Archive for January, 2011

Stealing some verbiage from Claude Berube’s excellent post, I cannot help but be struck by reports that Mohamed ElBaradei, the erstwhile UN Nuclear Watchdog, is looking to partner with the Muslim Brotherhood in the creation of a Unity Government in Egypt that does not include the National Democratic Party of current President Hosni Mubarak.

While some immediately grasped such a possibility as a way out of the current unrest in Egypt, to the less optimistic, the historical parallels give pause, even alarm. ElBaradei, a moderate secularist, partnering with an Islamist organization with questionable allegiances and associations, seems an unlikely alliance to be certain. ElBaradei has shown no inclination for ruthlessness in seeking power, while the Muslim Brotherhood has never shown the slightest tendency for compromise, in fact, none other than the eventual seizure of absolute power.

A coalition in which someone like Mohamed ElBaradei will be able to contain the ambitions of the Muslim Brotherhood has been tried before. In the dying days of the Weimar Republic, as Germany teetered again on the edge of chaos, such a dangerous and improbable partnership was formed between a moderate with little taste for political violence and a fanatical and ruthless political party with no such inhibitions, with a leader bent on absolute power. When elderly President Paul von Hindenburg dismissed General Kurt Schleicher on 28 January 1933, the Weimar Republic came to an end. Franz von Papen, the Roman Catholic monarchist and erstwhile Chancellor, talked Hindenburg into appointing Adolf Hitler to the Chancellorship, with the promise that he, Papen, as Vice-Chancellor could control Hitler and his Nazis once Hitler was in the government. Papen’s underestimation, and Hindenburg’s acquiescence, remain some of the most tragic miscalculations in all of history.

That something similar might happen in Egypt, with the Muslim Brotherhood pushing a moderate ElBaradei aside, gaining and consolidating power as an Islamist government likely friendly to Iran, Syria, and other Islamist states largely unfriendly to the United States and her interests, would be a diplomatic disaster of considerable proportions. Control of the Suez Canal, and the loss of one of the few US allies in the Arab world, hangs in the balance.

The Canadian Press reported that Hamman Saeed, leader of Jordan’s Muslim Brotherhood, recently declared that “unrest in Egypt will spread across the Mideast and Arabs will topple leaders allied with the United States.”

Incidentally, the Hitler Cabinet was formed on 30 January.


While this post was not intended primarily to compare the Muslim Brotherhood to the Nazis, but rather to illustrate the historical trend that moderates and extremists rarely share power for long, it remains a historical fact that the Muslim Brotherhood aligned with Adolf Hitler and the National Socialists, and their rabid anti-Semitic policies and views. While the Nazis are gone, the Muslim Brotherhood remains, with views largely untempered.

To pretend otherwise is unwise in the extreme, and verges on intellectual and moral bankruptcy.


Update on 1 December 2011

True to form, ten months hence, we see the Muslim Brotherhood “entering the political process” and quickly reneging on nearly every promise they made.

A minority party formed around street thugs and extremists wins a minority of the Parliamentary seats, and demands to be the entity to form a new government?

What could go wrong?

Much of the conversation about the USMC over the last decade has been about its “Second Land Army” status …. well …. Marines are still second to none at their core skill set. In case someone forgot that – fellow USNIBlogg’r EagleOne and my guest this week on Midrats and his Marines reminded everyone of not just that – but the power of the Navy-Marine Corp team.

Over a 48 hour period , the 15th MEU/PELARG team conducted offensive air operations in Afghanistan resulting in the deaths of 5 confirmed enemy fighters, provided disaster relief in Pakistan to 120 victims who had been without aid since July, and seized a pirated vessel, rescuing a crew of 11 hostages and detaining 9 suspected pirates off the coast of Somalia.

Yep – it is a USNIBlogg’r Fest on Midrats; our guest will be Captain Alexander Martin, USMC – the leader of the team that took back The Magellan Star, and a someone whose work you can find here on USNIBlog. A sample:

The Magellan Star: Pirate Takedown, Force Recon Style by Capt. Alexander Martin

Pirates Beware: Force Recon Really Does Have Your Number


A 2004 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, his career has been dominated by the Long War. It is that perspective and experience that EagleOne and I will tap in to today, Sunday 30 JAN 2011 from 5-6pm EST. From Piracy to proper manning and equipping our Marines – we’ll try to run the spectrum.

Join us live if you can, and pile in with the usual suspects in the chat room during the show where you can offer your own questions and observations to our guests. If you miss the show or want to catch up on the shows you missed – you can always reach the archives at blogtalkradio – or set yourself to get the podcast on iTunes.

The Past is Prologue: A Brief Survey of Proceedings Contributors from 1875-1919

There are many theories on the genesis of military innovation. One theorist, Vincent Davis, suggested in his 1967 work “The Politics of Innovation: Patterns in Navy Cases,” that the innovation advocate in the Navy is “usually an officer in the broad middle ranks.” If this is true, then the concepts which help the United States Navy and Marine Corps operate in the next maritime conflict may very well come from today’s junior officers. It’s why it’s important for those same mid-grade and junior officers to critique rather than criticize policies, programs, processes and platforms and articulate them respectfully in an appropriate forum. Who among those of us over forty would have predicted the respective roles of Youtube as political campaign game-changers, or Facebook and Twitter as a communication method during Iran’s Green Revolution in 2009 or the recent riots in Tunisia? Yet those who are half our age employed those tools daily as second-nature much as my generation grew up with a rotary phone and that seemingly musical necessity – the 8-track tape. Might some of our sailors have predicted the social media applications for military operations if they had written about them in a naval forum?

As a member of the U.S. Naval Institute for nearly twenty years and as a recent addition to its Editorial Board, I conducted a brief survey last month on the founding of USNI as a forum for understanding the country’s naval force to see what role, if any, our more junior officers had in writing for the magazine, building a dialogue on critical issues, and advancing concepts that would propel the U.S. Navy as a global power in the 20th century.

For this exercise, nearly 1,500 articles were tabulated from 1875 to 1919 by contributor rank and then sorted by decade. Civilians contributed a large number; these largely included civilians employed by the Navy as naval constructors or instructors at the Naval Academy.

The number of articles increased over the course of the first four decades (see Graph 1) due primarily to the increased frequency of publishing Proceedings as it developed from a quarterly, to a bimonthly, to a monthly journal. A brief drop in the number of articles during the 1890s was a result of longer articles, professional notes, and war reports, leaving less space for more articles.

Who wrote for Proceedings? The top group of contributors was, surprisingly, civilians with approximately 450 articles (see Graph 2). They were followed by lieutenants with nearly 350 articles. Combined, however, lieutenants and lieutenant commanders published 748 articles – half of all articles published in Proceedings. Interestingly, lieutenants and lieutenant commanders also accounted for most of the annual prize essay contests.

Among only officer contributors, junior officers led the way. More than half of all officer contributors were ensigns, lieutenant junior grades, and lieutenants. (see Chart 1) Among the mid-grade officers, the majority of contributors were lieutenant commanders. Admittedly, this was a period in the navy’s history when senior billets were rarer, resulting in older junior- to mid-grade officers.

The demographics changed throughout this time period (see Graph 3). During the first two decades of Proceedings, most officer contributors were O-3s and O-4s; absent were writers at the rank of commander and above. This changed dramatically from 1900-1909 not because senior officers suddenly participated, but because many were the same officers, such as Bradley Fiske, who had written for Proceedings at more junior ranks.

Some of the first authors for Proceedings from 1875 to 1889 were names later known for their naval contributions: Bradley Fiske, known for several inventions and prescient concepts, wrote at several ranks including as a Rear Admiral, later becoming President of the U.S. Naval Institute. During his tenure, the USNI secretary was a lieutenant commander who had first written for Proceedings as a lieutenant in 1909 and who eventually rose to the rank of Fleet Admiral, Ernest King. A subsequent secretary was Lieutenant Commander Isaac Kidd. Commander Alfred Thayer Mahan contributed an article on naval education in the 1870s. The 1880s witnessed articles by Lieutenant – later Rear Admiral – Reginald Rowan Belknap on the naval policy of the U.S., Lieutenant Richard Wainwright who later won the Medal of Honor.

While the time required to flesh out a concept may sometimes seem daunting in the face of long hours deployed or otherwise on duty, there are opportunities. For example, the Naval War College requires papers for its courses. Consider writing those papers not simply with the intent of getting a grade, but in the hope that it can be published (two of my NWC papers were published in Orbis and Vietnam Magazine while others were rejected, but it is possible.)

Was every article superior, every concept groundbreaking from 1875 to 1919? Perhaps, perhaps not, but at least they got the dialogue started on important issues to our Navy and Marine Corps. As it should be today. Just as it is important that the wisdom of today’s leadership foster the dialogue and provide guidance for more junior personnel, it is equally important that junior and mid-grade officers and sailors to see the Navy, Marine Corps and the world around them, to identify trends, recognize emerging challenges, and to challenge the status quo itself respectfully, logically, and in an articulate and persuasive manner. Just as they did at the end of the 19th century.

Lieutenant Commander Claude Berube, USNR is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and frequent contributor to Proceedings and Naval History. He teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. The opinions expressed are his own and not those of the Department of the Navy.


Always the most powerful and enduring of Man’s weapons.

How they are spread has always been an obsession with repressive dictatorships, who have traditionally gone great lengths to control or eliminate those means.

Clearly, new media has emerged which accelerates the spread and increases the exposure to those ideas. Just after midnight, Egypt provided echoes of the violent and brutally suppressed Teheran protests following the “elections” of 2009. This from the Associated Press:

Internet and cell phone services, at least in Cairo, appeared to be largely cut off since overnight in the most extreme measure so far to try to hamper protesters form organizing. However, that did not prevent tens of thousands from flooding the streets.

And just what ideas are so powerful, so feared by Egypt’s government? Well, they are not new.

“It’s time for this government to change,” said Amal Ahmed, a 22-year-old protester. “I want a better future for me and my family when I get married.”

Interesting times, these.

Perhaps, also, this should give us pause before handing our own government the authority to have a “kill switch” for the Internet and electronic communications. Yes, the idea is being conceived as a protection of US critical infrastructure in the event of a national emergency. Yet once authorized, such a capability is more or less permanently resident, for whatever purpose, in the hands of the government.

History has shown us that granting overreaching emergency powers to a government is an emergency unto itself. Until the result is a fatal cure for whatever the disease might be. That’s not a situation we should ever be willing to risk.

Within the excellent remarks by Admiral Richard W. Hunt, Commander of Third Fleet, who delivered the Keynote Address to open USNI West 2011, was a confirmation of those made by VCNO, Admiral Jonathan Greenert, regarding the ending of the experiment of “optimal manning”. While acknowledging that the experiment was not a success, Admiral Hunt somewhat diplomatically refrained from mentioning that the idea was ill-conceived and doomed from the start because it ignored the fundamentals of crewing warships since navies first put to sea.

This announcement will come no doubt as great relief to the Officers and Sailors of the US Navy’s warships. Optimal manning was conceived, nominally, as a way to leverage technological advances in training and operation of ship’s systems, increase cross-training and resident skill-sets among our Sailors, and reduce the number of Sailors required to crew our warships. Nominally.

It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the driving force behind the decade-long optimal manning initiative was largely, perhaps almost entirely, budgetary. Even as the bold and optimistic predictions for such components as computer-based training and distance-learning were being touted as major components of this new initiative, the limitations of those avenues of learning were well-known to professions in which personnel were required to master operation and maintenance of equipment. Other indicators provide insight into the mindset that drove the justification for optimal manning. Phrases like “a new world”, and “revolution in training” speak to genuflecting at the altar of Transformationalism, in which fundamentals are too often seemingly tossed out like yesterday’s newspaper.

Truly “optimal” manning means enough personnel with requisite training and experience to perform the operations and the maintenance required on each piece of equipment as required by the operating environment, manufacturer’s designed maintenance cycle, equipment employment, and usage rate. Compromise on that manning, and the results are quite predictable. The results of the Optimal Manning initiative were indeed predictable, and discussed many time by smarter people than I. Extreme op tempo, lack of depth in critical skills, poor or neglected maintenance, all of which the Navy leadership was warned about, were the results of the “revolution in training”.

All of those results happened minus the furnace of combat, where myriad other duties and responsibilities befall a ship’s crew, including but not limited to damage control, casualties to crew, long stretches at General Quarters, and countless other tasks that war at sea entails. For a Navy ship, “human integration” is much more than a theoretical model. It is the lifeblood of a fleet ready for war. Sailors must be seen as the Navy’s greatest treasure, and not its greatest expense.

The fate of the Optimal Manning experiment is particularly pertinent today, as an underlying theme (and the subject of some very interesting discussion) at USNI West 2011 was one of life with flat or reduced budgets. The temptation will be to try something similar again, a “cost-saving” measure that looks plausible when entered into presentation software and has enough group-think catch-phrases to give it legs. But it is incumbent upon Navy leadership (and leadership DoD-wide, by the way) to remember the REAL bottom line for any policy enforced on the military or any of the individual services is the readiness to fight and win our nation’s wars. Violate that premise, and the true costs of such initiatives may be impossible to calculate.

As one very wise sage who frequents these shoals is fond of saying: You don’t do more with less. You only do less with less.

One annual tradition of the West conference in San Diego is an evening of dinner and drinks aboard the USS Midway (CV-41), now a floating museum on the downtown waterfront. I’m no naval historian – certainly not by the standards of this blog. So I look forward to historical clarifications and insights. But the long history of the Midway makes for a rather marked counterpoint to many discussions here ranging from a still-heated debate about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program to shipbuilding in general.

The Midway class was designed and built in the wake of the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. Designed to carry prop-driven combat aircraft, she had a straight deck and was so heavily armed (including eighteen five inch guns and almost 30 40mm Bofors quad mounts) and armored that she was originally designated a CVB – a battle carrier. By the time she was decommissioned in 1992, Midway had an angled flight deck and had launched fighter jets in support of Operation Desert Storm. When built, she displaced 45,000 tons. By the time she was decommissioned, 75,000 tons. The spectrum of aircraft that have flown from her deck is truly impressive, and she maintained operational relevance across multiple and very different eras of naval aviation.

The one thing that seems certain is that the ships we conceive of and build today will be employed in ways and both employ and face weapons that we have yet to conceive of. We are already in the process of bringing directed energy weapons and electromagnetic rail guns into operational relevance and can keep things such as future power requirements in mind in ship design and configuration. But when the Oliver Hazard Perry (FFG-7) class was designed, the idea that an autonomous, unmanned helicopter would one day fly from the decks of a ship of that class probably never even crossed anyone’s mind – and even if it had, architects and engineers would almost certainly have had so little idea of how they might modify the design to better accommodate it that there would have been zero justification for taking that possibility into consideration for the final design. Hard-kill defensive systems have come a long way, but the problem of an anti-ship ballistic missile was neither an existing threat nor one technology was capable of defending against at the time many of the defensive weapons currently aboard U.S. Navy ships were originally being designed.

One point Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work made yesterday was simply to point at the differences between an early Flight I and a recent Flight IIA Arleigh Burke. Indeed, at the pier at Naval Base San Diego yesterday, on one Perry-class frigate, a crude metal superstructure had been welded over the long-ago sealed off Mk 13 launcher in order to mount a 25mm cannon.

There is, of course, a broad – if abstract – understanding that there will be change over time in any shipbuilding program. But the physical changes alone made to the Midway over the course of her service life are a reminder of the sheer magnitude of how dramatic that change can be. Obviously, the Midway is an extreme example. But it is worth keeping her in the back of our minds when we discuss what we will need in a warship in the future.

Posted by nhughes in History, Navy | 10 Comments

the DF-21 road-mobile ballistic missileAt West 2011 in San Diego today, Adm. Tim Keating, USN (Ret.) and Dr. Xinjun Zhang, a Chinese professor and lawyer discussed U.S.-Chinese relations. A fascinating and well moderated dialog overseen by David Hartman ensued. Adm. Keating, just as current U.S. leaders, continued to emphasize the need for greater transparency, particularly in terms of Beijing’s military intentions. Transparency and mutual understanding (as well as functional hotlines and direct, efficient counterpart-to-counterpart communications – also emphasized by Adm. Keating) are absolutely desirable and important for conflict management and the reduction of both the risk of conflict and the prospects for escalation in a crisis.

But suggesting that the U.S. is unclear about what China’s intentions are with regards to its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile seems like a bit of a red herring. Despite some difficulties in diplomatic and military-to-military dialog, Beijing’s behavior and military efforts are perfectly comprehendible and understandable. China’s longstanding and comprehensive efforts towards anti-access and area denial capabilities are clearly and undeniably directed at the U.S. Navy and its dominance of the world’s oceans. The lifeblood of the Chinese economy and the economic system that forms a key foundation of domestic stability and regime survival in the country is an ever increasing flow of imports – imports of raw materials and energy resources from overseas sources. Beijing, quite naturally, sees this confluence of sea-borne commerce of foundational national significance and the dominance of the world’s oceans by a potential adversary (Adm. Keating succinctly characterized the U.S.-Chinese relationship as one of “strategic mistrust”) as a significant vulnerability.
And this is the heart of the problem. The U.S., with good cause, does not intend to surrender its capability to dominate the world’s oceans – particularly the blue water. The Chinese, even with considerable improvement in relations in the future, will continue to consider the lifeblood of their national livelihood being guaranteed by the goodwill of the United States as a vulnerability and will quite naturally seek to reduce that vulnerability.

Adm. Keating’s “strategic mistrust” is not simply a symptom of a failure to communicate. It is also a symptom of an inherent and inescapable conflict of fundamental national interest. That conflict of national interest need not characterize the larger political, economic and military relationship between Washington and Beijing. But it warrants and requires more open acknowledgement and discussion.

The U.S. tends to see China’s anti-access and area denial efforts in terms of this map:

DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile

But the Chinese see themselves trapped geographically behind the Korean peninsula, Japan (the Ryukyu Islands in particular), Taiwan and the Philippines. And they rightly recognize the raw capability of the U.S. Navy not to close with Chinese shores, but to interdict maritime traffic at the choke points this geography creates from well beyond the First Island Chain, so they see themselves struggling to ensure their ability to protect their own freedom of access and maneuver simply in two battleboxes — much less beyond:

china battle boxes

As an avid reader of naval books and Proceedings, and as a blogger who reads and writes about naval issues daily, when I began looking at the schedule for USNI/AFCEA WEST 2011 I knew instantly the first panel discussion was going to be a great one. Note to all conference organizers, if you want a great discussion try to always pick guys from the 0-5 and 0-6 ranks who will give an opinion and independent voices outside the services, you’ll never be disappointed.

The panel topic is timely: What Could Flat and/or Declining Defense Budgets Mean for Navy Plans and Programs is the right question at the right time. Asking good questions is the easy part, assembling a panel with the intellectual capital to fully explore the issue can be more difficult. The organizers at WEST 2011 came through like champs with CAPT R. Robinson (Robbie) Harris, USN (Ret) as the moderator, and a brilliant panel that included Ronald O’Rourke, Captain Victor Addison, Captain Mark Hagerott, and Captain Stuart Munsch. This panel turned out to be an incredibly thought provoking, idea generating panel on a timely topic and quite frankly, the hour and 15 minutes allocated was simply too short because I could have listened to these guys discuss the topic for another hour.

I was struck from the outset by the positive tone of the discussion, but perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Credit the CNO, ADM Roughead has established a positive tone towards addressing head on the difficult budget situation the Navy is dealing with, and the panel reflected that upbeat tone when discussing the opportunities that exist in the current fiscal challenges the maritime services face today.

Plato said necessity is the mother of invention, and advice towards taking advantage of any opportunity that exists in the current fiscal challenge was a consistent message across the panel.

It was very smart to have Ronald O’Rourke speak first. Robbie Harris described Ron as the most objective naval analyst in Washington, but as primary naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service his objectivity is a professional requirement. I appreciated that Ron specifically discussed the interwar years in the 20th century, basically the 1920s and 1930s as a model where America dealt specifically with reduced budgets following World War I, and how the Navy used that time period to innovate the naval force. It is important to note those innovations occurred despite the Washington Treaty that restricted the US Navy on design choices and what ships could be built. Regardless of the challenges, the Navy innovated as a necessity and was well positioned to leverage innovations made during the interwar period when World War II began.

Captain Munsch followed Ron and also drew from history, this time the history of the Royal Navy towards the end of the 19th century and into the very beginning of the 20th century leading into World War I. He specifically noted the innovations developed and integrated by the Royal Navy, long range guns and the torpedo, and discussed how force structure and concept of operations (small ships as coastal defense with larger vessels performing blue water fleet function) adapted with the innovations so that when World War I broke out – the Royal Navy felt prepared. With longer range guns, the concept of operations for the Royal Navy was for the fleet to attack at longer range thus achieve the initiative on the enemy, and sink the enemy before they could get close enough to do damage. Captain Munsch highlighted the dangers that exists with reliance on innovations that are not fully understood, because at the Battle of Jutland it was ultimately proved that while the Royal Navy could out distance the German force, fire control was so poor that the range advantage gave no real advantage to the Royal Navy at all. Because of the reduced armor and the inability to fire effectively at long range, the innovations ultimately made the Royal Navy more vulnerable because effective firing range for the Royal Navy was within firing range of the German guns.

As I think about the innovations of unmanned systems, I often wonder to myself if our communications networks today represent the same weak link that fire control represented to the Royal Navy in World War I.

Then came Victor Addison. For those who don’t know, Captian Vic Addison has only a little more than a month of service in the Navy before he retires. His recent contributions as outlined in his four Proceedings articles represent some of the most innovative new thinking in the military today. You Can’t Always Give What You Want, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, January 2010 Vol. 136/1/1,283, Got Sea Control?, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy and Commander David Dominy, Royal Navy, Proceedings Magazine, March 2010 Vol. 136/3/1,285, The Answer Is the Carrier Strike Group . . . Now, What Was the Question?, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, July 2010 Vol. 136/7/1,289, and the The Joint Force’s “Wildcat Offense”, Captain Victor G. Addison Jr., U.S. Navy, Proceedings Magazine, October 2010 Vol. 136/10/1,292 are important reads for anyone thinking about the opportunity that exists in the DoD today in thinking about the future of the military at a time of drawing down from 2 wars and budget reductions.

Captain Addisons presentation was the first time I had heard the articles discussed as a single presentation, and quite honestly this type of innovative thinking has a place on Capitol Hill once Victor Addison retires because it is representitive of the unique opportunities that exist in improving the DoD collectively by capitalizing on the lessons of Joint Service Warfare established with Goldwater-Nichols.

The last presenter was Captain Mark Hagerott who in my opinion, raised the most important question of the panel and something I know I will be thinking about long after the conference is over. His presentation focused on the necessity to avoid human capital consequences during the drawdown of fiscal resources. The example of the Navy’s reduced manning initiative on navy ships and the tremendous costs associated with the consequences of lower maintenance quality of the fleet represents an early lesson learned that manpower decisions for cost savings purposes can ultimately represent a false economy when we get our human capital decisions wrong in the name of budget efficiency. One of the more interesting questions raised in this discussion was how could certain jobs in the Navy that currently require a great number of hours training be turned into a job that is more comparable to a video game so that an 18 or 19 year old sailor familiar with his x-box joystick can essentially plug-and-play into a task driven by technology and perform the job that is currently done by a sailor much more experienced and currently requires a much greater level of training currently. In other words, cutting costs can also be achieved by simply changing the way a job is done without necessarily removing the job altogether.

This panel was an idea factory that consistently produced good content at a rate too quickly for my pen to keep up. Hopefully good quality audio/video was taken from the panel and USNI/AFCEA will find a way to get the panel discussion online soon. The session was an hour and 15 minutes, and with such a solid group of contributors with innovative ideas, it is well worth the time to view it should the video become available online.

Posted by galrahn in Innovation, Navy | 1 Comment

The Stuxnet warning

January 2011


In his opening remarks at West2011, VADM Richard W. Hunt brought a topic that’s needs a lot more attention. His comments aren’t directly related to Stuxnet, but when you back away a bit, the connection is clear.

When he was outlining the challenges we are facing – one warning stuck out the most for me, let me paraphrase.

… How will we operate if we lose access to GPS and our satellite systems? If we lose use of our computer systems, we lose our ability to operate today. Space & comm systems include very vulnerable nodes including systems ashore. We should revisit how we are protecting all our C4I beyond cyber…


Let’s take that thought and expand it a bit.

A lot of the discussion about Stuxnet worm and its impact on the Iranian nuclear program has been about the cloak & dagger whodunit and how much, how far, and how long lasting of a delay it caused. Frankly, none of these things interest me as much as what this exceptionally impressive cyber attack is trying to tell us.

No one can see the future, but often times the future gives you little hints of the direction it is going if you are willing to listen. Like Mark Twain said;

History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

Some times people hear what history is saying, sometimes they don’t.

What is Stuxnet telling us? Step back and ask yourself – what is the most fragile requirement that we need to conduct war at sea? What are we designing our weapon systems, tactics and operational plans around?

It is easy to figure it out, we advertise it – “net.” When we say “net” we are talking about satellite based voice and data communications. Not only is the hardware delicate in the extreme except for very specific, very few systems with little bandwidth – much of it non-mil with the software commercial and accessilble. It relies on a dispersed and unsecured ground infrastructure. It also rides on the electromagnetic spectrum – one that no one owns.

This important foundation stone that we are putting so much on – is it robust? Have we designed the structure properly for anything north of a permissive environment? Are we mitigating risk – or are we taking the savings now and just going on hope? Do we have sufficient back-ups in place? Have we properly managed risk, or have we become complacent towards our own mastery of technology and potential adversaries’ ability?

VADM Hunts comments should given us pause. Listen to him, listen to Stuxnet. Ask the Iranian nuclear scientists what they think, if you can.

RAND questions the Navy’s push towards alternative fuels citing problems with the initiative.

There is no direct benefit to the Department of Defense or the services from using alternative fuels rather than petroleum-derived fuels.

 Defense Department technology-development efforts overemphasize early demonstration and underestimate the difficulty of developing alternative fuel technologies that offer acceptable economic and environmental performance.

If Defense Department efforts in alternative fuel testing, research, and promoting early commercial production are successful, the benefits of this work will accrue more to the nation as a whole rather than to DoD or the services.


Large-scale testing and certification of hydrotreated renewable oils is premature.

“Unfortunately, we were not engaged by the authors of this report,” said Thomas W. Hicks, deputy assistant secretary of energy for the Navy. “We don’t believe they adequately engaged the market,” he said, adding, “This is not up to RAND’s standards.”

Why do I get the feeling that this point counterpoint is so much like the criticisms of optimal manning, Sea Swap, and the host of other initiatives that were more flash than bang through the past decade.

There are lots of things we can do to try and reduce the usage of fossil fuels and reduce the need for convoys that carry them through hostile regions…but with limited resources perhaps it’s time to spend more money on conservation with proven technologies (LED lighting, solar power, reduction in electronics usage forward and so on) than in trying to develop the technologies themselves.

Industry will do research and development when there is a profit incentive. DoD should not be the one generating that incentive.

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