Archive for July, 2012

When is the last time you sat down and discussed tactics? Whether it was regarding your individual DDG or employment of Air Wing strike capabilities, I bet it has been awhile. I recently discussed these issues with Junior Officers and enlisted sailors at our Junior Leaders Innovation Symposium here at NWDC, and later with Aviation Flags at our annual training symposium. In both cases, the results were the same – there is a real concern that tactics development has slid down our list of day to day priorities.

I know it was a long time ago, but as a JO, I remember having tactical discussions all the time. What’s the best way to do X? Did we consider Y? Have you seen Z…? We stayed up late in wardrooms and ready rooms sharing the experiences and best practices that made us better tactical aviators. The threat and type of operations in those days drove us to discussions about tactics. We shared lessons and made near-continuous improvements to the tactics we employed, because we understood that the operational environment required us to create and maintain operational sanctuaries to mitigate the tactical risks.

LT Rob McFall wrote the following in his blog on USNI a couple of months ago, What the Professional Naval Conversation is Missing… Tactics:

The conversation on tactical innovation is especially important for the Junior Officers but it should not be limited to them. Senior Officers and those that have gone before us have a wealth of knowledge on tactics. They have been there and know where the sinkholes are. Only by learning what has been done before can we keep from making the same mistakes over again. We have the forums. Once again it is time for us to read, think, speak and write about tactics.

I couldn’t agree more with LT McFall. Not only should we get better at sharing the lessons, knowledge and tactics from our more senior officers, we have an obligation to continue to develop tactical solutions that counter the myriad of multi-faceted threats. We have lost the comfort of operating from our traditional maritime sanctuaries. Due to advances and proliferation of weapons technology, the anti-access/area denial capability of our potential adversaries has increased significantly in recent years. We need to identify our capability gaps and prioritize development of tactics that help create and maintain the sanctuaries required to mitigate risk in this new environment.

Earlier this year, Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) launched the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Advanced Tactics Initiative – or “CATI” – to enable the rapid development of training and tactics. “CSG” includes the Carrier Strike Group staff, CVN, CVW, and DESRON elements. CATI is an integrating function designed to synchronize tactics and training development efforts with identified gaps in tactical capability. It will formalize a collection process to capture, document and pass-on CSG lessons, tactics and best practices. Aligned to the Strike Force Training Community assessment process, CATI will socialize the identification and prioritization of emerging CSG employment gaps. Another key element of CATI is the new interactive NWDC CATI SharePoint tool that provides access to developmental projects, operational guidance documents and tactical material while enabling an ongoing discussion of ideas and best practices. It’s all about preparing ourselves, again, to be challenged at sea.

Tactics development has played a major part in the Navy and Marine Corps’ capability to fight and win wars in the past. We intend to breathe new life into tactical discussions to effectively counter future threats and leverage tactical innovation. Tactics are back – jump in and join the conversation!

Reuters has the story.

Russia has been increasing the reach of its navy in recent years, sending warships further afield as part of an effort to restore pride project power in a world dominated by the U.S. military.

That throws a wrench in our Maritime Strategy, it would seem. Or does it? What should our reaction be, militarily? And what, diplomatically? Should there be any?


What makes a class of warship a success, a failure, or a missed opportunity? What fundamentals consistently result in a success, and what common threads need to be avoided in order to not repeat the mistakes of the past?

What decision and results we have seen in previous classes of warships are we seeing repeated now, and what are some options for the Navy going forward?

For warship classes from right before WWII to the present, to discuss this and more will be returning guest, Dr. Norman Friedman.

In addition to numeral articles through the years, Dr. Friedman writes a monthly column, “World Naval Developments” in the US Naval Institute’s magazine, Proceedings and is the author of many books including U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History; Unmanned Combat Air Systems; and Naval Weapons of World War One.

As a starting point for our discussion we will be using Dr. Friedman’s article in the latest edition of the US Naval Institute’s magazine, Naval History, Judging the Good from the Bad.

Catch the show live here (or visit that link later for download or later listen) or listen/download from the Midrats iTunes page.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Podcasts | 3 Comments

While I certainly sympathize with the thrust of John Kuehn’s title in his energetic article about the situation in Afghanistan, I’d like to offer a somewhat different perspective from my position as the Supreme Allied Commander for all NATO operations, including the 140,000, 50-nation coalition in Afghanistan.

First, I want to agree with John’s laudatory comments about our NATO / ISAF Commander in Afghanistan, my Naval Academy classmate and close friend General John Allen; as well as the commander of NATO’s Training Mission – Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Dan Bolger. Both are doing superb work in truly demanding assignments.

In terms of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan, while there are some similarities, the differences are far greater, and far more encouraging than the situation back in 1989.

In comparison to the Soviet Union, the ISAF coalition has devoted great resources to human capital and infrastructure development, and we have devoted significantly greater troop numbers for kinetic operations; and we already are well underway with a responsible and managed turnover of security responsibilities to Afghan National Security Forces. Most importantly, the international community’s commitment to Afghanistan after the majority of ISAF forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan in 2014 is real and tangible: detailed planning is in progress now in NATO.

Read the rest of this entry »

The discussion of junior leader innovation has slowed as of late, in a post-NWDC conference deep breath. One of the regular criticisms levied at LT Ben Kohlmann, LT Rob McFall, and others who have written about the need for disruptive thinking and junior officer innovation is that this is a case of “same old, same old.” In particular, every generation of junior officers has angst and feels that the system is out of balance. According to the critics it is simply the result of the military’s hierarchical organization and structure and there’s nothing to worry about.

History proves part of this observation correct. MAJ Pete Munson at Small Wars Journal has highlighted the USAF’s “Dear Boss” letters in an illustration from the 1970’s. In the 1950’s Proceedings printed LCOL Robert Heinl’s classic “Special Trust and Confidence” which discussed the issues of trust between junior and senior officers in the Marine Corps. Reminiscent of BGEN Arnold’s recent article “Don’t Promote Mediocrity,” in the first two decades of the 20th century Proceedings published a series of articles from junior leaders debating the promotion system and discussing the need for selection boards to pick the officers who were to promote, rather than using a simple system of seniority.

The question becomes, does the JO angst matter? With the long history of generational conflicts, should we even care? The answer is yes. The history demonstrates that there are many times when the issues raised by junior leaders can have an impact on the military’s ability to fight and win the nation’s wars. I’ll share two brief examples.

Read the rest of this entry »

James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence in the Obama Administration, thought so.

From the Daily Beast:

Whether or not sensitive weapons technology was moved to Syria is a hotly disputed question in the intelligence community. James Clapper, now the Director of National Intelligence and formerly the director of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, said in 2003 that he believed materials had been moved out of Iraq in the months before the war and cited satellite imagery.

If the Bashar al-Assad regime falls, and should the securing of the chemical and biological stockpiles of Syria be necessary, what would be the effect if some of those materials and munitions bear Iraqi markings?

Former Iraqi General Sada asserted that Saddam’s chemical stockpile was lifted, in his book “Saddam’s Secrets” and summarized by Investor’s Business Daily:

As Sada told the New York Sun, two Iraqi Airways Boeings were converted to cargo planes by removing the seats, and special Republican Guard units loaded the planes with chemical weapons materials.

There were 56 flights disguised as a relief effort after a 2002 Syrian dam collapse.

The IBD article also mentions Israeli General Yaalon’s assertions, and those of John Shaw regarding Russian assistance in the form of former KGB General Primakov:

There were also truck convoys into Syria. Sada’s comments came more than a month after Israel’s top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam “transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria.”

Both Israeli and U.S. intelligence observed large truck convoys leaving Iraq and entering Syria in the weeks and months before Operation Iraqi Freedom, John Shaw, former deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, told a private conference of former weapons inspectors and intelligence experts held in Arlington, Va., in 2006.

According to Shaw, ex-Russian intelligence chief Yevgeni Primakov, a KGB general with long-standing ties to Saddam, went to Iraq in December 2002 and stayed until just before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003.

Anticipating the invasion, his job was to supervise the removal of such weapons and erase as much evidence of Russian involvement as possible.

An interesting statement from Brian Sayers, the director of government relations for the Syria Support Group:

We believe that if the United States does not act urgently, there is a real risk of a political vacuum in Syria, including the possibility of a dispersion of chemical weapons to rogue groups such as Hezbollah.”

What of a regime such as Saddam Hussein’s in Iraq that was suspected of actively attempting to peddle such weapons?

Should these suspicions surrounding Iraq’s possible pre-invasion transfer of its remaining chemical stockpile be confirmed, the silence being heard in the media regarding them will have been deafening.


Just in case folks still wanted to debate the existence of Syria’s stockpile, I think we might have our answer. How many carry Iraqi markings? How many, Russian?


They’re back; ICBM, IRBM, SRBM. Strategic forces. Long range strike and long range counter-air.
Some real old ones are coming back in to the lexicon: ABM.
Some new ones have joined the party as well – ASBM and super sonic ASCM.
Of course, they never really left us.
After the post-Soviet softness of the 1990s and the decade plus of COIN and small wars – the big toys are coming back. Old and new.
From Russia, China, Iran, and India – technology is reaching back out and spreading out.
Where does that leave the US military in 2012? Few leaders under the age of 45 even remember operating in the Cold War disciplines that peer technology required; range, EMCON, defense in depth.
Global reach will require more and better AAW, deep strike, I&W – it will also require a renewed understanding that for a Fleet at sea – the enemy gets a vote, and a shot.
Our guest for the full hour to discuss in detail will be Will Dossel, CAPT USN (Ret), a former E-2C NFO with over 3500 hours and 525 traps in the E-2C and other TACAIR. Retiring after 26 years, he held a number of Navy and Joint operational and staff positions afloat and ashore including VAW squadron command, CVN navigator, Deputy Director for Strategy and Policy, Navy Planner, and Reconnaissance Systems Officer. Currently employed as a senior analyst with a top 5 defense firm, he has been heavily involved in the policy and operational side of ballistic and cruise missile defense the past seven years.

Listen live by going here. If you miss the live show, you can still listen to the show there or download it to your computer or pull it from iTunes.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Podcasts | No Comments

Guest Post by Lieutenant Doug Robb, U.S. Navy and Lieutenant J.D. Kristenson, U.S. Navy


After more than a decade of asymmetric warfare, conventional security challenges are once again rising to the fore. This has resulted in heightened operational tempo, lengthened deployments, strained ships, and exhausted crews. Given the daunting tasks facing the maritime services, the Surface Navy cannot afford to remain “steady as she goes.” Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert’s article, “Payloads Over Platforms: Charting a New Course,” advocates a capabilities-based approach for future Navy combatants that emphasizes flexibility, adaptability, and longevity both to meet changing threats and address the materiel problems that have plagued the surface force for years. One solution is to create a Fleet comprised primarily of three different platforms based on existing designs. Interestingly enough, there is an organization—albeit a commercial enterprise—that may provide a useful model: Southwest Airlines.

While Southwest Airlines (SWA) and the Navy have divergent missions, there are notable similarities. Although SWA is a private-sector business operating in a highly competitive market, the Navy also provides a consumer (the combatant commander) with a product (warships) designed to execute the mission. Like Southwest, if the Navy does not deliver it risks “losing business” to the other services that are competing for new mission areas in a time of shrinking budget resources.

In recent years, the Navy’s adoption and implementation of business practices has often been clumsy and much of the criticism noting that the Navy is not akin to a private-sector entity is valid. Yet, when dealing with the financial realities of budgeting and procurement that will largely determine the underpinnings of the future Fleet, it is quite reasonable to look to the business practices of successful companies for guidance. Southwest Airlines provides an intriguing template for how the Navy can meet its objectives more efficiently and effectively.

Read the rest of this entry »

It seems that USNS Rappahannock has fired on a small craft that ignored warnings and closed with her in the Persian Gulf. From the NBC News article:

The crew aboard the Navy ship sent out repeated warnings, including radio calls, flashing lights, lasers and ultimately warning shots from a 50-caliber machine gun. When the boat failed to heed the warnings, the crew was ordered to open fire with the 50-caliber gun.

It will be critically important that US civilian and military leadership emphasizes the above, and plasters images and accounts of USS Cole all over the news immediately and persistently for the next several weeks. We should be very proactive in letting the world know that there is a terror threat to US warships and auxiliaries posed by small craft, and any such vessel that ignores the warnings as were summarized above will be fired upon and destroyed.

We mustn’t begin the oh-so familiar course of meekly apologizing for having to kill those who threaten us. If we do, we will see many more actions such as this, likely designed to cause us to fit ourselves for ever-tighter handcuffs and more restrictive rules of engagement in combat on land and sea, which the enemy will use to increasing advantage to exploit his strengths and our weaknesses. On the contrary, we must be firm and aggressive with our reaction to the incident. Actions without strong narrative are subject to interpretation.

If the United States, and in particular the United States Navy, has any sense of true ‘strategic messaging”, we will let the rest of the world know that, should another small craft ignore similar warnings, it, too, will be fired upon. And any death or injury that results from such incidents is the responsibility of those who willfully ignore the warnings, and on those who likely have sent them.



USNS Rappahannock Fires after Vessel ignores warnings:

An embarked security team aboard a U.S. Navy vessel fired upon a small motor vessel after it disregarded warnings and rapidly approached the U.S. ship near Jebel Ali, United Arab Emirates today.

In accordance with Navy force protection procedures, the sailors on the USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) used a series of non-lethal, preplanned responses to warn the vessel before resorting to lethal force.
The U.S. crew repeatedly attempted to warn the vessel’s operators to turn away from their deliberate approach. When those efforts failed to deter the approaching vessel, the security team on the Rappahannock fired rounds from a .50-caliber machine gun.

The incident is under investigation.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy | No Comments
« Older Entries