This photo sort of looks like a ship, right? It is, but then again it’s also something else.
For this example, the vessel–an Iraqi patrol craft made by an American company and part of a U.S. foreign military sales contract–is not just one of the assets Iraq’s military needs to protect a very crowded and consequential waterspace. It’s also a multi-decade relationship, where both countries get to know each other on an operator-to-operator level as well as on other levels. That relationship can have strategic effects as the lieutenants become admirals, and the relationship builds trust, access, and communications paths outside the formal diplomatic process and regionally as well as bilaterally.
One of the patrol spaces this ship protects drives the entire country’s economy–the oil platforms and pipeline infrastructure–and its shipping. This is recognizable to a military planner, though the economic part takes a bit of wider thinking to understand how U.S. security cooperation fits into it with training and equipment. But let’s add something important on here: U.S. policy is to support Iraq’s reintegration into the region, and it’s a top foreign policy priority for the U.S. with regard to Iraq. The military sphere tends to be a bit easier in reconnection than some other spheres; navies, since they’re mobile sovereign territory in international waters, can be the fastest of those–especially when the U.S. is acting as an honest broker. To pull off that kind of multinational reintegration is not solely a military function, but can utterly depend on the military aspect. If the U.S. really wants a whole-of-Executive-Branch (much less whole-of-government) approach to a policy problem, DoD’s mass has to be subordinated to the overall effort, even when it might not necessarily make short term military sense.
The example above isn’t perfect. Security assistance in Iraq and Afghanistan has been far from the standard situation seen by a security cooperation office, and special authorities in the law made security cooperation in these countries much different than in other countries. A more forceful example would be where the host nation is paying for every penny of the asset, since feelings about “what ‘we’ are giving ‘them'” emotionally colors the discussion, and it’s worthwhile to emphasize that foreign military sales is not necessarily coming from the U.S. taxpayer. On the other hand, the nonmilitary effects of this ship and crew, and the regional effects of what this ship does and the separate bilateral relationships that navy has with regional navies and the U.S., are pretty clear and useful to bring out the challenge of thinking about security cooperation as more than arms sales or exercises.
Many folks seem to miss the nonmilitary and regional effects of the military-to-military relationship built out of security cooperation, or even that the process is heavily structured in U.S. law. This post about security cooperation misses important considerations about what security cooperation is and what it’s supposed to do (this one by the same author is better, though of different focus). A comment of mine on that War On the Rocks post identifies structural problems in the argument, and there are other opportunities for quibbling, but that post proves that it’s worthwhile to outline some basics of SC with a view towards those regional and extramilitary effects.
Security cooperation (SC) is not very familiar to most operators in the Department of Defense. SC’s a difficult skill set. SC can pay off not only as a force multiplier, but also to provide diplomatic effects which can be game-changing. DoD personnel may only experience SC once, as an exercise or engagement event, or by doing a tour that includes a collateral duty associated with foreign military sales (FMS). More experience is in the foreign area officer (FAO) commmunity, whose officers can wind up doing SC from several angles over multiple tours, but there aren’t many FAOs around. Because the skills needed are relatively obscure inside DoD, understanding of what SC is becomes fragmentary and often misses the point. American SC can suffer from that bad understanding. (The way U.S. government agencies in the Executive Branch staff and train for SC missions doesn’t help the problem, either.)
DoD isn’t the agency where SC initially gets defined—because SC is not solely a DoD mission; it’s a State mission for which Defense is the executive agent.
Let’s define some terms here. SC includes
- security assistance (SA), which itself includes
- foreign military sales (FMS) weapons sales,
- International Military Education and Training (IMET),
- a multi-page list of other programs that somehow fit or get shoehorned into the process, and
- security cooperation (Sc), a confusingly named subset of the bigger SC which mainly deals with exercise events with host nation or meetings between military personnel.
The first one, SA, is covered under federal law. (Note: IANAL and doing this off the top of my head.) U.S. Code Title 22 is the main law that covers diplomatic and consular functions and is for the Department of State what Title 10 is for DoD. The second part of security cooperation, the non-FMS part also called security cooperation, has rules under Title 22 but is more under a section of Title 10. That part of title 10 used is different from what you might expect, and it’s administered by personnel working under a different rule set than those under the full operational command of a COCOM. DoD personnel in country doing SC serve under the direction and supervision of the Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission to that country (usually the U.S. ambassador to that country). Security cooperation, including security assistance, is a diplomatic function, under the Ambassador’s control in country. FMS cases and IMET and exercises have significant State Department approval and coordination–and additional coordination and approval by other agencies, and in some cases White House/Congressional approval–even though DoD has the mass and the executive agent role. The effect can sometimes be that the poor bureaucrat in the other agency is either like Horatius at the bridge or Niedermeyer in the riot, trying to get the massive influx of DoD people to go a different direction. It also can become counterintuitive, since American businesses might be fighting for the contract, or if one player–even a host nation–decides it’s worth lobbying for their interests more effectively to Congress than another player.
Note here that the Security Assistance Management Manual, the reference used in the War On The Rocks post, isn’t the controlling document. The law both trumps one agency’s manual and also highlights the diplomatic and interagency nature of SC. It also implies that the SC function is something we do as an ongoing and sustaining function of a country team, rather than something switched on once a COCOM has commenced large scale operations.
Since SC is a diplomatic function, one has to consider SC less like a military operation and more like a diplomatic operation. Results will be diffuse. They will have “one step forward two steps back” aspects. Results will be hard to measure in many respects. The effort will be like a coalition effort, with occasionally immense frustration on the ground and in the staff paying off strategically, but in different spheres than expected, or with effects long after the staffer is gone. For a planner looking for consistent positive results with a focused engineering-style goal oriented mindset this is anathema. A DoD planner or operator wants to get from point A to point B in a direct and uncluttered manner. Diplomacy, especially the work performed by Department of State colleagues on the country team on ground in country, is more chaotic and messy. If done right, SC advances the national interest of the United States; builds networks, access and relationships beneficial to the U.S.; eases stresses among and between partners; provides a common operating framework in the field; and provides a useful diplomatic tool as part of an embassy country team.
(Oh, by the way: There’s no Title 10 “command” in security cooperation organizations. There is no sheriff’s badge, no salad fork, no “forces”, even though the responsibility can weigh heavily, and DoD personnel could be in remote and dangerous locations. You’re a part of the embassy country team. There’s not even an organic Article 15 or medal-awarding authority, unless you’re a general for whom a COCOM has specifically delegated it in writing.)
For representatives of either agency to best advance U.S. national interest in the long term, both Defense and State have to be able to restrain some of their agency-level cultural impulses to achieve SC most effectively. Training, both in State’s A100 class for their newly commissioned officers, and at the Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management or similar venues for DoD personnel interacting with a country team, helps introduce the cultural difference to each agency. Other agencies with a hand in SC, such as the Departments of Commerce or Treasury, have a much smaller presence and make do with corporate knowledge and help from the larger groups interacting around them. (Homeland Security mainly interacts through Coast Guard personnel, who are more acquainted with DoD’s foibles and when in theater interact often with country teams with and outside the security cooperation office in the embassy.) Some aspects can cause real friction without planners realizing its source, such as when a J5 officer assumes there’s a J5 in State, or that a Post’s plan is written with the same process as DoD’s, or that the plan is followed as closely as a DoD plan would be. On the ground, people on the country team have to make it work through force of effort and personality.
The benefits of SC have national influence, not just military, from public affairs/public diplomacy to changing policies in a country. SC also has a regional influence: in the ability to use the U.S. effort as a go-between between two partners unhappy with each other, in the ability to build regional ties with the U.S. invited to play, and in the ability to influence regional decisions based on a calculation from a nation that has to deal with what the U.S. has done in the neighborhood. It could well be that host nation has no culture of maintenance and the equipment they paid for is failing. It could be that the country’s using the military to dispense largesse domestically, and the U.S. interest in improving capacity isn’t perfectly aligned with that national desire. It could be that there’s a Red Queen effect, where the security cooperation guys are running as hard as they can to stay in place capacity-wise. It could also be that those frustrating efforts pay off in unusual ways. The military planner will do well to reach out to those other American agencies, to actually listen and adjust planning based on that reaching out, to see the role of SC as more than military capacity building, and to plan for a long and difficult but rewarding SC effort.
When I first thought about serving my country, I considered the Air Force, but decided I’d rather be in the military instead. My father told me once that in the Army, you’d live like rats and die like gentlemen. In the Navy, you’d live like gentlemen, and die like rats. I rather counted on living, and that has made all the difference.
Quote Yeats to me and you’ve won my heart…
The guy could write. In three sentences in his first freakin’ post he managed to pull up a forgotten truism, allude to the poet Robert Frost and mention Yeats. It’s not all grunting and emoting in this world, you know; there is poetry in it, and too few military people admit to being poets. CAPT Lefon was a prose poet. He referenced Guinness and The Hobbit and poetry and classical history. He treated people as equals and kicked the tails of fools. There was a beloved wife, two daughters and a son, a beloved Old Dominion and a San Diego, California house draining him of extra money, his sincere dislike of the night trap. All of these came up in occasional conversation, and would include painfully honest hints–and then a full monty confessional description–of a troubled child on the brink. We remembered that he was once XO of TOPGUN, and that it was one word and all caps. We knew how much he hated being competent in a cubicle, and the joy of being able to escape the rule that “once you retire you never are in full grunt again”. We know enough of his family to mourn along with them. Could write, I tell you.
He even linked me every once in a while, inspiring me to better work on my now-defunct blog (I work in a bit of a sensitive field nowadays, thankee–I used to be okay at writing, I suppose). He was gracious when I called him on things (even a defense of Mr. Rogers). I could depend on the man. Lex had an unashamed faith and had beliefs as well. He even has–crap, had–an entirely separate site, the Flight Deck, for people to hang out at the bar and jaw about whatever.
He took care to support and help out newer milbloggers. That support was needed in the 2005-2007 timeframe. I remain firmly convinced that the milblogs were essential to combating information warfare and the narrative of the 2005-2007 Iraq kerfuffle, putting truth out there when untruth was on the airwaves, and providing stories and comments you could not find anywhere else.
And he talked of homecoming. From 2003:
At that moment, everything you have experienced is almost worth it. The moment will not last forever, but it is enough.
I miss him already. I’m unable to write more; too many deaths close to me hit home this week. He’d like some Yeats. So, some Yeats and thoughts of his family. I don’t know if it’s a good choice or not–it might hit a little close to home. It’s Yeats. He liked Yeats.
TO A CHILD DANCING IN THE WIND
W. B. Yeats (1865-1939)
DANCE there upon the shore;
What need have you to care
For wind or water’s roar?
And tumble out your hair
That the salt drops have wet;
Being young you have not known
The fool’s triumph, nor yet
Love lost as soon as won,
Nor the best labourer dead
And all the sheaves to bind.
What need have you to dread
The monstrous crying of wind?
More – So much More
Chap – Pardon Him, Theodotus: Neptunus Lex: Carroll LeFon
UltimaRatioReg – A Remarkable Man Has Stepped Into the Clearing; Captain Carroll LeFon USN (Ret.) 1960-2012
CDRSalamander – Neptunus Lex: Thank You and Farewell
LCDR Benjamin BJ Armstrong – Laughter-Silvered Wings and Chasing the Shouting Wind
A Note from CEO Pete Daly to the LeFon Family
Susan Katz Keating: Neptunus Lex / Carroll LeFon: 1960-2012
Bill – There is a Universal Fraternity of Aviators…
The Armorer – We were bloggers once, and young.
The Armorer – Lex doing what Lex did best, and enjoyed the most. Flying
FbL – Hole in Our World
Milblogging – RIP Milblogger Carroll LeFon (aka Lex) of Neptunus Lex
Bouhammer – God Speed to a Warrior and a Milblogger
CDR Salamander – Neptunus Lex – Thank You and Farewell
AW1 Tim – One of our own
Grim – Sic Transit Lex
Steeljawscribe – Ave Atque Vale
Homefront Six – Fair winds and following seas…
Steve (The Woodshed) – Don’t Blink
Taco (The SandGram) – Carroll ìLexî LeFon, you are cleared due West
Teresa (Technicalities) – A Story Has Ended
Kanani (Kitchen Dispatch) – RIP Neptunus Lex: One writer pays tribute to another
Jonn (This Ain’t Hell) – RIP, Lex
MaryAnn (Soldiers’ Angels Germany) – Fair Winds, Lex
Cassandra (Villainous Company) – Lex
The Sniper – RIP Lex
Mark Tempest (EagleSpeak) – Beat the drum slowly
caltechgirl (Not Exactly Rocket Science) – Fair Winds and Following Seas
Navy Times – Crash kills pilot who blogged as Neptunus Lex
Soldiers’ Angels – Captain “Lex” Lefon
Tailhook Daily Briefing – Neptunus Lex
U.S. Navy Aircraft History – Well, That Sucks
Carmichael’s Position – Talk Among Yourselves
K-Dubyah (Little Drops…..) – Mourning…
Boudicca’s Voice – Lex
James Joyner (Outside the Beltway) – Captain Carroll LeFon, Neptunus Lex, Killed in Crash
streiff (RedState) – Milblogger Neptunus Lex Killed In Plane Crash
Bookworm (PJ Tatler) – Another Light Went Out : Milblogger Neptunus Lex Died Yesterday
xbradtc (Bring the heat, Bring the Stupid) – RIP- Carroll LeFon ìNeptunus Lexî
ALa (Blonde Sagacity) – In Memoriam: Capt. Carroll LeFon, Ret. a.k.a. Neptunus Lex
Sean (Doc in the Box) – Remembering Captain Carroll, Neptunus Lexî LeFon USN (Ret.) 1960-2012
Bullnav (Op For) – RIP CAPT Carroll Lefon, USN (ret), aka Neptunus Lex
LTC John (Miserable Donuts) – A Milblogger passes on…
DrewM. (Ace) – Captain Carroll “Lex” LeFon (USN, Ret)…RIP
Villainous Company: Lex
Serious people need to be looking at Aboul-Enein’s work, I think.
Policy is all about implementation. Ideas aren’t useful until actually in place, and implementing any policy is a lot harder than thinking up the policy. There are several implementation issues that I highlighted in ’05 that I think are still germane. Here’s a summary:
- Publicity will make it harder, not easier. We’ve already risked having too active a public affairs posture on the decision in my view, and the Air Force pilot experience shows that the extra pressure on people due to being in the spotlight is not good for them, the mission, or the policy. Do it ethically, do it right, do it with proper risk controls, do it quietly until it’s no big thing and the first woman selected for COB or command or TDU operator doesn’t have to have eight news articles to deal with, and the nagging feeling late at night that she got picked because of her X chromosome and not because she’s the best leader and most ruthless undersea knife fighter. Or worse: remember LT Hultgren, remember others.
- Leadership will make or break implementation. Picking the right people, setting them up with the right sticks and carrots, in a focused effort will be better than throwing one poor female sailor on each boat at random.
- Sustainability is important, and hard. One of the reasons submarine demographics is the way it is, is because of the entry pool of people before the Navy gets to see them. Nuclear engineering takes a certain kind of skill set, enlisted and officer; those skill pools skew male. High-demand demographic groups in engineering are disproportionately valuable to our manpower competitors in business and they’ll recruit hard and pay more, making it still harder to get the numbers we need to sustain mixed crews. To get mixed-gender crews more than once as a stunt, or as a token few, requires a pipeline. I would bet PERS-42 and the officer community managers are popping the Motrin over this one.
Details are at the 2005 link. You can tell me how wrong I am here or at the other site.
Update: Navy Times gets word on some of the implementation: accessing division officers and supply officers. No word on other sailors.
CDR Aboul-Enein’s finally done it. I’m going to rave about it sight unseen, based solely on his reputation.
Back in the mid-nineties, the Navy tried to build a Foreign Area Officer program. It didn’t work due to structural problems, but I was selected for the subspecialty along with a few other officers. I built a professional relationship with a few, including one guy with an unusual name who seemed to know a lot about the Middle East. As soon as I got back into port after 9/11, he was the first guy I emailed; I was worried about the potential for him to get caught up in harassment or trouble.
Turns out the opposite happened. He wound up being the guy who in the E-ring. He taught his fellow Americans about the insidious nature of islamist ideology and how normal folks in the Middle East think about warfare, a quiet, professional voice between the appeasers and the overly Jacksonian militants. This is very hard to do when so many people who oppose American values speak different things to different audiences, and lie to calm rational concerns about threat to people very willing to accept a reasonable-sounding voice. (Other officers I know have failed at this. Perhaps you remember a particularly ugly catfight between two in ’07 in the Pentagon from people who may resemble this.)
You know CDR Aboul-Enein if you took JPME II and studied the region, or were in the E-ring after 9/11, or in a variety of jobs we shall not mention here. He has written regularly in a number of publications, and has a particular skill in reviewing a book and giving you the essence of what’s going on–and he does that with books in Arabic that normally we would have no idea about. I’ve learned a lot about the region from his scholarship–and this has served me well when I got yanked from my previous warfare community into a new FAO community, language training, and work in the Middle East, where I’m deployed.
So he’s a friend of mine. I trust his instincts and read what he has to write.
And the guy snuck up on me and finally wrote a book. It’s a summary of years of work he’s done, looking at who these people we’re fighting are. How do these people think? What’s the pump that draws from the pool of normal people and spits out these jerks? What’s the scholarship trail?
Here’s the book, published by USNI. Admiral Stavridis has written the foreword. Can’t get much higher recommendation than that.
Popular Mechanics has a post describing what they see as the method Air Force is using to fix its three biggest problems. I wonder what that article would look like if the word Navy were put in there.
So it’s midnight on “Monday” where I’m working…
CDR Salamander recommends that I post here about a discussion several folks have been having about the recent details of General Motors’ troubles. There may be something worthwhile to map onto the Navy of today. Phibian provoked some good comment earlier this week with a quote changing “GM” to “Navy” just to see how it fit. It fit rather too well in places. He then asked:
Here is a question; is there a parallel between the path of the USN over the last two decades and that of GM of the last four?
As you probably know, ever since GM was founded, its execs have either been driven by a chauffeur or provided with carefully prepared and maintained examples of the company’s most expensive vehicles. Of course, there are times when the suits must sign off on the company’s more prosaic products. Since 1953, this intersection between high flyer and mass market occurred at GM’s Mesa, Arizona, Desert Proving Grounds (DPG). The execs would fly into Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, limo out to the DPG and drive the company’s latest models.
Our agent says that all the vehicles the execs drove were “ringers.” More specifically, the engineers would tweak the test vehicles to remove any hint of imperfection. “They use a rolling radius machine to choose the best tires, fix the headliner, tighten panel and interior gaps, remove shakes and rattles, repair bodywork—everything and anything.”
Did the execs know this? “Nope. And nobody was going to tell them . . . As far as they knew, the cars were exactly as they would be coming off the line. That’s why Bob Lutz thinks GM’s products are world-class. The ones he’s driven are.”
I asked Agent X if the GM execs would ever drive the cars again. Did he know if Wagoner or Lutz dropped in at a dealership to test drive a random sample off the lot? He found the idea amusing.
Well, did the DPG at least send a list of changes to the design and production teams? “The tweaks were never reported to anyone,” he says. “That would’ve been a sure way to kill your career . . . We’d see the cars come back to us after production with the exact same problems.”
What things in the Navy today do we do now that go down that path? I have a possible example or two listed in that post.
Also, I argue that if we can use business cases and rules for some things, we can use them for embarrassing things too. I think there would be value in studying the late-80s Navy like that, and CDR Salamander’s drawing upon GM-related examples might serve as a cautionary tale for our Navy.
This interview with a Cold War submariner from 2001 reveals a little about what fast attack boats did during the Cold War. It was done in conjunction with a Smithsonian exhibit that had missile hatches and a declassified maneuvering room and some very interesting related displays.
PHILLIPS: Why don’t we begin, Admiral, with you. Take us back to March 17th, 1978 and set the scene for us.
EVANS: Batfish had gotten underway from our home port of Charleston, South Carolina on the 2nd of March, proceeded up north to the upper end of the Norwegian Sea about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle, where we established a patrol zone and searched to look for the next Soviet ballistic missile submarine deploying from the Barent Sea (ph).
On March the 17th in the afternoon we got our initial contact on the Yankee class ballistic missile submarine and then proceeded to track and follow that submarine south through the Iceland Farrow Strait (ph) into the North Atlantic and down toward the east coast of the United States and then followed her through her entire patrol and back up into the Norwegian Sea as she headed back home into the Barents.
This could have been your view throughout the entire deployment:
This is PFC Chance Phelps.
The blog Blackfive originally posted and then published (in the book The Blog Of War) the essay Taking Chance in 2004. They have followed the amazing response to LTC Strobl’s heartfelt piece over the years, and today have letters from the corpsman who was there when PFC Chance Phelps was killed in action and the Marine general who was with them in that battle.
You owe it to yourself to read the original 2004 essay if you haven’t already.
Previously highly classified, and the source for much of the books out there. John Clear EMC (SS), USN (Ret.) and Dan Martini EMCM(SS) USN, (Ret.) are credited for providing the digits. Now they’re on line at the Historic Naval Ships Association website.
- Back to Basics: Restoring the United States Merchant Marine
- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN
- Five Enduring Lessons from Arabian Gulf Patrol Craft Operations
- Solution to the Russian Mistral’s Conundrum: NATO Flagships
- Expanding the Naval Canon: Fernando de Oliveira and the 1st Treatise on Maritime Strategy