Archive for the 'Maritime Strategy' Tag

Joint perspectives, LCS, Piracy, Naval Surface Fire Support, ASW, ASUW, and the coming blow-back from the Lost Decade in shipbuilding. All that and more for a full hour with someone well known to USNI members; John Patch, CDR USN (Ret.), Associate Professor of Strategic Intelligence at the U.S. Army War College’s Center for Strategic Leadership, and regular contributor to USNI’s Proceedings.

If you missed us live you can listen to the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.

An exceptional show this week – give it a listen.



In the week following the 2010 USNI History Conference; Piracy on the High Seas, there are two points that have staying power for me. They help describe why we are having such a difficult time fixing a relatively basic function of a sea power with literally the entire written history of mankind to tap into for examples about how to solve it.

This isn’t a new problem even if you have a shortsighted view of history. Just sticking to “new media” – our friend EagleOne was blogg’n about piracy from the start – well before piracy was “cool.” Check out his archive and you can see the arch from SE Asia to the Horn of Africa and a few other garden spots in between.

The problem isn’t piracy itself; it is our inability to take decisive action to eliminate it. Once again, it boils down to solid, informed leadership – leadership that is allowing itself to be confused by two things – the same two things that are still bouncing around my nogg’n a week after the conference.

Peer Review vs. Prop-wash

The first problem was indirectly pointed out by LCDR B.J. Armstrong, USN via his opening statement during the first panel;

“Hey, I’m just an operator … ”

… at the assembled academics and recidivist Staff Weenies encircling him.

His opening reminded me of a very clear point; in piracy like many things, we are suffering from analysis paralysis. Academics, researchers, and historians are very important parts of the discussion, but when we give them too much weight – and minimize the opinion and the observations of the operator – then we get what we reward; talk and discussion – and the finer points of rejoinders to introspective quandaries. I call it The Darfur Effect.

In The Darfur Effect, we have a very serious and very difficult problem that all agree is very serious and very difficult. As any good academic, researcher, and historian will tell you – the best response to such things is to get grant money, organize symposiums, publish some papers, and even better get some time in front of a Congressional committee or a temporary assignment with an IO, NGO, or GO working on a White Paper on the subject.

That is all good and well – but if that is your primary focus, and you give most of the time, money, and power to that focus – nothing really is done. Like Darfur, after the clucking of tongues and interviews on PBS’s Frontline – few are saved and the problem isn’t solved. Well, in the case of Darfur where each new finds that there is a very limited and dwindling number of Darfuris to save, eventually there are few to none to save and the problem solves itself, in a fashion.

Piracy is different in one respect. Unchecked, it grows. Unlike the case of Darfur where the people there are trying to be eliminated faster than they can replace themselves – with piracy like all lawlessness – it grows when ignored. Mitigation or elimination requires decisive operations. Yes, we have anti-piracy operations, but are they really that effective? The proof that we are still talking about this after so many years shows that no, they are not effective.

Does anyone think that we have not talked enough about piracy? In more time than we took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, we are still roughly talking about the same issues we were in 2005.

Ideas we have – good Direction and Guidance based on a sound Operational Concept derived from the best ideas we do not have.

DC-10s, Pintos, and Kismaayo

The best speech for its substance, subject, and delivery was at lunch by a non-military, non-historian, non-academic; the Senior Vice President of Maersk Line, Limited – Stephen M. Carmel.

He had no difficulty in getting people to stop chewing for a moment as he came of the blocks with his spines out and claws extended. He wasn’t hostile – but he gave a delivery in a manner that told you he knew that many people would not like what he had to say, many have never thought of things from his point of view – and something that warmed my heart – he had a BM1’s sense of not suffering fools lightly.

Mr. Carmel knows his business. Unlike most, he has to know his business – he has a firm understanding of sunk cost, opportunity cost, cost benefit, and comparative advantage. He actually has metrics that cannot – legally at least – be fudged or pushed into the next fiscal year. He doesn’t work in a career that is based on the conveyor belt mentality of promotion – he must perform or he will be replaced.

Such an environment can do much to clear the mind, and his presentation was focused and fact based. I won’t go into the double-ledger aspects of it all, but let me summarize it for you; piracy is a commercial non-issue for him and his company. They have, do, and will pay ransom when needed. They can mitigate piracy’s impact on their bottom line. If you need a justification for doing something about piracy – don’t use Maersk’s business needs as it.

From his area of responsibility, he has a point – but I don’t think he has the final answer either. When the green eyeshade becomes the green blinder, we often find ourselves in trouble. There were very sound business decisions made concerning the DC-10 and the Ford Pinto – but they were morally indefensible. I don’t think leaving hundreds of men languishing off some septic Somali port for hundreds of days is moral.

Though Carmel’s thoughts should be part of the discussion – it should be but a small part of a balanced view. Piracy is part of the general cancer of maritime disorder – a violent symptom along with its less directly dangerous pollution and industrial fishing sisters. Piracy is a barrier to freedom of the seas, and if left alone will grow and impact what was once an area where goods were free to flow to markets with minimal external interference.

It will grow along the same lines as the “broken window” theory of crime states that if not aggressively countered, crime will continue to grow and alter the larger culture in ways not fully understood – but never in a better way.

Those are the macro reasons – the micro ones are even more important. Hundreds of people are being held against their will as hostages by pirates. If those people were mostly Canadian, American, British, and German as opposed to South Asian and Philippino – does anyone here think that we would be sitting here talking about it being a non-issue? Really?

That is the moral reason. Sometimes, like with the anti-slavery operations by the British in the 19th Century – you do things because it is the right and moral thing to do, especially in those things that do not require a lot of blood or treasure to execute. Political and economic benefits will follow the moral – and if they don’t at least you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning.

In an age of moral equivalence and a bias against stating what is or is not acceptable, doing things because it is “the moral thing” to do is problematic perhaps – but ponder this: what makes you more uncomfortable – setting an acceptable price on another man’s freedom, or punishing those who decide to earn their living from crime and the enslavement of others?



Last Sunday, fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and I had a little something for everyone on Midrats. If you missed it, head on over and download the archive and give it a listen.

Our guest for the first half of the hour was Douglas A. Macgregor Col. USA, (Ret), the author of USNI Press’s Warrior’s Rage: The Great Tank Battle of 73 Easting, and Transformation Under Fire: Revolutionizing How America Fights. We covered DESERT STORM, OIF, the influence of Counter Insurgency on today’s Army, and how the US Military may want to restructure in the future.

For the second half of the hour, we pivot and update a subject we last covered in Episode 7 this February. Our guest was retired Navy Reserve Commander Zoe Dunning, Board Co-Chair of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. We discuss the whole spectrum of the challenges of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, how the lobbying effort has evolved, and what hiccups there may be in a post DADT military.

Don’t forget – if you want to make sure and never miss a Midrats – subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.



Click on image to download the NOC

Three years ago this coming October the new maritime strategy (“A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”) was published to some acclaim and much criticism. The new maritime strategy proposed a sea-change in missions and direction of the maritime services (Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard) in light of the emerging post-Cold War world. Leading the way was the signatory statement that “We believe preventing wars is as important as winning wars” which sets the tone for what followed.

And what followed was a list of strategic imperatives that included the traditional (limit regional conflict, deter major war, etc.) and new (foster and sustain cooperative relationships, prevent/contain local disruptions, etc.) and laid out the capabilities necessary to to execute those imperatives. The one thing that was missing was a companion document that laid out how this strategic vision would (1) be operationalized and (2) be equipped to carry out these missions. In other words — a naval operations concept or NOC. To be sure, since 2002 the Navy has had a NOC in one form or another, but it was hamstrung by a lack of a new maritime strategy. Thus, when the new maritime strategy came out, it was with some relief and anticipation that we learned a NOC would be not far behind. And so we waited.

And waited. And waited.

Being one of the more vocal critics of the apparent lack of progress (especially frustrating since I’d seen advanced drafts as well as having a historical piece of the document) I note it’s arrival on the scene late yesterday. Where the Maritime Strategy was a relatively short 15 or so pages, the NOC is a meatier 112, including Annexes. With detailed chapters on such topics as forward presence, sea control, power projection, deterrence, it promises to be a deep read (and likely focus of most of my energies as part of my daytime job). I will especially be interested in the discussion on the sea as maneuver space (given a certain project am currently engaged with), the discussion of the relationship of the NOC (actually called NOC 10) and the Joint Concept Development and Experimentation process as well as the chapter I’m sure most of DC will dive right to today — Chapter 10, Force Structure, for that was one of the main criticisms of the Maritime Strategy – the lack of an accompanying force structure document.

Stay tuned to these spaces as I’m sure the discussion will be animated in the days that follow. In the meantime, let me leave you with these opening statements:

“The basic premise of our newly published Maritime Strategy is that the United States is a force for good int he world — that while we are capable of launching a clinched fist when we must — offering the hand of friendship is also an essential and prominent tool in our kit. That premise flows from the belief that preventing wars means we don’t have to win wars.” — General James T. Conway, USMC

“We do more than respond; we prevent. In our Maritime Strategy we state that we believe that it is just as important to prevent wars as it is to win wars. That is done through our worldwide presence; our well-trained Sailors, and our very capable ships, airplanes, and submarines.” — Admiral Gary Roughead, USN

“The Coast Guard completely subscribes to this strategy. It reinforces the Coast Guard Strategy for Safety, Security, and Stewardship and it reflects not only the global reach of our maritime services, but the need to integrate, synchronize and act with coalition and international partners to not only win wars — but to prevent wars.” — Admiral Thad W. Allen, USCG

(crossposted at steeljawscribe.com)



Hey, if it’s Sunday – then it must be time for Midrats!

Please join my co-host and fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and me as we run the timeline from 1975 to 2020 today at 5pm EST/1700R/2200Z.

Our guests will be retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel J.G. Zumwalt and journalist Greg Grant.

For our first segment, we will be discussing Lt. Col. Zumwalt’s new book, Bare Feet, Iron Will ~ Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam’s Battlefields with the author.

We will wind it up with Greg Grant looking towards the Navy’s options at the end of this decade as outlined in CNA’s new report, “The Navy at a Tipping Point: Maritime Dominance at Stake?

So, get your honey-do’s done and join us this afternoon. If you miss the show – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.



MidratsIf you did – you missed a great Navy meal – a lot more than the usual bologna sandwiches and bug juice.

After our panel discussion, fellow USNIBlog milbloggers Galrahn, EagleOne and I we are joined by prolific author and Naval strategist, Dr. Norman Friedman.

We touch on the direction our Navy should be going, the maritime strategy, LCS, and his latest book, British Destroyers: From Earliest Days to the Second World War.

You really owe it to yourself to give it a listen. You can hear it archived at the Midrats Episode page – of if you want to make sure you never miss a Midrats – you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

You won’t go away hungry for anything but more Dr. Friedman.



Newport Papers Number 33 - US Naval Strategy in the 1980's

*But were afraid to ask

Available now via the Newport Papers online - print version still TBD. Be forewarned, this is a huge document (34M worth) and will take a while to download. 

This is an outstanding work by Dr. Hattendorf and Peter Swartz and has been long in the birthing process. It is the benchmark for the development of what many consider to be one of the most important documents in the modern US Navy’s history and, for better or worse, the benchmark strategy against which future strategies, including the current strategy, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” are compared and judged. Expanding one’s view, it also should be of interest to students of modern history, especially the latter days of the Cold War and its immediate aftermath. To quote the opening paragraph:

The decade of the 1980s was the decade of “the Maritime Strategy,” the U.S. Navy’s widely known and publicly debated statement that was associated with President Ronald Reagan’s buildup of American defense forces and Secretary of the Navy John Lehman’s efforts to create “the six-hundred-ship navy.” The strategy is most widely understood only in terms of the Navy’s January 1986 public statements published in the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings and summarized in testimony that the Navy’s leaders had given to Congress. This volume is designed to complement and extend the previously published history of The Evolution of the U.S.Navy’s Maritime Strategy, 1977-1986, and to present publicly for the first time the detailed changes and developments that occurred during the decade in the five (now declassified) official versions of the strategy and three directly associated unclassified public statements by successive Chiefs of Naval Operations that were made in the years between 1982 and 1990.

Bottomline – this important document should be the part of any professional’s library.



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