Archive for the 'Hard Power' Category

Strategy is not for amateurs*

Please join us at 5pm (EST)on 1 March 2015 for our Episode 269: National Strategy and the Navy’s Proper Role in it:

The role of the Navy and Marine Corps should be to provide ready and capable forces to the joint commanders. Outside of that, what is the proper role of the sea services in designing a more national strategy?

What is the state of a national and a maritime strategy, who are the different players in the discussion, and what is the proper way forward?

Our guest to discuss this and more for the full hour will be Captain Robert C. “Barney” Rubel USN, (Ret.), Professor Emeritus, US Naval War College.

Captain Rubel, now retired, was previously the Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College from 2006 to 2014. Prior to arriving at NWC, he was a thirty-year Navy veteran, with experience as e a light attack naval aviator, flying the A-7 Corsair II and later the F/A-18 Hornet, commanded VFA-131, and also served as the Inspector General at U.S. Southern Command.

He is a graduate of the Spanish Naval War College in Madrid and the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, RI., and has an undergraduate degree in liberal arts from the University of Illinois and a master’s degree in national security and strategic studies from the US Naval War College.

Captain Rubel continues to serve as a member of the CNO Advisory Board and is active in local American Legion activities.

Please join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here or from our iTunes page here.

*Upper photo is of Dr. James H. Boren discussing bureaucracy in three dimensions



Please join us live on 22 Feb 15 at 5pm EST for Midrats Episode 268: 21st Century Sims:

Who was “The Gun Doctor,” the officer over a century ago led the revolution in naval gunnery, the development of torpedo boat and destroyer operations, and during WWI served as the senior US naval commander in Europe? More than the man instrumental in the establishment of the convoy system that helped keep the United Kingdom from starvation in the conflict, following the war his leadership as president of the Naval War College he help to established the creative and innovative Navy that in the interwar period developed the operating concepts for the submarines and aircraft carriers that led the victory in World War II.

What are the lessons of a century ago taught by Admiral William S. Sims, USN that are critically important for the serving officer today?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this latest book, 21st Century Sims, will be returning guest, LCDR Benjamin Armstrong, USN.

Benjamin “BJ” Armstrong is a naval aviator who has served as a helicopter pilot flying amphibious search and rescue and special warfare missions and as the Officer-in-Charge of a Navy helicopter gunship detachment deployed for counter-piracy and counter-terror operations. He is a PhD Candidate in the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London.

Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here or by going to our iTunes pages here.



For those who have seen the Great Carrier Debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath, one thing was clear – both gentlemen had only scratched the surface of their thoughts on the topic.

At about the same time, the concept of “distributed lethality” had seeped its way in to the conversation. To examine both topics and to review the national security issues you should expect to see in 2015 will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan McGrath is the founding Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC (FBG), a niche consultancy specializing in naval and national security issues, including national and military strategy, strategic planning, executive communications, strategic communications and emerging technologies.

Prior to starting FBG, Bryan founded a national security consulting line of business for Delex Systems, where he directly supported a number of senior clients in the Navy and the Army. Additionally, he provided critical insight on Navy policy and acquisition preferences to commercial clients, including major defense contractors and small technology firms negotiating the “post-earmarks” era.

A retired Naval Officer, Bryan spent 21 years on active duty including a tour in command of USS BULKELEY (DDG 84), a guided-missile destroyer homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.

In his spare time, Bryan is a well-published commentator in the fields of national and maritime strategy, with policy papers published at major think tanks, and articles placed in nationally marketed periodicals. He is a frequent panelist at symposia that deal with naval issues and is frequently quoted by major press organizations.

Bryan earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia in 1987, and an MA in Political Science (Congressional Studies) from The Catholic University of America. He is a graduate of the Naval War College.

You can watch the carrier debate here. But you can only listen to Midrats by clicking here for the live show or the archive. You can also pick the show up later from our iTunes page here.



World War I – “the war to end all wars” – was roaring along 100 years ago. As part of noting that, please join us on 25 January 15 at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 264: The American Military in WWI

Well inside an officer’s career arch, we saw the American Navy move from the Great White Fleet, The Spanish American War to the age of the Dreadnought. Our Army, from ad-hoc volunteer units to a professional army going head-to-head with the finest professional army on the planet.

How did our military and our Navy build up to WWI, and how did that experience inform the evolution of our national defense infrastructure?

Our guest for the full hour will be Dr. John T. Kuehn , the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College CGSC). He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer flying both land-based and carrier-based aircraft. He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008), A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century (2014), and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011. His latest book, due out from Praeger just in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or for later listening you can find us at iTunes here



This Sunday join us for our 5th Anniversary Show. No guests, no agendas – just us talking about what 2014 had to teach us, and looking towards what 2015 may have in store for everyone in the national security arena. This is a great time if you ever wanted to call in to ask either one of us a question on a topic you wish we would address … or just to say “hi.” Just be warned, we might ask you a question back. It’s what we do.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here or find us later on iTunes.

5pm EST. 4 Jan 14.



Okay, kids, here’s America’s newest fun game: “Name that 2015 Hotspot!”

The challenge is to pick 15 places which have the potential to become hell holes for their residents and which will involve the presence of U.S. military forces before the dust clears. Name a place and give a quick reason. The fact that a place is already a disaster does not exclude putting it on this list, but you do have to state why you think it will continue to be a troubled area. You can add places in the comments or send me an email and I’ll tack them on the list. It is perfectly okay to challenge things on the list. In fact, it is encouraged. Got more than 15? That’s okay, I had to use 15 to make it work with the year.

Contest ends whenever I say it does but no later than 6 January 2015. No prizes are to be awarded. Credit will be given to the most brilliant suggestions unless I steal them.

Here are 5 I came up with to get you started:

1) Nigeria: Potentially one of the richer countries in the world due to its mineral wealth, it suffers from incredible corruption and a nearly complete inability to get its house in order. Criminal gangs, tribal rifts, Boko Haram, pollution, grinding poverty, kidnap for ransom schemes are some of the issues. Just might turn into an even more failed state if it can’t get its eastern area under control.

2) Cuba: As the former Soviet empire proved, there ain’t no such thing as a “little freedom” for the oppressed masses. The Castro brothers have to die sometime, why not in 2015? With the right support from expatriate Cubans the place appears ready to – um- explode? Cuba seems to have lost all its old Commie sponsors. What will the U.S. do if China decides to help out 90 miles off the Florida coast?

3) Venezuela: Can you say failing state? A dysfunctional economy and an oppressive regime riddled with factionalism even in the army. There are opposition groups. Could get really messy, especially if oil prices stay down.

4) Russia: Putin needs a war to keep his power. Oil prices and the embargo (weak as it is) are killing the Russian economy. Somewhere in the Rodina there must be a crowd of reformers who really want to toss off the corrupt oligarchs and their man in Moscow. I guess the questions are whether Putin’s internal police are good enough to stifle freedom and whether the Russians who want to fix things can get any support among Russia’s youth.

5) South China Sea: The nasty Dragon covets all that water and the power it would bring. Bullying, lawfare and playing good China/Bad China games are in the Dragon’s bag of tools. The little Hobbit lands surrounding the South China Sea look to their east for support. Will/Can the U.S. and its allies help the Hobbits or do more dancing to push this problem off on the administration elected in 2016?

I am also going to put this up at my home blog EagleSpeak



Please join us on 21 Dec 14 at 5pm (EST) for Midrats Episode 259: The Islamic State – rise and world view, with Craig Whiteside

The Islamic State, ISIL/ISIS/Daesh – whatever people may call them – are not a flash in the pan. Not quite insurgency, not quiet terrorist organization, not quite nation state – what they are is a presence that has resilience, trans-national support, and has a long range plan.

What is their background, how have they evolved, and how do they view the world?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Craig Whiteside, LTC USA (Ret.), Associate Professor of Theater Security Decision Making for the Naval War College Monterey at the Naval Postgraduate School. Craig came to the War College from Washington State University, where he was a PhD student in Political Science and taught American Government and National Security Affairs. Prior to returning to school, Professor Whiteside was a career infantry officer in the U.S. Army with service in the airborne infantry. He is an Iraq war veteran and served with the Geronimos of the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry in Iskandariyah as the battalion executive officer during 2006-7. He finished his military service as the Professor of Military Science at Washington State. Professor Whiteside is currently working on his dissertation investigating the political worldview of the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham (ISIS). He is a graduate of the United States Military Academy and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or find this episode, along with its predecessors at our iTunes page here.



UPDATE: Well, someone unwrapped the gift early so here’s a modified plan:

As we near Christmas,it is a season of surprises – and Midrats presents Episode 258: COIN, Cyber, and Lawfare: the continuity of war in to 2015 on 14 Dec 14 at 5pm:

With the coming of the new year, some things have not changes and the old challenges are still with us; most waxing – only a few waning.

This Sunday we have returning guest Charles J. Dunlap, Jr., Major General, USAF (Ret.), Professor of the Practice of
Law, and Executive Director, Center on Law, Ethics and National Security at Duke University.

We will cover the board spectrum of the evolution of Counter Insurgency, warfare in the cyber domain, and the ever-present impact of law on the conduct of war.

General Dunlap’s teaching and scholarly writing focus on national security, international law, civil-military relations, cyberwar, airpower, counter-insurgency, military justice, and ethical issues related to the practice of national security law.

Tune in at 5pm (EST) and find out. You can find the show here (live or unwrap it later). Or pick up the show later from our iTunes page here



I had a very interesting experience earlier this year co-chairing, along with Gen Larry Welch, USAF (Ret), the SecDef-directed Independent Review of the Nuclear Enterprise.

I haven’t seen too many posts on USNI Blog regarding our nuclear deterrent force or nuclear weapons in general, for that matter, so I thought this issue might prove interesting for some of our readers.

Several major lessons learned for me from this experience:

  1. If you have nuclear weapons, you need to consistently devote a great deal of high-level attention to their maintenance and sustainment as well as the maintenance and sustainment of the platforms that would deliver those weapons should the President so direct.
  2. It was obvious to me that, since the dis-establishment of SAC, we haven’t been able to establish the right organizational construct within DoD that would consistently and effectively accomplish #1 above.
  3. We can debate the efficacy and utility of nuclear weapons all we want – whether or not we should deploy a monad, a diad or a triad of nuclear delivery systems, or whether conventional deterrence of some kind can ever replace our current posture of having our nuclear deterrent as the foundation of our national security policy, but, and it’s a big but, as long as we have nuclear weapons – like them or not – we’ve got to invest the required resources in their “care and feeding” and the care and feeding of the people who maintain the warheads, the missiles, and the delivery systems.

There is no middle ground here, no ability to allow some sort of an elegant and systematic degradation that can be monitored and managed with intervention before lasting damage or a catastrophic event occurs.

We either execute this mission totally right, every day, or we will get it totally wrong.

The approach General Welch and I took was to review all past reports on this issue, and the responses to those reports, and then meet with Sailors, Airmen, and Marines, and their commanders, at every level at the nuclear forces locations in the U.S. and at three Air Force locations in Europe.

Our methodology was to generate extensive opportunities to listen to those carrying out the deterrent mission and to hear from their commanders as well; they all clearly had a great deal they wanted us to hear.

We then applied the experience and judgment of the review team, a small group of subject matter experts – officer and senior enlisted, active and retired – to synthesize both what we found and what we heard in order to provide specific recommendations to address the issues we found and answer the Secretary’s specific question to us, “What do I need to do?”.

We delivered our report on 1 June. Since that time, we have seen extensive work at multiple levels across the Department of Defense with continuing direct involvement of the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense to address the issues we discussed in the report. We are also seeing very welcome and much needed results delivered to the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines in the operating units.

We believe the major issue now is sustaining the engagement that is absolutely required at the most senior levels within DoD to re-establish both the enduring and appropriate level of attention and investment that will ensure the nuclear forces can effectively and safely carry out the deterrent mission, which remains the foundation of our national security policy.

The bottom line in our report is that the forces are meeting the demands of the mission, but with such increasing difficulty that any margin of capability to meet those demands has been consumed and our Sailors, Airmen, and Marines are routinely required to pay an unsustainable price to accomplish the mission.

The troops’ resolute determination to get the job done – doing, in their words, whatever it takes – has masked the true cost of mission accomplishment from their senior leadership, who routinely receive reports showing the required number of boats are on deterrent patrol, the ICBMs are on alert, and the bombers are available and ready if needed.

We found three overarching core issues in the nuclear enterprise that led to a wide range of specific issues and specific recommendations:

  1. There has developed a leadership “Say-Do” Gap where the declared importance of the nuclear forces to national security is not matched by leadership attention and support from the Department and Service leadership and from multiple levels down to field commanders. This mis-match has resulted in a range of issues from a perception that the mission and those performing the mission are not truly valued to critical manning shortfalls, deteriorating facilities and deficient logistics support.
  2. Over time, an incessant Demand for Micro-Perfection led to the expectation that there must be zero mistakes in every operational and administrative action. Hence the focus shifted from efficiently and effectively accomplishing the mission to the routine imposition of draconian measures to ensure there could be no mistakes. Said another way, avoiding criticism took precedence over efficient and effective mission accomplishment. This approach led inexorably to a widespread substitution of process and procedure for personal responsibility and accountability.
  3. This drive for micro-perfection also led to a culture that valued Inspection over Mission – that is, the focus of commanders and supervisors shifted from the mission to avoiding criticism from extensive, frequent, and enormously detailed inspections. The consequences to the unit and the commander of any adverse outcome from a large, multi-agency inspection team has been seen as so severe that preparing for inspections eclipses mission focus, at the expense of the Sailors, Airmen, and Marines performing the mission. This attention to avoiding the risks from small mistakes in inspections that do not have safety or mission impacts has actually increased the much larger risk to the effective and safe accomplishment of the mission itself.

Emanating from these three core issues, the review team addressed issues in a dozen activity areas.

As I stated earlier, we are seeing attention to the full set of issues with guidance from the top and execution at multiple levels throughout the various chains-of-command.

It is very important to note that most of the issues identified in our report and in the report of the Internal Review have been identified in past reports – these issues are not new ones. And with each previous review, leadership at the appropriate level initiated actions to correct the deficiencies, but the attention has not been sustained as needed to bring about lasting change.

This time, the senior leaders of the Department and the Services are directly and deeply involved so there is reason to hope that, unlike in the past, there will be the lasting and positive change needed to not only accomplish the nuclear mission, but to do so effectively and safely.



Please join us on Sunday, 23 November 2014 at 5pm (US EST) for Episode 255: Commanding the Seas – the Surface Force with Bryan Clark from CSBA

How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world’s oceans that our vital to our national interests?

Our guest to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).

A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.

Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.

He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.

Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.

Join us live on Sunday or pick the show up later by clicking here. You can also find this show after the live feed on iTunes here, along with its 254 predecessors.



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