Annual commemorations of the victory at Midway have a special significance for Navy cryptologists. Also called SIGINTers, these intelligence professionals recall Midway as the battle which brought cryptology and Communications Intelligence to the fore.
Thanks to then-Commander Joe Rochefort and his Sailors, the Navy knew with great certainty – even if many didn’t necessarily believe it – where the Japanese were going to attack. Two simple letters, AF, proved that the Imperial Japanese Navy target was Midway. Trusting in a still new art and science, Admiral Chester Nimitz committed his forces and defeated the Japanese. A defeat from which they would never recover…a defeat that set the stage for victory in the Pacific.
Recently, however, decades of cryptologic history and success, not to mention continuing operational significance, have been ignored. The tide changed in October 2005 when the Naval Security Group merged with Naval Network Warfare Command. At that time, NETWARCOM became responsible for all things SIGINT in the Navy, and the discipline has been largely ignored ever since.
The final nail in the coffin of cryptology and signals intelligence might not have been hammered home, but rational change is needed if these disciplines are to be saved. They remain vital to our national security and they deserve our attention.
In August 2008, a widely distributed NETWARCOM Command Renaming Communications Plan provided details about the intended renaming of Naval Network Warfare Command (NETWARCOM) as Naval Cyber Forces Command (CYBERFORCOM). (The document appears to have a typo in the date, as it is dated 6/4/2009 vice 2008.) A NETWARCOM junior officer later described this as the “fake email” but corrected himself and said it was not supposed to be released, at least not when it was. Regardless of how it was released, or whether or not the plan ever comes to fruition (and it did not as scheduled by October 2008), the consideration of renaming as Cyber Forces Command is shortsighted and demonstrates a lack of emphasis on traditional intelligence capabilities.
Operations in the cyber domain are expanding and are important factors in information warfare and effects-based operations; but cyber is by no means the be all and end all of information operations and intelligence. Adversaries, potential adversaries, and allies still use traditional communications which are the historical niche of Navy cryptologists. Moreover, disruption of electronic communications during combat may necessitate shifting existing cyber communications back to traditional modes. We ignore these factors at our own risk.
Successful intelligence operations continue in the SIGINT realm, and more specifically in Communications Intelligence. If the renaming communications plan is any indicator, NETWARCOM has all but forgotten the art and science of COMINT. Save for one passing reference to past Cryptologic Officers now comprising the Information Warfare Officer community, there is NO MENTION of SIGINT or COMINT in the entire 13-page document.
The overemphasis on cyber is even more troubling considering NETWARCOM’s role as the Type Commander for Intelligence. Traditional Naval Intelligence tasks are being similarly ignored by renaming the command CYBERFORCOM. The NETWARCOM communications plan listed CYBERFORCOM’s role as the “Fleet advocate for all ISR capabilities and ISR readiness.” This command might be capable of being an advocate for fleet ISR to external audiences, but they don’t appear as such to their internal audiences whose expertise is not cyber space. A considering the naming scheme excludes all but cyber, it’s difficult to believe the other disciplines will be adequately represented.
One justification included in the plan was that NETWARCOM “is leading the way in cyberspace.” I hope and believe that is in fact true, but the command should similarly state leadership in all other forms of intelligence, including the various SIGINT disciplines. If they are leading the way for all disciplines, there should not be so much emphasis on just one.
NETWARCOM’s overemphasis on creating a new identity by distancing the command from historical organizations actually dilutes the identity of the command itself. All forms of intelligence share a common goal – information superiority regardless of the spectrum. Did NETWARCOM leadership consider alternatives? How about Navy Information Command? That name recognizes our goals for information superiority regardless of the information source while not ignoring the need to command the cyber domain. You can call it whatever you want, but careful consideration of internal customer reaction is warranted. True cyber specialists make up a very small percentage of NETWARCOM. Even a well-crafted communications plan may not overcome Sailors’ perception of their ‘new’ command and its lack of recognition of their skill sets.
Information professionals deliver significant capabilities – before, during, and after the fight. Navy and IW leadership recognize these contributions, yet IW officers still do not have the status they deserve. In spite of the legal hurdles, it’s time to change the Information Warfare Officer designation from Special Duty Officer to Unrestricted Line. Their weapons may be non-kinetic, but they are shooters nonetheless and the capabilities they unleash damage, disrupt, and deny adversaries the use of military capabilities much like kinetic weapons.
Cryptology isn’t dead, but it’s being treated as if it was, and more than a name change is needed to resurrect it. Naval Network Warfare Command, as the information warfare combatant commander under any name, needs to emphasize the contributions of all of its Sailors in all intelligence disciplines and have an Information Warfare Officer with a blue three-star flag in charge.
Well, this must be the week for late awards for valor. This time, retired Senior Chief Clarence Cooper received a Bronze Star, today, for action in Vietnam in 1968. Senior Chief Cooper is an example of the best attributes of a United States Navy Sailor and Chief Petty Officer:
The Virginia Beach retiree, whom friends call “Coop,” shared that he recommended seven crew members for awards in the battle.
But Coop? He kept little but memories and scars from the sunburn and the shrapnel.
According to the Virgina-Pilot report posted on military.com, “Four Vietnam veterans have received Bronze Star or higher awards since October.” We need to hear more about these. They need to be better publicized by the Navy – not for the Navy to say “hey, we finally corrected this wrong” – but instead to say “hey, look at this shipmate, this American hero. Look what he did for his Sailors, for his country.” And I think it’s appropriate that we take a break from our busy lives and discussions and reflect on the contributions of these heroes to whom we owe much.
There are a lot of heroes mentioned in this article – Navy Cross and Silver Star recipients Jim Walker and Barry Waluda, respectively, among them. Everyone who rose to the challenge, who decided to do everything they could to right this wrong, to get Senior Chief Cooper his richly-deserved recognition, is a credit to themselves and reflects some of what it means to be a shipmate, a brother in arms.
To be respected by your shipmates and brothers is one of the greatest honors. To have these works written about you by a Navy Cross recipient is priceless:
Walker wrote Cooper’s grandson, Derek, a one-page note a few years ago about the battle: “The next time you look at your Grandfather know that he has faced extreme danger in combat, and because of his skill, courage and decisions, the enemy did not overcome. His ship and crew were saved. Derek, be well aware of the absolute fact that your Grandfather is a hero.”
Bravo Zulu Senior Chief…and well done to those who made sure he received the Bronze Star he so definitely earned.
Today is another important day in Chief Petty Officer history. Fifty-one years ago today, the ranks of Senior Chief and Master Chief Petty Officer were created. Over the years they have been referred to as Super Chiefs, Star Chiefs, and probably some less desirable names.
A very comprehensive history of the Chief Petty Officer ranks, written by CWO4 Lester B. Tucker, USN(Retired), is available here.
According to a Military.com report today, former ET3 James “Terry” Halbardier was awarded the Silver Star for action onboard USS LIBERTY. That action occurred 42 years ago next week. Of note, his citation reportedly mentions the attack on LIBERTY by Israel…a fact missing from the numerous other citations awarded to LIBERTY crewmen. The facts surrounding that attack are still debated, but the former crew of LIBERTY know what happened that fateful day.
Also according to the Military.com report, decorations for LIBERTY crewmen include:
Medal of Honor – CAPT William McGonagle, Commanding Officer
Navy Cross – LCDR Philip McCutcheon, Executive Officer
12 Silver Stars
23 Bronze Stars
200 Purple Hearts
Presidential Unit Citation
Bravo Zulu shipmate! Congratulations on your long-awaited recognition.
This video, Old Glory, is powerful and poignant, and although not perfectly suited for this holiday, it is a wonderful message of our comradeship – in service to our nation and each other – and the deep respect we share for each other regardless of service.
Happy Memorial Day shipmates!
Semper Fortis, Semper Fidelis, Semper Paratus
I hope we hear more – specific goals and objectives – from Secretary Mabus soon.
DTG: 192252Z MAY 09
FM SECNAV WASHINGTON DC
MSGID/GENADMIN/SECNAV WASHINGTON DC/-/MAY//
SUBJ/SECNAV MESSAGE TO THE FLEET//
RMKS/1. TODAY I HAVE COME HOME TO NAVAL SERVICE. I WAS PROUD TO SERVE WHEN I WAS YOUNG, AND I AM PROUD TO LEAD IT NOW AS THE 75TH SECRETARY OF THE NAVY. THE NAVY AND MARINES HAVE STORIED HISTORIES AND, AT THIS TIME OF TESTING FOR OUR SERVICES AND OUR COUNTRY, YOU HAVE PROVED MORE THAN EQUAL TO THE CHALLENGES AND TO UPHOLDING THE LEGACY GIVEN BY GENERATIONS WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE.
2. I LOOK FORWARD TO THE PRIVILEGE OF WORKING WITH THE SAILORS, MARINES AND CIVILIANS THAT MAKE-UP THESE UNEQUALED FIGHTING FORCES. I AM PROUD TO BE ABOARD AGAIN.
3. RELEASED BY THE HONORABLE RAY MABUS, SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.//
With Somali pirates attacking civilian shipping so far off the coast, is it any surprise they have an intelligence network? They certainly are making enough money to pay for valuable shipping information.
Fox News reported earlier today that Somali pirates are using “consultants” to help pick their targets. I guess consultants is the new term for someone more interested in personal financial gain than protecting the information entrusted to them and other people’s safety.
So, that’s one more area to defend, but also another avenue for attack. Identifying and incarcerating those responsible for leaking this vital information, thereby enabling the pirates, might be another step in reducing the pirates’ ability to locate potential targets.
In a recent op-ed piece in the Newport News Daily Press, John L. Wiley accused the crew and officers of USS COLE of “fail[ing] the United States and the Navy” when the ship was attacked in Yemen by Islamic radicals. That’s a pretty damning accusation, and much undeserved.
There was undoubtedly blame to be assigned, and it was, but to blame the crew, which implies EVERY Sailor onboard, is unfair. Which members of the crew, specifically, failed, and how so? Media reports abound regarding the incident, the aftermath, and investigation; I won’t go into all that. What I will do is point out that the crew was vindicated.
In the words of then Secretary of Defense Cohen:
While allowance was made for assignment of accountability, Secretary Cohen also pointed out that:
Well sir, there were many lessons learned. You can read about them in the USS COLE Commission Report. And now is not the time to talk less about this tragedy. The more we talk about the lessons learned, and remind our Sailors, and our citizens, that we still live a dangerous world, and young Americans are still going into harm’s way, the better.
Mr. Wiley finished his report with:
Blame the crew? I think not. Instead, Mr. Riley should join Secretary Cohen “in paying tribute to the seventeen men and women of USS COLE who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their country. Their performance of duty was in the highest tradition of the U.S. Navy… Our nation shall not forget their sacrifice…” Mr. Wiley obviously doesn’t share those sentiments.
Today, Dennis Blair had two responses to the Department of Justice release of Office of Legal Counsel records related to CIA interrogation techniques. The first response was directed to the press; the second was to the Intelligence Community workforce, and is available here: 2009-04-16-dni-memo-to-workforce-sl_004151.
There are more comments in the second piece, but the items missing from the press release are equally important, if not more so, for that audience as they are the IC workforce.
Three of the most significant omissions from the press release were:
“High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al Qa’ida organization that was attacking this country.”
“…the leadership of the CIA repeatedly reported their activities to Executive Branch policymakers and to members of Congress, and received permission to continue to use the techniques.”
“Even in 2009 there are organizations plotting to kill Americans using terror tactics, and although the memories of 9/11 are becoming more distant, we in the intelligence service must stop them.”
Those are three significant facts/statements that were excluded from Blair’s press release. If they are the facts, the press (and U.S. citizens) needs to hear them…even if they don’t report them.
I wasn’t aware of Japanese I-400 boats until I received an email a couple days ago with this article, which is available from numerous sources online. I found it coincidental to have read about this not long after Galrahn’s Risk Averse Political Policy Requires High End Focus led to a good bit of discussion on defending submarines from air threats.
Airfield Under The Sea is an interesting read for anyone (like me) who did not know the Japanese had actually put submarines to sea carrying aircraft.
Most of the photos and graphics are self-explanatory, but I wish there was a caption giving the date and location of the photograph of a surviving M6A1 Seiron on page 2.
- On Midrats 2 Nov14, 5pm EST, Episode 252: “Officers walking the line and knowing their place”
- The Lost Intellectual Capital of a STEM Dominated Navy
- Join Us for Midrats 26 Oct 14 at a Special Time for Episode 251, “DEF2014 wrapup, and the budding question of veteran entitlement”, starting at 6:30pm EST
- No Boots on the Ground, No Victory
- Join Us for the Midrats’ 250th! 19 October 14 at 5pm (EDT)