Archive for April, 2011

Please join us Sunday at 5pm Eastern as we bring on a couple of interesting guests for a discussion of the education of combat leaders in Episode 69 The Intellectual Education of Combat Leaders 05/01 featuring VADM Miller, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy and Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, farmer, professor and author.

VADM Miller

How do you intellectually prepare combat leaders? If you are given a young man or woman at 18, how do you best educate that person so they have the cultural, ethical, technical, and historical knowledge to make the right decisions for the right reasons, and lead others to do the same?

What are unchanged, timeless fundamentals, and what new things are coming over the horizon that today’s Ensigns and Second Lieutenants need to have inculcated in to their intelect so they have the best foundation to become this nation’s Admirals and Generals for the mid-21st Century?

Join milbloggers Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “Eaglespeak” and their two guests this Sunday to discuss this critically important subject.

Victor Davis Hanson

Their guest for the first half of the hour will be Vice Admiral Michael H. Miller, USN, the 61st Superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.

For the second half of the hour we will have Dr. Victor Davis Hanson, PhD, author, professor, nationally syndicated columnist, and the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

You can join us by clicking on
Episode 69.

By popular vote, Naval Institute blog wins best Navy Blog from the military blogging conference sponsored by and USAA.

This is entirely due to the guest bloggers who take time (unpaid) to share their voice on this blog and to those who participate in the comments to continue the dialogue…and to all of those who dare to read, think, speak, write, and blog…

Major Gen. Richard Mills is in demand since relinquishing command of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan last month. The first commander of the Regional Command-Southwest Region (RC-SW), Major General Mills was successful in taking one of the most volatile regions (the Helmand province) to a relatively peaceful one in one year. Next week, he will make several speaking engagements in Washington, including one co-hosted by the Marine Corps Association and Institute for the Study of War (ISW), at the Navy Memorial’s Burke Theater on May 2 at 3:30 p.m.

ISW, a relative newcomer to the D.C. think tank landscape, has issued a series of reports on the state of the counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan. In their most recent study released in January, author Jeffrey Dressler claims that both coalition and Afghanistan forces have made significant progress in “clearing and holding” critical districts and, in some areas, they have even begun the “build” phase of reconstruction and development. This is due in large part to the fact that the Helmand province has been the first province where comprehensive, population-centric counterinsurgency operations have been conducted with a force constituted to do so – with approximately 4,000 Marines deployed to the region since July 2009.

The report cites successes keeping the local populations secure, increasing the capabilities of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), improving the counternarcotics efforts (through interdiction), strengthening local governments and even improving living conditions (according to polls conducted by the Washington Post, ABC and BBC). Many credit the leadership of Major General Mills with shifting the momentum from the insurgency to the coalition and ANSF.

Monday’s sit-down discussion with ISW founder Dr. Kimberly Kagan could prove to be a rare chance to hear firsthand (in a dialog format) from the general who was in the vanguard of COIN implementation in Afghanistan. He will discuss his approach to counterinsurgency and the challenges that remain ahead for ISAF. To attend, RSVP here.



April 2011


Over the past two months, the Naval Institute mission change discussion has brought one thing to the fore very clearly – the Institute has no articulable vision that accompanies its mission. Unchanged for 137 years, the mission – “to provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to national defense” no longer seems to be the guiding principle at the Institute – overtaken by both critical and mundane things including profitability, process, and structure. All of which are burdened by the weight and intractability of tradition and then further afflicted with repetitive thinking disorder. Each of those issues, real as they are and they cannot be ignored, have obscured, hidden and submerged any capacity that the current leadership of the Institute had of building, articulating and executing a vision that supports the mission statement. Or frankly, any mission statement. Today’s Annual Meeting further confirmed this complete and total lack of vision.

Since nature abhors a vacuum, and seeking nothing other than discussion, thought, and daring to question the more learned and experienced members of the Board of Directors and leadership of the Institute I offer an alternative vision that I believe supports and expands on the current mission of the Institute – and in doing so will revitalize the community from which membership in the Institute derives and in turn rebuild the model of the Institute away from a business, or non-profit, or think tank. Because USNI must be a hybrid of all of them – but at her core the Institute must remain what she has for over a century – THE professional organization of the Naval services.

1. I believe that USNI should move beyond the AFCEA and Joint Warfighting style conferences and create smaller more focused ones – both by topic and by region. USNI should stop catering to Navy leadership and Industry (neither of which need another platform) and should expend its energy on working with and for junior officers and Sailors. USNI needs to become the place that officers and Sailors go with a problem, concept, idea or question that they would normally self-dismiss as “above my paygrade”.

2. In support of reconnecting with the spirit of the founders, a global Navy needs global outreach. To do that I believe that USNI should sponsor annual seminars where the Fleet is – not just San Diego and Norfolk. Monterey. Newport. Bremerton. Hawaii. Japan. Pensacola. Jacksonville. Bahrain. Groton/New London. Talk about leadership, writing, internal Navy strategies and grand global strategies. If every year is too much for some of those places, then do it every other year. Regardless, USNI needs to become a fixture of the firmament at Monterey and Newport. So much of a fixture, that the Deans of Students at the Naval Postgraduate School and Naval War College should be voting members, or at the very least advisors, to the Board of Directors.

3. Sponsor one or more prizes for Naval Postgraduate School theses that advance the mission of the Institute. Engender interest. And nothing generates interest like prizes. Cash prizes. Swords. Insignia. And recognition. And cash.

4. Sponsor one or more prizes for Naval History classes at the United States Naval Academy. Do the same for Naval ROTC units, or groups of units.

5. Establish an online writing class, webinar, forum. Just for writing. Nothing else – no politics, no sex, no weather. Partner with the Naval War College and USNA.

6. Generate and organize “Ask the Author” style meetings at the concentrations (Annapolis, DC, Newport, Monterey, Pentagon, online) – if an author publishes a book with the Naval Institute Press, then at a minimum they agree to be online at a certain time for a certain length of time to take questions. Either a Midrats Blog Radio model, or a blog model. But the authors need to be in contact with the demographic that makes up the membership of the Institute.

7. Aggressive “marketing” to JOs and First Class POs. And not just mailing flyers. There needs to be a concrete, and selfish, reason to join USNI. USNI needs to be able to explain to the 25 to 30 year old why joining TODAY is important for TOMORROW. Proceedings alone won’t do it. The “why” has to be developed out and then presented, modified, presented, modified and so on. And, it’s not just one easy pat answer – and too much to put forward and try and develop in a blog post or a single article. If the mid-career Sailor message works, then the message for the younger and more junior Sailor can be crafted.

8. Find and hire a dedicated web evangelist who can start building a network of professional writers about seapower online, and more specifically encourage people in the sea services to write. USNI needs “article scouts” who troll (in the fishing analogy, not the Billy Goat Gruff kind) the milblogs and forums looking for good writers and good ideas. Then getting the good idea authors linked up with someone who can mentor that idea into a Proceedings (or other professional journal) piece.

9. Finally. The By-Laws must be changed so that the businessman takeover that has occurred over the last decade can never happen again. The board should always have a majority membership of active duty Sailors, Marines or Coast Guardsmen – ideally at the paygrades of O6 and below. When civilians are members of the board, a history of service to the country, especially within the Naval service, should be considered a prerequisite. And that service should be both recent and relevant. No matter how successful a businessman one is, 2 years onboard a destroyer three decades ago is insufficient to understand the Navy, the sea, or Sailors. The Chief Executive Officer of the Institute has actively discouraged, or even banned, active duty officers of any rank from being on the board – often citing law as the reason that they cannot so serve. Yet he has been unable, or unwilling, to actually provide a reference to that law other than his own statement. And a quick perusal of any number of other military centered organizations show members of the active duty and reserve forces. So, why not USNI?

Over the past three months Chairman of the Board Steve Waters has provided a single letter speaking to making a monumental change in the future of the Naval Institute – and not one of the Board members who supported him in his desires has spoken out publicly in favor of that change. None of them has articulated a vision for the future of the Institute. There are others out there, like me, who are interested in the future of the Institute and willing, nay dare, to read, think, speak, and write about a vision for the Institute and the Navy. For 137 years the Naval Institute has been of and for Naval officers – it is time it returned to its roots and this is one proposed vision to do so.

Courtesy of the LA Times:

While discussing Arlington’s outdated record-keeping over dinner one night last summer, Ricky — who had just gotten an A in his Programming 1 class at school — announced, “I can fix that…”

Ricky didn’t have his driver’s license yet, so he hitched a ride with his mom on her 45-minute commute from their home in Stafford, Va., to her workplace in Washington. He hopped the Metro the rest of the way to the cemetery…

One afternoon while he was out here taking pictures, a woman asked, “What number is my son?” She wanted to know where he fell in a casualty count that is nearing 6,000 for both wars. Ricky couldn’t answer her, but later he told his mom that he didn’t want them to be numbers; he wanted them to be remembered as people….

He spent afternoons in a bookstore poring over Web development manuals for the right program language to create the site. At night, in his family’s study, his computer hooked up to a 40-inch flat screen and his keyboard on a snack table in front of the couch, he input hundreds of names, photos, links to obituaries and newspaper accounts; he created a space to blog tributes.

For me, this story is about how an 11th grader responded faster to the needs of the nation than the Army. His project is another example of how the the proliferation of web/programming skills changes our expectations for large, bureaucratic organizations. Tech-wise, his project is relatively simple. His genius lies in responding to a need without waiting for someone else (the Army) to do it.

A close friend of mine who selected Marine Air out of the Academy will shortly head to Afghanistan. Strangely enough, he’ll beat out another good, mutual friend who drew infantry out of TBS–and he only had 2 weeks before commissioning and reporting to TBS! Needless to say, he’s not happy with this (being beaten to Afghanistan; he volunteered to get the jump on TBS).

While we were commissioned 11 months ago, John is actually the first friend and classmate I know to head to Afghanistan. Sure, it’s “only” a 5-6 month assignment to fill an IA billet, but it’s a curious feeling to actually know your classmates are starting to finally get out “there.” Invigorating in a way…? I’m sure many of you know the feeling and could describe it better.

In a way, the SWOs beat all of us to the punch. I saw, courtesy of Facebook, one of my companymates earned her SWO pin 2 months back. I regularly keep up with a rooommate who is on a destroyer out of San Diego; his ship just had a “Family Day,” and he had a lot of fun taking his mom out for a cruise. He’s looking forward for his ship’s overhaul to be completed.

Some of those who went to Pensacola are approaching the end of training, I think. My other roommate (a NFO) is moving to Corpus Christi soon, and I really should call him to see how things are going. Playing Call of Duty 4 online with each other really isn’t a good medium for catching up.

My class of submariners is preparing to start shift work at prototype. I’ll start with the midnight shift this Sunday (1930-0730) and rotate to new hours after about a week of this. This point represents about 1/3 the way to completing prototype, the final phase of nuclear training before reporting to a submarine.

Getting there, and less than 11 months till “there.”

The great thing about being to be a part of this blog, as a Naval Institute member and employee, is to read the wide range of voices, thoughts and opinions from the guest bloggers, guest posters and from those who comment. We are grateful to everyone here who uphold the independent forum – the Naval Institute’s birthright and ultimately yours – you who help further the conversation and you members of USNI. This is truly a membership organization. Thank you!

There are categories for all the services, supporters, families – we encourage you to look through them to see all of the great voices out there communicating the mission of our armed forces.

And if you want to vote for us – Thank You! We’re in the Navy Category and honored to share that category with some other great blogs.

Especially in the heat of the 24-hr news cycle and war reporting sometimes on par with a caffeinated dog in a squirrel filled park, it is helpful to back up a bit and ponder.

Let’s look back to what I posted here on 20 MAR,

Now that we are in, it begs a few questions.

1. Will the anti-Gadaffi forces be able to advance under Coalition top-cover?

2. Do our Coalition partners have the political, military, and financial ability to support a protracted NFZ-L? If partner nations start to fall out over time – when do we decide to remove our support, or do we plan to be the last nation standing, again?

3. As we have intervened in a civil war; what if any obligation do we have to prevent defeat of the rebels’ ground forces – or if their defeat is eminent – evacuate them and resettle with their families?

4. What is the diplomatic plan if the Gadaffi forces defeat the rebellion? According to The Telegraph, CJCS Admiral Mullen stated,

Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the outcome of military action from the air was “very uncertain” and made it clear that Washington did not see the goal of Operation Odyssey Dawn as removing the Libyan leader from power.

Where we stand 40 days later on the Salamander Four?

1. Yes, and no. Yes: in the static analysis of a poorly-to-un-planned mission, the No-Fly Zone Libya (NFZ-L) worked like a champ. It is what happens when 21st Century air forces go against a poorly maintained one from circa-1970. Same with the ground attack mission-creep that soon followed. Tanks, APC and other armor formations are easy to kill from the air. The enemy gets a vote though. We are not the only ones who improvise, adapt, and overcome. As we did not have a fully fleshed out Combined/Joint Operation at the start with definable End State, Objectives, Phases, or Lines of Operation – much less Branch Plans or Sequels – this is not shocking. We have had some nice Decisive Points – but no one can place them on a LOP, they just are there because they are there. Many have described this as a pick-up game; they are right. We started playing football, evolved into cricket, and now trying to play polo from Shetland Ponies, methinks.

No: we now find ourselves in a classic grinding civil war. The first steps of the ground war have started with Anglo-French-Italian advisers. After jumping into a support role, Europe ran out of weapons and reserves to the point that we are now back in the ground attack game – but only halfheartedly. If reports are to be believed, we are now going to use armed UAS in a CAS role. Really? That is about one notch to the right of putting TLAM into empty tents outside a parade ground – but it is something, in a fashion. We also have Senator McCain (R-AZ) on the ground in Libya today. Feeding great expectations, or a hint of further entanglement as Misrata grinds on and Gadaffi still shows no sign of turning to pink mist anytime soon? Well see.

For now though the facts are clear – the answer to #1 is no, not without CAS, advisers, weapons, and “special” help.

2. The French and the British are still strong. The Italians are thinking about being a more robust friend as their southern islands’ beaches start to fill with illegal immigrants. We are doing more again, as this is lasting longer than the Europeans thought. The British are re-learning the costly nature of long-range missions from land-based aircraft and Le Grand Charles can’t stay at sea forever. The balance of the European/NATO military contributors are falling the test again – slathering their forces with caveats to the point of limited utility as we see from AFG to the Horn of Africa. Expected. We have not seen a USA CVN yet, but odds are we will see one soon. The French and British will need to rest if this keeps going on. USA CVN have the sortie rate and response time to do what needs to be done for awhile.

No, our allies cannot do this on their own – we will need to do more and unless we want a repeat of Suez, we have to. It is almost past the point of arguing “should” – after awhile of dithering, things can deteriorate to the point that you have to get involved in order to avoid a total collapse and all the negative second and third order effects. Effects BTW, that you (we/they) created. Butterfly Effect or Dithering Effect, either one works. Which is worse, to let a civil war take its own course, or to try to bend it to your will? That is a hard question – but one the West thinks it has answered, but still thinks it is hedging. We crossed the hedging line when we started providing CAS to the rebels. The rebels know that, Gadaffi knows that, people in uniform know that – I’m not sure the balance of everyone else know that though.

3. It seems that we will continue in incrementally increase support to prevent the complete collapse of the Libyan rebellion. The European advisers and Sen. McCain on the ground are proof of that. Incrementalism has never been a real successful military strategy – but it appears it is what we have. As for resettlement – youbetcha. Europe is in quite a pickle – and the idea of another few hundred thousand North and South-Saharan Africans looking for their resettlement camps outside Nice, Birmingham, and Pisa should explain why the Europeans are as motivated as they are.

4. Truth changes. Let’s see what is happening up the chain of command.

The leaders of the US, the UK and France have said in a joint letter that there can be no peace in Libya while Muammar Gaddafi stays in power.

Barack Obama, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy say Nato must maintain military operations to protect civilians and maintain pressure on Col Gaddafi.

To allow him to remain in power would “betray” the Libyan people, they write.

Admiral Mullen, call your office.

I think our plan is that we don’t have a plan if Gadaffi stays in office. Try writing that article for Naval War College Review. Good luck with that.

Finally, a question I asked in an earlier post at my homeblog.

… do those nations now share responsibility for the tribal bloodshed that may and probably will take place when the rebels take Gadaffi’s tribal and governmental strongholds? When they capture his sub-Saharan mercenaries?

Of course they (we) do. Just a few days before Sen. McCain’s arrival, in main square of the rebel capital of Benghazi amid the resounding cheer of pro-democracy freedom fighters everywhere – “Allahu Akabar!” – we see the public and brutal beheading of prisoners of war by “our” allies. Just so everyone is clear about whose side we are on and the challenges ahead – the video is on YouTube and LiveLeak. All warnings apply – it is an incredibly brutal thing to see. Take my word – but if you haven’t yet accepted the world for what it is – it is there for your viewing if you wish.

Spring will end and the North African Summer will soon start. Interesting times.

UPDATE: I think the latest comments from Admiral Mullen should be taken onboard and pondered.

“It’s certainly moving toward a stalemate,” said Admiral Mike Mullen,

You get what you plan for.

April 15, 2011

Dear Members of the Board:

The U.S. Naval Institute is one of the great intellectual organizations in this country. I joined as an undergraduate at St. Joseph’s University and later became a Life Member. Over the years I have fully participated in USNI as an author, as a speaker, and as a donor.

I have been a fan of the Naval Institute for my entire career—with the exception of six short years when I served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan Administration. Somehow, the Institute seemed to get off track during that period. I began to read articles in Proceedings by mere lieutenants who disagreed with me. Shocking! But after I left government in 1987, the Institute returned to its grand tradition of truth and wisdom. Despite that experience—or maybe because of it—I feel deeply that this unique “Independent Forum” must remain open to participants of all ranks and stations. Listening to your critics is smart—even when it hurts.

It was therefore dismaying to read in the April issue of Proceedings, that this “Independent Forum” that plays such a vital role in the national security dialogue is now in jeopardy with a proposal to include “advocacy” in the Mission Statement. We all share a common goal—to take the Institute to a brighter future as a stronger entity. Our challenge is how to get there and, in my view, changing the Mission Statement in the way proposed will not do that. There is a very compelling case that we are headed in the right direction now with two strong years of financial and operational performance highlighted in the 2010 Letter to Members.

It may be time for the Board to step back, reengage with our members, and build a strategic plan that we can all embrace. I concur with the views expressed by our 23rd CNO and former USNI President, Admiral Carl Trost, “USNI cannot be an Independent Forum and also be an advocate…There is no such thing as an independent advocate.”


John F. Lehman

Interesting story by the Canadian Press on the French-American naval exchange program’s role in Libya:

U.S. Navy Lt. Patrick Salmon is getting ready for another day at work, strapping himself into the cockpit of his strike jet and roaring off this French aircraft carrier for his daily attack mission against Moammar Gadhafi’s ground forces.

He’ll be launched into action by Kyle A. Caldwell, another U.S. Navy lieutenant who operates the flattop’s catapult systems. When Salmon is ready to set his plane back on deck, yet a third U.S. Navy lieutenant, Philip Hoblet, will be standing by in a French rescue helicopter, hovering just off the ship’s bow in case any of the returning pilots are forced to ditch into the sea.

The United States, which originally led the Libya campaign, has been steadily reducing its role over the past two weeks. On March 31, it handed over command and control of the international campaign to NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and shortly after that it ceased all attack missions over Libya — setting of a search by NATO for more planes capable of carrying out precision strikes against Gadhafi’s forces.

Posted by Christopher Albon in Navy | 6 Comments
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