Archive for the 'Merchant Marine' Category

The Secretary of Transportation has announced the name of the new Superintendent of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

I wish him and the Academy the best of luck. I am sure that he is more than qualified to handle the job at hand (other than my 1 reservation noted below). Then again, so was his predecessor.

I am more and more convinced that there are two distinct skill sets required for this position. The first involves overseeing the ongoing training of a school full of Midshipmen. The second skill set, involves dealing with both an entrenched civilian infrastructure and the Maritime Administration as overseer. So far, it seems that it is easy to find people with the first required skill set. Finding those with the second skill set has been much harder, most likely due to the fact that no one has been able to define the actual skills required. One thing for sure, it seems that understanding how the DOD functions does not help in successfully navigating through the Department of Transportation, and perhaps even results in friction with those who oversee the school.

Personally, I think the best chance of success for the new Superintendent rests with a change in the Administration as a result of the upcoming election. It also wouldn’t hurt if the school was better integrated into the logistical training infrastructure of the US Military.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out the new Superintendent’s lack of Maritime experience. Imagine if you will, Colonel Helis being named the next Superintendent of the US Naval Academy. You can thus understand how the USMMA ‘King’s Point’ alumni feel. It is a shame that the Maritime Administration could not find a person from within the Maritime Community to fill the job. Then again, The Maritime Administrator, David Matsuda, has no Maritime background either. One should not forget how the previous Superintendent was treated either.

Colonel James Helis Announced as New USMMA Superintendent

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today named Colonel (ret.) James Helis, Ph.D., as the new superintendent for the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. Helis, a 30-year Army veteran, will begin work at the Academy next month after spending the past eight years as a department chair at the United States War College.

“Colonel Helis is an ideal fit for the Academy,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood. “His extensive military and academic experience reflects the Academy’s mission of both training and educating its students to support our country’s maritime needs, and I look forward to working with him to ensure a strong future for Kings Point.”

Since 2004, Colonel Helis has led the Department of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College in Pennsylvania. During his 30 years in the U.S. Army, Colonel Helis served as an Army Ranger and master parachutist and was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, where he served as Chief of Plans for the NATO International Security Assistance Force. His professional foreign travel includes Belgium, Canada, Estonia, France, Germany, Haiti, Japan, Korea, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, and Sweden.

“I am deeply honored and very excited about the opportunity to serve at Kings Point,” Colonel Helis said. “I am eager to join the team of faculty, staff, and most of all midshipmen, all of whom daily live by the values of honor, service, and excellence.”

Helis received his Doctorate of Philosophy in International Relations from Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He holds masters degrees from both the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the University of Pennsylvania, and he earned his Bachelor of Science from the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

Colonel Helis and his wife, Jan, have two sons, Corbin, 22, a 2011 West Point graduate, and Ian, 18, who joins the Kings Point Class of 2016 this summer.

“Thanks to a thorough search process involving faculty, staff, midshipmen, parents and alumni, we have identified a true leader in Colonel Helis,” said Maritime Administrator David Matsuda. “As Superintendent for Kings Point, he will bring energy and experience to our team and will help ensure that the Academy continues to chart a course for future success.”

The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration is responsible for overseeing the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, including the hiring of key Academy positions. As part of the selection process, Colonel Helis also met with a number of midshipmen, faculty and staff from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, as well as alumni and industry leaders.

U.S. Department of Transportation – Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Washington, DC 20590
www.dot.gov/briefing-room.html

DOT 71-12 – Monday, June 25, 2012
Contact:US DOT Press Office – Tel: 202-366-4570

USMMA Alumni Association

 



Posted by FFry in Army, Merchant Marine, Tactics | 2 Comments
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Over at OpFor, old comrade LTCOL P asks some thought-provoking questions as he links to an article by AOLDefense’s Sydney Freedberg. The article covers the happenings at UNIFIED QUEST, the United States Army’s Title 10 Wargame being held at The Army War College at Carlisle Barracks.

Go there. Ponder his questions, and read the article. Well worth your time.

Damage to Port of Cherbourg

UNIFIED QUEST is usually a pretty illuminating event, a “futures game” which posits the incorporation of as-yet unfielded technology or force structure, and the effects of that technology or structure on tactics and doctrine. Occasional bits of self-delusion occur (tactical “offensive cyber” being launched at a Bn Commander’s say-so with a server dropped into a remote airfield comes to mind), but overall, the game is well conducted and has had (in my years of participation at least) a very sharp and aggressive “Red Team”. This year appears to be no different.

What stands out in the AOLDefense article, fairly leaps from the page, is this exchange:

“You needed ports, [the enemy] knew you needed ports,” he said. “They were ready for you.” While the US-led task force maneuvered elaborately by sea and air to deceive the enemy commanders where they would land, ultimately the coalition had no way to bring in the supplies its own forces needed, let alone humanitarian aid, without controlling a handful of major seaports. So the enemy commanders ignored the feints — their militiamen lacked the kind of mobile reserve force that would have been needed to try to counter them anyway — and simply dug in where they knew the US would eventually have to come to them.

“We had to go here; we’re very predictable,” sighed one US Army officer later in the briefing. The military has invested in the capability to bring forces ashore where there is no port — formally called JLOTS, Joint Logistics Over The Shore — but the Army and Navy together only have enough such assets to move supplies for one reinforced Army brigade, while the Marines can land another brigade-plus. That’s only a fraction of the force required in this scenario. While the the resulting dependence on established infrastructure — seaports, airfields, bases in friendly countries — is often thought of as a purely logistical problem, in this kind of conflict it can have bloody tactical consequences.

We have spent a decade and a half (or more) talking about seizure of ports as the cheap and easy alternative to landing over a beach. Time and again, the refrain that port seizure was the far preferable alternative to coming ashore at the surf line was drummed into our ears. “Ports are smart, beaches are dumb” was how one senior Navy Officer explained it, somewhat condescendingly. Problem is, seizing a port which is surrounded by built-up area, under the noses of an enemy that knows you need it and knows it is, in fact, your critical vulnerability, never was going to be as easy as those port seizure advocates assumed it would be. (I did happen to notice none of them ever seemed to be infantrymen.)

Urban combat is never easy in the best of circumstances, but becomes especially challenging when you have a limited ability to transition forces from afloat to ashore without securing the very objective you are fighting for. Even an unsophisticated and largely immobile adversary can defend effectively if he knows where you are going and why. Cherbourg was destroyed by second-rate German garrison troops in June of 1944, even as US forces drove into the Cotentin Peninsula. The loss of that port affected the Allied drive across Europe into 1945.

One other point worth mentioning: The aforementioned JLOTS is not a system that can be used in an assault echelon. The loading of the ships and craft are not according to the Commander of the Landing Force’s (CLF) Landing Plan. JLOTS is a national asset which requires a secure beach over which to transit. The brigade coming ashore isn’t doing so in fighting trim. Very effective for bringing in follow-on assets, but not for forcing an entry.

So once again the value of landing combat-ready forces over a beach is highlighted. As is the paucity of current capacity to do so, which includes the near non-existent Naval Gunfire capability of the United States Navy.

Kudos to the Red Team at UNIFIED QUEST. Their job is to poke holes through the invalid assumptions in Blue Forces’ planning and execution, and they have done so here in a major way. Our assumptions regarding port seizures are at the top of this year’s list.

With a “Strategic Pivot” toward the Pacific, let’s hope those who read the Lessons Learned from UQ 12 are paying attention.

 

 



Over at Information Dissemination, there is a very telling post of a Q&A with Mike Petters, President and CEO of Huntington Ingalls Industries. Cruise on over, it is well worth the read.

Mr. Petters has been a panelist at several shipbuilding sessions at USNI West in the last several years, and always provides an invaluable and informed opinion on our nation’s ability to produce warships. His basic point is that shipbuilding is a “use it or lose it” proposition, a similar message to what he delivered at West 2012 and previous panel sessions. Also of note is his very pertinent assertion that shipbuilding, because of the complexity and long lead time to produce, must be anticipatory and not reactive.

History, as one might expect, bears out Mr. Petters’ assertion. The mighty United States Navy of 1944 and 45 had its origins long before the Japanese attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. Indeed, ten of the 24 Essex-class CVs had been ordered, and two laid down, prior to 7 December 1941. More than half of the 96 Benson/Gleaves DDs, and a number of the ubiquitous Fletchers, had been laid down by that date as well, as had a number of heavy and light cruisers, on the heels of the New Orleans-class CAs commissioned in the late 1930s. The three Yorktowns were brand new. The battleships North Carolina and Washington were nearing completion. The South Dakotas were laid down, and work was proceeding on all three. In short, when the demands of a two-ocean global war prompted the building of warships, auxiliaries, merchantmen, submarines, oilers, transports, and smaller vessels of all types, the United States had a running start.

Today, with just Huntington-Ingalls and General Dynamics, we are at a dead stop.

Mr. Petters also points to an immutable truth in all manufacturing, large and small; the great advantages of serial production. The interruption, the delay, the reduction of orders below the point of profitability have a cataclysmic effect on retaining a work force in sufficient numbers, and with the requisite long-lead skill sets that shipbuilding demands. Constant fiddling with the 30-year shipbuilding plan is a major problem for shipbuilders, and for their suppliers.

What is called for, he very rightly points out, is a long-range Navy strategy, one that is more than just bullet phrases with a thin and shrinking capability to accomplish even some of what that strategy calls for. From where I sit, I couldn’t agree more. In this year’s West 2012 Conference, I asked two questions of the Naval Officers on the shipbuilding panel. What is the size of the Navy required to execute the new Maritime Strategy? And what is the high-low mix? Both answers were largely the same. “We don’t know”.

For the sake of what is left of our shipbuilding capability, that answer is not acceptable. The security of the United States as a maritime nation depends on it.

As a historical aside, sixty-eight years ago today, preparations were being made for the landing of 130,000 men on a defended shore, from a force of more than a thousand ships, against a determined and skilled enemy. Power projection from the sea in a decisive battle. The landings I mention are those which were to be made on Saipan ten days later, on 15 June 1944.

Simultaneously, on the other side of the world this very night, half a million men were en route across the stormy and rain-swept English Channel, borne in 3,000 ships, to land on the coast of France and crack the walls of Festung Europa. D-Day, the invasion of occupied Europe, was about to begin.

Five years earlier, not one in ten of those ships which carried all those men and supplies, existed. We were, then, the “Arsenal of Democracy”, and our industrial might saved the world from German and Japanese tyranny. If we had to be so again, even on a much smaller scale, Mr. Petters’ question is a good one. “How long would it take?”

 

 



The following article is cross-posted from an article originally written by Rob Almeida over at gCaptain.

On board USS Antietam, Pusan, South Korea, March 2003

It’s been almost 6.5 years since I resigned my commission in the US Navy where I served 2 tours at sea on board west coast-based warships followed by an instructor tour at the US Naval Academy. Since leaving the service, “civilian-life” has kept me pretty busy. I’ve traveled the world, met thousands of people, and even worked for a year on a drilling rig floor! It’s really been an incredible learning experience and I certainly have a much greater sense of self than I ever did before.

It’s also given me an extraordinary perspective on my time in the US Navy, and how completely backwards and inefficient the US Navy operates at times.

Read the rest of this entry »



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