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Just a week after the horrific attack on ordinary citizens in Paris, the United States has been unequivocal in its support of our French allies. The motto of Paris is Fluctuat nec mergitur, which translates as “tossed but not sunk.” The crest of the city shows a ship in stormy waters. What an appropriate reflection of the strength and optimism that defines the spirit of a city that has endured so much in the last week. The tenacity of Parisians reminds me of that of New Yorkers after 9/11.

228px-Grandes_Armes_de_Paris svgBefore this incident, I would have told you that the bonds of friendship and partnership between the United States Navy and the French Navy have never been stronger. In fact, just a few days before the attack in Paris, I was in Toulon, France on a counterpart visit with VADM Yves Joly, French Commander of the Mediterranean Maritime Defence Region (CECMED). We discussed plans for exercises between our two Fleets in 2016 and the highlight of my visit included a trip to the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, operating in the Mediterranean not far from Toulon. During my visit on 10 November, the seas were still calm… This would all change in a couple of days.

Charles de Gualle - VADm FoggoThose familiar with the Nimitz class might be surprised how at home they would feel aboard the French carrier. Although somewhat smaller than USS Harry S. Truman, also currently in route to the Mediterranean, the bones of the French carrier show a common pedigree: the way the flight deck control is arranged, the quality of the maintenance, the arresting gear and catapults which are fully compatible with US aircraft and even the jersey colors on the flight deck. I saw the French E2C Hawkeyes, Super Etendards and Rafale jet aircraft launch and recover onboard. As I stood next to the Air Boss during flight deck operations, I felt like I was on an American carrier. Likewise, I met with American pilots on exchange tours—two of whom were airborne that day—fully integrated into the air wing. I also met French pilots who had passed through Pensacola, the cradle of Naval Aviation, proud to be Top Guns in their own air wing. Just days before the attacks in Paris, the entire crew impressed me with their professionalism and unity of purpose, as they prepared for their third Arabian Gulf deployment in as many years. The French Sailors and Airmen had the same unwavering determination that characterizes the best of our breed regardless of which flag is stitched on their flight suits.

Charles de Gaulle Flight OPSBeyond flight ops, I observed an impressive display of interoperability with the United States and allies at a time when the Global Network of Navies is needed now more than ever. The US Navy does not have a monopoly on power projection; it is heartening to know that the French Navy is also willing and able to set sail at a moment’s notice in defense of common interests and values.

The day after my visit to the Charles de Gaulle, I attended a solemn ceremony at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris that underscored the esprit de corps that was so evident aboard the carrier. On 11 November 2015 the Champs de Elysee was closed to traffic, an act akin to shutting down Broadway in New York City. The Arc which is usually an island in a turbulent sea of cars and honking horns stood eerily quiet, the giant Tricolour hung from the middle of the Arc and ranks of veterans stood as solemn guards around the eternal flame. Circling the monument, representatives from around the world stood out of respect in front of rows of unused seats. A video flashed images of French soldiers who had recently given their lives in the war on terror, followed by four solemn words: mort pour la France. President Francois Hollande arrived, but he offered no speeches, simply himself as a representative of the Republic and a witness to the human sacrifice that her citizens have made through the years. He laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and shook hands, pausing to speak with friends and family members of those who had fallen. In the United States, we call this day Veterans Day; in Europe it is called Armistice Day or Remembrance Day. Je me souviens…

West Point Cadets Arc de TriompheFollowing the national ceremony, our delegation laid a wreath in a private event at the Suresnes American Cemetery overlooking the skyline of the city of Paris. Above the white crosses and stars of David the words are etched, “This memorial has been erected by the United States of America as a sacred rendezvous of a grateful people with its immortal dead.” Our rendezvous was one of generations. We were met by members of the VFW and boys and girls from the local scout troops. The veterans were Americans who had settled in France. One landed on D-Day plus three (D + 3) and stayed in France ever since. Many of the scouts had dual French and American citizenship. The skies were cloudy and a storm was coming, but as I looked over these young faces in the foreground and the crosses in the background, it was obvious that the future of the friendship that has bound our two countries together is bright. It is a friendship based on common ideals. It is a friendship that has been tested many times and will be tested again.

USS CARNEY's YardarmWhen America was attacked in 2001, France came to our aid. At the Arc, many of the images of the departed soldiers listed “Afghanistan” as the place of death. The Charles de Gaulle will soon sail in harm’s way, filling a gap in carrier presence. Frenchmen and Americans have fought side by side ever since our Revolution. Like the United States, France defines itself by ideals. Ours are summed up in the Declaration of Independence. The French identity is crystalized in the Declaration des Droits de l’Hommes with the simple words liberté, égalité, and fraternité. These values, values which we as Americans share, are what were brazenly attacked last week. The flags in American outposts and ships at sea (see the yardarm of USS Carney below) have stood at half-mast in solidarity with our close ally. We mourn with our friends. We stand with our friends. And we in Sixth Fleet set sail with our friends in defense of what we hold dear.

Please join us on Sunday, 8 Nov 2015 at 5pm EST (U.S.) for Midrats
Episode 305: Fall Free For All

It is that time of the year … time for a Fall Free For All on Midrats.

No guests, no agenda, open phones, open topics, open mic.

Join Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “Eaglespeak” for a full hour as we dive in to the national security topics of the day with a maritime bent – or whatever topics break above the background noise.

This is your chance by calling in or by throwing it out in the live chat room, to bring up the topic you wish we would cover, or to just play stump the chump.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or, if you prefer, you also can find the show later at our iTunes page here.


Athena East Innovation Competition

September 2015


athena east

Posted by admin in Uncategorized | No Comments

This post originally appeared here, at Ms. In the Biz. It is re-posted with the author’s permission.

Before I moved to Los Angeles two years ago and started working in the entertainment industry, I had a totally different life as a Naval Officer running nuclear reactors on an aircraft carrier. It was a scary leap to leave all that behind and start a new career from scratch, but what I’ve found is that a lot of the skills I learned in my old career carry over to movie-making. Here are three fundamentals of Navy nuclear power that have helped me to find success as a filmmaker:Jackie-photo2

  1. Level of Knowledge

Whether you are making a movie or overseeing fission reactions, knowledge is power. That doesn’t mean you have to go spend thousands of dollars on a directing MFA before you can make a movie. I didn’t go to film school. But I study A LOT. I read every screenwriting and filmmaking book that’s recommended to me by someone I trust. When I’m working on a project I watch lots of similar movies for research. Every time I come across a how-to online or Q&A from someone I admire I take the time to read/watch. People share their hard earned lessons and advice and my ears are always open.

This all happens before I get on set. Like a captain needs to understand the full capability of their ship, as a director I need a thorough understanding of my set. I didn’t get that knowledge in film school, and while you can find definitions online, nothing is as good as hands on training. Spend time on sets. You’ll learn things each time and get to see how other people work so you can incorporate good habits and steer clear of bad ones.

  1. Preparation

Benjamin Franklin said it perfectly, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. Nothing is truer when it comes to making a movie. Aggressive preparation during pre-production will pay off dividends during the shoot. This is a lesson I learned from my previous shoot that I’m taking into my current film. Everything was smooth enough, but if I had spent more time thinking things out beforehand, I know I could have made a better film.

You are never going to have everything perfect, but you should never be kicking yourself about something not turning out the way you want because of lack of preparation. Murphy’s Law is taken to the nth degree when you’re ready to make your movie and if you aren’t prepared for plan A, having to flex to Plan B or C is going to be that much more difficult. Take the time to sit down with your DP and go over the shot list. Have a conversation with your AD before shooting so they know what you expect. Rehearse with your actors to allow them time to incorporate your notes on performance. Taking the time to have those conversations leads to…

  1. Watch-Team Backup

As a director you take words on a page and create an entire new physical world filled with people, places, and things for the screen. You cannot create this world alone, which is why trust in your team is so important.

You see people working together on projects over and over not because they are best friends (maybe they are), but because they have built trust, which is worth gold on set. As films get bigger, more and more has to be delegated and no one has the time to wonder if a task is getting done or not. You have to trust people to do their job, so choose wisely when hiring. The people you have a rapport with and who are enthusiastic about the project are the ones you want by your side. The backup between the director and their department heads is equally important because I believe a good idea can come from anywhere. That doesn’t mean I have to agree with that idea, but I want people to feel comfortable enough to make suggestions: lines, shots, set design, whatever it might be. I’m not on set to be a dictator; I’m there to lead a team of people who all have the common goal of turning the best version of the script into the best version of the film.

687474703a2f2f32372e6d656469612e74756d626c722e636f6d2f74756d626c725f6c6f737837336e4a567531717a796468326f375f3235302e676966They will just keep coming. Make it happen.

Via Kris Osborne over at;

The U.S. Navy is preparing to accept delivery of four more of its shallow-water Littoral Combat Ships between now and February of next year, effectively doubling its current fleet size of the ships and paving the way for more deployments.

“By early next year, the Navy will be operating eight littoral combat ships and we’ll be accepting four more by the end of 2016,” Johnson told “The Navy will continue to accept ships at that rate for the next several years making the LCS class the second largest surface combatant class in the fleet and the key to our ability to operate in shallow, coastal waterways around the world.”

That is an even dozen. Let’s pause a bit and chew on that. LCS-1 was commissioned in 2008, ~seven years ago, and little under 1/3 of her expected service life. What have we done with her in that time that shows any utility at war? While it was nice to test the theory of Longbow Hellfire a few weeks ago – it is not even close to being a warfighting option anytime soon in SUW ourside limited line of sight engagements. The MIW module doesn’t work (yet), and we don’t know if the ASW module is operationally usable because it is still overweight. Remember, FY15 is almost over.

Thee ships coming in to the Fleet in number now are – let’s be blunt and speak to each other as adults – of almost no use to a Maritime Component Commander at war or aggressive peace. This is still an experiment. Pray for peace, because there is no time in the upcoming POM cycle this warship should be put in harms way.

When in history has our Navy intentionally diluted its Fleet with such a large number of sub-optimal platforms whose only FMC PMA are Prayer, Promises, Hope, and Spin (PPHS)?

The littoral combat ship was designed as a multi-mission shallow water platform able reach areas and port inaccessible to larger-draft ships.

The platform has been the focus of some criticism and controversy. Lawmakers, analysts and members of the Navy have said the ships are not survivable enough in a fast-evolving world of surface warfare threats. Proponents have maintained that the LCS class is designed to defeat threats in coastal waters, where increasingly capable submarines, mines, and swarming small craft operate.

The theory is what it always has been, but still in 2015, there is no there, there. Good people with more money and Sailors will make the best of it as can be made – but the half-life of PPHS is passed, and yet has been made flesh anew;

Nevertheless, the concerns have led the Pentagon and the Navy to develop a new LCS variant, now called a Frigate, designed to capitalize upon the benefits of the LCS platform while making it more lethal and survivable. The particular composition of technologies and weapons for these new ships is now in the process of taking shape.
So, what now? Very good question. How much money and time do we invest to get this to even a usable warfighting capable platform?

What is plan B? Sadly, plan B was the new FF – but the way it was set up, the only option was a USN variant of what was the LCS-(I). Compared to the other options out there? Well, we have what we have. There were other plans – but that was not in the cards for those who had their hands on the levers of power.

For now, we will have to just bring the ships on, pat the program on its head, and then when they walk away – talk among ourselves how we can use this without delusion as to its utility and wasting Sailors lives. March in place with that mindset until something better comes along. Same that the US Army did with its Lee and Grant tanks in WWII.

To get something of better use, we will have to wait until the 2030s. It will take new leaders, new vision, and an honest appraisal of the mistakes made in the early 2000s. Good news? Those leaders who in the 2020s will help set up that 2030s solutions are mostly the young men and women in their 30s and 40s today. Those who will sign off on that solution are probably mostly in their 50s today. They know the LCS tale of woe because they watched it the balance of their professional careers. If we are a learning institution, then it will show inside a decade, sometime in the middle of the expected squeeze of the Terrible 20s.

Think. Prepare. Plan younger-cohort Gen-X, and Gen-Y. By example, you have a good idea how not to run a program. When the window opens and you find yourself at the table to replace the LCS/FF class – do it right.

The Exit Interviews series provides an opportunity to capture and share the honest and thoughtful insights of those members of the naval service who have served their country well, and are either moving on to serve it in other ways outside of the service (the “exit interview”) or who have chosen to pursue higher rank and greater responsibility within it. It focuses on individuals who are transitioning out of the service or have recently gotten out, and those who have recently chosen to stay in past their initial commitment.

Much like an exit interview in the corporate world, we ask a series of standardized questions that are intended to be open-ended and solicit honest reflection. If you would like to participate, or you know somebody who would, please reach out to


Kirby Jones graduated from the US Naval Academy in 2009 and served as an intelligence officer, deploying to Korea and Afghanistan. She recently completed her military service and now resides in California with her husband (also a Marine Corps veteran) and their one-year old daughter.

Why did you join the Marine Corps?

I grew up in an atmosphere of patriotism and service to country and felt compelled to follow this legacy in some way. I was by no means a “military brat” as my Dad served as a Police Officer in the same area for over thirty years and my Mother and Step-Father were out of the military long before I was born, but the values and purpose that they instilled in me were well aligned with the military culture and philosophy. I came out of high school hungry for a challenge and something beyond the normal college experience. I wanted to make a difference and to stretch my limits seeking to learn about more about myself than about academics. The Naval Academy fit all of these desires and to the shock of many of my family and friends, I accepted my admittance.

Once at the Academy, I was still pursuing a challenge and the Marine Corps seemed like it would provide me the greatest challenge within my reach. The culture of bottom-up support centered around the rifleman on the ground appealed to me and the physicality of the endeavor intrigued me. It was another case of ‘how far can I push myself’. This branch seemed like the most pure and basic way to fulfill my duty to my country.

What was your favorite part of serving in the Marine Corps?

Without question, my favorite part of serving was the Marines. Some were good, some were bad, and most were a glorious blend of somewhere in between. Marines are a captivating assortment of young men and women with passion for their jobs, an unparalleled work ethic, and endless stories to tell. I am thankful to have encountered so many fascinating Marines and to have watched them and worked with them in all their glory.

The other highlight of my service was deployment. Actually being able perform the job that I was trained for day in and day out with minimal distractions and pure mission focus was extremely fulfilling. Each night I went to bed exhausted mentally and physically, but knowing that we did something that day that helped the guys out there in the line of fire. That feeling is powerful.

What did you find most frustrating?

I was continually frustrated by the prevailing hypocrisy and mixed messages coming from all sides and lower than expected levels of competency and character in leadership. Throughout The Basic School it was preached to me that I would be a leader and need to make quick, decisive, important decisions, but in the fleet it felt as if everything I did had to be run by several levels above me. Even as a Company Commander, I often felt powerless to make simple decisions for my Company knowing that they would just be overruled later. This impression filtered down to subordinates in being constantly told to trust your enlisted Marines, but yet scolded when you let them take charge and ceased to micromanage their efforts. I had exceptionally high expectations of leadership gleaned mainly from the awesome Marines that I encountered very early on in my career and the majority of leaders that I served under did not reach these high standards.

When and why did you decide to get out of the Marine Corps?

I went back and forth throughout my service of whether or not I would stay in, but about a year before I would be getting out is when I put my foot down and committed to the decision fully.

I have lots of answers when people ask me why I chose to leave the military because it is very hard to articulate an exact reason and easier to just throw out stock answers, but I will try to express my true feelings here. I am truly grateful to have served, but in the end it came down to the fact it was just not the place for me. The time away from my family was heart-breaking and not something I felt I could deal with in the long term. I was uncomfortable with the Marine Corps having the ability to make choices that would affect the lives of my husband and daughter. I had a lot of frustration with the leaders I was supposed to be mentored by and with my peers that I worked with, but I think this would probably occur anywhere to be honest. The final factor was that I looked at all the people above me and I realized I didn’t want any of their jobs. The further up I went, the less happy I was. It wasn’t fair to myself or other Marines for me to remain in an institution in which I had no desire to progress.

If you could change one thing about the Marine Corps, what would it be?

I don’t have all the grand answers, but I am going to cheat and list three simple things that came to me immediately.

  1. Let people fail more often, specifically officers. Give people a chance to try and fail and then be corrected. If they fail again, then take appropriate action. All the time I saw officers not have appropriate negative action taken against them because it may “ruin their career”. Here’s the thing- if they have done something that would warrant action which could ruin their career, then it’s likely that they shouldn’t have a career.
  2. Officer training/mentorship- TBS is great in theory and I honestly can’t say that I know all that much about how often the curriculum is changed or the process for deciding what gets taught, but I can say that TBS and MOS school taught me painfully little useful, applicable information for day to day life in the fleet. Obviously you are going to have to learn some lessons as you go along, that’s what makes you grow. However, for the extensive amount of time (more than a year) I spent in schooling I could have been given much more useful information and tools with which to go forward. I also firmly believe that as soon as you are promoted once it becomes part of your job description to mentor junior officers. I spent a large part of my service searching for mentors and finding distressingly few. Everyone is busy, but just a few minutes spent on mentorship makes a huge difference.
  3. Promotion system. The promotion system is flawed. Fitness Reports are in many cases NOT a true representation of a Marine’s actual competency and fortitude as a technician and a leader. I think they are better than they have been in the past from what I know of their history, but there is definite room for improvement in order to ensure the quality of those allowed to progress through the ranks.

What single most important lesson or piece of advice would you leave with Marine Corps leaders?

Find the areas where you can make a difference, big or small, and throw yourself into that action. Not the “bloom where you are planted” cliché, but more “find what will actually grow within your area of influence and plant that and nurture it and share it and accomplish as much as you can”. You will get so bogged down with what you can’t do that you cease to try anything creative or different and become a part of the status quo. Instead, look around and notice what you can do and do that. Do a lot of it and throw your passion into it. Even if it is as small as making Marines pass their PFT because you rock at leading PT or rewriting SOPs for your platoon so that at least you can internally function flawlessly. Relish those actions and the resulting successes. Quite often, someone will notice and your little change can spread throughout your unit or even beyond.

What’s next for you?

I am in a unique and fortunate position of not having to make a solid decision quite yet, but I am able to explore some of my other passions. I am currently staying at home with my young daughter and training for several races and triathlons. I may try for another degree in Nutrition and attempt to work somewhere in the field of nutrition in hopes of educating people in all walks of life about how important it is to fuel your body properly. I would love to work with the military again in some manner- I still feel a passionate call to serve those who continue to serve.


Much was made this week of the North Dakota employing a submarine launched drone (here, herehere , etc). Yes, “underwater DRONES[!!!]” as the Daily Mail exclaimed.

OK, great, what does that mean though? What value are we adding to a boat? Well, the North Dakota employed a REMUS 600, which is an autonomous underwater vehicle capable of achieving depths of over 4,900ft, speeds up to 4kts, and a battery life of up to 24 hours. It’s a little over 10ft long with an inertial navigation system and a lithium battery powering it all.

REMUS UUVSo what could you possibly do with this thing? How about finding the resting place for a WWII TBF Avenger and her crew? Here, a team from the Bent Prop Project and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography used a REMUS with an add-on side-scan sonar to localize a crash site and find the plane and her crew. Around 6:00 you can catch the REMUS in action.

I know we’re still rolling out Virginia class boats, but it’s not hard to envision the future SSNs acting as a mothership for drones.

Naval warfare, at the lowest level, revolves around destroying something before it can destroy you (an observation more akin to an utterance of John Madden than Sun Tzu, I know). So as result, we talk about warfare a lot in terms of ranges. How close can I get before something detects me? How far away can I detect it? At what range can I shoot it? When can it shoot me? The race to shoot the furthest led to the development of weapons systems (Phoenix air-to-air missile and Trident missile) before we built the platform to shoot it.

And while we often describe the range of a nuclear-powered submarine as unlimited, that doesn’t mean we can go just anywhere in the ocean. We’re constrained by water depths, and the minimum operating depth of a small, submarine-launched unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV/drones) would likely be shallower than the launching platform.

We’re expanding the area of where a submarine can make life miserable for the enemy. Check out that video again. Do you think we could put a submarine there to accomplish that task? We’ve now demonstrated that a submarine launched drone might able to access that territory. That’s why we should be excited about “DRONES.”

Mary Witkowski originally wrote this column for Motherly, a new digital community for Millennial mothers. It is cross-posted here with her permission.

emadeleineAAs an active duty military mother, I jumped for joy when I read the Navy’s new maternity leave policy giving women up to 18 weeks of paid leave after having a baby. I believe that this is a huge step in the right direction for the Navy in its quest for becoming a more competitive employer, and to retain top talent. But I don’t believe it will attract more women to stay because women aren’t leaving the military due to short maternity leave. It’s the pre-ordained military schedule that can make Navy life and motherhood so hard to balance.

My husband and I both graduated from the Naval Academy and both currently serve in the fleet. After several years working alongside many talented and ambitious female sailors who also hope to become mothers, I believe it’s crucial for the military to find new and creative ways to retain the women it has trained and developed.

As it stands today, mixing Navy life with motherhood is daunting. Take for example, the career path of a Surface Warfare Officer (SWO) (read: ship driver).

In Navy life, sailors go through multi-year periods where they deploy frequently and are away for six-month to year-long blocks at a time. Then, there are other periods when you are stationed stateside during a “shore tour.” These schedules are set in stone by the military, and make women and men go through complex calculations to decide if and when the timing will be right to have a baby.

The first shore tour is a really a female sailor’s first opportunity to start a family. This gives her three years to get pregnant, take her maternity leave, and enjoy quality time with her family. As someone currently in this position, I can say it’s pretty great! But, not all couples are ready or able to have a baby early in this window, and as your naval career progresses, it’s harder and harder to decide when to make time for baby.

The breaking point for me was when I began to realize what lies ahead for our family if things don’t change. The Navy requires you to fill out a Family Care Plan upon having a child, which assigns someone to look after your child when you and your spouse both have to go out to sea at the same time. It’s this factor, not the Navy’s maternity leave policy that forced the question “is my desire to serve the country worth spending these large chunks of time away from my daughter?”

For me, the cost outweighed the benefit. I still plan to work full time when I leave the military, but while my Mom may help out with my daughter on some work trips, she won’t be raising my child for six months while my husband and I are at sea. And, as I shop for a job in the public sector, it isn’t the maternity policy at Google that’s attracting me, or the free lunches, but instead, the feasibility of raising a family throughout a career. I’m looking for a future employer that can accommodate the reality that women have children, and that Millennials, in our increasingly digital age, want greater flexibility over where and when they do their jobs.

It’s a hard problem that the Navy faces, because the mission always has to come first, and sea and shore time should be equally shared across the force. I still think there are significant ways that the Navy can improve female retention:

1. Create a More Balanced Deployment Cycle. The submarine force has been able to maintain a six-month deployment timeline, whereas ships such as Aircraft Carriers and Ballistic Missile Defense Ships have lengthened their average time at sea to over nine months. This problem has reverberated deeper than female retention and is a major fleet problem. Reducing the amount of sea time will allow Navy families to increase their resilience.

2. Make the Career Path Tailorable. The way the Surface Warfare career path is right now, sea and shore time is grouped into three-four year blocks. Allowing more flexibility within this construct would allow individuals to create a career that works for them.

3. Expand the Navy’s Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP). Naval personnel can currently apply to take up to three years off in order to pursue civilian opportunities or start a family. Through this program you retain full health benefits as well as a monthly stipend and in return owe the Navy two months for every one month you take off. This program fits some situations and I believe it’s a step in the right direction, but the Navy should explore other options as well, such as the ability to transfer in and out of the reserves (maybe allowing personnel to take a longer hiatus), or the option to leave without pay and return without an added obligation.

4. Continue to Improve as a Family-Friendly Culture. Increased maternity leave and TRICARE adding coverage of breast pumps are positive steps in creating a more family-friendly culture within the Navy, but there’s more to be done. Personally, I had to voice my right to have a pumping space multiple times before I was finally presented the solution of an equipment storage closet; which I gladly accepted over the women’s restroom. In healthcare, many fertility treatment programs are only available to TRICARE beneficiaries and not the sponsor, which can be a problem if women wait until completing their sea time before starting a family.

5. Explore More Flexible Work Options. While stationed on a ship or submarine or dealing with classified material, sailors clearly need to be on a military installation, but there are many positions where a physical presence isn’t required. Increased opportunities for telework and flexible scheduling would allow families to create a routine that allows them to be successful in both their work and personal lives.

To stop the flow of talented women out of the Navy, we must stay focused on why these women are leaving. Only then will the military be able to retain the intelligent, motivated, and experienced women that are helping it to thrive.

Please join us on 7 June 15 at 5pm (EST) for Episode 283: The Foreign and Defense Policy Terrain :

As the world has set its own course as we have been planning other things, some believe that the 2016 election will be more focused on foreign policy and defense issues that any of the candidates thought would be the case at the end of last year.

What will be the above-the-fold topics? The baseline was set by the ’16 budget battle last year and the winding down and a post-mortem on the sequestration gambit of the last couple of years.

As proxies in the emerging discussion, to join the old bulls on the Hill, are there emerging new leaders on defense issues elected in the ’14 cycle?

Where do declared or expected candidates for President for both parties stand on policy and present operations?

To discuss this and more in the foreign policy and defense arena will be returning guest, Mackenzie Eaglen,

Mackenzie is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness.

She has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. In 2014, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated National Defense Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess US defense interests and strategic objectives. This followed Eaglen’s previous work as a staff member for the 2010 congressionally mandated bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, also established to assess the Pentagon’s major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.

She has an M.A. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from Mercer University.

Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. The show will also be available later on our iTunes page here.


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.



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