our national conversation when it comes to national security issues. Strip away the 24-hr news cycle and the hot topic of the day, that isn’t the conversation I am referring to.

The gap we have is one that has been growing for over a half a decade as the war and those fighting it on the front lines have faded not just in numbers, but as part of what the citizens are talking about among themselves and what the sources they get their information from dedicate less time to covering.

This fade has a variety of sources. Part is the very real reduction in fighting forces on the ground. Part is a war weariness in some quarters of our nation. Some is that we have been at war for so long, it has simply become part of the background noise.

A large percentage of it, I would argue, is coming from a retreat from those in leadership willing to engage on the topic either by desire or by direction. It is well known that national security and defense issues are not President Obama’s preferred areas he wants to invest his time and political capital. His Secretary of Defense is a quiet yet effective technocrat. When you look to the Service Secretaries, take a moment to think what you have heard from them as of late.

Let’s start close to home and do a search for Secretary of the Navy Mabus and limit it for what comes up in the last month.

If you are a seapower advocate, that should give you some pause when you wonder how we fight “sea blindness” and all that comes with it – not to mention the larger issue of keeping the American people informed and inspired.

As sense of disinterest at the top can, naturally if let to settle, filter down. There are multiple indicators that it is filtering down, and has been for awhile.

Via MilitaryTimes’ Hope Hodge Seck’s survey of last year;

“that the mission mattered more to the military than to the civilian,” said Peter Feaver, a political science professor at Duke University who studies the military. “For the civilian world, it might have been easier to psychologically move on and say, ‘Well, we are cutting our losses.’ But the military feels very differently. Those losses have names and faces attached to [them].

Troops say morale has sharply declined over the last five years, and most of those in uniform today believe their quality of life will only get worse. Compared to 2009, more are unhappy with their pay and health care, and very few trust that senior leaders fully support them. A closer look at what’s driving this trend:”

That is the feeling of many who are serving now. No small part of this is hearing, and being told again and again – why they are doing what they are doing – and even more important, that their fellow citizens know. A lot of focus has been on retaining “our best” via new tools, but this general feeling of drift and fading presence may be impacting attracting “the best” to our service academies.

Of colleges with decreasing applications for enrollment, #14 is the Naval Academy, and #2 is the Air Force Academy. There are a complex reasons for both that are not helped by sustained internal efforts to tarnish their brand with constant public posturing on sexual abuse, social issues unrelated to the mission and even micro-aggressions and safe spaces. Regardless of the cause, these are two more data points along a trend.

We have all been in commands where the Commanding Officer, however good he is in one area or another, has some areas that he just isn’t that good in. Perhaps it isn’t an area of interest, natural skill, or simply an oversight. In such cases, what does the XO, CMC, and the rest of the command do? Ignore it? No. They compensate for it as best as they can. They reinforce their CO’s weak areas through their own efforts and carry out the plan of the day.

If you are not happy with your civilian neighbors’ and friends’ understanding of the national security situation; if you are not happy with the image the press and media culture gives of those who have served; if you are not happy with the lack of a military point of view in the public arena – then do something about it. Support your leaders getting more involved, and if they won’t then do it yourself.

We cannot complain of a civil military gap or a frustration with friends and neighbors who don’t know a bomber from a boomer, Syria from Sri Lanka, if we have not made the effort to do our part to fill the gap.

If you have a skill to write, there is a venue for all skill levels to engage – from the swamps we blogg’rs hang out in, to fruited plains of online journals, to the heights of publication on dead tree. If you are comfortable on the stage with a microphone in hand – there are organizations all around who are looking for speakers. If you are part of organizations from networking groups to hobby clubs, join their leadership team.

Think no one is talking about military related issues? Be that voice. Think that veterans are invisible to the general public? Slap your mini-warfare device on your lapel and be that presence.

If you refuse to be that voice, and refuse to move from the shadows – then accept where we are and where we are drifting, as you are not participating in civil society, you are subject to it.

Get involved. Write. Say “yes” to the invitation. Go on the talk show. Engage in the conversation. Support what is good and correct, oppose what is not.

Just engage.

No captain can do very wrong if he places his ship alongside that of the enemy.

Horatio Nelson

M-60 main battle tanks are lined up in the staging area at the Dundalk Marine Terminal after being offloaded from the vehicle cargo/rapid response ship USNS ANTARES (T-AKR-294). The tanks were used by the 32nd Separate Infantry Brigade (Mechanized), Wisconsin Army National Guard, during Exercise Reforger '86.

“Hey 1980s! The second decade of the 21st century is on the POTS line, and they are wondering if they could make some copies of your stuff in the vault.”

As history shows, most times you don’t pick a war – a war picks you.

Of course, in a way, all wars are wars of choice. When faced with aggression, a people can always decide to surrender without a fight – or only after a token resistance. War is a test of national wills on many levels – big wars often result when one side misreads the national will of another.

In the 21st Century, could there possibly be a situation where we would, once again, have to fight our way across the Atlantic to support another entanglement in a European war? As 2016 arrives, are the odds of this greater or lesser than they were 1, 5, or 10 years ago?

Julian E. Barnes and Gordon Lubold at WSJ have a little required reading for you. From their article, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, General Philip Breedlove, USAF put out this call that should have all navalists sit up and notice;

“For two decades we haven’t thought about the fact that we are going to have to fight our way across the Atlantic.”

Let’s pull that thread a bit. Don’t bother on how you get there, just start with waking up one day and getting the D&G that you need to ready a sustained opposed crossing of the Atlantic.

For those 45 and older, this should sound familiar.

NATO countries are discussing increasing the number of troops stationed in members bordering Russia and putting them under formal alliance command. The next talks on that idea are likely to come in early December, when foreign ministers gather and begin discussing proposals to be formalized at a Warsaw summit in July.

The Army currently has two brigades—of about 3,500 soldiers each—based in Europe. It has assigned one additional brigade in the U.S. to serve as a regionally aligned force that will rotate into and out of Europe. Gen. Milley said he would like to add more brigades to those rotating to Europe, and add attack helicopter units, engineering teams and artillery brigades.

Throughout the later years of the Cold War, the U.S. military conducted a massive exercise called Reforger, that practiced moving tens of thousands of troops from the U.S. to Europe quickly. While there is no need to revive the exercise on that same scale, a new kind of drill that echoed the old Reforger operation would be helpful, Gen. Milley said.

“Nobody wants to go back to the days of the Cold War,” Gen. Milley said. “We don’t need exercises as big as Reforger anymore. But the concept of Reforger, where you exercise contingency forces … that is exactly what we should be doing.”

Technology has changed, but geography has not. There are some constants from the 1st and 2nd Battles of the Atlantic in the first half of the 20th Century that still apply a century later. Some will repeat, some with rhyme. Some will surprisingly not be a repeat factor, some new factors will show up unexpectedly. There will also be new technologies that no one should talk about that will change the odds greatly in favor or one force or the other. There will also be new technologies that on one should talk about that one force or the other thinks will be “war winning” but once put in to operational use will be a complete dud.

Here are some things that have a high probability of being true in a 3rd Battle of the Atlantic if it happens in 2016 or 2026 or 2056.

– You do not have enough escorts. Those escorts you do have do not have enough ASW or AAW weapons.
– Those ASW and AAW weapons you are going to war with, in addition to not being adequate in number, there is a very good chance that one bit of that kit does not work and cannot kill anything. Hopefully you have a backup for the pointy end of the kill chain. If not, you are going to have a bad first year.
– Higher HQ is asking for too much information from deployed forces, and as a result, deployed forces are talking too much. As a result, the enemy has a better idea of your location than you think, and may have cracked your code.
– Your allied forces that on paper look good? Many of them aren’t what your N2/3 think. Some of them won’t even deploy. Some of those that do won’t engage the enemy to an effective degree.
– The threat from the air will be easier to counter than the threat under the water, though in the early stages, the threat from the air may be a larger concern than you planned.
– This is a game where “body counts” actually matter. If something is being sunk faster than it can be replaced, you need to change what you are doing.
– It will be seductive to think attacking bases will be a shortcut. It will help, but will not be a magic bullet.
– Finally, the war will go on much longer than you think. Though you may think that it is industrial capacity that is going to be your greatest challenge, it may actually be your ability to find competently trained personnel fast enough.

War, if it came, would be very much a come as you are event. We do not have a huge mothball fleet to reactivate. We do not have a huge Naval Reserve to recall. We do not have a diverse industrial capacity to quickly build up, nor, unlike the period right prior to WWII, do we have a few years headstart in new construction.

So, think about it. The geography is the same, technology and enemy different, but the mission is the same; a sustained, opposed crossing of the Atlantic.

hunderwadel1Good people can disagree and there are different opinions about the source cause, but our record on the national level of the last few decades has been spotty at best. Tactically, we have no peer. Sure, we often force our way through our mistakes through superior firepower, but that is why it is there. On the Tactical level though, we’re pretty darn good.

On the Operational level, considering the adjustments for things done to be in line with Strategic/POLMIL D&G, we have been OK.

Feh to meh OK. I say this as a former Operational Planner, our system is clunky at best. Sure, we all quote Clausewitz, Sun Tsu, and can create Operational Designs to make your brain bleed. I will happily stay up until 4am and argue if something is a Decisive Point, Decision Point, and which side of a Phase transition it belongs to. Heck, give me enough time, I’ll even convert your “traditional” OPLAN in to an Effects Based Plan over a weekend as long as I get to pick my core planning team and you leave me alone. Most Operational planners can do that. But, to what end?

Once you get in the planning process deep enough, you realize that there is something a bit off about it. Something monastic, esoteric, and a bit too formulaic. What at one time may have been a well designed system, has through iterations and revisions gathered an eclectic mix of beggar weeds and confessions.

What was a nuance at the Strategic level gets translated in to a clunky design at the Operational level, and by the time it gets to the Tactical level, winds up being a $43 million gas station west of M-e-S in Sheberghan.

As with many problems, our challenge in all likelihood starts with the top. How we determine, define, and explain strategy. Is it a process, personnel, or political problem? Maybe all the above? From the false signals that helped set the events that set of the Korean War, to the Vietnam War, to being flat footed in surprise in the collapse of the Soviet Union, to the blind-man’s-bluff of the last decade and a half of the Long War – the record is all right there and begs the question; is it time for a fundamental reset?

I believe we need to go back and reassess everything we have structured since the end of WWII starting with the National Security Action of 1947, Goldwater-Nichols from 1986 and all their various accretions.

Forget what the retired O-5 things, there are some great minds out there that are not waiting for something to sprout out of someone’s head in DC. LtGen Paul Van Riper, USMC (Ret.) has some required reading over at Infinity Journal on a way forward.

It is one heck of an entering argument. Here are my pull quotes, but you need to read it in full:

The method the United States Government currently uses to develop its “grand” or national security strategy is dysfunctional, and the approach its military uses to design campaigns and major operations is seriously flawed.

Compounding the problems I have discussed to this point is an even more fundamental one: Congress’s demand that the president develop a NSS annually. A grand strategy needs to have enduring qualities. It should certainly be a strategy—barring the rise of a significant new challenge—that remains viable for years if not decades. Ideally, it should survive across administrations as NSC-68 did. I believe this is possible if our leaders—executive and congressional—based the NSS on principles derived from strategic practices such as those I have listed above and then treated the NSS as a “treaty” with ourselves. In other words, the president in consultation with Congress would create a NSS and then ask the Senate for approval through passage of a “sense of the Senate” resolution. Ratification would be undesirable because ratified treaties are of two kinds; “self-executing,” that is, judicially enforceable and “non-self-executing,” that is, judicially enforceable if Congress chose to implement it through legislation. No president is likely to want the NSS to be judicially enforceable. Moreover, seeking Senate ratification of a NSS would raise significant Constitutional questions.

To recap, “getting it right” relative to the nation’s grand strategy requires the US Government to:

  • Repeal legislation requiring the president to submit a NSS annually
  • Create a true grand strategy based on long-standing practices that reveal vital national interests
  • Publish a NSS that would survive through multiple administrations by seeking a “sense of the Senate” resolution supporting that NSS
  • Enact legislation that requires the president to revise or develop a new NSS if the Senate revokes its “sense of the Senate” resolution supporting the current NSS
  • Repeal legislation requiring the DOD to submit a NDS. The NDS serves no purpose that the NMS cannot meet
  • Repeal legislation requiring the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to update or develop and submit a new NMS biennially and replace it with legislation requiring each new Chairman to update or develop and submit a new NMS when the president issues or updates a NSS or other circumstances warrant a revised or new NMS

First among these is the general confusion of terms, in particular policy and strategy. Many people in key positions in the US Government and elsewhere conflate and misuse the two words. A noted military academic writes, “Today strategy is too often employed simply as a synonym for policy.”[ii] He provides startling examples reporting a speech President George W. Bush gave in 2003 mentioning a “forward strategy of freedom” and a British Foreign and Commonwealth Office White Paper describing the “UK’s strategy for policy.”[iii] Freedom of course is a condition, not a strategy, and having a strategy for policy is meaningless. A number of authorities have observed also that government and defense officials use strategy so loosely that we have forgotten its original meaning.[iv] The US national security establishment would do well to adopt the definitions provided by Colin Gray, one of today’s premier writers on strategy:

It is time for the US military to scrap all existing planning manuals and to start afresh. Few officers read these voluminous and poorly written documents except to meet academic requirements.[xxii] The new manuals must begin with recognition that there are three approaches to decision-making, not one. These are intuitive, analytical, and systemic. None is better or worse than the others are; officers must know which to use in the situation at hand. The analytical approach cannot remain the default choice.

To conclude, the US national security community must overhaul the way it currently acquires policy, which it needs to develop the nation’s grand strategy and in turn its military strategy. The 1988 NSS did this best. To translate strategy successfully into campaign plans and operational plans the national defense community must adopt a systemic approach to operational design. In doing so, the community will replace analytical checklist-like procedures with discourse. The latter method enables planers to discern what makes an unfavorable situation a problem, thereby uncovering the counter-logic needed to resolve that problem.


The Gaps in our Fleet

October 2015


Bae_systems_official_gcs_releaseIf you have not yet had the chance to catch up on what will be the Royal Navy’s next surface combatant, the Type 26 frigate, there is no finer place to go than to our friends at ThinkDefence.

They have the history of the program and its capabilities well covered. You owe it to yourself to spend some time reading the links.

In catching up, there were two things that came to mind about the ship and its program. Both point to two large gaps we have in our fleet that a program such as the Type 26 would have been a perfect fit.

First there is the obvious one. Our two major shipbuilding programs (DDG-1000 does not count – that is effectively a technology demonstrator program now) are the LCS/FF and the ubiquitous Arleigh Burke Class destroyers.

Let’s just review the most superficial aspects of those two ships. For LCS, let’s use the FREEDOM Class as the baseline:
– Length: 378′
– Displacement: 3,500t
– Speed: 47 kts at sea state 3
– Range: 3,500 nm at 18 kts
– Main gun: 57mm
– AAW: RIM-116 (range 4.8nm)
– Anti-Surface Missile: none yet; tbd. Possible bolt on Harpoon or other.
– Land attack missiles: none.

Now the DDG-51 Flight IIA:
– Length: 509′
– Displacement: 9,200t
– Speed: 30+ kts
– Range: 4,400 nm at 20 kts
– Main gun: 5″/54
– AAW: RIM 162 ESSM (27+ nm), RIM-66M (40-90 nm range), RIM-161 (ABM ~378 nm)
– Anti-Surface Missile: none.
– Land attack missiles: TLAM.

The Type 26:
– Length: 487′
– Displacement: 6,500t
– Speed: 28+ kts
– Range: 7,000 nm at 15 kts
– Main gun: 5″/45
– AAW: CAMM (13.5nm)
– Anti-Surface Missile: TBD to fit in MK-41 VLS.
– Land attack missiles: Possible TLAM.

Clearly, the Type 26 fits that “we don’t need a frigate” gap as a large frigate/small destroyer. As our British friends say, a nice bit of kit.

That brief outline above is the obvious gap filler, but not the most important one. The most important gap the Type 26 fills is in the programmatic mindset. How they got to the ship they did.

Where we were stuck in a narcissistic awe that was the transformationalist movement and begat LCS/FF and the Tomorrowland DDG-1000 (with the expected results warned of from the start), with time – and perhaps an eye to the slow rolling train wrecks across the pond, the Royal Navy took a different approach.

The most sensible part of the whole programme is its attitude to technology risk. Whether this is wholly intentional, or merely a happy by-product of Type 23 obsolescence and timing issues is for others to argue, but the fact remains, Type 26 has a relatively low level of technology risk.

Most of the major systems have been, or will be, de-risked on Type 23, with perhaps a few on CVF.

From an old Royal Navy publication (page 120);

To reduce programme risk, and in keeping with the principles of through-life capability management, there is a drive to maximise pull-through from the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers, Type 45 destroyers and ongoing Type 23 capability sustainment/upgrades, in an effort to both reduce risk and capitalise on previous investment, and/or existing system inventory. So while the Type 45 is characterised by approximately 80 per cent new to service equipment and 20 per cent reuse, these percentages will be effectively reversed for Type 26

The air defence system, gas turbine, countermeasures, helicopter handling, combat management system, medium calibre gun, sonars and even the chip fryers will be in service on ships other than Type 26 GCS before they are in service on the Type 26 GCS.

Without a shadow of doubt, this is a good thing.

There is of course, design and engineering challenges, but at least, there are no major systems to develop in parallel.

There it is. That is the takeaway. That is the largest gap that the Type 26 fills in our fleet; an intellectual gap of humility.

It has been covered over and over through the years, and no reason to do it again, but going forward with every program we must not repeat the mistakes from the first decade of the 21st Century; we cannot ignore centuries of evolutionary success in shipbuilding to chase the revolutionary mirage. Technology risk is real, compounds, and surprises.

Good people with a lot of confidence will almost always over-promise and under-deliver their technology. That is why a culture of happy-talk, group-think, and best-case-only has problems.

You need a balance of styles and world-views. Bringing a program to a successful conclusion where it displaces water and makes shadows on the deck in a manner that is of use to the warfighter takes calm, humble, and firm programmatic leadership. Leadership, that while looking for promise, roots all in the firm soil of the tested, proven, affordable, and practical.

To do otherwise is to spend your money, time, and career building fleets of A-12s, SSN-21s, and DDG-1000s. For our fleet LTs and LCDRs of today that will lead the programs coming out of the coming Terrible 20s – remember the lessons of those programs and – if you don’t mind looking around a bit – look at what some of our friends did too.

You can learn just as much from clear-eyed close examination of failure as you can from success.

image018This week gave another example why some concepts should give all navalists pause – things such as “1,000 Ship Navy,” “Cooperative Maritime Partnership,” or the rather curious hope a few years ago that the USN does not need frigates, but if we do, we can simply have our allies supply them.

When interesting yet repeatedly debunked theory drift towards policy, you have a problem.

Allies are good – yet most look best at peace and on paper. One must, however, be very careful. For every British ally in OIF, and RC(S), there are the Belgians at the Kabul airport, and the 3rd and 4th Romanian Armies covering the flanks of the German 6th Army.

Sure, you may get 40 Commando Royal Marines, but you might also get the Spanish part of the Franco-Spanish fleet at Traflagar.

War or even a warm peace is a different challenge with allies than peace. Review your ISAF allied ROE matrix, or the ROE for certain allied ships off the Horn of Africa for a reminder.

Beyond performance and national will, there is and issues of political risk. At the extremes, the Italians and Romanians, again same WWII, switched sides – heck the French switched sides twice.

This week we saw a more mild reminder that there is another uncomfortable fact about our allies. Almost all of them are high-functioning democratic governments. The people get a vote. As in our nation, sometimes that vote can quickly change policy.

Via AFP;

Canada’s prime minister-elect Justin Trudeau said Tuesday he told US President Barack Obama that Canadian fighter jets would withdraw from fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.

“About an hour ago I spoke with President Obama,” Trudeau told a press conference.

While Canada remains “a strong member of the coalition against ISIL,” Trudeau said he made clear to the US leader “the commitments I have made around ending the combat mission.”

… Trudeau pledged to bring home the fighter jets and end its combat mission. But he vowed to keep military trainers in place.

Canada can be the best of allies at one point, such as the years of service they did around Kandahar before being one of the first relatively caveat-free allies to bolt for the door, but on a dime they can also decide to be the Elector of Bavaria in the middle of the fight and go home – or for that matter, the HMCS UGANDA off Okinawa.

There is a pattern here;

Presented to the RCN, the ship was commissioned HMCS Uganda on 21 Oct 1944, at Charleston, and in Nov 1944 returned to the U.K. for further modifications. She left in Jan 1945, for the Pacific … In Apr 1945 she joined Task Force 57 in the Okinawa area, and was thereafter principally employed in screening the Fleet’s aircraft carriers operating against Japanese airfields in the Ryukyu Islands.

After the fall of Germany, while Uganda was involved in operations with the US Navy’s Third Fleet that a directive came through from RCN Headquarters that Captain Mainguy poll the crew on whether they would volunteer for the Pacific War and eventually Operation Downfall, the codename for the invasion of the Home Islands. The crew of Uganda felt that they had volunteered for “hostilities only”, (i.e., hostilities against Nazi Germany) but now found themselves fighting a different enemy in a quite different part of the world. On 7 May 1945, the vote was held onboard Uganda and 605 crew out of 907 refused to volunteer for continuing operations against Japan.

As you plan – always watch your assumptions. If your plan relies on an ally, have branch plans that involve your own kit. If you don’t have your own kit because you thought you had ownership of your friend’s – well bad on you.


A Woman of Substance

October 2015


stockdalesAs my father let me know early on in my life, the most important decision a man can make is the woman he marries. It wasn’t until I was much older, and well in to my own marriage, that I realized how true his observation was.

While all relationships have their own dynamic, there are some who are a benchmark – a spouse who match the greatness of the man they helped make. They are the scaffold all else was built around.

If someone is about to join another on a journey with a spouse that is serving, Sybil Stockdale is a good benchmark to use.

She has left us to join her husband after a long time away. Via the DailyMailUK;

Sybil Bailey Stockdale, a Navy wife who fought to end the torture of U.S. prisoners of war in Vietnam, has died.

Stockdale’s son, Sid Stockdale, said Tuesday that his mother died Oct. 10 at a hospital after suffering from Parkinson’s disease. She was 90.

Stockdale is the wife of the late Vice Adm. James Bond Stockdale. She found her calling after her husband’s plane was shot down during the Vietnam War in 1965 and he was taken prisoner. The U.S. government at the time discouraged military wives from speaking up about the mistreatment of the prisoners of war, Sid Stockdale said. Nonetheless, Stockdale organized military wives who demanded the U.S. government pressure North Vietnam to abide by the Geneva Convention.

Stockdale helped found the League of American Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia and she served as the organization’s first national coordinator.

She appeared on national television, met regularly with then-President Richard Nixon and confronted a North Vietnamese delegation at the Paris Peace Talks. At the same time, she worked closely with the CIA to be able to write secretly encoded letters to her husband, who was tortured by his captors.

The military credited Stockdale with helping secure the safe return of her husband and other POWs in 1973.

James Stockdale, then a commander, disfigured himself so he could not be used in Vietnamese propaganda films — an action for which he received the Medal of Honor in 1976, according to the Navy Times.

Sen. John McCain, a naval aviator, was a fellow POW in the Hanoi Hilton with Stockdale’s husband.

“Sybil’s selfless service and sacrifice fighting for American prisoners of war, those missing in action, and many who are still unaccounted for has left an indelible mark on this nation that will never be forgotten” McCain said in a statement to the newspaper.

To know the full background on what this incredible woman did in a challenging time, I highly recommend you get a copy of the book, In Love and War: The Story of a Family’s Ordeal and Sacrifice During the Vietnam Years;

“I think the book’s message was to recognize that there’s a place and time and need to be loyal and recognize the military is a unique institution with a big job to do, but then at the end of the day, it’s very important if you feel as though you need to speak up, then you should do so. I think it’s a fantastic message,” he said.

Her papers and memoirs from the Vietnam era, written in long hand on yellow legal pads, today are kept at the Hoover library.

Until the end, she continued to meet at her home monthly in Coronado with the wives of POWs and those missing in action.

A memorial service will be held for Stockdale in Coronado and she will be buried beside her husband on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

We all benefited for her love and passion for her husband, her Navy, and her nation.

[ Stuart Swan] USS Constitution vs. HMS Guerriere 19 August 1812 This painting by Anton Otto Fischer depicts the first victory at sea by the fledgling US Navy over the mighty Royal Navy.

Last week saw an interesting footnote for our Navy;

Simpson has turned into a ghost ship.

Its passageways are pitch black and steamy hot. It’s silent, the constant hum of machinery that’s the heartbeat of a warship eerily absent. Its windows are covered and ventilation sealed off. Its battle ribbons have been removed, its flag lowered.

But the ship still has a story to tell.

The U.S. Navy decommissioned the 30-year-old frigate Tuesday and with it shut the back cover on one of the most significant — yet little-heralded — stories in U.S. military history.

The Simpson was the last modern U.S. Navy warship to sink an enemy vessel in action. Of the 272 ships in the fleet now, only one ship can claim a similar honor: the USS Constitution, now a showpiece in Boston harbor, which sank British vessels in the War of 1812.

Not to take anything away from her, but SIMPSON’s exchange was a brief and lopsided affair – but well executed;

Chandler warned the Iranian ship via radio at least four times to stop approaching the U.S. group, according to published accounts of the battle.

“Finally it got to the point where he (Chandler) said, ‘If you don’t stop, I’m going to sink you,'” McTigue told CNN. The Iranian ship responded by firing a Harpoon missile.

McTigue said the Wainwright could not respond because of the formation the ships were in. Its missile batteries were obstructed.

Simpson, however, had a shot. Chandler ordered McTigue to take it.

“I turned to Mark and said “Shoot!” McTigue said. “Mark turned to Tom and said –”

“Shoot!” Tierney said.

Buterbaugh said the same to a sailor at his side, who pushed a button that sent a Standard missile screaming off the front of the Simpson at 1,900 mph and toward the Iranian ship.

“We were locked and loaded and ready to go,” Buterbaugh said. “We already had a war shot, a white bird on the rail, all of our fire control radars were pointing right at him. It was not going to take long for us to get the weapon away.”

McTigue said it all took less than three seconds.

The Iranian Harpoon missed, passing closest to the Wainwright, though McTigue said the U.S. ships couldn’t be sure which one was the intended target.

Simpson’s missile did not; about 15 seconds after launch, it slammed into the Joshan.

Three more missiles from the Simpson and late fire from the Wainwright hit the Joshan before it was destroyed.

It was the only ship-versus-ship missile duel in U.S. Navy history, with opposing missiles airborne at the same time, Tierney said.

Let’s pause for a bit and ponder where we are in our modern understanding of the reality of war at sea. Though we have good datapoints (mostly damage control) from COLE, SAMMY B, PRINCETON, TRIPOLI, scattered engagements in between Israel and her Arab neighbors, the Falkland Islands War and a few others – as an institution the US Navy is sailing without too many benchmarks about what her strong points and weak point are going to be when once again she finds herself at war at sea.

The known-unknowns are there, but we are not blind. First of all we should fully hoist onboard what we know from our ground combat brothers in the Army and USMC and their experience of the last decade and a half. They had to relearn a few things (such as cage/slat armor we learned in Vietnam) and accept other people’s lessons we ignored (South African counter-IED vehicle technology).

They had to redouble their efforts on fundamentals from small arms to making the best of every RW cargo flight – but they learned as they were forced to.

Some of these critical lessons were lost simply because the professional expertise retired and was not passed on (the Army RW CWO pilots in the Reserveds and NG helped mitigate this tremendously), and others were lost through the direct action of the accountants and those who convinced themselves that was was new.

We should accept that in our warships we have our counterparts to the forgotten essentials that are sitting there, waiting to show themselves when war breaks out … and to be obvious.

We also know some things that are always true when a peacetime ship has to go to war. They are items we should consider and look very closely at.
1. We do not have enough defensive weapons against attack from the air. More will have to be added. What we do have will be found to not have enough range for the job, or will have too small of a magazine. If you have too small or too tightly designed ships, you will run out of space, displacement, and righting-arm issues.
2. ASW weapons are exceptionally delicate and expensive things. They require a lot of maintenance and upgrades as technology advances. They tend not to be tested as much as they should be for scheduling and budgetary reasons. When they are tested, they are tested in optimum conditions. For the same reasons, you don’t have many of them to draw on in the magazine once the shooting starts. They may not work all that well. If you only have one kind of ASW weapon that can only be used in certain kinds of water and delivered in only a few ways – you may have a problem on your hands. Early WWII USN, Argentina, and more recently Sweden, along with a few other examples, are screaming this lesson.
3. You can quickly go through damage control parties. Are you overmanned, or are you manned to fight and survive after suffering casualities?
4. Automated systems fail. What is your offline backup?
5. People get tired. How many qualified people can competantly stand watch over extended periods of time? Weeks to months onstation?
6. He who punches first, often wins. Are you happy with the range, speed, quantity, and diversity of your offensive weapons? How do they measure up against what is coming over the horizon?
7. Especially in the modern context; ROE trumps paper capabilities every time.

Finally, two things that simmer in the background:

1. There will be an assumption that everyone has about what will or will not work that will not survive the first contact with the enemy. Do you have a Branch Plan to cover that?
2. You will not pick the battle you want, and a good chance not the battle your ship was designed for.

Do you have a peacetime fleet that will make do in war, or a wartime fleet that is trying to justify itself in peace? Which are you defending, and why?

460xThere is something sad in what should be a good news story about a young man in his last year of high school with an opportunity to go to do what he has always wanted to do – play D1 football.


First of all, let’s think about the young man;

… his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame …

That is a large young man. An athlete in his late teens with that genetically blessed body shape is, in most cases, at the leanest he will be in his life. He isn’t even through growing. Odds are that with age he will get heavier and perhaps even taller. I’m roughly his height and kept growing until I was 20. That is just how, in most all cases, nature works.

D1 football is full of guys his size and even larger. No issue here, unless you are buying dinner. Good football schools look for men like that.

How about our Navy?

Well, check the Navy’s height-weight chart – at 75″ he will need to work on that neck to be in our Navy – your maximum weight is 217.

What if there is only one D1 school was interested in that young man, but he really does not want to “go Navy.” That is just a means to an end, but his primary drive will lead him to the one door opened to him, the US Naval Academy.

Would this be – in the long run for both USNA and the young man in question – the best path to take?

Why does he want to go to USNA? Football. He simply wants to play football.

The offer from Navy couldn’t have come soon enough for Ronnie Brooks. The Maret lineman had just wrapped up his junior year, and at the time, he said, it seemed like all his friends and former teammates were getting heavily recruited.

Brooks was not. In spite of a strong junior season and his 6-foot-3, 280-pound frame, there was little interest.

“I was a little down on myself, thinking this wasn’t going to come. Everything wasn’t working how I thought,” he said.

But his luck turned early in the summer after a one-day camp at Navy, one which he nearly didn’t attend. Brooks considered forgoing the camp since he hadn’t heard from the recruiting coach; he was going to instead spend that day looking for a new helmet.

“My dad was just like, ‘Why don’t you just skip the Navy camp?’” he said.

But Brooks convinced his father that the Annapolis visit would be worth their time, and he was right, as it resulted in an offer from the Division I Football Championship Subdivision school.

Catch that. Just another “school.”

“Schools” must be careful that they define who they are. Football is, rightfully, seen as an important part of the collegiate experience for all, and the desire to play is strong with young men. But, it is also seen as a supporting activity to what is the real purpose of the college/university/academy – education. For the service academies – it is also producing officers to lead Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Soldiers in to combat.

For schools with student population in the four-figures, what do you have to do to compete with schools who don’t have such a refined mission, and have a pool of “seats” in the tens of thousands to pull from? You have a smaller pool and are going to have to take exceptional measures to compete. You will have to make exceptions.

All of our service academies are D-1 FBS (nee 1-A) schools – the top level. Each year the pressure gets greater and greater for the best players as the level of play continues to get more intense.

Here and at other places, we have covered what kind of compromises USNA makes to play D1 football. Compromises to the mission of NAPS, academic, discipline, and other standards that support the broader mission of USNA. These compromises are only there because they have to be for USNA to unnaturally compete at the D1 level.

It brings us back to the core question: at what price to the institution and the players?

At what point do the compromises become too much? Is FBS really where we should be? Why not another division? Even D-III? What is wrong with D-III? Nothing. Good enough for MIT – why not USNA? Fewer compromises would be made – but you’d still have the game. This is, after all, just a game – remember that.

Would the desired mission-related effects of playing sports – leadership, character refinement, school spirit – still be there? Of course they would. So, why D1?

Sure, the highest paid person that works for the Navy is the football coach – paid for by alumni, of course … and there you go.

This isn’t about the best interests of USNA, the MIDN, or the Navy as a whole. If it were, then you wouldn’t need outside funds to pay for the quality coach you need.

So, this is about the alumni and desire for a D1 team to cheer for? If so, perhaps they should have gone to a different school with a NROTC scholarship? What compromises are they willing to have their USNA make to allow them to have USNA at D1? Would they be willing to make “sacrifices” in order to let USNA compete at its natural level, say D-III? If not, why not? Does the lack of D-1 football make MIT any less of a school? Attract any less a quality of student?

Let’s go back to Ronnie Brooks. Because this is where the real tragedy is. He loves football. He really wants to play football. After four years at USNA, will he want to go pro? In the highly unlikely event he would have an opportunity to go pro – will we let him – or force him to serve? Will he even be physically able to serve, or to even make the cut as a walk-on?

The most likely event, as it is for all college athletes, is that he won’t. Even more unlikely for someone from the service academies. As a result, is he positioned to compete in the highly competivive profession of being a Navy or Marine Corps officer? Even though this wasn’t a desire that brought him to think about USNA, after a few years, he may decide he does.

Once he joins the fleet, will he be able to make a physical standard that, as an officer, he will have to enforce on his Sailors? The years of special treatment will be over; he will just be one more ENS or 2LT.

Every year he has company making that challenge work – and I saw it in my career. Right now on the Naval Academy team we have a 6’3″ 300# MIDN, 5’11” 277#, 6’2″ 293#, 6’2″ 315#, 6’1″ 310# … and so on.

Few things are more depressing than seeing a 25-yr old man having an emotional breakdown because he can’t get below 215# even if he eats like a supermodel. It is not easy – but after demanding they do one thing so middle aged men can watch them play D1 football, on a dime their Navy will require them to drastically change their body shape … if they can. Not everyone can and still be healthy.

Are we setting him up for something he may, coming out the door, be doomed to fail in? Whose fault is it?

I don’t want to get in to a battle over the Navy’s height-weight standards – I happen to have significant issues with them. Was never a problem with me, as those who have met me know, I have your standard issue Anglo-Norman genetics of being about Ronnie’s height with a 33″ waist and 46L coat – as I have since high school +/-. What I have seen are some of the best people I have served with struggle simply due to their DNA to make it – and their career suffered for it. Love or hate – it is what it is and if you are on the wrong side of the tape – your career is over – or stunted where you are when your metabolism changes.

It was one thing when I was 22 to go from 225# to 185#. It is another to go from 300# to 215.9#. I wish them all well.

There is one last institutional side issue; would USNA recruit a 17-yr old 6’3″ 280# young man who was a winner at the Google Science Fair? If they did – would they let him stay at that weight? What about a 5’11” 210# female softball player?

Supported, or supporting?

I also wish that all those who invest so much of their own personal feelings of self-worth – and money – in to the NAAA and football would ask themselves, why? To what end?

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 111 Comments

G40pLDm3iLhInbU7O4pFOjl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9Though a well worn phrase, we really can learn more from our failures than our successes. That only works if you are willing to accept your failures, identify what led to them, and strive to both understand not only the failure itself, but the steps that led you there.

By almost any measure, SC-21/DD-21/DD-X/DDG-1000 has been a failure. One of the best things we did was to halt the program at three ships. The better route might have been to just cancel it altogether, but I think good people can disagree on if there is value in keeping what we have as a technology demonstrator that will deploy now and then so we can harvest the good ideas for future programs. An expensive lesson, but a turnip that does have some blood.

The rump-DDG-1000 class is also a perfect icon of the Age of Transformationalism. As with all the programs of that era, we will continue throwing seabags full of money at the problem to try make the best it.

On the surface side of the house, there are the three Hulls of Transformationalism, LCS; LPD-17, and our bespotted DDG-1000. As was foretold, with enough money the Tiffany LPD-17 class would be made functional. That gilded line that leads to acceptable adequacy has yet to be made with LCS/FF, but as of now we are fully vested in making the best of that too – and eventually we will. All will be content as long as no one looks at the opportunity cost and what might have been done if we did not fully embrace the Cataclysm of the Age of Transformationalism.

In the Age of Transformationalism we turned “Build a Little, Test a Little, Learn a Lot” on its head in to “Build a Lot, Test Nothing, Pray a Lot.” That was the largest sin; we believed that we were so smart and our force of will so strong, that we could ignore decades of shipbuilding and program development lessons.

Technology risk? That was for people with negative energy. We piled layers of unproven – or even unbuilt – weapons, manning concepts, personnel policy, engineering plants, sensors with cross-dependencies, on top of each other. Playing long odds that there wouldn’t be cascading technology failures and tempting the programmatic gods, we just assumed that those in the PCS cycles that followed would find the money and “make it work.”

Budget risk? We assumed that, unlike all other programs, that these would stay on budget – and if they didn’t – that Congress would just find more money. Regardless, we assumed that the money unicorn would prance on by, and from the skiddles, a 300+ fleet would emerge. Of course, none of that happened – but it was predicted over a decade ago, but to deaf ears.

Manning? People are expensive, so we will find people who will tell us that they know how habitability and damage control can be made anew – that one person can do 36 hrs of work in 18 hrs. How? Because we told them we wanted it, and the PPT said so.

We decided that desire and personality would trump experience and engineering. Those who brought up problems were reassigned until the table was full of people who would make the approved vision flesh. Of course it would all work, no one told decision makers it wouldn’t.

Most know this story, but it bears repeating as there is still an afterglow in the decay of what is left of the Age of Transformationalism. Part of that is that we suffer from a cadre that does not understand the basics of economics. One point; we still do not understand the economic concept of sunk cost.

If we are, and we are, in a period of tighter budgets with growing demands of a finite slice of the pie – then we have to find inefficiencies and cull them without sentiment and mercy. When you find yourself in a cash squeeze, you don’t worry about what you spent in the past – there isn’t anything you can do about that – you have to focus on what you are spending now and in the future.

What about the GRAF SPEE sized DDG-1000? If the ship class itself has degenerated in to little more than a technology demonstrator that will be used a little in the fleet on occasion – why do we need three?

Here is one side of the argument;

Under intense budget pressure, a Pentagon cost-cutting team is pushing the Navy to cancel its third and last Zumwalt-class destroyer, the Lyndon Johnson (DDG-1002).

The DDG-1000 Zumwalts are expensive; three ships will cost almost $13 billion. About $9 billion of that was spent on research and development alone.

the Defense Department’s independent Cost Assessment & Program Evaluation office (CAPE) is considering cutting the third ship — which is in large part already built and paid for.

Counting the current fiscal year (which ends nine days from now), Congress will have appropriated $11.8 billion for the DDG-1000 program, out of a projected total of $12.8 billion. So the maximum possible amount left to save is $979 million, less than 8 percent of the total. (It might be more if the Pentagon somehow recouped funds spent in prior years, which is theoretically possible but awfully unlikely).

But that figure assumes you somehow manage to cancel the program immediately as of October 1st and you don’t spend another penny.

In brief, you’re forgoing a $3.5 billion ship — as third in the class, Johnson costs less than the first two — to save at most $1 billion and more likely less than half a billion (possibly zero). The marginal cost of just finishing the damn thing already is not high, in Pentagon terms.

There are of course years of operations and maintenance costs to consider, …

Let’s not go with the high number – but the low number. $500 million. Is that pocket change? Forget what has already been thrown down the hole – do we need that third ship that is full of immature technology, questionable “stealth,” and a highly debatable “optimal” manning concept that is already demonstrating its inadequacy on LCS?

What is the other side of the argument?

“If they wanted to kill the third ship , they’re about two years late,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry analyst and consultant — and member of BD’s Board of Contributors — who’s criticized the Navy’s handling of the Zumwalt program. “You will lose an entire warship, but you will only reclaim a fraction of the cost. So, given the likely political fallout, why would you do it?”

But that figure assumes you somehow manage to cancel the program immediately as of October 1st and you don’t spend another penny. That is legally and administratively impossible. The more likely scenario is that the requested figure for 2016 is appropriated too — there’s strong support for that in Congress — and the cut only takes effect with the fiscal 2017 budget, which is the one the Pentagon is currently working on. That means another $520 million gets spent and potential savings drop to a maximum of $458 million. And you can’t save all of that, either.

First, some of that half-billion is to complete the first two ships. They are not being canceled. Second, you would need to pay program shutdown costs and contract termination penalties.

The Maine delegation has led the charge so far, since the Zumwalts are being built in their homestate’s Bath Iron Works (a General Dynamics subsidiary). But walking away from a mostly bought-and-built destroyer would also infuriate powerful chairmen like Senate Armed Services Committee’s John McCain, a retired Navy officer himself, and the House seapower subcommittee’s Randy Forbes.

“It’s unlikely that the third Zumwalt will be canceled because the amount of money saved isn’t commensurate with the political capital expended,” Thompson told me.

Read it all and let it soak in.

Why cancel it? Well, it is the right thing to do – but we are slaves to a system of our own design that “won’t” let us. We need the money, but not enough will to do what needs to be done. As a result we will force on the Navy an exquisite 3-ship fleet experiment.

Though I may hate to admit it, Thompson is partially right here – but only on the politics. It is a bit too late to act in a way to save a half-a-billion dollars and more in the out years. There isn’t the political support, and no one, it seems, is willing to make the logical step to do the right thing.

The article mentions Sen. McCain (R-AZ), but we don’t know exactly what his position would be. If I were advising him, I would have him keep this USS LBJ expenditure in his back pocket to use next time someone is in front of them looking for a few hundred million dollars for their pet project.

“Oh, that’s cute. You could have used the money you insist we spend for the DDG-1002 that seems welded to the pier. I think we need that for the SSBN replacement. Have a nice day.”

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