Archive for May, 2012

The May 2012 Proceedings reached me while I was on some active duty facilitating some war games at NDU. It is my second-favorite Proceedings issue of the year. It is the Naval Review issue. Contained therein is every Navy Flag Officer currently serving. Three hundred thirty one in total, according to USNI.

There has been discussion aplenty here and elsewhere regarding the absurdity and wastefulness of having 1.17 Admirals for EACH SHIP in the United States Navy. While the profligate growth of stars in the Navy’s senior ranks may have seemed like a good idea at the time, it is unconscionable in the current environment of extreme fiscal constraint, especially as the Sea Service is hemorrhaging highly qualified E-6 Sailors one hitch short of retirement eligibility. It is well past time to cull the Flag herd. And here’s one way forward (Hint: Simply shouting “you CAN’T!” and “we NEED!” does not constitute a counter-argument).

Among Rear Admirals, and Rear Admirals, Lower Half, there are 62 positions that are Deputy, Vice, or Assistant positions. Fill each with a Captain, breveted temporarily one or two ranks while serving in those billets. A successful tour in one of those positions would be a career enhancer for a Captain, increasing chances for permanent promotion.

Among Vice Admirals, there are ten positions that are Deputy or Assistant positions. Reduce those positions to two star rank. Reduce the billet of VCNO from four stars to three. Ditto Fleet Forces Command. Next time NDU is a Navy fill, do so with a Rear Admiral instead of a Vice Admiral. The Naval War College gets a Rear Admiral, Lower Half.

And have a long look at the Joint Billets that swell the Navy’s senior officer structure. Pursuant to meaningfully re-evaluating Goldwater-Nichols, which is now in its 27th year.

Implement this concept, and you have at least a 20% reduction of Navy Flag Officers. Between 65 and 70, depending on which path one takes regarding force structure tied up in Joint assignments. It’s a start. The path we are on gives this nation a Navy of 200 ships and 400 Admirals before the end of the next decade. That ain’t no way to run a railroad. Or win a war at sea.

Yes, I will have a similar look at the Marine Corps in the near future.

The USSR may be gone … but Russia has not gone anywhere.

While the news seems to be all around Russia from the rise of China, the incredible success of the Baltic states, Afghanistan and Central Asian Republics, to the European edge of the “near abroad” – Russia continues to be a major player.

Is it still feeding off the corpse of the USSR, or is there a new dynamism and potential? If not a democracy in the Western sense and not Communist either – what is it?

Where does it see its role beyond a seller of weapons and energy? Is Putin just about Putin – or does he have a larger vision for Russia?

Why has Russia taken the position it has from Syria to Iran in the face of world opinion?

To discuss this and more, for the full hour we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, and author and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.


If you can’t listen live, you can listen later or download the show here or from Midrats on iTunes.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Podcasts | No Comments

I rarely ask questions at the Naval Institute conference events I attend. I usually let my USNI blogging partner Lucien Gauthier do the Q&As because as a brilliant enlisted sailor who introduces himself at part of the NATO Stratcom office in uniform, he usually has everyone on any panel sit up and focus as he asks a good question.

But because Lucien wasn’t asking a question to this panel and acquisition topics are more along the discussions I tend to have over at my home blog, you can see my question starting at about 1:00:00 into the discussion on this video. If you want to know what VADM Skinner said in response to my question, then you need to quit missing meetings at US Naval Institute Conferences and show up next time, but with that said – the point by Dr. Eric Labs on quality vs quantity is really good – and if you watch the video the next question is sort of a follow up to my own question, and after VADM Parker USCG addresses the follow up question, VADM Skinner gives very interesting answers that are not edited out – and are worth hearing.

It really wasn’t my intention to put the Admiral on the spot like that, but I think the question on requirements process is important, and I also feel it is important to challenge the assumptions within the process to insure requirements don’t get out of hand on shipbuilding.

I am left thinking about these things following this exchange and the themes of USNI Joint Warfighter 2012 as it relates to acquisition and technologies:

1) Will the DDG-51 Flight III, after any possible HM&E adjustments and with a much bigger radar, have the flexibility and adaptability to be relevant for the expected life cycle of the ship making the quantity vs quality cost argument valid?

2) If we ignore how the entire story of AEGIS and attribute that story to the Ticonderoga class completely, we can legitimately suggest that the first year of the Arleigh Burke class destroyer was in 1980 when the US Navy initiated a design study competition between 7 contractors. The Navy took what was a mostly mature combat system by that time and issued the contract to Bath Iron Works for DDG-51 on April 3, 1985. The ship was commissioned in 1991 and the first in class USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) was sent on her first deployment in 1993, despite numerous problems typical of any first in class ship. Basically, it took 13 years to go from first contract to first deployment with the Arleigh Burke class, and I think that’s valid even though I do realize the combat system development dates back much further and the Arleigh Burke was the first ship to be built specific to a combat system.

For the USS Freedom (LCS 1), the Navy was able to use R&D funding to shorten the time of developing a new warship with first design contract for LCS issued in 2003, commissioning of LCS1 in 2008, and first deployment in 2010. That process, while too ugly for some people to stomach, cut the development cycle of a Navy ship to 7 years – the fastest development cycle in peacetime for any Navy ship over 2000 tons since World War II. If the Navy wants faster development cycles for ships, they need to learn to like programs that look very ugly in public, because innovation includes failures along the way, and failures will be public in the information age.

3) If you want to be adaptable to the speed of change with acquisition, then the requirements process needs to reflect that, and VADM Skinner was exactly right in his opening comments (see the video in the entirety to view his comments) when he discussed the “necessity to establish requirements with clarity,” which is the comment that drove my question. A theme of Joint Warfighter 2012 was the necessity for future combat platforms to have space and flexibility – and to use that space to ensure that every new platform can be agile in an environment of rapidly changing technology, because it is technology where the United States military has superiority today. The training piece of how to use new technology should be more difficult than the acquisition of adjusting and reusing flexible platforms, and in some cases already is. VADM Parker discussed this in regards to the USCG when he noted that almost every Cutter not built in the last few years performs a mission it was never designed to perform. My impression is the training and flexibility of the US Coast Guard, which as an organization is small enough to be agile when leaders are agile, is how those systems remain relevant to modern threats.

4) VADM Skinner finished the panel session by discussing how how oversight has run amok – that there is too much oversight in the requirements process. That is an interesting statement, because on the same day he is saying that, an article in Defense Daily by Mike McCarthy came out and said:

Language in the defense policy bill currently before the House of Representatives that calls for an investigation into cracking and other problems on the first Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) addresses old issues that have already been resolved, the Navy says.

Navy acquisition chief Sean Stackley sent a letter this week to a House supporter of the LCS program, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.), saying a section in the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act would offer “little insight” to the current state of the class.

“While the Navy certainly welcomes recommendations and will fully support added oversight regarding its ship design, build and test processes, I share your concern that Section 129…reverts back to issues identified and corrected early in the program and will add little insight regarded the progress and current status of the program,” Stackley said in the May 15 letter.

This is a great example of oversight run amok, Congress investigating a problem that was identified, discussed, repaired, and had the lessons learned passed back to the shipbuilder – LAST YEAR. And while VADM Skinner is highlighting how added layers of oversight can be disorganized and in many ways not beneficial to programs, his boss Sean Stackley is basically in a position where he is being forced to say he will “fully support added oversight” even though it’s pretty obvious to any informed taxpayer that this specific oversight is simply another layer of political and bureaucratic busy work with no purpose. There is way too much ‘after the fact’ oversight and in my opinion, there appears to be ineffective oversight in front of these programs.

Congress is currently representing a classic example of being part of the problem and not part of the solution, and this issue with LCS is a great example. If Congress would turn their goggles around and quit worrying about past problems, because everyone on the planet knows Congress is going to support the Navy buying more Littoral Combat Ships – Congress needs to make their role getting ahead of problems. When elected officials exercise their responsibility of oversight by being armchair historians of problems, it helps no one. But looking forward, Congress should be – with the FY13 NDAA (H.R. 4310) – looking at the mission modules, the impacts including costs of having to develop software integration for two combat systems to work with the various payload systems for LCS, and most importantly the future manning and maintenance plans for the Littoral Combat Ship – particularly since the Navy plans to use overseas home ports for the ship. If Congress wants the GAO to go back and look at something related to the LCS program and figure out how we got here, take a look at something that has impacts to future programs like the requirements process – and have the GAO explain how the Navy got the cost estimates so completely wrong and added a requirement for speed instead of endurance for a vessel intended to conduct presence operations overseas.

That’s important, because quite honestly if someone – and maybe it should be Congress – doesn’t get ahead of this DDG-51 Flight III concept, we could be in real trouble. I completely get that a new design would be expensive, but it’s going to cost the United States a hell of a lot more if the DDG-51 Flight III is unable to remain combat relevant throughout it’s life cycle – and I have to be blunt, it’s nearly impossible for that case to be made credibly by the Navy. The Navy is taking a smaller AMDR radar than they actually want for DDG-51 Flight IIIs and leaving the ship with no room for growth. If the Flight III is funded for 10 years – starting in FY18 – that means DDG-51s purchased in FY28, fielded in 2033 and serving 40 years to 2073 will remain combat credible. That’s intellectually insulting. Not a single vessel – NOT ANY SHIP OF ANY NATION – built during World War I was combat credible in World War II.

How am I supposed to believe the Navy requirements process – that apparently has too much oversight, and has concluded DDG-51 Flight IIIs at age 20, despite no margins for growth, will be combat credible in 2050 – is a requirements process that isn’t at minimum flawed and potentially altogether ineffective? In my opinion, the requirements process is broken, but I also find myself in complete agreement with VADM Skinner – the oversight process in acquisition is broken too.

The panel session on Wednesday morning discussing remotely-piloted vehicles provided several insights into the future of unmanned technology. With Captain George Galdorisi moderating, the panel included Dr Norman Friedman, Brig Gen Peter E Gersten USAF, Col Timothy Healy USA, and LTCol Thomas “Buzz” Rempfer USAF.

This is the second time I have heard LtCol Rempfer discuss unmanned systems. He is a former F-16 and A-10 pilot who flies UAVs today in the combat air support role for troops over Afghanistan, and previously Iraq. LtCol Rempfer discussed the big differences between flying combat air support missions in fixed wing aircraft vs what he is able to do today with remotely piloted vehicles. With his A-10 he usually had just enough fuel to take a tasking, orient towards a target, strike the target, and go home. Despite the ability to deliver a punch in his A-10, he never had any opportunities during a flight to get true situational awareness on the ground or develop any type of connection with the folks on the ground. With his remotely piloted vehicles he would have an opportunity to stay with the unit he was supporting for long periods of time, get to know the commanders on the ground, and get engaged in the situational awareness unlike anything a fast, manned fixed wing fighter is capable of doing. He stressed the relationship between air support and ground operators did matter, but no one knew it would until the UAVs gave the USAF more time over the AO to discover this.

Dr Friedman suggested that no one should get too comfortable with the majority of UAVs that have been developed today. The panel suggested what will likely happen is that the current generation of vehicles may end up being theater specific, incapable of scaling to other theaters primarily because today’s unmanned aviation systems over Afghanistan are largely dependent upon the assured access that we enjoy in the air. Dr. Friedman noted that several smaller companies in the unmanned systems space today may not survive as the DoD moves towards more robust systems, and may not be able to make that transition with the DoD.

But it was Col Healy who first brought up the buzz word most people look for in the unmanned systems hearings – artificial intelligence. In the context of the bandwidth discussion – which is the great limitation of unmanned systems, artificial intelligence is needed to condense the bandwidth costs of the system to allow the system to perform several functions of the aircraft without the pilot, but that doesn’t mean artificial intelligence will lead to complete autonomy. Col Healy suggested there will never be truly unmanned combat systems, “A man will always be in the loop” he said.

In response to a question, Col Healy discussed how the US Army is fielding units that have already teamed manned and unmanned systems. He stressed the value of having the manned and unmanned pilots in the same room during a mission brief was having a significant impact to how missions are conducted, and provides real opportunities to teaming as manned and unmanned systems continue to develop operational concepts and tactics. As more robust remotely controlled strike aircraft are fielded in the USAF and US Navy, the panel left the sense that teaming between unmanned and manned is likely the future in the strike space as well, and will be the future growth area of remotely controlled air systems.

There was one question raised regarding unmanned surface and underwater systems. Dr Friedman suggested that sea state is going to severely limit the utility of unmanned surface vehicles unless larger unmanned surface platforms are developed. This reminded me of the early ideas in the Navy (that were never taken seriously, unfortunately) to just make the entire Littoral Combat Ship unmanned just to see what the problems are to make a large ship unmanned work. Dr. Friedman said the missions of surface vehicles will mostly focus on port activities. Unmanned underwater systems are advancing a much greater pace, and as underwater communications continue to improve this space is going to have significant impact on the way the US Navy fights – not only with submarines but also at the fleet level. Dr Friedman specifically pointed to mine warfare as an area unmanned systems will be required in the future, because as mines continue to get more sophisticated and when deployed in large numbers, he suggested unmanned underwater systems may be the only way to clear minefields in the future.

Following the panel session I asked several in attendance regarding the US Navy’s development of unmanned systems, specifically regarding the perception that the development of unmanned systems has been it is coming along too slow. This was the view of ADM Roughead in the last days of CNO, and Bob Work has frequently discussed the necessity of the US Navy to move faster with those systems. Admiral Greenert recently announced the Navy will move faster on the Large Displacement UUV, a system that was previously thought of as nothing more than a DARPA project. The reasons for the potentially slow-go on unmanned systems include budget priorities, the usual bureaucracy, and community resistance – particularly on the naval aviation side. With the Joint Strike Fighter sucking the budget of naval aviation it is unclear if the US Navy will have anything similar to a robust UAV capability before 2020, and I’m not only speaking of carrier based UAVs but UAVs from most ships. Ultimately everyone seemed to agree it will be the submarine community that advances unmanned technologies in the Navy with the continued development and deployment of unmanned underwater technologies – which some of the folks I discussed this topic with suggested may have the most promise in unmanned technologies long term anyway. Regarding Littoral Combat Ship, it would appear morale is low, but mostly because no one really seems to have any sense of where the mission modules are in terms of development. Amusingly, it’s almost as if no one cares either.


Of the many topics discussed by General Cartwright on Day 1 at USNI/AFCEA Joint Warfighter Conference 2012, it was his discussion of the nexus between electronic warfare and cyberwarfare where the General grabbed my attention. This Sydney Freedberg article at AOL Defense captured the discussion briefly in the last paragraph.

“There is a nexus coming between electronic warfare and cyber,” between traditional electronic jamming and countermeasures and new-fangled hacking, Cartwright concluded. “One knocks the door down and the other goes in and does the dirty work.” The current turf wars between the electronic warfare and cybersecurity communities miss the vital point, he said. In the cyber realm, “we’ve been thinking 90 percent defense, 10 percent offense. That’s bass-ackwards for us,” he said: We need to stand ready to seize the electromagnetic offensive.

There are several questions I have been asking myself since General Cartwright spoke yesterday afternoon, chief among them being what exactly does 90% offensive cyber and 10% defensive cyber look like? Does this mean firewalls need to be reconfigured as smart honeypots, ready to go offensive as soon as an intrusion attempt is made from an unknown or unidentified system? How does this work, and is the existing security model for networked systems fundamentally wrong? General Cartwright actually used the example of protecting a computer with anti-virus software as an example of the defense first mentality in cyber, but I am not convinced that’s a good model for his ideas.

First, let me highlight that I truly appreciate General Cartwright challenging assumptions and projecting alternative futures for how cyber will impact the technologically driven military of the United States; indeed in many ways it’s refreshing to hear. With that said I am not certain that everything is as cut and dry as General Cartwright suggests, and one mans defense may be another mans offense when it comes to the cyber domain.

For example, using the same anti-virus software example, is it accurate to say anti-virus is a purely defensive model of cyber activity, or would it be more accurately to highlight the offensive capabilities triggered in response to threats. As a virus exploits a networked system, anti-virus systems are often configured to counterattack the virus immediately, preventing the execution of rogue code and isolating the rogue code towards preventing further damage to a system. The physical world analogy is to run down the bad guy and throw them in jail – which is difficult to describe as a defensive action. This raises the question, why exactly is 90% defensive and 10% offensive the wrong approach? Use of offensive military power is subject to a variety of factors regardless of domain, and given the way the US spends money on nuclear deterrence, self-defense technologies for people and platforms, and other defense capabilities applied in multiple domains (which can be anything from the investments in stealth in a submarine to jamming technologies of various kinds) – it isn’t as if the posture of US military forces is somehow divided by formulas for offensive and defensive capabilities. With that said, there is no question several nations have taken a 90% offensive and 10% defensive posture against the United States (China being one such nation), and perhaps if we were more offensive in cyber ourselves we would likely influence that balance of action for those attacking us.

Where Cartwright starts really making sense on the issue is specific to aperture exposures that will almost certainly be exploited in some way in the future. Again, from AOL Defense:

“We built the F-35 with absolutely no protection for it from a cyber standpoint,” he said. Just as historical aircraft used to have an “EMCON switch” — short for “emissions control” — that could turn off all electronic transmissions from the aircraft when it needed to avoid detection, Cartwright said, today’s aircraft need a switch that shuts off all the electronic apertures through which they can potentially receive transmissions, lest electronically savvy enemies hack into them. “As a guy who spends his life on the offensive side of cyber, every aperture out there is a target,” Cartwright said.

OK, the General is discussing deep cyber theory to a general audience, so this means something different depending upon how much your understanding is on the details. Basically what Cartwright is suggesting is that any radar is an aperture because similar to the way false signals can be fed into radar signals. The theory is an encoded signal can be sent through the data stream to a radar to exploit the integrated system. The problem is the processing isn’t there to do that yet, so there really isn’t any way to defend against it because the capability doesn’t actually exist. The General is rightly applying Moore’s Law here, but is also combining a conclusion that eventually the ability to exploit every aperture will be possible and that is what allows his theory to be promoted – and on Cyber issues the General is certainly credible enough on the issue to be taken seriously.

Indeed this is probably some legitimate fortune telling regarding challenges in 2025 and beyond, and as delays occur with JSF perhaps that is the right platform to highlight as vulnerable. But it’s also futurist and while the discussion is important (particularly in conferences like Joint Warfighter) – it’s theory and difficult to reconcile as a vulnerability that can be planned for at this time. Another real issue with Joint Strike Fighter is that all of that code will make it difficult – thus very expensive – to adapt a defensive posture against such threats in the future. Again, in a military of advanced systems with lots of code in advanced software – this is going to continuously be a challenge until the development cycle of complicated systems can be shortened significantly.

Cartwright is exactly right to forewarn on these issues, because in a sense he is exactly right – apertures are of every kind are issues that must be dealt with in the evolving cyber challenge – and the ability to turn off apertures as receivers is a defensive tripwire that may need to be integrated into future systems. When the US is heading down a networked way of war, turning off apertures is going to make that whole ‘network’ aspect of future war very difficult. A lot to think about, hopefully the video is online soon for others to watch and discuss.

Posted by galrahn in Cyber | 5 Comments

Of course I knew of GEN Cartwright before I heard his keynote yesterday. However, what I knew of him was news stories, blog posts, and a few videos of his previous speeches. However when the General spoke yesterday, I was surprised by the candor and subtle bluntness of his words.

In listening to the General speak, I was made to wonder why we cannot get such sentiments from active duty flags. Surely I appreciate the sensitive positions such men hold, and the fact that they occupy positions where their words reflect on those personnel and programs in their charge. But, there must be something we communication professionals are not doing for them that prevents remarks like this being often more regularly, or at all while in uniform.

It is not about ‘tough talk’ as much as it is the presence GEN Cartwright had on stage. It borders on being zen-like how he effortlessly moved from topic-to-topic with out the use of a prompter, notes or PowerPoint. Seeing such mastery of diverse and indepth is in every respect refreshing. It reassures me that those who make the decision to send me into harms way are that good.

GEN Cartwright’s full speech

European Union forces on Tuesday attacked a Somali pirate base for the first time, using a combat helicopter to strafe several of the signature fiberglass skiffs that the pirates use to hijack ships.
Lt. Cmdr. Jacqueline Sherriff, a spokeswoman for the European Unions anti-piracy force, said that the European forces destroyed at least five skiffs that were still on land with small arms fire and that the attack lasted a couple of minutes. This is a fantastic opportunity,’’ she said. “What we want to do is make life more difficult for these guys.’’

No “boots on the ground” – but a necessary move to slow down the pirates.

Now, pirate whining as reported by the AP at Somali pirate: EU airstrike destroyed equipment:

A burning pirate skiff from a previous counter-piracy event

A Somali pirate says an airstrike by the European Union naval force patrolling the Indian Ocean has destroyed speed boats, fuel deports and an arms store.

Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, said Tuesday the attack on Handulle village in the Mudug region will cause a setback to pirate operations. The village lies about 18 kilometers (11 miles) north of Haradheere town, a key pirate lair. There were no reports of deaths in the attack, Hussein said.

Oh, no! Not a “setback!”

Meanwhile, out at sea, Turkish forces took on an apparent pirate “mother ship” – as reported here:

Turkish commandos have arrested 14 pirates thought to be from Somalia off the coast of Oman and freed seven Yemeni sailors they were holding hostage, the army said on May 13. A helicopter of the frigate Giresun, which operates with NATO forces in the region, spotted the boat on May 11 around 190 nautical miles from the Omani coast, the army said in a statement on its website. Commandos stormed the boat and seized nine assault weapons, a rocket launcher and other materials, said the statement, which was accompanied by photographs showing the suspects with their arms in the air as the raid began.

More from Saturn5 over at his blog, Bosphorus Naval News (more photos at his site and here):

The S-70B Seahawk helicopter attached to TCG Giresun spotted the dhow at 14:50, 190 nautical miles off the coast of Yemen. The dhow acting as a mother ship was stopped by the helicopter and TCG Giresunarrived at the dhow and the naval special forces team boarded the dhow at 17:00. 14 Somali pirates were arrested and 7 Yemeni fisherman, the original crew of the dhow were freed by naval commandos.

Taking the fight to the pirates!

Well done to all involved!

(cross-post from EagleSpeak)

To do a complete stoplight review of China’s Diplomatic, Information, Military, and Economic levers/influencers of national power is much more than one post on a blog, but you can broad-brush a few things.

In the last couple of decades, China’s “Diplomatic” and “Military” areas are a solid green with up-arrows. Though I would give “Information” a yellow with an up arrow, I will give a nod to those who would give the Communists a green.

Economic? That is a lot trickier than people think. I lean towards the demographic-wonk mantra, “China will get old before they get rich,” – but if you want a good look at another view on China’s “Economic” that you won’t get from Thomas Friedman, a nice primmer would be Reihan Salam’s latest at NR.

Without a sound economy … the dragon may not be as large or as scary, as some think – but it may be more dangerous for other reasons.

… across a wide range of economic, technological, and military indicators, the United States is actually, in the words of political scientist Michael Beckley, “wealthier, more innovative, and more militarily powerful compared to China than it was in 1991.” As Beckley explains in a recent article in International Security, China’s growth in per capita income, value added in high technology, and military spending is impressive primarily because China is starting from such a low base. That the United States has continued to grow across all of these dimensions is making it exceedingly difficult for China to catch up. Beckley thus concludes that China is “rising in place.” That is, while China is improving its economic and military position in absolute terms, it is stagnating relative to America, even in an era of sluggish U.S. growth.

While we can expect China at some point to have an economy somewhat larger than that of the United States — after all, China has four times our population — the country is plagued by pervasive corruption and bad debts that are already undermining its growth prospects.

China’s population is aging rapidly, and soon the country will have to carry the weight of tens and eventually hundreds of millions of retirees. … China’s growth is already slowing as a result. Since 2001, China has grown at an annual rate of 10.1 percent. This year, however, Chinese GDP is expected to grow at 7.5 percent. Further, the official statistics almost certainly conceal the extent of the decline.

The real threat from China is not that it will grow so economically strong that it will bestride the world like a colossus. Rather, it is that it will become so weak and vulnerable as to collapse, or to lash out at its neighbors.

When you build the next military – do you ponder how to deal with a near competitor in 25-years, or how to handle the violent collapse of a nation 4-times your size in 25-years? How would they look different, and how do you hedge one outcome vs the other?

Letter from Congressman Randy Forbes and Congressman Todd Akin to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus dated May 1, 2012.

Dear Secretary Mabus:

In 1981, then-Secretary of the Navy, John Lehman, issued a Memorandum on “Ship Counting Methodology” for counting Battle Force ships. Noting the political nature associated with how ships are counted, Lehman believed the Carter Administration “overstated the overall size of the Navy” and that a methodology for ship counting was therefore required to count “those ships which actually contribute to the Navy’s wartime mission of combat and support.”

We revisit this history because we are concerned the Department of the Navy may again choose to alter the rules by which it has abided for the last three decades when counting the total Battle Force size in an effort to exhibit to the public a larger fleet than actually exists. In your February 2012 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee you stated that:

The new FSA (Force Structure Analysis) will consider the types of ships included in the final ship-count based on changes in mission, requirements, deployment status, and capabilities. For example, classes of ships previously not part of the Battle Force such as AFSBs developed to support SOF/non-traditional missions, Patrol Combatant craft forward deployed to areas requiring that capability, and COMFORT Class Hospital Ships deployed to provide humanitarian assistance, an expanded core Navy mission, may be counted as primary mission platforms. Any changes in ship counting Rules will be reported and publicized.

To our knowledge, the Congress has not received notification of a change in the rules. And on April 18, 2012, Undersecretary of the Navy, Robert O. Work, reaffirmed this fact when he said “The 300 ships that we [will] have in 2019 are ships that we count right now.” However, in an interview with Defense News from April 30, 2012, Undersecretary Work also stated that the Navy is “looking at updating (its) counting rules.”

Considering your testimony from February and Undersecretary Work’s statements, we write today to inquire if your office has plans to revisit the methodology it has used for counting the Battle Force since the release of the Febtuary 2006 Navy plan for 313-ships? More specifically, is the Navy still considering counting Patrol Coastal Ships (PC) or Hospital Ships (T-AH) as part of the Battle Force? Given that the Congress is tasked by the Constitution to “provide and maintain a Navy,” we trust that any changes to how the Battle Force is counted will be executed in full consultation with the Legislative Branch so that a mutually agreeable outcome can be achieved.

As always, thank you for your service to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy, and the Nation.

This letter is posted online in PDF format as part of this AOL Defense article. The May 29, 1981 memo by Secretary Lehman was previously classified, but has since been declassified and is available at this link. If you haven’t seen the memo I encourage you to take a look, because Lehman was specific that the wartime mission of the Navy drove decisions for counting. It is noteworthy that the memo didn’t need much explanation either – in other words the guiding methodology for what was and was not a battle force ship was short, simple, and to the point.

The potential classification of Patrol Coastal Ships (PC) or Hospital Ships (T-AH) as battle force ships is largely seen as a political issue at a time when the Navy is currently having trouble reaching a goal of 300 ships.

For example, what exactly is the point of counting the current Patrol Coastal Ships (PC) as battle force ships? The Navy has never given much thought about the PCs, indeed has never demonstrated until very recently they actually wanted the ships – which is why the US Coast Guard operated several of them for years, and now once the PCs approach end of life the Navy suddenly not only upgrades their weapon capabilities but wants to count PCs as battle force ships? All of the PCs are already between 12-19 years old and their life is only considered to be about 25 years at best – meaning all current PCs are likely to be retired between 2020-2025 anyway. The shipbuilding plan doesn’t include a PC replacement, so other than being able to count ships as part of the battle force for the short term, what exactly is to be gained? Is this only a political issue?

Here is another question… what if the Navy decides to put in a PC replacement? Does counting PCs as battle force ships benefit in any way should a potential PC replacement program pop up?

The Hospital Ships (T-AH) are a different issue entirely. At first my thought was, why not… after all the hospital ships today can serve in a support role for wartime operations, and are used for soft power operations today which are missions that have also been conducted by amphibious ships counted by the rules.

However, the reason I think the Hospital Ships (T-AH) are more problematic is that the hospital ships are specifically used as part of a diplomatic role for the United States, and their missions are executed under concepts rooted in Strategic Communications. Does it undermine the strategic communications aspect of medical diplomacy if the Navy starts counting the hospital ships as part of the “battle force?” All it takes is for one US hating foreign reporter to write a front page article how the Hospital Ships are “battle force ships” according to the US Navy and the STRATCOM of Medical Diplomacy with hospital ships becomes an uphill political climb. If the missions the hospital ships are deployed on have any function in strategic communications on behalf of the United States, it does appear claiming those ships as “battle force ships” would in fact be counter to the purpose of the ships missions in the 21st century, and be counterproductive without any obvious benefit.

I am not sure if the Navy gains by listing the hospital ships as part of the battle force. My sense is there is some loss in strategic communications, but how big or small that loss is depends a lot on how important the Navy considers the strategic communications of the hospital ship missions to be on these medical diplomacy deployments. It may not be a big deal though?

Last week an interview by Chris Cavas of Undersecretary Bob Work that discussed this topic was posted to Navy Times here. It covers the PCs and Hospital Ships, as well as JHSVs and other ships including special mission ships under consideration related to counting rules. Is this simply politics, or is there more to it than politics?

Time will tell.

Posted by galrahn in Navy, Policy | 10 Comments

…is still very likely my enemy. The Associated Press, via WAPO, tells us that US intelligence sources think it likely that Al Qaeda is now in Syria, taking advantage of the strife. This little surmise should surprise nobody, and serve as yet another data point for the assertion that Al Qaeda is subsuming the “Arab Spring” and bringing rise to Islamists and Islamist-dominated governments across the Middle East and northern Africa.

A curious comment from SECDEF Leon Panetta:

“Frankly we need to continue to do everything we can to determine what kind of influence they’re trying to exert there,” Panetta said.

We do? After eleven years of war, and AQ migration to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, we need to determine what kind of influence they’re trying to assert? Seems we have a pretty good idea already. (Before the shrieks that MB is not AQ, those two organizations are tightly linked both philosophically and physically. The success of one is the success of the other.)

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney informs:

“We do not believe this kind of attack that you saw in Damascus is representative of the opposition,” Carney said. “There are clearly extremist elements in Syria, as we have said all along, who are trying to take advantage of the chaos in that country — chaos brought about by Assad’s brutal assault on his own people.”

CJCS General Dempsey echoes Carney, in a Fox News piece:

“We do know that there have been extremist elements that are trying to make inroads in Syria,” he said. “That is to be distinct from the opposition. I’m not tying those together.”

But, as the Fox article asserts, sometimes the line between them is unclear. It will get increasingly blurred. The Al Nusrah Front is an Al Qaeda affiliate, merging with AQ similarly to how Al Shabaab in Somalia has done.

Perhaps at this juncture such attacks as the bombings in Damascus are not representative, but soon they will be. Al Qaeda will increase its influence and quickly push genuine opposition to Assad’s regime aside, and pave the way yet again for hard-line Islamists to firmly grip the levers of power. As they have done successfully in Egypt, and in Libya, and Tunisia, and are attempting in Yemen and Morocco.

Kudos to the Obama Administration for not rushing willy-nilly to provide weapons and support for the Syrian opposition. Even if they had started out as a viable counter to a repressive anti-Western dictatorship, the interjection (welcome or not, see: Al Shabaab) of Al Qaeda and the Islamic extremists into the vacuum of instability would quickly make such support an exceedingly ill-advised policy. +1

However, the President’s recent declaration of the demise of Al Qaeda and the end of the War on Terror (whatever one thinks of the name) is equally ill-advised, and does not reflect a realistic understanding of our enemies and their continued relevance in the Muslim world. At the very least, someone should have included a resilient, networked, and elusive enemy on the distribution list of the memo ending the GWOT. -1

In addition, there is the Administration’s abject refusal to name our enemies for what they are, Islamic Extremists, bent on the destruction of Israel and subjugation of the West. Recent publicity surrounding what was reported to be an anti-Islamic course of study by the Joint Forces Staff College will cause further reluctance to publicly identify our enemies, adding to the loss of focus and dissipation of the efforts to defeat an enemy that has vowed a multi-generational struggle against us. -2



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