Archive for July, 2009

Since April 1st the US Navy has reported 505 cases of H1N1 (Swine Flu) in active duty servicemen/women [pdf]. For perspective, the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Coast Guard has had 502, 323, 239, and 8 cases respectively. However, more than 20% (110) of the Navy’s cases occurred on the USS Bonhomme Richard, currently at sea. Even more startling, 61 of the Bonhomme Richard’s cases happened within the last eleven days. Simply put, 12% of the Navy’s total H1N1 cases are on a single ship, on deployment, and within the last two weeks.

The Navy has so far been able to keep the USS Bonhomme Richard’s outbreak out of the news. The only mention of the outbreak is in the DoD’s July 14, 2009 Global Surveillance Summary for H1N1 [pdf] (pictured), read only by military health staff and nosy Ph.D. candidates.


While H1N1 is no more dangerous than the common flu, outbreaks of the virus have affected Naval operations in the past. After the USS Dubuque experienced at outbreak of around 20 cases of H1N1, it was scrapped as the assigned vessel for Pacific Partnership 2009, a humanitarian civic assistance mission to Kiribati, Republic of Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Tonga. Mission planners scrambled and accepted an offer by the Sealift Command and the Seventh Fleet to use the USNS Richard E. Byrd. The change in vessels forced the mission to be reduced to half of the original plan. On the vessel switch, Commodore Andrew Cully said:

“Originally, we were going to have roughly 180 medical folks and several engineers, a lot more than what we’ve had. And then now we had to down-scope somewhat, and [on the USNS Richard E. Byrd] I’m carrying, roughly, 50 medical professionals, 40 engineers, and then we’ll round it out with another 20 between my core staff and partner nations and NGOs.”

Furthermore, active outbreaks can spread quickly. This week, an H1N1 outbreak amongst freshman cadets at the Air Force Academy spread to sixty-seven students within ten days of the case. The increased risk of spreading the disease in the cramped conditions of naval vessels is obvious. So, if in the next few weeks you hear reports of the USS Bonhomme Richard changing its mission due to a H1N1 outbreak: 1) do not be surprised, and 2) remember you heard it on the USNI blog first.

Gen. Craddock continues to provide a great service to the larger national security community by providing little glimpses into the challenges SACEUR has in training and herding the NATO cats in Mons and Brussels.

Most of you have already seen Chapter 1; Chapter 2 is a nice little “Top 10” list, with #5 and #3 getting the most interest from me.

“(10) NATO Council elders refer to an era that included the threat of widespread, world-ending, nuclear exchange as ‘the good old days.’ The Cold War — for NATO those were simple times, exceedingly dangerous but simple. We trained, we exercised, we planned — but we didn’t deploy anywhere, and we did not resource or conduct operations. We did not live in a time when information was literally at the fingertips of citizens around the globe. We didn’t have to convince our populaces of the merit of our action. National survival hung in the balance.

“[Today] with almost 74,000 from 44 countries deployed in six operations within and beyond the Euro-Atlantic area … [we lack] political will, commitment in resources … and commitment to communicate the need … to our citizens. Defense spending is on the decline [while] security demands are on the rise.

“(9) You need to reach consensus on whether to serve red sauce or white sauce on the pasta. Consensus in garnering international support and legitimacy (is one thing). But for routine alliance business? Easier said than done. NATO would need to reach consensus on a decision to no longer need to reach consensus. Time to change the MO. But let’s always remember Churchill — ‘the only thing worse than fighting a war with allies is fighting a war without them.’

“(8) You’re part of an organization that’s been a pillar of strength and provider of peace and security for member and partner nations for more than 60 years … fostered the reunification of Germany — and through enlargement extended democratic values throughout Warsaw Pact countries … resolved conflict in the Balkans [and] its reintegration into the whole of Europe. And today, NATO reaches around the globe to collectively confront 21st century challenges … but we’re still lacking modern crisis management capabilities to respond to challenges in an unpredictable world.

“(7) Your relationship with 27 European Union nations, 21 of whom are also members of NATO, is, at best, cordial. (gobbledygook for sleight-of-hand). A tight working relationship between EU and NATO is the overdue prerequisite for solutions to 21st century challenges. Signed agreements guarantee EU access to NATO assets and capabilities for EU-led missions. … Time to work together by playing to strengths of both to address current/future crises.

“(6) When you tell a 20-something you work for NATO, he says, ‘Isn’t that the dog in the Wizard of Oz?’ No, Billy, it’s not. It’s the most successful security alliance in world history, [to which we owe] freedom, peace, prosperity and our way of life. (Up to us to make sure younger and future generations) understand NATO’s essential role … in the civilized world.

“(5) A ‘teeth sucking’ sound that follows any request to commit resources resonates in the hallways of Brussels. The crux of NATO’s operational problems is that its ambition outstrips its political will to resource that ambition. Afghanistan is the textbook illustration … since mission inception, NATO nations have never completely filled the agreed requirements for forces needed in Afghanistan.

“(4) NATO enlargement, alongside EU’s, is responsible for the advance of democracy across the European Continent in the aftermath of the Cold War. Increase in security for NATO’s members is not a decrease in security for any other. However, candidate nations must be contributors to security, not consumers of it.

“(3) Words like urgent, rapid and swift better describe the demeanor and movement of a Galapagos tortoise than action in NATO. Consensus stands in the way of agile decision-making. It currently takes NATO 62 weeks to process a submitted urgent operational requirement, down from 80 weeks. Next goal 35 weeks. That means operational commanders still wait almost nine months for what they deem an urgent requirement. In our current security requirement, these delays are simply untenable. NATO is not postured for the realities of today’s world.

“(2) NATO is a great forum for strategic debate among allies, but fear of open disagreement inhibits debate. We engage in less now than 15 years ago. Debate is not a way into problems — but a way out, onto a road of consensus and action. Yet we face multiple new and emerging threats — transnational terrorism, the proliferation of WMD [weapons of mass destruction], piracy, climate change, energy security, mass migrations, cyber attacks, to name a few. The spectrum of potential conflict is wide. NATO must be agile and capable.

“(1) If you got this far, you work in NATO … part of an organization “whose future is as bright as its history is impressive.”

Crossposted at CDRSalamander.


Looking for Balance

July 2009


081119-N-7047S-140Frank Hoffman has an article in Armed Forces Journal titled Striking a Balance, where he articulates the various lines in the sand of emerging theories for military threats and force structure in the QDR debate. Expanding upon the simplistic “conservatives” and “crusaders” model previously articulated by Andrew Bacevich in his Atlantic Monthly article from last year titled The Petraeus Doctrine, Hoffman describes four schools of thought and breaks them down in detail. The four schools of thought, according to Frank Hoffman, are:

  1. Counterinsurgents, who emphasize the high likelihood and rising salience of irregular adversaries.
  2. Traditionalists, who place their focus on states presenting conventional threats.
  3. Utility Infielders, who balance risk by striving to create forces agile enough to cover the full spectrum of conflict.
  4. Division of Labor, who balance risk differently by specializing forces to cover different missions to enhance readiness.

This article is great, because it does pro and con of each school and offers opinions, but intentionally does not offer a recommendation. In more detail, I quote Hoffman to better articulate what each school stands for:

This school argues for a transformation based on today’s fights. The advocates here believe that Iraq and Afghanistan represent far more than a passing blip in the evolution of conflict. They contend that massed formations comprised of traditional arms and large-scale conflict between conventional powers is not a realistic planning scenario. They contend that the most likely challenges and greatest risks are posed by failing states, ungoverned territories, transnational threats and radical versions of Islam.

The Traditionalists sit at the opposing end of the spectrum of conflict. This school seeks to re-establish the traditional focus of the armed forces on “fighting and winning the nation’s wars.” Its members focus on major, high-intensity interstate wars. They advocate against reorienting forces, especially ground forces, away from their traditional emphasis on large-scale, industrial-age warfare against states or an alliance of states.

Utility Infielders
The third and most prevalent school, at least among American ground force commanders, is the Utility Infielder school. This school recognizes the need to deal with strictly conventional tasks and irregular threats. It seeks to cover the entire spectrum of conflict and avoid the risk of being optimized at either extreme. Instead, it seeks to spreads this risk across the range of military operations by investing in quality forces, educating its officers for agility in complex problems, and creating tough but flexible training programs.

Division Of Labor
There are a number of analysts that reject the fundamental premise of the Utility Infielders school. This alternative school argues that irregular and conventional warfare are markedly different modes of conflict that require distinctive forces with different training, equipment and force designs. This camp places a great emphasis on preventing conflict, on stability operations and on investing in indirect forms of security forces with a greater degree of specialization for security cooperation tasks and war fighting. Because this school specifically divides and specializes roles and missions between the services, it can be labeled the “Division of Labor” option.

The article concludes with Hoffman claiming “the current bifurcation of the spectrum of conflict between irregular and conventional wars is a false choice and intellectually blinds us to a number of crucial issues.” I don’t disagree with that conclusion, but in a period of debate that accounts for the wars we are in, and the wars of history that suggest the wars we may find ourselves in, I think the debate is very healthy.

After reading the schools of thought, I began wondering how these schools would break down among those looking at force structure from purely a Navy point of view. Who are the counterinsurgents in the Navy today? Who are the traditionalists? Are the Utility Infielders that are prevalent among ground force commanders also prevalent among naval commanders? What is the division of labor crowd look like in the Navy.

I’m going to take a shot at matching a category into Navy terms, feel free to suggest where I am going wrong.

Today’s counterinsurgents in the Navy debate are the “go small” and/or “go underwater” crowd. This school argues for a transformation based around numbers, with a premium on numerous lower cost platforms. Aircraft carriers are too big, cruisers are too big, destroyers are too big, and even the LCS is too big. This school tends to argue that surface ships in large quantities make up for lack of quality, and submarines will control the sea during future wars. Stealth, precision, and mobility represent constants of naval warfare. Well known Navy blogger Mike Burleson represents this school over at New Wars.

Today’s traditionalists believe aircraft carriers, major surface combatants, and submarines represent the most effective way to win war, and war at sea will primarily be conducted vs other state naval powers. Its members focus on major, high-intensity interstate wars and emphasizes superiority of the electronic battlefield spectrum. They advocate against reorienting forces, especially surface combatants, away from their traditional emphasis on large-scale, industrial-age multipurpose warships optimized to fight against states or an alliance of states. Most of Navy leadership today attends the traditionalist school.

Utility Infielders
Utility Infielders recognize the need to deal with strictly conventional tasks and irregular threats. It seeks to cover the entire spectrum of conflict and avoid the risk of being optimized at either extreme, defining the extremes as blue water and littoral waters. This school is open to reducing carrier fleets, open to building conventional submarines, open to building more smaller ships while sacrificing larger ships, and tends to emphasize the utility of amphibious ships and logistics ships as a solution to a wide range of operational requirements. Commander Henry J. Hendrix’s Proceedings article earlier this year, Buy Ford, Not Ferrari, represents this school well.

Division of Labor
There are a number of analysts that reject the fundamental premise of the Utility Infielders school. This alternative school argues that irregular and conventional warfare are markedly different modes of conflict that require distinctive forces with different training, equipment and force designs. This camp places a great emphasis on preventing conflict, on stability operations and on investing in indirect forms of security forces with a greater degree of specialization for security cooperation tasks and war fighting. One will find a Global Fleet Station specific ship and numerous varieties of single purpose platforms in the fleet designs of this school. An example of the Division of Labor school is Wayne Hughes’ New Navy Fighting Machine, although it should be noted that each Division of Labor example will be different.

When laid out this way I think Hoffmans comment regarding how “the current bifurcation of the spectrum of conflict between irregular and conventional wars is a false choice and intellectually blinds us to a number of crucial issues” becomes readily apparent as a warning. When I think of naval forces, I see several false choices, like Small Ships vs Big Ships, or Blue Water vs Brown and Green Water to name a few examples.

Despite the apparent public friction and debate raging among the ground forces, who argue based on actual war experience, the Navy is at a disadvantage in such a debate. There have been so few sea battles fought in the last half century that it is difficult to claim with any certainty that any one school has the advantage over others. That raises important issues, for example, not only must QDR analysts determine the positive and negative influences of untested technologies, but must define what naval warfare will even look like in the 21st century. The second part is a much greater challenge than the first.



July 2009


“Liberty is a device for relaxation and decompression, used only when necessary.”- Plebe Summer 2009 Standing Operating Procedure, p. 26.

Always Training.

Always Training.

solomons-002 4120940

Like a broken strand of pearls, the Solomon Islands form an open and extended chain from the Santa Cruz Islands in the south-east to the larger islands of Bougainville and New Britain in the west. Further to the south-east lie the New Hebrides. The islands, primarily volcanic in origin with outer coral barriers, are lushly populated with rain forests and mangrove swamps. Prominent, wide-open and level terrain is rare. What little there is, is densely vegetated. Temperatures tend to the steamy with a prolonged wet season and drier months and “cooler” temperatures in the June through August period. Rainfall on average, is about 120 inches per year.

923041 savo-island_from _Guadalcanalhenderson-field

Human habitation is generally ascribed to have begun around 30,000 years ago with Papuan-speakers arriving from the islands of current day New Guinea. Later settlers arrived from the Austronesian areas (present day Indonesia and environs) via outrigger around 2500 – 3000 years ago. But it wasn’t until the 16th century that the first European explorer, a Spaniard navigator by the name of Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira, discovered and charted the islands. Settlement by Europeans in the Solomons was scattered and consisted mostly of missionary work beginning the middle of the 19th century. Because of a surge in violence against settlers in Australia and Fiji (a reaction to the colonists’ labor practices that relied on kidnapping and trickery), the British epanded a protectorate over the southern Solomon islands in 1893. More islands were added in 1898 and 1899 with the entirety incorporated by 1900, most of that consisting of islands formerly claimed by the Germans, save Buka and Bougainville which remained Germany’s until the outbreak of WW1 when Australia occupied them.

21140188 rabaul

Positioned across the strategic approaches to Australaisa (including Australia, New Zealand and New Guinea) the islands provide an ideal means of either insulating the lands to the south, or, alternately, the best point to invade or exercise control over the sea and air approaches, isolating those lands from distant allies. Early in the 20th century, a survey of the area for naval basing purposes was undertaken by the Royal Navy with a deep water harbor in Tulagi (across from Guadalcanal) receiving particular attention. Little came of it though as the British viewed the enterprise as being too costly. Further to the west, on the island of Rabaul (present day New Britain), where volcanic activity at the north end had formed a deep, protected harbor , the Germans Slide1solomons-001sought to establish a significant presence, but lost the territory to Australia following WWI. Following the war, Australia continued the expansion of the facilities as part of the British Commonwealth, until a devastating earthquake in 1937, killed 507 people and destroyed the city, forcing reconsideration of the whole endeavor (note that even today, volcanic activity in the region continues to exact a major toll on life and property). Rather than re-build there, the Australians moved the territorial capitol to a safer location on Lae. In the interim, Rabaul remained pretty much uninhabited until the advent of WWII when the Japanese invaded and occupied the island, turning it into a major naval and air-base to secure and extend their position in the region. Underscoring the challenges of operating forces in the Pacific, the Solomons lie over 3100 nm from Pearl Harbor and 2900 nm from Tokyo. Allied presence in Port Moresby and northern Australia was an aid, but at this point of the war, forces would have to come from the west coast of the US or from Hawaii.

Next week we pick up with the post-Midway review of US forces, as provided by AT1 Charles Berlemann, Jr. then UltimaRatioRegis weighs in with a series that will cover the rationale for WATCHTOWER, the status of the IJN Combined Fleet and the first part of the invasion of Guadalcanal over subsequent weeks. – SJS




July 2009


The skipper of the Port Royal was sleep deprived as he prepared to go underway.

Do you think surface warriors should get a minimum amount of sleep per night like aviators? Or are there sacrifices to be made when operating at sea?

I like to use a little invented word now and then in an attempt to capture an underground concept, one founded on sound historical precedence and practice – Antitranformationalism. Yea, its a bit wordy, but I have yet to find a better word for it. Kind of a military version of William F. Buckley’s

It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so,

The root of the word was chosen for a reason. IMAO, one of the great intellectual cancers infecting the Naval mind has been that spawn of PPT programs and vaporware, “Transformation.” Never before has a word used my so many, so often, meant so much and produced so little.

From it apex in the 2001-2004 timeframe, the cold water of actual warfare has adjusted Transformation’s impact on the Army and USMC – and that is where you find some of the most senior Antitransformationalists.

Knowing some of his core beliefs, I found a fair bit of humor when Gen. Mattis was assigned to be Commander, Allied Command Transformation. Before we go further though, let’s set some foundational truths.

General Mattis, USMC is one if not the premier military minds of his generation. He is also the most senior active duty Antitransformationalists we have. He is also the most talented, clear, and precise.

Like I did a couple of weeks ago on my home blog, here is what I ask of you. Find an hour if you can. Get a cup of coffee or a couple of fingers of a good single malt, and then watch the video of the speech at CSIS as the second video here.

Be in awe. I am. If you are running short of time, go to the 35:00 point.

There are some very good nuggets in the speech. Once again, General Mattis, USMC finds the right point of vulnerability.

US Marine Corps General James Mattis, head of US Joint Forces Command, cautioned against the military becoming too reliant on technology and command-and-control (C2) systems, which he believes could increase vulnerability.

During a 1 June speech in Washington, Gen Mattis, who also serves as NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander for Transformation, called for moderating “our idea that technology is going to solve this human problem called war”.

I really wish I could find a full transcript of this speech. Here is the meat of the article behind the firewall;

“War, he said, is primarily “a human endeavor [and] a social problem”, so the US military should be careful in assuming what solutions technology might provide because its enemies have a history of avoiding their foe’s strengths and exploiting weaknesses.

Overly relying on technical C2 systems and centralized decision making woudl cause the US military to become the “single most vulnerable military in the world”, Gen. Mattis warned. Data and communications networks represent a ‘single point of failure’ that could be attacked, resulting in disabled command structures.

Exactly, over reliance on technology is a false economy when you actually have to go to war. If you rely too much on the electronic spectrum and don’t have a back-up ready to go – you will be defeated.

Plenty to chew on.

offshore-patrol-vessel-piracy-coast-guard (3)I think that, in keeping with my calls for using something other than billion dollar Aegis cruisers and destroyers for patrolling against pirates who use $400 boats, AK-47s and RPGs – see Department of Cheaper Pirate Fighting” and links therein – blogger Brickmuppet (who is a Coastie) sent along a link to a company developing multi-purpose Offshore Patrol Vessels.

It might be a little more sophisticated than my original anti-pirate vessel, pictured nearby with the tank on it. USNIAPVThough the thought is the same – a sledge hammer and a fire axe are not right for every job. Sometimes something smaller will do just fine.

According to “V.Navy” the French built vessels can be used for several things:

V.Navy aims to design multi purposes vessels able to fight against piracy, terrorism, illegal fishing (coast guard vessels), but also able to be used as Fast Supply Intervention Vessel.
These kinds of patrol vessels are completely suitable and legitimate to monitor dangerous areas like Gulfs of Guinea or Aden.

And from V. Navy’s brochure: Offshore Patrol Vessels V.Navy has been specially design to fulfill specific missions to fight against piracy, terrorism, illegal fishing (coast guard vessels), but also able to be used as Fast Supply Intervention Vessel.

Able to accommodate 28 persons dedicated to the mission, it can as well transport 24 passengers.

Control station situated at bridge level is composed of two control stations, forward and aft, a debriefing room is also incorporated in the design.

Its great autonomy of 10 days is provided through its large fuel and fresh water tanks.
Main dimensions are:
Length between perpendicular : 46m
Length overall : 48.5m
Beam max : 9.5m
Summer Draft : 1.8m
WaterJets with Quadruple marine diesel main propulsion engines will be utilised for the propulsion system to reach a maximum speed of 28.5 knots
1. Typical equipment
OPV has typical deck equipment for FSIV operation:
– crane
– anchor winches
– timber covered deck
– 4 x International reefer connections (415V AC/50Hz) (E1 says: Plug in the comm van! It’s modular!)
2. Specific equipment
One launching ramp is constructed integral to the vessels transom to cater for RIB deployment. There is an extended hinged launch gate at the bottom of the ramp that will be deployed with manual hand winch. A single fixed electric capstan winch is installed on the side bulwark area adjacent to the RIB’s. Removable pulley stations will be placed at the top of the launch ramp and in front of the second RIB cradle for retrieval purpose.

A heavy duty portable platform is constructed to fit into the launch ramp for crew boat operations. The insert provide flush deck and transom for normal crew boat operation and lock in place by simple and robust pin type system for easy removal.

1. Protection
Ballistic protection is achieved by Dyneema and is included to the bulkhead of accommodation and fuel tank areas.
2. Weapons stations
The vessel structure is suitably strengthened to support the weapon and its stresses and a heavy insert plate is fitted to the deck. pedestals or mounts are client supply included.
Arms store is provided on main deck

USNIProtector2It looks to me like there’s room for one boat to have the aerostat for long range radar detection, too (see here and CDR Salamander here) And I’m sure the V boats could handle UAVs. USVs and all the other alphabet soup of unmanned ship extenders just fine.

Add to the economy squadron a helicopter capable ship and you are off to the littorals. Even the “idiots-go-to-sea crew” on Whale Wars can operate a helo, after all.tidewater-helo

Are these boats or the ones I’ve suggested to be cobbled from offshore oil supply vessels meant to take on mines, submarines, aircraft or fleets of warships? Well, no, they are not. But for fighting pirates and terrorists in littoral waters, they may be just the thing.

I’m willing to bet an American ship yard or two could either whip up something similar or modify existing offshore boats in a jiffy. Putting Americans back to work and offering an opportunity to learn new job skills, etc. Using pork money! Using “economic stimulus money!”

In the end, what is the core driver of each pirate? The argument could be made that it is economics. While much of the discussion about piracy has been in the fields of lawfare, tactics, diplomacy, and a bit of the, whatchacallit, The Global War on Overseas Contingency Operations Infinitely Enduring Freedom’s Justice – or sump’n. Perhaps the Dismal Science has something to add to our knowledge base on piracy. Let’s go to the bookshelf. This sounds like an interesting – and timely book, The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates


Economist Leeson leads readers though a surprisingly entertaining crash course in economics in this study of high seas piracy at the turn of the 18th century. Far from being the bloodthirsty fiends portrayed in popular culture, pirates created a harmonious social order; through the application of rational choice theory, the author explains how a common pursuit of individual self-interest led pirates to create self-regulating, democratic societies aboard their ships, complete with checks and balances, more than half a century before the American and French revolutions brought such models to state-level governance. Understanding the profit motive that guided pirates’ actions reveals why pirates so cruelly tortured the crews of ships that resisted boarding, yet treated those who surrendered readily with the utmost respect. Both practices worked to minimize costs to the pirate crew by discouraging resistance that could lead to loss of life and limb for pirates and damage to either the pirates’ ship or the cargo aboard. Illustrated with salty tales of pirates both famous and infamous, the book rarely bogs down even when explaining intricate economic concepts, making it a great introduction to both pirate history and economic theory.

History, economics, pirates – tell me Eagle1, what is there not to like? For those trying to understand piracy today, this may be a good book to add to your list. Any ship in the 5th Flt AOR should have this in the Wardroom; awww heck, make that any AOR. If you want, via NRO’s “Between the Covers” you can hear John J. Miller interview the author here. Crossposted (and of course, anyone who is looking for a new book should browse USNIBooks collection first).

Posted by CDRSalamander in Books | 74 Comments

Tbilisi, Georgia. I am on day 6 of my ten day vacation to the Republic of Georgia. Deeply appreciative that world events did not transform my holiday into a milblog experience.

Georgia is a beautiful country with some of the friendliest people you will ever meet in your life. The food is out of this world and plentiful. If you are not planning a visit to the Republic of Georgia, you should. There is a little bit of everything for everyone.

Posted by Jim Dolbow in Travel | 1 Comment
« Older Entries Newer Entries »