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.)
Several years ago I participated in an unclassified cyber wargame that looked at a variety of scenarios and planned out responses to those scenarios. Sitting around the table were experts of all kinds; government, industry, security consultants, business professionals, military, and law enforcement. During this wargame, a scenario was presented to the group what the reaction should be if a large financial institution had $10 million dollars stolen in a cyber attack.
The military and law enforcement guys came out swinging. They were immediately ready to do all the forensics possible on the exploited systems and undertake a plan to track the money and get it back, because they had decided the way ahead was for them to kick the shit out of some hackers and nail those dudes to the maximum extent the law allowed. They came up with some remarkable ideas, and even organized a battle strategy for cyber counter-attack. To the extent the game would allow, they had done a good job with the forensics and had a good idea how they were going to get the money back.
But one of the individuals in my group was actually an executive of a major US financial institution, and he ended up recommending the prevailing course of action. He went over the numbers and explained in great detail that the company was not going to do anything – indeed they were going to act like the hack never happened and were not, under any circumstances, going to draw attention to the hack or hackers. Based on his analysis of what the projected costs would be to go public with news of a major security breach to a major financial institution, $10 million was the cost of doing business, and our group ultimately decided the best action for business was to eat the loss. You can imagine how the law enforcement and military folks initially reacted to that solution, but that is what war games with a variety of professionals are for.
These things have been on my mind as I read this article in PC magazine. This decade is off to an interesting start with loosely organized global cyber vigilantes like the group “Anonymous” operating in the public shadow zones of the internet. For those who don’t know, “Anonymous” was the organization behind which “Operation Payback” that went after US companies that dropped support for Wikileaks, and reportedly includes members of the “/b/” bulletin board 4chan.org.
On Friday Aaron Barr, CEO of HBGary Federal, was quoted in the Financial Times as having identified the founding leaders of Anonymous, which has claimed responsibility for recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on companies that had severed ties with WikiLeaks. Anonymous was also allegedly responsible for shutting down pro-government Web sites in Egypt and Tunisia. Forbes said Barr was planning to sell the information to the FBI.
On Sunday evening at 6:30pm Eastern, the hackers appeared to take over Barr’s Twitter account and tweeted: “IT BEGINS. THE ANONYMOUS HAND SWINGS FOR A LULZY B****SLAP. #anonymous #takeover #hbgary.”
Soon enough, Barr’s Twitter page was filled racial and sexual slurs and had published Barr’s mobile phone and Social Security numbers. Furthermore, according to reports, HBGary.com was temporarily replaced with a message: “Let us teach you a lesson you’ll never forget: don’t mess with Anonymous.” This letter has since been replaced by a holding page.
DailyKos also reported that Anonymous deleted the firm’s backups and posted over 60,000 company e-mails on Pirate Bay.
Unlike the DDoS attacks for which Anonymous is usually known, the group said via Barr’s Twitter account that it performed the hack by duping people to gain access into HBGary’s system, a hacker technique known as social engineering.
For background on the social engineering methods used by Anonymous, read this rather detailed account at Tech Herald. Anonymous has a press release posted at the DailyKos. Details of the hack are still coming out, but what we do know is that Anonymous has released to the public a 4.71 GB Torrent file of information on HBGary and HBGary Federal. For those unaware, BGary Federal delivers HBGary’s malware analysis and incident response products as well as expert classified services to the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community and other U.S. government agencies to support their unique cybersecurity challenges and requirements.
Or at least they did at one point, because with this incident the reputation of the company has been completely destroyed.
The hack by Anonymous on HBGary Federal exposed Social Security numbers, publicized private e-mails, resulted in the theft of HBGary source code, included the deletion of company data, replaced the phone system, and exploited the social media accounts of several employees across several social media mediums.
I’m going to try to objectively describe what these events represent, and tell me if I’m reading it wrong. I think what we saw was a corporation publicly threatening a non-state political organization in cyberspace for purposes of prestige towards the reputation of the corporation, and the non-state political organization retaliated via cyber warfare and may have inflected a mortal wound to the corporation.
There is a lot to learn from this incident. In a world of anonymous identities in cyberspace, public exposure of identity constitutes an existential threat. It is also noteworthy that non-state political organizations in cyberspace that operate publicly like Anonymous intentionally apply no limitations on their attacks, because achieving the most damage to their target is always the objective. Reputation is a major factor of non-state organizations that operate publicly in cyberspace, indeed many have noticed that Anonymous has been involved in Tunisia and Egypt in part to reshape the reputation of that organization. Understanding anonymous non-state organizations that operate publicly in cyberspace includes a full understanding regarding the importance of reputation and identity. Aaron Barr has learned this lesson the hard way.
It is important to note that there are no equivalents to laws of war or the Geneva Conventions in cyber warfare, meaning if an action is undertaken by a non-state actor and maximum damage can always be expected to be the objective as a way of maximizing the reputation impact of an action, the consequences of always attempting to maximize damage includes higher risks for collateral damage – and indeed that collateral damage may also represent an intentional objective of an organization looking to make the maximum possible reputation impact.
Maximum damage being the objective in cyber warfare is not trivial, because what happens if collateral damage in cyber warfare somehow actually kills people? When the intent is always to do as much damage as possible to reap the reputation rewards that come from successful public attacks, if someone should die from the collateral damage of such a cyber attack the “intent” element makes it murder. It is something to think about, because eventually a cyber attack will kill people – Murphy’s Law will insure it.
Anonymous is currently the only major political non-state organization actively engaged in cyber warfare activities that is attempting to operate publicly. In that way we can describe them as pioneers of such organizations, because while they are certainly unique today – they also represent a first generation organization of its type. It will be very interesting to see what the second generation organizations that are better organized and better funded look like when operating publicly in the shadow zone of cyber space. Given the public attention of Anonymous to date, we may not wait long before finding out.
The LCS is one of the most misunderstood ships in the history of the Navy. Why? Because it is an entirely new type of combat vessel. Not only is it new, we are not exactly sure how it will finally operate in the fleet. But here is what I have to tell you. There is a requirement for a ship that can go into littoral waters, which means it has to have a shallow draft; and it must be able to hunt mines; and it must be hunt diesel submarines; and it must be able to beat off swarm boats. Those are threats that exist today.
Now, the Navy made what I consider to be a momentous decision. It is essentially going to replace our patrol coastal craft which support our special ops; that’s a 350 ton vessel. It replaces the Osprey which is a 950 ton vessel, which is the old MHC, and it is replacing the old Avenger class which is about a 1,400 ton ship; and it is replacing the Fig7 – which is about a 4,000 ton ship.
What the Navy decided to do, they said we need these three missions, and we are going to try to do it in a single hull with mission packages. It was a bold decision to make, and I am confident – I am confident – that it will prove out to be a smart decision.
- The Honorable Robert Work, USNI/AFCEA WEST, January 26, 2011
In his January 2011 Proceedings article The Wrong Ship at the Wrong Time, CDR John Patch opens his argument with his opinion “it is clear that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program cannot live up to expectations.” I consider CDR John Patch a friend of mine, and I strongly believe my friend CDR John Patch is wrong. The only expectations the Littoral Combat Ship program isn’t living up to today are the expectations of those who believe the Littoral Combat Ship is a failed frigate design. In his article CDR John Patch lists 11 criticisms – below are my direct responses to his criticisms.
Unaffordable. The near tripling of the expected hull price tag and unrealistic Navy cost estimates are well documented in current literature, but they become a stark program stigma amid current Department of Defense fiscal austerity. Life-cycle costs of the two “orphaned” LCS hulls after the down-select decision are also a factor.
The cost of building navy ships is always important, but I think the details of the dual-select caught everyone, and admittedly me as well, by surprise. Based on the contract details as released by the Navy, the hull prices for the Littoral Combat Ships come in at around $440 million per ship, but when we factor in all costs including the amortized cost of all 64 modules the Navy intends to buy, the cost for ship and module total package is around $530 million per. The pricing for these ships falls well below the escalated average Congressional cost cap of $538 million, and the number used by Congress is for hull only.
If we go back to the history of the Littoral Combat Ship, we know certain numbers. The original hull cost estimate was $220 million, a number I think all of us believed was ridiculously low in the first place. The mission module estimate was $180 million, which turned out to be ridiculously high. It was the combination of the two numbers that got everyone to $400 million. $400 million was also a derivative though, because if you recall the Navy had to build three Littoral Combat Ships for the cost of one DDG-51 at the time – which cost $1.2 billion. Bottom line, the cost estimate history of the Littoral Combat Ship more likely came from the Bermuda triangle than it did from a professional program management process at the Pentagon, and yet the LCS program has had to live with these numbers anyway.
The first in class ships were expensive, no question. By my math they were at least 300% over the original unrealistic estimate cost of $220 million. How does that stack up with history? Well, of the nine previous ships, four had overruns of greater than 100% (MCM-1, MHC 51, DDG 51, LPD-17), three had overruns between 40-60% (FFG 7, CG 47, LSD 41), and only two had overruns less than 20% (LHD 1 and VA 774/75). NONE came in lower than expected. But I think everyone agrees first in class are prototypes – indeed the Navy paid for the first LCS with R&D budget money. The key in new ship classes is always whether the Navy learns and improves over time.
Admiral Clark may have been guesstimating costs for the LCS program but his guesses were good, because the US Navy got fixed cost contracts that insure the Navy can buy 3 Littoral Combat Ships for well below the cost of a single DDG-51 today, and by percentage the cost growth of the entire Littoral Combat Ship package estimate of $400 million was only 33% higher for what is today a much more capable ship than the $400 million commercial design Admiral Clark envisioned.
Too complex. All the higher-end, multi-mission capabilities not only increase costs, but also could make the crews’ tasks unmanageable.
Each ship is broken down into three crews. Core crew = ship. Module crew = module. Aviation crew = Helo det. When I visited USS Freedom (LCS 1) last week Commander Edwards made explicitly clear that when a module crew comes on his ship, they are part of his crew. During RIMPAC several of the module crew earned certifications in areas outside their speciality. Operationally there are no signs that the Navy is running into complexity operating a single mission ship during any single period of time. It might look complex for folks looking outside in, but when they are speaking about LCS from an inside perspective there really isn’t a lot of complexity there.
Excessive technical risk. Incomplete designs at production start exacerbated risk. Some LCS components are also technically unproven or exhibited problems during acceptance trials, such as water-jet tunnel pitting and corrosion and the need for additional buoyancy tanks.
Yep, and first in class ships are prototypes. There is trial and error taking place all over the Navy on first in class ships. Since none of us can go back in time, the question is whether there is evidence that lessons learned from the first in class ships are being incorporated into future designs for a better class of ship throughout the block. Again, talking to Commander Edwards last week one thing that became very clear is how lessons have been and still are being folded into LCS 3, and LCS 5+. The process seems good on the Navy side, and I think the contracts suggest the industry side is comfortable enough with the process they are willing to commit to fixed cost contracts.
Impractical. Expectations of seamless integration of the many mission modules, unmanned vehicles, core hull systems (57-mm gun, radars, etc.) and net-centric capabilities were exceedingly unrealistic.
I think expectations of ‘seamless integration’ of many moving parts is indeed impractical, but I am not sure where that expectation was evident in the Navy. Since I first stayed on USS Freedom (LCS 1) for two nights back in November 2008 there was a clear understanding that interfaces between ship and systems was going to be a challenge with lessons learned through experimentation. Most of the engineering has been good, but as expected, there have been lessons learned. The integration of the platform and the systems is by no means an “exceedingly unrealistic” objective, it is the legitimate goal of the LCS package in sum – as it should be.
Impractical, in my opinion, would be to ignore the benefits networks contribute to our naval capabilities and not purposely designing our ships with networks in mind. I completely reject the premise of the “impractical” criticism, because developing naval vessels with the intent to support networks that integrate unmanned systems with combat systems in a hull specifically built to support those capabilities should be the objective of every new ship class the US Navy builds in the 21st century.
A lot of people want to keep on keeping on in the guided missile era of naval warfare with traditional designs and nominal evolutions, but new technologies are emerging and a networked battlespace is being developed by potential adversaries. The US Navy is well positioned today to take the existing advanced generation guided missile combat fleet, network that fleet, then expand the network with next generation unmanned technologies deployed by platforms like submarines and LCS. In my opinion, what is being criticized as the impractical integration of LCS parts to form a whole is actually the evolution from where the Navy is today towards the networked integration of emerging capabilities and existing combat power.
Inefficient. The failure of the Coast Guard and Navy to conduct a combined effort to design a new cutter/corvette-sized vessel remains perplexing.
The Coast Guard and the Navy have different requirements. I spoke to RADM Blore many times on the subject when he was Assistant Commandant for Acquisition and Chief Acquisition Officer for the United States Coast Guard, and he told me the Coast Guard had looked at both designs. Since there is still no medium endurance cutter replacement selection today, perhaps the US Coast Guard still may pick one of the designs. As modern designs in production, I have no doubt that a version of a Littoral Combat Ship hull more aligned with the requirements of the Coast Guard could be designed, but as far as I am concerned, I believe the Coast Guard needs to pick the vessel most suited to their requirements – LCS or not.
Vulnerable. Many experts argue that the vaunted speed factor will not protect LCS from littoral antiship-missile or torpedo threats.
I would hope every expert would argue that the “vaunted speed factor” of LCS will not protect the LCS from anti-ship missiles, or they aren’t much of an expert in my book. The vulnerability criticism of LCS is made in the latest DOT&E report on LCS, and I have a separate post for that discussion.
Poor endurance. Both LCS versions rapidly deplete fuel stores—especially at the higher speeds envisioned for anti-access missions and with heavy MH-60R/S helicopter operations—requiring frequent bunkering in port or replenishment at sea.
From the letter from CBO to the Honorable Jeff Sessions (PDF):
The moderate-fuel case—which CBO considers the most likely of the three scenarios—assumes that the LCS-1 operates at 30 or more knots for about 5 percent of the time, at 14 knots to 16 knots 42 percent of the time (a range that might be typical when the ship was traveling from its home port to a deployment location), and at less than 12 knots for the rest of its time under way. In that scenario, O&S costs total 34 percent of the ship’s life-cycle cost: 15 percent for personnel, 11 percent for fuel, and 8 percent for other O&S costs. The moderate speed profile would result in fuel usage of about 35,000 barrels per year, slightly less than the 37,600 barrels that the Navy assumed in formulating its 2011 budget request.4 By comparison, the FFG-7 class frigates consumed about 31,000 barrels of fuel per ship in 2009.
I had an opportunity to talk to the folks on the ship about this, and there are some interesting things here. First, there is already a design change specific to a fuel improvement adjustment from LCS 1 to LCS 3 of 14% efficiency, and CBO used estimates from LCS 1. Lets do the math. 35,000 x .14 = 4,900. 35,000 – 4,900 = 30,100 which is less fuel than “the FFG-7 class frigates consumed” of “31,000 barrels of fuel per ship in 2009.”
In the same document, CBO outlines a low fuel case that LCS does very well in and a high fuel case which the LCS performs very poorly. It should also be noted that the CBO letter to the Honorable Jeff Sessions came before RIMPAC, which I think was a very important test for LCS 1. What they are finding is that the fuel use for the Lockheed Martin version of the LCS, during high operational tempos like RIMPAC when they are being asked to do a bunch of things just for the sake of trying new things, the LCS uses a greater delta of fuel than other surface warships normally do between refueling. For example, if a ship typically refuels at 50%, the LCS might refuel at 30%, but then again RIMPAC was all about making the LCS do things it may or may never actually do because it is the first time it has ever been ordered to do anything.
There is a lot of operational development taking place, and CONOP isn’t defined yet, so I think it is still too early to tell. What we do know is that LCS is very, very efficient at slower speeds (and LCS 2 even more so), and comes with bursts of very high speeds. As systems come online with modules how all of this comes together will be something that will be developed through experimentation, and something folks should keep an eye on. I am not discouraged yet.
Readers of my blog know I have been discussing mothership operational concepts in the 21st century for years, so in my mind the CONOP of a mothership is one of a station ship platform that is constantly providing surveillance in spaces with deployed systems. Now granted, I always thought motherships should be big, but what happens when multiple Littoral Combat Ships are operating together at 200nm spaces able to use the extended range of platforms for ISR over a collectively broader region. Keep in mind the LCS is capable of reacting with speed when physical presence is required, so a 200nm dash is like a 4 hour run. When you go down that road there are a lot of questions, and only with more ships will this stuff work out.
The worst case scenario is this: the LCS contracts the Navy signed are so good that Navy was able to put 3 T-AO(X) ships into FY14, FY15, and FY16 respectively to replace the Henry J. Kaiser class replenishment ships, so if the Littoral Combat Ships of the first block have serious fuel issues, at least they will have three shiny new oilers to fill em up.
Unstable. Excessive high-end requirements have driven up hull machinery and combat system weight, negatively affecting displacement and stability.
The first in class USS Freedom (LCS 1) has had to be adjusted, but after speaking directly to the folks on USS Freedom (LCS 1) about this, I’m not convinced this is as big a deal as it has been made. The Navy-industry team has done a very good job incorporating this issue into design changes for LCS 3, LCS 5+, etc… and I imagine the same process is at work on USS Independence (LCS 2). What is interesting to note is how everyone discusses how there is no smoother ride on the seas than when USS Freedom (LCS 1) gets going at high speed, and if we presume this is the speed the ships will have during combat, stability might actually be a tactical advantage for weapons delivery LCS has over everything else.
Logistics-heavy. Staging of the mission modules and associated personnel requires a forward sea base or shore facilities.
The Navy plans 55 ships and 64 modules, so I am unsure how much swapping is going to be taking place outside of normal crew rotations – which will take place at known, existing facilities anyway. Personally, I like having a Navy forward deployed and closer to theater, but that’s another discussion.
Imprudent. Insufficient analysis before program design and acquisition resulted in spiraling costs to address unanticipated problems.
I don’t think anyone disagrees there is a period early in the Littoral Combat Ship program where there was a lot of fail. I don’t think that accurately measures where the LCS program is today though.
Insufficient hotel services. Berthing and support requirements for expanding aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and module detachments have exceeded ship capacity.
I’m not convinced that’s true, and I base that on conversations with the folks on USS Freedom (LCS 1) last week. The ship was designed for 40 crew. That number may or may not change. It may be the LCS requires additional technology to support 40 crew, or the ship may need more than 40 crew, or the ship may require both new technology and more crew members – that still hasn’t been decided. I think everyone around the problem believes the number is going to be somewhere around 40, maybe a little higher, but not by much. There will be some hotel services added in LCS 3, LCS 5+ etc as this works itself out, and these services will be put into LCS 1 during the ships first major availability. Keep in mind these decisions will be made very soon, and getting the all the crew issues right has been an issue the Navy has been working on.
There doesn’t seem to be any concerns with the hotel services for the aviation detachment, that has all been worked out.
However, the modules are more interesting. We know the Navy is going to develop an attachment for the third mission zone on LCS 1 that can support hotel services for additional ‘customers’ for VBSS, and for the ASuW module that space can support that function as part of the baseline module. LCS 2 has a much larger mission bay zone so space isn’t even an issue there. In my opinion, if we are talking about additional crew for specific modules only, then modular addition of services is how it should be.
My contention for years has been the Littoral Combat Ship represents, by design, an unmanned system mothership. In those same writings on my blog, I have also been encouraging the Navy that the ASuW module should also be a manned mothership capability. In the ungoverned shadow zones of the sea where piracy and other illicit maritime activities are present and naval forces are not, even if we had the capability today to fly around with a UAV and blow stuff up with a Hellfire – that isn’t the RoE. Ultimately, it takes sailors to be the peacemaker at the point of contact in the shadow zone. So in my opinion, adding a modular capability to the ASuW module that includes Navy/Marine/CG detachment hotel service support for various levels of boarding operations is a natural evolution of what a Littoral Combat Ship manned mothership capability should be, and that is working itself out on schedule according to RADM Frank Pandolfe’s very excellent SNA brief.
That really is the beauty of a ship with a ton of space like LCS; if you are insufficient in some capability, with a modular design one can simply develop a plug-n-play the solution somewhere and when it is ready, bring it on the ship and get to work.
Photograph by Raymond Pritchett, January 26, 2011
The relative decline of the United States in the 21st century is a popular topic, but I would argue as long as nerds from Google can do stuff like this over a weekend fueled by American products like red bull and candy bars, perhaps the same American ingenuity that fueled the United States through World War II is still alive and well today.
Like many people we’ve been glued to the news unfolding in Egypt and thinking of what we could do to help people on the ground. Over the weekend we came up with the idea of a speak-to-tweet service—the ability for anyone to tweet using just a voice connection.
We worked with a small team of engineers from Twitter, Google and SayNow, a company we acquired last week, to make this idea a reality. It’s already live and anyone can tweet by simply leaving a voicemail on one of these international phone numbers (+16504194196 or +390662207294 or +97316199855) and the service will instantly tweet the message using the hashtag #egypt. No Internet connection is required. People can listen to the messages by dialing the same phone numbers or going to twitter.com/speak2tweet.
We hope that this will go some way to helping people in Egypt stay connected at this very difficult time. Our thoughts are with everyone there.
Posted by Ujjwal Singh, CoFounder of SayNow and AbdelKarim Mardini, Product Manager, Middle East & North Africa
We must think clearly about what we are seeing here, even if it is not popular to do so. Obviously America is a techno-centric culture, so it is easy to see how this type of technology would immediately be appealing to modern, young Americans and as it becomes more well known in Egypt – likely appealing to them as well. I originally learned about this technology from an American sailor who was organizing volunteers on Twitter to act as interpreters (and having success btw) for this service. Due primarily to the viral nature of social media and by leveraging the global popularity of Google, it is only a matter of time until the youth in Egypt become aware of the technology available.
How does it work? Well, someone inside Egypt calls one of the numbers listed, leaves a message, and the message gets recorded and Tweeted to this Twitter feed where a recording of the voice mail is made available to everyone to listen. The retweets by others in the feed are interpretations of the feed into English from a specific voice recording. This is a very clever technology intended to directly circumvent the Egyptian government policies that are attempting to reduce information access. Is there impact associated with the technology? Surely not yet, but the tech itself is less than 24 hours old and most people unlikely realize what they have. The options are many, and for me, I’ll admit the first time I listened to a few messages on SayNow’s website I was immediately reminded of the BBC radio broadcasts to the Maquis in 1944 France…
If we are going to give serious analysis to what is happening here, we must examine the complicated issues responsibly and ask the difficult questions.
What do we make of an American corporation (Google was ranked #102 by Fortune in 2010) basically declaring war on the government policies of a strategic partner of the United States by inventing a new technology and offering free services to the political opposition of the Egyptian government? Whether one agrees or disagrees with what Google is doing – when you remove the morality element of Google’s action that can easily impact ones opinion – we are left with a few American corporations actively supporting a revolution as a free service against the current government of a strategic partner of the United States.
Think about that for a second…
Google is waging war leveraging bandwidth as a weapon. Think about how silly our international treaties governing broadcast communications look when a handful of companies like Google, SayNow, and Twitter can turn a single node like a cell phone into a voice broadcast to the entire globe as a weekend project. Make no mistake, bandwidth is most definitely a weapon, and the DoD needs to be thinking carefully about how this weapon might be used against our enemies. For example, North Korea would likely see broad access to bandwidth as a very dangerous weapon worth going kinetic over, meaning carefully considered rules of engagement for bandwidth as a weapon are necessary when bandwidth is used as a weapon.
That thought should trouble those who give serious geopolitical strategic thought to the issue, because in most cases a corporation like Google can use the bandwidth of the entire internet more effectively than an organization like the DoD can use the bandwidth of their entire network, and yet, somehow I doubt corporations carefully consider the rules of engagement when using bandwidth as a weapon.
At some level, one might describe this as the Wikileaks issue in reverse. Wikileaks leverages bandwidth and cloud technology to insure continuous access to information in support of broadcasting government information to the entire world. Google and partners are leveraging cell phone technologies to insure continuous access to information in support of broadcasting anti-government information to the entire world. The United States government has not, in my opinion, handled Wikileaks very well. When one considers the geopolitical ramifications, not to mention the strategic ramifications, of American technology corporations like Google and Twitter waging a private war on the government of Egypt – one might begin to ask what this box looks like in 5 years that good ole’ Pandora is opening?
Is what Google, SayNow, and Twitter doing wrong or illegal? Is it the harmless stuff of weekend armchair warriors? On one hand I readily admit to being very proud that a bunch of American nerds would come up with a clever piece of technology to support a democratic movement against a dictatorship, and on the other hand I know I am seeing modern methods of non-state cyber warfare applied towards a political purpose against a state – leveraging the cyber medium where warfare is often difficult to identify or visualize until it is far too late. Bandwidth is a powerful weapon, and while it is unclear how powerful Speak-to-Tweet is or will ever be, it is important for us to note it here as a sort of genesis, or prototype capability in the development of bandwidth technologies that can and almost certainly will be used in future 21st century state and non-state level information warfare.
As an avid reader of naval books and Proceedings, and as a blogger who reads and writes about naval issues daily, when I began looking at the schedule for USNI/AFCEA WEST 2011 I knew instantly the first panel discussion was going to be a great one. Note to all conference organizers, if you want a great discussion try to always pick guys from the 0-5 and 0-6 ranks who will give an opinion and independent voices outside the services, you’ll never be disappointed.
The panel topic is timely: What Could Flat and/or Declining Defense Budgets Mean for Navy Plans and Programs is the right question at the right time. Asking good questions is the easy part, assembling a panel with the intellectual capital to fully explore the issue can be more difficult. The organizers at WEST 2011 came through like champs with CAPT R. Robinson (Robbie) Harris, USN (Ret) as the moderator, and a brilliant panel that included Ronald O’Rourke, Captain Victor Addison, Captain Mark Hagerott, and Captain Stuart Munsch. This panel turned out to be an incredibly thought provoking, idea generating panel on a timely topic and quite frankly, the hour and 15 minutes allocated was simply too short because I could have listened to these guys discuss the topic for another hour.
I was struck from the outset by the positive tone of the discussion, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Credit the CNO, ADM Roughead has established a positive tone towards addressing head on the difficult budget situation the Navy is dealing with, and the panel reflected that upbeat tone when discussing the opportunities that exist in the current fiscal challenges the maritime services face today.
Plato said necessity is the mother of invention, and advice towards taking advantage of any opportunity that exists in the current fiscal challenge was a consistent message across the panel.
It was very smart to have Ronald O’Rourke speak first. Robbie Harris described Ron as the most objective naval analyst in Washington, but as primary naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service his objectivity is a professional requirement. I appreciated that Ron specifically discussed the interwar years in the 20th century, basically the 1920s and 1930s as a model where America dealt specifically with reduced budgets following World War I, and how the Navy used that time period to innovate the naval force. It is important to note those innovations occurred despite the Washington Treaty that restricted the US Navy on design choices and what ships could be built. Regardless of the challenges, the Navy innovated as a necessity and was well positioned to leverage innovations made during the interwar period when World War II began.
Captain Munsch followed Ron and also drew from history, this time the history of the Royal Navy towards the end of the 19th century and into the very beginning of the 20th century leading into World War I. He specifically noted the innovations developed and integrated by the Royal Navy, long range guns and the torpedo, and discussed how force structure and concept of operations (small ships as coastal defense with larger vessels performing blue water fleet function) adapted with the innovations so that when World War I broke out – the Royal Navy felt prepared. With longer range guns, the concept of operations for the Royal Navy was for the fleet to attack at longer range thus achieve the initiative on the enemy, and sink the enemy before they could get close enough to do damage. Captain Munsch highlighted the dangers that exists with reliance on innovations that are not fully understood, because at the Battle of Jutland it was ultimately proved that while the Royal Navy could out distance the German force, fire control was so poor that the range advantage gave no real advantage to the Royal Navy at all. Because of the reduced armor and the inability to fire effectively at long range, the innovations ultimately made the Royal Navy more vulnerable because effective firing range for the Royal Navy was within firing range of the German guns.
As I think about the innovations of unmanned systems, I often wonder to myself if our communications networks today represent the same weak link that fire control represented to the Royal Navy in World War I.
Then came Victor Addison. For those who don’t know, Captian Vic Addison has only a little more than a month of service in the Navy before he retires. His recent contributions as outlined in his four Proceedings articles represent some of the most innovative new thinking in the military today. You Can’t Always Give What You Want, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, January 2010 Vol. 136/1/1,283, Got Sea Control?, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy and Commander David Dominy, Royal Navy, Proceedings Magazine, March 2010 Vol. 136/3/1,285, The Answer Is the Carrier Strike Group . . . Now, What Was the Question?, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, July 2010 Vol. 136/7/1,289, and the The Joint Force’s “Wildcat Offense”, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, October 2010 Vol. 136/10/1,292 are important reads for anyone thinking about the opportunity that exists in the DoD today in thinking about the future of the military at a time of drawing down from 2 wars and budget reductions.
Captain Addisons presentation was the first time I had heard the articles discussed as a single presentation, and quite honestly this type of innovative thinking has a place on Capitol Hill once Victor Addison retires because it is representitive of the unique opportunities that exist in improving the DoD collectively by capitalizing on the lessons of Joint Service Warfare established with Goldwater-Nichols.
The last presenter was Captain Mark Hagerott who in my opinion, raised the most important question of the panel and something I know I will be thinking about long after the conference is over. His presentation focused on the necessity to avoid human capital consequences during the drawdown of fiscal resources. The example of the Navy’s reduced manning initiative on navy ships and the tremendous costs associated with the consequences of lower maintenance quality of the fleet represents an early lesson learned that manpower decisions for cost savings purposes can ultimately represent a false economy when we get our human capital decisions wrong in the name of budget efficiency. One of the more interesting questions raised in this discussion was how could certain jobs in the Navy that currently require a great number of hours training be turned into a job that is more comparable to a video game so that an 18 or 19 year old sailor familiar with his x-box joystick can essentially plug-and-play into a task driven by technology and perform the job that is currently done by a sailor much more experienced and currently requires a much greater level of training currently. In other words, cutting costs can also be achieved by simply changing the way a job is done without necessarily removing the job altogether.
This panel was an idea factory that consistently produced good content at a rate too quickly for my pen to keep up. Hopefully good quality audio/video was taken from the panel and USNI/AFCEA will find a way to get the panel discussion online soon. The session was an hour and 15 minutes, and with such a solid group of contributors with innovative ideas, it is well worth the time to view it should the video become available online.
There are a couple news items worth observing as the government focuses on cyber security, and in particular, begins looking at the role of government in the private sector when it comes to cyber security. Here is the first article on the reform of FISMA and DHS.
A controversial Internet security bill proposed in 2010 by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) could yet become law in the current session of Congress, said Jeff Greene, counsel on the majority staff of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
The bill, S.3480, “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act of 2010″ is garnering early bipartisan support in the new Congress, Greene said during a Jan. 19 ACT-IAC meeting in Falls Church, Va.
“FISMA hasn’t necessarily worked out as well as we had hoped,” said Greene. “Current structures are disorganized, they’re decentralized, they’re inefficient and generally speaking, they’re fairly weak.”
FISMA is basically a failure. Originally passed in 2002 following 9/11, government has been very slow to adopt FISMA certification standards and implement them throughout a number of agencies. The standards set up by government are so complex that the only cloud computering collaboration platform to meet certification is the Google Apps for Government (GAPE) system. In theory, that means any agency using Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS) is using a product that doesn’t even meet Federal certification standards for cloud computering. No big deal right? Tell that to the Department of Interior.
Even if we ignore the inability of both the Federal agencies and private sector, except Google, to meet FISMA standards – the real concern of the cyber bill is how DHS is expanding authority towards the private sector.
Federal cybersecurity intervention in private sector critical infrastructure and systems–what some critics have called Lieberman’s “kill switch” proposal–would not be taken lightly, said Greene, and would follow the DHS infrastructure protection definition in case of a cyber attack.
“This requires the disruption or destruction of a system that would cause a regional or national catastrophe. Which generally, by DHS regs, has been $25 billion first year damage, 2,500 immediate deaths or mass evacuations or relocations of citizens,” said Greene. “So it’s a pretty high bar. We’re not talking about Amazon going down.”
Funny thing how high bar status in the original idea seems to get lower and lower over time. Indeed, it looks like we are already looking for ways to lower the bar.
The Obama administration will provide universities and businesses with government intelligence and law enforcement information about malicious Internet activities so that they can protect their critical assets, the president’s cyber czar said on Tuesday.
“I think we all recognize that the government has unique access to information,” Howard Schmidt, cybersecurity coordinator and special assistant to the president, told congressional staff, policymakers and interest groups at a Washington conference. “We need to continue to look for ways to share that information, but also give our universities and our businesses information to be able to protect themselves.”
I am particularly disturbed by the arrogance, or perhaps ignorance, of the newly appointed chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Competition and the Internet, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.
“We need solutions that contain incentives to encourage business to adopt best practices to security” and “no one-size fits all mandate from Washington” that becomes outdated by the time it is implemented, Goodlatte said.
FISMA, the law by which government is supposed to establish security standards for Federal agencies, is a big fat failure – and now government is going to take a more proactive approach in exercising power and influence over the security of the private sector? I respect the interest government has in critical infrastructure, and think engagement is important, but it is important to recognize that the weak link in capability is government, and providing anything other than intelligence information to the private sector in the name of security is almost certainly an overreach of power and authority – and likely to backfire.
Cyber security law represents an example where the individual rights of Americans are going to be pissed away in the name of security. Would an internet “kill switch” have protected Iran from Stuxnet? Nope, the targets of Stuxnet were computer systems not connected to the internet, and transfer of the worm was conducted primarily by jump drives. This is government thinking though – the nuclear weapons solution to the poisonous mosquito.
This is the best advice for those who think about cyber warfare issues: The reason no one understands cyber warfare is because nobody understands cyber warfare. Repeat that sentence until you get it. Cyber warfare is people, not networks. Think of domain as terrain, and attacking the network is like bombing the ocean. Security in cyber warfare is measured by mitigation, risk assessment, and resiliency; and measures that go beyond those areas almost always do more harm than good and do not represent security at all – rather represent attempt at control.
Cyber warfare is a tough issue, and protection from cyber attack is an important government function. Security standards, the original basis for FISMA, is also important. What is most important though is understanding how quickly government can overreach in the name of security, and easily adopt solutions that provide the illusion of security when in fact those solutions aren’t real. $25 billion damage is damage measured in penny’s compared to the cost of an internet kill switch, even if it was for just a few minutes. DHS has demonstrated very strange definitions lately for the term security, whether it is airline flights or cyberspace. American elected officials need to require definitions for security, and insure that policies are aligned towards mitigation, risk assessment, and resiliency; because DHS Whack-a-mole policies continue to consistently take the ‘attempt at control’ approach that is in clear violation of Constitutionally protected individual rights; policies that do not provide a clear homeland security function with a holistic approach to the resiliency of the state to disruption. Until such a policy is required of DHS, our nations political leaders will continue to overreact to every incident with political and economic reactions on the scale similar to a 10 year land war in Asia.
Check out this map of piracy incidents from November 1, 2010 through January 10, 2011 (click to enlarge). It is worth noting that many security companies that provide security on commercial vessels disembark at Shalalah, Oman.
Someone explain to me how the Sea Sheperd Conservation Society is able to track down all of the Japanese whaler operations with three ships and a single helicopter, tail their ships effectively and leverage presence alone to shut down Japanese whaling operations.
But the most powerful Navies in the world can’t do the same thing to the motherships supporting piracy from Somalia? We are either not trying, or completely incompetent. There really are no other explanations.
#5 – Russia Buys Mistral Amphibious Ships from France.
There is already a lot of complaining coming from NATO nations with the recent Christmas surprise that France will sell Mistral class amphibious ships to Russia. While it is absolutely true the Mistral class is a dynamic ship capable of supporting several peacetime missions for Russia, it is the capabilities of waging war that has Russia’s neighbors nervous. From the US perspective, promises that Russia will be utilizing the ships in the Pacific is hardly better news considering that means the ships will be primarily for demonstrating Russian resolve in territorial disputes with Japan. It could be worse, Russia could base the ships in the Black Sea and give Georgia plenty of reasons to be nervous. No matter how one looks at it, the Mistral class is a weapon of war well designed towards Russian strengths (like attack helicopters) and Russian requirements for power projection, and does represent a major transfer of knowledge and capability from a NATO friend to a former enemy. The dynamics of the deal itself are tailor made for political firebranding.
#4 US Navy Dual Purchase of Littoral Combat Ship
The Littoral Combat Ship is the single most interesting US Navy discussion there is, and it isn’t even close. If I need to increase the traffic to my home blog by an extra few thousand visitors on any given day, all I have to do is write an article about the Littoral Combat Ship. Folks inside and outside the Navy are critical of the LCS – indeed I often find the comments of active duty SWOs are the most damning criticisms tossed towards the LCS. I personally think the LCS represents one of the most horribly designed great concepts in modern naval history by any nation, but the truth is no one actually knows what the LCS is, or will be in the future. What we do know is that over the next 5 years the Navy will build 20 more at an average cost of $440 million per hull, and at that price the LCS is less expensive per 1000 tons than the Osprey MCHs, the Avenger MCMs, and even the Perry FFGs. Because the ship is also armed like the Osprey MCHs, the Avenger MCMs, and the Perry FFs we can all look forward to 5 more years of criticisms.
#3 PLA Navy Expansion Towards Blue Water and Long Range Strike Capabilities
韬光养晦 – The literal translation is “hide brightness, nourish obscurity,” but it is more commonly known as Deng Xiaoping’s policy of “tao guang yang hui” toward international relations – which describes a policy of patiently keeping a low profile when forced into an unfavorable position and nourish your position until opportunity to act presents itself. Many scholars believe this has been the core philosophy driving policy in China for almost the past 3 decades, but China appears to have discarded this policy in 2010. Perhaps I am reading this wrong, and China believes their opportunity to act has arrived? It is clear that 2010 is a year of massive shipbuilding for the PLAN, what some have termed the PLAN’s second shipbuilding boom. In 2010 China has apparently begun construction of a new aircraft carrier while continuing construction on surface combatants, submarines, and their fast attack combatants. We finish the year with ADM Willard declaring the DF-21 has reached an equivalent stage to IOC while the internet goes buzzing with photography of a new supposed 5th Generation stealth fighter/bomber. While it is worth admiring the growth of China’s maritime military capabilities, we should be very careful not to get caught up in the hype. China has significant strategic vulnerabilities right now – military, political, and economic – and with a rapidly approaching demography problem compounded by one of the largest generational gaps any culture worldwide has encountered, it is very premature to make predictions solely based on the expansion of military hardware quantity.
2) Stuxnet Exposing the Vulnerability of Entire Fleets to Worms
This probably should be number one, but due to very little public attention given to the threat Stuxnet represents to naval forces I decided to leave it at number two. Whatever damage Stuxnet did to Iran’s nuclear program could have gone infinitely worse had the same technologies been directed at any modern fleet globally. All that heavy industrial equipment used in Iran’s nuclear program is very similar, if not exactly similar, to the mechanical systems that drive naval vessels across the world. Stuxnet has introduced us to a world where it is possible that well funded and coordinated teams of nerds can disable fleets of warships at the time and date of their choosing, and in the world of Stuxnet – internet connectivity is not a requirement for effectiveness.
1) Sinking of the Cheonan by North Korean mini-submarine
Welcome to the Pacific Ocean, where China, Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and Japan are all increasing the size and/or modernizing their submarine forces. Oh, speaking of submarines, did you hear about North Korea using a mini-submarine to sink a South Korean corvette? The Cheonan incident represents what could be the opening salvo of the 21st century in the Pacific as it relates to underwater warfare. Interestingly enough, it might also have been the first major shot fired in a Korean Peninsula crisis that has South Korea talking about reunification as early as next year. When it first took place, I recall speaking to people across the US Navy who initially believed some terrible accident had occurred, but a few days later when divers had been able go down and see the damage to the ship and begin salvage operations, I remember distinctly how the mood turned. 46 South Korea sailors died in that attack. The memory of the Cheonan still makes front page headlines today within the context of current tensions on the Korean Peninsula.
As the media environment continues to fragment in the future, engaging ever-diversifying platforms and channels will become more difficult for the military. But, as General Creighton Abrams reputedly once said, “If you don’t blow your own horn, someone will turn it into a funnel.” Under conditions of the current new media blitz, his possibly apocryphal words might be paraphrased to say, “If you don’t engage, someone else will fill the void.” Surrendering the information environment to the adversary is not a practical option. Therefore, the military must seriously consider where information and the new media lie in relationship to conventional warfighting functions. One thing seems sure: we must elevate information in doctrinal importance, and adequately fund and staff organizations dealing with information.
The “era of persistent conflict” that characterizes today’s operational environment is likely to endure for the foreseeable future, “with threats and opportunities ranging from regular and irregular wars in remote lands, to relief and reconstruction in crisis zones to sustained engagement in the global commons.”
Learning to Leverage New Media, The Israeli Defense Forces in Recent Conflicts (PDF), Lieutenant General William B. Caldwell IV, U.S. Army; Mr. Dennis M. Murphy; and Mr. Anton Menning
I believe the Wikileaks organization, with the recent release of diplomatic cables, represents a form of cyber attack against the United States of America. In that context, the information contained within the leaks, information classified and originally owned by the United States, is the weapon being used in the attack. I have long argued and I still believe the DoD treats information as a weapon and that viewpoint represents an Achilles heal of the DoD. Because information is treated as a weapon, the DoD often resorts to old doctrine when dealing with an information threat – and the tactics used to deal with the threat become remarkably predictable. I have been expecting an overreaction like this.
The Air Force is blocking computer access to The New York Times and other media sites that published sensitive diplomatic documents released by the Internet site WikiLeaks, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.
Air Force Maj. Toni Tones said more than 25 websites have been blocked and cannot be viewed by any Air Force computer. The ban does not apply to personal computers.
She said the action was taken by the 24th Air Force, which is commanded by Maj. Gen. Richard Webber and is responsible for cyberwarfare and computer security for the service. The move was approved by Air Force lawyers, she said.
The Army and Navy say they have not taken similar actions.
The United States Air Force has done a wonderful job here undermining the confidence of the American people regarding the ability of the USAF to be responsible cyberwarfare practitioners for our nation. Wikileaks is, among many things, an interesting study in cyberwarfare because it represents a direct information warfare campaign against the United States in the cyber domain with the intent of undermining the relationships between other nations and the United States, and it does this by undermining the trust required for good working diplomatic relationships. The 24th Air Force has undertaken a self-defeating approach that casually tosses away all lessons learned by fighting other online adversaries in those cyber domain information wars.
In the context of information being seen as a weapon by the DoD, and thus a threat to the DoD; it is hardly surprising that the first major public action taken in response to Wikileaks by the United States Air Forces elite cyber command is to build a big wall – after all, when you are under attack one is supposed to build a defense, right? The US Air Force cannot possibly be criticized enough for this action, because it goes against everything the DoD has supposedly learned about information warfare. In the quote that led this article, this portion sticks out.
“Surrendering the information environment to the adversary is not a practical option. [T]he military must seriously consider where information and the new media lie in relationship to conventional warfighting functions. One thing seems sure: we must elevate information in doctrinal importance, and adequately fund and staff organizations dealing with information.”
Whether the 24th Air Force realizes it or not, the DoD has functionally surrendered the information environment to the Wikileaks adversary because the DoD refuses to engage the adversary, and to compound the problem the results of a lack of engagement has predictably led to a great deal of vigilante justice.
The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops.
I would argue it would be responsible for the Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to hold a hearing on the legality of hosting Wikileaks.org in the United States, and it would be within the roles and responsibilities of the Chairman to sponsor a bill that prevents US companies from hosting government classified information released by Wikileaks on private, commercial servers in the United States. That democratic process laid out by the Constitution towards developing law is what makes the United States great.
But instead of performing such a legal process, Senator Lieberman – who is the Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee – pressured several US private companies and forced Amazon to drop Wikileaks.org in an intimidation action well outside the law. Any American who doesn’t have a serious problem with the actions of Senator Lieberman needs to give serious thought regarding the dangers of government officials leveraging their position of official authority to pressure private industries outside the limits of law under the constitution. What does it mean for our freedoms and representation in a democracy when the protections of those freedoms can be casually tossed aside in the name of political agenda and expediency? The action ultimately taken by Senator Lieberman is one of vigilante justice, which is ironically how one could describe many of the actions taken in the name of Wikileaks by both supporters and critics.
The Chairman of the U.S. Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee would normally, in this case, be responsible for oversight on whether the United States government is being attacked and what the role the Department of Homeland Security would, or should, be in this situation. Wikileaks does not represent cyberwarfare by the definition I would use, rather information warfare leveraging cyberspace as the domain, but perhaps it is a form of cyberwarfare? I think many, like I, have wondered where the lines between DHS and US Cyber Command exist in the cyber defense of the United States, what constitutes an attack in cyberspace against the United States, whether information warfare can also be cyberwarfare, and what the role of government is in protecting private economic infrastructure like Visa, Mastercard, or Paypal when online vigilante’s organize to attack those services most Americans are dependent upon for commerce. Under better leadership, Wikileaks would represent a good reason for the Senate to debate and discuss towards a better understanding of these issues. Does anyone actually know what DHS is supposed to do in the many situations unfolding around the Wikileaks drama? The only thing we know for sure is that most Americans cannot answer these important questions, and to me that communication failure represents a failure in political leadership in dealing with the Wikileaks issue.
Does Wikileaks represent a form of cyber attack? Wikileaks is certainly a very interesting study of information warfare in the cyber domain that the United States government needs to be learning from instead of reacting to – or being influenced directly by so easily. I see strategy and tactics, and we are seeing the shadow spaces acting with vigilante justice in the absence of unified government leadership and command engaged with and informing the public. The governments response to Wikileaks has been to build a wall around itself, leaving the people outside the wall to marvel at what takes place inside the wall, and there has been a remarkable lack of engagement towards either Wikileaks or the American people.
As outsiders, we the people find ourselves in the same trenches as those who are operating as a vigilante. To understand what the vigilante’s not named Senator Lieberman have been doing so far, this PC Magazine article discusses the shaping operation by a vigilante that ultimately set up Wikileaks for a major strategic defeat.
When WikiLeaks released another collection of secret U.S. government documents this weekend the site came under attack from a hacker styled th3j35t3r (the jester). In announcing the hit, th3j35t3r tweeted “TANGO DOWN – for attempting to endanger the lives of our troops, ‘other assets’ & foreign relations”. A now-deleted tweet clarified that the WikiLeaks hit was a simple denial of service attack. F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, Mikko Hypponen, had this to say about the attack.
“It was a weird case,” said Hypponen. “Everybody assumed it was some large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attack, but the guy himself says it’s not. It’s a protocol-based attack from a single source.” Hypponen explained that WikiLeaks recovered by changing its hosting providers. At the time of the attack they were hosted in France. Now they’re using two different servers hosted by Amazon’s cloud, one of which is physically in the United States.
Asked if this type of attack could take down any arbitrary site Hypponen said “We just don’t know. The guy isn’t giving any details. But over the past months he has been quite successful taking down pro-Jihad forums and such. When he claimed responsibility for WikiLeaks I believed him right away. He had both the know how and the motive.”
Based on my own research, it appears to me that th3j35t3r has a military background, probably a retired officer of a western nation between the age of 35-45. As he explains on his own blog, there was a strategy behind the tactics.
As you may know I normally target Jihadist sites, but recently turned my attentions to Wikileaks.
So what was I thinking?
Initially, hitting Wikileaks servers hosted by OWNI (France), PRQ (Sweden), and BAHNHOF with ease, had the desired outcome of ‘corralling’ the Wikileaks operation onto a US hosted platform that could resist XerXeS – Amazon EC2.
The WL perceived victory was short-lived as enough pressure was now building both politically and technically (by that I mean service providers were aware that WL was now a prime target and couldn’t risk their own operations by providing services to WL).
As predicted, providers to WL started dropping them – first EveryDNS, then Amazon, then Paypal and Mastercard soon followed. The service providers acted as a force-multiplier, leaving the Wikileaks name nowhere to go except rely on volunteer mirrors.
So the head of the snake is almost cut off. The Wikileaks name is something few people, as far as service providers, will deal with. Their supply chain is being cut off.
So, great they have 2000 voluntary mirrors! By the very nature of volunteers providing ‘mirrors’ causes WL to be highly unstable as they will be up and down and sporadic on a day-by-day basis.
I was sitting at my desk at work when Wikileaks.org moved to Amazon servers, and I remember distinctly the conversation that immediately followed among all of us IT nerds in the office. It was clear to all of us that if the US government was serious about Wikileaks being illegal, something would be done about US companies supporting Wikileaks. If all of us knew it the very second we learned that Wikileaks had been moved to a US server, I do not doubt that th3j35t3r knew it too.
The White Flag
In the vigilante justice demonstrated by th3j35t3r we see actions driving predictable reactions with an overall strategy driving tactics. th3j35t3r had no idea that Senator Lieberman would play the role of another vigilante in the unfolding drama, but I think every one watching understood that the US government wasn’t going to tolerate very long the idea that US companies would host Wikileaks.org while they were waging an information war against our government. While I am completely opposed to and very troubled by the actions of Senator Lieberman, I am not opposed to the result. It is both predictable and understandable if you believe there is an information war taking place between Wikileaks and the United States – in this case a form of information warfare that Wikileaks has acknowledged is taking place.
The approach th3j35t3r took to drive Wikileaks to the US demonstrated strategic success on the cyber battlefield. The result of the strategy has legitimately damaged the Wikileaks organization by undermining the organizations credibility with businesses like Paypal, Mastercard, and Visa – thus has seriously damaged the organizations fundraising capabilities. True, Wikileaks releasing classified cables while being hosted on US servers was certainly a self-defeating activity, but at the time the organization didn’t see it that way.
By the same theory though we must also ask ourselves whether Wikileaks has found similar strategic success with the 24th Air Force. If Wikileaks forces the 24th Air Force to reject information from 25 sources, including several of the top media sources in the world, we must legitimately ask whether the Wikileaks strategy to get major news sources on board with the release of the cables was the strategy that defeated the US Air Forces premier cyber command, because that action combined with a self-defeating reaction has led to the denial, or concession of, the cyber domain including the New York Times by the 24th Air Force.
To be completely honest, I believe Maj. Gen. Richard E. Webber surrendered and conceded cyberspace like the New York Times and other media outlets to Wikileaks, and I don’t think it is out of bounds at all to question the leadership of the 24th Air Force if during the first major information war – their first public action was to raise the white flag. At best, 24th Air Force has publicly demonstrated the DoD is a long way from understanding the strategies, tactics, and the battlefield involved when cyberspace is the medium for an information war campaign against the United States. At worst, the 24th Air Force has completely ignored or rejected all of the lessons learned over the last decade fighting an information war against the global jihad.
Either way, the DoD has not demonstrated the agility and flexibility necessary to give confidence in the ability of the United States to conduct information warfare in the cyber domain, because Wikileaks has forced our own lawyers to beat our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines over the head by forcing the DoD to conform to the regulations driven by Section 793 and Section 1924, Title 18, United States Code. How is it possible that the American people have seen vigilante’s in the shadows and vigilante behavior among our own political leadership do more to date to address Wikileaks than any organized government effort? Unfortunately, the right answer is lawfare.
The US government is demonstrating a crisis in political leadership with an obvious inability to adapt when confronted with a complex information war in the cyber domain. I’d suggest our nations adversaries are learning quite a few lessons, including how predictable US action, inaction, and overreaction appears to be when certain pressures are applied.
The Department of Defense emphasizes information superiority, or information dominance depending upon slogan, and expects to defeat adversaries by being the smartest military with the right information while capable of being agile and flexible to leverage the information space and achieve an advantage. With that said, in this case the 24th Air Force has allowed the tactics of an adversary to broadly deny the organization access to information of several of the most credible news organizations in the western world. Under such conditions I believe it is a fair statement to suggest the 24th Air Force has been defeated by Wikileaks in this modern information war – even if the method of defeat was a self-defeating policy or surrender to the regulations found in lawfare.
The English language version comes courtesy of Bill Gertz in Inside the Ring. It is worth reading in full, but this is how it begins.
U.S. intelligence agencies are working to track down an alarming report from inside North Korea revealing that the communist regime is secretly developing underwater nuclear torpedoes and mines.
According to a newsletter run by dissident North Koreans, the report states that North Korea’s government has a special group of researchers at the National Defense Technology Institute that is “developing underwater weapons using nuclear warheads.” The report was published Dec. 3 by the Korean-language newsletter NK Chisigan Yondae, or NK Intellectual Solidarity.
The U.S. Navy once had nuclear torpedoes and mines, as did the Soviet navy, and China’s military also has discussed the use of nuclear torpedoes in its military writings as recently as 2006.
The original report in Korean that is being discussed can be found here.
Keep in mind this is an unconfirmed report from a group of North Korean defectors. What seems to add some credibility to this new report is a “secret” Wikileaks cable dated September 26, 2008 when a Chinese diplomat told a US diplomat that North Korea failed to report “critical information about secret underwater nuclear facilities located on North Korea’s coast.”
The idea of nuclear sea mines is not a new idea, there are several Chinese articles that have discussed the nuclear sea mine capability over the last decade. In China’s Underseas Sentries, a Winter 07 Underwater Magazine article by Andrew Erickson, Ph.D., Lyle Goldstein, Ph.D., & William Murray, the Chinese discussion is mentioned:
Submarines have attracted particular attention as a deployment platform for rising mines. An article by Dalian Naval Academy researchers suggests significant PLAN interest in SLMMs. A researcher at Institute 705 advocates acquisition of an encapsulated torpedo mine, similar to the Cold War-era U.S. Captor mine, which could be laid in very deep waters to attack passing submarines. Mine belts—external conformal containers designed to carry and release large numbers of mines—can be fitted to submarines in order to bolster their otherwise limited payloads. One article emphasizes that the Soviet navy developed a “mine laying module capable of carrying 50 sea mines on either side of the submarine” and states, “For the past few years related PLA experts have expressed pronounced interest in submarine mine belts…. The PLA very probably has already developed submarine mine belts.” Another source notes, however, that “submarines built after World War II rarely carry mines externally.”
Disturbingly, there is some discussion of a theoretical nature in Chinese naval analyses concerning arming sea mines with tactical nuclear weapons. One such analysis, in the context of discussing Russian MIW, notes that nuclear sea mines could sink adversary nuclear submarines from a range of 2000 meters…. A second article finds that a nuclear payload is one logical method to increase the destructive power of sea mines, while a third analysis argues that nuclear MIW is especially promising for future deep-water ASW operations. It concludes: “At this time, various countries are actively researching this extremely powerful nuclear-armed sea mine.”43 An article in the July 2006 issue of Modern Navy (Dangdai Haijun), published by the PLA Navy itself, in the context of discussing potential future PLA Navy use of sea mines, also notes the potential combat value of nuclear-armed sea mines. While there is no direct evidence of the existence of such naval tactical nuclear weapons programs in China, these articles do perhaps suggest the need to closely monitor any Chinese efforts in this direction.
The specific citations for the nuclear mine discussion are below:
焦方金 [Jiao Fangjin], “双头鹰的水中伏兵” [The Double-Headed Eagle's Ambush at Sea], 国防科技 [Defense Science], July 2003, p. 91.
王 伟 [Wang Wei], “历久弥新话水雷” [Enduring and Yet Fully Relevant: A Discussion of Sea Mines], 国防 [National Defense], November 2002, p. 58.
陈冬元 [Chen Dongyuan], p. 45.
Is North Korea a signatory of the 1971 Seabed Treaty? I don’t think North Korea takes such things seriously, but use of a nuclear sea mine would be a clear violation.
In the focus of the Iranian nuclear program, I have discussed red lines that once crossed, means a military attack will likely come soon after. We have never really seen where a red line was crossed in regards to an Iranian nuclear program, but I am starting to wonder if someone in Seoul has decided North Korea has crossed that red line with the North Korean nuclear program. If so, it might help explain why the Obama administration seems to be committed to the new South Korean led strategy in dealing with North Korea, even if supporting that strategy takes the Korean Peninsula to the brink of war.