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The Secretary of Transportation has announced the name of the new Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

I wish him and the Academy the best of luck. I am sure that he is more than qualified to handle the job at hand (other than my 1 reservation noted below). Then again, so was his predecessor.

I am more and more convinced that there are two distinct skill sets required for this position. The first involves overseeing the ongoing training of a school full of Midshipmen. The second skill set, involves dealing with both an entrenched civilian infrastructure and the Maritime Administration as overseer. So far, it seems that it is easy to find people with the first required skill set. Finding those with the second skill set has been much harder, most likely due to the fact that no one has been able to define the actual skills required. One thing for sure, it seems that understanding how the DOD functions does not help in successfully navigating through the Department of Transportation, and perhaps even results in friction with those who oversee the school.

Personally, I think the best chance of success for the new Superintendent rests with a change in the Administration as a result of the upcoming election. It also wouldn’t hurt if the school was better integrated into the logistical training infrastructure of the US Military.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out the new Superintendent’s lack of Maritime experience. Imagine if you will, Colonel Helis being named the next Superintendent of the US Naval Academy. You can thus understand how the USMMA ‘King’s Point’ alumni feel. It is a shame that the Maritime Administration could not find a person from within the Maritime Community to fill the job. Then again, The Maritime Administrator, David Matsuda, has no Maritime background either. One should not forget how the previous Superintendent was treated either.

Colonel James Helis Announced as New USMMA Superintendent

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today named Colonel (ret.) James Helis, Ph.D., as the new superintendent for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Helis, a 30-year Army veteran, will begin work at the Academy next month after spending the past eight years as a department chair at the United States War College.

“Colonel Helis is an ideal fit for the Academy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “His extensive military and academic experience reflects the Academy’s mission of both training and educating its students to support our country’s maritime needs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure a strong future for Kings Point.”

Since 2004, Colonel Helis has led the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. During his 30 years in the U.S. Army, Colonel Helis served as an Army Ranger and master parachutist and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served as Chief of Plans for the NATO International Security Assistance Force. His professional foreign travel includes Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Haiti, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden.

“I am deeply honored and very excited about the opportunity to serve at Kings Point,” Colonel Helis said. “I am eager to join the team of faculty, staff, and most of all midshipmen, all of whom daily live by the values of honor, service, and excellence.”

Helis received his Doctorate of Philosophy in International Relations from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He holds masters degrees from both the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the University of Pennsylvania, and he earned his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Colonel Helis and his wife, Jan, have two sons, Corbin, 22, a 2011 West Point graduate, and Ian, 18, who joins the Kings Point Class of 2016 this summer.

“Thanks to a thorough search process involving faculty, staff, midshipmen, parents and alumni, we have identified a true leader in Colonel Helis,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “As Superintendent for Kings Point, he will bring energy and experience to our team and will help ensure that the Academy continues to chart a course for future success.”

The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, including the hiring of key Academy positions. As part of the selection process, Colonel Helis also met with a number of midshipmen, faculty and staff from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, as well as alumni and industry leaders.

U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590
www.dot.gov/briefing-room.html

DOT 71-12 – Monday, June 25, 2012
Contact:US DOT Press Office – Tel: 202-366-4570

USMMA Alumni Association

 



Posted by FFry in Army, Merchant Marine, Tactics | 2 Comments
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Just when you thought that the ARCTIC SEA piracy story couldn’t get any weirder, comes news via Fairplay of an arrest warrent being issued in the case, for the former head of Estonian Intelligence:

The decision to put out an international warrant over the hijacking of the timber carrier Arctic Sea in August 2009 stemmed from Erik Niyles Kross’s refusal to answer a Russian summons for questioning in December.

Kross, former head of Estonian intelligence, has been charged with planning and directing the month-long pirate takeover.

Arctic Sea had been under way off Sweden’s Baltic coast when nine Russian and Latvian men took the vessel. They were convicted of piracy in Moscow and Arkhangelsk and given stiff prison terms – after reportedly naming Kross as the mastermind.

Estonia’s government has said that Russian prosecutors are welcome to interrogate Kross in Talinn. The 4,706dwt ship later found and taken back by the Russian Navy off Cape Verde. – Fairplay

Just why would the former head of Estonian Intelligence want to hijack a ship full of timber? Maybe he’s crazy? Given his involvement, maybe there is something to the rumors that the ship was carrying something much more interesting than just timber. I can understand Mr. Kross’s refusal to travel to Russia for questioning. However, he can’t be feeling much safer sitting in nearby Estonia. I suspect the level of danger he is in depends on what he knows and how embarrassing it is to the Russian Government.

One question I would like answered is just where the ‘hijackers’ were planning to take the ship. They did not appear to be taking the vessel anyplace when the Russians arrived. Apparently, thanks to Russian threats, the crew is still not talking.

Surely this is not the final chapter.



LT(jg) Francis Toner, USN

LT(jg) Toner, USN is a 2006 graduate of the US Merchant Marine Academy. He entered active duty service with the US Navy. He volunteered to serve in Afghanistan. He was killed in action on March 27, 2009 while challenging an attacker.

The following article appeared in the Fall 2011 edition of the US Merchant Marine Academy Alumni magazine, Kings Pointer:

Admiral Mullen Awards Silver Star to LT (jg) Francis L. Toner, USN’06

The nation’s top military officer presented, on September 23, 2011, a posthumous Silver Star to the widow of a heroic Navy officer who was killed in Afghanistan.

Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, addressed the audience during the presentation ceremony of the Silver Star to Brooke Toner, wife of LT (jg) Francis L. Toner IV at the US Navy Memorial in Washington, DC, Sept. 23, 2011.

During a ceremony at the Navy Memorial here, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Admiral Mike Mullen told the hundreds of people in attendance that LT (jg) Francis L. Toner IV, USN ’06 faced death “tragically and heroically.”

Toner, 26, was deployed to Afghanistan with an embedded training team as garrison engineer mentor for the Afghan National Army’s 209th Corps at Forward Operating Base Shaheen, near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan.

He and three other officers were exercising, running around the camp’s perimeter on March 27, 2009, when an enemy fighter who had infiltrated the Afghan army attacked with a firearm. As Toner’s Silver Star citation recounts, “In seconds, officers were shot and lying wounded on the ground. The gunman proceeded to shoot one of the wounded officers. . . . Toner, unarmed, verbally challenged the insurgent and continued to advance until he was fatally wounded.” “I’ve been to enough [award presentations] and I’ve seen enough citations to know that he was basically walking straight into the enemy’s fire,” the chairman said of Toner’s actions. “We shouldn’t – and we won’t – ever, ever forget that service, that sacrifice,” the admiral added. “Because that is what makes us strong, as a military and as a nation.”

The chairman said today’s ceremony, attended largely by sailors in uniform, was particularly poignant for the Navy because Toner deployed as an individual augmentee, attached to an Army unit. “I started that [program] when I was [chief of naval operations],” the admiral said. Mullen said his experience in Vietnam and knowledge of ground operations made the decision to deploy individual sailors very simple.

“I knew the ground forces would bear the brunt, and every sailor I could get into the fight was going to relieve a soldier,” he said. The Navy and Air Force have had thousands of their members “in the sand” of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mullen said. “There are 12,000 there today, and that continues,” he said.

Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene, Jr., USMS ’78, Superintendent, US Merchant Marine Academy and several Cadet – Midshipman of the US Merchant Marine Academy, from which Toner graduated in 2006, were among those attending the ceremony.

“Welcome,” the chairman said to the midshipmen. “You’re our future, and this all happens faster than any of us know. And we appreciate that you would raise your hand and serve your country at this extraordinary time.”

Mullen said part of the speech he delivered at the Merchant Marine Academy two graduations ago focused on “that thread of Frankie Toner, who had graduated from there, who so many looked to for inspiration.”

Brooke Toner, who accepted her husband’s Silver Star, spoke during the ceremony and thanked everyone who attended.

“From the moment I got that knock on the door – which was the worst day of my life – I’ve been supported by my casualty assistance officer, by Admiral Mullen, by [Navy Rear Adm. Christopher J. Mossey, commander of Naval Facilities Engineering Command], by all of our friends who have wrapped their arms around our family to support us all,” she said.

Toner was born Sept. 26, 1982, in Panorama City, CA. He graduated from Westlake High School in 2001 and his family relocated to Narragansett, RI in 2002.

In the summer of 2002, Toner entered the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, NY where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in marine engineering and shipyard management.

In May 2006, Toner was commissioned an ensign in the US Navy. He graduated from Navy Civil Engineer Corps Officer School in Port Hueneme, CA, September 2006, and was assigned to Pearl Harbor, HI.

He reported to Camp Mike Spann in Afghanistan in October 2008 for a one-year individual augmentee assignment.

Toner is survived by his wife, Brooke Toner; mother, Rebecca Toner; father, Francis Toner III; stepmother, Sharon; sister, Amanda; and brothers, John and Michael.

Toner was previously posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with valor. The Silver Star is the third highest combat military decoration. – Kings Pointer – Fall 2011

View video of the Presentation on YouTube here: ‘Adm. Mike Mullen Presents Silver Star Awarded to Lt. j.g. Francis L. Toner IV

(Photo found on his wife’s blog dedicated to her husband)



Posted by FFry in Navy, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Word came earlier this week to the US Merchant Marine Academy community of the reassignment of the Academy’s Superintendent, RADM Greene, who is himself an Academy graduate. See the announcement below.

Of more interest is just why the Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, would go and reassign the good Admiral a year after appointing him to the position, a position that has lately appeared to become a revolving door. (See the Sec. Trans. praise of RADM Greene here) Take this clarification issued by the Alumni Association:

Important Message Clarification – In response to the feedback we have received from the “Important Message” released at 1300 EST regarding the Superintendent, I want to make it very clear that this is not a positive situation. The Superintendent has been “reassigned.” This is not Admiral Greene’s decision. The Dean is now the Interim Superintendent.

We are as deeply concerned about this turn of events as you are. As of now we only have the information that is in the previous release. I would like to answer all your questions but at this time that is just not possible. Thank you for your understanding and I hope this clears up any confusion.

Capt. James F. Tobin ’77
President
USMMA Alumni Association & Foundation, Inc. – USMMA Alumni Association

It is now a couple days later and there is still little to no further explanation as to what has happened. I met the Admiral last December and he seemed like the perfect person for the job. Which makes me wonder, perhaps this Administration didn’t appreciate that. Really, was the need at the National Defense University so great that it was better to once again open up the Superintendent’s position at King’s Point. In that Admiral Greene didn’t even have the opportunity to decline and remain in his current position? Was their no other suitable candidate and if that is the case, just where did he intend to find a new superintendent?

In addition, warning comes that the budget ax is going to start swinging in DC. No word yet on where it will strike, but compared to the other service academies, the USMMA is in a somewhat exposed position. It will need a strong leader to defend the school’s contribution to the US. As an alumnus, I hope that a replacement as strong as RADM Greene can be found quickly.

—————————

Important Announcement – Secretary Ray LaHood announced on Tuesday the appointment of Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene, Jr. (KP ’78) to be the Department of Transportation Chair at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

Rear Admiral Greene served with distinction as Superintendent, United States Merchant Marine Academy since August 30, 2010. A native of Southern California, Admiral Greene, was our third Kings Point Graduate to serve as Superintendent.

Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene, Jr. (KP ’78), has been named the 2011 Alumnus of the Year by the USMMA Alumni Association and Foundation. This prestigious annual award will be presented at the Homecoming Alumni Awards Dinner on Thursday evening, October 13th, in the Melville Hall Officers’ Club.

Prior to his appointment as Superintendent at Kings Point, Admiral Greene was Director, Navy Irregular Warfare. Prior to this assignment Greene was commander, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa where he led operations to build regional security capacity and counter extremism in the Horn/East Africa. He also served in Naples, Italy, as director for Policy, Resources & Strategy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa (February 2008 to February 2009).

Previously he commanded Destroyer Squadron 31 from November 2002 to May 2004, where he served as sea combat commander for the Abraham Lincoln Strike Group during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other sea duty commanding officer assignments include the Spruance class destroyer, USS Fletcher (DD 992) from March 1996 to November 1997; and the patrol missile hydrofoil, USS Taurus (PHM 3) from July 1989 to June 1991.

Significant shore assignments include duty as chief of staff to commander, Naval Surface Forces; and chief, North East Asia/China Division, the Joint Staff/Political-Military directorate (J5). In addition, Greene has served tours at the U.S. Naval Academy; the Secretary of the Navy’s Office for Legislative Affairs; and the Bureau of Naval Personnel.

Greene is a 1994 graduate of the National War College (M.S. National Security Strategy) and a 1985 graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School (M.S. Information Systems). In addition, he holds a Merchant Marine license as Master (oceans, any gross tonnage).

Greene has received various service and unit awards. His personal decorations include the Navy Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal.

On behalf of the entire KP Alumni, we thank RADM Greene for his extraordinary efforts, dedication and leadership provided under very challenging circumstances. We also thank Admiral Greene’s wife, Debby Greene, for her grace and dignity, and the valued work and contributions made to the Academy.

We wish Godspeed to our fellow Alumnus! – USMMA Alumni Association

PREVIOUS:
RADM Philip Greene ’78 Named 11th USMMA Superintendent – August 2010



One of the arguments made against arming merchant ships as defense against pirates is the claimed threat that doing so will merely escalate the violence deployed by pirates. I have disputed this argument in the past (See Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem). Here is another article that takes aim at the escalation of violence theory, nicely pointing out that the military forces in the area are the ones who are escalating the violence.

ON May 16, 2011 a US military helicopter opened fire on a skiff attacking crude carrier Artemis Glory in the Gulf of Oman, killing four suspected pirates.

Although the US forces were not directly fired upon, the engagement took place under a term called ‘extended unit self-defense’. An American term, it seeks to identify an increased frequency of action or engagement that equates to increased “opportunity” or “crossing of paths” between pirates and coalition forces.

While this demonstrates the Combined Maritime Forces’ resolve in the fight against piracy, it also displays a further example of an escalation of violence, a phrase often used by the detractors of the armed deterrent. There is strong opinion that to counter pirate attacks with the threat and delivery of lethal force puts the masters and crews of vessels under ever more danger of injury or loss of life. More often than not the risk of an ‘escalation of violence’ is used as an argument against the use of private security companies, perhaps unfairly so.

In order to analyse the ‘escalation of violence’ risk, the differences between rules of engagement and rules for the use of force should be considered. Arguably, this is where the difference between state and non-state stakeholders is most acute. ROE is a commonly understood term in the military. It is a set of guidelines to determine when, where and how force should be used. The UK’s Ministry of Defence defines ROE as: “Directives issued by competent military authority which delineate the circumstances and limitations under which UK forces will initiate and/or continue combat engagement with other forces encountered.” However, the UK’s military contribution to EU Navfor is governed by UK domestic and international law as its anti-piracy operations are not defined as ‘armed conflict’, restricting their rules of engagement to self-defence. Contrast this with RUF, which apply to non-state actors, stipulating when a security operative can exercise proportional use of force, also underpinned by ‘self-defence’. Reputable private maritime security companies provide a deterrent with rules for the use of force and not engagement.

Interestingly, between the state-sponsored international naval presence off the Horn of Africa and the privately contracted security personnel, it is the latter who are often criticised for their use of force which needlessly escalates violence. There is no evidence for this and yet there are examples of state actors doing just that, albeit under different ‘rules’, but often taking a difficult situation into something with fatal consequences. One only has to recall the events on board the French yacht, ‘Tanit’, in April 2009, where French Special Forces boarded the hijacked yacht, killing the pirates but also one of the hostages. Similarly there was the killing of four US citizens on board the yacht ‘Sea Quest’ after the pirates suspected they were about to be boarded. In all the subsequent media reports, there was little mention of state actors escalating violence to an unacceptable level. Perhaps state actors are immune from accusations of ‘escalation of violence’, but private actors are not?

Contemporary piracy is widely accepted as a highly organised criminal activity. Shipowners know that the only effective deterrent to this problem is private armed security. Per Gullestrup, chief executive of Clipper Ferries/Ro-Ro said recently: “We took the decision three to four months ago that we could not defend our ships without contracting-in armed guards with light machine guns and who will shoot back.” Even the US acknowledged at the recent US Committee on Foreign Affairs’ Sub-Committee on Terrorism, Non-proliferation and Trade Hearing on “Confronting Global Piracy” (June 15, 2011): “It is notable that no vessel with an armed security team embarked has been successfully hijacked.”

While private security companies are providing a credible deterrent, as non-state actors, they cannot and should not utilise ROE methodology. As is predominantly the case across the maritime security sector, the deterrent operates under clearly defined RUF and tries very hard to detune situations with the minimum use of force. Reputable security companies are only too willing to provide prospective shipping clients with detailed guidelines their teams operate by, from the identification of hostile intent and hostile acts and the appropriate responses deemed necessary to counter the threat. This information is also specified within the recent International Maritime Organization guidelines for the selection and use of private maritime security contractors. The emergence of the Security Association for the Maritime Industry, a trade organisation establishing minimum standards for security companies to operate by, is making it much simpler for shipowners considering armed security to understand the rules for the use of force that PMSC’s should abide by.

Lamentably, the same recent US hearing openly admitted: “We should have no illusions: there is no simple solution to modern-day piracy off the Horn of Africa.” Mr Gullestrup describes the situation more forcefully: “Despair is a good word to describe the way shipowners feel about the whole piracy issue … it is 2011 and we are five years into this and we are still being run around by a bunch of criminals.” While the international community moves toward more asymmetric tactics against pirates, without careful scrutiny and consideration the difference between the rules of engagement and the use of force at sea could be lost in the armed deterrent debate. This could be bewildering for shipowners, charterers and insurers keen to safeguard vessels, content and crew. Perhaps more importantly, it is unhelpful in promoting a clear understanding of state and non-state players’ responsibilities and authority to deliver maritime security, further limiting a coherent solution to contemporary piracy.

Paul Gibbins is the Director of Communications for Protection Vessels International Limited. – Lloyds List (Republished with permission of the author)

The ongoing threat of pirates has resulted in a steady shifting towards greater acceptance of the use of arms onboard ships. This makes sense as it is the vessels that are the high value targets. And as such, they should have the means to defend themselves. So far, there seems to be little in terms of escalation on the part of the pirates. Instead, they continue searching for the less defended vessels.

Photo courtesy of PVI LTD



Surely, many of you are familiar with the news of four Americans who were captured when their vessel the S/V QUEST by pirates a couple days ago while sailing their yacht through pirate-infested waters. This morning their voyage ended.

In a statement, US Central Command said that negotiations were underway between the US Navy and the pirates, when the US forces heard gunfire coming from the Quest about 0600GMT.

They boarded the ship, killing two pirates in the process, and discovered the four Americans shot. The US Navy sailors attempted to provide first aid but the hostages died, the military said.

“As they responded to the gunfire, reaching and boarding the Quest, the forces discovered all four hostages had been shot by their captors,” Gen James Mattis of US Central Command Commander said in a statement.

“We express our deepest condolences for the innocent lives callously lost aboard the Quest,” the statement added.

The US Navy captured 13 pirates, and found the remains of two other pirates already dead about the vessel, the US military said. – BBC News

I have to say that I am surprised to hear this news, partly because you think that God might be watching over them given the bible mission that they were conducting. But relying on God to protect you as you plan to travel through pirate-infested waters is no plan at all. After-all the pirates pray to God too and are holding hundreds of seafarers hostage, not to mention a ship full of yachts whose owners were not interested in sailing through the area on their own. Their website makes no mention of the threat of pirates in their 2011 travel plans (page here). But given that pirates have been taking vessels as a revenue-generating scheme, and that live prisoners are worth lots more than dead ones, I just expected them to either end up ashore and hidden in Somalia or wait it out while the US Navy prevents them from taking them ashore.

I am not sure what the lessons are to be learned here that are not already known. But for the benefit of those still tempted to run the gauntlet, here is a reminder:

  • Yachts are extremely vulnerable
  • Even if the Navy comes to your rescue, it very well might be too late
  • The close quarters of a yacht keep you in close contact with pirates at all times, including during any attempt to retake the vessel
  • Pirates are very willing to kill their captives
  • If attacked, it is extremely important to keep the pirates from getting access to the crew

Piracy in the area is spreading and turning into a free-for-all for the pirates. The game is over for the 13 the Navy caught while retaking the vessel, but the pirates seem to be running the board at the moment.

So, what criminal charges do the 13 face back in the US and might the death penalty be on the table?

UPDATE:

Here is confirmation that they knew what they were sailing into:

Friends of a US couple aboard a yacht hijacked off Somalia on Friday say the pair knew their journey was risky, but were determined to press on with their Christian mission.

In an email sent days before they went missing, Scott and Jean Adam described plans to stay out of touch to hide their location from pirates. – BBC News

Three more very important lessons here:

  • You can’t hide from pirates in the open ocean. It’s like trying to hide in the middle of an empty football field.
  • The pirates are most likely to be where you want them least.
  • Help is least likely to be where you want it most. A warship 30 miles away is an hour away from helping you. (outside of helo assistance)


A USNI Article by Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret) is currently being linked by the Drudge Report.

President Barack Obama was outmaneuvered by the Russians and should have abandoned the New START negotiations instead of seeking a political victory, says former nuclear plans monitor Vice Admiral Jerry Miller, USN (Ret).

“The Obama administration is continuing a dated policy in which we cannot even unilaterally reduce our own inventory of weapons and delivery systems without being on parity with the Russians,” Miller told the U.S. Naval Institute in Annapolis, Md. “We could give up plenty of deployed delivery systems and not adversely affect our national security one bit, but New START prohibits such action – so we are now stuck with some outmoded and useless elements in our nuke force.” – Read the rest at ‘Obama was outmaneuvered by Russians on START’

For me it makes no sense to complete such an agreement with the Russians when they are working overtime to enable other bad actors around the world, such as the Iranians and just recently Venezuela. Back in 2008 I wrote an article noting a number of points why it was OK to stop paying off Russia in regards to it’s nuclear weapons given that the payback was pretty pitiful. These points are still relevant today:

1. At the moment, those most likely to steal a nuclear weapon from Russia are probably the same groups who are most likely to detonate a nuke inside Russia. Remember that Russia has a terrorist problem in Chechnya and they have struck inside Russia proper. Careless accountability puts Moscow at as much if not more risk for a nuclear attack than any Western country. Also, there is much less risk of being caught getting a nuke to Moscow than trying to move it halfway across the planet to get it to US soil. As a bonus, international stupidity has awarded Russia the Olympics games. So in addition to having Moscow as a target, terrorists might just as well target Sochi Olympics with the goal of wiping the city (and everyone in it) from the map.

2. Russian Nuclear scientists. Paying this money provides many of these scientists with support, but probably keeps them either idle or doing busy work that they have no interest in. A US Government study had already suggested that work from some of these scientists directly benefited the Iranian nuclear program. (See: US Assistance to Russia Funding Iranian Nukes) With all the calls around the globe for new nuclear plants, how about letting these nuclear experts move abroad and help the world increase its nuclear power generating capacity. If it takes aid money to facility the shift, then that is probably money much better spent than it is now.

3. Speaking of the Iranians, while the US is paying to secure existing Russian nukes, the money does nothing to prevent Russia from teaching the Iranians to build their own. This has included not only the supply of scientists, but also equipment, machinery and raw nuclear material. So while they are not passing whole nukes out the door, they are essentially sneaking out nukes in pieces.

Iran’s first nuclear plant in the southern city of Bushehr, which is being constructed in cooperation with Russia, is expected to become operational later on in 2008.

In December 2007, Russia began delivering 82 tons of nuclear fuel to the Bushehr plant, under the supervision and subject to the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The United States, Israel and their European allies allege that the enriched uranium provided by the Russians could be used to produce weapons-grade substances, and accuse Iran, a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of pursuing a military nuclear program. – Hurriyet

Putin and Ahmadinejad – Each the other’s most Useful Idiot

4. Russia has already used nuclear material in an attack, littering Europe with radioactive material in the process, exposing thousands of travelers to the nuclear radiation in the process.

Vladimir Putin should be known throughout the world as “Putin the Poisoner.” His signature act — the action that defined Putin’s character for all the world to see — was the radioactive poisoning of KGB turncoat Alexander Litvinenko in London, using polonium-210. The kicker is that you can’t just buy polonium-210 at your local chemical supply store. You can only get it if you have a nuclear weapons industry, because there you need it to start a nuclear chain reaction. It’s a super-tricky substance to control. Putin’s assassins left their traces all over London. Chemically, Po-210 is 250,000 times more toxic than hydrogen cyanide. But the Russians have always favored overkill. – American Thinker

5. Russia and the former Soviet States are still littered with unsecured nuclear material:

Another DOE effort that has been upended by the local violence is the tracking of abandoned radioisotope thermal generators (RTGs) – thousands of highly radioactive strontium and caesium powered batteries that were placed throughout remote portions of the Soviet Union as navigational beacons and power sources.

These sources have fallen into decrepitude, and much of the paperwork on their whereabouts and conditions were lost with the Soviet Union’s fall. The RTG units are frequently dismantled for valuable scrap metal by scavengers. More troubling, the strontium and caesium sources also go missing.

The DOE-led effort to isolate, dismantle and dispose of these forgotten facilities “will, for the time being have to be shelved,” said a DOE source in a telephone interview. – Bellona

AND:

Georgian interior ministry officials maintain that much of the nuclear material they stop can be traced directly to Russian sites, largely in Siberia. But, complained on official in an interview with Bellona Web Tuesday, the Russians are satisfied to leave these clean up efforts to Georgia, and will rarely take responsibility for Russia nuclear material ending up in the hands of Georgian law enforcement.

“To say that we are intercepting materials that come from Russia, and have the Russian’s admit it, means that the Russian sites are not as secure as they want the world to believe,” said the Georgian interior ministry spokesman, who, citing the current violence requested anonymity. – Bellona

6. Russia itself is a threat to nuclear material stockpiles:

“Russia will say that they will secure these radioactive sources, but the truth is they are as liable to take them as any smuggles we have apprehended,” said the Georgian interior ministry official in an email interview on Monday. – Bellona

You can bet that material stolen by the Russians will not end up in any facility subject to US-paid security.

7. Finally, the money spent securing Russian nukes will do nothing to prevent Russia’s access to the weapons. As it is, there are two recent stories noting either Russian movement of nuclear weapons or their suggestion of re-deploying them.

LONDON- Russia is considering arming its Baltic fleet with nuclear warheads for the first time since the cold war, warned senior military sources late August 17.

The Sunday Times wrote that under the Russian plans, nuclear warheads could be supplied to submarines, cruisers and fighter bombers of the Baltic fleet based in Kaliningrad. – The Baltic Times

And:

Russia has inserted into Georgian territory two SS-21 “Scarab” short-range missile launchers. The only possible use for these in a conflict of this type is for delivery of tactical nuclear weapons. They are Russia’s insurance policy, deterring those who would come to Georgia’s aid to prevent it being torn asunder by the Kremlin’s war machine. – Irish Times

And:

Russia no longer maintains a ‘no-first-use’ policy, and is considering re-deployment of tactical nuclear weapons. – American Chronicle

And:

As recently as July, the newspaper Izvestia floated the idea that Moscow would station nuclear weapons in Cuba if the U.S. went ahead with the deployment of an antiballistic missile radar in the Czech Republic and interceptors in Poland. Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, chief of Russia’s strategic missile command, has openly spoken about aiming nuclear-tipped missiles at those two countries. Vladimir Putin has warned Ukraine that if it were to join NATO, “Russia will have to point its warheads at Ukrainian territory.” Not long before that, Mr. Putin cheerfully described a series of ballistic-missile flight tests as “pleasant and spectacular holiday fireworks.” – The Wall Street Journal

Then there is Russia’s threat to nuke Poland in response to Poland’s agreement to host American missile interceptors. Of course, they only agreed to host them in order to get their hands on some Patriot missile batteries all the better to shoot down Russian missiles and jets. Only Russia can get pissed off over military equipment that is useful only on the defender’s territory. Mainland Russia does not even border Poland. However, the Russian seaport of Kaliningrad, seized from the Germans at the end of WWII does border Poland. To make sure the Poles take the threat seriously, Russia is suspected of stockpiling many tactical nukes there. Those being weapons you toss into neighboring countries. So before you even think of listening to Putin bitching about the US ‘stirring things up’ by placing a couple defensive missiles in Europe (See: “Washington and Poland just moved the World closer to War”), consider that Putin has nukes already placed right in the center of Europe.

Russia has reportedly moved tactical nuclear weapons to a military base in Kaliningrad, an action that would contravene its apparent pledge to keep the Baltic region nuclear-free and could violate its 1991 commitment not to deploy tactical nuclear weapons. Russian officials have vehemently denied the allegations.

The move was first reported January 3 by The Washington Times, which cited unnamed intelligence sources and classified Defense Intelligence Agency reports, and stated that U.S. officials first became aware of the weapons transfers last June. Following initial press reports, U.S. news organizations reported senior U.S. officials as confirming that the Clinton administration believes Russia has moved tactical nuclear warheads during the past year to the isolated Russian region, which is located between Poland and Lithuania. – Arms Control Association, 2001

Of course the Russians promised not to do such a thing:

The presence of any stockpiled weapons in Kaliningrad would violate Russia’s apparent pledge to keep nuclear weapons out of the Baltics, and the more serious step of deploying tactical nuclear weapons would clearly violate its 1991 commitment. Russian officials have so far failed to clarify whether the Baltic outpost serves as a storage site for tactical nuclear weapons, although U.S. intelligence officials told The Washington Post that Russia used Kaliningrad as a depot for tactical nuclear weapons that were removed from naval vessels in the early 1990s. – Arms Control Association, 2001

The Administration’s cancellation of the anti-missile system that was going to be deployed in Poland and the now-confirmed lie that the Administration swore that the cancellation had nothing to do with Russia’s objection to the system puts doubt in my mind that the US has the will needed to put the Russians in check. We certainly should have the motivation to try and limit the threat that is Russia. One way to do that is of course to have them account for their past nuclear sins. A good way to do that is to push the Russians to do a better job cleaning up after their own nuclear waste. As you can see from the extract examples above, it is an issue that they defer to our allies to handle. That is something that should change. The Russians should want to remove this waste from their environment. This is not the case because ‘the West’ is climbing over each other to do this for them.

Is this new START program going to stop the Russians from helping our enemies gain nuclear strike capability? I think not. My opinion however matters little. However, it is interesting to note the Vice Admiral’s comments on this matter fit with my own opinion. Unfortunately, this does not bode well for the actual results of this Treaty against what is being promised.



There is good news on the piracy front as a pirate attack is foiled through the use of a ‘Citadel Room’. Here is the story as found on Fairplay Shipping News:

Beluga crew evades pirates

THE GERMAN multipurpose ship Beluga Fortune has resumed its voyage to South Africa after a failed hijacking attempt by Somali pirates.

The pirates boarded the 12,744dwt vessel about 1,200 n-miles off Kenya on 24 October, but were unable to navigate the ship towards the African coast, the ship’s owner Beluga said. The engine and bunker feed systems had been shut down by the ship’s 16 Filipino, Russian and German crew members, who were hiding in a citadel room.

The attackers fled yesterday when the British frigate Monrose arrived at the scene.

Beluga managing partner Niels Stolberg lauded the crew for its “cool-headed” behaviour and for undertaking professional safety measures.

“We are very proud of our team aboard the ship. It confirms our strategic view that investments into safety are good investments,” he said. – Fairplay

As you can imagine, a ‘Citadel Room’ is a secure hiding place for the crew. This space gives naval forces the time needed to get to the scene of the attack. As the old saying goes, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Traditionally naval forces have declined to intervene once pirates have boarded a ship out of concern for harming crew members in any action to retake the vessel. This has been a problem because it was almost impossible for naval forces to respond in time given that it only takes a couple of minutes for pirates to board vessels and help is often at least 30 minutes away. However, when the pirates fail to capture crew members, they are left exposed to attack by the next passing naval force. And in this case all it took was the appearance of a naval vessel, and the inability to navigate the vessel, to convince the pirates to abandon their catch.

Merchant ships have a guide they can use to prepare for transiting pirate-infested waters. It is called the Best Management Practices 3.

Best Management Practices 3 (BMP3) is now available for the public in booklets and on www.mschoa.org. It represents a real step change; the booklet will significantly encourage wider adoption of self protection measures by ships transiting the High Risk Areas and ultimately help reduce the number of pirated ships off the coast of Somalia.

The purpose of the Industry Best Management Practices (BMP) is to assist ships to avoid, deter or delay piracy attacks off the coast of Somalia, the Gulf of Aden (GoA) and the Arabian Sea. Experience, supported by data collected by Counter Piracy Forces, shows that the application of the recommendations contained within this booklet can and will make a significant difference in preventing a ship becoming a victim of piracy.

BMP has become fully recognized as the standard for guidance and protection for shipping from piracy off the coast of Somalia across the Global Maritime Community. 25,000 copies of the booklet will be published and the intentions of Industry are to make the booklet freely available and ensure wide and effective distribution of this booklet is achieved so that the booklet will become standard documentation on the bridge of all Merchant Ships. Where possible, this booklet should be read with reference to the Maritime Security Centre – Horn of Africa website (www.mschoa.org), which provides additional and updated advice. As intelligence has been gathered and lessons learned evaluated, industry has been able to update and revise this guidance, which has been harmonised and coordinated by all concerned parties during the revision process. – EU NAVFOR Somalia

You can view the manual here: http://www.mschoa.org/bmp3/Documents/BMP3%20Final_low.pdf

The guide comments on Citadels as follows:

(ii) Citadel Guidelines:
A Citadel is a designated pre-planned area purpose built into the ship where, in the event of imminent boarding by pirates, all crew will seek protection. A Citadel is designed and constructed to resist a determined pirate trying to gain entry. Such a space would probably have, but not be limited to, its own self-contained air-conditioning, emergency rations, water supply, good external communications, emergency shut-down capability for the main and auxiliary engines,
and remotely operated CCTV cameras.

A Citadel is to provide longer term protection of the crew.

Ship Operators and Masters are strongly advised to check directly with MSCHOA regarding the use of Citadels (see contact details in Annex A).

The whole concept of the Citadel approach is lost if any crew member is left outside before it is secured.

The ability to communicate is very important as the crew needs to be able to confirm that they are all in a secured space and that anyone a potential boarding party encounters can safely be assumed to be hostile.

The guide is negative on the use of defensive force such as weapons and pyrotechnics, which I disagree with (As noted here ‘Armed Merchant Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem‘ and here ‘On Defending Unarmed Merchant Ships Against Pirates‘), but otherwise it is a good guide and resource for vessels transiting the area to reduce their risk of being taken over by pirates.



Posted by FFry in Piracy | 1 Comment
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Via email comes news that the US Merchant Marine Academy has a new incoming Superintendent

A KINGS POINTER FOR KINGS POINT

RADM Philip Greene, Jr. ’78 Named 11th Superintendent of U.S. Merchant Marine Academy

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – U.S. Maritime Administrator David T. Matsuda announced today the selection of Rear Admiral Philip Greene, Jr. USN ’78 as 11th Superintendent of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point. Matsuda addressed the entire Regiment of Midshipmen, faculty and staff this afternoon on campus. Greene is scheduled to begin his term on Monday, August 30, 2010 .

Greene, a two-time Outstanding Professional Achievement Award winner at the USMMA, is a Master Mariner and Flag Officer in the U.S. Navy. He has had a distinguished naval career including two ship commands, Post Graduate School , Naval War College , a Department Head tour at the U.S. Naval Academy and obtaining his unlimited masters license.

Greene, who will leave his current position as Director, Navy Irregular Warfare Office, becomes the third U.S. Merchant Marine Academy graduate to be named Superintendent. He joins RADM Thomas A. King ’42 (1980-1987) and RADM Paul L. Krinsky ’50 (1987-1993) as the only Kings Point graduates to oversee the institution.

In his current capacity at the Navy Irregular Warfare Office, Greene was tasked to develop new plans and strategies to combat the emerging dynamic styles of warfare. Under the newest Defense Department definition, “irregular warfare” considers any “indirect and asymmetric” tactics as well as conventional military and “other capacities” intended to “erode an adversary’s power, influence and will.”

From 2008-2009, Greene commanded the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa where he led operations to build regional security capacity and counter extremism in the Horn/East Africa. Prior to this assignment Greene served in Naples, Italy, as director for Policy, Resources & Strategy, U.S. Naval Forces Europe/Africa. (from Navy.mil Bio)

Greene relieves Dr. Shashi N. Kumar, who is serving his second term as Interim Superintendent. Dr Kumar will resume his full-time duties as the Academy’s Academic Dean. The U.S. Maritime Administration has yet to release an official Change of Command date.

Best wishes to RADM Greene in his new assignment!



Posted by FFry in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

One of the unresolved issues with dealing with the pirate problem off Somalia is what do you do with pirates that you capture?

Kenya has stood up and offered to try pirates in their courts. However, as a result their court system is now trying to deal with over 100 pirates captured at sea and deposited on their shores and now they are resisting the pressure to accept more of them.

A number of pirates have been simply released, either back ashore or back to their boats, after being disarmed of any weapons that they didn’t already throw overboard themselves prior to capture.

The Russians have come up with a nastier version of this tactic, basically abandoning the pirates far at sea with only the most basic of supplies. Oddly enough, they did want to prosecute the pirates back in Russia, but abandoned that idea because the ship’s crew of the attacked vessel, were not able to directly identify the pirates, given that they were holed up in a secure room, unable to negate the pirate claims that they too were victims of other pirates who got away.

Russia frees suspected pirates

RUSSIA has freed a group of suspected pirates captured when its navy stormed a hijacked tanker in the Indian Ocean.

One pirate was killed and 10 suspects seized when marines from the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov recaptured the 106,474dwt Moscow University yesterday, a day after it was seized.

The detainees were expected to be tried in Russia. But after a day of contradictory public announcements and debate among prosecutors, military officers and the Kremlin, the navy was ordered to cast the suspected pirates adrift.

Their release took place after a source at the defence ministry announced: “Unfortunately … legal rules for the prosecution of pirates operating in Somalia did not exist, and thus they [the suspects] do not fall under the jurisdiction of any state and international law.”

Defence ministry spokesman Colonel Alexei Kuznetsov later said the release was required “due to the imperfection of the international legal framework”.

There were no witnesses to substantiate the identities and actions of the suspects because the tanker’s 23 Russian crew members had secured themselves in a safe-room.

And after they were captured, the suspects reportedly claimed that they were not pirates but rather hostages of the real attackers.

In June, the chief Russian prosecutor in charge of piracy, Alexander Zvyagintsev, told Fairplay that Russian law clearly allows for military action against pirates, but it was less clear what could be done if pirates were captured.

“The problem of what to do with the pirates who have been arrested remains undecided for the majority of countries,” he explained. “That adds to the confidence of the pirates that they can go on acting with impunity.” – Fairplay News

Not mentioned in the article is that apparently the Russians stripped the boat of any navigational equipment before setting them free with a tank of fuel. There are also apparently concerns in the media that the Russians simply did away with the pirates and provided this cover story, all because there were no press to witness the freeing of the pirates. Personally, I do not believe that the Russian Navy would do such a thing, given that what they had admitted to doing already gives the pirates a poor chance of survival. And I do not blame the Russians for not inviting the press to document this form of punishment. Actually, I would hope that they marked the sides of the vessel with ‘DANGER – PIRATES’ so as to warn passing ships of the risk of assisting them. One thing is for sure, pirates will not mess around with the Russians once word gets out about what happened to their fellow bandits.

Question is, is this a solution that other Navies can employ? The EU has been targeting motherships. The effect is similar for any pirates at sea dependent on those captured motherships for fuel and food. Going after supply lines is a classic military strategy. However, those at the end of a disrupted supply line at sea are as doomed as the pirates the Russians ‘freed’ at sea. The only difference is that the Russians caught them and then let them go.

UPDATE – 11 May:

Here is the latest news noting that the pirates did not appear to have gotten very far:

Freed Pirates May Have Drowned

Ten pirates released from a Russian warship 300 miles out to sea may have drowned, according to Russian officials and colleagues of the pirates, raising fears of retaliation against other vessels plying East African waters.

The pirates were captured last week after they hijacked the Moscow University, a Liberian-flagged, Russian-operated oil tanker sailing off the Somali coast. A Russian warship came to the ship’s rescue and apprehended the pirates. But after determining it would be too difficult to obtain a conviction, Russian officials said that they dropped plans to take the pirates to Moscow for trial.

Instead, like many other warships that have intercepted pirate skiffs, the Russian marines released the pirates — but not before removing weapons and navigation equipment from the boat several hundred miles from shore. Russian officials gave no explanation for removing the navigation equipment.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesperson said radio signals from the boat disappeared about an hour after the release. “That could mean that they are dead,” the spokesperson said.

Fellow pirates in Somalia also said they lost contact with the boat after their separation from the Russian warship. “We will hold Russia responsible if any harm comes to them,” said a pirate commander, Abdi Dhagaweyne, in a telephone interview. “I’m not sure of their safety now because we have since lost contact.” – Wall Street Journal



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