Archive for October, 2009

Over at the The Coast Guard Compass, Coast Guard Deputy Historian Scott Price and Collections Manager Jeffrey Bowdoin have an outstanding post about the ir collection of private papers, diaries, artifacts, uniforms, photos, etc., from Coast Guard veterans (or donated by their families).

One of our charters is to collect, preserve and promote Coast Guard history and we do that through collecting all kinds of material, including official records, manuals, newspaper articles, historical artifacts and official photographs. But I think one of our most important activities is to gather material for what we refer to as our “Special Collections” consisting of the private papers, diaries, artifacts, uniforms, photos, etc., from Coast Guard veterans (or donated by their families). These are things that aren’t considered to be permanent historical material that the National Archives would accept but are nonetheless incredibly important.

To read their post click here.

Persons interested in donating items to the Coast Guard Historian’s office should contact Jeffrey Bowdoin via email: jeffrey.l.Bowdoin [at}


Valour-IT: Team Navy So Far

October 2009


Here’s who’s with us so far to support Soldiers Angels Valour-IT program. Three things to remember:

Boston Maggie – Innappropriate and Unprepared!

Boudicca’s Voice

Chaotic Synaptic Activity – It’s not random, it’s Chaos!

CDR Salamander – Proactively, From the Sea

Eagle Speak – “History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid” – Gen Eisenhower.

Grouchy Old Cripple – Pushing the boundaries of bad taste and political incorrectness.

HG’s World – History,Connectivity,and Commentary: “Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.”- Buddha.

Homefront In Focus – Connect – Encourage – Inspire

I Like The Cut Of His Jib !! – Musings, leadership tidbits and quotes posted by a retired Navy Captain who hung up his uniform a bit too early (even at 30 years).

Information Dissemination – The Intersection of Maritime Strategy and Strategic Communications

Jumping in Pools – With no money and lots of time, what else is there to do?

Karaka Pend

LT Nixon Rants – Looking for truth and inciting controversy since 1980!

Marvin’s World

Naval Institute

Navy CyberSpace – Navy Enlistment, Military Pay and Benefits

Navy Wife – This Blog is about my life as a wife of a Retired navy reservist and Submariner, my political views, my family life and my interests.

Neptunus Lex – The unbearable lightness of Lex. Enjoy!

Northwest Navy News

Pamibe – Twelve Gauge Suprise

The Provocateur – The nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’

Pundit Review – Where The Old Media Meets The New

SD Sailor

Searchlight Crusade

Smadanek – little of this, a little of that. Focused mostly on the little, rather than the this or that. Oh, and one more thing: GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY! 


Squid Thoughts -No, I don’t glow in the dark. But thanks for asking.

SteelJaw Scribe – Notes and commentary on things present, reflections on a career in naval aviation and serendipitous items as strike me at the moment…

The Stupid Shall Be Punished – Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004… and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho’s first and foremost submarine blog.

US Navy Memorial

and our friends on Twitter…follow us at hashtag #TeamNavy09

@JameyDoyle (Twitter/Facebook)


If I’ve forgotten anyone already interested, PLEASE let me know. If you’re interested in helping us support Soldier’s Angels and Valour-IT, also let me know at [email protected] or click on the Valour-IT button on the right rail to learn more.

Posted by admin in Naval Institute | 8 Comments

There is simply a horrible amount of bad spin, opinion, and positioning going on about COMISAF/COMUSFOR-A Gen. McChrystal and what he said at the International Institute of Strategic Studies last week. The best reporting, again, is in the UK press.

I will hold my fire as I think the General said what he said, where he said it, and when he said it – for a reason. Watch it and make the call yourself.

Their server is swamped, but the link above to IISS will take you to a slow running cache of the whole thing from their site. As that has been choked most of the day, I will add a few off site videos for you to review.

Here is a short Executive Summary:

You can just see the Q-n-A here.

9781591148555Meet the Author continues this week with a discussion on leadership with Stephen Taaffe, author of Commanding Lincoln’s Navy.

What inspired you to write Commanding Lincoln’s Navy: Union Naval Leadership During the Civil War?

Commanding Lincoln’s Navy is my fourth book. The first two were over campaigns, which meant that I had to research and write about lots of different aspects of warfare – strategy, tactics, logistics, intelligence, personnel, morale, etc. I liked some of these things, but found others tedious. There may be people out there who are really fascinated by logistics, but I’m not one of them. A few years later I had an epiphany that I should write about what interests me the most: command structures. Years of reading military history and working in academia led me to ask why some people were appointed to important and responsible positions even when they were sometimes manifestly unsuited for such posts. In my third book, Commanding the Army of the Potomac, I analyzed who was assigned to corps command and why. I found the material interesting and enlightening, so I figured I would continue the line of thought by looking at the Navy’s command structure during the Civil War. In this case, I wanted to explain who got to lead the various Union Navy squadrons and why.

I should also note a more sordid motivation. Researching the Union Navy’s command structures involved examining what people thought of each other, so I got to read lots of salacious gossip about naval officers. This way I could indulge my more sinful nature under the guise of legitimate scholarship.

What are some of the leadership lessons learned that are applicable today?

Since human nature never changes, many of the lessons from the Civil War era in gaining and exercising command remain applicable today. For one thing, connections matter. Almost every officer I examined who achieved squadron command had some powerful patron lobbying for, supporting, or encouraging him. John Dahlgren’s friendship with Abraham Lincoln, for example, played a role in his appointment to lead the South Atlantic Squadron. However, connections are never enough. Officers without talent might attain an important post, but the pressures of command usually expose their weaknesses, and then all the connections in the world won’t matter. This is especially true as a war progresses and winning becomes more important than anything else.

It might seem commonsensical, but I was also struck by the fact that successful commanders such as David Farragut and David Porter were not necessarily the most intelligent, connected, or likeable men. Instead, they tended to be practical officers who were more interested in results than in, say, who gets the credit, military theory, personal pride, etc. They also understood that success is often not a matter of figuring out what to do, but rather of getting the job done. This requires self-discipline, single-mindedness, and moral courage. For example, both Samuel Frances Du Pont and John Dahlgren knew that they needed to steam into Charleston harbor to shut it down, but neither man mustered the moral courage required to take action and risk failure. They instead made lots of excuses for their inaction. On the other hand, David Farragut understood that he could not seize New Orleans until he ran his ships past the forts defending the city, but he was willing to do so even though he knew full well that failure would end his naval career. To be sure, there were some big differences between Charleston and New Orleans, but Farragut recognized that obstacles must be overcome, not rationalized.

How does this book fill a void in Navy historiography?

There are plenty of books on various Civil War campaigns in which the Navy participated, but no one has examined the selection and sometimes removal of the Navy’s various squadron commanders. Some of these men, such as David Farragut and David Porter, are well-known to Civil War buffs and the subject of various biographies, but others are not. Nevertheless, naval officers such as Theodorus Bailey, Henry Bell, and Samuel Francis Du Pont are equally important toward understanding the Navy’s role in the conflict.

For this book, what were some of your more insightful resources?

The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies in the War of the Rebellion was of course enormously helpful. Much of the correspondence is routine and mundane, but every now and then I found some interesting tidbits about various personalities. Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles’ published diary was also useful, as was the correspondence of Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Fox. In order to attain information that officers might be reluctant to place in an official report, Fox encouraged officers to write to him unofficially. Finally, I benefited from the collections of some of the squadron commanders, especially Samuel Francis Du Pont, Henry Bell, John Dahlgren, and Theodorus Bailey.

Who should read Commanding Lincoln’s Navy?

I’ve got kids in private school, so anyone who can beg, borrow, or steal the requisite cash ought to own Commanding Lincoln’s Navy. Actually, I wrote the book for both Civil War scholars and buffs. I hope that I uncovered some new material and had a few original insights that scholars might appreciate, but I also believe that anyone with a passing interest in the Civil War will enjoy a book about the men who waged the Union Navy’s war.

We’ll build’em and sail ’em

We’ll never fail’em

The Victory Fleet will be complete we know

On every ocean, we’ll be in motion

The Victory Fleet will soon defeat the foe.

We’ll have a bridge of ships beyond compare

We’ll soon be able to walk from here to over there

The world is cheering

The skies are clearing

With the Victory Fleet – Let’s go.

In the factories hear the hammers night and day

In the shipyards everone is on his way

On the ocean every seaman joins the fray

We heard the buglers blow

We answered our country’s call we’re ready one and all.

(Source: On the Swing Swift: Building Liberty Ships in Savannah by Tony Cope, p. 193)

Posted by Jim Dolbow in History | No Comments

“Both Russia and the Islamic world have the most sober understanding of the main vulnerability of the West: its political correctness. The West has voluntarily brought itself into this trap, invented by leftists. Political correctness makes the West unable to resist pressure.” Ex-KGB officer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy on why Russia is not an American ally against radical Islamism.

Agree or disagree?

h/t Bear’s better half

I am set to enroll in a course entitled “Readings in Grand Strategy” next semester. The course description features many of the “greats” of strategy: Bismarck, Clausewitz, Philip II, etc. I began to wonder: as America struggles to find the way forward, are we searching for a great man or many good men?

I am fascinated by the knowledge problem in strategy. It’s the same problem which faces societies as they struggle to create an economic order. In “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” Friedrich Hayek wrote brilliantly on this issue,

“The peculiar character of the problem of a rational economic order is determined precisely by the fact that the knowledge of the circumstances of which we must make use never exists in concentrated or integrated form but solely as the dispersed bits of incomplete and frequently contradictory knowledge which all the separate individuals possess.”

Knowledge within an organization (or society) is decentralized. If America wants to make the “best” grand strategy, it has to somehow utilize all the dispersed bits of knowledge. Yet, we have an overwhelming amount of knowledge, which only serves to swamp decision-makers. For example, 50,000 intelligence products are created every year, to which Thomas Fingar, former DNI deputy director for analysis, concedes, “There can’t possibly be a market for.”

How do we aggregate the sum knowledge at our disposal? I would submit one brilliant mind cannot do this as well as many good minds. George Kennan’s “Long Telegraph” on the Soviet Union is an excellent example– one brilliant mind dominated policy discussion. Instead of asking one super-expert about the USSR’s intentions, we could have bet on it.

What if we were to have a large pool of experts and ask them to wager on a series of questions? One example, “In 5 years or less, will Russia have another armed conflict with Georgia?” The experts would then use virtual money to gamble on the outcome. It’s called a prediction market and they’re eerily accurate at forecasting. By tapping into the power of many minds, we can detect bits of information which would have previously gone unnoticed.

In many instances, the prediction market uses prices to represent probablilties. For example, if a Russian invasion of Georgia in the next five years were selling at $.20, then the market is forecasting a 20% likelihood of the invasion occuring.

Private companies already use them. Google found they gave “decisive, informative predictions” on “product launch dates, new office openings, and many other things of strategic importance to Google.”

It Works!

It Works!

RougheadSeptember 29th marked the second anniversary of Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO of the Navy. I have only shared about 30 words with the CNO. It was a brief introduction of myself and my wife at one of those famous free beer gatherings with sailors, and 30 words was about all I was able to manage before being rushed over by the CNO to meet the public affairs folks on his staff. Hardly surprising, 10 minutes later I was told by one of his staff members that my blog is seen as part of the modern Navy insurgency. In 10 years we will find out if the Navy blogosphere as the insurgency was a good thing or not.

September 29th passed without any discussion on the internet of the CNOs anniversary, except on the CNOs own Facebook page where he mentioned the anniversary in passing. Two years later, it is time for a review of where the Navy was before Admiral Roughead became CNO and where the Navy is now.

It should be noted that the Chief of Naval Operations for the US Navy is one of the toughest jobs in the world. My job description for CNO of the Navy is: the primary leadership position of the organization responsible for defending the global economic system. Unfortunately, successful execution of the job relative to strategy during maritime peace does not influence the perception of how effective the CNO is, because in today’s economically driven political environment the CNO is a job defined by budgets.

Let us review where the Navy was on September 28th, 2007. In 2007 the Congressional Budget Office was estimating the Navy 313-ship fleet plan shipbuilding budget would cost roughly 35% more per year than the Navy was estimating in budget submissions to Congress. The direction of the Navy in 2007 was being driven by Seapower 21. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, signed by all three maritime service leaders, was less than a month old. The 313-ship shipbuilding plan (PDF) of the Navy, as laid out by the previous CNO Admiral Mike Mullen, was dependent upon the achievement of all 5 of the following goals:

  • The Navy’s overall budget needed to remain more or less flat (not decline) in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.
  • Navy Operation and Maintenance (O&M) spending needed to remain flat (not grow) in real terms.
  • Navy Military Personnel (MilPer) spending needed to remain flat (not grow) in real terms.
  • Navy research and development (R&D) spending needed to decrease from recent levels and remain at the decreased level over the long run.
  • Navy ships needed to be built at the Navy’s currently estimated prices.

The plan left to Admiral Roughead was unrealistic and impossible to execute. In 2007, the Navy had 279 ships, 40 fewer than the beginning of 2000, and that was after the Navy had already shrunk by 230 ships in the 1990s. Shipbuilding was a complete disaster when ADM Roughead became CNO. When you factor in the cancellations to the Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy procured only 4 ships in FY 2006, 5 ships in FY 2007, and 3 ships in FY 2008 in the three budget cycles before ADM Roughead became CNO; an average of only 4 ships a year. When taking a historical view, Admiral Gary Roughead became Chief of Naval Operations when the fleet was the smallest it had been since 1916.

So what has ADM Gary Roughead achieved in two years?

During his first testimony in the House as CNO on December 13, 2007, Gene Taylor looked at ADM Roughead when discussing the Navy’s new maritime strategy and said:

“It’s a nice, really slick brochure — at the end of the day, it didn’t do so much for our country.”

Later, according to Gene Taylor himself in a late July 2008 hearing, it was revealed that ADM Roughead had a private meeting with Gene Taylor (probably that same day) with the suggestion to truncate the DDG-1000 and build DDG-51s again. In a nutshell, you can sum up the first two years of ADM Gary Roughead by these two events. On the public side, ADM Gary Roughead has been publicly taking it on the chin for all the things people get frustrated with the Navy about, and on the private side ADM Gary Roughead has been working behind the scenes, constantly making very difficult and always controversial decisions, to put the Navy on a solid foundation to build forward from.

My assessment is that ADM Gary Roughead has completely changed the Navy in just two years, and that action has made him a lot of enemies. The Navy rejects any changes as an instinct. ADM Roughead has completely blown up the DDG-1000 program, the centerpiece program of the 21st century surface combatant program and one of the cornerstones of Seapower 21. Truncating the DDG-1000 program to three ships, he has restarted the DDG-51 program to insure cost certainty and stability in high end surface combatant shipbuilding. Under his watch the Littoral Combat Ship program has been under constant stress and change. Not only have at least 5 LCS hulls requested in previous budgets been canceled, but the acquisition plan for the LCS has changed every year since construction on the first ship started. The plan for 16 Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) ships has been canceled, wiping out the Sea Basing industry driven concepts that emerged in 2006, and formed another cornerstone of Seapower 21. The Future Cruiser Replacement program known as CG(X) has been pushed out several years to insure design maturity and reset the requirements for the ship (both DDG-1000 and LCS have been criticized primarily due to the requirements planning process, which drove the cost of both programs for questionable capabilities like stealth and speed respectively).

The Expeditionary Strike Group concept, another Seapower 21 cornerstone, has been tossed out – primarily because it never worked. In just two years, ADM Gary Roughead has erased poor decisions by his predecessors; truncated, changed, and even eliminated poorly executed programs; and is on the verge of revealing a completely new direction for the Navy at the very end of a decade that will be remembered in Navy history as the lost decade.

As Chief of Naval Operations, Gary Roughead has already stood up one numbered fleet, the 4th Fleet, and is expected to stand up a second numbered fleet, the 10th Fleet, in October 2009. Under Gary Roughead, the US Navy has implemented Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 and has developed a joint coordination center in CENTCOM that has brought together one of the largest international naval cooperation in history to join most of the worlds major military and economic powers in fighting the shared threat of piracy, a process that unquestionably represents precision execution of the Navy’s new maritime strategy.

All four of the Navy’s new SSGNs have made their first deployment under Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO. The Navy now provides nearly half the total strike airpower for close air support of troops in Afghanistan under ADM Roughead, and there are more uniformed Navy personnel on the ground as individual augmentees supporting forces on the ground in CENTCOM than there are sailors on ships at sea. The Navy has not experienced a single major scandal since ADM Roughead became CNO.

What is really amazing, to me anyway, is that ADM Roughead has done this with a Secretary of Defense who, despite numerous speeches and articles, has never once indicated he is even interested in the Navy from a strategic perspective. Just as amazing, ADM Gary Roughead has successfully changed the Navy under a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is legitimately partially responsible for the mess the Navy was in when ADM Gary Roughead took over the job.

ADM Gary Roughead took over as CNO under impossible conditions and circumstances on paper, and has executed his plan to put the Navy on a solid footing heading into the second decade of the 21st century. I have no idea what the new administration or the Secretary of Defense thinks of Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO, but I do know one thing: Gary Roughead was handed an impossible situation and has guided the Navy through the minefield to make the future Navy look a lot more possible, and whether one approves or disapproves of how he has done it, or the direction he is steering the ship…

He has earned the chance to execute his vision now that the Navy is finally emerging from the failed vision of his predecessors.

Posted by galrahn in Navy | 12 Comments
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