Archive for January, 2009

Chris Albon’s post over at War & Health sure does ask an interesting question. Click here for the full post and the report which prompted this discussion.

What do you think? Should the United States deploy a hospital ship to Gaza?

On a separate note, if you are interested in medical diplomacy, War & Health is one of the best blogs out there on the subject. I strongly recommend you add it to your blogreader after adding USNI Blog.

Modern-day pirates are not the only kidnap threat that merchant seamen face these days. They also risk getting detained for much longer periods by national governments as they criminalize accidents. Take the following better-known examples:

While at anchor, the HEBEI SPIRIT was struck by an adrift barge in December 2007. The end result was South Korea’s worst oil spill. The ship’s Captain Jasprit Chawla and Chief Officer Syam Chetan remain jailed in south Korea until just recently. They have been detained for much longer than most seafarers have been held by pirates off Somalia. Here is the South Korean Government’s explanation why these two were deemed responsible:

The appeal court in Daejeon jailed Capt Chawla for 18 months and fined him Won20m after finding him guilty on two charges related to the oil spill. The court said Capt Chawla should have gone full astern to drag anchor to prevent the collision with the drifting crane barge Samsung No 1 which had earlier broken its tow.

The court said the master should not have pumped inert gas into the tanker’s cargo holds because it increased the spillage of oil when the explosive risk was low. It added the Hebei Spirit should have been ballasted to create a 10 degree list which would have prevented the oil spill, while three and a half hours to transfer oil between cargo tanks was too long. – Lloyd’s List

They apparently acted in good faith to try and deal with the situation. Unfortunately, those acts were later used against them. Imagine being sent to jail because someone hit your car while it was legally parked. Only last week have these two been freed on bail.

The PRESTIGE was an oil tanker that broke up and sank off Spain leaving a huge oil slick in it’s wake.

On November 13, 2002, while the Prestige was carrying a 77,000-ton cargo of two different grades of heavy fuel oil, one of its twelve tanks burst during a storm off Galicia, in northwestern Spain. Fearing that the ship would sink, the captain called for help from Spanish rescue workers, with the expectation that the vessel would be brought into harbour. However, pressure from local authorities forced the captain to steer the embattled ship away from the coast and head northwest. Reportedly after pressure from the French government, the vessel was once again forced to change its course and head southwards into Portuguese waters in order to avoid endangering France’s southern coast. Fearing for its own shore, the Portuguese authorities promptly ordered its navy to intercept the ailing vessel and prevent it from approaching further.

With the French, Spanish and Portuguese governments refusing to allow the ship to dock in their ports, the integrity of the single hulled oil tanker was deteriorating quickly and soon the storm took its toll when it was reported that a huge 40-foot section of the starboard hull had broken off, releasing a substantial amount of oil.

At around 8:00 AM on November 19, the ship split in half, and sank completely the very same afternoon releasing over 20 million gallons of oil into the sea. The oil tanker was reported to be about 250 kilometers from the Spanish coast at that time. An earlier oil slick had already reached the coast. The Greek captain of the Prestige, Apostolos Mangouras, was taken into custody, accused of not co-operating with salvage crews and of harming the environment. – Wikipedia

His attempts to save the ship were thwarted by a game of hot potato by the local European Governments. One might say that these actions by French, Spanish and Portuguese governments contributed to the eventual breakup of the ship and resulting disaster. As thanks for being put in such a situation, the Spanish Government threw the Captain in jail. He sat there for 83 days until a three million Euro bail was paid. To this day he has to report to the police in Greece regularly as criminal charges remain unresolved.

The Captain of the CORAL SEA was arrested and thrown in a Greek jail after cocaine was found hidden in the ship’s cargo of bananas. Despite there being no evidence that any crew members had any knowledge of the drug shipment, the Greek Government decided to throw him in jail anyway with a 14 year sentence since he was responsible as Captain. Only recently has he been cleared of these charges and released. Hear is the Captain commenting on his treatment in this matter:

“The police in Europe and America will not come to me saying that they found something on the ship. On the contrary, they will hide it from me and follow where the drugs are going. If the freight comes to its destination, and in the end something comes back to me, then they will know that I am guilty. But these in Greece arrested me because I was the closest. It is interesting that the boxes that the drugs were in were immediately destroyed and thrown away. Without any search, or looking for fingerprints. We brought them a book from Eduador with fingerprints of all who were on the ship, only for them to say that they do not need it because they do not have the boxes” says -.–.-Kristo Laptalo with his wife.Laptalo. He stressed that sea farers have to be ready, because something like this can happen, and it is most important that the company stands behind them. –

Sometimes ships are ‘arrested’ for any number of reasons, such as if the owner has unpaid bills. The SOL TRADER was recently arrested in Slovenia. Once again the crew become mere pawns in the matter:

The Sol Trader was impounded on 6 January in the Adriatic port of Koper for non-payment of debts to a fuel supplier.

Predrag Brazzoduro told the Zagreb-based news portal that food and water supply to the crew was halted after their first day in the port. He also said the crew has not been paid in months, so seafarers have no money to buy food.

He called for Slovenian officials to allow the ship to be laid up so the crew can come ashore. – Fairplay

A vessel arrest or the abandonment of a ship in a port can quickly turn a ship into a jail for its crew. A jail where nobody is responsible for the inmates. These cases do get sorted out and crews paid, eventually. I wonder how many ships currently being held by the pirates of Somalia have been abandoned by their owners?

On November 7th, 2007, While departing San Francisco in fog, the COSCO BUSAN struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. It is my understanding that at least six member of the crew were detained in the US as ‘Material Witnesses’. After about a year, apparently two of them were permitted to leave the country after completing videotaped depositions and written statements. The Captain and three others remain trapped in the US, but otherwise free to move about. Then again, it is hard to move about without income and salary payments have been an issue.

I did leave this one for last as this is the one incident where chances are that the crew can be seen as at least partly responsible for the accident. (Most of the blame is being assigned to the pilot though). However, they should not have to be detained for so long, especially if they are only going to be treated as ‘witnesses’ to the accident.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that a shipping magnate was kidnapped in Greece last week:

ATHENS, Greece, Jan. 20 (UPI) — A 74-year-old Greek shipping tycoon is in good condition after being freed by kidnappers following payment of an estimated $39 million ransom, officials say.

Pericles Panagopoulos was freed Tuesday, eight days after he was abducted. He was found by a passing police car near the industrial district of Aspropyrgos, just west of Athens, The Times of London reported. – UPI

Did they realize that they didn’t need to actually kidnap a ship, instead kidnapping a vessel owner. I wonder if they saw all the ransoms being paid to the pirates and said ‘Me too!’ At any rate, it seems that they picked their target wisely, looking at the payoff. I suspect that the family might not have been so generous had it been one of their ships that was taken instead.

The goal of this article is to point out some of the lesser-known risks of being a merchant sailor and how sailors are treated. This is a problem even in the US. A good example is the story of Captain Villy Larsen of the cargoship DANICA WHITE’s run-in with the Coast Guard. He ended up spending over 100 days in a US jail for something that probably could have been resolved in a more positive fashion. (Read his story here: “Villy Larsen: I regret my behaviour” ) that has been recognized by the US Coast Guard Commandant (and fellow USNI guest blogger) Thad Allen to the point of having issue a statement on the subject:

USCG boss urges seafarer respect – WASHINGTON, DC 5 March – Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen has urged members of his service to treat commercial seafarers “with the utmost professionalism and respect.” In a communication sent to “all hands”, Admiral Allen acknowledged that he has “received reports from highly respected professionals recounting Coast Guard boardings, inspections and investigations not displaying professionalism. Additionally, some have said they lost the complete trust they once had in the Coast Guard and are fearful of retribution if they challenge the Coast Guard.” Allen wrote, “We must change this perception,” noting that licensed and documented mariners are “professionals who share our interests in a safe, secure and environmentally compliant industry.” He recalled the words of Alexander Hamilton (the first US Secretary of the Treasury who launched the Revenue Cutter Service) that free men are impatient of “everything that bears the least mark of domineering spirit” and said that applies “as much today as it did in 1790 and equally to international mariners and our trading partners”. – Fairplay Homepage

In many cases there is no voice of authority to speak out for the rights of the seafarer. However, it is not a reason to take advantage of them.

(Posted by Fred Fry)

Posted by FFry in Maritime Security | 5 Comments

BZ to VADM Curtis.

The head of the Navy’s surface forces has ordered technical inspections of dozens of warships to see “exactly what their lifespan is” through assessments of their material readiness.

First up are Harper’s Ferry and Whidbey Island-class dock landing ships, said Vice Adm. D.C. Curtis, and followed by Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

The Navy’s steam-powered gators are getting old, Curtis told Navy Times. “We may think a ship is 14 years old,” he said, but with a high operational tempo, “is it really 17 years old?”

I hope he picks the most detailed, grumpy, 30-year-point terminal CAPT SWOs who don’t owe no’un nut’un and Old-School Master Chiefs to do it.

This begs the question though, why do we have no confidence in the systems and personnel we now have in place to get this answer, and who is going to be held accountable for that lack of confidence?

Let’s hope this turns out well – it didn’t for the P-3 community.

The truth will set you free ……

Cross posted at CDR Salamander.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 10 Comments

… we (Team Navy) are in deep bat guano where public perceptions are concerned:


See especially slides 17-21 for recruiter’s challenge:

  • ” If you were just turning 18 and had to spend two years in the Service, which branch would you prefer to join?” AF: 37 Navy: 20 Army: 15 CG: 14 Marines: 14.

Slides 3-7 aren’t exactly a bed of rose either. Mayhaps the Navy might want to work its message a little harder outside the cloistered “Conversations With America” while spending less time/effort/manpower on contrived “ethos” statements?

Of course leadership could just shut its eyes, click its heels and say “it’s only a poll – it’s only a poll…” Just don’t think these results aren’t going to have some bearing in the coming budgetary knife fights on the Hill and in the 5-sided wind tunnel…

You can’t make this up. Because the comment is so hilarious, I’ll ignore for a moment why this article ran in Aviation Weekly, only to say that we have finally found someone who is very pleased about the costs of the LCS. Behold, a contract lawyer’s praise.

Commissioned in November, the ship is scheduled to be delivered to the Navy later this year. What was critical, according to analyst James McAleese of McAleese and Associates, is that the ship was commissioned before the Obama administration took office.

Now, McAleese said, the Navy needs to keep the cost between $550 million and $600 million per ship – a far cry from the $220 million the sea service initially contended the vessel would cost. But, McAleese and other observers say, the ship is worth the current and revamped cost. “It’s affordable and operational,” he said.

The article goes on to note that the Congressional Research Service estimates the total LCS price tag for the desired 55-ship buy at $29.4 billion.

$550 million x 53 more LCS = $29.15 billion

By my read CRS has apparently underestimated the total costs. First, imagine what alternative littoral warfare strategies the US Navy could develop with ~$29 billion in shipbuilding.

Now imagine a world where a weapon system is ~150% over cost for every unit and we celebrate the weapon system as “affordable” and “operational” thus worth it. Welcome to the world of the US Navy of today. At least he didn’t call the Littoral Combat Ship a frigate, a description that really annoys me.

Posted by galrahn in Navy | 96 Comments

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

January 2009


With a little over a month under our belt at the Naval Institute blog, we’re proud to say that we’ve had a lot of great, spirited debate on many military subjects. We are grateful to our Guest Bloggers, many of whom have their own sites, engagements and commitments. We are also grateful to all of you who take the time to comment and participate here on the blog.

So…without trying to scold or point fingers I would remind all of you that one of our rules of engagement is ‘no personal attacks.’ It’s the policy, the decision-making, the process that’s up for debate. Calling someone an idiot, whether it’s a fellow blogger, someone commenting or the CINC is not what this blog is all about. To quote a blogger, “Personal attacks are right out – especially outside specific policy issues and of a clearly partisan nature. Sharp, well thought out elbows are part of the fun …. but there are limits … especially when someone decides to anoint themselves as agent provocateur.” Inflammatory language begets inflammatory response and no one benefits from crossing the line.

A few of the comments on the bringing back the draft debate got personal, or close enough. That’s too bad considering the importance of the subject and interest it stirred among smart people who appreciate a chance to freely express opinions. We’re used to making tough editorial decisions at USNI and not at all afraid to make the call.

We probably should have stepped in but decided to let it go in the hope it would stabilize, which it finally did. Intellect and reason finally won out over ego.

Posted by admin in Naval Institute | 4 Comments

So, with only a few hours left in the Bush Presidency, what went well, Navy-wise? I think many of us can agree on a number of things that went, ah, badly, but…what Bush-era naval projects do you want to see continued in the Obama Administration?

Personally, one of the things that went right for the Bush Administration was the Trident SSBN conversion to SSGN. That conversion, shifting a Trident-missile carrying SLBM sub into a combined SEAL-Taxi and Cruise Missile carrier, was relatively cheap (given the alternative of shedding a high-value hull with a lot of life left in it), offers the Navy some new insights on operating an arsenal ship, and gives DOD a nice test-bed for new tech. It isn’t a perfect platform, by any means, but having 16,000 tones of sub around to play with will be darned useful.

What fascinates me is that the converted Tridents are being shopped about as one of the few positive examples of SECDEF Rumsfeld’s “transformation.” Tom Donnelly on the pages of AFJ:

“And some of his signal successes, such as the conversion of Trident submarines into stealthy, cruise-missile-laden “arsenal ships,” were relatively modest expenditures.”

Or Robert Kaplan, in the Atlantic:

“Against Navy resistance, he led the effort to refit ballistic-missile submarines with SEAL delivery vehicles in place of Trident nuclear warheads, to make it easier to land special operators on beachheads.”

Good lord. That’s not transformation…it is just the evolution of a proven platform. We’ve used old Boomers as SEAL-taxis ever since SALT I forced the retirement of Ethan Allen Class Polaris boats!

In 1984 and 1986, the John Marshall and Sam Houston were converted and served until 1992. The Lafayette Class SSBN conversions, the Kamehameha and James K. Polk served in the SEAL-carrying role from 1992-3 until 2002 and 1999 respectively. Heck, the Kamfish was useful enough to keep in service for 37 years–a service record that should, by itself, be enough evidence that the SEAL conversions/SSN transports were, ah, liked. And now, with the converted Tridents, we’ve more than doubled the displacement and kept the SEAL/SOF contingent at 65 (give or take). That’s a lot of extra space–and a lot of power–for all kinds of nifty goodies.

As far as transformation goes, these platforms will be as transformational as our leadership–and the stuff we put in them–permits. With that, my friends, these platforms will lead to the kind of change we can believe in.

So what else went well? What Bush-era naval projects/initiatives should be kept on in the Obama era?


I was disappointed when I read Thomas Ricks strategic assessment regarding the Navy’s approach to piracy. Tom is an astute observer of military strategy, and if he sees the pirate situation off Somalia as simply a way to take a cheap shot at the disaster called naval shipbuilding strategy, then I’m afraid nobody in the media may understand what is and has happened. I’d like to welcome Thomas Ricks to the blogosphere by suggesting that when it comes to maritime strategy as it relates to the issue of Somali piracy, he doesn’t appear to know what he is talking about. Thomas Ricks writes:

Better late that never to be going after the Somalia pirates. To me, this is a strategic issue. Keeping the sea lanes open, especially for oil, should be a top priority for the U.S. military. Instead we seemed to defer to the Indians, Chinese and others, letting them take the lead. The Navy may feel that all its special operators — the guys trained to board and take over ships — are busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, admiral, does that tell you that you probably need more ship boarders, and maybe fewer aircraft carriers or anti-missile systems? You think maybe?

I noted that Yankee Sailor left a comment on the thread. I’m betting Thomas Ricks has no idea who Yankee Sailor is, nor why Yankee Sailor’s opinion is more informed. We know better. I have a lot of problems with the assessment Tom is making here, starting with what the top priority for the US military should be. If the top priority of the US military, including the Navy, isn’t winning the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, then something is wrong. There is a reason why there are more sailors deployed on land in the CENTCOM area of operations than at sea, and that reason is absolutely valid.

This is a strategic issue as Tom contends, but with the assertion of “better late than never” and the suggestion that “Indians, Chinese and others” taking leadership roles is somehow representative of a failure of maritime strategy, Tom Ricks is essentially admitting to me that he has never actually read the US Navy’s maritime strategy.

I couldn’t agree more with Thomas Ricks regarding his implied assessment of naval shipbuilding, as I have stated in the past, in no case can we exercise control of the sea with battleships alone. Our collective opinions regarding force structure however do not translate into analysis whether the Navy has the right equipment to address piracy, nor does it hold any bearing on whether the strategic approach the Navy, indeed the nation, has taken to address piracy off the coast of Somalia has been effective. By turning his assessment of the US strategy towards the Somali piracy issue into a force structure debate, Tom Ricks is making an apples and oranges comparison.

But when it comes to naval forces and the US Navy’s approach to Somalia, I’d suggest that even on this specific point Tom is inaccurate. I see the use of the LPD-17 platform as an afloat forward staging base (AFSB) as a brilliant approach to addressing irregular littoral challenges like piracy. While no one is suggesting the LPD-17 is the only solution towards a challenge that requires a network of naval vessels, the LPD-17 platform represents a central node in that network in a lot of the analysis I’ve read on the subject. It isn’t an accident the Navy is using the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) as a command ship for CTF-151, and don’t be surprised when the USS New Orleans (LPD-18) becomes the next command ship for CTF-151. In this regard, I see the analysis of Thomas Ricks regarding what means to use to execute maritime strategy off Somalia as flawed as well.

Tom’s point raises the question whether the US Navy needs to retool long term for fighting challenges like piracy. I would contend that Somali piracy is indeed a test case that answers those kinds of questions.

All strategies have an expiration date, because with any new policy comes a new strategy. As signaled by Admiral Gortney last week in the Pentagon press conference, all indications are that a new policy is soon to emerge, meaning the current strategy for addressing Somali piracy is about to expire. With that the case, we can now evaluate whether the current strategy to date has been successful or not.

What has been the Navy’s strategy? The ends of strategy has been two fold. First, to build an international approach towards the shared international security problem of Somali piracy. Second, to develop the political and legal framework to enable action against Somali piracy. If we judge the success or failure of strategy by whether the ends of strategy are achieved, then I would suggest the Navy has done a brilliant job.

Even a casual reading of the Cooperative Maritime Strategy for 21st Century Seapower notes that by placing emphasis on taking cooperative approaches to shared problems, the Navy will always be taking a “diplomacy first” approach in executing maritime strategy. Building coalitions is by definition political, and using the time frame discussed by Admiral Gortney in the press conference, comparing the situation in the region in August to the situation today, clearly the conditions have been shaped towards the ends of strategy in terms of building international participation. Could the US Navy have taken ownership or leadership in the fight against piracy? Absolutely, but they wisely, intentionally avoided doing so, because the absence of the US Navy was the enabling condition that built the international military response to date, and allowed the political process led by the European and Asian economic powers in the United Nations to develop towards our strategic goals.

The conditions for using military power today are not the same as they have been in the past. Those conditions are influenced heavily by how previous military actions taken by the Bush administration have been seen globally. Dealing with this condition change has, in the specific case of Somali piracy, required the US Navy to do nothing about piracy off Somalia in order to build an international diplomatic and military response. For those who seek more clarification regarding the strategic environment we will build strategies in after Bush, I encourage you to read Great Powers: America and the World After Bush by Thomas Barnett set to be released on February 5, 2009.

Admiral Gortney told the media in the press conference that sometime in the next week the State Dept would finalize an agreement with one of the nations in the region to prosecute pirates, and once that happens there will be a change in the Navy’s rules of engagement. The implication is, because all strategies expire with policy change, a new strategy in regards to Somali piracy is soon to emerge with a new proactive policy, and the implications of a new policy are historic in regards to the timing.

The nations maritime strategy towards Somali piracy, by emphasizing a diplomacy first approach, has resulted in 1) a United Nations driven mandate for military action (still evolving as recently as today towards a multinational land action btw) 2) built on international consensus 3) to address a complex international security problem resulting 4) in the largest collection of international warships off the coast of Africa since WWII with 5) a legal framework to take action. By taking a patient approach, largely consisting of military inaction while implementing a diplomacy first solution with allies towards building this large international presence, the diplomats have developed the desired international legal framework necessary for the Navy to take action, and do so in the exact conditions desired and expressed in the Navy’s own maritime strategy.

The execution of maritime strategy to date has been brilliant in my opinion. The timing isn’t “too late” as Tom Ricks contends, the timing is perfect.

When was the last time a President of the United States, acting as Commander in Chief, has entered office and on the first week has instructed the US Navy to take military action? In the history of our country, this has never happened, ever! And yet the strategy towards Somali piracy has been executed so well that Barack Obama will enter office this week, and one of his very first acts as Commander in Chief will be to send the US Navy to war against pirates off the coast of Somalia.

With all due respect to Thomas Ricks, he may need to write a new book to adequately explore the dynamics of just how successful the US diplomatic and maritime strategy for dealing with Somali piracy has been. When a strategy is implemented so masterfully that both the media and all the partisans in the US completely miss that Barack Obama’s first act as Commander in Chief will be to go to war on a third front, and by taking this action, the international community is excited that one of the first actions by the President replacing George Bush is to commit military power in the Middle East region…

…clearly someone, somewhere, is doing something right.

It will be interesting to see what strategy emerges to carry out the upcoming policy change in regards to Somali piracy. Everyone knows the solution to piracy is on land. It is also noteworthy that the symptoms of Somali piracy are the same as the symptoms creating the terrorism issues that have long driven US policy towards Somalia under the Bush administration. The challenge is now that the US has found a way to align the strategic interests of the international community with US strategic interests in Somalia, can the political process develop an international solution to both problems? I don’t know, but I bet the success of that process will be diplomatic, not military, and may even require naval forces to fail to stop piracy at sea to be achieved.

cross-posted at Information Dissemination


Bring Back the Draft?

January 2009


According to the The, U.S. Charles Rangel (D, NY) is again going to introduce his military draft measure as set out here:

Republicans are likely to seize on the reintroduction of Rangel’s unpopular military draft bill. When they controlled the House in 2004, Republicans scheduled a vote on the Rangel measure, which was defeated 402-2. Reps. John Murtha (D-Pa.) and Pete Stark (D-Calif.) supported it, while Rangel voted against his own bill, claiming the GOP was playing political games.
A decorated Korean War veteran and a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Rangel argues that the burden of fighting wars falls disproportionately on low-income people and that cost should be borne more broadly.

If a draft had been in place in 2002 when members were making the decision on whether to support the war in Iraq, Rangel has said, Congress never would have approved the war resolution, because the pressure from constituents would have been too great.

With the Iraq war off the front page and the economic crisis taking center stage, nerves are not as raw on the topic of strain on the military as they were a few years ago, so Rangel’s legislation may not make as many waves this time around.
But some Democrats — even one who supported Rangel’s efforts in the past — are a little perplexed about his plans to reintroduce the legislation, especially now that President-elect Obama is poised to take over the White House.

“That was really a political statement at the beginning of the war that we continued,” said Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), one of only two co-sponsors of Rangel’s draft bill. “I’m not sure we’re going to do that this time.”

Whatever their motives, which seem mostly to have been to harass outgoing President Bush, Rep Rangel and his cronies prove once again that facts don’t matter much to them.

A recent Heritage study confirms that, contrary to Mr. Rangel’s assertions that “the burden of fighting wars falls disproportionately on low-income people,” the current U.S. military is not composed of the losers in life’s lottery as Mr. Rangel posits. Instead:

1. U.S. military service disproportionately attracts enlisted personnel and officers who do not come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Previous Her­itage Foundation research demonstrated that the quality of enlisted troops has increased since the start of the Iraq war. This report demon­strates that the same is true of the officer corps.
2. Members of the all-volunteer military are sig­nificantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 per­cent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) pro­gram, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods—a number that has increased substantially over the past four years.
3. American soldiers are more educated than their peers. A little more than 1 percent of enlisted per­sonnel lack a high school degree, compared to 21 percent of men 18–24 years old, and 95 percent of officer accessions have at least a bachelor’s degree.
4. Contrary to conventional wisdom, minorities are not overrepresented in military service. Enlisted troops are somewhat more likely to be white or black than their non-military peers. Whites are proportionately represented in the officer corps, and blacks are overrepresented, but their rate of overrepresentation has declined each year from 2004 to 2007. New recruits are also disproportionately likely to come from the South, which is in line with the history of South­ern military tradition.

The facts do not support the belief that many American soldiers volunteer because society offers them few other opportunities. The average enlisted person or officer could have had lucrative career opportunities in the private sector. Those who argue that American soldiers risk their lives because they have no other opportunities belittle the personal sacrifices of those who serve out of love for their country.

Of course, the insistence on the part of the military that at least 90% of recruits have high school diplomas may have an “adverse impact” on the ability of the lowest economic levels of our society to join the services since that it is much more likely that high school dropouts will end up in the lower income levels. See the chart here – in which it appears that completing high school adds about $10,000 a years in income compared to the earnings of high school dropouts.

Perhaps Mr. Rangel should be less worried about who carries the burden of serving in the military (especially since he is completely wrong in his analysis) and worry more about how to encourage the lower economic levels of our society to finish high school so that they can be full participants in our society.

Perhaps someone can articulate good reasons for returning to a draft, but clearly, Mr. Rangel has the wrong ones.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Policy | 70 Comments

New Presidential Arctic Region Policy

Cross Posted from iCommandant

Admiral Allen surveys the summer ice

Observing the summer ice floes from HEALY, Aug 2008.

On January 9, 2009, the President signed the Nation’s new Arctic Region Policy, National Security Presidential Directive 66/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 25. This document, which replaces the Arctic section of PDD-26, establishes comprehensive national policies that recognize the changing environmental, economic, and geo-political conditions in the Arctic and re-affirms the United States’ broad and fundamental interests in the region. The Directive takes into account altered national policies on national defense and homeland security, the effects of global climate change and increased human activity in the region, as well as a growing awareness that the Arctic is both fragile and rich in natural resources.

NSPD 66/HSPD 25 specifically establishes that it is the policy of the U.S. to:

– Meet national security and homeland security needs relevant to the Arctic region
– Protect the Arctic environment and conserve its biological resources
– Ensure that natural resource management and economic development in the region are environmentally sustainable
– Strengthen institutions for cooperation among the eight Arctic nations
– Involve the Arctic?s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them
– Enhance scientific monitoring and research into local, regional, and global environment issues.

Secretary Chertoff met with local leaders in Barrow Alaska while visiting the Arctic Region, August 2008

The development of these policies was a collaborative effort involving myriad stakeholders and, in many ways, marks the first step in the United States taking an active role in the region. Much work remains to be done and we look forward to working closely with our partners at the federal, state, local, and tribal levels, the Arctic nations, appropriate international forums, and the private sector to develop the requirements, action plans, and best mix of resources needed to implement these policies. The following highlights just a few of the specific Coast Guard implications in the new policy. These are by no means all inclusive. As you read these understand that we can accomplish nothing on our own. Every aspect of this directive overlaps the responsibilities and interest of several parties and agencies. Continued collaboration, cooperation and communication will be the keys to success. Also, as we have been, we will Involve the Arctic’s indigenous communities in decisions that affect them.

National and Homeland Security Interests

The Arctic region is primarily a maritime domain and the Coast Guard will continue to apply the following policies and authorities, including law enforcement:

– Freedom of Navigation
– U.S. Policy on Protecting the Ocean and the Environment
Maritime Security Policy
National Strategy for Maritime Security

The U.S. will exercise sovereignty within our maritime boundaries and over the continental shelf while preserving Freedom of the Seas. Implementation of this policy requires the development of greater capabilities and capacity to operate in the region to protect our borders, increase Arctic domain awareness and project our presence in the region. This will require close cooperation with our partners the Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security.

International Governance

The Coast Guard’s main role in this capacity is to represent the U.S. in the International Maritime Organization and other appropriate forums to develop international agreements to ensure effective governance mechanisms, including Arctic-specific regulations to ensure safe, secure, environmentally friendly maritime activities. These efforts will be closely coordinated with the Department of Transportation and Department of State and will also serve to advance multi-national cooperation in the region. We will look at how to expand our highly effective partnerships established through the North Pacific and North Atlantic Coast Guard Forums to meet the objectives of this directive.

Continental Shelf and Boundary Issues / Promoting International Scientific Cooperation



The Coast Guard will continue to support the necessary research efforts by the National Science Foundation and others through the use of Coast Guard resources for scientific support to establish the outer limit of the continental shelf to the fullest extent permitted under international law.

Maritime Transportation in the Artic region

U.S. priorities for maritime transportation in the Arctic are to facilitate safe, secure and reliable navigation; protect maritime commerce; protect the environment.

This requires the Coast Guard to work with its interagency partners, the Arctic nations, and regulatory

USCGC SPAR operating off the North Slope

USCGC SPAR operating off the North Slope

 bodies to establish infrastructure to support shipping activity; search and rescue response; aids to navigation; vessel traffic management; iceberg warnings and sea ice information; shipping standards; and protection of the marine environment.

Environmental Protection and Conservation of Natural Resources

The Coast Guard will work collaboratively to develop environmental response strategies, plans and capabilities working with the Departments of Energy and the Interior. We will also enforce any international or domestic fisheries laws developed for this unique region in coordination with NOAA and NMFS from the Department of Commerce.
I commend all of the participants who helped to develop this comprehensive Arctic Region Policy over the last two years. For the men and women of the Coast Guard, and the partners we work next to every day, this is just the beginning of the work to be done to ensure that we expand our superior mission execution to the increasingly significant Arctic region, consistent with the President’s intent.

« Older Entries Newer Entries »