Archive for February, 2011


When I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1991 and prepared to embark on my career as a Surface Warfare Officer, I asked my father, a retired SWO, if he had any advice. Drawing from his 30 years of experience, he provided me only these simple words, “Don’t hit the Bird Farm.” It sounded simple enough. In the past 20 years, there have been many occasions in which those words have come to mind.

I have not served aboard an aircraft carrier and there have only been a handful of occasions in which I have been aboard one of these floating cities. Nonetheless, carriers have figured prominently throughout my career. I have served aboard cruisers and destroyers and all have counted as one of their primary missions the protection of these magnificent capital ships. As it turns out, an unavoidable consequence of having to protect aircraft carriers is the need to operate in close proximity to them.

Operating with an aircraft carrier, especially at night, demands some of the most vigilant watchstanding of any operations we do. It requires a full understanding of the maneuvering characteristics of your own ship as well as those of the carrier. One must also quickly come to the realization that the carrier is always right and that what they say they are going to do may not always line up with reality. Some of the most stressful moments in my career have involved staring at the stern of a carrier at close range at night. When not assigned to protect them, almost as much energy has been spent trying to keep them over the horizon. In many aspects, they remain an enigma to non-carrier Sailors.

As Admiral Stavridis and Admiral Harvey convey so well in this blog post, serving aboard a carrier is clearly a unique experience full of valuable leadership and operational lessons. However, it is equally clear that the lessons learned from carriers go far beyond their lifelines and they have affected the professional lives of virtually all sea-going officers in one way or another.

-CDR Robb Chadwick, USN

Commanding Officer


Lessons Learned from Our Carrier Tours

Admiral Harvey: I was about half-way through my training at the nuclear propulsion prototype in Idaho Falls, Idaho in the spring of 1974 when I received my orders to my first ship . Much to my dismay I saw that I had been assigned to the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), at the time our only operational nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The Big E had not been my first choice, my second choice or even my third choice on my preference card; in fact, I hadn’t listed the ship at all! I had put down every nuclear-powered cruiser then in commission or under construction at the time and specifically added the comment that I had no desire to be assigned to an aircraft carrier under any conditions. How could my detailer have possibly gotten it so wrong on something that was so important to me?

I graduated from the Naval Academy in 1973, and during my first -class year, there were rumors that Congress was going to pass legislation mandating that all new major surface combatants would be nuclear powered. In fact, Congress did just that, and in 1974, the National Defense Authorization Act for 1975 contained a provision (Title 8 ) which mandated all newly constructed major surface combatants be nuclear powered. Because I was fired up to graduate, go surface line and be eligible to serve in the best ships we had, I applied for the nuclear power program to serve as a SWO(N). Now, as fate would have it, just three years later, Title 8 was rescinded, but by that time, I was on my second division officer tour as a nuclear-trained Surface Warfare Officer and loving life.

The point is I came into the Navy to go to “real” ships and be a ship-driver, a Tin Can Sailor and a Cruiser Sailor. Aircraft carriers weren’t part of my plan at all! I was concerned that being a junior officer aboard an aircraft carrier with a crew of over 5,000 would not offer me any real opportunities to make a significant contribution to the ship. But, as always, the Navy knew best what was good for me and off I went to NAS Alameda, CA to join the crew of the Big E and get ready for her upcoming deployment to the Western Pacific. I was assigned to the Reactor Department and , after I completed my nuclear watch-standing qualifications, became the 4 Plant Station Officer.

Although I certainly didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was extraordinarily fortunate to be assigned to the Big E and, in particular, to 4 Plant. My CO was CAPT C. C. Smith and I could see right away that he was the kind of Captain, the kind of leader, I would want to be. As an ensign from the Naval Academy, I thought I had a pretty good understanding of our Navy, but the Big E under CAPT Smith gave me the deck-plate knowledge of what the Navy was really all about. Along the way, CAPT Smith had that extraordinary impact on me that every JO’s first CO does, and it was an incredibly positive experience. The way he commanded the Big E, the way he got about the ship and communicated with the crew, and the way he demonstrated an in-depth understanding of every department and division (including mine!) solidified in my mind what the Commanding Officer of a ship can (and should) be like. CAPT C. C. Smith was the model for me in my own subsequent command tours – the standard by which I would judge myself.

My LCPO in Plant 4 was Senior Chief Machinist’s Mate Robert D. Neil of Riverton, Wyoming. MMCS Neil only had a high school education, but it sure seemed to me that he had PhDs in nuclear propulsion, naval leadership, and life! MMCS Neil set high professional standards for everyone in 4 Plant – professional standards he himself demonstrated every day – and he took Ensign Harvey and taught him the ropes just as Chiefs have always done in our Navy. It didn’t matter that there were 5,000 other Sailors on the Big E; I had MMCS Neil who gave me his full attention, everyday. The relationship between new division officers and their chiefs is essential to the shaping of our junior officers and the lessons MMCS Neil taught me then have shaped virtually every decision I have made since that tour with him. There is literally not a day that goes by that I don’t use what I learned from Senior Chief Neil. What a privilege to have served with him!

Of the many lessons I learned while serving in Big E, here are three that have stayed with me: First, the essential relationship between the division chief and the new division officer is what makes all the difference for overly enthusiastic, but perhaps dangerously naïve JO’s like myself. Senior Chief Neil taught me what it truly meant to be an officer. Second, the ship, no matter how large, takes on the personality of the Commanding Officer, and a good leader must possess professional competence, intelligent good sense, and respect for those he leads. CAPT C. C. Smith exemplified those essential leadership qualities. Finally, and most importantly, it’s your choices, not your circumstances, that determine your future. You have to play the hand you’re dealt. Some people may be dealt what may appear to be better hands than others, but it is how you play your hand – what you do with what you’ve got – that really determines your future in our Navy.

So my first tour in the Navy, my first two years in my first ship, not a sleek destroyer or a powerful cruiser, but an aircraft carrier, far from being the negative experience I feared it would be, was, in fact, one of the great experiences of my life and one of the best tours I’ve ever had in the Navy.

Admiral Stavridis:

I graduated from Annapolis in 1976 and went to a brand new destroyer. She was USS HEWITT (DD-966), the fourth of the SPRUANCE-class, with a hand-picked commissioning crew. As the Anti-Submarine Warfare Officer, I had a team of about 25 super smart sonar technicians and torpedo men, all of them very squared away. The next three years passed quickly and I decided I loved the Navy.

Then I got a call from my detailer: I’d been selected for something called the Carrier Readiness Improvement Program. This meant that I would leave my beautiful new destroyer and life above decks and become an engineer in an old, conventionally powered aircraft carrier, USS FORRESTAL (CV-59). I couldn’t believe this was happening to me – the “reward” for all my hard work was to go to an old, burned out carrier as the boilers officer with over a hundred hard-cored boiler technicians, many of them with severe drug problems and most with a bad attitude. I fought it hard, but orders are orders.

When I arrived on the FORRESTAL, I learned that many of the men in my division refused to come to quarters, were discipline problems, and simply didn’t want to go to sea. When I told my single Chief Petty Officer (for over 100 men) to throw out an old trash can with what appeared to be rusting parts in it, he looked at me with scorn: “Lieutenant, that’s the number one feed pump.” I had so many discipline problems that I had a standing appointment for two hours each week at Captain’s Mast. It was a nightmare assignment in 1979 at the absolute trough of the Navy’s post-Vietnam collapse.

Luckily for me, I got a new Chief – BTC Clevon Jones was his name, and he was a big, tough, experienced Sailor. The Marine Corps Captain in the ship, John Kelly (now a three star General) helped with discipline. There were good shipmates who had been steam engineers and helped with the technical side of things, including several former enlisted. I was in a different part of the Navy, and I needed all the help I could get.

I learned a thousand things over the next two years in FORRESTAL, from how to light off a boiler to the way a flight deck works. But the most important thing I learned was that no matter how bleak a situation looks, there are three principles that apply:

Ask for help: After my three years on the new destroyer, I thought I knew everything I needed to know. But the carrier was a different universe. I had to swallow my pride and learn to tap into the rich base of experience and knowledge that existed in the ship, from my Chiefs up to the Captain. And above all, I saw that the peer network that sustains us in friendship is also a deep source of technical experience and ideas.

Creativity matters: The things I had learned on the new destroyer just didn’t seem to apply. I was in a new and tougher world on the carrier, and I had to adapt. That means getting rid of old habits, even ones that have worked in the past, and coming up with new approaches. Like in sports, you have to change a tactic or technique that isn’t working and try new approaches.

Keep your sense of humor. Lots of things are going to go wrong. The measure of any officer is not perfection, because we will all fail at times. I certainly have; and for example we flunked the first big engineering inspection badly that I was involved in onboard FORRESTAL. But you keep things in perspective, learn to laugh at yourself, correct your mistakes, and keep coming back.

In the end, while the tour was far from perfect, it was a huge learning experience for me. Countless times in my career, I’ve gone back to the lessons I learned in FORRESTAL to adapt to a new and challenging situation. So I am a proud Surface Warfare Officer – but one who learned some important lessons in a Fleet Carrier many years ago.

Posted by admin in Aviation, Navy | 4 Comments

“The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.”
– CAPT Alfred Thayer Mahan

The quote above is one of the most commonly repeated statements from the writings of Captain Alfred Thayer Mahan. It comes not from his classic “The Influence of Seapower Upon History” but instead from the less well known book “Armaments and Arbitration: The Place of Force in the International Relations of States ,” published in 1912 (page 206). More than policy or naval strategy, Mahan believed in teaching officers the best ways to approach the challenges of command. He saw his job as a Naval War College plankowner in those terms, about teaching command, and to do so he turned to history. But, it wasn’t just senior officers who needed grounding in our naval past. He wrote in his very first published article, winning third place in “Proceedings” annual essay contest, that history was also a key foundation for learning at the Naval Academy.

When he said that history “lies at the foundation,” it wasn’t just a convenient turn of phrase. He believed that before subjects like gunnery, engineering, or even cyber-warfare, could be taught a Midshipman needed to know why he was learning them. Why did any of it matter? The best way to show a student why hitting the target in gunnery class was important was to teach him the history that showed what happened when crews weren’t drilled properly. Perhaps he would teach the Midshipman about Captain James Lawrence sailing Chesapeake out of Boston harbor with a green and undrilled crew in 1813 to face HMS Shannon, a short time later uttering his final command, “Don’t give up the ship” just before he succumbed to his wounds and the British boarding party swarmed aboard in victory. Maybe the Midshipman would recognize the words…from the battle flag bearing the phrase in Memorial Hall that was flown at the Battle of Lake Erie. Mahan felt that once a Midshipman understood the importance of mastering the craft, of studying their trade, a subject like weapons systems engineering would become important even to the lowly humanities major.

The second part of Mahan’s statement is also important, “all sound military conclusions and practices.” In our age of checklist leadership and officers educated as engineers there is a desire to approach leadership challenges as equations where certain inputs are guaranteed to give you the desired results. But Mahan doesn’t say all “correct” military conclusions and practices, he says “sound.”

Mahan recognized that both naval strategy (conclusions) and combat leadership (practices) were art, not science. In his book “Naval Strategy: Compared and Contrasted with the Principles and Practice of Military Operations on Land,” published in 1911, Mahan compared naval officers to artists. He wrote that artists had to learn certain techniques, mediums and certain skills, but that wasn’t what made their artwork great. In the end “art, out of materials which it finds about, creates new forms in endless variety,” artists take those foundation basics and then mix and match them based on inspiration and experience to create a masterpiece. History helps us understand that frequently there are no right answers to military questions of strategy or leadership. There are only “sound conclusions,” which are drawn from understanding basics and history. Demonstrating this great truth to Midshipman early in their education, say as a Plebe before they have taken three years worth of engineering classes that teach them there is always an equation and a correct answer, is much more valuable than having them learn it after years of service.

A well designed training plan, whether it is on the deckplates by the Damage Control Training Team or in an Annapolis classroom by a defined core curriculum, is not simply a matter of plugging course titles in time slots. It must involve thought, understanding, and above all recognition of the end goal of that plan for the Midshipman …”to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty.” The movement of HH104 from the Plebe year at the United States Naval Academy is not “in keeping with the highest ideals” of the greatest military thinkers of the past. It ignores the teachings of not just the intellectual godfather of the United States Navy but also Napoleon, Clausewitz, Corbett, as well as less well known Americans as Casper Goodrich or Fox Conner.

Taking a fresh look at the curriculum in Annapolis, as West Point has done (removing some hard science and engineering from the core in order to add history, strategy, and counterinsurgency courses that Cadets will use in 21st century), is valuable. However, it must be a holistic approach and it must keep its final purposes at the forefront. When you ask yourself “What would Alfred Thayer Mahan Do?” we can answer it easily, knowing that he believed that “The study of history lies at the foundation of all sound military conclusions and practice.”

The U.S. Service Academies are national treasures because they exist exclusively to prepare young men and women to lead our country’s heroes. The Naval Academy holds a distinct place in our national character because America is a maritime nation with a sea-going identity that relies on a strong navy to defend her shores, explore the unknown, protect commerce, facilitate diplomacy, and wage war.

U.S. naval officers are genuinely aware of the connection between their place in this tradition and the significance of sea power – past, present and future. The U.S. Naval Academy, then, has a distinct responsibility to champion, promote and celebrate its position as a national fountainhead of U.S. naval history and an obligation to aggressively convey the bearing our naval history has on our nation’s future to tomorrow’s leaders.

From everything I’ve seen and heard, USNA’s new Superintendant, Vice Admiral Michael Miller, supports this point of view. He is a tested combat-leader, a visionary, a thinker, and a true officer and gentlemen. He is also an Annapolis alum who has spoken of his deep interest in history and naval history in particular – which is a bitter irony considering we are about to witness its death.

From their very first day on the Severn, midshipmen have a shared end-state: to receive a commission and lead Sailors and Marines. In this way, they immediately distinguish themselves from their civilian counterparts at universities and colleges across the country. Midshipmen maintain an incredible bond with each other based on an individual commitment to a collective excellence predicated on unselfishness: the understanding that service before self is life’s most honorable calling. That and the reality that you can’t survive a military academy alone.

What follows over the next four years is a moral, mental and physical evolution that is meant to test individual midshipmen’s devotion to service, steer them towards an occupational specialty that complements their personality and talents and best prepares their hearts for what will be the most challenging and rewarding life’s work imaginable … leadership in combat and at sea.

So perhaps it’s best said that the most critical function of our service academies is to imbue in the cadet or midshipman the ultimate humility: that none of their undergraduate experience is about them.

It’s up to the individual midshipman to embrace this – that they aren’t working so hard at the Naval Academy for themselves but rather for the opportunity to one day work so much harder for someone else – and it’s up to the administration to give the mids tools along the way to make their hard work pay-off.

Leadership training is one such tool. Moral and physical development are others. A rigorous curriculum of math, science and engineering are others still. But the tools learned in the study of history, and HH104 in particular – USNA’s required course in American Naval History – are some of the most important of them all.

As a matter of desired devices, history is entirely commensurate with the challenges of leading men and women in combat or at sea. A sound understanding of history provides the officer a lens to more clearly understand the mistakes and successes of the past, a framework to process the problems at hand, and a workable socio-calculus that helps approach an understanding of what tomorrow may hold.

Moreover, the study of history conveys an understanding of the human design, an appreciation for irony, a keen sense of collective memory, and a moral context to explain the reason they are all fighting in the first place. These are among the most valuable tools a decision maker, mentor, and leader can possess because these are the tools our Sailors and Marines need most from their officers.

All of this is invaluable intellectual training and plebes at USNA are immediately exposed to it in HH104. Just as significant is the specific history that HH104 relates: the complex and storied past of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. In imparting this history, HH104 becomes an essential vehicle of acculturation. It imbues these novice midshipmen with a deeper and clearer comprehension of the experiences and sacrifices of those who have preceded them in America’s Naval Service. The course serves as an essential repository of collective memory and thus an integral means to integrate plebes into the culture of the Academy and the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. In other words, the course – like other key components of plebe year – helps transform a jumble of motivated yet unformed individuals into an amalgam of inspired and unified officers-to-be.

Which is why it was so troubling to hear that HH104, American Naval History, is being moved from the 4th Class, plebe curriculum to the 1st Class (i.e., senior year) curriculum at USNA.

Here’s what happened…

At some point during last academic year (2009-2010) the Department of the Navy tasked the previous Superintendant, Vice Admiral Fowler, to add a cyber warfare class to the core curriculum. No public announcement was made. Apparently, last spring a small working group, operating in the shadows, was established to come up with a plan to create introductory and upper-level cyber warfare courses. The USNA community knew nothing about the working group’s tasking and work and learned of this development only last fall. The dilemma was how to add these courses without overloading an already full plate.

Surprisingly, the working group recommended moving American Naval History to 1st Class year. Apparently, they didn’t care that this decision will leave new midshipmen adrift and ignorant of the history of their profession, and their nation, for three years. Again, no official announcement was made.

The fact that HH104 was dead only came to light by happenstance. In October, the History Department underwent a routine, external review. The review report was distributed to the Department faculty in late October and HH104’s removal from 4th Class year, buried in the report, was presented as a certainty.

As word trickled out, upset ensued. First, the military and civilian faculty who teach HH104 expressed their unanimous opposition to moving HH104. Then, a number of History faculty who do not teach HH104 registered their dismay that such a major curriculum change would occur without any serious consideration and vote by the Faculty. The general reaction of midshipmen who have heard of the HH104 shift is consternation. Most recently, the shift of HH104 has prompted vigorous and agitated discussion within the Faculty Senate.

What upsets everyone as much as moving HH104 is the way in which it was done. The military and civilian faculty members who teach American Naval History were never consulted as to the effect this shift would have on the professional and academic education of midshipmen, nor was the larger History faculty consulted as a group. This change occurred in the shadows, violated the established policies regarding curricular review, and appeared as a fait accompli.

More troubling than the manner in which the decision to erase HH104 from the plebe curriculum was reached are the future, harmful effects this will have on the Naval Academy and on the Naval Service:

1.) Academic harm. Moving HH104 denies midshipmen an early exposure to the analytical tools History provides which would help them through the rest of their time at the Naval Academy. In HH104 midshipmen not only learn names and dates (which is important), they learn how to conduct research, write a research paper, think analytically, learn historical causation and the ultimate and proximate reasons why things happened the way they did, construct and carry an argument, and approach complex problems with the necessary perspective. And, perhaps most significantly, they learn about the relationship between the birth and evolution of the navy they have just joined and the nation they have just promised to support and defend.

2.) Educational harm. History is the foundation for an understanding of every social science. Teaching the required class in American Government (FP130), currently a plebe-year course, before teaching the context in which America became a government is, at best, sloppy and at worst negligent. Mids take Calc-I, Calc-II, Calc-III and differential equations before they go on to use those methods in tackling a complex electrical engineering problem. How can they possibly be asked to write about Federalism in FP130 without understanding the historical context in which Federalism occurred? From an educational angle, the course that should be taught later in the USNA curriculum is FP130.

3.) Professional harm. Who will give them – early – the basis of historical and cultural thinking called for by the CNO and Commandant of the Marine Corps in A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power? This is where West Point gets it right. The U.S Military Academy places an institutional importance on the study of history and its relevance to a successful, professional military officer and the success of its future operations in defense of this Nation.

4.) Moral harm. The aggregate effect of the shift of HH104 affects the Sailors and Marines the midshipmen will one day lead. The Fleet is weaker with a junior officer (of any major) who hasn’t been applying the analytical tools learned in HH104 over the course of four years of study. Our Sailors and Marines will have less effective leaders.

This all concerns me deeply.

Cyber warfare is important and in addressing it in its curriculum, the Naval Academy is being flexible and realistic in preparing midshipmen for the multi-faceted nature of 21st-century conflict. But of the two plebe-year courses that could move, why wasn’t FP130 chosen? It makes good pedagogical sense to have midshipmen learn about American government after taking their three core history courses which give them a sense of American and world history and the historical context in which the U.S. Constitution was framed.

One of the institutional strengths of the U.S. Naval Academy is its ability to adapt and prepare officers of the Naval Service for the next fight. But steeped in this tradition has always been a reliance on history. HH104, as the introductory course in historical thinking and the most effective vehicle to convey the collective memory of the U.S. Naval Service, is the bedrock of professional development at the Naval Academy.

Consider this sobering image: the Brigade of Midshipmen in Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in which about 3,000 of the 4,000 midshipmen have no knowledge of, or appreciation for, the names of battles enshrined on the walls there, nor any sense of the sacrifice those letters represent. Because 3,000 of these midshipmen never had HH104 as plebes, they will be tragically unaware of the significance of places such as Tarawa, Okinawa, Khe Sanh, and even Midway. We will now have a 75 per cent “ignorant” Brigade at every football game.

HH104 must continue to be offered to 4th Class midshipmen for one reason alone: none of this is about them. It is about preparing them to be the best officers for their Sailors and Marines – officers who are analytical, creative, and flexible and also soundly grounded in the heritage and history of the Naval Service.

Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.
– Winston Churchill

That is one of the things that makes Russia a great topic.

Join fellow USNI Blogg’r EagleOne and me, Sunday 13 FEB from 5-6pm EST as we discuss Russia for the full hour with our guest, Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst at CNA, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and author of the book Minority Ethnic Mobilization in the Russian Federation

If an hour isn’t enough, you can follow his lastest thoughts on Russian Military Reform at his blog or review his list of publications here – but make sure and block out time to join us live as we cover where Russia stands in the 21st Century and how its domestic politics, demographics, the rise of China, and the evolution of its relationships with its near abroad will challenge this important nation.

If you can join us live, 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 Jamestown Foundation hosted a packed event on Chinese defense and security on Thursday at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The event opened strong, with some important points being made in the introduction and by the first panel. These six points are theirs,* but they are worth juxtaposing. They are paraphrased here.

  • The Chinese lack a depth and breadth of foreign affairs and diplomatic expertise.
  • Much Chinese strategic thinking revolves around the imperative to become the global power, the number one nation. While there is no shortage of abstract talk about a peaceful rise and a harmonious world, there is a zero-sum aspect to some of this thinking. If they do not seize the initiative in what they see as a ferocious global competition, they worry about being left behind.
  • The Chinese have a culture of strategic thinking. They favor clever stratagems and conceive of shaping the use of force in such a way that the actual application of it is almost instantly decisive. But these clever stratagems can often be highly optimistic and not particularly sophisticated. By comparison, there is very little writing on long, attritional warfare or scenarios.
  • The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is largely untested in combat. This point was made multiple times throughout the day. They have little practical operational experience with which to test new concepts and capabilities – new concepts and capabilities that are the product of a doctrinal and technological revolution that has been so rapid and so profound in the last decade that it is difficult to overstate. We are familiar with the uncertainties that this creates in our own warplanning, but this also leaves enormous potential for the PLA itself to not have a clearheaded, well-grounded sense of its own capabilities and limitations.
  • There has been considerable emphasis on concealing these capabilities.
  • The PLA itself operates without meaningful oversight.

It has long been clear that Washington does not have nearly as good a sense of the Chinese, what they are thinking and how they are thinking about it, as it did with the Soviets. While Moscow is not exactly European, its experience in foreign affairs and diplomacy was shaped by Europe for centuries, which provided common foundation. This is a tradition with which the Chinese not only lack expertise, but that they don’t necessarily buy into. They’re going to play the great game, but they bring a fundamentally different perspective to the table. And China is extraordinarily new to the world stage, and its prominence on that stage has grown extraordinarily rapidly. In other words, China is both a neophyte and one that sees the world and the rules that govern it from a fundamentally different and unique perspective. And the PLA’s role in the political apparatus is strong and growing, adding additional uncertainty.

Add to this lack of understanding the six points above. Taken as a whole, they point to a considerable risk of miscalculation by the Chinese, either in a preemptive scenario or an escalating crisis. And this is another problem with the ‘transparency’ discussion. Obviously, increased transparency is a good thing but it is in many ways rhetorical and plays far too prominent a role in our discussions with and about the Chinese. On the one hand, it is based partially on the idea that that China’s national interests are not already fairly clear, when they are. On the other, excessive emphasis on Chinese transparency glosses over the far more worrisome reality that beneath the opaque veil there is not a single answer. There is absolutely room to reduce the uncertainty in Chinese thinking, but these six points are a reminder that a degree of confidence even approaching the U.S.-Soviet understanding may not be a realistic goal at the current time, and as such, there are potential hidden dangers in putting too much emphasis on transparency — especially since what the Chinese choose to reveal is itself likely to be intended to shape U.S. perceptions to the Chinese advantage.

*I’m not sure about the attribution policy of the event but I’ll be happy to add names if the individuals wish.

Posted by nhughes in Foreign Policy | 3 Comments

Four military chaplains mutually bound by the oath of office and a strong faith, Army Lts. George Fox, Alexander Goode, Clark Poling and John Washington had all met at the Army chaplain school, which was housed at Harvard University during World War II. Fox was a Methodist minister, Goode was a rabbi, Poling was a Catholic priest, and Washington was a Reformed Church of America minister. They were friends and were nicknamed “The God Squad.” By all accounts, they were well liked. 

All four of them were also on board the troop transport ship USAT Dorchester en route to various assignments in the European theater of World War II when their ship was attacked by a German U-boat in the North Atlantic and sank quickly. The ship was equipped with an inadequate supply of life jackets, so they calmly and uniformly gave up their own to other soldiers and helped them board lifeboats. In an attempt to succor the remaining crew left aboard, witnesses say the four chaplains joined arms, sang hymns and prayed as the ship sank underwater.

At the time, their story was a model of interfaith cooperation and a shining testament to the American religious experience. A war bond campaign was launched and inspired a country to give – as a posthumous tribute to these men and the unusual story of their bonding and mutual sacrifice. The story has motivated subsequent generations of military chaplains who strive to support the voluntary free exercise of religion, model interfaith cooperation and help others keep “faith” – regardless of their specific religious beliefs.

But, at a February 3 event the Navy Memorial co-hosted with the Library of Congress’ Veterans History Project, Vietnam veteran and retired military chaplain Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff asserts that the story of the Four Chaplains is not as well known among the ranks of the military – nor is it often taught in history classes. “I think more organizations – both religious and secular – should consider joining together for special programs on February 3 – ‘Four Chaplains Day,’ using it as a day to honor all chaplains: military, police, prison, hospital, campus, etc. – all chaplains who regularly work in areas of interfaith cooperation. Today, when it is so easy to find stories of religious hostility and hatred, it is more important than ever to tell stories like this one.”

The Library of Congress is hosting two more commemorative events – one on February 15 with retired military chaplains and one on February 16 with military chaplains serving today.

Several years ago I participated in an unclassified cyber wargame that looked at a variety of scenarios and planned out responses to those scenarios. Sitting around the table were experts of all kinds; government, industry, security consultants, business professionals, military, and law enforcement. During this wargame, a scenario was presented to the group what the reaction should be if a large financial institution had $10 million dollars stolen in a cyber attack.

The military and law enforcement guys came out swinging. They were immediately ready to do all the forensics possible on the exploited systems and undertake a plan to track the money and get it back, because they had decided the way ahead was for them to kick the shit out of some hackers and nail those dudes to the maximum extent the law allowed. They came up with some remarkable ideas, and even organized a battle strategy for cyber counter-attack. To the extent the game would allow, they had done a good job with the forensics and had a good idea how they were going to get the money back.

But one of the individuals in my group was actually an executive of a major US financial institution, and he ended up recommending the prevailing course of action. He went over the numbers and explained in great detail that the company was not going to do anything – indeed they were going to act like the hack never happened and were not, under any circumstances, going to draw attention to the hack or hackers. Based on his analysis of what the projected costs would be to go public with news of a major security breach to a major financial institution, $10 million was the cost of doing business, and our group ultimately decided the best action for business was to eat the loss. You can imagine how the law enforcement and military folks initially reacted to that solution, but that is what war games with a variety of professionals are for.

These things have been on my mind as I read this article in PC magazine. This decade is off to an interesting start with loosely organized global cyber vigilantes like the group “Anonymous” operating in the public shadow zones of the internet. For those who don’t know, “Anonymous” was the organization behind which “Operation Payback” that went after US companies that dropped support for Wikileaks, and reportedly includes members of the “/b/” bulletin board

On Friday Aaron Barr, CEO of HBGary Federal, was quoted in the Financial Times as having identified the founding leaders of Anonymous, which has claimed responsibility for recent distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks on companies that had severed ties with WikiLeaks. Anonymous was also allegedly responsible for shutting down pro-government Web sites in Egypt and Tunisia. Forbes said Barr was planning to sell the information to the FBI.

On Sunday evening at 6:30pm Eastern, the hackers appeared to take over Barr’s Twitter account and tweeted: “IT BEGINS. THE ANONYMOUS HAND SWINGS FOR A LULZY B****SLAP. #anonymous #takeover #hbgary.”

Soon enough, Barr’s Twitter page was filled racial and sexual slurs and had published Barr’s mobile phone and Social Security numbers. Furthermore, according to reports, was temporarily replaced with a message: “Let us teach you a lesson you’ll never forget: don’t mess with Anonymous.” This letter has since been replaced by a holding page.

DailyKos also reported that Anonymous deleted the firm’s backups and posted over 60,000 company e-mails on Pirate Bay.

Unlike the DDoS attacks for which Anonymous is usually known, the group said via Barr’s Twitter account that it performed the hack by duping people to gain access into HBGary’s system, a hacker technique known as social engineering.

For background on the social engineering methods used by Anonymous, read this rather detailed account at Tech Herald. Anonymous has a press release posted at the DailyKos. Details of the hack are still coming out, but what we do know is that Anonymous has released to the public a 4.71 GB Torrent file of information on HBGary and HBGary Federal. For those unaware, BGary Federal delivers HBGary’s malware analysis and incident response products as well as expert classified services to the Department of Defense, Intelligence Community and other U.S. government agencies to support their unique cybersecurity challenges and requirements.

Or at least they did at one point, because with this incident the reputation of the company has been completely destroyed.

The hack by Anonymous on HBGary Federal exposed Social Security numbers, publicized private e-mails, resulted in the theft of HBGary source code, included the deletion of company data, replaced the phone system, and exploited the social media accounts of several employees across several social media mediums.

I’m going to try to objectively describe what these events represent, and tell me if I’m reading it wrong. I think what we saw was a corporation publicly threatening a non-state political organization in cyberspace for purposes of prestige towards the reputation of the corporation, and the non-state political organization retaliated via cyber warfare and may have inflected a mortal wound to the corporation.

There is a lot to learn from this incident. In a world of anonymous identities in cyberspace, public exposure of identity constitutes an existential threat. It is also noteworthy that non-state political organizations in cyberspace that operate publicly like Anonymous intentionally apply no limitations on their attacks, because achieving the most damage to their target is always the objective. Reputation is a major factor of non-state organizations that operate publicly in cyberspace, indeed many have noticed that Anonymous has been involved in Tunisia and Egypt in part to reshape the reputation of that organization. Understanding anonymous non-state organizations that operate publicly in cyberspace includes a full understanding regarding the importance of reputation and identity. Aaron Barr has learned this lesson the hard way.

It is important to note that there are no equivalents to laws of war or the Geneva Conventions in cyber warfare, meaning if an action is undertaken by a non-state actor and maximum damage can always be expected to be the objective as a way of maximizing the reputation impact of an action, the consequences of always attempting to maximize damage includes higher risks for collateral damage – and indeed that collateral damage may also represent an intentional objective of an organization looking to make the maximum possible reputation impact.

Maximum damage being the objective in cyber warfare is not trivial, because what happens if collateral damage in cyber warfare somehow actually kills people? When the intent is always to do as much damage as possible to reap the reputation rewards that come from successful public attacks, if someone should die from the collateral damage of such a cyber attack the “intent” element makes it murder. It is something to think about, because eventually a cyber attack will kill people – Murphy’s Law will insure it.

Anonymous is currently the only major political non-state organization actively engaged in cyber warfare activities that is attempting to operate publicly. In that way we can describe them as pioneers of such organizations, because while they are certainly unique today – they also represent a first generation organization of its type. It will be very interesting to see what the second generation organizations that are better organized and better funded look like when operating publicly in the shadow zone of cyber space. Given the public attention of Anonymous to date, we may not wait long before finding out.

By George Friedman

The events in Egypt have sent shock waves through Israel. The 1978 Camp David Accords between Egypt and Israel have been the bedrock of Israeli national security. In three of the four wars Israel fought before the accords, a catastrophic outcome for Israel was conceivable. In 1948, 1967 and 1973, credible scenarios existed in which the Israelis were defeated and the state of Israel ceased to exist. In 1973, it appeared for several days that one of those scenarios was unfolding.

The survival of Israel was no longer at stake after 1978. In the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, the various Palestinian intifadas and the wars with Hezbollah in 2006 and Hamas in Gaza in 2008, Israeli interests were involved, but not survival. There is a huge difference between the two. Israel had achieved a geopolitical ideal after 1978 in which it had divided and effectively made peace with two of the four Arab states that bordered it, and neutralized one of those states. The treaty with Egypt removed the threat to the Negev and the southern coastal approaches to Tel Aviv.

The agreement with Jordan in 1994, which formalized a long-standing relationship, secured the longest and most vulnerable border along the Jordan River. The situation in Lebanon was such that whatever threat emerged from there was limited. Only Syria remained hostile but, by itself, it could not threaten Israel. Damascus was far more focused on Lebanon anyway. As for the Palestinians, they posed a problem for Israel, but without the foreign military forces along the frontiers, the Palestinians could trouble but not destroy Israel. Israel’s existence was not at stake, nor was it an issue for 33 years.

The Historic Egyptian Threat to Israel

The center of gravity of Israel’s strategic challenge was always Egypt. The largest Arab country, with about 80 million people, Egypt could field the most substantial army. More to the point, Egypt could absorb casualties at a far higher rate than Israel. The danger that the Egyptian army posed was that it could close with the Israelis and engage in extended, high-intensity combat that would break the back of the Israel Defense Forces by imposing a rate of attrition that Israel could not sustain. If Israel were to be simultaneously engaged with Syria, dividing its forces and its logistical capabilities, it could run out of troops long before Egypt, even if Egypt were absorbing far more casualties.

The solution for the Israelis was to initiate combat at a time and place of their own choosing, preferably with surprise, as they did in 1956 and 1967. Failing that, as they did in 1973, the Israelis would be forced into a holding action they could not sustain and forced onto an offensive in which the risks of failure — and the possibility — would be substantial.

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Posted by nhughes in Foreign Policy | 8 Comments

7 Feb 1950: In a demonstration of carrier long-range attack capabilities, a P2V-3C Neptune, with Commander Thomas Robinson in command, took off from Franklin D. Roosevelt off Jacksonville, Fla., and flew over Charleston, S.C., the Bahamas, the Panama Canal, up the coast of Central America and over Mexico to land next day at the Municipal Airport, San Francisco, Calif. The flight, which covered 5,060 miles in 25 hours, 59 minutes, was the longest ever made from a carrier deck. (Naval Aviation Chronology 1950-1953, Naval History Center)

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When is it going to start?

Here I was in a racquetball court with 83 other midshipmen anxiously anticipating the start of the Naval Academy’s SEAL screener. After entering the racquetball court at 1630, we had no idea if we would be waiting for five minutes or five hours. That was the point; the cadre running the screener wanted to build up our nerves. Waiting inside those racquetball courts elicited different responses from different midshipmen. Some lied down and tried to sleep (though I doubt anyone actually could). Some sat down and adjusted their ruck sacks. And others tried to keep their spirits up by saying funny movie quotes.

How long will they keep us waiting? Have all the power bars and energy gels already worn off?

With a loud siren blasting from the megaphone, the screener officially kicked-off. We had been waited in that racquetball court for three hours. After forming up into boat crews and gaining accountability, we ran over to the Severn River and jumped in for the first- but certainly not the last- time. Then, we organized ourselves into boat crews and raced (on land) against the other boat crews while carrying Zodiac inflatable boats on our heads. After the race and a short ruck run, we did some log PT- completing overhead presses as a boat crew with heavy, fifteen-foot long logs.

Just like at BUD/S, we had to have our swim buddy with us at all times, except during the individual races. Fortunately for me, my swim buddy and good friend, John McDonough, was a physical beast. An ironman finisher and ultra-marathon runner, John had been preparing for this screener since I-day, the first day of plebe summer. No matter how bad things got, I always knew John would put out 110%.

After another ruck run, complete with 200 meters of bear crawling, we completed back to back physical screening tests (PST). These tests consisted of pull-ups, push-ups, a mile run, and a 350 meter swim (they shortened the distances for us). Next, we went on another short ruck run, jumped in the Severn…again, and completed more basic PT. At around 0530, the cadre told us that we would get a two hour break. I immediately grabbed all my gear and walked back to company area with John. Some of the underclass from my company helped us out during this break, and I cannot thank them enough. They had Gatorades, food, and hot chocolate waiting for us. Most importantly, they dried all our camis and gear.

Lying down on this sofa in dry clothes sure does feel good. Are you sure you want to go back?

After quickly reading the St. Crispin’s Day Speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V, I reported back to the designated location. The cadre did not leave us in dry clothes for long, as we kicked off the morning by running to the river and jumping in. We then loaded the Zodiacs boats into the water and raced against the other boat crews to various point in the river. Finally, the cadre told us to paddle to Naval Station Annapolis- across the river from the Academy. After bringing the boats ashore, we threw on our ruck sacks and prepared for a long ruck run. Naturally, the cadre didn’t tell us how long the run would be.

See that guy in front of you- catch up to him! Will this be the last lap? I sure hope it is. Just keep running.

After finally completing the ruck run (it ended up being about 4.5 miles), we did various teamwork exercises. As always, it paid to win. Next, we went back to our boats (and the Severn) and paddled back to the Academy. Once again, we raced the other boat crews to the different waypoints.

After paddling back to the Yard, we competed against one another in a 250 meter Severn River swim. Swimming is my forte, but swimming in open water, against the current, on a cold November day tested that strength. My swim buddy and I completed the swim, and immediately began more boat crew races (on land) with the zodiacs over our heads. Breaking shortly for dinner, we ran over to the pool for some more swim PT. For me, the worst part of swim PT was executing flutter kicks and push-ups with a charged mask. Charging your mask means you fill it up with water. Before the screener, I didn’t think this part would be that difficult. Granted, you wouldn’t be able to see a darned thing with a charged mask, but how could it be that bad? I didn’t factor in that the water from the mask would trickle down into the back of your throat.

Don’t you dare take that mask off! You just threw up all over the pool deck. Will this go on for another day?

During this pool phase, we had to jump off the ten-meter tower. Jumping off this tower used to be a requirement for all midshipmen, but the higher-ups changed that requirement starting with my class. I was secretly very happy when they made that change. Walking up the tower, or rather bear crawling up, I realized that I wasn’t nervous at all about jumping off. In fact, compared to the other evolutions, this jump was easy.

After leaving the warm pool, we did some more PT, and jumped into the Severn…again. Looking back on it, I can’t remember not being wet during the screener. Upon exiting the water, the cadre said, “Fall-in on your gear and get out your mask and fins. Up next is another open-water swim.”

Not again…just do it. You promised yourself a million times you wouldn’t quit. Then again, those promises weren’t made when you were cold, wet, tired, and miserable.

Here 56 men out of the 83 who started this screener expected to swim half a mile in 57⁰ degree water at night. After we donned our fins and mask, the OIC said, “Group one prepare to enter the water. Ready…You’re secured.”

No way? It can’t really be over. It is over. Finally, we did it!

After a full night and day of being wet and cold, we finished. Everyone broke into cheers, mids hugging fellow mids who, 30 hours ago, were complete strangers.

The OIC made it extremely clear that this screener, while tough, was nothing in comparison to BUD/S training. Even though less than a third of the finishers will receive a Naval Special Warfare billet, each participant pushed his mental and physical limits and thus gained valuable experience for any Navy or Marine Corps community.

Posted by jjames in Navy | 7 Comments
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