Back on Sunday, January 8th the USS Bataan deployment became 291 days (41 weeks and 4 days) old. On that date the the USS Bataan (LHD 5) passed a mark previously held by the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as the longest big deck deployment since the Vietnam War, which lasted 290 days in 2003.
Back on Friday, January 20th the USS Bataan (LHD 5) deployment became 303 days (43 weeks and 2 days) old. On that day the USS Bataan (LHD 5) passed the USS Okinawa (LPH 3) as the longest amphibious ship deployment in our nations history, previously 302 days set in 1990.
I have been told by the Navy that the expected return date of the Bataan ARG is sometime over the next two weeks, specifically that the Bataan ARG will come close but not break the current record for the longest US Navy deployment since WWII currently held by USS Midway (CV 41) – which was 327 days in 1973.
My experience with Murphy’s Law is that you never say never. If for any reason the Bataan ARG finds itself in contingency mode and unable to return on schedule, the day the ship would break the USS Midway (CV 41) record of 327 days from 1973 would be February 15th, 2012 – the day after Valentine’s day. That would truly be one hell of a heartbreak for families who are being asked to do so much, not to mention sailors and Marines who have already lived at sea for over 300 days.
The 11 month Bataan ARG deployment comes on the heels of the 8 month deployment by the Kearsarge ARG, and the sailors and Marines of the Iwo Jima ARG preparing to deploy are already being told to expect a long deployment.
The President’s people have come out after the FY13 budget announcement to boast how capable the US Navy is, basically stating that despite having fewer ships, the fleet today is so much more in capability than the fleet of era’s past. That is a completely true statement, but as an argument it avoids the details that make the argument worth any real value.
Fewer ships is less, not more, and sailors are being asked to do a lot more with less so that politicians can claim less is more. The results are unconcealed in plain view for all who want to see them – the Bataan ARG is scheduled sometime over the next 2 weeks to complete the second longest deployment in US Navy history since WWII all while political leaders preach the importance of dwell time for our troops in an era of persistent conflict, while the Navy leadership chooses to cut more amphibious ships, and all the while our leaders tell more sailors and families to get ready for more long deployments. The mismatch of political rhetoric and leadership actions are far from congruent by any objective standard.
The Navy has fewer ships right now than in a century and the fleet will be getting smaller based on the administrations latest budget released last week. It is embarrassing when Navy leaders make public political arguments that all is well in the Navy when in fact all facts show men and material are being pushed to limits at historical levels in support of a policy that clearly cannot be supported beyond the short terms of a single political cycle.
Bob Work suggested last week that the nation is moving into a naval century. If true then the United States is in big trouble and someone is either expecting a miracle or a major domestic political shift to be able to hide our serious strategic shortcomings from allies and enemies alike. Right now our nations best plan publicly disseminated is apparently to design new ships like LCS with very short life cycles, retire good ships with long life cycles like cruisers and amphibious ships early, and push existing ships that are already underfunded on maintenance to the limits of their material condition – and that is before the part where the Navy asks sailors to do more with less as part of the plan while kicking any potential serious consequences that result down the road.
By any objective analysis, what the administration is touting as the way ahead does not represent a very admirable opening move in our naval century chess game, and this administration is asking too much of both sailors and reasonable observers to accept the status quo of historical level deployment lengths as some sort of policy blueprint for the future that is a naval century. The administration is making a policy argument that technology allows our nation to do less with more even though the human elements are still very clearly doing a lot more with less.
My 8th grade African-American history class taught me that only a sucker or a slave will believe in the fallacy that less is more, but for whatever reason ‘less is more’ is the current naval century policy argument being forwarded by this administration. Less is always less. If the administration believes the Navy needs less today, that can be a perfectly valid argument, but the administration must also ask less of the Navy today to insure the Navy of tomorrow exists at the level of capabilities that are being predicted as necessary, and promised to allies. The Navy is at a critical juncture, and the choices are either short term domestic political plans or long term strategic plans.
When administration officials tout less is more while pushing men and material to historical operating limits, that is a poster child demonstration of short term planning for domestic political purposes. A truly strategic plan will accept the risk that less truly means less, and the future won’t be sacrificed for the political needs of the present masters.
Robbie Harris and Lieutenant Robert McFall penned a very interesting article in Proceedings this month. The Transformation (Again!) of the Surface Navy is timely and on point, and just as Robbie predicted the Tomahawk would change surface warfare in his 1985 Proceedings article “Is that All There Is?”, Robbie has a new prediction for Surface Warfare in this latest article.
With the new technologies coming online in the near future, such surface assets will continue to be in high demand. Unmanned aerial vehicles already are starting to fly from destroyers. Advanced radars and multi-mission towed arrays are making the surface combatants more capable than ever, but it is the railgun that holds the potential completely to revolutionize the surface fleet. This new weapon will put a piece of lead on target more than 200 miles away. The velocity of the round coming off the ship could top Mach 7. According to retired Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, former Chief of Naval Research, the railgun will be ready to put aboard ships in the next five years. This gun will take the same footprint of the current Mk 45 but since no powder is required for the railgun, the number of rounds that can fit in the magazine is almost tripled. This gun will easily replace the aging Harpoon missile for surface threats, and it will give the Marines on land the surface-fire support they so desperately need.
I know very little beyond the basics of railgun technology, but when Robbie Harris writes something like that about any piece of technology, I feel like I need to do some homework.
The article authors highlight the flexibility of surface forces and hints towards “something else” for the surface force that will sustain the vital role of surface forces in the future. I would argue that “something else” is already here, evident in plain sight, often taken for granted, and for the record – absolutely represents the inherent flexibility of the surface force. It is also slowly eroding just as the Navy needs it most.
Aircraft carriers and submarines are amazing instruments of war, but only the surface combatant force possess the flexibility and capability to forward national interests in all four of the critical 21st century domains: sea power, space power, cyber power, and soft power – and do so both in war and peace. As naval aviation and submarine forces in the Navy evolve towards an unmanned warfighting regime, the surface force still possess an inherent, distributable capability in peacetime operations that can act as a strategic asset in crisis – a vital role as old as naval power itself.
That strategic power manifests itself as manpower.
As the Marine Corps becomes smaller, and build larger ships (meaning fewer total ships capable of being deployed concurrently), it will fall upon the surface sailors to pick up the slack in several critical roles as part of 21st century seapower. These roles will be particularly evident in HA/DR scenarios, but littorals and coastal governance are vital interests to many of our partners, and the US Navy has a role in forwarding global security in cooperation with our partners. While it is absolutely critical to the financial future of the US Navy that ships are designed to operate with smaller manpower requirements, it is just as important that surface forces retain through design excess capacity to support and sustain the maximum number of human beings on a surface combatant of the future as possible. Minimally crewed combatants cannot give up security forces that number a dozen or two dozen sailors during future operations, but in the 21st century the rules of war will likely demand tasking of sailors to other assignments as part of the business of naval warfare – unless someone actually believes sinking 300,000 tons of enemy oil off an ally coast is going to be an acceptable course of action. Not likely.
If I was advising Congress, I would point out that the United States would get considerably more strategic milage by passing a law that forced all new surface combatants to be designed to support the personnel and equipment requirements of a Marine Rifle Platoon than it would forcing the Navy to design surface combatants with nuclear power. No, not the vehicles, the Marines can deliver that heavy equipment for their platoon with another ship – I’m speaking specifically about the manpower and personal equipment with enough supply for a few weeks – and yes this includes any future surface vessel over 3000 tons (including any future LCS Block).
Why? Because in the emerging modular age of surface fleet constitution Navy uniform and civilian leaders discussed at Surface Navy Association, under the single Marine Rifle Platoon requirement, surface combatants would then be organically designed to support the human elements that – instead of a Marine Rifle Platoon – might instead be SOF, Force Recon, Coast Guard elements, civilian specialists, or any number of other maritime professional specialists like CIVMAR.
The authors are absolutely right, there is genuine power in the flexibility of the 21st century surface force of the US Navy, but with the Navy downsizing the capacity to field quality human talent on surface combatants, some of that flexibility is being lost. In 21st century warfare, it is hard to imagine too many naval war scenarios that are absent nuclear weapons where additional human capcity wouldn’t be a necessary requirement at sea during military operations, and the requirements for personnel capacity during peacetime are evident all the time in 5th fleet anti-piracy operations, among many other duties globally.
The US Navy can certainly bomb or torpedo the 300,000 ton oil tanker off the ally coast, but it is my hope the US Navy studies carefully the distinctions frequently discussed in the context of “flexibility” with a 21st century surface combatant vs their modern aircraft/submarine alternatives in future naval war operations. If the Navy really believes they may one day fight a war against China, please tell me our first option for choking logistics to China isn’t sinking supertankers off Vietnam or Indonesia with submarines.
The US can field all kinds of technology without manpower to achieve strategic victory in a violent war, but only human beings are capable of executing the actions necessary to achieve strategic victory in any violent peace governed by modern rules of engagement. In the Navy it is the surface force that historically represents the US faces forward deployed and distributed to overseas places. While the Navy is very wise to build future warships with the smallest practical manpower requirements for operating a warship, the Navy would be equally wise to recognize the surface combatant as the vessel by which professional manpower should be always ready to deploy from. If the Navy takes the capacity to support lots of people on surface combatants away, it is the definition of removing the flexibility that the Navy will absolutely need in a surface combatant force fighting 21st century wars under increasingly restrictive rules of engagement.
The complex nature of 21st century naval warfare begins with the human migration to the sea happening today globally. The oceans are a populated place, and as such is becoming geography with a human terrain that must be accounted for during naval operations. Submarines and aircraft possess no capacity for human engagement at sea, only the surface force has that. If 21st century naval warfare is still a human endeavor, the vital role for surface warfare isn’t going away anytime soon, because surface warfare is the Navy’s primary human interaction capability on the global seas.
This week at the Navy Surface Association National Conference, the Honorable Bob Work gave one of his rare public presentations on the state of the Navy. These speeches of his, which usually come at the beginning of the year prior to the budget year debates, offer naval observers insights into the strategic direction of the Navy. At a forum like the SNA conference, the message can be counted upon to be tailored to the surface warfare community audience, but his speech did deliver as expected insights into the way the current civilian leadership in the Navy sees the future of surface warfare.
The Surface Navy Association has made available video from his presentation at this link, and I would encourage those who were unable to attend to check out the videos made available. The SNA video from the event is very well produced and includes the slides that the Undersecretary used during his presentation. Rather than focus on any specific comments made by Bob Work, what struck me after watching the video wasn’t so much the specifics of what was said, but the theme behind what is being nodded to, but unsaid publicly.
As the image above suggests, the surface warfare community is in the process of an evolutionary leap forward in the guided missile era, and that evolution forward is poised to take place at the expense of other elements of naval power that are no longer competitive in the delivery of guided missiles in a time of fiscal austerity. Over the past several decades, warfighting capabilities from surface combatants have continued to evolve with longer ranges, precision guidance, and have leveraged flexible delivery mechanisms like VLS to expand the number of payload options for theater commanders. The Tomahawk cruise missile may be seen in some circles as the million dollar guided bomb, but every single F/A-18 Super Hornet would need to deliver at least 50, and very likely many, many more guided bombs to a target over the service life of the aircraft in order to be fiscally competitive as a strike solution.
With over 500 Super Hornets built as of April of 2011, even at an estimated $50 million a piece – Super Hornets would need to have dropped well over 25,000 bombs to date to be financially competitive as a strike platform with the nations million dollar naval cruise missile. Considering the US Navy hasn’t even purchased that many bombs since building the first F/A-18 Super Hornet, the Tomahawk is winning going away in the debate that compares bang for buck.
The DDG-51 for the surface community and the SSGNs/SSNs for the submarine communities represent dynamic platforms prepared for the emerging ‘systems and payloads’ focus emerging in modern naval warfare and the US Navy today. These surface and subsurface combatant platforms have placed both communities in the right place at the right time when – during fiscal austerity for defense – the focus is shifting away from ultra modern platform designs and is focusing more towards the evolution of systems and payloads delivered from platforms.
At the same time however, the naval aviation community is struggling – if not outright drowning – from the costs to field their latest system (the F-35C) for the big deck aircraft carrier. I thought it was interesting how Bob Work described the big deck aircraft carrier as the extra large, flexible platform in his SNA presentation; which as a theory is an accurate description of the CVN in my opinion. However, the practical advantage of being a very large, flexible platform can be lost when the systems delivered by the platform become too unaffordable for capability delivered, and to some degree the flexibility of the platform is completely useless when that flexibility itself is not utilized to field affordable alternatives to systems that under-perform relative to their costs.
The Joint Strike Fighter program does not represent an affordable “system” under a flexible payload model for fleet constitution as described by Bob Work at SNA, because at best – the “system” will only deliver very marginal improvements in parameters like range and stealth over existing system alternatives for what is likely more than double the costs of the existing system alternatives. While it is a very compelling argument for Bob Work to suggest that platforms like big deck aircraft carriers have value in their flexibility, the flexibility argument becomes mute when the option to use the platforms flexibility for a better value investment is not exercised.
If the US Navy desires a fleet constitution in the 21st century that relies on flexible platforms, then it is the development of systems that will decide how effective that fleet will be. When one considers how the Navy has run into serious problems with virtually all major “systems” in the various communities lately, from new SEAL Delivery vehicles to the F-35C to unmanned mine hunting capabilities – the biggest challenge facing the US Navy in 2012 would not appear to be one of ships or even ship designs, rather the ability of the Navy to manage acquisition programs for the “systems” intend to be the primary capabilities of tomorrows fleet.
In two weeks, Bob Work and several other US Navy civilian and uniformed leaders will be attending USNI West in San Diego. It will be interesting to see what Bob has to say at that conference, because I suspect it will not be the same speech – as he historically has not given the same speech more than once at these type of events.
From Defense News we have two important articles related to budget. First, it’s suddenly QDR season.
The Pentagon has stood up a team that will rapidly update the document that serves as the foundation of the U.S. military’s strategy and priorities, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has tapped Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, to lead the so-called Strategic Choices Working Group, according to Col. David Lapan, Dempsey’s spokesman.
The panel will update the 2010 QDR, a document that sets long-term Pentagon goals and assesses national security threats. The intent of the QDR is to prepare the military for future conflicts. Traditionally, the QDR is updated every four years.
Schmidle played a key role in the Marine Corps contribution to the 2006 QDR and served as the Marine Corps lead to the 2010 QDR.
The group will update the QDR in 30 days, according to sources.
What should we make of the idea that the DoD will rapidly adjust the QDR on the fly, even though the QDR – which is normally produced every four years – often takes about a full year to develop and publish? Is this a sign of flexibility, or is this a red flag? My sense is that if the QDR process is broken, this probably didn’t fix it.
This week, Panetta directed Carter to work with Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Adm. James Winnefeld, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to “set in place am architecture to govern decision-making on defense strategy and budget options,” the memo states.
“This should incorporate the analyses of the comprehensive strategic review, military compensation reform discussions and the ongoing strategic discussions with the president,” the memo states.
Panetta endorsed the creation of the Strategic Choices Group and the “restructuring” of the Deputy’s Working Advisory Group (DAWG) into the Deputy’s Management Action Group, which will help accomplish these objectives.”
Dempsey has tapped Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, to lead the Strategic Choices Group, which is conducting a rapid upgrade of the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the bedrock of U.S. military strategy and priorities.
The reviews are expected to inform the reductions in planned spending.
So not only will the DoD rewrite the QDR at a NASCAR pace, but the DoD is also creating a new office to develop architecture to govern decision-making on defense strategy and budget options. How big is the Department of Defense? Apparently not very big, because it only took two SECDEF memos to significantly impact the processes by which the United States spends half a trillion dollars every budget year.
These are very significant changes for the Department of Defense, and making these changes is a public admission by the Secretary of Defense that the current system that connects defense strategy and budget is broken. We all knew this of course, but no one ever thought we would ever actually see proof.
Finally, I for one am very hopeful seeing that Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert (Rooster!) Schmidle is being tapped to be the main guy managing budget cuts. By any measurement, Schmidle is a credible choice for this incredibly important task, and all of this news may represent a legitimate turning point towards credible strategic guidance informing decisions forced on the DoD by budget cuts.
The following selection comes from Zumwalt Staff Officers Volume I, an oral history collection produced and owned by the United States Naval Institute. These oral histories done by USNI are simply fantastic gems of history, and this one on Zumwalt is no exception.
I am not sure what the procedure is for USNI members to get a copy of this kind of stuff, so maybe someone on the staff at USNI can address that in the comments below. As I have been reading through some of these interesting pieces of history, I keep thinking there is useful information that someone at every level of leadership from the Department Head up would find useful.
This is the first of what may be multiple posts on this Zumwalt oral history. In the section below Paul Stillwell is interviewing Captain Howard J. Kerr, Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired), who served on Zumwalts staff as a LT in Vietnam immediately after getting his Masters Degree at Tufts. Noteworthy in the context of this quoted section, LT Kerr turned down command of a coastal patrol vessel to take the position on Zumwalts staff, something his detailer insisted would hurt his career as LT commands at the time were very rare. He had never met VADM Zumwalt prior to accepting the position, and had only really learned about the man after being offered and initially turning down the staff job offer.
This section is discussing what I always find to be the most important issue Navy leaders must deal with – people. I think different readers can and will find different lessons or analogies to today in this section, and likely come to different conclusions as it relates to today. It begins with a question of inventives provided by the Navy for people to go to Vietnam.
Q: And there were not incentives provided for people to go.
Captain Kerr: Well, no, there weren’t any incentives to go, and there weren’t any rewards for having done a good tour there. Admiral Zumwalt fought like hell to give some rewards to the lieutenant commander who had gone over to Vietnam and who had done exceptionally well, who had put his life on the line, who had been in a very threatening environment for a year, and who when he came out was getting zero credit for that from the bureau and wasn’t even making the XO cut. That was kind of the typical guy. He worked very hard trying to turn that around. He put his own personal involvement in it. We used to talk to the bureau almost every night from Saigon in an effort to impress upon them the fact that, “You may not agree with what the country is doing~ you may not agree that this is the kind of training that a naval officer needs, but the fact is that this is national policy; the country is at war, and we are the warriors dedicated to fighting this country’s battles. It’s incumbent upon us to ensure that the very best people are sent over, because people’s lives are at stake and the national honor and prestige are at stake in this particular war.” And our ability to execute a very complicated sophisticated mission–namely, as I’ve said before, getting the Navy involved while at the same time trying to train the Vietnamese Navy and turn the damned thing over. It was a multifaceted operation that involved a lot of sophistication. It just required the best talent the Navy had. That’s the way Admiral Zumwalt felt about it. The bureau simply was not supporting that up until that time.
Now, they responded to him, and you began to see a little turnaround. Pretty soon, after nine months or so, some people who were considered “front-runners” began to show up in country. But up until the time Admiral Zumwalt got there, that was simply not the pattern, not the case. I feel that in many cases the detailers were being driven by what they considered the right, quote, “right career pattern” for a surface guy, and it just didn’t include a tour in Vietnam. It was more important to go off to destroyer school, or have a weapons officer tour on a DDG or something than it was to go to Vietnam. Those guys were doing just what they basically were being told what the policy within the bureau is. So, in that sense, we weren’t getting support even from our own personnel distribution system for the Vietnam war in country at that time. They supported us in the sense of putting in the numbers that had to be there. They were there. But they were not reaching down and looking for the top people and putting them over there. In a sense, it was inconsistent with the right career path to go over there.
You reflect upon that, and it’s an extraordinarily hard thing to understand for me – how we could view that war as just another tour of duty – it turned out that it just didn’t rank as high as other tours of duty. There are an awful lot of people who have remarked to me that at the time they didn’t want to go to Vietnam – not that they were afraid to go to Vietnam, but they just didn’t see how it was going to help their career.
Q: What did Admiral Zumwalt do to provide incentives for the Navy captains that were there?
Captain Kerr: Well, I think one of the biggest incentives right away was when Bob Salzer got selected for flag. There had never been a flag officer out of Vietnam. He got selected for flag. People tend to go to where people are being selected. If the water at this hole is a little bit sweeter, that’s where everybody goes to drink. And the water in South Vietnam had been a little stale. So when Bob Salzer got selected, that sent out a signal through the Navy. Zumwalt was there. Zumwalt was building a reputation. It was becoming common knowledge that Zumwalt had taken charge, had taken hold. The Navy was turning its act around and on in South Vietnam. That some good people were beginning to go there, to get involved. Bob Salzer had been selected for flag.
Q: Well, I think he was selected after he left.
Captain Kerr: Well, he had left, but see, he only had a few months to do when Admiral Zumwalt arrived. It didn’t make any difference when he got it. The fact is that it came right after his tour in Vietnam. So that was seen as a plus.
Q: My point is that the principal subordinates were still captains, whereas their counterparts, you were saying earlier, in the other services were generals.
Captain Kerr: Yes. That didn’t change. The admiral never got those jobs upgraded to flag rank. But he began to write the kind of fitness reports that helped people. He got General Abrams to sign off fitness reports for some of those officers, which was very helpful. Those are the kinds of things that you do to begin to support your subordinates in the field. He went personally after people. He used to get on the phone at night and call them. He’d work the detailers at night. A lieutenant commander comes out of Saigon with a top record, and the bureau doesn’t give that any merit. And instead of going to an XO’s tour, he goes someplace else; that tells the lieutenant commander community something. The admiral understood that, and he tried to turn that around–not only to give the right image of what was happening in Vietnam, but because he believed that that person deserved that because of what he had done in country.
You know, the admiral once said that every fitness report you’d get in the Navy that’s not under fire is just a guess. These guys were out in the field. getting shot at. They were running the war. The responsibility, the initiative, the sense of command and leadership that they were learning at this early age was remarkable. Plus, they were doing it in the battlefield. Those were traits and values and demonstrated performance things that are more important to a fighting man in many respects than being able to run an NTDS system on a guided missile destroyer. In other words, you could learn to run an NTDS system, but you never know how the guy is going to react in battle unless he’s been in it. And these guys had been in it. And our own system wasn’t recognizing that. If the guy somehow hadn’t been at the top of his performance ratings on his last ship, that’s what they were paying more attention to than how well he was doing in country. I feel very strongly that the bureau let the Navy down in country. I think, as I said, it began to turn around after Admiral Zumwalt got there, but I don’t think that the Bureau of Naval Personnel with regards to its detailing policies in the in-country effort, prior to 1968 certainly, can be very proud of its efforts to support the war. I mean they were more concerned about their own selfish policies of putting people in the right jobs and keeping them on the, quote, “career path” than they were with supporting the war effort in Vietnam.
Q: Well, did he work it from the other end also? There is a delayed reaction if you have to wait until the selection board results come out. Did he badger BuPers to send him brighter, better people earlier?
Captain Kerr: Yes, absolutely. There were people that were going off to the war colleges. I hate to belabor this, and I’m probably a little cynical about it, but I had people tell me that their detailer told them, “Let me put you at the Naval War College. You don’t want to go to Vietnam. That’s not going to do your career any good. You might as well spend a year at the Naval War College.” Can you imagine that? The goddamned country is at war! People are getting killed! And we’re thinking in terms of what’s best for promotion purposes. It’s unreal. In many respects, while I have disdain for both, I have less disdain for the person who ran off to Canada than I have for the person who ran off in uniform to the Naval War College.
One of the things that stood out to me in this section of the interview was the value of combat experience. US Navy fixed-wing aviators have dropped bombs on targets for 10 years, but 99% of those attacks have been in environments where the enemy lacks the capability to shoot back. The submarine community has never been attacked by a credible ASW threat in the lifetime of all US Navy submariners. The vast majority of combat experience of the SWO community comes from lobbing cruise missiles from positions offshore the enemy could not reach with counter-battery.
Put another way, RW pilots and the SWOs who conduct anti-piracy operations on small boats are about the only non-special forces sailors to find actual combat experience today, because they are the only US naval forces today that operate under legitimate threat of attack. Somehow I doubt the promotion system reflects that reality any more today than the promotion system reflected combat experience in Vietnam in the late 60s. AEGIS warships, aircraft carriers and strike fighters, and nuclear powered submarines cruising the South China Sea are so much cooler from a promotion system perspective than RHIBs and helicopters operating in pirate infested waters, or at least recent history suggests as much.
I think people can read this section and find other topics as well. Good history can do that.
Admin Update to Galrahn’s post regrading “I am not sure what the procedure is for USNI members to get a copy of this kind of stuff, so maybe someone on the staff at USNI can address that in the comments below.”
An index of our complete collection may be found here:
Although we charge for the Oral histories, we often make them available gratis to Commands (see ADM Harvey’s post at Fleet Forces blog) and students and for the purpose of promoting the program, which is completely funded by donations and the generous support of the Tawani Foundation.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have an interest in our collection. You may email me directly: mripley @ usni dot org.
There are some fairly remarkable statements by Admiral Roughead reported by Danger Room in Spencer Ackermans latest article Navy Chief Dreams of Laser Warships, Ocean-Spanning Robots. The meat of the article gives us plenty to think about.
The easy part has been the Navy’s robotic planes. A long-range surveillance drone, known as BAMS, will fly above the fleet starting in 2015. A pilotless helicopter packed with sensors and cameras, Fire Scout, already tracks drug smugglers in Latin America and recently arrived in Afghanistan.
But the most important Navy drone is the X47B, a fighter plane that the Navy hopes will take off and land from an aircraft carrier by 2018. “I don’t think I’ve been as excited about anything as the unmanned carrier aircraft,” Roughead said in an interview with Danger Room. Before its first flight in February, “I was like an expectant father.”
At USNI/AFCEA West in January, Bob Work told the audience the Navy has already begun planning to deploy medium UAVs on every cruiser and destroyer. Given how few ScanEagles are currently deployed on the fleets surface combatants, that would be good news. While it is unclear if there is money for it, I’d like to see the Navy conduct a test flight of a Reaper off the deck of the LHA(R) once USS America (LHA 6) is launched, and if the LHA(R) isn’t designed to launch an armed Reaper, then I would suggest there is a serious design flaw.
Subs, on the other hand, are much harder. Roughead is thinking way beyond where the technology is: ships that patrol under water for 60 to 70 days, launched from Littoral Combat Ships or destroyers that swim as much as 7,000 miles without returning to the mothership. They’d collect intelligence, defuse mines and attack enemies, disrupting attempts to deny manned ships a piece of the ocean or the shoreline.
“What I’d like to see is [an unmanned sub] having that duration, having reconfigurable payloads — one truck with different payloads,” Roughead said, “the ability to communicate — UUVs [Unmanned Underwater Vehicles] underwater, and the UAVs, use them as relays, so the network comes into play. But on the underwater side, I’d like to see a very common truck with different payloads.” In other words, the subs might carry different sensors or weapons, but all of them should be able to travel an awfully long distance.
I read the CNO discussing two ideas conceptually with the description above. First, the future of United States Navy SSKs is that of an unmanned submarine, and second the future of the United States Navy SSGN is that of an unmanned submarine.
Finally, more future tech:
Then come the lasers and the rail guns. Directed-energy weapons — military-grade laser cannons — have been a military dream for decades, along with guns that fire their munitions with bursts of electromagnetic energy. But Roughead directed the Navy’s mad scientists at the Office of Naval Research to go full-bore into laser research. By the 2020s, they estimate, surface ships should have a range of kilowatt- and even megawatt-class lasers for their protection, burning through steel in seconds and firing bullets at hypersonic speeds.
“You’re beginning, maybe, to see the end of the dominance of the missile,” Roughead said. “There may still be some applications that come into play that you might want to use them in. But I also think you’re beginning to also see the increase in the depth of the magazine chain. In other words, the capacity’s going to change, because you essentially have a rechargeable projectile.” Advantage United States, as the rise of lasers will lead to a geostrategic division into “countries that can afford to go into directed energy and countries that can’t.”
This is one of the reasons why the DDG-51 Flight III is indeed, NOT, a no brainer and is in fact a major concern behind the scenes. The debate for surface combatants after the soon to be BMD block of DDG-51 Flight IIAs is what the Navy needs to do next, and if in fact the Navy needs to move sooner rather than later into a common surface combatant hull form that specifically meets the HM&E requirements of the future – and more specifically has the power and generator technologies to make use of emerging new weapons technology.
It is entirely possible that these emerging technologies will mature faster than the surface fleet is prepared to support them, and keep in mind the DDG-51s have legitimate power challenges in supporting these future technologies. It is entirely possible that the US Navy could be asked to fight a war at sea in 2030 against a serious challenger fielding multiple missiles, and to solve the problem, the Navy ends up strapping a laser weapon on a Virginia class submarine because those SSNs, and not the DDG-51 Flight IIIs, have enough power to support that technology. If you think I’m nuts even mentioning this scenario, then you may want to take a second look at the challenges and requirements to make these technologies work at sea as a viable weapon system.
Unlike the transition from the age of guns to the age of missiles, the transition out of the age of missiles will require more from the ship – specifically more power. There are only two ships in the US Navy being built today with the power systems and output in mind that will insure the ship is prepared for these technologies in the future, and that ship class is the DDG-1000.
Which raises the question, how far into the future is Admiral Roughead looking with his long view towards the end of the missile age, and how does that timeline square with the expected life cycle of the major surface combatants in the current Navy shipbuilding plan?
The world wonders.
Congressional Quarterly is reporting that Senate Democrats have found their target number for defense cuts as part of their defecit reduction plan to counter House Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has yet to present a fiscal 2012 blueprint to his committee, but we are learning early details regarding what the expected defense budget cut might be.
Conrad’s deficit-fighting plan is expected to be included in a fiscal 2012 budget resolution that he hopes to release for a markup May 18.
His latest draft calls for cuts of $900 billion from defense and $300 billion from non-security discretionary spending over 10 years.
Bryan Callon of Captial Alpha Partners, LLC who does intelligence analysis of the Defense budget for investors (and whose services are fantastic), offered some context.
Playing with numbers suggests that a $900 billion cut to defense could be achieved by simply holding spending flat – in current dollars – from a 2013 level of $560 billion.
Effectively, in the $900 billion plan that will reportedly be proposed by Senator Konrad, the DoD budget would get cut roughly $125 billion from FY2013 – FY2016 proposed numbers in the Presidents FY2012 outyear budget plan, but as spending levels returned to real growth of around 3% annually, the DoD budget would take a cut of around $775 billion from FY2017 – FY2021.
Assuming a flatline at $560B for FY13 numbers, the current DoD Proposed Outyear Topline from FY12 – FY16 after all existing cuts and based on proposed defense spending that flatlines in FY15 and FY16 might look as follows, with the net cut number on the right:
FY12 – ~$553B
FY14 – $571B (-$11B)
FY14 – $586B (-$26B)
FY15 – $598B (-$38B)
FY16 – $611B (-$51B)
$775 billion in the out years might look similar (but very imperfectly, it won’t add up perfectly because of estimates I used) like this:
The big difference in the out years is because real growth is expected to return to the DoD budget in FY17 under existing plans. Whether the budget cut is $400 billion or $900 billion, that is now exceeding unlikely.
That is an example of what $560 billion at FY2013 level over 10 years would mean based on the current Presidents budget and Senator Konrad’s proposal.
Thinking about defense cuts another way, the $400 billion defense cut over 10 years by the President is the floor and the $900 billion cut over 10 years proposal by the Senate Democrats is the ceiling. As for the House Republicans, their plans for government spending cuts largely avoid defense cuts as a topic, with most press releases related to FY12 budget this session focused on current events like the cancellation of the EFV, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and social issues in the military like DADT and DOMA.
I find the lack of engagement by House Republicans very disappointing, because the President’s proposal for a “Roles and Missions” debate that coincided with the $400 billion defense budget target appeared to open the door for House Republicans to steer the DoD budget debate towards a strategic conversation in the DoD. Instead, National Defense Strategy is being driven by a budget cut debate focused only on top line money figures.
Updated, see bottom of post.
Information Dissemination, my home blog, is currently unavailable due to “maintenance” according to Google. From what I understand by this report, every Blogger blog is currently unavailable. According to news reports, this is related to a bug in code migrated last night – which did happen because I was awake at the time and remember getting locked out.
I have filed a complaint with Blogger asking a few questions, which reveals why the discussion is appropriate for the USNI Blog.
USCYBERCOM Blacklisted Blogger Today?
Blog Address: www.informationdissemination.net
Browser(s) Name/Version (ex: Firefox 4, Internet Explorer 8): Firefox 4
Geographical Location (ex: San Francisco / USA): USA
Long description of problem:
I write a milblog hosted on a blogger server. At approximately 3:00pm today USCYBERCOM blacklisted Blogger. At approximately 6:00pm today, my Blogger website went offline.
According to one base operator, “The DNS Site that hosts your domain name is more likely being blocked because of posting malicious traffic or higher level security reasons by advisory of DoD [CYBERCOM/NCDOC].”
The Washington Post is reporting tonight a website for Chinese dissidents hosted by Blogger was claimed to have been hacked by the Chinese government.
So a Blogger website was hacked, all of Blogger is being blacklisted by the Department of Defense for “higher level security reasons,” and now Blogger is down for “maintenance?”
Would appreciate clarification why USCYBERCOM has blacklisted all of Blogger for security reasons. This isn’t good for either of our business.
– Raymond Pritchett
I believe Google when they say Blogger is down due to maintenance problems, and believe what is happening in regard to my lack of blog administrative access tonight is purely coincidence.
What I do not understand is why USCYBERCOM would blacklist all of Blogger, not only blogspot.com but any website running on a blogger host, for no other apparent reason than one Chinese dissident website was hacked. Is USCYBERCOM really so paranoid that if the Chinese government hacks a single website, USCYBERCOM will figuratively cyber nuke access to an entire cloud? If that turns out to be true, the Chinese appear to be deep inside our OODA loop at US Strategic Command, and speaking as a US citizen, I find the DoDs cybernuke reaction quite embarrassing.
Did USCYBERCOM make a mistake when blacklisting all Blogger hosted websites, or was it intentional?
Did USCYBERCOM inform Google of the security problem that led to Blogger being blacklisted? We aren’t talking about some mom and pop hosting shop, this is Google.
I understand and respect the role and responsibility of USCYBERCOM is to defend Department of Defense computer systems from security threats, but I am a little troubled that the DoD would blacklist millions of websites on the internet in what appears to be in response to the Chinese government reportedly hacking a single website on a Google server.
To me, that would seem to be an excessive overreaction by USCYBERCOM.
Update: Some are noting Blogger had a backup restore last night resulting in loss of data. That is a Blogger issue, and has nothing to do with DoD access blocks.
I am hearing that several DoD locations that could not reach Blogger last night can this morning, and the problem was related to a bug in a web content filter policy update for some specific software. That is good to know, if true. It is unclear why USCYBERCOM would be associated with the issue in requests last night, although it may be that as a DoD networks policy shop the organization issues the specific software update alerts, and that somehow added confusion.
I think the bug highlights the dangers of overarching government security on the internet. In this case, a bug in a normal, everyday automatic operation in otherwise stable software made a huge configuration change, and the result was the blocking millions of website. Blogger is social media, not exactly a major economic engine, but the danger comes should a bug accidentally block access to say – the Amazon cloud – for example.
It reminds me of the government internet killswitch debate. It is hard to believe that a network as resilient as the internet would have less risk if there existed a mechanism that completely disrupted the resiliency of the internet. Is the economic risk to the internet higher or lower with a government controlled killswitch, or single point of failure, depending upon how one looks at it?
In many ways I see the challenges of securing networks much like the challenges of security from terrorism, and by that I mean that the solution lies in active and passive defenses, selective offensives, but most critically – resiliency to disruption. It is unfortunate that the resiliency piece does not appear to have the most influence in security policy decisions at the political level.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Italian officials on Wednesday and had an interesting quote about Libya.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization airstrikes on Qaddafi’s forces, she said, are “buying time, buying space” for the rebels.
It is an interesting statement as reported, because it looks more like NATO is buying time for everyone instead of just the rebels. It is difficult to see if any political plan exists yet for a post-Gaddafi Libya, but that is probably because that plan hasn’t been fully developed yet.
President Obama rushed into Libya due to circumstances on the ground and for reasons that have largely been articulated at a high level, and not a detailed level. That typically means US policy is both political and strategic, but neither the political nor strategic reasons are good for domestic political consumption. After the initial phases of US military activity, under the NATO flag the US military policy for Libya has become “the least we can do which is also the most we will provide.”
While some object to our involvement at all, and others believe that once involved – we should be in it to win it, I’m OK with the Presidents “Least is Most” policy. Ultimately other nations, most particularly the Libyan people themselves, will determine the future of Libya. This very limited use of US military force is new to virtually every generation of Americans alive today, so naturally it feels unnatural to everyone.
I think it will be interesting to see what happens once the post-Gaddafi political solution is ready. As news reports continue to show, there is still a lot of fighting in the cities, and the Gaddafi military still has strength. While that Gaddafi military power is deadly to untrained rebel fighters, the whole of remaining military power in Libya can be wiped out should NATO military forces engage on the ground.
As events continue to unfold and the violence in the cities continues to result in bloodshed of innocent civilians, I do wonder if pressure will mount for NATO to quickly end the war in Libya. There are two options for ending hostilities in Libya; what I see as go long or go short.
“Go long” is the current plan, and is similar to the Thomas Jefferson model for Tripoli over 2 centuries ago which is basically send in a few special dudes to build a domestic Army and overthrow the government. The US has no shortage of special operators in the CIA ready to be the William Eaton of modern Libya, but that figure does not need to an American. The political and military training process take time to develop, but it can work with very little NATO footprint on the ground once the violence in the cities stops. This is the preferred way because it gives everyone time to build the political and security infrastructure needed to support Libya when Gaddafi is forced out while also keeping NATO boots off the ground (although UN boots might be called upon).
“Go Short” would be the contingency should events on the ground start going really bad for the civilian population and the media narrative starts adding political pressure. Basically it is a repeat the Iraq 2003 Marine drive model but in Libya. If you recall, the US Marines basically drove the road from Kuwait to Iraq blowing the Iraqi Army equipment to pieces along the way. There were several problems doing so in Iraq, specifically related to logistics and the lack of sufficient forces to hold ground, but in Libya those problems are much easier to overcome.
A European contengent of Marines supported by tanks would land near Benghazi and drive the coastal road all the way to Tripoli while blowing the Libyan Army to pieces along the way. Libyan rebel fighters would be responsible for securing the cities and facilitating humanitarian relief from the sea while the European Marine forces would be logistically supplied outside the cites from the sea, and once the military power is destroyed – the Marines would be pulled off the beach back to sea. This is basically a modern Marine amphibious raid. The US, Dutch, French, Spanish, Italians, or British all have the military capability to perform the amphibious raid mission if it was politically necessary to do so.
Right now the plan is “Go Long” which means everything is going to move at a very slow pace. The big hope is that air power can separate the two sides while the political and military infrastructure of the rebels is strengthened. The President said he is initially looking at 90 days of military operations. Today is only day 19, meaning the politics supporting current NATO air operations is content to give airpower at least 71 more days to separate the two sides from each other. A lot can happen in 71 days… a lot of good and a lot of bad.
A good officer or petty officer and a true leader will leave nothing undone to help and support his men when they need help; to lead when they need to be led, to punish when that, as a last resort, is necessary. That is where “Paternalism” comes into the picture. Authoity and taking care of your people. That combination is essential.
Leadership and Authority by Vice Admiral L. Hewlett Thebaud, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
The Command Investigation into the leadership oversight and responsibilities for production and broadcast of videos aboard the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) from about 2006 through 2007 is an incredible read (PDF). The investigation was conducted by RADM Gerald R. Beaman, USN, whose biography be found here. We note from the outset that RADM Gerald Beaman is above board, and I highlight his experience as a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) from 1981-1984 among other aspects of his experience that made him ideal for this investigation.
The report runs for 65 PDF pages and serves as an important document for understanding Command at Sea, command climate on a ship, and how a bad culture of command can contribute to the deterioration of the authority of command at sea. If for any reason you don’t want to read the entire document, I suggest at minimum reading the 27 opinions that run from PDF page 38 through PDF page 49.
The first 10 opinions are specific to the conduct of Captain OP Honors, and are quoted below.
- “The XO Movie Night” videos became almost “cult like” for the majority of Sailors aboard ENTERPRISE. The passageways were empty at 2000 on Saturday nights underway and the mess decks, wardrooms and berthing compartments were filled standing-room only with personnel watching the “XO Movie Night” video.
- With the average crew m.ember aged 20 years old, CAPT Honors was confronted with a generation of young adults who grew-up watching television shows such as Saturday Night Live, South Park, The Simpsons, and Family Guy. Because these shows routinely use sophomoric humor to entertain their audience, CAPT Honors consciously chose to use that same type of humor and entertainment to reach his targeted 20-year-old audience aboard ENTERPRISE. To the extent that CAPT Honors sought through “XO Movie Night” videos to reach a particular demographic in his effort to teach and inform the crew, his methods appear to have been successful, as evidenced, for example, by the crew’s good behavior ashore in foreign ports and the avoidance of imposing water restrictions known as “water hours.”
- During CAPT Honors’ tour as Executive Officer, the ENTERPRISE crew performed at a high level and enjoyed much success, as evidenced by the numerous unit awards received and the favorable comments of Flag Officers, senior officers and enlisted leadership. Many attributed this success and the excellent material condition of the ship to CAPT Honors’ engagement with the ship’s crew.
- CAPT Honors has good intentions in his creation of the “XO Movie Night” videos and certainly never intended for the videos to disgrace the Navy such as ultimately happened. I believe that the “XO Movie Night” video phenomenon slowly, but steadily over time, developed a mindset in CAPT Honors that caused him to elevate the hilarity or shock level from week-to-week. As a result of this mindset, and the lack of direct oversight from his superiors, CAPT Honors enabled the downward spiral in classless, tasteless humor and conduct that culminated in the production and broadcast of his very last XO video – a compilation of the most offensive XO videos that contained repeated profanity, anti-gay slurs, simulated masturbation, and sexual innuendos.
- During ENTERPRISE’s 2007 work-ups and deployment, “XO Movie Night” videos continued with the same purpose as the 2006 videos, which was to provide a message to the crew through the use of humor and entertainment. From viewing the XO videos, it is apparent that the sophomoric humor not only continued on the 2007 deployment but degenerated to an “all time low” with CAPT Honors’ final video as Executive Officer. The humor and tone gradually became more lewd and disrespectful of time-honored Navy customs and standards, culminating with CAPT Honors’ repeated use of the word “f*ck,” use of anti-gay slurs, and display of simulated masturbation scenes that went beyond sophomoric humor. THe fact that CAPT Honors and the Public Affairs/Media Department personnel proceeded with the broadcast of these last few videos during the end of his tenure as Executive Officer is disturbing enough. The greater concern is the fact that the majority of the crew and embarked personnel witnessed the videos and never registered and objection or complaint. This is the most disturbing aspect of this investigation – that an atmosphere, environment, or “culture” tolerating such conduct and behavior was allowed to develop, grow and perpetuate over the course of two sets of work-ups and two major deployments. I believe the ENTERPRISE crew was gradually de-sensitized and conditioned to accept a low standard of conduct and behavior by the second most senior officer of the ship’s company to where it became the new acceptable norm. The crew could not be held accountable for a higher standard of conduct than the Executive Officer himself demonstrated.
- CAPT Honors believes that he adhered to an acceptable standard by measuring the tone and content of his XO videos against the tone of “significantly more offensive R-rated… professionally-produced feature films” that were sometimes broadcast on ENTERPRISE SITE-TV immediately after his XP videos. CAPT Honors equates the tone and content of his XO videos with “PG-13 adult-level humor,” and he believes such content meets the Navy’s standard.
- CAPT Honors is wrong. The U.S. Navy sets a higher standard of conduct and behavior for our officers and enlisted personnel. These standards trace back over 200 years, and are firmly grounded in regulations, custom and traditions. They form the bedrock of our Service and guided everything we do. Conduct that may be acceptable to watch as entertainment when performed by actors and comedians is not the standard of conduct for Sailors while serving in an official capacity. The difference between CAPT Honors’ XO videos and the professionally-produced feature films that contain offensive content is that U.S. Navy service members do not appear in the offensive scenes of Hollywood films. CAPT Honors fails to understand this difference. The fact that over the course of two sets of work-ups and one and a half deployments, he was only “counseled a few times” by his commanding officers served to convince him he was not out of line. Unfortunately for this highly decorated combat veteran, his logic and frame of reference were flawed from the beginning and worsened over time.
- CAPT Honors appearance in, production of, and approval of these videos demeaned himself and, more importantly, the position of the Executive Officer. Although the ship’s performance does not appear to have suffered, his conduct was derelict and unbecoming of an officer.
- By sponsoring and encouraging the inappropriate content in the videos, and enlisting the help of Public Affairs Officer and members of the Media Department, CAPT Honors fostered a work environment for those same individuals where sophomoric humor became the acceptable norm for the production of the videos.
- Sailors not only expect, but deserve their Commanding Officer and Executive Officer to exhibit exemplary conduct and set the standard for virtue, honor, courtesy and tact. As Executive Officer, CAPT Honors placed himself in a position unbecoming his rank and position by appearing as one of the primary “actors” and, in most cases, the central character in the XO videos containing offensive content. He set a poor example for his subordinate officers, crew and embarked personnel. Furthermore, he violated the special trust and confidence placed in him by his Commanding Officers and embarked Strike Group Commanders. In spite of his best intentions, his use in the videos of repeated profanity, anti-gay slurs, simulated masturbation, comments on prostitution, his making fun of department heads in a demeaning way, and repeated use of sexual innuendos to deliver his message to the crew in what he considered an entertaining way was inappropriate and inexcusable.
Below are a few of my thoughts based on other aspects of the report.
1) Perhaps Congress needs to order a study regarding short term memory loss of men over a certain age and nuclear powered aircraft carriers, because there is a surprising amount of short term memory loss regarding the conversations among those of rank at o-6 and above. This issue jumps out when reading the report. I do not believe it has anything to do with nuclear power, and would suggest that perhaps the reasons for selective memory is an aspect of “culture” issues of the Navy being ignored.
2) The findings suggest Flag Officers were largely unaware of the content of the videos. The findings also suggest Commanding Officers were also largely unaware of the content of the videos. The Command JAGs were actually in the videos. Public Affairs was involved in the production of the videos. Several officers and senior enlisted leaders were involved in the videos. The complaints by the Command Chaplain was ignored by the XO, and the Command Chaplain never raised the issue with the Captain or any other senior officer. The videos eventually included an implied threat to those who objected to the content of the videos in the opening remarks. All in all, the lack of official complaints regarding the content of XO Movie Night being objectionable is understandable.
There is an important Navy leadership discussion regarding consent by silence just begging for a discussion, but until that discussion comes from someone inside the Navy, an outsider like me simply highlighting all the examples of existence won’t make a difference.
3) The second recommendation is noteworthy:
It is disturbing to note the continuing remnants of a pervasive culture in Naval Aviation that mistakenly accepts that a certain, extreme level of coarse humor is acceptable and necessary to develop young aviators into effective warriors and community leaders. Over the past two decades, Naval Aviation has been blemished by such behavior. Sincere, focused efforts to correct this stain on the aviation community have not solved the problem. Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific and Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic are currently leading an effort to address these systemic issues within the naval aviation culture. As part of their ongoing effort, I recommend they include a command climate survey that specifically addresses the symptoms identified by this investigation to ensure that a similar “sub-culture” is not manifesting itself within the aviation community and aboard other carriers.
4) A precedent is being set by ignoring the person who leaked the video.
5) This investigation raises a number of questions regarding the promotion process and how the Navy looks at FITREPs for promotion. The number of officers and enlisted personnel involved who were promoted suggests a systemic issue might exist, and unless I missed it, I did not see that issue raised in this report.
I have read a number of opinions, mostly on political websites, that attempt to suggest the Navy investigation somehow got this wrong. I would suggest that anyone defending Captain Honors at this point has not read the report. I believe this issue is about Leadership and Authority in the Navy, and anyone who would like to seek further understanding of what that means, I encourage you to read Leadership and Authority (PDF) by Vice Admiral L. Hewlett Thebaud, U.S. Navy (Ret.)
- On Midrats 11 October 15 -Episode 301: “Confessions of a Major Program Manager, w/ CAPT Mark Vandroff, USN”
- Rebuttal To “Advocating Naval Heresy” by Captain R. B. Watts, USCG (Retired) USNI PROCEEDINGS, June 2015
- The Perilous Price of Peace
- On Midrats 4 Oct 2015 – Episode 300: USS Neosho (AO-23),USS Sims (DD-409) and the Battle of the Coral Sea
- Should innovative organizations have an expiration date?