Archive for June, 2011

On April 2nd 1982, the Argentine military launched an amphibious landing on the Falkland Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. In response, the United Kingdom flexed the last of its imperial might and deployed a task force to retake the islands by force. On May 21st, in a small bay, under heavy Argentine air attack, the British ships de-gorged themselves onto the beachheads, landing thousands of troops. For the next two weeks, Argentine and Britain would fight a brutal short campaign, availing themselves of all the benefits of modern conventional military technology.

However, even while British and Argentine infantry were engaging in some of the most ferocious close quarters battles in the 20th century at the Battle of Goose Green, sixty miles to the north British and Argentine military ships stationed themselves peacefully within view of each other and regularly communicating on good terms. What was this place? The Red Cross Box.

Before launching their attack on the Falklands, the British government suggested that both sides establish a neutral point on the high seas where hospitals ships from both sides could operate in safety. This areas, called the Red Cross Box was approximately twenty nautical miles in diameter and within its confines the peace reigned. Stationed within the box were four British and three Argentine hospital ships. Most of the vessels had only recently been converted to hospital ships, with two of the Argentine vessels being hastily converted icebreakers. The ships were periodically inspected by Red Cross officials to make sure they were abiding by the rules set forth in the Geneva Convention. Both sides were in regular radio contact to coordinate their movements and the movement of patients. The proximity between the two sets of medical units allowed for the easy exchange of wounded between the ships. One British hospital ship, the S.S. Uganda made four separate patient transfers to Argentine vessels. By the end of the war, the ships of the Red Cross Box treated hundreds of British and Argentine casualties. While a largely overlooked in histories of the conflict, the Red Cross Box should serve today as the epitome of the application of the Geneva Convention in modern warfare.

Patricia Smith’s family considers military service part of the duty of being a U.S. citizen. And no one in her family hesitates to serve. Her father survived the Bataan Death March. Her son serves in the National Guard and has been deployed more than once overseas. Her grandfather and uncles served. And her brother, Peter Gerry, was killed in Vietnam. He was 18. He is one of 48 men (boys, really) from the small city of Quincy, Massachusetts, who died during the Vietnam conflict. Families with multiple generations who have served in uniform are not unusual in Quincy, a town with a population of 90,000. What is unusual is how they keep the memories of their service and sacrifice alive.

Every spring, the city comes together to rename a square, park or monument after one of its own that was killed in Vietnam. Since 2005, they have been renaming sites in the city after their native sons – a few every year. In addition, a 40-foot clock tower next to the Marina that overlooks the nearby metropolis of Boston holds a plaque that is engraved with all 48 KIA names. During this same spring ritual, the community of Quincy revisits the Vietnam Memorial Clock Tower at Marina Bay for a closing ceremony after the individual dedication events.

Why now? Why has this city and its citizens dedicated so much of itself to shine a spotlight on war victims more than 40 years later?

To answer this question, you must go back to 1987, to the dedication of the clock tower at the Marina in Quincy. It was built and dedicated to Quincy boys killed in Vietnam and a few Quincy Marines – Tom Bolinder, Ed Murphy, and Larry Norton, all of whom played a critical role in getting the clock tower built and in hosting annual ceremonies to remember Quincy’s Vietnam KIA. Technically a suburb of Boston, Quincy might as well be a thousand miles away from its neighboring urban center with a strong liberal political tradition. With more in common in demographics, values and politics to small Midwestern towns, Quincy, the birthplace of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, has a long tradition of sending its sons (and, now, daughters) to war when our country has asked, beginning with the Revolutionary War. This small group of dedicated Quincy Marine Vietnam veterans led the charge to pay tribute annually to Quincy’s Vietnam KIA long before the rest of the country recognized that Vietnam veterans never got the welcome home they deserved. Every year since 1987, Quincy natives have organized, staged and hosted these commemoration ceremonies. Rain or shine, this small group of local veterans, often numbering only 20 or so, held an annual memorial ceremony, reading the names of each of the 48 lost in Vietnam. For many of the families, it was the first time their loss had been publicly and ceremonially commemorated.

But, in 2005, Bob Brudno’s one-man mission changed the entire dynamic of the annual event. A native of Quincy and a Navy veteran, Brudno’s family was – like most Quincy families – intent on serving. Brudno served as a Navy surface warfare officer. His oldest brother, Alan, became an Air Force fighter pilot and was shot down over North Vietnam on October 18, 1965. He was held in captivity for seven and a half years, one of the longest-held POWs in Vietnam. Tragically, Alan Brudno committed suicide just four months after his release in 1973.

The crusade to give meaning to Alan Brudno’s life began the day Alan was shot down and caught national attention when Bob Brudno finally won his battle to get his brother’s name added to the Vietnam Wall in Washington, D.C. in 2004. Until then, his efforts had been thwarted by some who thought that the way he died somehow made his name less worthy. Bob convinced them otherwise.

Alan’s name wasn’t on Quincy’s memorial either. In 2005 Quincy’s veterans were determined to change that and added his name in the only space left available … at the top. Hundreds came to that ceremony.

Bob now readily admits that the tribute his small hometown of Quincy paid to his brother has done more to heal him and his family than any other effort. “My brother’s death symbolized the tragic failure of our country to welcome home and properly care for all Vietnam veterans,” he explains. “After more than seven years in captivity, my brother was severely wounded by the enemy; you just couldn’t see the blood. The stigma associated with the psychological wounds of combat was too great for him to ask for help. Even though he tried to commit suicide less than a week after he returned – he was in such pain, he didn’t get the help all of our servicemen get today.”

When challenged by Bob Brudno to pay tribute to all of Quincy’s Vietnam KIAs in the same way Alan Brudno was honored, the city and its community advocates rose to the occasion. Since then, they honor two or three Quincy Vietnam KIA every year with these customized, individual events. So far, they have dedicated monuments to more than a dozen Quincy Vietnam KIAs – with an ultimate goal of recognizing all 48. Honorees, families and guests are whisked around the city for two days with police escorts and city leaders that underwrite the cost of meals and local transportation for the tribute ceremonies. Speakers have included General Joseph Dunford, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, author Joe Galloway, author and Marine Bing West, and former POW Orson Swindle.

In April of this year, Quincy dedicated three more squares to three more of its KIAs: Robert Vasconcellos, George Fell, and Ralph Willard. This year, George Fell’s nephew used his leave from his yearlong deployment to Afghanistan to attend his uncle’s tribute ceremony in Quincy. Corporal John Fell, USMC, said he “wanted to be here to support my family.” Like many men in Quincy, he “always wanted to be in the military.”

Which takes us back to Peter Garry, killed in action July 29, 1969. His family was overwhelmed by the attention when the city of Quincy announced they were going to name a square in Quincy after him and hold a public ceremony just for him – honoring his life and his sacrifice for his country. “My family was so proud of Quincy for not only remembering my brother Peter in 2009 – 40 years after his death, but also remembering all of the men on the Wall in Quincy,” Pat Smith remarked. “The families of these men are so appreciative to the city of Quincy.”

The annual event has now achieved such a high profile that politicians vie for the honor to speak. Indeed, this year, both state and federal representatives made podium appearances. For the 25th anniversary of the dedication of the Clock Tower in April 2012, Vietnam veteran, former Army Captain and Medal of Honor Recipient Paul Bucha is confirmed to be the keynote speaker.

What is it about small towns like Quincy that make the difference? Big cities, big companies and big non-profits spend a lot of money and a lot of political capital to “honor” veterans – both old and young, but they don’t hold a candle to the small city of Quincy. Suffice it to say that Quincy has proven that our country has the ability to heal war wounds like no other entity. The homespun, hand-crafted, and personal approach to the tributes Quincy hosts is the key. Corporate and government sponsorship makes little impact. Veteran-to-veteran touch and the involvement of multiple generations and facets of the community – students, elders, local government officials, local businesses – make the difference. Perhaps Quincy should export their annual event and show small towns around the country how to do it…right. Perhaps the Department of Veterans Affairs could assist in this effort and provide a guide – based on the Quincy template – for recognizing and paying tribute to our Vietnam veterans and KIA – one at a time, until they are all recognized. Vietnam veterans, more than any other veteran community, need to know we value their service and sacrifice.

As Bob Brudno once said, this event will do more to lengthen the lives of Vietnam veterans than the pills and the counselors. The city of Quincy dispenses the medicine these aging veterans have always needed – the welcome home and the personal “thank you for your service” that they never got before.

Hurry up America, before our Vietnam veterans lose faith.

For more on past and upcoming ceremonies, go to the Quincy Veterans web site.

Ed Note: The post below was written by a mentor of mine from the Chief’s Mess, who has asked to otherwise be anonymous in this post. I will say nothing else, and let him take it from here.

Navy manning policy cycles through phases so regularly it could be best described as a soap opera “As the Pendulum Swings.” First was the Reagan Era build up, then a Clinton Era “peace dividend” drawdown. With Donald Rumsfeld came “faster, leaner, more lethal,” and the twin monsters of “Optimal Manning” and the infamous “Top-6 Roll-down.” Broken ships and ineffective crews were the result. Now the revealed Word from Washington is that the Optimal Manning Experiment is over. ADM Greenert’s statement of “we’re going to effectively migrate, reconstitute in a way, the surface fleet afloat,” is encouraging, but the actions needed to meet his goal of sustaining the fleet seem distant, if not impossible given the corporate track record.

The Balisle Report recommended that over 6,500 billets be restored to the fleet. Only 2,200 were approved, with another 3,900 slated for FYDP accessions. The fine print never makes the headlines in All Hands, or the Navy Times. At this time we are told to cut the Navy by 9,000 Sailors. We have to cut solid performers who happen to be in overmanned ratings, while we should cut those who don’t meet standards, or are marginal performers at best. Why must we do this? Because personnel costs, and the billions of healthcare dollars those personnel require for readiness and recovery, are “eating us alive.” Leadership chants the mantra of “people are our most important resource,” but the reality of where the Navy is putting its money is clear. The Naval Vessel Registry lists 245 active hulls as of June, 2011. The same registry lists 268 Flag Officers: 243 Active, 22 Active Duty for Special Work, and 3 Full Time Support. Last time I walked the Naval Station piers, only three ships had broken an Admiral’s Flag at the masthead. Merging Second Fleet into Fleet Forces Command is supposedly one such “cost savings” designed to optimize the Fleet. But, no Flag billets were harmed in the merger. With President Obama announcing a drawdown of 33,000 combat personnel from Afghanistan, and Congress clamoring for further cost savings, it is only a matter of time before budget pressure on incoming Secretary of Defense Panetta turns the magnifying lens on our “greatest asset,” Deckplate Sailors.

Division officers and Leading Chiefs rarely have time, much less energy, to spend on the fine print in the “big picture.” Getting through the training cycle with often less than 70 percent of their required Sailors, often inadequately trained, to meet all the tasking given down by their Commanding Officers is an 18 hour a day job. Mandatory training days, meetings, and pre-meetings, operational briefings, watchstanding, and documenting every Sailors performance and attendance is a job in itself. Additional time to train, mentor, supervise maintenance, preservation, professional development all comes from somewhere – sleep time most likely, which NAVMAC cheerfully points out is eight hours a day – but in reality is maybe five or six.

What the spreadsheet wizards at OPNAV N1 and BUPERS missed in their calculations is a vast amount of time and work that is always needed, yet seldom calculated in manpower estimates. How do they account for the hours preparing for a 3M spot check, only to have the inspector reschedule because of a surprise visit from ATG or the Squadron Chief of Staff? Trite promises such as “civilians will do surface preservation when in port,” to justify the loss of half your deck department force, ring hollow. Standing up additional Force Protection Condition (FPCON) requirements drain away both production, and stamina. My last ship stood up FPCON CHARLIE measures in a CONUS maintenance availability because Second Fleet enforced a requirement written for “non-Navy controlled ports.” If there was ever a port controlled by the Navy, it is Norfolk Virginia. Yet that is what we did for 18 months–until leaders with the best interest of the crew proved it was hurting production far more than ensuring security. Lest anyone be ignorant, every VIP or Flag Officer visit adds another 4 hours of field day to the ship’s workforce; time also needed for training, preventive and corrective maintenance. More time is lost checking up on the contract repair teams that require quality inspection time equal to the time spent on the repair itself–another thing not factored into NAVMAC’s computer. A couple years ago I went to a conference to discuss the “standard Navy work week.” After several days of reality based discussion, the whole meeting was round-filed because our input would have increased the documented hours – and thus full time billets required – by 30 percent. “Not the answer we were looking for you to endorse,” was the message, and we went home to our ships. What safety procedures could be changed to reduce manning? Could we get by with less wing-walkers when moving aircraft? NATOPS categorically said “no,” and had safety statistics to prove it. Could we add the three hours of CNO mandated physical training to the work week calculation? No, because it would create a need for more billets. The message was clear – we want to reduce head count – don’t confuse the system. Dilbert seemed very apropos.

Manning requirements are estimates. When designed, they are one number. After built, they are usually less, because N1 is looking to save money for N4 to buy missiles. After being in service for a while that number drops again. Congress lowered the authorized end strength, or “boots on ground” requirements exceed two whole Carrier Battle Group’s worth of Sailors. Someone gets a medal, for reporting those ships stay “mission ready” despite manning shortfalls. It’s just a SHELL GAME.

Your ship must be at 90 percent or better manning to deploy. You have 75 percent. Calls are made, hands are shaken, and golf course diplomacy secures the critical NEC and general labor is sent TAD to the ship – for 90 days or so – enough to show the TYCOM you are at manning requirements. But this plus up is not really a fix. TAD Sailors in critical specialties don’t end up on the Force Protection watchbill. They often don’t end up in the repair locker. Sometimes, they don’t even stand duty. Because they are special – it’s in “the deal.” They often don’t use chipping hammers, needle guns, or paint brushes either.

Your division’s work is supposed to be done by 35 Sailors. The Ship’s Manning Document (SMD) calls for so many Sailors of different ranks, NEC and specialized schools. Odds are, You won’t have them. Due to “funding constraints” the Billets Authorized (BA) is only 30. If your command is lucky, the Navy Manning Plan (NMP) allocation might equal funded billets. Often, the time your Division’s share of NMP might be only 20. Either way, your division is still not going to have all 35 Sailors. First, some will be on terminal leave. Some billets will be gapped either from the Sailor being LIMDU, or ADSEP for discipline issues. Secondly, some billets may seem filled, but the Sailor is TAD away to required schools (that never seem to get completed) en route to your command. Depending on the billet they are designated to fill, some Sailors need up to nine months of schools AFTER reporting aboard for a 3 year tour. Lastly, the open wound of Individual Augmentation festers on your Watch, Quarter and Station Bill.

When a message tasking your ship to provide a critically needed NEC E5-6 with a perfect record, security clearance, and long enough PRD to meet the Noble Eagle mission timeline is likely to grab your divisional LPO, 3M Workcenter Supervisor, or the ONE and ONLY Sailor with that NEC needed for mission critical maintenance. You might have two on paper, but the other sailor is LIMDU or TAD to a critical school for another couple months. So, you protest. You send up your impact statement to RECLAMA. Your protest falls on deaf ears since the Commodore is going to HAVE to send someone, and dammed if it’s the guy from his flagship.

Optimal Manning was supposed to streamline training to “just in time” pipelines that provided fully trained Sailors to ships at the right time, so no loss of readiness occurred at PCS time. It’s a pipe dream. The Sailor you are losing has years of experience with that equipment, which is guaranteed to be slightly different from another ship of that class. The new guy is very likely to be junior, or not quite fully recovered from LIMDU, or missing the pipeline training. The last 30-60 days of the outgoing Sailor are focused on THEIR moving off. The arriving Sailor might not report for weeks or months after he transfers. End result is you’ve lost six months of effective production from that billet and everyone else in the workcenter, duty section and ship needs to work that much harder.

Optimal Manning never seemed to hit the Wardroom as it did Mess Deck or Goat Locker. My last ship was designed for a complement of 23 officers. Most of the time we had 40 officers on deck, and a few more off TAD, IA, or other places. It was sickening how many titles started with “A.” Yet, officers need training, and the best place for that is at sea. But many officers without portfolio cab give the XO heartburn, so they all get some job. VBSS officer, Anti-Terrorism Officer, Fire Control Officer, Weapons Officer, Magazine Officer, and other such lofty titles were given the Ensigns, despite the requirement for those billets to be held by second-tour division officers or department heads.

If the Navy needs to save money on personnel costs, I suggest it start with the Wardroom, and then move on from there. I would have a more effective ship with 25 officers, and use the cost savings to retain 30 more blue jackets. If the Enlisted Retention Board is kicking out Sailors who made Senior Chief Petty Officer in less than 14 years, simple fairness suggests we explore ALL options. Lengthen sea tours for officers to develop them further, rather than an 18 month sprint to the next ticket punch. Increase the time in grade from ENS to JG, and JG to LT. Since it’s an automatic promotion, it cannot “hurt their career.” Do we really need all 268 Admirals on the current (and future) payroll? Could all the limited duty officers be as effective as Warrant Officers? Many could, and it would save money for other programs.

My take is this: When 23 of your 40 officers are LT or senior, almost no junior officers are left in duty sections to stand watch, get leadership experience, and master their craft. Being a commanding officer is a grueling slog with professional pitfalls surrounding you. Spending a few more years moving up the chain, especially as a junior officer afloat for 3 year sea tours, 3 years in grade, would give current CO’s the TIME they need to develop them. With the XO fleet up to CO on many ships, that XO/CO will now have the time on board to see that process through, rather than a 14-20 month snapshot.

The Associated Press reports the content of a speech given by US Attorney General Eric Holder.

The most disturbing statement in a highly disturbing defense of treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue was this from the AG:

Holder insisted in his speech that civilian courts are “our most effective terror-fighting weapon.”

In a war in which our enemies have made abundantly clear their goal of subjugation or annihilation, we haven’t even the courage to call them what they are, Islamic extremists. We substitute the generic “violent extremists” as if a group of fat Neo-Nazis living in their parents’ basements represents as serious a threat to American citizens as Al Qaeda and its Islamic extremists and cohort radicals around the globe (including on US soil). Wars are seldom won when one side refuses to acknowledge who the enemy is, and even less seldom won when one side cannot come to grips with being at war.

Holder’s words reveal a naive and detached understanding of the world in which we live. Such a statement is both wildly inaccurate and irresponsible in the extreme, and bring into question just how solid a grasp some of the senior decision-makers in our Federal Government have on the reality of our international situation.

Those who vow our destruction, those intransigent enemies whose ideology is mutually exclusive of, and fundamentally hostile to our freedoms and our way of life? They need to be killed when they threaten us, not be arrested and hauled into a civilian courtroom where they are given all of the rights and privileges of US citizens on trial for a capital crime. To think otherwise is to fail to understand that peace, like freedom and justice, must be fought for and defended, by people willing to kill and to die in the effort. Our men and women in uniform are those people. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines. They are the greatest weapon this nation has in the War on Terror. Not the lawyers. To assert differently is patently absurd, and an insult to the Armed Forces who have performed so bravely and brilliantly over the last decade.

All along, we assumed Osama bin Laden was living in the cave. It seems that it likely was some other folks living in a cave.

Oh, and h/t to AndyH and BlackFive
This just in, from WAPO:

A 22-year-old Alexandria man has been charged with shooting at military buildings in the D.C. region last fall, and federal officials said in court papers that he videotaped himself shouting “Allah Akbar” after he fired shots at the U.S. Marine Corps museum in October.

Yonathan Melaku, a Marine Reservist, was taken into custody Friday under suspicious circumstances at Arlington National Cemetery. He had been carrying a backpack that held plastic baggies with ammonium nitrate, a material that can be used to make a bomb, as well as a notebook that included references to Osama bin Laden and “The Path to Jihad.”

From the General Casey school of softsoaping in order not to offend (other than those being targeted, of course), this from Federal investigators:

But on Thursday, federal officials weren’t so sure. “I can’t suggest to you his motivations or intent,” said James W. McJunkin, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “Its not readily apparent yet.”

McJunkin and other officials would not comment on Melaku’s faith.

Neither were Major Hasan’s motivations, apparently.


If’n you think that the handling of captured illegal combatants could not be any more of a soup sandwich, Admiral McRaven’s words should convince you otherwise. We have no plan. None.

As days wandered in to weeks, then months, and now quarters – two recent events have given notice that NATO has a very short window to finish what it started in Libya.

As with most conflicts – and especially this one – the reason for engaging in conflict can change as the facts change. The reality is that this conflict was never clearly defined from the get-go. As a result, everyone should be patient as decisive points, goals, objectives, end states fade in and out, appear/disappear, and change with the tides.

Once the decision is made to commit your nation and its allies to war – all that is important is victory. There is no substitute for victory, as anything but victory brings the dangerous attractiveness of weakness, and undesired second and third-order effects that must be avoided.

As this conflict is presently structured today – with non-USA aircraft doing much of the kinetic action – the next 90-days will hopefully be enough for USA to thoroughly consider, under the planning assumption that Gaddafi is not killed, COA-1 (Re-Americanize) and COA-2 (Fade). By the end of SEP, we will reach a decision point.

Why will we reach a decision point?

The first to channel the Elector of Bavaria at Blenheim was Norway;

Norway will scale down its fighter jet contribution in Libya from six to four planes and withdraw completely from the NATO-led operation by Aug. 1, the government said Friday.

Defense Minister Grete Faremo said she expects understanding from NATO allies because Norway has a small air force and cannot “maintain a large fighter jet contribution during a long time.”

Once that momentum starts – others will follow. Two things will drive this; materiel & will.

There are navies that are designed to fight wars, to fight in short bits and/or as part of coalitions, and there are those that are designed to show the flag. The French do not have an issue of national will in this conflict. No, even though their navy is on the strong side of the middle type of navy, they do have a problem – matériel.

… France (is) indicating it will need in the autumn to withdraw the Libyan mission’s only aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, on virtually continuous operations since last year — with no replacement in the offing.

“The elephant in the room is the imminent departure of the French carrier, given it has been flying 30-40 percent of all NATO strike sorties,” said Tim Ripley, of Jane’s Defense Weekly.

“It’s a looming problem, so sustaining this operation, particularly if it’s going to grind past September or October, is going to be a problem.”

In the absence of other allies coming forward with strike aircraft that could be flown from land bases — which would necessitate a fleet of refueling tankers only the United States could provide…

We’ve reviewed the European CV/CVN challenge before and the inefficiency of land-based air for this operation – the problem is clear. Given President Obama’s statements of late – one should not expect a USN CVN to take its place. Truth in this business can change, and in spite of the President’s position and that of some in Congress today – we need to keep the option open to, as we have had to do in Afghanistan, re-Americanize the Libyan operation. A CVN or two can fix this very fast if the President wants it to.

So, we find ourselves here hoping for a hope that Gadaffi’s luck will run out. No one ever let me put “Luck” in my OPLANs … but perhaps things have changed.

This fall, if the Congress and/or the President won’t allow USA to do more of the kinetics to replace retreating and worn out Europeans as per COA-1, – then COA-2 it will be. COA-2 will lead to nothing but ugly – but we knew this going in. If things didn’t end quickly, the Europeans would get weak in the knees. More and more understood this as the weeks turned in to months. Almost everyone by now must see it. Baring just plain dumb luck or sudden resolve by Europe – COA-2 leads to defeat. Defeat is not an option.

If Gadaffi lives to see the weather turn cooler and NATO continues to limp and stumble as weak horses do, then we should execute COA-1. Support the President and Congress to end this, and end it right. Finish what we started (yes, we – without the USA, Europe could not and would not have started this). Finish it and then hand post-conflict over to the Europeans – all of it as this is in their interest, not ours. They wanted this done – give it to them and then pivot.

When will we know we reach that decision point, and what do we do after that?

Britain’s top naval officer, Adm. Mark Stanhope, warned Monday that his nation — its military hobbled by severe budget cuts and the continuing cost of the Afghan war — would face hard decisions if the Libya mission is not resolved by September.

“If we do it longer than six months, we will have to reprioritize forces,” he said, indicating the current commitments cannot be maintained indefinitely.

Britain’s chief of defense staff, Gen. David Richards, insisted Tuesday that Britain can continue operations in Libya as long as it needs to. But another senior NATO official echoed Stanhope’s comments, saying that if the alliance’s intervention in Libya continues, the issue of resources will become “critical.”

Gen. Stephane Abrial, the senior NATO commander, told reporters at a NATO conference in Serbia that “at this stage, the forces engaged do have the means necessary to conduct the operation.”

But he noted that “if the operation were to last long, of course, the resource issue will become critical.”

“If additional resources are needed, this, of course, will need a political decision,” he said.

That political decision will be in Washington, DC. The worlds largest debtor nation will have all the empty pockets looking at her – and then we should take a deep breath, borrow the money from the Chinese, finish it, and then walk away.

What will follow? Odds are – not Jeffersonian Democracy or even Kemalism. No, review the foreign fighter figures from Iraq. Odds are we won’t like it – but we fathered it and will have to accept it for what it is.

Given all the above, there are many things to learn. Lets talk about what I mean about pivot.

For even the most die-hard Atlanticist, some things are becoming unavoidably clear. George Will sums it up.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, U.S. military spending has more than doubled, but that of NATO’s 27 other members has declined 15 percent. U.S. military spending is three times larger than the combined spending of those other members. Hence Gates warned that “there will be dwindling appetite and patience in” America for expending “increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.” Already, U.S. officers in Afghanistan sometimes refer to the NATO command there — officially, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) — as “I Saw Americans Fighting.”

After a recent NATO attack on a tented encampment where Gaddafi has met foreign leaders, the New York Times reported: “The desert strike appeared to show the alliance’s readiness to kill Col. Gaddafi. A NATO statement described the target as a ‘command and control facility.’ But apart from small groups of soldiers lurking under trees nearby with pickups carrying mounted machine guns, reporters taken to the scene saw nothing to suggest that the camp was a conventional military target.”

In March, Obama said that U.S. intervention would be confined to implementing a no-fly zone: “Broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” By May, Obama’s Bushian mission was to make Libyans “finally free of 40 years of tyranny.” After more than 10,000 sorties, now including those by attack helicopters, NATO’s increasingly desperate strategy boils down to: Kill Gaddafi.

Then what? More incompetent improvisation, for many more months.

Disgust with this debacle has been darkly described as a recrudescence of “isolationism,” as though people opposing this absurdly disproportionate and patently illegal war are akin to those who, after 1938, opposed resisting Germany and Japan. Such slovenly thinking is a byproduct of shabby behavior.

I think in time, more and more Americans will join supporting Plan Salamander for Europe. I learned it from Eisenhower. Soak it in – and get ready to pivot.

“Because we had had our troops there, the Europeans had not done their share,” President Eisenhower said. “They won’t make the sacrifices to provide the soldiers for their own defense.”

As if on cue;

Iveta Radicova, Slovakia’s prime minister, says bluntly that defence is “not a priority”. She wants to improve her country’s competitiveness and reduce unemployment.

The results? Behold Libya. Behold the caveat laden forces of ISAF and the piracy forces of the Horn of Africa. Do all but two or three in NATO lack the key to anything – will?

SECDEF’s speech in Oslo linked to above needs to be listened to more and more. Then we need to execute some tough love for Europe. Enough Americans have died for Europe – enough American treasure spent to subsidize their sloth. Friends always lean in to protect friends from outside threats – but they cannot protect their friends when their friends won’t even make the effort to defend themselves – or for that matter have no inclination to.

This is not isolationism as some think. No, this is a mature strategic concept for the 21st Century. The Cold War and the Soviet Union are far behind us. Sailors joining the Navy today and the MIDN who will show up at Annapolis this fall were almost all born after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. As decades of inertia rattle to a halt, let us shake hands with our friends and go home. They are strong enough to stand on their own feet if they want to. If they don’t want to, then let history take its course. If they see a threat and make an effort to defend themselves – then we should train and equip our armed forces to be able to help. USA based with global reach – but only for those who will first help themselves.

We need to pivot from the past in Europe. You can’t force someone to take their own defense seriously – but you can create the conditions for them to reassess their sloth. I think it is time.

On May 26, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Columbia University President Lee Bollinger signed an agreement aboard USS Iwo Jima “formalizing their intention to reinstate Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) programs at Columbia” after an absence of 40 years. The history between the Navy and Columbia dates back to at least the Jacksonian era.

On February 3, 1830, Columbia College President William Alexander Duer wrote to Commodore Isaac Chauncy – then in command of the Brooklyn Navy Yard – offering schooling at Columbia for local young naval officers under certain specified terms. Chauncey forwarded the suggestion to Secretary of the Navy John Branch: “This proposal is a liberal one, not more expensive than the navy yard schools…I certainly should prefer a Naval School, if Congress would authorize one.” He echoed this sentiment to Duer: This proposal seems to me to be liberal and fair, and I am sure that great good would result to the service by accepting it.” Chauncey recommended to Branch attaching a naval officer to the college for “superintending the young officers, and enforcing discipline.”

It’s unclear if any naval officers were non-matriculated students at Columbia that decade, but if President Duer made the recommendation to the Navy, perhaps it was because he had some familiarity with the organization.

Following is a summary from Christopher McKee’s A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession: The Creation of the U.S. Naval Officer Corps, 1794-1815*:

Duer was the son of William Duer, a former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Alexander Hamilton; his maternal grandfather was Revolutionary War General William Alexander (aka Lord Stirling.) Duer went bankrupt when his extensive private speculations collapsed and he died in debtor’s prison in May 1799. The younger Duer was “forced to abandon legal studies at the height of the Quasi-War with France to accept an appointment in the navy” and assigned to the frigate John Adams in the Caribbean On June 16, 1800, in Martinique, one of his fellow midshipman claimed Duer stabbed him in the thigh. Admonished by Lieutenant Francis Ellison, Duer again attempted to draw his dirk then struck Ellison and stated that he would murder him and others on the ship. He was ordered to stand trial by court martial.

Duer’s mother, Lady Catherine Duer appealed directly to President John Adams that her son be allowed to resign his commission rather than stand trial. Adams “urged [Secretary of the Navy] Stoddart to accept the resignation of ‘this unhappy youth,’ and threw most of the blame on [the frigate] Adams’s commander, Richard V. Morris, for not controlling the amount of wine consumed by the midshipmen’s mess at Dinner.” Duer returned to law school, practiced law, and became a politician and judge before becoming president of Columbia College.

LCDR Claude Berube is a member of the USNI Editorial Board and teaches at the U.S. Naval Academy. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation about Andrew Jackson’s navy.

*This correspondence can be found at the National Archives, Center for Legislative Archives (House Committee on Naval Affairs, HR21A-D17.5).

*Duer/Chauncey Correspondence courtesy of Columbia University Archives

I came across an article that isn’t about the Navy, but provided for some interesting reflection on the role individual discretion should play in everyday work. A lot of good stuff there. I apologize for a large block of quotations, but I can’t say it any better than they do:

“Using case studies from a wide range of fields, [Schwartz and Sharpe] argue that our institutions, structured as they are around incentive and punishment, prevent us from good practice, from doing our work with purpose, empathy, creativity, flexibility, engagement, and temperance. In a word: wisdom…

Professional life, at its best, combines a sense of mission with wise practice. Professionals who have the “will” and the “skill” to do both good and well—and are given the discretion to deploy effectively their expertise and sense of calling—are those who are most fulfilled in their work, who are happy with what they do and whom they serve. Schwartz and Sharpe write, “We are happiest when our work is meaningful and gives us the discretion to use our judgment. The discretion allows us to develop the wisdom to exercise the judgment we need to do that work well. We’re motivated to develop the judgment to do that work well because it enables us to serve others and it makes us happy to do so.”

What cripples this judgment, and makes us unhappy in our work, is a culture of rules, one based on audits, incentives, and punishments. Schwartz and Sharpe show how this rules culture demands universal principles and scripts no matter the context, and marginalizes imagination, empathy, and courage.”

I then began to wonder what this would look like in the Navy and in particular the nuclear Navy. We’re always told to utilize the watchteam, drawing on their experiences and judgement to decide the best course of action. The reactor operators and electrical operators are experts in their panels, who take pride in being able to shift the electric plant quickly or safely and efficiently startup the reactor. As EOOW (engineering officer of the watch), we’re tasked with leading the watch in maximizing propulsion and maintaining reactor safety.

How can we best lead professionals who have the will and skill to accomplish this mission? Allow them to contribute their hard-earned expertise and discretion (in accordance with written procedure of course). What exactly does this look like in the nuclear Navy, though?

Very curious what this would look like:

“Canny outlaws” offer hope for our institutions. “Canny outlaws” are creative, flexible, improvisational individuals who find ways around the rules that constrain their professional practice. Yet they alone are not enough; we need “system changers,” people who find new ways of doing things and are able to implement them on a broad scale. Practical Wisdom gives us a rather inspiring framework and set of strategies for finding those new ways, and it might persuade more than just canny outlaws that doing so is pretty necessary if we are going to continue to find value in our work.”

Put a few things in your nogg’n for a minute. Put a little Eisenhower mixed in with the Navy’s shipbuilding performance over the first decade of this century – the lost decade of shipbuilding with such wonderfully run programs such as DDG-1000, LPD-17, and the ever-changing LCS – then leaven it a healthy cynicism that any Business Ethics professor at the post-graduate level can give you. Sprinkle generously with a knowledge of the exceptionally generous retirement packages our retiring Flag Officers receive.

As that soaks in, read this.

Chuck Goddard, a former program executive officer for ships (PEO Ships) for the U.S. Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), has been named president and chief executive of Wisconsin-based Marinette Marine, builders of the LCS 1 Freedom-class littoral combat ships (LCS).

The announcement was made June 13 by Fred Moosally, a former Navy captain and Lockheed executive who is president and CEO of Fincantieri Marine Group, the Italian parent of Marinette Marine.

Goddard, who retired from the Navy in 2008, previously supported a number of programs at Lockheed’s Maritime Systems and Sensors division, which oversaw the company’s LCS effort.

A recurring theme over at the homeblog has been the cringe-inducing revolving door between the uniformed Flag Officer on day one – and the employee of the once overseen defense contractor on day two. It doesn’t smell right, and it isn’t. There should be at least a 5-year “cooling off period” between retirement from active duty for Flag Officers and employment by companies they may have had a relationship with while in an official capacity within, lets call it, 5-years of retirement.

“5-n-5 to keep faith in the system alive.” I’m sure there are better slogans, but that’s a start.

Goddard doesn’t come right to MMC from active duty though – after he left active duty he went to, shocking I know,

… Mr. Goddard was with Lockheed Martin for three years as director of Aegis Program Integration and Capture Manager for the Aegis Combat Systems Engineering Agent (CSEA) competition.

Our friend Tim Colton makes a good point.

… he has no industrial or business experience of any kind whatever – working in a naval shipyard doesn’t count – and is, therefore, totally unqualified to run a ship construction company.

Why is he running it then? I’ll let you ponder that as well.

Has he done anything wrong? No, of course not – that isn’t the point. The system is the system and all indications are that everything that Goddard has done in his professional capacity both in uniform and since retirement is exceptional and above board – again, that isn’t the point.

People, rightly, wonder what has happened to the Navy’s ability to build an affordable, efficient, and effective Fleet. There is cynicism and a lack in trust from Congress to the deckplates about the word of Navy Flag Officers. It doesn’t happen by accident. Revolving doors from Fleet to Food Trough does not help as people will question motivation, candor, and priorities.

Oh, one last note – if Goddard’s name rings a bell, here is why.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 20 Comments
Tags: ,

Over My Paygrade

June 2011


A fellow Academy mid posted this piece for Thomas Ricks’ blog questioning whether or not operations in Libya were constitutional. The masterpiece can be accessed here:

Yes, the Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war. No, President Obama did not ask Congress to drop bombs in Libya. I agree that the law is ambiguous on who can deploy military force in this situation, but that question should be left for constitutional law professors and politicians to debate (not officer candidates).

I quote, “It is [servicemen and women’s] professional obligation and ethical duty to disobey their orders until constitutional and legal requirements are either changed or met.” So because ENS X and the Commander-in-Chief differ on whether or not air strikes constitute war, ENS X should “disobey” POTUS. We wouldn’t have a Constitution to begin with if we ran our military this way.

Posted by jjames in Foreign Policy | 8 Comments
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