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U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis/Released

Join us this Sunday, 28 April 2013 at 5pm Eastern U.S., for Midrats Episode 173: Back to the Littorals with Milan Vego :

If the requirement is to be able to operate, fight, and win in the Littorals – is the Littoral Combat Ship the answer?
Other nations have the same requirement – yet have come up with different answers.
Are we defining our requirements properly in face of larger Fleet needs and the threats we expect?
What platforms and systems need to be looked at closer if we are to have the best mix of capabilities to meet our requirements?
Using his article in Armed Forces Journal, Go smaller: Time for the Navy to get serious about the littorals, as a stepping off place, our guest for the full hour will be Milan Vego, PhD, Professor of Joint Military Operations at the US Naval War College.

Join us live (or, if you can’t listen live, listen later) by clicking here.

As stories of a massive manhunt through Boston and of the still-unfolding drama surrounding Monday’s events capture the attention of every news network, I am struck by our collective reaction to Monday’s attacks. Yesterday morning, the Washington Post’s editorial page carried a number of letters to the editor concerning the Boston Marathon bombing. One letter in particular jumped out: the author worried that Americans feel too safe these days and have grown too complacent, and as a result are less vigilant; she concluded that what this country needs is heightened security and additional precautions, since our current system didn’t prevent the attacks from happening.

In a similar vein, I got hit with an unexpected question Monday night: am I still planning to run the Marine Corps Marathon this fall? The question gave me pause. I’ve run Marine Corps as often over the years as deployments and children allowed, and ran Boston once some years ago (I remember that finish line spectacularly well, mostly because I barely crossed it). The family often comes out to watch, and the team I run Marine Corps with has accumulated a strong cheering squad and support group at the finish. But what would the reverberations of Monday’s events be? Would people want their families to be there after what happened in Boston? Would I? And would I feel safe running it?

The answer is an unequivocal yes. Yes, yes, and again, yes. Absolutely, I’ll run the Marine Corps Marathon, as will thousands of others. We will run it with pride, anger, and disgust, directed at those who spread fear within our borders. What happened Monday is exceedingly rare here, and in that we are beyond fortunate; Boston should remind us of that. What happened is abnormal, horrific, and yet so often, in so many places that are not America, people are numb to it. Not here. Our defenses and security measures are imperfect; we cannot see and catch all. But when a bad apple gets through and inflicts harm upon fellow Americans, we react. We abhor. And we bear witness. Monday’s events had news outlets tripping over each other trying to get the facts out; four days later we can still see the same ubiquitous slow-motion video clip of the explosions everywhere we look. The analysis is too much, perhaps even voyeuristic, sensationalistic. But that’s far better than the alternative, and it keeps us aware.

My immediate reaction to the letter I initially described was primarily an instinctive hatred for the unwelcome image of this nation gripped by fear. We should always be improving security, and we should always be alert. We should embrace our families, and fear for their safety. Yet part of what makes this country amazing is that there will still be marathons, and there will still be spectators at the finish line. We will continue to fly, to travel, and to gather in large numbers in public places. We will continue to be shocked when terrorists attack here, obsessive in the aftermath, and naïve in our beliefs that we can really keep terrorism out of our borders. What scares me most of all is the image of an America where those things cease to happen.

The U.S. Naval Institute’s Authors of the Year for 2012 will be honored today at our 139th Annual Meeting.

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I appreciated ADM Greenert’s blog on “Wireless Cyberwar, The EM Spectrum, And the Changing Navy“, and before that, his December 2012 Proceedings article entitled, “Imminent Domain“. He highlighted critical enabling areas of warfare that we can no longer afford to treat as mere support. However, I found it disappointing that EMS and cyber were consistently linked together. Future conflicts will be won or lost within the “maneuver space” of the Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS), regardless of other cyber operations. While cyber is clearly a critical area that demands national attention, we need just as much specific attention paid to our capabilities and capacities to operate with or without cyber in the physical medium of the EMS. Tying the two (regrettably related) but separate and distinct topics together dilutes the significance of the current and future challenge: Fight and win inside an increasingly congested, contested EMS. I have seen it more appropriately pinpointed at NSWC Crane where posters advertise “Control the Spectrum, Control the Fight!” Is there an article out there from a Flag or General officer on the importance of EW, or the significance of controlling the use of the EMS at a time and a place of our choosing – that was not written and/or published in China?

A few years ago, I was given a tremendous opportunity to form JCCS-1 to work with almost 300 Sailors, traveling together to Iraq to defeat the RC-IED threat to our forces in OIF. That was a rude awakening for the U.S. to find an adversary that was fighting inside the EMS better than we were. Fortunately, as soon as we focused on “controlling the EMS”, we could rely upon “the expertise and flexibility of our research base, our history of adaptation, and the skill and perseverance of our Sailors” that the CNO calls out in his blog. The personal and professional efforts of these young men and women, E-4 to O-5, ultimately led to significantly degrading RC-IED effectiveness, saving lives in combat through control of the EMS. Again, this particular fight was about conducting Electronic Warfare (EW): Electronic Attack (EA), Electronic Protect (EP) and Electronic Warfare Support (ES) within the EMS, and was rightfully segregated from other cyber issues. Whether it was industry, Army I2WD, JHU APL, Navy or Air Force, each partner leveraged its experience and expertise for a joint success story. Hopefully we have captured the painful lessons from having to create a force to enable fighting inside the EMS. We can bet that if the adversary saw an EMS vulnerability there, the next adversary will be looking in similar places.

It is encouraging that the Navy continues to lead in the investment for critical EW programs like the Next Generation Jammer, the EA-18G, and the Surface Warfare EW Improvement Program (SEWIP). I applaud the CNO’s unprecedented acknowledgement of the critical issues, especially including EMS, and also for the establishment of Fleet Cyber Command (FCC)/Commander TENTH Fleet (C10F), to focus on global cyber and EW operations, but I do have one concern when it comes to execution: Does anyone know who is actually held accountable for failure to be able to fight within the EMS? Who will be held responsible if our air forces are shot down because they were confused by the loss of GPS or worse yet by DRFM jammers? Who will be responsible if EMI, material condition or even lack of an effective EW training program prevents an ASMD systems from operating effectively at sea?

Our people are our greatest asset. We owe it to them to have the most capable fighting force within this new maneuver space. This is a terrific forum to generate the type of discussion that will highlight capability and capacity gaps to our naval leaders and future leaders. Knowing our organizational, budgetary and/or political restrictions, we must do more with what we have. We need the experts in your individual areas who are passionate about your skill set to inspire others to get together to find ways to leverage complementary talents. Electrons don’t care what color shoes you wear or even what platform you operate. Please share your thoughts to enable another joint success story for our forces.

CAPT Brian “Hinks” Hinkley US Navy (ret) currently work as VP, Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations for URS Federal Services, Inc. Retiring from the Navy in 2010, his highlights included: First Director, Fleet Electronic Warfare Center (FEWC), Norfolk, VA, responsible for highlighting current and future Navy EW shortfalls and prioritizing requirements across DOTMLPF areas impacting Fleet Man, Train, and Equip EW/Spectrum Management (SM) and Information Operations (IO) readiness. First Commander, Joint Counter Radio-Controlled Improvised Explosive Device EW (CREW) Composite Squadron ONE (JCCS-1), Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, the first Navy force specifically designed to defeat the RC-IED threat to US, Coalition, and Partner Nation forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Commanding Officer, Tactical Electronic warfare Squadron (VAQ-135) during combat operations over Afghanistan and Iraq. Clearance: TS/SCI.

…one of many thoughts that went into my thinking for the post above – there are others…

– It is not a challenge of us having to merge spectrum and cyberspace – technology has already created the merger. Analog systems can now create digital effects and vice versa. As Admiral Greenert’s Proceedings article points out, “Jammers that once simply overloaded radar or communication receivers with EM energy can now use computer controllers to deny signals to receivers or retransmit altered signals to them that inject false targets, obscured areas, or even malicious computer code. Our newest radars and jammers can also coordinate and synchronize their operations automatically with one another through computer networks, even when the systems are on different ships, aircraft, or unmanned vehicles.” Technology has already created the merger between analog and digital, between traditional EW and Computer Network Operations. Our challenge is to build a force whose parochialisms within stove-piped communities like Intel, Cryptology and EW can be leveraged to build weapons systems and operators that can understand the physics behind the environment and the operational warfighting importance of fighting within this new “maneuver space”.

In a recent post at AOL Defense, I examine Congress’s role in the problem of excessive overhead within the Department of Defense. Because of a series of legislative actions dating back to 1947, the bureaucracy within the Department of Defense has grown unwieldy and draws scare resources away from the warfighter. Given the current fiscal problems facing the nation and the American public’s waning support for defense spending, now is the time to reconsider some fundamental issues pertaining to the organization and management of the military forces of the United States.

From the start, a goal of the National Security Act of 1947 was to make the military more efficient and effective. The first Secretary of Defense, James Forrestal, wrote to President Truman after the Key West Conference in 1948 stressing the need to integrate policy and procedures throughout the military in order to produce an effective, economical, harmonious businesslike organization.

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To the scribes, to the thinkers, to the families, to those in the arena…in honor of one who served our Navy well in each of these roles.


Sunday, March 3 at 5pm (Eastern U.S.): Episode 165: USNI’s VADM Daly and Naval History in 100 Objects:

Institutions do not exist and excel simply because they “are.” They must be nurtured by dedicated individuals that find the right combination of stewardship and intellectual curiosity to ensure they continue to carry out their mission and leave a more viable entity for those who follow.

It must be informed by the past, though not shackled to it. It must be true to its nature, but not ossified in its operation. It must be ready for the future, but clearheaded on how to get there.

For the maritime professional in the United States, there is a rather unique institution that really has no counterpart here or in other nations; the United States Naval Institute. Our guest for the first half of the hour will be USNI’s CEO, Vice Admiral Peter Daly, USN (Ret). He will be with us to discuss USNI’s place in the maritime security arena and how ideas and concepts today inform and influence the direction of our Navy.

For the second half of the hour, we will shift focus back with Ensign Chris O’Keefe, USN who is the producer of the United States Naval Academy podcast series, “A History of the Navy in 100 Objects”, that uses objects from the Naval Academy’s museum to help tell the story of our Navy and the nation it serves.

Join live or listen later by clicking here or pick the show up later from our iTunes page here.

otrJoin us at 5pm 17 Feb 13 for Episode 163: February Free For All :

Change is in the air as we look at sequester, a new SecDef, France in North Africa, preparing for the last fighting season in Afghanistan, and what looks like a long decade of budget stress.

Is this a pivot-point of opportunity, or just a winter of our naval discontent?

No guests, no set agenda – open floor and open phones. No one but Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “EagleSpeak” for the full hour. If there is a topic you want discussed, call in or roll it in to the chat room.

Listen live (or pick it up later) here or even later from our iTunes page.

There are times in history, where there is a roll call. Col. John Boyd noted, “That’s when you have to make a decision: to be or to do.” With sequestration threatening to leverage the full trillion in cuts against our increasingly papered tiger, the dissenting brass must recognize this roll call. Not every fight is at arms in the field, some are quiet battles at home whose only answer is a sacrifice of power.

Those who say that sequestration “won’t happen” and “isn’t a threat” are wrong. Like FDR’s preparations for the oncoming war, the Navy’s preparations indicate the worst. From cutting 3rd/4th quarter ship and aircraft maintenance to reducing the Persian Gulf carrier presence to one, in order to survive, the navy must put itself in more danger than any terrorist threat has. A candidate for SecDef has been nominated who thinks the DoD is still bloated after the first 500 billion dollars in cuts. While the defense department prepares for a second 500 billion in cuts, the debt ceiling deal spent 60% of the savings on the first round for pork projects. Meanwhile, the military is asked to support increased global drone operations, defend from two nations whose entire military is designed to counter the US way of war, and pivot towards Asia. Of course, the Middle East has a firm grip on that pivot-foot. The strategic policy is sound, but the whole-sale undermining of the force meant to do it is unconscionable.

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Last Friday, in the wake of the two-week-old announcement overturning the Combat Exclusion Policy, I attended a panel event about the removal of the CEP and its implications for the services. Having seen the damage that the CEP could—and did—do, I wrote about it both for a blog post and as a news article. The policy’s removal was both anticlimactic and embarrassingly necessary. It’s embarrassing that it took us this long—in a force that hinges on the high expectations and ambitions of hard-working people—to dispose of this policy. Despite an entire system set up to evaluate individuals on merit, the CEP codified the idea that ability mattered less than boy-or-girl.

But now that the CEP is—sort of—removed, what comes next? How do we as a military do this right, without overthinking things or treating people like children? The symposium was planned to address specific concerns about how the changes would impact the force, and to discuss past successes and failures both here and abroad. The main concerns included how to ensure that standards are set and remain high, how to avoid overthinking and micromanaging the process, possible impacts on unit cohesion, and more. It featured four different panels and 17 speakers. Most of the panel members were current or retired military; some are still on active duty and will deploy again shortly. Among the panelists were: Specialist Shoshana Johnson, USA (Ret); Major Mary Jennings Hegar, ANG; Sergeant Julia Bringloe, USA; Specialist Heidi Olson, USA; CAPT Joellen Oslund, USNR (Ret); Colonel Martha McSally, USAF (Ret); and Colonel Ingrid Gjerde, Norwegian Infantry.

Anyone interested in watching can view the videos here. The first and second panels were particularly interesting as they included testimony from American and foreign women who had experience in ground combat, among others.

Opponents of allowing women into ground combat roles have expressed concern that if units become co-ed, when under fire, men will forget their training and rush to help the women, risking mission and unit in the process. But panelist after panelist told otherwise. Major Hegar relayed how she and her crew crash-landed while on a mission in Afghanistan; while defending the crashed aircraft, they came under enemy fire. The crew fought back fiercely, as they had been trained to do. Her gender was not an issue. And why? Because they knew and trusted each other, had trained together and respected each other. Specialist Olson, Sergeant Bringloe, and Specialist Johnson emphasized the same points, echoing that the team is paramount, and that the vital piece was always the training: training as a unit allowed for development of the necessary rapport and respect, something that being “temporarily attached” does not provide.

Physical standards, specifically upper-body strength, have historically commanded the majority of the coverage in past discussions. But as most of the panelists pointed out, physical strength—especially upper-body strength—is only one part of the puzzle. Endurance, mental toughness, the ability to remain calm under fire—these cannot easily be taught yet are critically important, and none are gender-specific. I was sitting next to an infantry Marine in the audience, and on a break he mentioned that in Afghanistan, he’d seen a women break down while taking fire. Yet he’d also seen one of his own Marines fall apart and go into the fetal position, and he’d had to send others in after him, endangering them all. We often ignore the fact that while physical strength is one part of it, mental toughness is another. And mental toughness is not gender-specific.

But the physical aspect is undeniably part of it all. Greg Jacob, a prior infantry Marine, related how he had taken command of a company at the Marine Corps’ School of Infantry and found himself working with women for the first time. Amazed that they couldn’t do pull-ups easily, he started them on a pull-up program, and soon everyone was knocking out pull-ups together; the problem was that the women had never trained for them, since the PFT only required the flexed-arm hang. We can develop strength in people, and we can develop endurance. But we have to train to the standards, and to do that we must set—and not lower—high standards.

And as to endurance and toughness, the panelists’ experiences highlighted how those qualities also come in both men and women. One audience member, a prior Marine infantryman, relayed the tale of a deployment he had to Okinawa years ago. He explained that his battalion had performed a number of long marches in full gear, and as they were struggling up the mountains in the Northern Training Area, they were accompanied by older Okinawan women. These women carried large baskets of water and other supplies on their heads and backs, and generally arrived at the destination in much better shape than the Marines did.

The physical standards were a recurring item for discussion throughout the day. Comments in the press by General Dempsey about developing a “critical mass” and having “enough women” are worrisome, and speak to a different path than what is needed to do this right. As I wrote about in the news piece for USNI, standards for each job must be defined, if specific ones are called for, and those should not shift to accommodate anyone. If this means only one or two women serve in each unit, or none, so be it. Some men may get cut as well if the standards are stricter than, for example, the current standard to become an infantry Marine. But every panelist repeatedly urged our leadership to set and adhere to high standards.

As to fears about unit cohesion, so much of it comes down to leadership, and to training to standards and expectations. Co-ed units have been deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan for over a decade now, and they are strong and successful. Many of the panelists—and many in the audience—had deployed in co-ed units, and those units served ably and confidently. Leadership is paramount, just as it is for everything else we do. Expecting this to be any different is naïve.

Much more was said, but I’ll stop there to keep this from going on longer. At the end of the day, the main suggestions mirrored the panel discussions. Set high standards and stick to them. Expect high performance. Train to higher standards. Treat those serving as functioning adults rather than children who require constant hand-holding. Exercise leadership; as in any unit, the signs are there when trouble is ahead. And so many concerns can be overcome with a small amount of common sense and practicality.

As to the CEP, good riddance. It was a policy proven obsolete time and time again. It caused the “temporary attachment” of women to all-male infantry units that they had little integration or training with prior to deployment, weakening links that did eventually develop, and drove a wedge between those serving, labeling some as less qualified based solely on how they were born vs. actual capabilities. In effect, the CEP held that Justin Bieber is more qualified than Venus Williams to perform the duties of an 0311 (I paraphrased this from Colonel McSally, who used it repeatedly). We’re much better off acknowledging that this is not the case at all.

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