Archive for the 'Midrats' Tag

“Not a military voice is heard calling for thoughtful, substantive change.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Will, “hello,” suffice? William S. Lind’s suggestion at The American Conservative Magazine that the Officer Corps is in a blind, intellectual death spiral is weighty indeed, but ignores the vast body of debate going on in the junior and senior ranks of our nation’s military. Rather than our officer corps living in a bubble, perhaps some of those discussing the internal debate of the military writ-large need to reach out of their bubble to see the rich discussion happening -right now-.

“Even junior officers inhabit a world where they hear only endless, hyperbolic praise of “the world’s greatest military ever.” They feed this swill to each other and expect it from everyone else. If they don’t get it, they become angry.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Mr. Lind accuses our Officer Corps of a hollow, cavalier attitude that would suggest they neither recognize nor wrestle with the threats of tomorrow or the mistakes of today. Ask any moderately informed officer on their thoughts about cyber-war, the F-35, LCS, insurgency, the utility of carriers, the proliferation of anti-ship cruise-missiles, etc.. and the opinions will be heated and varied. The Center for International Maritime Security has featured an entire week debating the merits of the Navy’s,“Air Sea Battle,” concept. The United States Naval Institute archives decades of articles relating to the debate over carriers. Small Wars Journal is a running testament to the continued debate over insurgency and irregular ground conflicts. There are also sometimes-anonymous outlets, like the Sailor Bob forum, Information Dissemination, or the wild wonderful world of Commander Salamander’s blog; they are quite popular in -light- of the often unique and critical perspective taken by writers.

The self-hate created by my blog's criticism is overwhelming me!

The self-hate generated by my awareness of challenges to US might is overwhelming me!

The majority of these articles are written by officers, with the approval or non-interference of their leadership. Of course, not all military leadership is necessarily embracing criticism, but that is natural to any top-down organization. We’ve made great strides. The Navy released the Balisle Report on its critical issues with maintenance. CDR Snodgrass’ 24 page study on retention is now a topic of wide debate encouraged by VADM Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel. If, as Mr.Lind describes, our officer corps had a comical “hulk-smash” reaction to suggestions of US Military weaknesses or institutional flaws, we’d have long ago beaten ourselves to rubble in the haze of an insatiable rage.

“What defines a professional—historically there were only three professions, law, medicine, and theology—is that he has read, studied, and knows the literature of his field. The vast majority of our officers read no serious military history or theory.”

-William S. Lind, “An Officer Corps That Can’t Score”

Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain... so we can shred triple-neck guitars.

Gen. Mattis says we should have a 2000 year old brain… so we can shred triple-neck guitars.

Mr.Lind suggests that our modern-day officers live in a historical desert, in which the lessons of yester-year are lost. I would suggest those doubters of the military’s historical memory look to the USS PONCE and the Navy’s re-embrace of sea-basing. Thomas J Cutler’s “Brown Water, Black Beret” is an excellent primer on the historical lessons the Navy is re-applying. Perhaps we might highlight the Navy and Marine Corps’ dual scholar-heroes of ADM Stavridis (ret) and Gen Mattis (ret): admired for both their acumen in the field and their rarely equaled study of the history of conflict

Mahan, ideating before it was cool. Photo-shop Credit: Matt Hipple

Perhaps Mr.Lind is disappointed in our lack of engagement with Mahan, in which case I would direct him to LCDR Benjamin Armstrong’s book, “21st Century Mahan.” Perhaps Clauswitz is our flaw? The Army and Air Force officers writing at “The Bridge” would likely demolish THAT center of gravity, if the snarky Doctrine Man doesn’t get there first. Perhaps we have not learned the importance of innovation from history! The military’s 3-D printing labs located around the country would likely raise their eyebrows in bemusement.

A Cleveland native myself, I understand how far Hampton Rhodes is from Mr.Lind’s home on the Northern Shore. However, anyone like Mr.Lind who doubts the military, officer or enlisted, is interested in tackling the issues should make every attempt to visit the June Defense Entrepreneurs Forum (DEFx) Conference in Norfolk. From flag officers to those who paint the flagstaff, the gamut of our service will be on location, out of uniform, debating our technical and institutional challenges in an unofficial and free forum. He may even meet some members of the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC). If Norfolk is a bridge to far, I’d encourage the doubters to sign up for membership at the Center for International Maritime Security. We have weekly meetings in DC where we talk about everything from Professional Military Education to drone operations.

The military is by no means perfect, but such imperfection is what drives the debate that both officers and enlisted are engaging in on a daily basis. Mr.Lind suggests interesting structural reform to better cultivate leadership in our officers. However he cites the need for such reforms based on a decrepit caricature of an officer corps the US Military is not saddled with. If one hasn’t, as a USNI author once told me, “done one’s homework,” ideas fall flat. There IS a debate happening in America’s Officer Corps, an educational and engaging one. We’re not too hard to find if you look.



Please join us on Sunday at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 222: USS PONCE (AFSB(I)-15) Lessons with CAPT Jon N. Rodgers, USN

As with most concepts and good ideas, you really don’t know what you need and how you need to do it until you put Sailors to task and head to sea.

The idea of an Afloat Forward Staging Base has, in a variety of forms, been a regular part of naval operations arguably for centuries under different names and with different equipment.

What about the 21st Century? More than just a story about the use and utility of the AFSB concept, the story of the USS PONCE is larger than that – it also has a lot to say about how one can quickly turn an old LPD around for a new mission, and how you can blend together the different but complementary cultures of the US Navy Sailors and the Military Sealift Command civilian mariners.

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Captain Jon N. Rodgers, USN, former Commanding Officer of the USS PONCE AFSB(I)-15.

Either join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.



Please join us on 30 March 2014 at 5pm (1700) EDT for Midrats Episode 221: “Officer Retention with VADM Bill Moran and CDR Guy Snodgrass

This Sunday, join our guests Vice Admiral Bill Moran, USN, Navy Chief of Naval Personnel, and Commander Guy Snodgrass, USN, Prospective Executive Officer of Strike Fighter Squadron ONE NINE FIVE, in a discussion of the challenge of officer retention that is facing our Navy.

As over a decade of major combat operations ashore winds down, economic and budgetary stresses grow on defense spending, a strategic re-alignment combined with a generational change are coming together in a perfect storm of challenges to keep the intellectual and leadership capital our Navy needs to meet its nations challenges in the coming decade.

What are those challenges? What lessons can be drawn from past retention problems, and what is different this time? What steps can be made in the short term to address this, and what longer term policies may be put in place to mitigate the systemic problems that are being looked at.


Our guests will be with us for the full hour, and the foundation of our discussion will be CDR Snodgrass’s Navy officer retention study, Keep a Weather Eye on the Horizon: A Navy Officer Retention Study (as posted on the USNI Blog – original study here)

Also see VADM Moran’s USNI Blog post A Navy needs critical thinkers … those willing to share their ideas.

The show goes live at 5pm EDT you can listen then or pick it up later by clicking here.

Update: Fixed date of show issue – show is Sunday, 30 March 2014!



Please join us on 23 March 14 at 5pm (EDT, U.S.) for Midrats Episode 220: CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell

The Chief of Naval Operation’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) was established in 2012 in order to provide junior leaders with venue to identify and rapidly field emerging technologies that they see needed in the Fleet.

Who is in the CRIC, how do they get there, and what are some of the projects they have been working on?

Join us this Sunday for the full hour with Commander Ben Salazar, USN, Director of Innovation (N93) with CRIC, along with other members of his team.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.



Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy, Podcast | No Comments
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Please join us on Sunday 16 March 14 at 5pm EDT for Episode 219: The USMC Post-QDR with Dakota Wood

With the new defense budget out, new QDR out, the withdraw of maneuver forces from Afghanistan, rising interest in INDO-PAC operations, and a resurgent Russia: after over a decade of COIN and land wars in Southwest and Central Asia – what is the status of the United States Marine Corps?

Materially, intellectually, and culturally – is the USMC set up to move best towards the expected challenges and missions?

Our guest for the full hour will be Dakota L. Wood, Lt Col, USMC (Ret.), Senior Research Fellow, Defense Programs at the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.

Following retirement, Mr. Wood served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Most recently, Mr. Wood served as the Strategist for the U.S. Marine Corps’ Special Operations Command.

Mr. Wood holds a Bachelor of Science in Oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy; a Master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the College of Naval Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College.

Join us live at 5 or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here.



Please join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S. Daylight Savings time), Sunday March 9, 2014, for Episode 218: Abolishing of the USAF, with Robert M. Farley :

In concept, execution, and ability to effectively provide its part of the national defense infrastructure, has a separate Air Force served this nation well, and does it make sense to keep it a separate service?

Our guest this week makes the case that the experiment in a

separate US Air Force is over, and it has failed. Though we need airpower, we don’t need a separate service to provide it.

With us for the full hour will be Professor Robert M. Farley, PhD, author of the book being released 11 March, Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.

Rob teaches defense and security courses at the Patterson School of Diplomacy at the University of Kentucky. He blogs at InformationDissemination and LawyersGunsAndMoney.

Join us live or pick the show up for later listening by clicking here.



Posted by Mark Tempest in Aviation, Podcast | 1 Comment
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Join us live on 23 Feb at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for our Episode 216: Maritime Strategy and Control of the Seas with Seth Cropsey:

What direction do we need to go for our next maritime strategy? Using the recent article, Control of the Seas, as our starting point, our guest for the full hour will be Seth Cropsey, Senior Fellow and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower.

He served in government at the Defense Department as Assistant to the SECDEF Caspar Weinberger and then as Deputy Undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and Bush administrations, where he was responsible for the Navy’s position on efforts to reorganize DoD, development of the maritime strategy, the Navy’s academic institutions, naval special operations, and burden-sharing with NATO allies. In the Bush administration, Cropsey moved to OSD to become acting assistant secretary, and then principal deputy assistant SECDEF for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict.

U.S. Navy photo by OSSN Andrew L. Clark


During the period that preceded the collapse of the USSR—from 1982 to 1984—Cropsey directed the editorial policy of the Voice of America on the Solidarity movement in Poland, Soviet treatment of dissidents, and other issues. Returning to public diplomacy in 2002 as director of the US government’s International Broadcasting Bureau, Cropsey supervised the agency as successful efforts were undertaken to increase radio and television broadcasting to the Muslim world.

Cropsey’s work in the private sector includes reporting for Fortune magazine and as a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and as director of the Heritage Foundation’s Asia Studies Center from 1991-94.

His articles have been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Weekly Standard, Foreign Affairs, Commentary magazine, RealClear World, and others.

Join us live or pick up the show later by clicking here.



So, the U.S. Naval Institute holds a conference in San Diego just before the weekend and there’s so much interesting stuff that came up that CDR Salamander and I decided to hash it over on Midrats Episode 215 live at 5pm Eastern U.S.

Just click here to get to the live show (you may have to click again on a show page, but what are two clicks among friends?). Call in during the show with comments or thoughts or join us in the chat room if you think your voice is not yet ready for radio.

I think Cyber, Russia, Christine Fox’s comments, Coalition Warfare, budget constraints, the JSF, retention of our best talent, and the future of warfare will come up at some point. Plus more.

Join us live or listen later.



Please join us Sunday 26 Jan 14 at 5 pm (Eastern U.S.) for Midrats Episode 212: NATO in Afghanistan with Stephen M. Saideman

Lost to many whose news sources in the USA consists of the major newspapers and the standard networks, for most of the last dozen+ years, the conflict in Afghanistan has not been a USA-Centric battle; it has been a NATO run operation.

When the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force has been an American 4-star, the visuals can be misleading.

For most of the last decade, American forces were dominate in only one region of Afghanistan, the east. Other NATO nations from Italy/Spain in the west, Germany in the North, and Commonwealth nations and the Dutch in the south.

More important than the actual numbers involved, it was the Rules of Engagement, caveats, and the fickle nature of national politics that drove what effects those forces had on the ground.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of modern coalition warfare was all in view for all in Afghanistan, but outside small circles, has yet to be fully discussed.

Our guest for the full hour will be Stephen Saideman.

Stephen holds the Paterson Chair in International Affairs at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs. He has written The Ties That Divide: Ethnic Politics, Foreign Policy and International Conflict and For Kin or Country: Xenophobia, Nationalism and War (with R. William Ayres) and NATO in Afghanistan: Fighting Together, Fighting Alone (with David Auerswald), and other work on nationalism, ethnic conflict, civil war, and civil-military relations. Prof. Saideman spent 2001-02 on the U.S. Joint Staff working in the Strategic Planning and Policy Directorate as part of a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellowship. He writes online at OpenCanada.org, Political Violence at a Glance, Duck of Minerva and his own site (saideman.blogspot.com). He also tweets too much at @smsaideman.

Join us live or pick the show up later by clicking here.

If you have had the pleasure of participating in coalition warfare you should find this interesting. If you haven’t, you might find it instructive.



Please join us at 5pm Eastern U.S. on 19 Jan 14 for Episode 211: 4th Anniversary Free For All :

That’s right … Midrats has been on the air four years. This week we aren’t having guests, just the two hosts and any listeners who want to take the opportunity to call in or throw a question or topic to us in the chat room. Breaking news, regular topics, or whatever you pull out of your seabag – we’re going to cover it

Green range, as it were.

As usual, you can join us live or download the show for later listening here.

By the way, did you know it is possible to watch football with the sound on mute?

Just sayin’ . . .



Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy, Podcast | No Comments
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