Archive for January, 2011

Navy Times is reporting that Admiral Larry Rice, current Director of Strategy and Policy at Joint Forces Command and erstwhile CO of USS Enterprise (CVN-65), has had his 1 February 2011 retirement date put on hold over the Capt Honors video incident which led to Honors’ relief as CO of Enterprise earlier this month. There may be others among Capt Honors’ seniors against whom administrative and/or disciplinary action is taken.

As most know, Capt Honors was relieved by Admiral J C Harvey, CFFC, who made the following remarks regarding that relief:

(Capt Honors’) profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer in ENTERPRISE calls into question his character and undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command.

After personally reviewing the videos Capt. Honors created while serving as executive officer, I have lost confidence in his ability to lead effectively, and he is being held accountable for the poor judgment and inappropriate actions repeatedly demonstrated in those videos.

Admiral Harvey promised further investigation as to the actions of Capt Honors’ seniors in counseling or reprimanding Capt Honors, then Executive Officer of Enterprise, at the time the 2006 videos were made and shown.

A precedent has now been set. The actions and decisions of senior officers in handling disciplinary matters are now open for review many years after the fact, and discipline meted out ex post facto if the review process gleans a result that the current senior officers disagree with. Despite being a highly questionable precept and a slippery slope regarding possible additional punishment for any Sailor who may have committed a transgression and received administrative action or punishment, the precedent is nonetheless set.

Which bring the obvious though uncomfortable and seemingly verboten issue to the fore.

Almost a year to the day before the revelation of Captain Honors’ videos was made public, (though shown to 5,000 sailors in 2006), Captain Holly Graf was relieved as CO of USS Cowpens by Admiral Donegan, CSG-5. Captain Graf was a very high-profile female officer in command of a United States Warship. However, her relief was for a long record of cruelty and maltreatment of her Officers and crew, during which there were myriad complaints made by crew members, over the course of her nearly two years in command.

As light was shone on Captain Graf’s story, it was revealed that she had had a very similar track record while in command of destroyer USS Winston Churchill (DDG-81). Issues aboard THAT ship included much the same as those on Cowpens that led to Graf’s relief. Tantrums, physical abuse (grabbing and in one instance choking), extreme profanity, threats, spitting in the direction of crew members, throwing objects toward crew members, and creating a command climate of “fear and hostility” marked her tenure commanding Churchill, drawing the concern even of a Navy Chaplain over the morale of the crew. Further, Captain Graf’s history of misbehavior and abuse went back to her earliest days in the Navy. In addition to problems with her crew (and, apparently, the Royal Navy), she was the cause of an embarrassing diplomatic incident in Australia for which she was forced to submit a written apology.

So the question becomes this: Where is the investigation into why Captain Holly Graf was given a second command at sea after her dismal and abusive performance as CO of Churchill? And where is the investigation regarding whether complaints from Graf’s time as CO of Churchill and CO of Cowpens were heard and acted upon?

Do the performance and actions in at least TWO commands on the part of Captain Graf not constitute enough to lose “confidence in (her) ability to lead effectively”? Why was Captain Graf not “held accountable for the poor judgment and inappropriate actions” repeatedly demonstrated until the last days of her SECOND command? Did Captain Graf not display “profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving” as CO of Churchill? Did not the many, many complaints “call into question (her) character and undermines (her) credibility to continue to serve effectively in command”?

Does the US Navy senior leadership consider Captain Honors’ making and showing of some tasteless videos to be a more serious offense than Captain Graf’s rampaging conduct as CO aboard two different US Navy Warships? Is the use in an intended comic video of a derogatory term for homosexuals by Captain Honors, the poking of fun at female sailors and officers, and crude allusions to masturbation such egregious acts of malice as to trump several years of (non-comedic) threats, physical and verbal abuse, spitting, humiliation, diplomatic embarrassment, and destruction of the morale and combat effectiveness of TWO warship crews?

If Captain Honors’ actions are considered more serious than those of Captain Graf, senior Navy leadership needs to do some very deep soul-searching as to why they believe this is so. (And perhaps get the perspective of someone, Officer or Bluejacket, who had invectives, saliva or a coffee cup hurled in their direction).

If Captain Honors’ transgressions are not more serious than those of Captain Graf, then I expect soon to hear about the investigation into why Holly Graf was not relieved of her first command, and another as to why she was given a second command. After all, the precedent for such investigations has already been established by Admiral Harvey and Navy leadership.

I am not going to hold my breath on any investigation as to why Captain Graf stayed in command of Churchill, or was given command (and stayed far too long in command) of Cowpens. I suspect we will hear more about Admiral Rice, and Admiral Spicer, and Admiral Holloway. But I don’t really think we will hear any more about Captain Graf’s seniors who advanced her into command, kept her there despite her performance, and then gave her ANOTHER one, and allowed that command to continue until an IG investigation mercifully ended things.

When you are a high-profile female Captain in command of a US Navy warship, it seems you get certain considerations that a male officer who has stupidly violated political correctness does not get. And so do your bosses who put you there and kept you there.

What is good for the Goose apparently is not good for the Gander.


Update, courtesy of Neptunus Lex.

Against the recommendations of a great deal of people involved in this sordid affair for a General under honorable conditions, Holly Graf will receive an Honorable Discharge.

Virtually nothing about her situation, the tolerance of her pattern of abusive behavior, selection for command despite her record, nor the handling of the investigation of just who knew about her abusive antics, rings of honesty on the part of the Navy. Why should her discharge?

This, from David Fulghum of Aviation Week:

Wargaming, including an extensive simulation by Rand, has shown that the U.S. would generate a 6-1 kill ratio over Chinese aircraft, but the Americans would lose. Even if every U.S. missile destroyed an opponent, there would still be enough surviving attackers to shred U.S. tankers, command and control and intelligence-gathering aircraft, says Andrew Davies, program director for operations and capabilities, Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) in an interview with Aviation Week.

“The reason [the U.S.] lost was because the Chinese sortie rates and persistence carried the day,” Davies says. “Any American aircraft was operating out of Guam or Okinawa because the airfields in Taiwan were taken out in the first half hour [of the conflict]. So [U.S.] time on station over the Strait is quite limited.”

Another issue is where U.S. Navy aircraft would be based. “The issue that the U.S. has is, can the aircraft carrier get close enough to the fight?” Davies says. “The Chinese have been working since the [Taiwan] Strait crises of 1995-6 to deny the approaches to China to a carrier battle group.

One other very interesting comment jumped off the page.

Boosters of modern airpower hold up operations in Kosovo and Iraq as examples of how successful advanced technology is. But Davies questions whether pitting a handful of modern aircraft against minor military powers is a fair test.

“That’s an awful lot of money being spent to be able to kick around third-rate countries,” he says. “The silver-bullet platforms are fantastic . . . where a small number of them can completely overwhelm a relatively small power. ”

But when up against China, a small, high-tech force suddenly does not look as great.

Uh huh. Quantity having a quality all its own, apparently. Who knew? Read the rest here. The we can discuss how lack of land bases affects our ability to protect our allies and interests in the Western Pacific, how we could perhaps project power ashore to establish those bases, and whether or not we will be willing to risk our smallish number of CVNs to penetrate the Chinese ASBM envelope to get at the enemy. Sound familiar? Well, it should.

What was it Mark Twain said? “History doesn’t really repeat itself. But it sure does rhyme. ”

Oh, and hat tip to Masta G.

The U.S. and its NATO allies will spend US$11.6 billion on training and equipping Afghan security forces in 2011. When only a few years ago U.S. defense supplemental spending authorizations exceeded a hundred billion dollars, it is all too easy to skim right over that sort of figure. But putting that number in context, $11.6 billion was almost exactly Afghanistan’s entire Gross Domestic Product in 2008 ($11.76 billion according to the World Bank). The U.S. and NATO are creating an Afghan security apparatus that is estimated to cost $6 billion per year, a figure that exceeds annual U.S. Foreign Military Financing to Israel and Egypt combined – not to mention being far in excess of the Afghan government’s annual revenue.

This raises an interesting question about the strategy and grand strategy that guides our choices. Nine years ago, as Central Intelligence Agency operatives, U.S. Special Operations Forces, Marines and Soldiers were invading Afghanistan, how would we have viewed the proposition that in 2011:

  • We would have nearly 100,000 American troops waging a protracted counterinsurgency in the country?
  • We would have, combined with allied forces, some 30,000 more foreign troops in the country than the Soviets did at the height of their disastrous occupation (approaching 150,000 vs. less than 120,000)?
  • We would seek to create an indigenous security force that costs more than twice as much as the country’s GDP in 2001 to maintain and sustain annually (not even counting the cost of building and equipping it in the first place)?

And how will we perceive these historical facts in 2021?

In 2001, it was not only easy to declare a Global War on Terrorism – for the entirety of American national power to be directed at a tactic and an extremist ideology held by a precious few — it was essential, at least momentarily. Our intelligence on al Qaeda was so poor that there was immense concern about follow-on attacks involving chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapons. But given the post-Cold War security environment of the 1990s, declaring a Global War on Terrorism was also too easy. After all, the idea of ‘the end of history’ still held some sway. Post-Soviet Russia was a mess and what remained of conventional Russian combat power was bogged down in Chechnya. Japan and Southeast Asia were in economic crisis. We were eyeing China warily after the EP-3 incident in April, but we were not nearly as concerned about the military power commanded by Beijing as we have since become.

And al Qaeda had just killed Americans. In our uncertainty about the threat, we were deeply concerned that they might kill many more. But the profound, longstanding geopolitical foundations of American security remained unaltered. Al Qaeda at its worst did not and does not represent an existential threat to the United States and the American way of life. Yet in the sense of profound geopolitical security that we inherited from the 1990s, it was easy to re-orient American national power towards terrorism wholesale in a way that came to dominate not only operational but also strategic and grand strategic thinking. And as conditions on the battlefield deteriorated first in Iraq and then Afghanistan, more and more bandwidth and resources were directed at corrective actions in these two theaters.

As the last nine years have shown all too clearly, there are limits to even what the world’s sole superpower can achieve. So our actions must entail choice. We prioritized Iraq over Afghanistan, but we remained committed to both. From the perspective of 2010, where the U.S. finds itself in 2011 seems largely necessary and unavoidable – a product of exigencies of the moment where practical questions of reshaping the battlefield are paramount – and certainly far more important than the historical question of how we got there in the first place.

But the resources expended in Iraq and Afghanistan have an opportunity cost: money, resources and bandwidth that cannot, for example, be allocated to efforts and operations in Yemen against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (which is behind lower-level but active attacks on the homeland, whereas the old al Qaeda apex leadership is struggling to maintain even ideological relevance) or in Northwest Africa against al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. We are, after all, fighting a transnational phenomenon, not a geographically fixed one, even though we continue to explain the war in Afghanistan to the American public in terms of the old al Qaeda core that is neither in Afghanistan nor a physical threat.

And this goes beyond opportunity costs: the scale and scope of our operations in Afghanistan have in many ways directly contributed to the weakening of the Pakistani state over the last nine years, when a strong Pakistani state is a far more critical American national interest than anything we might achieve in Afghanistan. Indeed, a strong Pakistan remains of pivotal importance in managing Afghanistan in the long run and denying al Qaeda, its franchises and other transnational extremists from taking sanctuary there.

Meanwhile, in the last nine years, Russia has resurged and consolidated control over much of its periphery, the military capabilities of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, -Navy and -Air Force improved significantly and continue to improve, Chinese hackers continually probe our information technology systems and Iranian power has become the defining issue for much of the Middle East. While there have certainly been tactical failures along the way, this new geopolitical reality is a failure of strategy – and grand strategy. And as we all know, tactics and operations are to be guided by and consistent with strategic objectives.

The question I think this raises may not be inconsistent with many of the recent posts and commentary here at the USNI’s blog, where there seems to have been something of a recurring theme about the Navy’s senior leadership, whether it is the reaction to the breaking of the CAPT Honors story or a 30-year shipbuilding plan that no one seems to take seriously anymore. Perhaps this goes a step further? Is the current state of global U.S. military operations the product of tactical and operational needs run amok, unguided and unconstrained by larger, longer-term strategic and grand strategic thinking and choices? Has the U.S. military lost the ability, as an institution, to think and act strategically? And has the Executive Branch lost the ability to think as well as guide and constrain the military in accordance with long-term grand strategy?

As STRATFOR enters its 15th year, we are honored to begin participating in the discussions and dialog that USNI’s blog facilitates. Dr. George Friedman, our founder and CEO and a friend of Tom Wilkerson, was inspired to create STRATFOR in part by the work that USNI has been doing for so long.

What STRATFOR does is approach international affairs, information and analysis through an intelligence paradigm rather than, say, a journalistic one. Our analysis is grounded in geopolitics and for the most part seeks to avoid the proscriptive or normative. Instead we analyze the political, economic, military and geographic limitations on the range of actions available to individuals, organizations and countries around the world. With empathetic analysis we examine the motivations and calculations of world leaders, using both the open source and our own network of contacts around the world. Our objective is to identify the key drivers and defining trends of the international system to not only place developments in context, but to forecast what we expect to happen next for our audience of individual subscribers, the private sector, government, military and the intelligence community.

At STRATFOR, everything we write is collaborative and integrated. For this reason, directing military analysis at STRATFOR in both particularly enlightening and particularly challenging. Just as an adversary must be judged both by his capabilities and his intentions, our military assessments both inform and are informed by relevant political, geopolitical and economic analysis.

My involvement with USNI’s blog is an exciting opportunity for me for two reasons. First, I look forward to figuring out just where and how STRATFOR’s worldview can support, expand and enrich the depth and sophistication of an already rich dialog. Second, and more personally, USNI’s blog offers me an opportunity to examine and reflect — and in some cases even express opinions — on matters that, while fascinating, may not fit with STRATFOR’s publishing criteria and requirements for objectivity.

But I must conclude on a more somber note. On Dec. 21, Colonel Ronald A. Duchin, U.S. Army (Ret) passed suddenly and unexpectedly. His loss first and foremost belongs to his family. The U.S. Army and all American Special Forces and Special Operations Forces that followed have a claim to that loss as well. And it is with a solemn pride that STRATFOR also feels the loss of one of its own. As someone who had the honor to know him not only personally but as a mentor, I humbly dedicate my writing here — writing he helped make possible — to his memory.

Posted by nhughes in Foreign Policy | 5 Comments

Cross posted from Seth Godin’s Blog:

“I’ve got your back”

These are the words that entrepreneurs, painters, artists, statesmen, customer service pioneers and writers need to hear.

Not true. They don’t need to hear them, they need to feel them.

No artist needs a fair weather friend, an employee or customer or partner who waits to do the calculus before deciding if they’re going to be there for them.

No, if you want her to go all in, if you want her to take the risk and brave the fear, then it sure helps if you’re there too, no matter what. There’s a cost to that, a pain and risk that comes from that sort of trust. After all, it might not work. Failure (or worse! embarrassment) might ensue. That’s precisely why it’s worth so much. Because it’s difficult and scarce.

Later, when it’s all good and it’s all working, your offer of support means very little. The artist never forgets the few who came through when it really mattered.

Who’s got your back? More important, whose back do you have?

Lots of discussion at Sal’s home about “the leadership“…and a significant supposition that conventional wisdom among the rank and file is to not trust anyone over 30 senior to themselves.

Since most of us are senior to someone else, does that corrolary mean that your subordinates don’t trust you?

Could it be that they don’t feel that you have their back?

If so, why?

Do you take the time to explain the logic and thought behind an unpopular decision? Any decision?

Or do you default to “Nike Leadership“? Nike Leadership is directly incompatible with forceful backup. Which one do you think is more present in the Navy?

Who has your back? Who’s back do you have?

The United States has lost one of its treasured heroes. Richard C. Winters, whose chronicles of the European war from the viewpoint of a junior officer in the 101st Airborne Division inspired Stephen Ambrose to write Band of Brothers (made into the acclaimed HBO miniseries), died on 2 January 2011 after a long illness. He was 92 years old. We who espouse the warrior ethos should pause and remember him, and his magnificent recollections of those humble heroes who fought and suffered and endured and sometimes died, to defeat Nazi Germany and liberate Europe. For anyone who has not seen the HBO series Band of Brothers, it is recommended viewing from start to finish. I had the privilege of hearing Dick Winters speak about 15 years ago. His words were as inspirational half a century after the war as they were as he led Easy Company into the fight. A leader and a warrior, through and through. He shall be missed.

Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man’s company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.

This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;

And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.

Semper Fidelis, Major Winters. The Army never had a finer one.


Can’t Last Forever

January 2011


I hope somebody in Washington paid attention to Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Spain finally succumbing to deficit spending. We’re no better, those nations just fell faster.

In the past ten years, our nation’s debt as a percentage of GDP has risen from 32% to 66%. Even worse by 2020 the Congressional Budget Office’s “most politically likely scenario” predicts the debt to GDP ratio to rise to 90% by 2020, and to 233% by 2040. These figures don’t include promised medicare and social security payments. In comparison, during the Second World War this ratio was 106%.

Something’s gotta give. In 2009, the U.S. spent $187 billion (more than China’s defense budget) paying off interest on government debt. More debt equals more interest payments, Eventually the U.S. will have to implement “austerity measures.” What will it be… medicare? Social security? According to Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, a declining power cuts military spending first. With interest payments on the national debt infringing on government spending, voters want their entitlement payments over a new EFV for the Marines.

Congress does not want to cut military spending during wartime- as we are seeing with the current resistance to the modest cuts offered by the SecDef (even though the defense budget will still increase). But basic arithmetic will force the U.S. to downsize its military. At least the Pentagon is getting a head start.

The jury verdict came Wednesday after a two-week federal trial. A Carnival spokesman said jurors awarded $16 million in damages for eight counts of fraud and $8 million for breach of repair warranties.

Carnival contended that the Mermaid propulsion system installed by Rolls on the Queen Mary 2 was defective, suffered breakdowns and had to be serviced more often than advertised.

You can read the rest at ABC (not that there’s much more).

There’s something about this that seems relevant…but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Posted by M. Ittleschmerz in Navy | No Comments

For our 53rd Midrats episode this upcoming Sunday, 09JAN2011 from 5-7pm EST, we are going to have a 2-hr Live Special with an expanded panel discussion.

Mark your calendars; you will not want to miss this. You will have fellow USNIBlogg’rs EagleOne and me, and we’ll have some of your favorite guest hosts and regulars; another fellow USNIBlogg’r Galrahn, along with Bryan McGrath, Jerry Hendrix, and Claude Berube, all of whom who you have read here and in Proceedings.

Global security, maritime strategy, the future of the defense budget, and the general direction of the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marine and all things maritime. Two full, live hours.

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.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Podcasts | No Comments

From Tim Kane’s article in Atlantic Monthly. His is an Army-centric article, but has clear implications across DoD. Especially in wake of the last few days, these words jump off the page:

But the reason overwhelmingly cited by veterans and active-duty officers alike is that the military personnel system—every aspect of it—is nearly blind to merit. Performance evaluations emphasize a zero-defect mentality, meaning that risk-avoidance trickles down the chain of command.

The article has its interesting points, some plausible and some implausible recommendations. Changing the “up or out” and time-in-grade requirements may be possible, they may not. (Great Britain’s Regimental System, which gave way to amalgamation in the 1970s, carries a romantic notion, but in reality had its drawbacks in modern combat.) But it is an article worth reading.

Oh, and h/t to the lovely Ms Laura.

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