Archive for the 'Navy' Category
Maybe I just haven’t adjusted yet to being back in the U.S. after 5 years overseas.
The partisan vitriol over the Farsi Island incident involving U.S. Navy Riverine boats in the Persian Gulf surprises me. This event has become a lightning rod of polarization, a litmus test of opposing camps of foreign policy. There is excessive emotion from both sides of the foreign policy question with neither acknowledging that their opposition also has some truth on the other side of the issue.
First and foremost, to paraphrase former SECDEF Hagel’s remarks (starting at the 7:36 mark of this video) as the event was unfolding Wednesday: we don’t know yet all the facts of what happened; we will find out more as crew debriefs, tactical reconstruction, and a full investigation ensue. I would add that until then, a lot of the asssumptions and outrage are unfounded. My own hope is that the full investigation will release what needn’t be classified for public knowledge and Congressional oversight; more importantly we need to ensure that lessons learned are subsequently applied from tactical to political levels.
So what do we think we know? This LA Times article – attention grabbing headline aside – appears to be a solid rundown of what we think we know now. I expect that a full investigation will show a typical “mishap chain”: communications or navigation gear failure, human judgment or error, and Murphy’s law in action cascading to a negative event. Bottom line, our small boats inadvertently entered Iranian waters. Despite that, we achieved a positive resolution – the personnel and vessels were pretty quickly released – due almost wholly to the existing relationships between Presidents Obama and Rouhani and Secretary Kerry and Foreign Minister Zarif. This, in turn, is due to having achieved their nuclear agreement. If a strategic leader has to interact with a counterpart, the first phone conversation better not be after the crisis has started.
Barring substantial revelations from investigation, I don’t see how this event justifies calls for heads to roll from SECDEF and SECNAV down. Obviously, Murphy and the mishap chain were in effect. However, more confrontational actions in another sovereign state’s territorial waters would almost certainly have had a negative outcome – in the tactical situation and in larger national interests.
The taped, and now widely distributed, apology of the officer-in-charge has also been roundly criticized. I would submit that this was quite possibly his best course of action: this is not/not a POW situation for name, rank, and serial number only. This is not a code of conduct situation, and that apology does not amount to confessing to be an American air pirate. The Department of Defense “Isolated Personnel Guidance” speaks to detention of uniformed personnel. While it refers to the code of conduct, it sets a different bar: “U.S. military personnel will maintain their military bearing, regardless of the type of detention…they should make every effort to remain calm, courteous, and project personal dignity.” So far, so good. The guidance also says, “A detainee should make every effort to avoid providing propaganda for the detaining government.” Maybe not so good. Overall, though, that guidance refers to detention by “hostile governments,” and whether that condition applies is debatable. My own initial response was that if the boats were indeed inappropriately in territorial waters, it is more akin to dealing with the local gendarmerie when you and your sailors have inadvertently ended up somewhere you shouldn’t be in a liberty port. Defuse the situation, and get back ship.
By no means was the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) right in its apparent initial treatment of the crew and propagandizing of the apology video. Captain Sean Liedman provided US News and World Report a great rundown of the ways in which the IRGCN was at odds with USN sovereign immunity, the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. However, the time to protest that and call for accountability is not when the personnel are still on foreign soil, nor in the State of the Union address. One hopes that that diplomatic discussion is ongoing now.
Another thing to understand is that this is more complex and nuanced than a monolithic Iran behaving badly. Everyone who has steamed or flown in the Persian Gulf already knows that the IRGCN and Islamic Republic of Iran Navy will respond differently to a given situation. IRGCN actions may have been exacerbated or exaggerated by domestic political maneuvering between the Rouhani/Zarif camp of (relative) moderates and “hardliners” which could be exemplified by General Soleimani and the IRGC. It may initially seem counter-intuitive, but diplomatic success by the moderates in the administration increases the possibility of hardliners reacting more strongly when they seize an opportunity.
We can be dismayed at the treatment of our sailors, and even question the apology while still being thankful for the overall outcome and larger diplomatic success. I look forward to finding ground truth on the events, and also on learning some lessons – from tactical up to national level. Unfortunately, though, the whole incident has fueled some of the worst behaviors of our polarized body politic.
NB: Scroll to the bottom for updates.
Some blog posts are best put together with few words, but lots of pictures. Pictures matter. Pictures also need to be understood in each cultural context in which they are viewed.
Yesterday’s events that led up to the capture and release of our 10 Sailors will be better known in time, and is best reviewed then. That “how they got there” story is a very separate story than the more important story about what the Iranians did with the opportunity we gave them.
Think about not so much the view with your eyes, but with the eyes of those who do not wish our nation well; those who are on the fence, looking for the strong horse; those friends who lean heavily on their confidence in the great United States Navy.
Look and think about this part of the story – it will have much longer impact on our nation than the tactical details about how we got to the point where our flag was pulled down, our Sailors had their hands behind their heads, and from that sad view in the corner, our female Sailor appears to have been forced to wear a head scarf.
Oh, and yes; you must watch the video.
ویدئو: لحظه دستگیری ملوانان آمریکایی در حریم آبی ایران در خلیج فارس pic.twitter.com/KPAf3USGrA
— روزنامه شرق (@SharghDaily) January 13, 2016
Update: More video.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
Update II – Electric Boogaloo: Like Malcolm McDowell’s Alex, you will be made to watch.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
UPDAE III: Interior video post capture. Nice comm gear.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
Please join us on 10 Jan 2015 at 5pm (U.S. EST) for Midrats Episode 314: 6th Anniversary Expanded Panel on One Question:
Yes Shipmates … we are now in our 6th year of Midrats!
To mark the day, we are going to have a radically different format as a thank you gift to our listeners.
The focus of the show today is one question; “Where do you see as the most critical thing to watch for Navy and Marine Corp issues in 2016.”
To get the answer, we are bringing on a series of prior guests one at a time in their own segment. To kick off we bring back our fellow Midrats plankowner co-host Raymond Pritchett, founder of Information Dissemination. Following Raymond will be James R. Holmes, Professor of strategy and policy at the Naval War College; The Original Chapomatic CDR Chap Godbey, USN (terminal leave); author and former National Defense University Professor James S. Robbins; CTR1(IDW/SW) Lucien Gauthier, USN; CAPT Herb Carmen, USN (Ret), and Lieutenant Matthew Hipple, USN.
Live radio. One question. Seven men.
Two drink minimum.
It might prove to be an interesting adventure in live radio. Or something.
One of the United States Naval Academy’s primary objectives is to develop not just leaders, but leaders of character. The honor program seeks to inculcate ethical behavior by immersing Midshipmen in an environment where lying, cheating, and stealing are not tolerated, in hopes that this culture will follow graduates into the fleet.
But does the Naval Academy’s ethical development curriculum work? Right now, the Naval Academy has only one metric to help answer that question: honor offenses (lying, cheating, or stealing). If honor offenses go down, it is assumed that the current policies are working. And if honor offenses go up, a course correction is made. To honestly use honor offenses to make decisions, though, we must more deeply dissect the metric into all its parts and see what it is really telling us.
The total number of honor offenses is a product of three figures: 1) The number of honor offenses that are committed, 2) times the percentage of committed honor offenses that are witnessed, 3) times the percentage of witnessed honor offenses that are reported. Lowering any one of those three numbers will generate results that suggest mission accomplishment.
In recent history, there was a sharp decline in the number of honor offenses that coincided with a strengthening of the deterrent against committing an offense. While it was not official policy, nobody was being retained after their second offense. And many were been separated after their first.
Putting the observed decline aside for a moment, how would we expect harsher punishments to affect the three component numbers? I think it’s safe to assume that the number of honor offenses committed would decline. The harsh consequences would deter potential honor offenders who are on the fence between lying or not. But there is certainly a question as to whether the deterred Midshipmen would be ethical officers or whether they would just resort to their natural behavior once the Honor Concept is no longer binding for them.
The second number would also probably decline. Those Midshipmen who do decide to lie or cheat will go to extra lengths to conceal their actions, knowing that they will be separated if they are caught. This is certainly not a desired outcome of the harsher policy, since it is plausible that their successful skirting of authorities will reinforce dishonorable character traits.
And the third number would decline as well, since it would be harder for close friends to turn each other in to the honor system when separation is so certain. They would likely choose to just remediate each other in person, at the lowest level possible. And fewer honor offenders would get the senior officer remediation that they need.
So, with harsher punishments we’d expect all three numbers to decrease and the overall metric to indicate success. But movement in the latter two component numbers is undesirable and the movement in the first is of questionable significance.
We can’t assume that a downward trend in honor offenses is a good thing, then. It could really be indicating a lot of unhealthy developments. There’s no way to know.
The Naval Academy needs a different way to measure success. Creating a Brigade of Midshipmen that doesn’t cheat on tests, or doesn’t get reported for cheating on tests, isn’t the big picture goal. Graduating a body of officers who won’t lie in the fleet is. An ideal metric would be able to track the long term impact of the Academy’s program.
Since the Naval Academy knows where its graduates are going to be for their first five years after graduation, it has the ability to gather data from its alumni for at least that long. The Stockdale Center for Ethical Leadership (the research arm of the Naval Academy’s Honor Program) could annually distribute anonymous questionnaires to all Midshipmen and initial commitment graduates to gather information about the state of honor development at Annapolis.
Questions could ask about beliefs held before coming to the Academy, behaviors and beliefs held while at Annapolis, and behaviors exhibited in the fleet. Stockdale Center personnel could analyze the data to identify whether the Academy is changing attitudes and habits, or if it is just wasting its time. And anonymous reports from Midshipmen would give a more accurate count of committed honor offenses than does the current system.
Not too long ago, I took the first steps toward creating such a questionnaire and found out quite a few interesting things. With the help of Shipmate Magazine (a Naval Academy oriented periodical), I got around 700 alumni to answer questions about their attitudes before they came to the academy, what kinds of behaviors and attitudes they exhibited at the academy, and what kinds of behaviors they demonstrated in the fleet.
The results were insightful, but limited by the one-time nature of the study. The data showed that it doesn’t matter what kind of foundation in ethics you have coming in, the Academy can give it to you. In fact, those who have no ethical foundation, but fully buy into the system, show the lowest rates of lying in the fleet.
I found that cheating and lying were correlated to being 2 and 3 times more likely to lie in the fleet, respectively. The large difference in these two offenses is surprising and needs further study to be sure that they are enduring. With the knowledge of which offenses are worse than others, we can tailor punishments and remediation programs more precisely.
The most interesting result, in my opinion, is that of the relationship between habits, beliefs, and future behavior. A lot of the Naval Academy’s honor philosophy seems to be based on the idea that if for four years Midshipmen are forced to be honorable, that habit will continue into the fleet. That might be somewhat true, but the study showed that getting a change in beliefs along with habits was twice as effective as just habits.
Optimizing our honor program should be less about the beliefs of whoever is currently in charge and more about empirically backed approaches. There is no other institution in the world that is as well placed to develop these approaches as the United States Naval Academy. By building the tools to collect data about our student body’s interaction with the honor program, we can enable current and future generations to build techniques and strategies that can be applied not only at our institution, but around the world.
We have a new CNO, and now we have his view of where he sees the Navy and where he wants us to go; A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.
Let’s do something a bit different and go through it together. I don’t feel like crafting a broad overview, and I don’t want to Fisk the document either. Let’s go Old School blogger and put this together as I read it.
Before we get started at page 1, let’s define what it is not. If you are looking for a strategy paper, then this is not the publication you are looking for.
You can go to the embedded document below, or click here and open it in another tab, but let’s get started.
The initiatives laid out in this Design represent initial steps along a future course to achieve the aims articulated in the Revised Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century (CS-21R) in this new environment.
Oh no. Off the bat we have all sorts of staff failure. I am disheartened. As a recidivist staff weenie, I can be scrappy on such things, but really folks. From the “planning to plan” school, we lead with “initial steps” … following a MAR15 update to a 2007 document? This does not inspire confidence, but let’s push though and assume that we have not been marching in place for eight years. We’ll give you a mulligan.
Clunk. Just as we step forward, we clang our nogg’n in to the overhead; What was that again?
Revised Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century
I really want to like this, so let’s take a deep breath and see if we can make it to page 2.
Hey, we can call page 2 the BJ Armstrong memorial page, as we kick it off with Mahan. You can never go wrong quoting Mahan for a good review of the fundamentals … but … oh no again …
The essence of Mahan’s vision still pertains: America’s interests lie beyond our own shores. What was true in the late 19th century holds true today – America’s success depends on our creativity, our entrepreneurism, and our access and relationships abroad. In an increasingly globalized world, America’s success is even more reliant on the U.S. Navy.
Wait, we’re warming up;
this Design will address three major and interrelated global forces that are increasingly used, increasingly stressed, increasingly important, and increasingly contested. These three forces energize the quickly changing environment in which the Navy must operate, and if required, fight and win.
The first global force is the traffic on the oceans, seas, and waterways, including the sea floor – the classic maritime system.
A second increasingly influential force is the rise of the global information system – the information that rides on the servers, undersea cables, satellites, and wireless networks that increasingly envelop and connect the globe.
OK, standard as well.
The third interrelated force is the increasing rate of technological creation and adoption. This is not just in information technologies, where Gordon Moore’s projections of exponential advances in processing, storage, and switches continue to be realized. Scientists are also unlocking new properties of commonplace materials and creating new materials altogether at astonishing speeds.
Helpful review, but let’s keep going to the middle of page 3, and there it is.
For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers.
Russia and China are not the only actors seeking to gain advantages in the emerging security environment in ways that threaten U.S. and global interests. Others are now pursuing advanced technology, including military technologies that were once the exclusive province of great powers – this trend will only continue.
We have named names. Excellent and the right call – and a solid departure from previous such documents. This brings focus to the mind.
On to page 4, we also have a very welcome datapoint,
There is also a fourth ‘force’ that shapes our security environment. Barring an unforeseen change, even as we face new challenges and an increasing pace, the Defense and Navy budgets likely will continue to be under pressure. We will not be able to “buy” our way out of the challenges that we face. The budget environment will force tough choices but must also inspire new thinking.
Bravo Zulu CNO. As we get within range of the Terrible 20s, an understanding of this will be essential for everyone to understand.
So far, we seem to have a King Cake of a new year’s document. A fun little prize in the middle of a bunch of cake, but that is OK. I don’t think this is designed for the maritime chattering classes, think tankers, or keyboard armed pontificators. This is an introductory document; a “Design.”
As you get to page 5, you get the “Core Attributes;” Integrity, Accountability, Initiative, Toughness.
Do these seem like sound fundamentals? Sure, and welcome. These are refreshingly time tested, clearly delivered, and a absent some of the socio-political agenda checklist items found in previous such documents. These are solid items leaders in the field can build things around.
Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
Page 6 brings the Four Lines of Effort; 1;
Strengthen Naval Power and and From The Sea
Outstanding. All of this is related to projecting national will from the sea and builds off the previous CNO’s “Warfighing First.” More of this.
Achieve High Velocity Education at All Levels
An education focus with four specifics on page 7. Fine, especially;
Understand the lessons of history so as not to relearn them
So, we will expand history requirements in line with STEM requirements? Asking for a friend.
Strengthen Our Navy Team for the Future
Weak leaning towards fluff in the beginning, but strong at the end. Five points that mention leader/leadership five times … in the last two bullets. I do have some embedded issues with Sailor 2025 the first two bullets seem to be rubb’n on it like a dog on fresh deer skittles. 2025 is worm eaten with divisive, quota driven, Social Justice, and retrograde items in its “Culture” section – but I’ve always assumed much of it is harmless feeding of Vaal, so no deal killer.
Expand and Strengthen our Network of Partners
A bit from the “take-charge-and-carry-out-the-plan-of-the-day” item bin, but in line with Orwell’s quote above, workable.
That is about it.
As stated in the opening, if you expected more, you won’t find it. This is good at what it is, a broad directional outline of what a leader wants you to keep in mind as you focus on your area of responsibility.
– Focus on how you will project force in a more challenged sea, with more constrained resources.
– This is a service that has time tested fundamentals that you should use as a benchmark.
– Don’t get distracted by shiny objects other have thrown in your way.
More to follow.
|MC3 B. Siens|
UPDATED: Correct time for the show is 5pm EST.
Please join us at 5:00pm on 3 Jan 2016 for Midrats Episode 313: Fleet Architecture and Strategic Efficiency with Barney Rubel discussing
How do you balance cost, risk, peacetime habits and wartime requirements in designing and using the world’s largest Navy?
How do we maximize the most the utility of our platforms now, and create a future fleet best suited for what is coming up?
“Sea Control Ship” (1972 design)
Our guest for the full hour to discuss will be Barney Rubel, CAPT, USN (Ret.).
Robert C. “Barney” Rubel is a retired naval officer. From 2006 to 2014, he was Dean of the Center for Naval Warfare Studies at the US Naval War College. Prior to assuming this position, he was Chairman of the Wargaming Department. A thirty-year Navy veteran, he received his commission through the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Illinois. He subsequently became a light attack naval aviator, flying the A-7 Corsair II and later the F/A-18 Hornet. He commanded Strike Fighter Squadron 131 and also served as the Inspector General at U.S. Southern Command.
The January 2016 issue of Proceedings is out, and it contains a well-intentioned essay from Captain Kevin Eyer, USN (ret) on “How to Make Flag.” It is an honest reflection of what many see as the way to achieve the storied rank of Admiral.
There are certainly no shortages of literature out there about how to rise to the top in your profession, from do-it-yourself guides to self-reflection pieces by leaders. In the Navy, we are often told about the sanctity of the Golden Path and the sacred nature of the MILPERSMAN. These are our “how-to” guides to get that mythical “EP” or “100” or “knowing wink of approval” when a career hinge-point appears.
Many folks want to make the Navy a career, and I can’t imagine a nobler pursuit. Some rely on the Navy for a paycheck and a decent standard of living. But let us never forget that a Navy career is not about oneself; it is about something greater.
What is needed in our Navy today are not officers committed to flag, but officers committed to purpose. We need men and women who are willing to make a difference for the service, for their Sailors, and for each other without regard to self-acclaim or the credit.
Cynicism and the Company
Captain Eyer remarks that, to make flag, “cynicism of any sort is unwelcome. You do not want to be identified as one of those poor souls who simply doesn’t ‘get it’.” Cynicism, though, is often in the eye of the beholder; at times it is feedback or legitimate grievance, while at others it is useless complaining. And the root of much of the background cynicism in our service is that “the system is rigged;” that “the status quo culture” reigns; and that it is more about “career building than professional development.”
It is telling that small talk in our service, especially when one meets someone new, goes something like this:
“So, are you staying in?” (meaning: The Navy)
If you answer “No” or “I’m not sure,” commence some tangent conversation. But if you say, “Yes:”
“Oh, so you’re a lifer?” they sneer.
And that, right there, is the crux of the issue. There is a perception that commitment to the Navy as a career means you must become a “company man;” that you will swallow the “company line.”
Maybe that was how things were in a different time. But there is a generation working hard, quietly, coming up through the ranks. We are committed to making a difference instead of making rank. We are committed to doing this even if it makes us look personally bad, or if it means some new “requirement” or the elimination of some cherished pot of money, or a request for assets that can help us fight better.
A Different Discussion
According to Captain Eyer, “following these rules should get you into the discussion, which cannot be said of that other superb performer who chose either to labor in obscure fields or was freer in the expression of his or her views.”
We should never fear the thoughtful, positive, constructive exchange of ideas or opinions. We must be confident in ourselves as a service–and individually as leaders–that debate makes us stronger and inspires greater understanding, better operations.
If we are going to break the stereotype of “company men” or “company women” in positions of authority, we are going to have to break down some barriers. We are going to have to value intra-service communication and discussion. We are going to have to break through the paradigm of the NAVADMIN and the Page 13 and talk about why we do things. And we are going to have to help change the often counter-productive cultures in our service, from de-facto personnel policy to innovation to leadership and command.
New Year, New Navy
Captain Eyer’s piece accurately reflects the current perception of how some of our leaders are chosen. But it does not have to be this way. We can be a generation who chooses purpose over promotion.
We choose to gain perspective now. We choose to build coalitions now. We choose to attempt to solve the problems that vex us today so that we can be the generation that stops kicking the can down the road. We choose to take charge of our Navy now–if not in rank or billet, then in ideas and purpose.
We have history on our side. Our Navy is at its best when it uses all of its brain; not just the well-billeted, high-ranked parts.
Thankfully, there are more than a few flag officers who have made a difference throughout their careers. They inspire us, give us hope, and challenge us to achieve greater things.
As we close out 2015, let us look to a New Year where we care less about the ink on our FITREP, and more about the sweat and daily strain required to make our service better, every day. How do we do this? Write. Get together over coffee, beer, water, or PT. Ask Questions! Talk about our history and lessons learned. Ask “What if?” Prototype. Practice. Fail. Never Stop Moving Forward.
We do not need permission to make our Navy better. We do not need to wait for flag. We need simply to make a difference.
Question: What do you get when you combine ballistic missile defense technology imported from Moorestown, New Jersey, with a former Soviet-Bloc Air Base in Deveselu, Romania?
Answer: The beginning of the next phase of a 135-year bilateral relationship with Romania and a brand new Aegis Ashore site designed to provide for the ballistic missile defense of NATO Allies in Europe.
Deveselu is part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach and the newest responsibility of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet. The drive southeast of Craiova, Romania takes you through what has rightly been called Europe’s breadbasket. At harvest time, the crops are piled up in sheaves. Bucolic fields stretch like waves as far as the eye can see. Then a gray mass looms on the horizon, and you do a double-take at what appears to be an actual ship steaming on the horizon, its hull obscured by a sea of green. What you are looking at is the profile of the Aegis Ashore Missile Defense System usually associated with the Aegis DDG but now firmly planted in Romanian soil, a concrete example of our commitment to collective defense in Europe.
Aegis Ashore is essentially the Aegis Weapon System built on land instead of on a U.S. Navy destroyer at sea. A major difference between the ship-based and shore-based systems is space. Hull space, size, weight, balance, and ballast are not limiting factors when installing equipment on a concrete pad in a warehouse that is quite literally in the middle of an old Warsaw Pact airbase.
This odd shaped deckhouse building is filled with the latest technologically and highlights the adaptive part of European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA). The deckhouse was originally built in Moorestown, New Jersey, then packed into 156 forty-foot containers and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. The pre-fabricated pieces meant that assembly of the 900 tons of steel occurred faster than it normally would when building a U.S. Navy warship.
On December 18, 2015, my good friend and one of the finest engineers in the world, VADM Jim Syring, Director, Missile Defense Agency formally reached the Technical Capability Declaration (TCD) milestone and handed the “keys” to Aegis Ashore over to the Navy. Sailors will now be the ones operating the equipment and testing the systems, instead of contractors. Sailors will train and conduct exercises until they and the systems are fully certified, similar to conducting “sea trails” with a new ship.
Aegis Ashore-Romania has one extremely important mission: ballistic missile defense of the population and infrastructure of U.S. and NATO allies. We hope that we will never need to fire a missile from Deveselu because that would imply a ballistic missile from Iran had been launched against a target in Europe. That said, the US military and our NATO allies must always be prepared to conduct this sort of mission precisely because we hope we never need to execute them. Capabilities, equipment, and training give credence to the words of diplomacy. Aegis Ashore is a major component of EPAA, which is the U.S. national contribution to NATO Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) and the collective defense of Europe.
The singularity of purpose of Aegis Ashore means that it must always be ready. The designed redundancy is robust, taking advantage of the large space to add more backup equipment. The technology is impressive, but like anything in the U.S. Navy, Sailors are the true heart of the mission. The Sailors who live and work in Deveselu are pioneers in the purest form. They are simultaneously standing up the first Aegis weapons system at a new base–Naval Support Facility Deveselu–and training to operationalize this system into EPAA and the NATO Alliance. And they are doing an impressive job!!!
There has been a dramatic amount of progress made in the support facilities as well as the Aegis Ashore system since my last visit to Deveselu in February 2015. This month, Sailors are moving from CLUs (Containerized Living Units, pronounced “clues”) into new two-person barracks rooms that are comfortable but austere. Three of the nine rotational Aegis Ashore crews will be in Deveselu at any given time for six-month deployments.
The Sailors I met serving in Deveselu are extremely competent and highly motivated. I am confident that the perseverance they showed during the construction phase will continue as we move into the operational phase. I am proud of these Sailors, and appreciate all that they do on a daily basis to protect the United States and our allies. Think about them over the Christmas holidays. They are unaccompanied, away from family and friends, and keeping us safe. They have the watch…
The USA can’t do it all in WESTPAC, and we shouldn’t do it all. When it comes to regional security, the USA does have comparative advantage compared to some of our friends and allies, specifically economic power, and technology.
They have comparative advantages in geographic location and manpower. If we can combine our advantages in to the right package, there is more then enough there to give China pause in her expansionist ambitions.
Over at The National Interest, Jerry Hendrix is thinking about this and thinking right;
There is a Goliath menacing the western Pacific. China’s construction of three huge artificial islands with obvious military capacity in the South China Sea has already destabilized the security equilibrium in the region. Given the rising tensions and outright challenges to the established international security order in the western Pacific, it is time for the United States to align its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program with its Pivot to Asia initiative, in order to strengthen the region’s Davids.
Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore have been increasingly united in their resistance towards Chinese aggression, but their unity, though powerful symbolically and legally compelling, can go only so far in the face of China’s rapidly expanding military capacity and capabilities. They will need new platforms adept at complicating China’s territorial designs and integrating with allies, partners and neighbors.
Jerry covers the math well further in the article, but when reading it, I kept coming back to the title, If China’s Goliath Threatens Asia, Then Arm David.
So David, in that story, is supposed to be the underdog, right? In fact, that term, David and Goliath, has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger. Now why do we call David an underdog? Well, we call him an underdog because he’s a kid, a little kid, and Goliath is this big, strong giant. We also call him an underdog because Goliath is an experienced warrior, and David is just a shepherd. But most importantly, we call him an underdog because all he has is — it’s that Goliath is outfitted with all of this modern weaponry, this glittering coat of armor and a sword and a javelin and a spear, and all David has is this sling.
Well, let’s start there with the phrase “All David has is this sling,” because that’s the first mistake that we make. In ancient warfare, there are three kinds of warriors. There’s cavalry, men on horseback and with chariots. There’s heavy infantry, which are foot soldiers, armed foot soldiers with swords and shields and some kind of armor. And there’s artillery, and artillery are archers, but, more importantly, slingers. And a slinger is someone who has a leather pouch with two long cords attached to it, and they put a projectile, either a rock or a lead ball, inside the pouch, and they whirl it around like this and they let one of the cords go, and the effect is to send the projectile forward towards its target. That’s what David has, and it’s important to understand that that sling is not a slingshot. It’s not this, right? It’s not a child’s toy. It’s in fact an incredibly devastating weapon. When David rolls it around like this, he’s turning the sling around probably at six or seven revolutions per second, and that means that when the rock is released, it’s going forward really fast, probably 35 meters per second. That’s substantially faster than a baseball thrown by even the finest of baseball pitchers. More than that, the stones in the Valley of Elah were not normal rocks. They were barium sulphate, which are rocks twice the density of normal stones. If you do the calculations on the ballistics, on the stopping power of the rock fired from David’s sling, it’s roughly equal to the stopping power of a [.45 caliber] handgun. This is an incredibly devastating weapon. Accuracy, we know from historical records that slingers — experienced slingers could hit and maim or even kill a target at distances of up to 200 yards. From medieval tapestries, we know that slingers were capable of hitting birds in flight. They were incredibly accurate. When David lines up — and he’s not 200 yards away from Goliath, he’s quite close to Goliath — when he lines up and fires that thing at Goliath, he has every intention and every expectation of being able to hit Goliath at his most vulnerable spot between his eyes. If you go back over the history of ancient warfare, you will find time and time again that slingers were the decisive factor against infantry in one kind of battle or another.
So what’s Goliath? He’s heavy infantry, and his expectation when he challenges the Israelites to a duel is that he’s going to be fighting another heavy infantryman. When he says, “Come to me that I might feed your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field,” the key phrase is “Come to me.” Come up to me because we’re going to fight, hand to hand, like this. Saul has the same expectation. David says, “I want to fight Goliath,” and Saul tries to give him his armor, because Saul is thinking, “Oh, when you say ‘fight Goliath,’ you mean ‘fight him in hand-to-hand combat,’ infantry on infantry.”
But David has absolutely no expectation. He’s not going to fight him that way.
So the Israelites up on the mountain ridge looking down on him thought he was this extraordinarily powerful foe. What they didn’t understand was that the very thing that was the source of his apparent strength was also the source of his greatest weakness.
And there is, I think, in that, a very important lesson for all of us. Giants are not as strong and powerful as they seem. And sometimes the shepherd boy has a sling in his pocket.
Let’s stick with this angle on David vs. Goliath.
If we want to help our Davids, how do we do that? By using each partner’s comparative advantage, and acknowledging critical vulnerabilities as well – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We should make sure we keep our Davids light, mobile, efficient and deadly. If we do that, who knows, perhaps we too can stand in the distance and watch them fight and win for themselves.
Admiral Hyman Rickover is famous for being the father of our Nuclear Navy. His antics are legend today. The force of both his personality and his intellect cemented the Navy’s contribution to our nation’s strategic nuclear deterrent in a way that perhaps no other individual will ever match.
For his Nuclear Navy, Rickover was fond of saying, “Trust…but verify.” While that phrase may have achieved some success in the nuclear community, its misuse in other naval communities has done more harm than good.
Let us not be fooled by syntax. “Trust…but verify” is an oxymoron. When it is misused elsewhere in the Navy, it can have a deleterious effect.
To Risk, or Not to Risk?
In his seminal book “The Black Swan,” Nassim Taleb argues that people tend to underestimate seemingly infrequent, yet cataclysmic, events, and therefore make dangerous risk decisions. The phrases “once in a blue moon” or “almost zero” lull us into a false sense of security. We mistake “absence of evidence” for “evidence of absence.”
One of the few communities in the world where this is not a problem–a community where, arguably, risk is put in a chokehold by SOPs, checklists, and the like–is Rickover’s Nuclear Navy. This is appropriate and good – even one small accident on a nuclear-powered ship is one accident too many. Not only are our nuclear ships expensive, but the psychological investment our service and the American people have placed in their safe operation is profound.
But Rickover’s “trust…but verify” for his nuclear force has spread to nearly every corner of our Navy. It is on conventionally-powered ships, squadrons, staffs, and small units around the Fleet. Whether this translates to unnecessary administrative paperwork, voice reports, or simply standing around and waiting depends on your experience. It reflects a misapplication of Rickover’s phrase.
Trust vs Question
Webster defines “trust” as “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.” Trust carries a very positive connotation; it implies knowledge and autonomy. Sailors work hard to gain trust and display these sacred character traits.
Webster defines “verify” as “to prove, show, find out, or state that (something) is true or correct.”
As leaders, by definition, one cannot “trust” a person yet continually feel the need to “verify” what they do. It is either redundant or self-contradictory; in either event, it can lead to waste or, paradoxically, feelings of mistrust.
We should make an exception here, however: there is a difference between questioning and trust. Rickover intended his phrase to develop a corps of operators that would dig deep into their systems and know them down to each individual electron. This type of tactical expertise is what we seek and exercise daily in our Navy.
Questioning can be good; for instance, when junior sailors question in order to seek a full understanding of tactics, processes, procedures, and strategy. Questioning can also be positive for senior sailors, to gain situational awareness or correct inaccuracies.
But when we allow “trust…but verify” to be applied to individuals and organizations, and not specific systems, something insidious happens in our service.
Over Your Shoulder
Too often today, “trust…but verify” is used to micromanage fleets, squadrons, and individuals. Instead of trust and leadership, we perpetuate a system of management and leadership-by-checklist. We do not “question-up,” in order for juniors to gain knowledge and understanding; we “question-down,” in order to show off our specialized knowledge or cover our administrative requirements. “Trust…but verify” is not the appropriate response to a draft PowerPoint presentation, nor should it be the checklist-mandated response to a time-sensitive target request.
As the results of the most recent JO Command Survey show, there is at least the perception that even commanders of ships and squadrons–historically coveted positions–enjoy very limited, narrow trust. Many junior officers and enlisted, when considering the “stay/go” decision, question whether they want to continue such a tenuous trust proposition.
If we are to counter this trend, and better foster trust both up and down the chain of command, we should do a few things:
-Encourage ingenuity and proactivity. These should be core tenets for prospective Sailors at each of our accession sources, but they should be more than simple words–we should show them what we mean. What does a proactive, trusting ship or squadron look like?
-Talk about risk and personnel. If our hesitancy to fully trust people is because we think they will fail, we have an unfortunately low opinion of our Sailors. Are we bringing in the right folks? Giving them the best possible training to be proactive, learning professionals? Some ships and squadrons encourage questions and collaborative learning, but these units are the exception–not the rule.
-Be open about trust. Either you have it, or you don’t. The middle road, where we promote people on paper but not in truth, slows down the already-sluggish bureaucracy and fosters a trust environment counter to the ideal.
Trust is hard–but so is leadership. To paraphrase an overused cliché: “If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.”
“Trust…but verify” has worked for the Nuclear Navy at the systems level; we must confine it to those parameters. In leadership, tactics, operations, and strategy, what we need is, “Trust. Period.”
Or, begging Admiral Rickover’s pardon, perhaps we make room on our mantle for Yoda: “Trust, or Trust Not. There is no ‘Verify.'”