Archive for September, 2012

Join us 30 Sep 12 at 5pm Eastern U.S. for Episode 143: J. Michael Barrett and a New Middle East Realism on Blog Talk Radio:

Syrian refugees – UNHCR photo

The “Arab Spring” has not turned out as well as many hoped, and in much of the Arab and Muslim world, the will of the people does not necessarily translate in to freedom and a pro-Western leadership.

With many more years to go in the Long War struggle, how do we navigate through the rapidly changing world which is mostly beyond our control?

While we cannot back away, we also cannot control. Is there a better way – and how do we more towards a more honest discussion of the world as it is, not how we wish it to be?

Using his latest article in Defense News, Navigating Chaos, as a starting point for our discussion, our guest for the full hour will be returning guest J. Michael Barrett, CEO of Diligent Innovations and a former director of strategy for the White House Homeland Security Council.

Listen live or later (or download the mp3) here or pick the show up from our iTunes page.

Posted by Mark Tempest in Podcasts | No Comments

A Farewell to the MCPON

September 2012


Last Friday night I was walking down the 4th corridor to my office in N81. It had been a long week. I was a little tired and looking forward to a cold beer when I got home… Then I heard a booming voice call out: “SHIPMATE… ARE YOU COMING TO MY CEREMONY NEXT FRIDAY???”

I turned around to see who it was and recognized a very familiar figure. I immediately regained the spring in my step as I returned to the end of the passageway to greet him. Kind of reminded me of a scene right out of Cold Case as LT j.g. Foggo pumped the hand of Quartermaster Second Class Ricky West and responded: “YOU BET I AM SHIPMATE!”

For a moment, I was back onboard my first boat, USS SEA DEVIL (SSN-664), standing watch as Officer of the Deck with my favorite Quartermaster, Rick West. We sailed that boat all over the Mediterranean and under the Polar Ice Cap on her subsequent Northern Run, climaxing in a dramatic surfacing evolution at the geographic North Pole! Now how cool is that? QM2 Rick West lived on the Conn of that ship. He was the best forceful backup in the Fleet to young LT j.g.s like me. West and the Navigator, LCDR John M. Bird were a great team and there was no obstacle they couldn’t overcome!

Our Commanding Officer, CDR Rich Mies, liked to go fast… after all, we used to call them “fast” attacks for a reason. He constantly challenged the Navigation Team on the Maneuvering Watch to keep them on their toes. Driving in and out of the Cooper River in Charleston, South Carolina, was a challenging Maneuvering Watch with a series of unforgiving hairpin turns—right full rudder… left full rudder—but the saving grace was lots of visual ranges ahead or astern. CDR Mies taught his Junior Officers to Conn the ship independently from the bridge. He wanted us to be more capable mariners so oftentimes, in good weather (no fog or reduced visibility) he would lower both periscopes and we would drive by the range. Just another exciting day on the Captain’s Bridge and my favorite place to be as Surfaced OOD.

Below decks, it was a different story for the Navigation Team. Without visual bearings, the team had to rely on dead reckoning off of the Ships Inertial Navigation System and electronic fixes from Omega and Loran-Charlie (neither very accurate in restricted waters). We had no Global Positioning System, electronic charts or non-penetrating periscopes (cameras) to assist the Navigation Party. This put considerable stress on the Navigator and his team. LCDR John Bird and QM2 Rick West were unflappable. On the bridge, we knew they had to be pulling their hair out in the control room but you would never know it from their voices. West on the 27MC: “Bridge, Quartermaster of the Watch, I have a good electronic fix, hold you on track, 200 yards to the turn, recommend SLOWING to all ahead two-thirds.”

As I looked up from my perch in the cockpit of the bridge for any direction, the typical response from the Captain was, “Steady as she goes Officer of the Deck!” As a young JO, I wondered why he made life so difficult for the Navigation Team but as I matured into the job and my role in the wardroom, I came to realize that the Captain was training all of us for that unexpected eventuality when Murphy’s Law overtakes even the best of ships and bad things happen. USS SEA DEVIL was no different than any other boat—Murphy appeared often—it was a dangerous business, but we were well trained and the Navigation Team overcame adversity with relative ease.

When we transitioned to our Northern Deployment, QM2 Rick West was a key member of the team. Operating USS SEA DEVIL under ice with her state of the art navigation system, i.e. SINS, Loran, Omega, Mk19 and Mk27 gyros was challenging to say the least. We were at least two generations ahead of USS NAUTILUS in our navigation suite, but let’s face it, the Mk27 gyro was originally used on Army battle tanks and had a tendency to tumble as did the Mk19. Loran and Omega were useless north of 66 degrees of latitude which put SINS in the forefront of our way to and from the North Pole. When we transitioned from the Marginal Ice Zone to solid Pack Ice overhead, the Quartermaster of the Watch was even more critical to safety of ship. During this time period, Rick West was almost always “on watch” even when he wasn’t—if you know what I mean—because he cared so much about the ship and the welfare of the crew. Forceful backup was critical and you wanted Rick West on the Navigation Plot. With the aid of our onboard Electronics Techs, West monitored and nursed the navigation suite through the entire deployment. Driving SEA DEVIL around ice keels and finding polynyas (open areas in the ice) to come up for air and a periodic fix was an incredible proving ground for the submerged OOD. Frankly, I loved it. Finding and surfacing the boat at the geographic North Pole for a day of “Polar Liberty” was something that the crew will never forget. West helped get us there… and back.

I could write many more paragraphs about sea stories from the mighty SEA DEVIL, but suffice it to say that it was a great boat and made even better with Sailors like Rick West. An exceptional watchstander, it was not sufficient for him to sit back and just be the QMOW. He sought out additional collateral duties and qualified in more senior watchstations. Proud of his uniform and his appearance, he set the example for other sailors in the crew’s mess. He was a man of principle then, as he is as MCPON now. He was the epitome of the mantra: Ship, Shipmate, Self… and in that order! Always the gentleman, his conduct at work or on the beach was beyond reproach. His word was his bond and his work was precise. When Rick West made a report, you didn’t have to worry about its authenticity or accuracy. During times of high stress, even with no sleep and no endpoint in sight, his positive attitude never wavered. I was therefore not at all surprised when he was selected to be the 12th Master Chief Petty Officer of the United States Navy.

Master Chief West schooled many more officers than me in the art of navigation and the role of the United States Navy Sailor. On USS SEA DEVIL alone this list included Admiral Rich Mies, USN (ret), Royal Navy Exchange Officer Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope (current First Sea Lord of the United Kingdom), VADM John M. Bird, USN (ret), VADM Bill French, USN as well as countless others who rose to leadership positions Master Chief Petty Officers or Chiefs of the Boat. The mark that he left on us and our boat was indelible.

Today, MCPON Rick West will retire and shift the mantle of enlisted leadership to Master Chief Petty Officer (AW/NAC) Mike Stevens. To the MCPON, I say simply thank you for your service and the sacrifice of your family. It is now time to take that last fix, lay down a DR and set a course for new horizons. No matter where the prevailing winds take you, we know you will find success and that you can take great pride in the impact you have made upon generations of Sailors in the United States Navy. So one more time for MCPON West… HOOYAH Navy!

Posted by RDML James Foggo in Navy | 9 Comments

“…We will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region.”

Sustaining US Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense

The strategic guidance for the Department of Defense released in January 2012 clearly emphasizes pivoting to focus on the Asia-Pacific realm. While it notes that the Middle East is still an area of concern, the guidance largely adheres to the Obama administration efforts to shift diplomatic, economic and military strategic focus to the Far East, ending a decade of predominant focus on the Middle East.

But can the United States truly afford to refocus to the Asia-Pacific realm amidst the chaos of the Middle East? Recent events highlight a deeply unsettling trend. Iran is adamant that it will pursue nuclear technology; Israel is just as adamant that it will not permit this to happen. Gulf States are warily following the Iranian progress and ramping up their own weapons acquisitions in the event that Iran acquires nuclear weapons technology.

The United States is leading a coalition of more than thirty nations in an International Mine Countermeasures exercise in the Persian Gulf right now, seeking to sharpen skills as fears of Iranian attempts to mine the Strait of Hormuz reach new highs. Two carriers have been sent to the region to provide “95,000 tons of diplomacy” and act as a reminder of the potent strike potential the US can bring to bear.

Following the riots that led to the recent death of the US Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, the Commander in Chief sent Marine anti-terrorist units and two Arleigh Burke class destroyers to patrol off the coast of Libya. Rioting spread like wildfire throughout North Africa and the Middle East- stretching to countries as widespread as Tunisia, Sudan and even staunch ally Saudi Arabia. Intense diplomatic and military efforts took place to quell violence and halt further action against America.

Ironically, the most violent riots were in countries that received the strongest US support during the last year’s Arab Spring revolts. Countries that were lifted from the yoke of dictatorship- under brutal regimes such as that of Muammar Qaddafi- and given billions of dollars in economic, military and diplomatic assistance have now violently turned on the US. Far from the peaceful, democratic nations we had hoped would emerge, the region is at the brink of turmoil and chaos. US interests may be in a worse state now than under the authoritarian regimes we helped to overthrow.

Even Afghanistan is posing serious challenges just as the ISAF prepares to draw down forces. Taliban focus on disrupting the handover process has been all too successful, generating mistrust as infiltrated Afghan national forces are accused of killing dozens of their international trainers. It remains questionable whether or not the Afghans will be able to emerge with a stable government or slip into chaos following America’s withdrawal.

Regardless of how one views democracy building, we must accept the governments that have formed in the region. We must further understand what this means for US interests aboard- and how it changes our strategic outlook. One of the most basic questions to ask when determining a national security strategy is whether or not the resources exist- or will exist- to enact such a plan. This poses a challenge to a military facing an era of fiscal austerity, stretched by multiple demands on limited resources.

While the Obama administration announced that US strategy would entail a rebalance to Asia, the reality is far more complicated. Though the Asia pivot has garnered immense attention, it is not an entirely new strategy. America never left Asia. Yet it serves to realign focus and resources towards the region on a broad front- economically, diplomatically and militarily. Antiquated focus on the Middle East- including unpopular wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would be shifted to a more modern outlook.

This pivot reflects the belief that Asia is the future- and rightly so. Asia is home to five of our treaty allies and six of the ten most powerful economies in the world. As globalization dominates international trends, our economic success is tied inexorably to that of our Asian trading partners. Asia has emerged as the top economic region in the world, with increasing trade and global impact. The future is in Asia and our national strategy must reflect that.

Yet we may not be able to rebalance just yet. While Asia is clearly the region of the future, recent events have demonstrated that the US cannot leave the Middle East in its current state of turmoil without serious implications for national security. America is quietly amassing naval forces in the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR). The Pentagon announced the rapid redeployment this fall of the John C. Stennis Strike Group after it returned in March from a Middle East deployment. Instead of the planned Western Pacific deployment, the ship will proceed four months early to Central Command.

Despite strategic focus on Asia, the Middle East is simply too tumultuous to leave. With our current fiscal constraints and limited resources, this means that forces heading to Asia will potentially keep on transiting west to arrive on station in the Middle East.

Despite our best efforts to aid democratic movements and stabilize the region, the Middle East is rapidly approaching a crisis point. With the Department of Defense facing tremendous budget cuts, the amount of resources available are limited. American forces simply are not resourced to handle multiple significant crises simultaneously. Assets from Asia must be pulled to help stabilize the Middle East in the short term. This should serve as a poignant reminder that even though the Asia pivot is clearly in our best long term interest, ultimately fiscal limitations and rising regional tensions may prevent truly rebalancing until the Middle East has stabilized.

Mindless habitual behavior is the enemy of innovation… Rosabeth Moss Kanter

Innovation is back! There is an undeniable renewal of interest and forward momentum in innovative thought in the United States Navy today. Why is this? What is driving the renewed attention to innovation?

Several factors influence innovation in both a positive and a negative way. Stephen Rosen discusses many of these factors in his book, “Winning the Next War: Innovation in the Modern Military.” Rosen talks about “technology push,” which occurs when new and disruptive technologies are discovered and sometimes reluctantly incorporated into our warfighting platforms. Though not immediately embraced, over time these technologies can – and often do – revolutionize how we fight. The triumph of steam over sail in the United States Navy is a good example, but one that was hard fought to incorporate or inculcate into the minds of naval officers of that era. Likewise, Rosen’s “demand pull” (or mission pull) stimulates innovation when there is a critical warfighting need and no platform or technology currently available to meet that need. Brave men fought the first and second Battle of the Atlantic in diesel submarines that were cold, cramped, noisy and vulnerable. The need to remain submerged and undetected for long periods of time created a mission pull for nuclear propulsion which contributed to our modern day fleet of highly capable nuclear powered submarines.

While we would have eventually figured out how to put an atomic pile inside a submarine, I think it is fair to say it would not have happened as fast without the contribution of a “maverick” like Admiral Hyman G. Rickover. He drove this process relentlessly and against much opposition, eventually putting to sea the modern SSN. Rickover was unconventional in his methods but he got results. Nowadays, mavericks must learn to work within an even more complex rule set and hierarchy which can stifle innovation. Today’s acquisition process is rather burdensome and although we make the best weapon systems in the world, we must be more responsive in pacing or better yet, exceeding adversary threat capabilities. This of course puts incredible pressure on traditional timelines in research, development and acquisition. Our ongoing efforts to introduce agility and speed into this process must continue if we are to remain a dominant power.

Beyond traditional red-tape, another factor driving – or inhibiting – innovation is money. With competing priorities in the President’s budget, some savings have been realized through reductions in defense spending. Budget reductions and periods of fiscal austerity invariably serve to stimulate critical thought and innovative ways of warfighting. Admiral Jim Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), often quotes a well-known figure in the Royal Navy, Admiral Sir Jackie Fisher who said at the beginning of the twentieth century, “Now that the money has run out we must start to think!” SACEUR’s reference is poignant, as Fisher is primarily celebrated as an innovator, strategist and developer of the Royal Navy of the First World War era. When appointed First Sea Lord in 1904, he recapitalized older vessels still in active service but no longer useful and set about constructing modern replacements. Fisher is rightly credited with creating a battle fleet well prepared to fight Germany at sea during World War I.

By any account, our Navy budget is not insignificant, but we must continue to adapt to potential changes. Following Fisher’s suggestion to “think” may provide the catalyst to innovating our way past many of the challenges we face today. This may seem too obvious, for how else does one find an answer, except to think. But how frequently do any of us commit to the type of thinking required to fully understand issues and then devise possible solutions? Rear Admiral Terry Kraft, Commander of the Naval Warfare Development Center (NWDC) recently published The Innovators Guide which dedicates a full four pages to creative thought and generation of ideas. Thinking may not be as simple as it sounds, but we must commit to it in order to find the right solutions.

Recognizing these constraints, the CNO has challenged us to facilitate innovation across the Navy, and several organizations have taken great strides towards this end. The NWDC is a key stakeholder, and its mission is to “link tomorrow’s ideas to today’s warfighter through the rapid generation and development of innovative solutions to operational challenges.” This is done by operating at the speed of the Fleet and maintaining a focus on non-material solutions for the future. In this way, the NWDC serves as a “think tank” for how we fight tomorrow’s battles.

So why NWDC? I would offer that there are many lessons we must learn from history, and one of my favorites is examined by Barry Posen in The Sources of Military Doctrine, in his study of the German doctrine. He notes that Germany “won the battle of France and lost the Battle of Britain. She won the battle for which she had prepared and lost the one for which she had not. Her military doctrine had long envisioned major land campaigns on the European continent. Operations beyond its shores had been given little thought.” The doctrine worked well, until the context of the battle changed to exceed its design. In operating at the “speed of the Fleet”, the NWDC is positioned to look forward and adapt to the changing battlefield and its dynamic conditions.

I recently read RADM Kraft’s NWDC post entitled “Naval Innovation Reboot”, which provides thought-provoking messages about the rapid pace of communications facilitated by social networks where ideas are transformed into reality at a very high rate. He argues that the Navy has yet to capitalize on the benefits of these advancements, and suggests that we better empower our Sailors – already more than comfortable with this technology – to use it to our advantage. To more directly engage these junior leaders, last summer, the NWDC hosted a “Junior Leader Innovation Symposium.” The symposium was designed to educate these leaders on the importance of innovation, empower them to contribute new ideas, facilitate connected discussion and start to harvest their ideas. In keeping with their broad-based approach, NWDC also brings together leadership from industry, military and academia to ensure an awareness and openness to innovative solutions and ideas. In other words, Kraft knows that the water’s edge for innovation is NOT at the water’s edge.

One of the most recent efforts from NWDC examines the establishment of a Rapid Innovation Cell. In broad terms, the cell is envisioned as a mechanism to transform disruptive ideas into solutions and as an alternative path to fielding solutions.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) is another highly-valuable player in this endeavor. As the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology (S&T) provider, ONR leads the cutting edge of S&T solutions to address Navy and Marine Corps needs. This effort is developed within and among three directorates, one of which is committed to innovation. ONR’s Directorate of Innovation “cultivates innovative science and technology approaches that support the Department of the Navy and facilitate rapid and agile responses to our changing national security environment.”

Armed with state-of-the-art test facilities and a team of world-class scientists and engineers from a variety of fields, they are well-equipped to advance innovative solutions for the most challenging issues. ONR supports a number of programs aimed to streamline the fielding of technology to the Fleet and Forces. When urgent needs are identified through the Urgent Operational Needs Statement (UONS), Joint UONS (JUONS) and Joint Emergent Operational Needs (JEONs) programs, ONR experts are called upon to ensure available technologies are leveraged in solutions for the fleet. As a complementary process ONR also manages CNO’s Speed to Fleet program, which aims to provide quick-reaction mature and new technologies to deliver working prototypes to warfighters in high-risk or high-threat areas within 12-24 months.

Also within ONR’s quick-reaction S&T portfolio, the Tech Solutions program is a transformational business process created by the Chief of Naval Research to provide Sailors and Marines with a web-based tool for bringing warfighter needs to the Naval Research Enterprise for rapid response and delivery. The program accepts recommendations and suggestions, via an on-line submission form, from Navy and Marine Corps personnel working at the ground level on ways to improve mission effectiveness through the application of technology. It is solely focused on delivering needed technology to the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps, within 12-18 months, and moving the sea services toward more effective and efficient use of personnel. The program has a proven track record too, resulting in technology to the fleet including a Catapult Capacity Selector Valve Calculator (CSV) – a hand-held Flight Deck Ops Assistant which eliminates a laborious process of referencing paper manuals to determine catapult settings.

With NWDC and ONR working as partners, the Navy has an infrastructure which is well-postured to support innovation. Just a thought before I move on… One of our S&T scientists recently e-mailed me a link to the U.S. Coast Guard Innovation Program. It’s a five-page document which formally establishes the Coast Guard Innovation Program. There may be a risk of institutionalizing innovation, but we might also benefit from having a written plan which supports innovative thought. The Coast Guard has an Innovation Council not unlike the current effort undertaken by NWDC. It also recognizes innovation in the ranks with an annual award and incentive program and sponsors an annual USCG Innovation Expo in partnership with industry. Perhaps we should follow suit?

Innovation has been described as having several forms. These range from technological to strategic, and I’ll give a more detailed outline of my thoughts on some of these later, but we suggest we must also contemplate the nature of innovation we aim to achieve.

In a recent Proceedings article entitled Payloads over Platforms, the CNO calls for the “decoupling of payload development from platform development (to) take advantage of a set of emerging trends in precision weapons, stealth, ship and aircraft construction, economics, and warfare.” By tracing a timeline of successful payload shifts across the service of the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), his article illustrates some innovative success the Navy has enjoyed, but these successes were a result of coincidence, and perhaps a dose of good luck, rather than initial design. And, even if the blueprints were drawn up to facilitate payload changes, this approach to design is not pervasive enough to support the CNO’s goals. NWDC and ONR have both adopted or structured approaches to facilitate significant changes like this. If we can successfully tap the ideas of our junior leaders on the deck plates, I believe we are well-suited to develop solutions to propel us in the direction the CNO is pointing.

We face difficult challenges, and innovation provides us one path to solving many of them. I encourage all of our Sailors to discuss ideas and contribute thoughts to this blog or any others I have referenced. We need solutions, and we must be open in our search for them. Is the Navy, as an institution best optimized to innovate? How can we do better? I yield to the “wisdom of the crowd” on this matter, and I am confident that many of you have outstanding ideas that we haven’t yet heard. Get ‘em out there!

Over the past few weeks, senior military leaders and intelligence officials have publicly acknowledged the growing threat from foreign military forces to the US homeland. This may seem unrealistic given the overwhelming military advantage the United States has over any other nation’s military, but there are plausible scenarios where the US homeland could be vulnerable to attack, particularly during periods of US military operations overseas.

Before examining emerging threats that may place the security of the homeland at risk, one must first consider the complex problem of escalation. According to RAND, escalation can occur in several forms: vertical, horizontal and political. Escalation can also be carried out through conventional or asymmetric means. Certainly, attacks can be executed in the future to create a more complex hybrid escalation event. The US Military has already encountered the challenges posed by escalation during Operation Desert Storm.

As Iraqi President Saddam Hussein faced the reality of an overwhelming coalition force, he decided to use his over-matched military assets to attack civilian population centers in Israel. He also ignited oil fields in Southern Iraq in order to inflict environmental damage and to restrict coalition military movement. These are examples of horizontal and political escalation, respectively.

In discussing the new DOD Strategic Guidance, Dr. Janine Davidson recently noted that adversaries will likely go asymmetric and irregular to counter a US military advantage. This implies the US homeland will likely be in play should military force be used in the future. US military leaders and policy makers have not had to contend with this reality since World War II.

A host of legal/policy concerns, such as the Posse Comitatus Act and the imposition of wide-spread martial law, would challenge conventional thinking given these scenarios. An effective response would demand an unprecedented level of coordination and integration of Title 10 and Title 32 military forces with federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel. Some scenarios would likely have local law enforcement personnel performing ad hoc para-military operations. A significant military response within the homeland would certainly stress civil-military relations and threaten the civil liberties of US citizens, particularly those of certain ethnic groups associated with the adversary. Could this lead to increased radicalization or even threaten internal stability?

Current military capabilities that could be used to attack the US homeland include:

  • Conventional attacks enabled by emerging technology
  • Special Forces conducting direct action –Mumbai style attacks
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Improvised Explosive Devices
  • Cyber Attacks
  • Psychological Operations
  • Economic Attacks

While these capabilities alone or in aggregate would certainly not defeat the US military, they can inflict damage to the homeland that would cause public support for military operations to either wane or force the military to take more aggressive action than would normally be prudent. Homeland attacks would also impose a significant cost imposition on the US, which would divert scarce resources away from other military operations.

Considering the prolonged military operations over the last decade, would US popular support for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have lasted as long as they have if US citizens were being killed in the homeland? In the future, would direct support for a critical ally, say Israel or Taiwan, withstand foreign military operations on the homeland or would US citizens demand military operations cease, as witnessed in Vietnam or Iraq?

Having to fight a two Combatant Command (COCOM) war has not been experienced by the modern US military since the National Security Act of 1947 established our current organizational structure. This scenario would provide an enormous challenge to coordinate and integrate operations between multiple COCOMs. An example the US could use as a precedent was having to respond to hurricane Katrina, while fighting limited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However during these events, leaders were not faced with command and control challenges or limited military resources. This would certainly not be the case in military operations against a near peer competitor.

The so called American way of war ensured the security of US interests over the past sixty years by taking overwhelming military force to the enemy’s doorstep. Unfortunately, the US will not be afforded that luxury in the future. Our nation’s military and civilian leaders must incorporate defending the homeland into their decision making calculus should military action be realistically considered in the future. The US public must also be aware that the decision to use military force will likely affect the livelihood of each American citizen in ways Americans have not witnessed during this generation.

The plausible scenarios associated with future wars will radically challenge our current perception of complex operations and will make the wars fought over the last 10 years seem like child’s play. The results of past operations speak for themselves and future wars will be even more complex and will demand a far greater level of strategic thinking and adaptation by both military and civilian leaders.

Robert Kozloski is a program analyst with the Department of the Navy and the author of “Rethinking Threats to The Homeland: Considerations for the Joint Force” currently under review at Joint Forces Quarterly.

Russian Torpedo Boat circa 1897.

“There is, at all events, no perplexity exceeding that with which men of former times haven’t dealt successfully.”
– CAPT Alfred Thayer Mahan

Back in 2003 Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, Barry Watts and Bob Work (now the Under Secretary of the Navy) coined the term “A2AD,” for the growing Anti-Access, Area Denial threat posed by the proliferation of long range missiles systems, precision munitions, and satellite technology that will make operations in the littorals more challenging for 21st century naval forces. They were right when they wrote that ignoring the threat “appears to be a huge gamble and one that neither prudence nor history could recommend with much confidence.” The challenge of A2AD spreads from the shores of the Arabian Gulf to the South China Sea and beyond with players like Iran, China, and North Korea continuing to develop and spread the capabilities and technologies like the C-802 anti-ship missile and FAC’s like the Chinese Houbei that has come to symbolize part of the threat.

While it is cast as a threat based on rapidly modernizing, high technology weapons the A2AD threat is actually nothing new in the annals of naval history. Despite the description of certain technologies, like the Chinese DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, as “game changing” and “revolutionary” there are still basic principles of naval strategy and tactics that apply to these weapons. At the turn of the last century the United States and the naval powers of the world faced a similar challenge. Modern technology was advancing weapons systems and making it harder for naval forces to get close to the enemy’s shores. The eminent naval strategist and historian Alfred Thayer Mahan (ATM) wrote on the subject, and offered some thoughts that may be worth considering as the world once again faces A2AD challenges.

In 1911 ATM published the lectures he originally gave at the United States Naval War College in the decade leading up to the start of the 20th century as the book Naval Strategy: Compared and Contrasted with the Principles and Practice of Military Operations on Land. In it he discussed the A2AD threat which developed after he gave his original lectures. “It seems appropriate here to mention, if only incidentally, certain changes in the weapons with which war is waged,” he wrote, continuing “the progress of the submarine, the immensely increased range of the automobile torpedo, and the invention of wireless telegraphy,” were significant changes to the technology of naval warfare. According to ATM the introduction of these new weapons would have an important impact on the development of naval tactics, however, “these consequences will not change the principles of strategy,” which apply to naval warfare.

In his essay “Considerations Governing the Disposition of Navies,” published in May of 1902, ATM also discussed torpedo boats and “the added range of coast guns, which keeps scouts at a much greater distance than formerly, and the impossibility now of detecting intentions which once might be inferred from the conditions of masts and sails.” However, ATM’s continued discussion reminds us that the technologies which make A2AD a challenge are not exclusive of one side in the fight. He says that “on the other hand the sphere of effectiveness has been immensely increased for the scout by the power to move at will, and latterly by the wireless telegraph.” Today there are differences of distances, stand-off ranges, and communications and ISR, but these are the same issues faced over a century ago.

ATM made some suggestions on the tactical and operational level to approach the A2AD threats of his day. He suggested that by taking advantage of high speed and large numbers, “it should be possible to sweep the surroundings of any port so thoroughly as to make the chance of undetected escape very small, while the transmission of the essential facts – the enemy’s force and the direction taken – is even more certain than detection.” Today ATM might call for numerous and inexpensive unmanned systems to work the near shore and scout deep inside the enemy’s coastal WEZ.

Despite the fact many strategy and history students are taught ATM only cared about big guns and battleships, in his concept of the modern fleet which would face the early 20th century A2AD threat ATM wrote “the vessels nearest in are individually so small that the loss of one by torpedo is militarily immaterial; moreover, the chances will by no means all be with the torpedo boat.” After calling for small combatants which can take the fight in close in search of the torpedo boats, while assuming some individual risk, ATM suggested that a group of cruisers sail further out from the enemy’s A2AD threat range. The cruisers are able to sprint to the support of the smaller ships if needed but also able to discover other enemy concentrations, or fall back to support the main battle fleet. ATM pointed out that the main battle fleet has great freedom to maneuver. He said the main force of the fleet can be hundreds of miles away, connected to the scouts, small combatants, and cruisers by wireless and “in a different position every night, [it] is as safe from torpedo attack as ingenuity can place it.” The point is as valid today as it was at the dawn of the last century. The ocean is a large expanse and in order for the enemy to attack, he has to be able to find you. Even satellite surveillance and broad area ISR can only cover a portion of the maritime domain.

ATM believed there was nothing about the early 20th century A2AD threat that fundamentally changed the way naval strategy was developed, or how naval wars were led. There would be changes to tactics, and the requisite adjustments to operational planning that those changes required. He also made the point that a properly balanced Navy, with small combatants, cruisers, and the main battle fleet was required for success in any naval conflict. However, at its heart countering A2AD is more about applying the intellectual rigor to overcome the time, distance, speed differences than it is about fundamental changes to naval strategy; as ATM wrote “war is a business of positions.” In the end, naval commanders must also remember it takes two to have a fight, and the idea is to ensure the enemy is dealing with as many, or more challenges, than you are. You threaten him too and as ATM wrote, “These probabilities, known to the enemy, affect his actions just as one’s own risks move one’s self.”

Join us on Sunday for Episode 142 – IA, E-2, FEF, EDU and the 21C Career Path 09/23 by Midrats

What does an officer do with the opportunistic “white space” the Navy can provide you in your career path?

What does a curious intellect and an operational mindset need to look at doing to meet both?

What are some of the demands and opportunities out there who want something a bit different in their career path?

To discuss this for the full hour as well as a bit about the last props on the carrier deck, will be Captain Herb Carmen, USN.

CAPT Carmen is Naval Aviator with over 4,000 flight hours in the E-2C Hawkeye and C-2A Greyhound, previously commanding the VAW-116 “Sun Kings.” He is an Executive MBA student at Georgetown University McDonough School of Business, and he was previously a senior military fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

His views are his own and do not represent the Department of Defense or the United States Navy.

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Posted by Mark Tempest in Navy, Podcasts | No Comments

After noting the loss of Lt. Col. Raible and Sgt. Atwellt in the attack a week ago, it is natural for many to point out the irreplaceable nature of the AV-8B+ Harriers that were destroyed – our greatest loss of aircraft since the Tet Offensive in Vietnam.

While true, that is just the background. It is also true that every loss of life is significant, but in time except for those who know them – losses become a number or perhaps a thumbnail picture.

It is helpful when the opportunity presents itself to look a little deeper in to a loss. What was the character of those lost? What did they represent? What impact did they have on those they served with, the organizations they led, the services they were members of, and the nation that they gave the ultimate sacrifice?

Thanks to our friends over at SLD – we have a copy of Lt. Col Raible’s Command Guidance. Read it. Ponder it. Compare it to your own. If you are someone soon to take Command and are working on one; here is your benchmark.

From: Commanding Officer, Marine Attack Squadron 211

To: Squadron Attack Pilots


1. Professional hunger.

My goal is to identify those Officers who want to be professional attack pilots and dedicate the resources required to build them into the flight leaders and instructors that are required for the long-term health of our community. This is not a socialist organization. We will not all be equal in terms of quals and flight hours. Some will advance faster than others, and because this is not a union, your rate of advancement will have nothing to do with seniority. Your rate of advancement will instead be determined by your hunger, professionalism, work ethic, and performance.

If flying jets and supporting Marines is your passion and your profession, you are in the right squadron.

If these things are viewed simply as your job, please understand that I must invest for the future in others. Your time in a gun squadron might be limited, so it is up to you to make the most of the opportunities that are presented.

2. Professional focus.

Our approach to aviation is based upon the absolute requirement to be “brilliant in the basics.”

Over the last few years Marine TACAIR has not punted the tactical nearly so often as the admin. Sound understanding of NATOPS, aircraft systems, and SOPs is therefore every bit as important as your understanding of the ANTTP and TOPGUN. With this in mind, ensure the admin portions of your plan are solid before you move onto objective area planning. Once you begin tactical planning, remember that keeping things “simple and easy to execute” will usually be your surest path to success. If the plan is not safe, it is not tactically sound.

3. Attitude.

I firmly believe in the phrase “hire for attitude, train for skill.”

Work ethic, willingness to accept constructive criticism, and a professional approach to planning, briefing, and debriefing will get you 90% of the way towards any qualification or certification you are pursuing. The other 10% is comprised of in-flight judgment and performance, and that will often come as a result of the first 90%. Seek to learn from your own mistakes and the mistakes of others. Just as a championship football team debriefs their game film, we are going to analyze our tapes and conduct thorough flight debriefs. It has often been said that the success of a sortie is directly proportional to the caliber of the plan and brief. The other side of this coin is that the amount of learning that takes place as a result of a sortie is directly proportional to the caliber of the debrief.

4. Moral courage.

Speak up if something seems wrong or unsafe.

We all know what the standards are supposed to be in Naval Aviation and in the Corps. Enforce them! When we fail to enforce the existing standards, we are actually setting and enforcing a new standard that is lower.

5. Dedication.

If you average one hour per workday studying, 6 months from now you will be brilliant. That is all it takes; one hour per day. As you start to notice the difference between yourself and those who are unable to find 60 minutes, I want you to know that I will have already taken note.

Then, I want you to ask yourself this question: “How good could I be if I really gave this my all?”

6. When all else fades away, attack pilots have one mission: provide offensive air support for Marines.

The Harrier community needs professional attack pilots who can meet this calling.

It does not require you to abandon your family. It does not require you to work 16 hours per day, six days per week. It requires only a few simple commitments to meet this calling: be efficient with your time at work so that you can study one hour per day; be fully prepared for your sorties and get the maximum learning possible out of every debrief; have thick skin and be willing to take constructive criticism; find one weekend per month to go on cross country. When you are given the opportunity to advance, for those few days go to the mat and give it your all, 100%, at the expense of every other thing in your life.

To quote Roger Staubach, “there are no traffic jams on the extra mile.”

If you can be efficient during the workweek, give an Olympian effort for check rides and certifications, and are a team player, the sky will literally be the limit for you in this squadron.


“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

This is what the First Amendment states. At the root of things the only way for the First Amendment to be “violated” is for the Congress to pass a law that abridges one of these rights.

So where does the recent discussion trend of General Dempsey’s commentary (or lack thereof) on political organizations and activities by veterans fit? Is he seeking to restrict free speech? Or is he exercising his own freedom?

How does the current problems with “The Innocence of Muslims” tie in? Mentor and friend David Kaiser writes that “[An]other American trend is now forty years old, and relates to our changing attitude towards free speech. I remain totally opposed to any restrictions on free speech, include laws against hate speech, but the time has come to face a necessary truth: free speech has to be exercised responsibly to work. Beginning in the 1960s the idea has grown that the purpose of speech is to be outrageous, and that the more outrageous speech might be, the more protection–if not celebration–it deserves. Free speech that, for instance, points out abuses by our own government or calls attention to real dangers overseas has enormous value, but free speech that simply insults millions of Muslims does not.”

I’d been thinking this idea but as usual Dr. Kaiser is better able to explain it than I.

So, as I see it, when General Dempsey said “it’s not helpful to me” he expressed that speech should have some constraints. Others disagree. Which they are able to do because of the First Amendment. However, commanders have another problem that transcends the complaints of the chattering masses.

Let’s start with a clear statement – sexual assault is bad. It’s illegal, it’s immoral, its counter to every value our government of the people, our culture, and our modernity stand for. It’s also prevalent in the world and has been and will remain so.

What happens when a well-meaning or intended comment comes from leadership? Take for example Marine Commandant General Amos’ statements on sexual assault. In a world tour of Marin bases the general has had some tough talk.

Michael Doyle of McClatchy Newpapers writes:

“Amos used his tour to stress his own strong feelings about the 348 reported sexual assaults in the Marine Corps last year. In a roughly 75-minute talk intended for every Marine non-commissioned officer and officer, the career aviator demanded tougher punishment for those accused of sexual misconduct.

“Why have we become so soft?” Amos asked in a speech April 19 at Parris Island.

He further described himself as “very, very disappointed” in court-martial boards that don’t expel those who misbehave sexually, and he denounced as “bullshit” claims that many sexual assault allegations amount to second thoughts from individuals who initially consented.

“I know fact from fiction,” Amos declared, a transcript of his April 19 speech shows. “The fact of the matter is 80 percent of those are legitimate sexual assaults.”

“My lawyers don’t want me to talk about this, but I’m going to anyway,” he said May 23 at California’s Camp Pendleton, according to a defense legal filing. “The defense lawyers love when I talk about this, because then they can throw me under the bus later on and complain about unlawful command influence.”

These and other comments have led to 20 charges of unlawful command influence by the Commandant in Marine sexual assault cases. All because the Commandant thought he was talking tough to Marines.

This is where I believe URR and others were concerned about the intent and import of the statement made by General Dempsey regarding veteran politics. By merely weighing in he inserted command influence, whether he liked it or not. Once he weighed in he had an opportunity to show how his own ideas of restrained free speech would work when Admiral Nathman and 40 some other former servicemembers stood on the stage at the Democratic National Convention. The Chairman’s silence has provided other potential lenses to view his original comments.

Some see his actions as toadying to the President and taking a clear partisan stance. Veterans for Democrats = good. Veterans against Democrats = bad. One commenter even went so far as to press the idea that the Chairman is a Hitlerian lackey who would take an oath to serve and defend the President.

Now, I don’t subscribe to that idea. I firmly believe that if given an illegal order, the Chairman would sooner resign than take an oath to an individual, or choose to violate the Constitution. However, I think there may be a greater problem here and it falls to the concept of careerism.

Rather than political I believe that the Chairman may have fallen for the old “that which interests my boss, fascinates me” canard. Same thing happened to the Commandant.

It’s a great rubric for simple minds – and I do not think that General Dempsey or General Amos are simpleminded men.

But I do think the Chairman saw his boss getting pummeled and bothered by criticism. And the Chairman should have a personal relationship with his boss. The problem is that when the Chairman made his comments he was speaking from a personal level and forgot that he was commanding and that by making the comment it could be seen as undue command influence. Just like the Commandant. Or Admiral Mullen with his comments at the end of DADT. It is one thing to lead. It is another to lead in such a way that you illegally, or incorrectly, abrogate someone’s rights under the very Constitution we have sworn to protect and defend.

Finally, there’s a second point to the piece that Dr. Kaiser writes. Provocative speech, while free or allowable, should not be the only way in which the discourse occurs. And all too often blogs and commentators fall victim to provocation over prose. We can, and should, hold leaders, ourselves, and our subordinates accountable for their words and deeds. But we should also strive to do so in as reasoned and rational a manner as possible. It’s something I have struggled with for years and will continue to do so. Sure, our tempers can get away from us. But when we speak on someone else’s podium we also have an obligation to maintain a standard that fits the professionalism of the organization.


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