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The following study was neither directed nor supported by any government agency. The views presented herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the DoD or its Components. The study has been formatted for online publication. The document in its original form can be found in the references section.


Senate Bill 1376 Section 604 cuts Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) compensation by 25% for all cohabitating service members and cuts it entirely for the junior member of a dual-military marriage in most cases.

Section 604 is proposed as a cost-savings measure that targets unnecessary spending. An in-depth examination, however, reveals that its means are regressive, discriminatory, and costly.

The overwhelming majority of those affected by Section 604 are the service’s junior-most members, and those members are affected by a greater magnitude than seniors.

The bill discriminates against specific service member marital choices and penalizes female service members at a disproportionate rate.

Potential cost-savings depend exclusively upon a service member’s willingness to continue working despite a significant compensation cut. Any associated attrition reduces cost-savings, and attrition beyond a certain minimal threshold increases costs.

Section 604 is not in keeping with the military’s efforts to recruit and retain high quality people, and should it pass, the bill will negatively affect morale, recruitment, retention, and future budgets.


On June 18, 2015 the U.S. Senate passed S. 1376, its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for fiscal year 2016.[1] Section 604 attempts to decrease spending by imposing compensation reductions for cohabitating single service members and members in dual-military marriages.[2] The provision is not part of H.R. 1735, the House version of the NDAA, nor is it part of the Department of Defense Budget Request.[3],[4] Since the bill’s proposal, Section 604 has endured intense scrutiny and has been publicly opposed by President Obama and senior Defense Department leaders.[5] Nevertheless, the provision remains the subject of contentious and emotional debate amongst interested parties, in and out of uniform, and has become the impetus for broader conversations pertaining to military compensation and demographics.[6] A review of public comments, in favor of and in opposition to Section 604, reveals deep and broad misunderstandings of history, the law, and economics as they apply to these subjects.


To replace misinformation and conjecture with facts and realities, the following study defines relevant terms using source document lexicon, describes the evolution of military housing finance in response to changing family demographics from 1949 to 2015, challenges the assumptions inherent in S. 1376 Section 604, evaluates the bill’s effectiveness as a cost-savings measure, and describes it’s likely impact on service members and the overall force.


To properly evaluate any proposal involving military compensation and its components, one must understand the following terms as defined by U.S. law or Department of Defense policy.

Pay– The term “pay” includes basic pay, special pay, retainer pay, incentive pay, retired pay, and equivalent pay, but does not include allowances.[7]

Allowance– the term is not defined in Title 37, Chapter 1, “Definitions,” nor is it defined in Chapter 7 “Allowances other than Travel and Transportation,” Section 401, “Definitions”,” or anywhere else in U.S. Code Title 37 “Pay and Allowances of the Uniformed Services.” “Allowance” is, however, referenced in sections covering Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) and the tax-free attribute commonly associated with allowances is described in the latter, “Federal tax advantage accruing to the aforementioned allowances because they are not subject to Federal income tax.”[8]

Regular Military Compensation– The term “regular compensation” or “regular military compensation (RMC)” means “the total of the following elements that a member of a uniformed service accrues or receives, directly or indirectly, in cash or in kind every payday: basic pay, basic allowance for housing, basic allowance for subsistence; and Federal tax advantage accruing to the aforementioned allowances because they are not subject to Federal income tax.”[9]

Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH)– the term is not explicitly defined in Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 403 “Allowances other than Travel and Transportation,” of the U.S. Code, however, its construct is explained in detail:

(a) General Entitlement.-(1) Except as otherwise provided by law, a member of a uniformed service who is entitled to basic pay is entitled to a basic allowance for housing at the monthly rates prescribed under this section or another provision of law with regard to the applicable component of the basic allowance for housing. The amount of the basic allowance for housing for a member will vary according to the pay grade in which the member is assigned or distributed for basic pay purposes, the dependency status of the member, and the geographic location of the member.[10]

(The “except as otherwise provided by law” is presumably included to account for those situations where members are not entitled to BAH due to specific training requirements (e.g. USMC Basic School mandated barracks utilization,) a member’s non-drilling reserve status or in situations in which a member is assigned to a location where government housing is available.”

Dependent– Defined in Title 37 U.S.C. Section 401, a dependent is a spouse, an unmarried child under the age of 21 (or under the age of 23 if the child is a full-time student and dependent on the member for over one-half of financial support or if the child is incapacitated and dependent on the member for one-half of financial support), or a parent, if the parent is dependent on the member for over one-half of the parent’s financial support. A spouse, however, is considered a dependent regardless of employment status, income level or financial assets.

Dual-military Marriage- a marriage in which each spouse is serving as a member of the military. All references to “dual-military” henceforth refer to those couples in which each member is serving as part of the Active Component (AC), as this is the relevant group to consider when discussing BAH.


The Career Compensation Act of 1949 established “Basic Allowance for Quarters,” or “BAQ,” the predecessor to BAH, as a stipend paid to service members when government housing was unavailable.[11] At the time, a military family likely consisted of a male service member who had access to on-base housing and supported his female spouse and children. In the six and a half decades since, the American workforce, the American family, and the American military have undergone drastic changes, many of them due to equal rights movements. While often lagging, military compensation rates, policy initiatives, and family demographics have evolved along with those of America as a whole. The following timeline highlights significant shifts in each of the above, from 1949 to 2015.


  • Career Compensation Act of 1949 established the “basic allowance for quarters,” which provided service members an allowance for housing equivalent to 75% of what civilians in a similar income bracket could afford. The allowance was based on grade and dependent status, where a dependent was a female spouse and/or a child.[12]
  • Women made up less than 2% of the armed forces, as required by the Women Services Integration Act of 1948, which permitted women to serve in all branches of the military, but limited them to less than 2% of each branch.[13]
  • According to U.S. Census data, women accounted for 31% of the overall U.S labor force.[14]


  • Title 37 U.S.C. Section 401 was amended to remove the provision requiring a female service member to prove to the Federal Government, in order to qualify for the “with dependent” rate, that her spouse was dependent for more than one-half of his financial support.
  • This change effectively ended any form of “means testing” in order to qualify for the housing allowance overall, or for the “with dependent” rate.


  • The military draft ended, and the military transitioned to an all-volunteer force.
  • Women made up 2% of the enlisted ranks, and 4% of the officer corps.[15]


  • First co-ed class graduated from the United States Service Academies (1978 for USMMA).


  • Congress increased BAQ rates by 14.3% and increased basic pay rates by 10-15% in order to “restore, in current dollars, the relative relationship of military compensation to pay in the private sector that existed in 1972” when Congress adopted the “all-volunteer force.” [16]
  • All elements of RMC were raised to make compensation competitive with the civilian sector.


  • Title 37 U.S.C. Section 401 was amended to remove “he” and “his” pronouns from the definition of a military dependent. This change replaced phrases such as “his spouse” with the gender neutral phrase “the service member’s spouse.”


  • Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was enacted.


  • Legislation was passed that established the modern “basic allowance for housing,” which factored grade, dependent status and geographic location into its calculation to provide service members with an allowance equal to 85% of housing costs for a civilian in a similar income bracket.[17]


  • The National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2001 removed the formula that provided service members with BAH equal to 85% of housing costs, with the intention to have BAH cover 100% of the costs of what a civilian in a similar income bracket could afford. This formula did not account for any additional spousal income.[18]


  • Title 37 U.S.C. Section 403 was amended so that each member of a dual-military couple received BAH at the single rate, and if the couple had children, the senior member received BAH at the with dependent rate.


  • Median rental housing costs were covered 100% by BAH nationwide.[19]


  • Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed, allowing gay and lesbian service members to serve openly in the military.
  • Women made up 14% of the enlisted ranks and 16% of the officer corps.[20]
  • According to U.S. Census data, women accounted for 47% of the overall U.S. labor force.[21]


  • The Supreme Court declared DOMA unconstitutional. Immediately following, DoD afforded same-sex marriages the same benefits afforded to all other military marriages.


  • The DoD adjusted the BAH algorithm down by 1% and removed “renter’s insurance” as a variable. Spousal income remained a non-factor to the housing allowance algorithm.[22]


  • Supreme Court required all states to recognize same-sex marriages.

Contrary to 1949, today’s American military family may be supported by a matriarch, whose “stay-at-home” husband cares for the kids. It may consist of a male Sailor married to a female investment banker, or a female Soldier married to a female Airman. Each of these families may have children, and their children may have been adopted or carried by a surrogate. What defines a “typical” American family has changed along with the times. Therefore, BAH cannot be viewed through the same lens that was used over six decades ago.

EXISTING LAW (FY2003-2015)

Since 2003, the National Defense Authorization Act and other precipitating Department of Defense Documents have consistently defined two BAH categories:

  • BAH without dependents- allowance entitled by law to eligible service members in an amount calculated by the Defense Travel Management Office in accordance with regulations. The allowance applies to service members who cannot claim a dependent as defined in Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 101 of the U.S. Code. In all geographies and across all ranks, this is the lower of two distinctive amounts offered to service members based on their dependency status.
  • BAH with dependents- Same as above with the exception that this allowance applies to service members who CAN claim a dependent as defined in Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 101 of the U.S. Code.

These two categories apply differently to four potential lifestyle scenarios relevant to this study (dependency scenarios beyond those affected by S. 1376, Section 604 exist but are beyond the scope of this study, and therefore, not listed):

  • A service member living either alone or with a non-dependent civilian receives BAH at the without dependent rate.
  • A service member who marries a civilian or has a child (or other dependent) or both, receives BAH at the with dependent rate, regardless of the spouse’s employment status or income, and independent of the number of children (other dependents) in the household.
  • Two service members who cohabitate (married or unmarried) each receive BAH at the without dependent rate.
  • In the case where each member of a married couple serves in the military, and has a child or children, the senior member receives BAH at the with dependent rate and the junior member receives BAH at the without dependent rate.

S. 1376 SECTION 604

Senate Bill 1376 Section 604 amends Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 403 of the U.S. Code to reduce BAH for cohabitating military members eligible to receive the allowance “without dependents” to 75% of the prevailing rate and to eliminate BAH for the junior member of a cohabitating dual-military marriage residing within commuting distance to his/her workplace. The provision, if enacted, would take effect on October 1, 2015; however, reductions in compensation would not apply until a member received orders requiring a Permanent Change of Station (PCS).[23]

As reported by the media, the Senate aims to curb overall Federal spending on BAH under the assumption that military gender integration and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) have accelerated DoD personnel spending.[24] The Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) view, according to the press, is that BAH is not compensation and was never intended as such, therefore, it is subject to reduction at discriminatory and disproportionate rates.[25] The following section examines the validity of SASC assumptions, stated and implied, from an analytical, economical, and historical perspective.


BAH is not compensation and should not be viewed as such.

False. According to United States Code, Title 37, Chapter 1, Section 101, (25), BAH is part of Regular Military Compensation (RMC), a term that includes BAH by definition. The Defense department further articulates that RMC represents “a basic level of compensation which every service member receives, directly or indirectly, in-cash or in-kind, and which is common to all military personnel based on their pay grade, years of service, and family size.”[26]

Not only is BAH defined as compensation, it has been treated as such for decades. Since 1964, military pay raises have been distributed amongst each of the three components of RMC.[27] In 1980, and again in the early 1990s, Congress created new initiatives to keep RMC competitive with private sector compensation, acknowledging the need to do so to retain members serving in an ever more educated and technical all-volunteer force.[28] The House Armed Services Committee articulated its philosophy in 1991 when proposing a 4.1% increase in EACH component of RMC:

The committee remains committed to preserving a total military compensation package that will continue to attract and retain the high quality young men and women in the nation’s armed forces today. The committee is determined to maintain a competitive level of compensation in the future and to protect the quality of life for service members and their families.[29]

This well-known principle is used in military recruitment and retention materials, which routinely urge current and future service members to include the value of housing and other allowances when deciding whether or not to join or stay. An example from the Navy Web Page states:

When considering salary, be sure to take into account the value of housing and other allowances – plus outstanding Navy health-care benefits – which adds thousands of dollars to the value of your compensation.[30]

While the relationship between military and civilian compensation has fluctuated throughout the years, using all-components of RMC to compare the two has remained a constant.[31]

Finally, leaders at the highest levels, from those in the DoD to the Commander-in-Chief, recognize, “BAH is a part of every member’s regular military compensation . . .”[32]

BAH should only be used for housing.

False. The Defense Management Travel Office (DTMO), the Federal agency responsible for determining BAH rates in accordance with U.S. Code and for publishing their analysis via an annual “BAH Primer” states:

The Department of Defense and the Services designed the Basic Allowance for Housing program to provide accurate housing allowances based on the market price of rental housing rather than member‐reported rents. . .

The BAH program measures rental‐housing costs in the civilian market rather than measuring how much members spend on housing. This method ensures a more accurate correlation between allowance payments and rental prices. . . A member’s actual expenses may be higher or lower based on a member’s actual choice of housing and where they live. . .

The opportunity for service members to choose their off-base housing is important to DoD. Each member has the freedom to decide how to allocate his or her income (including housing allowance) without a penalty for deciding to conserve some dollars on rent to pay other expenses.[33]

Section 604 includes a “grandfather” clause.

True and False. The original proposal did not include any provision to delay compensation cuts beyond October 1, 2015. Such a delay would allow affected military members to prepare their finances. An amendment sponsored by Montana Senator, Steve Daines, added language that enforces the BAH reduction for affected members when one cohabitating member receives Permanent Change of Station orders outside the normal commuting distance of his/her current station.[34] In some sense, then, the provision is “grandfathered.” Practically, however, any military member is no more than 36 months away from his/her next PCS. Therefore, it is reasonable to presume that a large number of affected members will see pay cuts in the immediate or near future, if the bill is passed.

As a point of comparison, the President, Congress and the Department of Defense have repeatedly supported a “grandfathering” approach to military retirement compensation reform.[35] Their commitment is based on “keeping faith with military members” recruited and retained on a particular expectation of retirement compensation. Yet, despite the fact that the same representatives have collectively voted in favor of (or supported in DoD’s case) current BAH laws 13 times since 2003, and military members have been recruited and retained based on a particular expectation of BAH compensation, the same commitment to keeping faith seemingly does not apply here.

BAH provides excessive and unearned income to dual-military marriages.

False. Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 403, (2) of the U.S. Code states, “The Secretary shall base the (BAH rate) determination upon the costs of adequate housing for civilians with comparable income levels in the same area.”[36] Logically, a civilian household in which each spouse is employed produces twice as much income as a civilian household in which only one spouse is employed, assuming all are similarly qualified. Since military BAH rates are differentiated by pay grade, and since fraternization policies prohibit members to marry well outside their pay grade, it is reasonable to use similarly qualified civilian dual-income households to determine “comparable income levels” for dual-military couples. In other words, a comparable income level for two O-3s should be a local household comprised of two working adults who each have bachelor’s degrees and 4-9 years of professional experience.

It is also logical that a senior military couple, like any other dual-employed and similarly qualified civilian couple, would earn what some may consider a high standard of living. Consider that an O-6 is guaranteed to hold a bachelor’s degree and have approximately 22 years of professional experience, and he/she is highly likely to hold a master’s degree and have held at least one, if not two, “C-suite” equivalent jobs.[37] Imposing a marriage penalty on that individual based on a value judgment that his/her standard of living is too high, in the rare case he/she is married to another O-6, creates a precedent unlike any other in the U.S. professional workforce.

Such a provision sends a message to the military that legislative leaders accept the standard of living of a business executive married to a lawyer, a GS-15 married to a GS-15, and a Congressman married to a Congressman, or any combination thereof; and that they equally accept the standard of living of a service member who marries any of the aforementioned. Yet, ONLY in the case in which a service member is married to another service member does that standard of living become unacceptable.


Possible combinations of married couples civilian, GS, and military

Marriage Penalty Comparison


This concept applies to E-6s just as much as it does to O-6s. In fact, discussing two O-6s married to one another in reference to Section 604 is as statistically irrelevant as mentioning two Congressmen married to one another, a point which will be explained later in detail.

Dual-military marriages have risen to 11.5%.

 True and False. Stars and Stripes reports that the number of members in dual-military marriages has increased in recent years and now represents 11.5% of the force.[38] While the percentage is accurate for the Total Force (TF), using TF data in reference to S. 1376 Section 604 is misleading and irrelevant. The TF consists of both the Active Component (AC) and Reserve Component (RC). Due to the “reserve” nature of the RC, these members rarely draw BAH. Furthermore, to be subject to S. 1376 Section 604, both members of a dual-military RC marriage would have to be simultaneously activated, an equally unlikely scenario. Finally, while RC dual-military marriages have increased in the past 13 years, from 1.9 to 2.6% of the RC, a negligible portion of a 0.7% increase over more than a decade can hardly be responsible for increased Federal spending. The appropriate demographic to consider is the AC.

In recent decades, dual-military marriages have increased in both numbers and as a percentage of the AC force.

 False. On an annual basis, the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy), under contract with ICF International, produces a comprehensive and near all-inclusive report on military demographics. The most recent data covers the period 1995-2013. Unless otherwise explicitly stated or noted, all discussions contained herein reference this report entitled, “2013 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community.” Figure 2 was derived from that source and applies to the active component force, the only demographic that receives BAH on a routine basis.


Number and Percentage of Active Component Members by Family Status Trends: 1995-2013 

Percentage by family trends

False. Since the repeal of DADT in 2011, the number of dual-military couples has decreased in both numbers and as a percentage of the active duty force over successive years for which we have data: 6.5% in 2011 (91,916), 6.4% in 2012 (87,993), and 6.4% in 2013 (87,211).Since the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) dual-military marriages have increased in both numbers and as a percentage of the AC force.

Dual-military marriages cost the federal government more in BAH than other demographics. For example, two married O-6s living in Washington, DC receive an excessive amount of tax-free housing allowance a year.

False. Under existing law, service members who choose to marry another service member, rather than a civilian, suffer a “military marriage penalty” that equates to a “federal cost savings.” Consider the following scenarios, referencing Figure 3: 


2015 Federal BAH Spending on Married O-6 Service Members in the NCR[40]


Married O6 BAH

Suppose the DoD must fill two O-6 billets to meet end strength requirements in the National Capitol Region (NCR). If those O-6s do not have dependents, the Federal government is required to compensate each of them with BAH at the without dependent rate. Similarly, if those same O-6s marry one another, the Federal government is still only required to compensate each of them with BAH at the without dependent rate. Therefore, their dual-military status has no impact on Federal BAH spending.

However, if those same O-6s marry civilian spouses, which ~80% of AC O-6s do, the Federal government twice incurs an additional BAH cost in that it is then required to compensate each of them with BAH at the with dependent rate.

If the dual-military O-6s have children, the Federal savings is slightly lesser due to the fact that the senior member would switch from without to with dependent BAH. Nevertheless, in every possible combination the dual-military marriage consumes fewer overall dollars of BAH spending, making such marriages the most cost-effective BAH scenario to the Federal Government.

It is critically important to note that, while the concepts based on O-6 BAH rates in the National Capital Region are accurate and universally applicable, these numbers should not be used as talking points in favor of, or in opposition to, the proposed legislation because they do not represent the demographic affected by S. 1376 Section 604 on two accounts:

  • The NCR is but 1 of 300 Military Housing Areas (MHA) used to calculate BAH rates and it encompasses the nation’s most expensive place to live.[41]
  • The number of O-6 and above active duty dual-military couples is in the hundreds, while the number of active duty dual-military couples O-3 and below is in the tens of thousands, or more precisely, 93%.[42]

Therefore, using these numbers as talking points in favor of Section 604 is as much a misrepresentation of reality as using numbers for E-1s living in the cheapest MHA as a talking point in opposition to the legislation.

An effective and truthful analysis, one that this study will use from this point forward, considers the demographic most representative of the one targeted by the Bill: E-5 to E-6. In terms of pay grade, service members E-5 to E-6 comprise the largest portion of the affected personnel at 39.2%.[43] The following figure considers possible combinations for E-5s:


Federal BAH Spending on E-5 Married Service Members Based on the Median National Rate[44]



Figure 4 not only provides the most appropriate set of data on which to base broader discussions, when compared to Figure two, it confirms that dual-military couples reduce Federal BAH spending regardless of rank.

BAH, however, represents only the beginning of cost savings generated by dual-military marriages. Adding health care to the equation exponentially increases the dollar return on a dual-military family. Each year the DoD pays health care costs for ~1,370,329 AC members and their ~1,878,092 dependents. In other words, family members will consume more of the $47.8 billion requested for the FY16 Unified Medical Budget than those actually serving in uniform.[45]

Every time a military member chooses to marry another military member as opposed to marrying a civilian, the DoD has at least two fewer dependents to consider when budgeting for health care and BAH. The following illustrations use annual BAH and health care expenditures on dual-military and military-to-civilian families to demonstrate this concept:


Dependents and costs generated by dual-military and civilian-to-military families


*A weighted average probability of family demographics is used to estimate military-to-civilian hiring costs. It considers the hiring likelihood of singles, members married to civilians, and members married to civilians with 1 child (additional dependent). Each additional civilian dependent creates a health care cost (HC) beyond that of the service member.

 *A weighted average probability of family demographics is used to estimate military-to-civilian hiring costs. It considers the hiring likelihood of singles, members married to civilians, and members married to civilians with 1 child (additional dependent). Each additional civilian dependent creates a health care cost (HC) beyond that of the service member.

While the diagram above only considers BAH and health care, the dependent reduction effect of dual-military marriages provides even more cost-savings to the Federal government. There are too many dependent entitlements to quantify in this report, but they include: V.A. Benefits, Spouse Employment Assistance Program, etc.

Having demonstrated the value to the Federal government when a dual-military marriage is created, it is equally important to mention the value that is lost when such a couple is dis-incentivized from continued service, as would be the case if S. 1376 Section 604 becomes law. Uniquely, when one of the members of a dual-military couple resigns, not only does that person require a replacement, but they also become a dependent (assuming their spouse remains in the AC). Therefore, it is more costly to lose a member of a dual-military marriage than one that is married to a civilian.

Ultimately, overall spending on military personnel decreases as the number of dependents decreases. Considering U.S. family demographics (including a couple’s likelihood to have children, biological or otherwise), the most cost effective couple for the Department of Defense is one that is same-sex dual-military, followed by heterosexual dual-military, and finally heterosexual military-to-civilian.[46]


Reduced “on-base” housing supply accompanied by steady demand.

Despite late 1990s force drawdowns and those in recent years, as well as force build-ups due to the Operations ENDURING and IRAQI FREEDOM, active duty military DoD end strength has remained relatively constant over the past 20 years. (Mean end-strength – ~3.37 million, median end-strength- ~3.3 million, range ~3.2-3.7)[47]

At the same time, the number of on-base housing units steadily decreased due to Base Realignment and Closure Commission rounds. The 1995 round proposed to close 32 major U.S. military bases. Ultimately, 35 bases were either closed or realigned.[48]

The 2005 round proposed to close 22 major U.S. military bases and to realign 33 others. Closures and realignments resulting from 2005 proposals are ongoing.[49]

Decreasing government housing availability due to decreasing numbers of military bases and private-public venture efforts, accompanied by steady end strength, has required more members to seek housing off base. As more members have become eligible for BAH compensation, total spending on BAH has increased in kind.

An upwardly biased algorithm.

The algorithm used to calculate BAH allows increases in-kind with increases in aggregate rents, however, due to rate protection, a one-way valve that “locks-in” a floor during a member’s lease term, BAH does not decrease at the same rate as aggregate rents.

Congressional efforts to trend military compensation rates towards those of the private sector in a nascent all-volunteer force that increasingly required higher education and technical skills.

For two decades, Congress passed legislation to close the gap between military and private sector compensation using each element of RMC (basic pay, BAS, and BAH). BAH increased at accelerated rates between 2001 and 2005, due to Secretary Cohen’s goal to cover 100% of housing costs.[50] The “allowance” attributes of BAH were particularly attractive to Congress when determining which part of RMC to increase due to their tax-free nature. Increases in BAH had a multiplier effect over increases in basic pay. This allowed Congress to keep the total compensation number low while increasing effective compensation substantially, thereby reducing annual budgets and retirement obligations. Importantly, all compensation increases were applied universally, benefiting every service member regardless of their dependent or marital status. By 2011, the Quadrennial Military Compensation Review assessed military compensation to be closely aligned with that of the private sector.[51]



The Commandant of the Marine Corps does not live with the Chief of Naval Operations, nor does the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force live with the Sergeant Major of the Army. An extreme example, no doubt, but demonstrative of the fact that, due to compensation and lifestyle choices associated with service members O-4 and above and E-7 and above, this demographic is not likely to cohabitate, married or not.

It is probable, however, that officers and enlisted, pay grades O-1 to O-3 and E-1 to E-6 have cohabitated, are cohabitating, or will cohabitate.[52] Therefore, while all service members enjoyed BAH increases outlined in the section above, only the junior most members will suffer the overwhelming majority of the 25% and 100% BAH cuts under S. 1376 Section 604.

The regressive impact is compounded by the fact that BAH is a greater portion of overall compensation for junior service members than it is for senior members. For example, BAH is 31% of Regular military Compensation for an E-5 and just 10.3% for an O-10.


Not only does Section 604 discriminate against the military’s junior-most members as described above, it inequitably targets dual-military members as a whole (who only represent 6.4% of the active duty force), and has a particularly disparate effect on women. If 604 were to take effect, two cohabitating E-5s would each see a 25% cut in BAH. However, if those two E-5s married one another, the junior of the two would lose 100% of BAH. Because women only comprise ~14.9% of the force, but still account for ~50% of service members in dual-military marriages, they are 650% more likely than men to be affected by Section 604.[53]

Also consider that, in American heterosexual marriages, a male is more likely to be older than his female spouse. Since military rank structure is largely defined by tenure, and since the overwhelming majority of senior officers and enlisted are male, it is highly likely that the woman is the junior member of a dual-military couple.[54] Therefore, women are not only more likely than men to be indirectly effected, but they are more likely to be directly affected. In either case, the discriminatory nature of the proposal creates an incentive for women to resign from service.

Section 604 further discriminates by targeting but protecting an arbitrary benefit provided to a “policy-preferred” demographic. Since the current system is based on the previously described 1949 paradigm, in which a civilian spouse is assumed to be dependent on the service member, it favors the 1949 family model over other married models and over singles. For example, a single E-5 who performs the same duties as an E-5 who is married to a teacher or a lawyer gets paid less simply for being single. This attribute is preserved by Section 604.

Additionally, 25% of civilian spouses are employed AND do not have children.[55] In these cases, the service member still receives a dependent benefit despite having no true financial dependent. Dependency considerations also neglect scenarios in which a civilian spouse earns higher compensation than the service member. Here too, the service member receives a dependent benefit despite having no true financial dependent. If Section 604 becomes law, an O-5 in the NCR who marries a hedge fund manager will receive an annual pay raise of $5,472 while an O-5 who marries an O-6 will be penalized with a $31,464 annual pay cut.[56]


Any proposed cost-savings or compensation initiatives must consider incentives in their calculus. Under the provision that reduces cohabitation BAH by 25%, members are less likely to cohabitate with other members and more likely to get civilian roommates or live alone. Therefore, what sounds like a cost-savings measure, may not produce the desired effect.

In the case of the dual-military couple, in order to achieve any cost savings by eliminating BAH from the junior member’s compensation, that member has to commit to work equally for unequal pay (e.g. a 31% reduction in compensation for an E-5). If that member resigns, S. 1376 Section 604 can no longer exploit her for cost savings. A measure that attempts to decrease spending by retaining a specific demographic, then applies, as its primary cost-savings mechanism, an incentive for that same demographic to resign, is sure to fail.

For example, Congress could propose a law that eliminated basic pay from the compensation package of Naval Aviators or Army Rangers. If all Naval Aviators and Army Rangers continued to serve despite a draconian pay cut, spending would certainly decrease. However, it is reasonable to assume that the Joint Force would lose a large number of Naval Aviators and Army Rangers as a result of the new policy and be left with a hollow force and a recruiting problem.

However, Naval Aviators and Army Rangers are not the most cost-effective demographic. That attribute belongs to dual-military marriages. Therefore, Section 604, targets the most cost-effective group and provides it with the following choice: accept unequal pay for equal work, get a divorce, or resign. If 45,000 signatures on a White House petition are any indication of which choice dual-military couples will make, the likelihood of resignation being a popular choice is high.[57]

And when a dual-military spouse resigns, the number of dependents on the Department of Defense, and the accompanying costs, increases at a much higher rate than any other demographic. The effect is so drastic that if the percentage of dual-military couples drops from 6.4% the AC force to 4.6%, Section 604 becomes cost neutral. At 4.5%, Section 604 begins to cost the Department of Defense $2.6 million for every .1% drop. Since attrition is dynamic and includes both those who resign and others who are dis-incentivized to join, this measure creates an unpredictable and precarious position for the Department.

Importantly, to preserve the integrity of this study, all data used considers extremes that make Section 604 most effective. According to CBO reports, however, first-year “cost-savings” only amount to $3.4 million vice the $8.8 million used in the calculations above. When considering CBO data, dual-military marriages as a percentage of the total force would only have to fall .064% to ~5.7% to negate any potential cost-savings.[58] Attrition, static or dynamic, is NOT considered in the CBO report. The report rather assumes that 100% of affected service members will martyr themselves to Section 604.

Finally, Section 604 does not consider divorce. Divorce rates in the military are high and even higher for those in dual-military marriages.[59] If the marriage penalty in Section 604 becomes law, then a junior service member choosing to separate from her/his spouse would be beholden to the senior member for housing. Under state law in both Virginia and California, states with a large number of active component military members, there is a minimum waiting period of 6 months for a divorce to become finalized.[60] In some cases, divorce proceedings can take years. This added challenge is sure to lower the mission readiness of the junior service member, especially when the separation is caused by situations such as domestic violence or adultery.


Senate Bill 1376 Section 604 is a case in which the narrative is driving the facts rather than the facts driving the narrative. The provision is based on false assumptions; it is regressive, it is discriminatory, and it exacerbates the problem it intends to curb while introducing new problems. Furthermore, it contradicts Secretary of Defense Carter’s vision of the “Force of the Future” and undermines the continued gender integration efforts of leaders like Navy Secretary, Ray Mabus, who champion equal opportunity for all Americans to serve. An alternative and necessary solution, one that is effective, intelligent, and just, must utilize data-driven economics, target the source of increased spending, provide guaranteed and predictable savings, and institute a universally applicable correction.

Original Document

[1] S. 1376.

[2] Ibid.

[3] H.R. 1735.

[4] United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request

[5] Statement of Administration Policy, S. 1376, Executive Office of the President (June 2, 2015).

[6] Erik Slavin. “BAH Change for Dual-Military Couples Could Cause Troubles.” Stars and Stripes, 22 June 2015: Web.

[7] United States Code, Title 37, Chapter 1, Section 101, (21).

[8] United States Code, Title 37, Chapter 1.

[9] United States Code, Title 37, Chapter 1, Section 101, (25).

[10] United States Code, Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 403.

[11] “Basic Allowance for Housing.” Military Compensation Background Papers: Compensation Elements and Related Manpower Cost Items: Their Purposes and Legislative Backgrounds. Seventh ed. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2011. 167-204. Print.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 06 July 2015.

[14] We Asked– You Told Us. Washington, D.C. : U.S. Dept. of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, Bureau of the Census, 1995. Web. 06 July 2015.

[15] “Women in the U.S. Military: Growing Share, Distinctive Profile.” Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 06 July 2015.

[16] “Basic Allowance for Housing.” Military Compensation Background Papers: Compensation Elements and Related Manpower Cost Items: Their Purposes and Legislative Backgrounds. Seventh ed. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2011. 167-204. Print.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] “Women in the U.S. Military: Growing Share, Distinctive Profile.” Pew Research Centers Social Demographic Trends Project RSS. N.p., 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 06 July 2015.

[21] Statistics, U.S. Bureau Of Labor. “Women in the Labor Force: A Databook.” Web. 06 July 2015.

[22] A Primer on the Basic Allowance for Housing. Defense Travel Management Office, Jan. 2015. Web. 07 July 2015.

[23] S. 1376, Section 604.

[24] Erik Slavin. “BAH Change for Dual-Military Couples Could Cause Troubles.” Stars and Stripes, 22 June 2015: Web.

[25] Ibid.

[26] “Military Compensation.” Regular (RMC) Calculator. Web. 08 July 2015.

[27] “Basic Allowance for Housing.” Military Compensation Background Papers: Compensation Elements and Related Manpower Cost Items: Their Purposes and Legislative Backgrounds. Seventh ed. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2011. 167-204. Web.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Ibid.

[30] “Military Pay.” Military Pay Chart & US Navy Pay Grades : Navy Recruiting Command, Web. 09 July 2015.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Statement of Administration Policy, S. 1376, Executive Office of the President (June 2, 2015).

[33] A Primer on the Basic Allowance for Housing. Defense Travel Management Office, Jan. 2015. Web. 07 July 2015.

[34] S.Amdt.1890 – 114th Congress (2015-2016)

[35] Report of the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, January 2015.

[36] U.S.C. Title 37, Chapter 7, Section 403, (2)

[37] FY16 Active Duty Line/Staff Community Briefs,

[38] Erik Slavin. “BAH Change for Dual-Military Couples Could Cause Troubles.” Stars and Stripes, 22 June 2015: Web.

[39] Ibid.

[40] BAH Calculator. Defense Travel Management Office, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 08 July 2015.

[41] “District of Columbia the Nation’s Most Expensive Place to Live.” Real Time Economics RSS. Web. 08 July 2015.

[42] 2013 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy).

[43] Ibid.

[44] 2015 National Mean BAH Spreadsheet, Defense Management Travel Office.

[45] United States Department of Defense Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Request

[46] Gates, Gary J. “Same-sex and Different-sex Couples in the American Community Survey: 2005-2011.” The Williams Institute, Feb. 2013. Web.

[47] 2013 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy).

[48] Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Report to the President, July 1995.

[49] Base Closure and Realignment Report, Volume 1, Part 2, May 2005.

[50] “Basic Allowance for Housing.” Military Compensation Background Papers: Compensation Elements and Related Manpower Cost Items: Their Purposes and Legislative Backgrounds. Seventh ed. Washington, D.C.: Dept. of Defense, Office of the Secretary of Defense, 2011. 167-204. Web.

[51] 2016 Department of Defense Budget Request

[52] U S Census Bureau, Household and Families (2010)

[53] 2013 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy).

[54] U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, 2009

[55] 2013 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community. Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy).

[56] BAH Calculator. Defense Travel Management Office, 22 Dec. 2014. Web. 08 July 2015.

[57] Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate for S. 1376

[58] Ibid.

[59] Negrusa, Sebastian, Brighita Negrusa, and James Hosek. “Gone to War: Have Deployments Increased Divorces?” J Popul Econ 27.2 (2013): 473-96. Web.

[60] Va. Code § 20-91, 750 Ill. Comp. Stat. 5 § 401

This past week, Navy leaders called for sailors, civilians, and researchers to commit themselves to emphasizing and adopting robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to solve warfighting challenges. In a memo to service chiefs, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus called for the DON to consider “how to adapt recent private sector advances in fields such as machine learning, natural language processing, ontological engineering, and automated planning for naval applications.”

Why do commercially developed AI and robotics offer such promise to the sea service? Are these advances decades away? And how can sailors in the fleet help drive the change Secretary Mabus is calling for? Let’s examine these questions further.

The Virtuous Technological Cycle: Faster and Cheaper Computing


Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks – Source Link)

Pop culture is familiar with the concept of Moore’s Law of Integrated Circuits. Simply put, this maxim states that computing power has tended to double every 18 months for the last several decades. This leads to steady advances processing power and resulting technical advances.

But Moore’s Law is not the end of the story. As speed and computing power have increased, the cost of these capabilities has decreased rapidly. Consider the cost required to execute a gigaflop, a standard measure of computing power. In 1984, it cost $42,780,000 in hardware to complete this task. By the year 2000, this figure had dropped to $1,300. Today, it costs less than eight cents in hardware to complete this task.

These factors create a virtuous cycle. More advances in power lead to more applications where a technology might be adapted. More applications lead to more demand, which in turn lead to larger numbers of chips being manufactured. More investments in manufacturing lead to more investment in research and therefore quicker development. The cycle feeds on itself.

As computing power becomes faster and cheaper, it allows scientists to harness machines to complete new and more challenging tasks. Artificial intelligence programs can sift through massive repositories of data to learn patterns they can then recognize. Software can be programmed to observe situations and “learn,” just as a human does from experience.

Consider the Berkeley Robot for the Elimination of Tedious Tasks, or BRETT, under development at UC Berkley. BRETT is programmed to utilize “deep learning” techniques to observe a problem, orient itself, and solve the issue. While it takes several hours to solve a simple task, with increases in computing power, its speed will grow. Just as a child’s simple brain grows into an elegant masterpiece, so too will such machine learning technology develop rapidly as computing power continues to race forward.

Adopting Rapid Technological Solutions: How to Outfit a Truck

In an article in Proceedings in 2012, CNO Jonathan Greenert wrote about budgetary and acquisitions challenges. Due to lengthy development of new platforms, Adm. Greenert suggested that rather than buying “luxury cars” with numerous built in features, the Navy ought to buy “trucks” that can carry modular payloads. Such open architecture systems can easily and rapidly adopt new sensors, weapons, and technology at relatively low cost.

This flexibility combined with rapidly advancing computing technologies makes the near future very bright. While DoD has been and remains at the forefront of research and development, there are many commercial entities building robots and AI products that have dual military uses. Tools like autonomous robots, facial recognition databases, and speech recognition and translation software have all been developed in the civilian sector and offer great promise in military applications. The speed of commercial innovation is regulated by market forces and Moore’s Law. The speed of our acquisitions system is regulated by a bloated process developed by legislators and implemented by managers with a vested interest in its perpetuation. Which system do you think is faster?

By adopting commercial technology in open architecture systems, the pace of adopting new capabilities can accelerate. Enhancements to ensure information assurance and security will be required. Acquisitions processes will have to be respected as well. But this will minimize costs as well as cut down on the multi-year interval between requirements for a weapons system being frozen, and initial operating capability milestones. Open architecture systems in the aviation, submarine, and surface forces that will enable these capabilities to quickly “plug and play,” with upgrades coming in months rather than years. This will bring new capabilities to match the pace of technological advances as closely as possible.

Imagining the (Not so Distant) Future

How realistic, though, is the introduction of machine learning and advanced artificial intelligence into military service? Certainly, the Navy has adopted systems like the X-47 Unmanned Combat Air System. But are these other technologies more pipedream than reality? Let’s conduct a thought experiment.

While writing, I imagined flying a mission in the near future in my most recent fleet aircraft, the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft. Such a jet would have an AI system that could analyze the ocean environment, predict the actions of a threat submarine, and recommend to its operators where to search. Acoustic operators using SSQ-125 multistatic sensors would be assisted by an AI system that used machine learning techniques to analyze reflections from underwater targets and provide its judgment whether the return was a submarine or a shipwreck. The aircraft would be equipped with an autonomous communications intelligence (COMINT) recording and translating system. This system would automatically record, translate, and transcribe chatter it received.

Sound like science fiction? If it does, the reader may be surprised to know that all these technologies either already exist in various forms, or are very close to reaching fruition. For over a decade, the MH-60R helicopter has boasted an advanced decision aid called the Acoustic Mission Planner (AMP).[7] By analyzing the ocean, AMP can provide a crew with recommendations on where to employ sensors and search. Updated in real time, its algorithm provides a changing search plan as the hunt unfolds. Similar tools for fixed wing aircraft are being developed.

To detect quiet diesel submarines, the navy has turned to high-powered active sonars. These systems, in theory, are subject to high false alarm rates, and require operators to decipher the returns. The Naval Research Laboratory is developing machine learning software that observes how humans classify returns, and then mimics that behavior. Such “human mimetic” behavior can augment the performance of a less-experienced human operator or speed up classification by a seasoned aviator.

While automatic translation seems to be the realm of Star Trek, such technologies are becoming increasingly common, to the point where they are freely available through services such as Google Translate. Earlier this year, DARPA announced that speech identification and translation software could be available to intelligence analysts and combat troops as early as 2017. Such automated tech could remove the need to carry a linguist onboard, while providing the P-8 a new intelligence gathering capability with no additional manning.

Challenging the Warfighter

Adopting robots and AI systems will not just require warfighters and support personnel to consider how new technology can be employed. It will also require that we consider our relationship with these tools. Far from fearing this technology as a threat to us, or our eventual replacement, we should acknowledge that our role will shift and embrace that reality.

While machines increasingly take on monotonous or computationally intense tasks, we will take on the role of supervisor and analyst. For example, airline pilots frequently discuss their role as one of a “systems manager,” allowing the autopilot to conduct much of the physical task of flying while they observe system performance and make decisions regarding malfunctions, weather, and optimizing their route.

Joining the Conversation

New technologies and warfighting challenges will require solutions from all corners of the fleet. The Navy’s Office of Strategy and Innovation has recently launched a crowd-sourced website known as the Innovation Hatch. In the next month, leaders are challenging sailors fleet-wide to offer their ideas and thoughts on how advances in AI can solve problems they see every day on the deckplates.

The Naval Warfare Development Center has also recently launched a crowd-sourced website known as Navy Brightwork to harvest ideas from the fleet. Brightwork is more focused on warfighting applications and as such has both NIPRnet and SIPRnet portals.

It’s an exciting time both in the Navy as well as society at large as we watch technology grow and change around us. Tools that were rare just years ago are ubiquitous and cheap today. As advances in computing race forward, let us hope that sailors adopt the technology around us to seize the intellectual high ground and win the conflicts of tomorrow.

Posted by admin in Cyber, Innovation, Navy | 1 Comment

As a Junior Officer, it was very enjoyable to drive for an Underway Replenishment (UNREP) – with the sole exception, that is, of trying to make sense of the Radian Rule. I have strong memories of my attempts to internalize the relationship between the bearings and ranges. There always seemed to be one, but I never quite made it to a coherent understanding until much later in sea duty years. As an XO and CO recently, I finally had a more mature understanding of this important ship driving principle as well as numerous opportunities to train and coach Midshipmen and Junior Officers during UNREP events. In this article, I’d like to share a few approaches that take advantage of a more nuanced understanding of this well-known guidance.

The Radian Rule Equation and Its Uses

The rule of thumb that’s encoded in every table of Radian Rule values is laid out below. There are several ways to capitalize on this understanding as the team is either preparing for or executing an UNREP approach. I’ll start with a couple of the more common ones and then introduce three favored approaches to the problem. As a baseline assumption, the goal distance I’ll use for alongside separation is 180 ft. I think you’ll see soon, however, that they work equally well for any alongside separation distance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.01 PM

Common Techniques

Technique #1: Make a List

 Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.34.24 PMFrom a new Conning Officer’s point of view, this was a fairly common approach to the problem of understanding and using the Radian Rule. Many Junior Officers arrived for both the brief and the evolution with a list of bearings and ranges that would indicate the ship was on track for the desired separation. Such a list might look like this:

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.34.15 PM

This technique works well if the team is able to verify bearing to the oiler at each of the yardage milestones on the list, since a single data point is seldom as valuable as a series of consecutive observations. This method is less useful if the range for a given observation isn’t one of the milestones, or if the team misses a milestone.

Technique #2: Use a Radian Rule Table to Determine Separation Distance

This technique is by far the most common, and involves a third party (typically a Quartermaster) looking up each bearing and range combination in a table similar to the excerpt shown below. While it ensures that each data point is useful in determining the overall trend of the ship’s relative motion with respect to the oiler, this method – in my opinion – doesn’t help substantially to develop the Conning Officer’s understanding of that motion. Stated differently, the difference between a good and a great Conning Officer is the ability to add his/her own evaluation of a situation to the input they get from the rest of the bridge team. I believe there are more effective ways (discussed further below) to build this capability in our Junior Officers.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.34.53 PM

A Note on Advanced Techniques

Techniques #3 – #5 have one prominent feature in common – they all depend on mental math. While this may present a challenge, there are several advantages to these methods. First, mental math promotes independent judgment by the Conning Officer and/or coach for each observation throughout the approach evolution. Second, the mental math in these methods requires that the Conning Officer and/or coach build a mental model of the relative motion and internalize the relationships among bearing, range, and lateral separation. Third, from the Conning Officer’s point of view, these techniques offer a different way to learn the evolution and may appeal more intuitively to certain Officers. Finally, from the coach’s point of view, these techniques offer yet another mental tool for dispassionately evaluating the sight picture and ensuring the bridge team is appropriately focused on providing good inputs to the Conning Officer.

With these points in mind, I’ll introduce three non-traditional techniques. Each of these relies on the Conning Officer’s and coach’s ability to mentally exploit various forms of the baseline Radian Rule equation.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.01 PM

Advanced Techniques

Technique #3: “The Rule of 3600”

This technique works well in concert with either Approach #1 or #2 above. Since the separation distance for which we’re aiming is a constant (180 ft in this case), the right side of the equation becomes a constant:

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.25 PM

Click to view full size image

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.54.34 PM

Simplifying the Radian Rule equation, then, we get the following:

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.54.42 PM

For any combination of bearing and range, we can multiply them and compare them to 3600. If the product is less than 3600, the ship is approaching the oiler at something less than 180 ft of separation. If the product is greater than 3600, the ship will approach the oiler wide of 180 ft separation. A few examples below illustrate this principle.


Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.54.50 PM

While it’s an imperfect measure, this technique allows the Conning Officer to corroborate his or her visual judgment with a quick check of the math, and then to combine those judgments with either of the first two approaches to refine the solution. This technique is very flexible with respect to desired separation distance, as well. If the goal is 200 ft, for instance, then the constant becomes 4000. Finally, this technique provides a good gateway to the next two approaches.

Technique #4: “Where Should You Be Right Now”

With range as an input, the Conning Officer works out the bearing he or she expects to see and then compares that prediction to reality (measured bearing separation). Direction and magnitude of any required course corrections follow relatively easily. The baseline equation, solved for bearing, follows.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.38 PM

This technique is a modification of technique #1, and it has two principal benefits. First, it helps the Conning Officer avoid the persistent need to divert attention from the approach to consult a list of bearings and ranges. Second, it helps to build the Conning Officer’s and/or coach’s comfort with mental math.

Technique #5: “Predict the Separation”

This technique is a modification of technique #3 and an extension of technique #4, using a different arrangement of the equation to anticipate the estimated separation for each bearing and range combination. Solving the Radian Rule equation for separation, the expression becomes:

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.45 PM

Once the Conning Officer is adept at the mental math of multiplying the bearing and range, the only remaining step is to divide by 20. The simplest way to do this is to remove a zero and divide by two. A sample is shown below.

Screen Shot 2015-06-25 at 6.35.50 PM

This is a mental math version of Approach #2. While this is more difficult than any of the four previous techniques, the principal benefit to this approach is that it gives the Conning Officer and/or coach convenient tools to mentally evaluate the geometry they are seeing on the bow. For the Conning Officer, the nuanced context available from each observation constructively builds the spatial judgment and physical intuition we call Seaman’s Eye. This technique allows the Conning Officer to take maximum advantage of sometimes-scarce evolutions and reinforces a more subtle understanding of the relative motion between ships that sometimes eludes the most seasoned veterans. I found it to be tougher than the other techniques to teach and use, at least at first, but it was infinitely more rewarding when the Conning Officer understood it and was able to use it.


It takes time and effort to learn how to safely conn the ship alongside. Proven techniques that have propelled ships alongside safely for decades are available to those who will take the time to learn and use them, and they can be improved with a small investment in systematic thinking about the geometry built into the evolution. Techniques #3 – #5 suggest ways to exploit the mathematical relationships inherent to the Radian Rule that offer two significant benefits. First, they build confidence in coaches by encouraging a more intuitive understanding of the relative motion throughout the UNREP approach. Second, they help build Seaman’s Eye in our Junior Officers by sharing those insights with the fertile minds of the Officers who drive the ship most frequently, and who are most apt to exploit them effectively.

As reported by the Washington Post on June 4th – “Hackers working for the Chinese state breached the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in December, US officials said Thursday, and the agency will notify about 4 million current and former federal employees that their personal data may have been compromised.”

ig_logoWhat is OPM? The organization that collects, collates and manages all the security clearance information for US personnel. That includes biographical details about the people in the US government who hold security clearances.

This is the single biggest US security breach since at least the Cold War, although I am personally struggling to think of anything directed against the US that approaches this scale. You can change access codes, passwords and encryption standards in a compromised computer system fairly easily but once the names and biographical details of everyone who holds a clearance are stolen by a rival nation for nefarious purposes … that’s a whole different ballgame.

The identity of the Watchers at NSA, CIA and the Pentagon are now likely known to the Chinese military. Some of these individuals will be the target of Chinese surveillance operations ranging from spear phishing emails to physical shadowing. In war time they may actually become targets for kinetic operations. American spies used to be able
to watch the Iranians, Chinese and Russians secure in the knowledge that they could observe without putting themselves at risk of detection. That era – the era of the American Panopticon – is over.

Update June 25th, 2015: Its possible that the number of affected could be as high as 18 million.


The nuclear powered aircraft carrier (CVN), with its embarked carrier air wing(CVW), is the only maritime force capable of executing the full range of military operations necessary to protect our national interests.

130126-N-YX169-134 NEWPORT NEWS, Va., (Jan. 26, 2013) The 555-metric ton island for the future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is lifted into position on the shipÕs flight deck during an island landing ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding. The island-landing ceremony marks the final super-lift in the construction process for the ship. The Gerald R. Ford is the first is a new class of aircraft carriers, and is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy in 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathanael Miller/Released)

NEWPORT NEWS, Va., (Jan. 26, 2013) The 555-metric ton island for the future nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is lifted into position on the shipÕs flight deck during an island landing ceremony at Huntington Ingalls Industries-Newport News Shipbuilding.

From deterrence, to humanitarian assistance, to large-scale combat operations,Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs) stand ready to answer the call in all phases of conflict. Navies across the globe aspire to extend their influence by building aircraft carriers and developing deployment models that mirror what the United States has been doing for more than eighty years. Our innovative leadership in this arena must continue to grow as the need for a modern aircraft carrier remains critically important to the continued freedom of navigation on the high seas.

Geopolitics and global threats require that we maintain a maneuverable and visibly persuasive force across the globe that can accomplish a number of missions, over sea and land. The carrier is the only answer to this requirement and the future USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) will soon be underway fulfilling this critical need.

The Ford is not a notional, larger than life project that may never see the light of day. Ford is alive and pier-side in Newport News. Ninety percent of the actual ship is structurally complete, and multiple cutting edge systems are coming online each month. She is nearly ready to go to sea and a community of sailors, shipbuilders, engineers, and citizens cannot wait to take her to the front lines.

Return on Investment

Despite the significant costs of developing the world’s newest aircraft carrier, the investment is absolutely critical to our national security over much of the next century. Nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and their embarked air wings enable the U.S. to operate without a “permission slip” for host nation basing. Ships like Ford will generate the full range of effects necessary to deter potential adversaries with minimal notice or diplomatic coordination. It is understandable that the cost of operating 100,000 tons of fast, highly-lethal combat power should come with a high price tag, but we’ve been committed to rigorous oversight and management of cost and delivery deadlines. Looking at cost in a vacuum without considering how unmatched warfighting power is extracted from each of those dollars would be shortsighted. Overall, the Ford class brings improved warfighting capability, quality-of-life improvements, and reduced total ownership costs. Together, these efforts will reduce manning by approximately 700 billets, reduce periodic maintenance, improve operational availability and capability, and reduce total ownership costs through its 50-year life by $4 billion for each ship over its Nimitz class counterpart. With the exception of the hull, virtually everything has been redesigned; it is the first new aircraft carrier design in more than 40 years. The ship’s design includes sophisticated new technologies that deliver capability now and will continue to grow with the incorporation of future weapons systems. A new nuclear propulsion and electric plant on the Ford class will generate almost three times the electrical power over the Nimitz class, leading to higher aircraft sortie rates and excess power to incorporate future technologies, such as the employment of directed energy weapons. From the Advanced Arresting Gear to engineering efficiencies, the Ford class is cutting-edge.

131117-N-ZZ999-101 NORFOLK (Nov. 17, 2013) The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is moved to Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding. The ship will undergo additional outfitting and testing for the next 28 months. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of Huntington Ingalls Industries by Chris Oxley/Released)

NORFOLK (Nov. 17, 2013) The aircraft carrier Pre-Commissioning Unit (PCU) Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78) is moved to Pier 3 at Newport News Shipbuilding.

Ford Class delivers enduring, unmatched air power

The Ford and Nimitz class will remain relevant despite technological advances among our adversaries that make access to the battlespace more challenging. While Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threats are increasing in complexity, our Navy is evolving to address these challenges and outpace the threats. It is important to look more broadly at how the CSG as a whole is equipped to deal with these complex threat environments. With an integrated network of aircraft, sensors, and weapons, the CSG remains a viable and credible threat to any adversary, where it matters, when it matters.

Additionally, the air wing itself will grow and adapt around the carrier to keep pace with technological advances and future capabilities. We’ve seen this before with the former USS Enterprise. The air wing aboard the Enterprise in 1962 was nearly unrecognizable from the modern composition of aircraft when she decommissioned in 2012. Nevertheless, that mighty ship was still able to execute missions and outmatch threats over a 51- year period. When you leverage the capabilities of the F-35C, our fifth generation fighter, with the capabilities of our F/A-18E/F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers, E-2D Hawkeyes, and MH-60R/S Seahawks, you have what you need to fight and win against adversary threats in the near and long term. Future systems like the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) program will only add to CSG lethality while diminishing vulnerabilities. Unlike other classes of ships, the aircraft carrier does not need to be retired when its primary weapons system becomes obsolete – the ship will continue to operate and dominate in any environment as its air wing and company surface combatants evolve.

History has proven time and time again that when the United States’ national security or national interest is at risk, the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier will steam ahead and be the first to answer the call. There is no greater proof of the tangible effects of the modern carrier on global events than events that have occurred this past year. After the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) expanded through the Middle East, our deployed CSG surged forward to protect citizens and interests throughout the region. Carrier Strike Group Two and the USS George H.W. Bush deployed into the Arabian Gulf to blunt ISIL’s advance with air strikes and numerous related maritime-based effects. CSG 2 formed the only armed response option for the nation for 54 days. The USS Carl Vinson Strike Group and Carrier Strike Group One followed, flying 12,300 sorties, including 2,383 combat missions. Now, the USS Theodore Roosevelt stands watch with Carrier Strike Group Twelve, an indispensable tool at the Combatant Commander’s disposal to fight a brutal enemy.

141010-N-AP620-012 ARABIAN GULF (Oct. 10, 2014) The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) prepares for a vertical replenishment with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). George H.W. Bush is supporting maritime security operations, strike operations in Iraq and Syria as directed, and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Juan D. Guerra/Released)

ARABIAN GULF (Oct. 10, 2014) The aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) prepares for a vertical replenishment with the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8).

Beyond air power alone, the integrated nature of the sensors and weapon systems within the entire CSG is invaluable to Combatant Commanders and decision makers in Washington, D.C. Cruisers, destroyers, maritime patrol and reconnaissance force aircraft, and national sensors integrate with the CVN and CVW to broaden the reach of our most capable assets. Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) is a game-changing concept that will greatly enhance Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) missions. NIFC-CA relies on a family of sensors rather than a single system. Inputs from air and surface assets create a common operational picture among platforms and incorporate integrated fires (from air and surface platforms) to counter and neutralize missile threats. This revolutionary capability is already integrated into the USS Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group.

There is no doubt that our aircraft carriers remain relevant in this time of geopolitical tension due to their flexibility, adaptability and lethality. While conflicts no longer span entire oceans, there are real and dangerous adversaries that seek to derail peace and inflict harm. The investments we make now in the Ford class carrier will ensure we continue to confront these threats. Whether it is combatting terrorists, assisting humanitarian assistance efforts after a natural disaster, or deterring future conflict, the nuclear powered carrier will continue to be the centerpiece of our Nation’s initial and lasting response across the globe.


This post originally appeared at the NavyLive Blog, and is crossposted here with permission.

Posted by admin in Aviation, Hard Power, Navy | 7 Comments

Eagles, Tigers, and ISIS

June 2015


Earlier this month, 36-year old Massachusetts resident Keith Broomfield was killed in Syria while fighting with Kurdish peshmerga forces against ISIS. He is believed to be the first U.S. citizen killed in action against ISIS. He was remembered yesterday in Massachusetts and laid to rest. It is unknown exactly how many U.S. citizens have volunteers to fight ISIS, though a Kurdish source suggested in March about one hundred Americans were serving in Syria alone.

This is in stark contrast to the past decade when the American media has highlighted those citizens who have fought against U.S. interests. The first high-profile citizen was John Walker Lindh who fought with the Taliban and was captured by the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan in November 2001. Others have worked with Al-Qaeda included Adam Gadahn, a senior advisor to Osama bin Laden, who was killed earlier this year by a drone strike. According to testimony earlier this year before the Senate Special Committee on Intelligence, National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen, stated that “more than 150 U.S. persons from a variety of backgrounds and locations in the United States have traveled or attempted to travel to Syria. A handful of these U.S. persons have died in Syria.

Private citizens joining foreign conflicts or in the service of other nations has a lengthy history. After the American Revolution, for example, John Paul Jones left the U.S. to serve as an admiral in the Russian Navy in the Russo-Turkish War. War of 1812 naval hero Captain David Porter (the step-father and father of two Civil War admirals, David Farragut and David Dixon Porter respectively,) was court-martialed in 1824 and later commanded the Mexican Navy. U.S. Naval Academy graduate Philo McGiffin, having failed to secure a commission in the Navy, served in the Chinese Navy during the Sino-French War and the First Sino-Japanese War.

In the twentieth century, volunteer citizen-warriors became more organized. Nearly forty Americans served including eleven killed while serving with the Lafayette Escadrille, a fighter squadron, in France during World War I. American pilots served with the Kosciusko Squadron with the Polish in the Polish-Soviet War of 1919-21. Of more than 3,000 Americans fighting against Spanish fascist forces in its civil war (1936-38), nearly 700 died as part of the Lincoln Battalion. Prior to entering the Second World War, American pilots comprised three Royal Air Force Eagle Squadrons. Still others fought the Japanese with Clair Chennault’s Flying Tigers.

Broomfield was the first citizen to die fighting ISIS but, as history shows, it is unlikely he will also be the last.


Ghost Fleet. P.W. Singer & August Cole, (2015). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY: 416 pp. $28.00.

An editorial in China’s Global Times reportedly said that if the U.S. position is that China must halt its reclamation activities in the South China Sea “then a U.S.-China war is inevitable.” Meanwhile the United States has signaled its willingness to move up the escalation ladder in defense of its position with Freedom of Navigation transits and P-8 flights. Elsewhere, Russia’s rulers seem bent on military adventurism along its borderlands. With such a real-life backdrop readers could be forgiven for fixating on the geopolitical backstory of Ghost Fleet, P.W. Singer and August Cole’s self-described new “novel of the next world war.” After all, the writer/academic/think-tanker/consultant duo chose to portray the three powers* as the plot’s antagonists – opening with a P-8 flight above a Chinese position.

Yet, despite a review of Power Transition Theory examining why these states might come to blows, Ghost Fleet’s expedition into the near future primarily focuses on how such a great power conflict might be fought. Singer and Cole are at their best in teasing out the interplay between potential advances in emerging technologies – backed by impressive end-noting – rather than isolating the implications of a single capability. These range from Big Data and unmanned systems to additive manufacturing and augmented reality. The authors’ depictions of cutting-edge Chinese developments picking apart current U.S. weapons systems might make for queasy reading among some in the military. In this way it effectively serves to warn against complacency in presuming American technological superiority in conflict. But it bears remembering that success in employing the new capabilities detailed in Ghost Fleet, as in life, requires a level of creativity available (and not guaranteed) to both sides.

Singer and Cole also explore how the supposed American Way of War of grinding attrition, popularized by the eponymous 1973 Russell Weigley book, might fare in an age of offensive space and cyber weapons. In doing so they create intriguing portraits of empowered individuals (both socio-economically and skills-wise), expats, and a globalized defense industrial base on a war footing. Some of the most memorable scenes come from the juxtaposition of new capabilities with old operational concepts (occasionally set to the strains of Alice Cooper). Singer and Cole also ably confront readers with a reversal in the traditional role of U.S. forces in an insurgency and the ethical decisions it demands of them.

Ghost Fleet may be the authors’ first novel, but it’s not their first foray into helping tell a story. Singer has consulted on such projects as Activision’s “Call of Duty” video game franchise and honed his prose in such works as Wired for War, an earlier book on the future of robotics warfare. Cole meanwhile has been engaged in the development of insights on warfare by facilitating near-future science fiction writing at the Atlantic Council’s “Art of Future Warfare Project” (full disclosure: I had the opportunity to publish a short story of my own there). These experiences have paid off in a very enjoyable page-turner.

This is not to say Ghost Fleet is without flaws. One of the novel’s driving emotional stories, an estranged father-son relationship, never quite rings true. With an expansive and fast-moving narrative, a character here and subplot there trail off without satisfactory conclusion. Lastly, while the authors investigate many impacts of a war’s fallout on the U.S. Navy, including the resurrection of the ships of the book’s title and a call-up of retirees, they missed an opportunity to look at the complications a mobilization of existing Navy Reservists might cause. But such a minor sin of omission doesn’t detract from the overall merits of the work. Whether on a commute to the Pentagon or relaxing on a beach in the Hawaii Special Administrative Zone, readers will find Ghost Fleet a highly enjoyable, at times uncomfortable, and always thought-provoking read.



*It should be noted Singer and Cole don’t tie those nation’s current regimes to their countries’ futures, and in doing so remind readers that what would follow a collapse of the Chinese Communist Party is not necessarily more amenable to U.S. or Western interests.



Midshipmen have a hunger to learn and to exert ourselves intellectually. We want our lectures to simulate the level of in-depth analysis that will be expected of us in the Fleet.

We are second-class midshipmen at the US Naval Academy who, after eight combined semesters of 20-credit course loads, want more out of the Academy’s academic mission. We believe that the academic curriculum should remain challenging, but that it can be tailored with an emphasis on developing midshipmen into problem solvers. We understand there is currently a conversation in the upper echelons of Navy leadership about reenergizing the Naval Academy curriculum. We offer our opinions to provide experience-based input into these discussions.


The Naval Academy’s “Tecumseh Court”

Consider what many midshipmen perceive as one of the most mundane courses at the Naval Academy: navigation. Imagine if instead of passively listening to the lecture, our weekly assignment includes perusing the New York Times, selecting hotspots around the world that will likely elicit a US Navy presence. What Numbered Fleet claims responsibility for this area?
What capabilities do we have to respond? Logistically, how is the response executed? What grand strategy is associated with this response? What are the responsibilities on a junior officer level? Lessons are most engaging when the instructors are able to incorporate their own Fleet experiences to illustrate the relevance of the course material. The navigation instructors have the experience to take our thinking to the next level.

Integration of practical skills, professional knowledge, and complex international relations is key to engaging midshipmen in a productive manner. The majority of students sulk through the seamanship and navigation program uninspired and apathetic. Let’s revitalize these core classes to provoke thought and excitement about their future responsibilities as Navy and Marine Corps officers.

This renaissance can extend to the entire core curriculum, to include not only social sciences but also courses in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). The academic culture of the Academy is currently no different than any other civilian college or university, where the core knowledge is learned in order to pass the class and to graduate. As future officers, these courses have the potential to not only give us baseline proficiency in the sciences, but to develop us into better problem solvers. Our objective is not to simply learn the material, but to practice a way of thinking representative of Navy and Marine Corps officers. Our core classes ought to have deeper value: developing an analytical thought pattern that will be applied to our future careers. The core does not need to be dry; it should be there to encourage critical thinking in all realms. Both the strategic implications of a surface warfare mission, as in navigation class, and the way we solve our physics problems are related in how we approach a situation.

Academics represent something more than just a grade; they are a critical proving ground for developing the way future officers solve problems and communicate ideas. Instruction at the Naval Academy must challenge midshipmen to think, to ask us the unanswerable questions and require us to defend our conclusion. There is a symbiotic triad between students, faculty and the institution that needs to exist for this atmosphere to be achieved. It is just as much the midshipman’s job to become individually invested in the material as it is for the faculty to stimulate productive discussion and the institution to revamp the curriculum to match the intellectual expectations of the Fleet.

We understand that there is a balance between time demands, quotas from the Fleet, logistical considerations of the curriculum and the egalitarian nature of the Naval Academy. We are not suggesting a heavier academic workload, or that the solution rests with a single group. Our goal is to spark a discussion on how to better foster a culture that produces critical thinkers which is collaborative between midshipmen, faculty, and the institution. By offering an opinion from a midshipman’s perspective, we hope to draw others into the conversation. The first step towards an environment conducive to this culture shift is a dialogue about how to maximize our four years in Annapolis.

Junior officers are expected to be professional problem solvers. The mission of the Naval Academy is to produce the most competent officers. Allow us to better uphold the mission by integrating this mentality into the classroom. To be proficient in this skill set, we need to practice now. Challenge us to think, to learn, and to take a vested interest in our futures as Navy and Marine Corps officers. We will match your level of intellectual intensity.

The fifth season of the HBO hit-series Game of Thrones is here! I’m excited, as are millions of die-hard fans across the country. To prepare for the imminent launch, I re-watched all four of the previous seasons, episode by episode. In that first season, an interesting event takes place, where a young man, Jon Snow, is given his duty assignment. He is about to take an oath to serve for life in the Night’s Watch. He has prepared for years to be a Ranger – a fighter and swordsman. Instead he is assigned as a Steward. Jon Snow is crushed. He hasn’t taken the oath of service yet, and he contemplates leaving the Night’s Watch to avoid a life of inglorious servitude as a steward. His friend Sam convinces him to stay, reminding him that service is about more than his own selfish desires. Jon Snow takes the oath later in the episode.

Graduation OathIt brought me back to my own service selection. I dreamed for years and years of becoming a Marine Corps Officer. At the Naval Academy that fateful day in November of 2009, I received troubling news – I had been selected to become a Surface Warfare Officer. Over the years since I have often been asked if I wanted to become a SWO. My standard reply is that it was one of my top six choices. The humor gets me through the moment, and the conversation moves on.

I’m working now at the Academy, preparing to take over as a company officer this summer, just in time for the Plebe Class of 2019 to arrive for I-Day. I am a proud Surface Warfare Officer and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have been to more overseas ports than I can count over two deployments, have navigated tens of thousands of miles at sea, and served with some of the bravest, smartest and most loyal Sailors the world has ever seen.

Much of the conversation within the walls of the Academy frequently turns to an age-old symptom of the institution – cynicism within the Brigade. Midshipmen sometimes complain that they aren’t treated like future naval officers and that they aren’t doing real work to prepare themselves to become the leaders of those fine Sailors and Marines. “I’m going to fly jets, why do I need to learn about buoy systems in the Western Rivers” is just one example. In teaching leadership on the yard, we strive for every class to fight that mentality, to prove to these young Midshipmen that their training is exceptional and that they will be well prepared to lead upon commissioning. Sometimes I fear that we aren’t doing enough, that the Midshipmen are right, and that we are sending our future junior officers to the fleet without the preparation needed to fulfill their duties. For the graduating Midshipmen, winter is coming, and many aren’t ready to handle a sword.

I don’t know entirely where the cynicism comes from, but I have a theory. Everything for these Midshipmen centers around one key event – service selection. Competition is fierce within the Brigade. Classmates vie for position and jossle for rank as if they were in Westeros, the fictional land of Game of Thrones. There are only so many slots for SEALs, Marines, Submariners, Aviators, and today even SWOs. Midshipmen study diligently to get good grades, so that their order of merit is high enough to get the service selection they want. Many spend more effort on good grades to earn that service selection, but in doing so disregard the very skill sets required to be successful naval officers – pro-knowledge is an afterthought and weighted minimally when compared to calculus and chemistry. The drive for service assignment goes beyond academics, of course. They perform with vigor on the PT fields to notch themselves up for the same purpose. Those wanting Marines join the Semper Fi Society, those seeking to become SEALs test themselves and compete against their classmates in arduous screeners.

That day in November, the Firsties learn their fates. Most are overjoyed – a good thing, no doubt. A few feel despair. These are the ones we should worry about. These are the examples that feed the cynicism – working hard may not be enough. These are the few who enter the fleet sullen, downcast and doubtful. These are the ones most unprepared for their future roles, having spent all of their efforts learning about fire team movements and squad assaults instead of honing their shiphandling skills on the YPs. These are the few who, in my opinion, are the least likely to commit themselves to a full career of service and will leave at the earliest opportunity.

Even those who earn their top choice are too hastily prepared for the training to be effective, meaning that the Chief’s Mess, Department Heads, and Commanding Officers are burdened with teaching junior officers skillsets and professional knowledge they should have mastered at the Naval Academy. The unit leadership should be focused on advanced training – on defeating multiple threats simultaneously, mastering complex engineering systems and conditioning our new Ensigns and Second Lieutenants to become outstanding naval leaders. Instead, they are too busy teaching standard commands, basic maintenance protocols and general military socialization.

What if we changed something? What if we moved service selection to the end of Youngster (sophomore) year? By that time, Midshipmen will have been able to establish their grades, competed in screeners, etc., at least enough for the Academy to choose wisely between them. We could move PROTRAMID, a fleet-wide round-robin experience to expose the Midshipmen to the various communities to the end of Plebe year, just like the NROTC currently does, to allow our new Youngsters the opportunity to see what fits them best. Most Plebes know what they want to service select before they climb Herndon, while the rest of the class would have another year to weigh the decision.

This change has several notable benefits. First, it eliminates competition amongst classmates during their junior and senior years, allowing for greater opportunity to hone leadership and professional skills in Bancroft. Second, it provides two full years, instead of a meager four months, for Midshipmen to hone their practical skills, affording them the chance to excel in tactical and technical competence from day one in the fleet. Marine selectees will have two years to practice ground tactics. Aviators have two years to pass IFS, easing the burden on Pensacola and the subsequent stashing of officers on the Yard until flight school begins. SWOs can master navigation and shiphandling before setting foot on the bridge of a destroyer. Third, if we rearrange the course loads, we can eliminate the cynicism that arises from taking courses that Midshipmen see as irrelevant, such as Marine wannabes having to struggle through seamanship and navigation courses. Fourth, and possibly most importantly, it allows Midshipmen a choice. They now know what they will be doing for their careers and if those few who don’t earn what they want choose to leave before signing their commitment papers the next Fall, the fleet will benefit from a drop in uncommitted and unenthusiastic naval officers. If a Midshipman is so disappointed in his or her service assignment, he or she doesn’t have to come back to poison the well back in Bancroft, or worse yet, carry that attitude into the fleet. Furthermore, by encouraging choice, we disrupt cynicism about being treated like children – a Midshipmen knows full-well what he or she is getting into when they sign on the line which is dotted.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus recently spoke to the brigade about a number of institutional changes aimed at improving talent management and retention. He mentioned that the Academy is already moving towards a system that seeks to match talent to title and is less dependent on class rank. He and his staff clearly understand that change is needed, not only for its effect on the yard but also downrange in the fleet. This proposal provides an avenue for that change, even if it is one of many. In combat, a coordinated simultaneous time-on-top attack is always preferred to a slew of single efforts and I believe that changing the timeframe for service selection is a key weapon in the fight against complacency and cynicism to ensure we maintain the highest level of combat readiness throughout the fleet. Even if our ships rust and our airframes crack, our people must remain sharp and steadfast.

Choice is nobody’s enemy. While I don’t have the same flowing locks and sword skills as Jon Snow, I empathize with his decision. I didn’t want to be a SWO, at least not initially, but my call to service outweighed my selfishness. I figured that if I was going to be a SWO, I would try my damndest to excel at it. Under this proposed change, there will still be plenty of disappointed Midshipmen who put their country before themselves and will accept what they earned with grace and humility. They will remember that service and leadership are what count, not the uniform they wear or the devices on their chest.

RTabTesm_400x400Billy Hurley discusses his time at the Naval Academy, his best moment in the U.S. Navy navigating the Suez Canal, his strong ties to his PGA sponsors and fellow players who support the military.

To the 2015 graduating class, “It’s just beginning now…as a Division Officer on a ship…how can you lead them…inspire them…how can you improve them?”

Did he hit golf balls off of a ship?

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