Archive for January, 2013

In June and July of last year USNI published my series of posts on William Sims and the Gunnery Revolution. The discussion of innovation inside military has continued at a slow boil. I was recently invited to Tampa to speak at the U.S. Special Operations Command Innovation Conference. It was a great conference and the speakers included a number of luminaries from the innovation and technology sectors of the business world, including Tom Kelley of IDEO and Michael Jones of Google. The auditorium was filled will staff officers, DoD and contract civilians, and the front table was crowded with Senior Executive Service civilians and Flag and General Officers including Admiral McRaven.

The involvement of Junior Officers in innovation has certainly been highlighted in the past year. However, what is the role of the mid-grade or senior officer? And what about an officer’s peers? In my talk at SOCOM, I told the story of “The Gun Doctor” William Sims again, but with a slightly different focus at the end. The story I’ve told you here at USNI about the Gunnery Revolution is the story as Sims himself likely would have told it. It’s the story that appears in many history books. However, when you keep reading, and get into some of the letters and reports of the time, you realize that while William Sims was the driving force, the brains and the brawn behind this innovation, he wasn’t exactly alone. The Gunnery Revolution had an entire cast of supporting characters, including a number of Senior Officers and some staff officers who were Sims’ friends and peers.


Open Minded Seniors

When Lieutenant Sims was on China Station the Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Squadron was Rear Admiral George Remy. Remy was a hero of the Spanish American War and was one of the most highly respected officers of the day. He held a position that is roughly equivalent to the Commander of PACOM today. Sims’ reports went through Admiral Remy on their way back to Washington. The Admiral always added an endorsement and it was always a positive endorsement. Sims’ time on China Station wasn’t entirely spent onboard KENTUCKY. After he forwarded the first couple reports to D.C. Admiral Remy ordered him onto his staff aboard the flagship USS BROOKLYN. Sims was given the position of “Special Intelligence Officer,” an invented job that wasn’t on the organizational chart. Remy told him that he had free reign to work on, study, and report on whatever he wanted; from the growing potential for military conflict between Japan and Russia, to comparisons of the designs of foreign warships on China Station, to gunnery tactics, techniques, and procedures. Remy was a key enabler by helping to create the time and space for Sims to do his work.

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What’s happening on Tubbatha Reef is covered in detail by Galrahn at Information Dissemination. The facts will, likely, come out in the ensuing investigation. On the off chance that pundits and investigators alike are unfamiliar with the Navy’s history with groundings or ship losses, here are a few things to consider…

October 8th, 1957 – USNS Mission San Miguel (AO-129) runs aground on Maro Reef in the Hawaiian Islands while running at full speed and in ballast. She sinks but her crew is rescued by LST 664.

August 22nd, 1958 – USS Prestige (MSO-465) sinks after running aground off Shikoku, Japan.

July 17th, 1965 – USS Frank Knox (DDR-742) runs aground on Pratas Reef in the South China Sea while underway to Taiwan. The ship is pulled free on 22 August.

November 3rd, 1966 – USS Tiru (SS-416) runs aground on Frederick Reef in the Coral Sea and is freed on 6 November.

February 6th, 1968 – The USS Bache (DD-470) drags anchor off Rhodes harbor, Greece, in hurricane force winds and runs aground on rocks, splitting the ship from stem to stern, but there are no serious injuries. On 17 February the ship suffers further damage in a two-day storm. The ship is so badly damaged, rather than refloated it is decommissioned on 26 February.

September 23rd, 1973 – USNS Sgt. Jack J. Pendleton (T-AKV-5) runs aground near Triton Island in the Paracels and is abandoned.

April 23rd, 1973 – USS Force (MSO-445) catches fire and sinks about 820 miles west of Guam in the Philippine Sea. Seventy crewmen who abandon the Force are picked up the next day by the British merchant ship Spratnes.

May 8th, 1982 – USS Chauvenet (T-AGS-29) runs hard aground on Dauisan Reef in the Cagayan Islands in the Sulu Sea while underway from Subic Bay, Philippines, to survey grounds in Indonesian waters. After two-and-one-half weeks of salvage efforts, the ship is refloated by U.S. Navy salvage teams and towed to the Ship Repair Facility in Subic Bay.

Not all of those COs were summarily relieved. One was court martialed, one was promoted. The others, well, I’m still researching those.

Either way, the CO, XO, and crew deserve some things from us, and from the institution. They deserve that we talk to them forthrightly. That we ask them questions and not act as if this is a dark incident, never to be spoken of. They deserve to be afforded some level of grief counseling, without question, chagrin, or judgement.

The US Navy has not lost a ship in forty years. Let us hope this is a time for learning, educating, and grieving…not one for affixing blame.

Please join us for Episode 160: CHINFO and Peter J. Munson 01-27, 5pm on Midrats at Blog Talk Radio:

In an information driven society wrapped in a 24-hr news cycle, what is the mission, responsibility, and the primary responsibilities of the Navy’s Chief of Information?

Well, you couldn’t ask for a better guest to help flesh out the answer to that question. Our guest for the first half-hour will CHINFO-actual, Rear Admiral John Kirby, USN.

For the second half of the hour we will have returning guest, Major Peter J. Munson, USMC – author of War, Welfare and Democracy: Rethinking America’s Quest for the End of History – a sobering view of how we got where we are, and the underlying trends that will impact the global system, and America’s place in it, for the next half century.

If you can’t make it live, listen or download here or from our iTunes page.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at Kings College in London, Jan. 18, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta speaks at Kings College in London, Jan. 18, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

SECDEF Panetta was just in London speaking at King’s College. He touched on many significant points for the trans-Atlantic relationship going forward into the rest of the 21st Century. However, in relation to my last blog post, he closed with a significant statement,

As I retire from my own career in public service, I recognize that there is a generational shift underway. There will probably not be another U.S. secretary of defense with direct memories of World War II. Many of those entering military service today — and many of the young students here in this audience — were born years after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet across the generations, the transatlantic alliance remains the rock upon which we will build our future security and our future prosperity.

Generations are changing, and the rock upon which Churchill and the next generation built is not the same one that will be recognized tomorrow. It’s there as a foundation, but one that is a few stories below where we are today. It’s becoming abstract, a page in history, not something that was lived. And that is a significant cultural change.

Our decision making cannot take for granted something as significant as the Second World War, or even the Cold War, as living memory. Obviously, at the SECDEF level such a notion is not being taken for granted. But, still, the cultural shifts currently underway amount to a buried lede. A clear-eyed recognition of what is underway is important for decision makers at all levels, in my opinion, as this shift is something we must manage if we are to maintain a leadership role in the World.

History is dead; long live history.

In Bob Woodward’s book Obama’s Wars, the author highlights the president’s frustration with the military advice he received leading up to the surge in Afghanistan. Woodward recounts an exchange between the president and the chairman of the joint chiefs:

Obama: You guys just presented me with four options, two of which are not realistic… Of the remaining two, 40,000 and 30,000 to 35,000 are about the same… You have essentially given me one option. You’re not really giving me any options…. We were going to meet here today to talk about three options.

Mullen: No, I think what we’ve tried to do here is present a range of options, but we believe Stan’s [McChrystal] is the best. (p. 278)

The issue of presidential dissatisfaction with military advice is not a new one; problems in the Kennedy, Johnson, Ford and Carter administrations are well documented. As a result, improving military advice to civilian authority was one of the fundamental goals of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (G-N).

At the heart of the problem, political leaders often seek options for the best use of military force while military leaders present advice in the form of a recommended course of action, derived from a consensus-based planning process. Former DASD for Plans Dr. Janine Davidson masterfully describes this problematic relationship in her forthcoming article in Presidential Studies Quarterly (Winter 2013). She concludes, “Ultimately, the output of the military’s planning process fails to deliver the type of nuanced advice in the form of creative options that the president needs.”

Davidson attributes the “broken dialogue” to three sources of civil-military friction. The first source relates to the difference in expectations of civil-military control. Two differing schools of thought help frame this issue. Military leaders are more likely to be part of the Samuel Huntington school while political leaders are likely to subscribe to the Eliot Cohen school.

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Rise of the Declinists

January 2013


1-s2.0-S0003682X09001959-gr2Plans, expectation, and beautiful theories can all be changed, destroyed, or morphed in to radically different futures in the blink of an eye.

Russian Dadaists, Berlin’s avant guard, American segregationists, and in our own parochial time; those who spent their year working of the QDR in 2001; they know how it can happen.

What seems obvious in hindsight is not, for most, that obvious to those closest to it, distracted from it, or willfully floating along in a sea of indifference.

There are times, decision or pivot points for some, where the signs become clear. That steady, darkening, and thickening line starts to burn through the ambient noise. It looks familiar, it is harmonic of what you have seen before – it cannot be ignored. It demands action

You only get the Fleet your nation decides to buy, more people need to accept that … and the political and economic reality we are in.

Former Senator Hagel has been nominated to be the next Secretary of Defense. In an August 2011 interview with The Financial Times’ Stephanie Kirchgaessner, he stated the following;

The defence department, I think in many ways has been bloated.

I think the Pentagon needs to be pared down. I think we need the Pentagon to look at their own priorities.

There’s a tremendous amount of bloat in the Pentagon, and that has to be scaled back …

I don’t think that our military has really looked at themselves strategically, critically in a long, long time. Every agency needs to do that. The Department of Defence, and I’m a strong supporter of this … no American wants to in any way hurt our capabilities to national defence, but that doesn’t mean an unlimited amount of money, and a blank cheque for anything they want at any time, for any purpose. Not at all. Not at all, and so the realities are that the mess we’re in this country, with our debt and our deficits, and our infrastructure and jobless and all the rest, is going to require everybody to take a look, even the defence department, and make a pretty hard re-evaluation and review.

President Obama picked Hagel for very specific reasons, and his views above are not unknown and were part of that. Good people can agree or disagree on the substance of his argument, but that is the fact both sides will have to work with.

Next, let’s look to the uniformed side of the house. In a speech at SNA earlier this week, Vice Admiral Copeman stated the following;

Ultimately, (Copeman) warned, “if you don’t want to get hollow, you have to give up force structure.”

“Resources are going to drop. They’re going to drop significantly,” the admiral said. … “If it were my choice,” Copeman said, “I’d give up force structure to get whole. But it’s not always my choice.”

There are just a few tidbits of I&W to ponder.

In the last few years, we have heard a lot of talk about a Fleet of 313 and now 300. Many of us have been arguing for half a decade that neither is the number we should be looking at, that is not what the nation will fund; 270 to 240 is more likely.

“If we cannot have the navy estimates of our policy, then let’s have the policy of our navy estimates.”

—- Lieutenant Ambroise Baudry, French Navy

If this is the maritime Zeitgeist for the remainder of this decade, then let’s embrace it. We can’t stomp our feet and hold our breath until the Pentagon turns blue.

How do we best do it? What do we need to preserve – what should we cut – what will we have to get rid of root-n-branch?

What are our priorities?

The smart money on the future is on who the CINC is hiring, what that hire’s recent statements say about his ideas, and what our senior officers are starting to send out trial balloons on to test the winds.

Episode 158: 3rd Anniversary Show 01/13 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio at 5pm Eastern U.S.:

Join us this Sunday to celebrate Midrat’s 3rd Anniversary with a free-ranging panel discussion with some of your favorite guests from the past three seasons.

Join your hosts Sal from “CDR Salamander” and EagleOne from “EagleSpeak” with regular guests on the panel; Captain Henry J. Hendrix, Jr. USN; Captain Will Dossel, USN (Ret); LCDR Claude Berube, USNR; and YN2 H. Lucien Gauthier, III (SW) USN.

We will be asking each other questions on the above-the-fold subjects of the last year and what we see in the next.

Join in the chat room for to suggest your own questions as well.

Listen in live here or download it later from here or from our iTunes pages here.

topics_01In the course of reading Robert Kaplan’s article in the Wall Street Journal, I had to back up and read this twice.

The Japanese navy boasts roughly four times as many major warships as the British Royal Navy.

Wait … what?

OK, that reality has sunk in over the last decade – but we are still a bit of an Anglophile navy, and even with the Pacific Pivot, we still give the mother country a lot of heft for historical and emotional reasons.

In their constitutional quasi-isolation, Japan’s very real power has

Here is the context;

… in Asia. Nationalism there is young and vibrant—as it was in the West in the 19th and 20th centuries.

Asia is in the midst of a feverish arms race, featuring advanced diesel-electric submarines, the latest fighter jets and ballistic missiles. China, having consolidated its land borders following nearly two centuries of disorder, is projecting air and sea power into what it regards as the blue national soil of the South China and East China seas.

Japan and other countries are reacting in kind. Slipping out of its quasi-pacifistic shell, Japan is rediscovering nationalism as a default option. The Japanese navy boasts roughly four times as many major warships as the British Royal Navy. As for Vietnam and the Philippines, nobody who visits those countries and talks with their officials, as I have, about their territorial claims would imagine for a moment that we live in a post-national age.

The disputes in Asia are not about ideology or any uplifting moral philosophy; they are about who gets to control space on the map.

Silly Transformationalists … dreaming is for kiddies. Get ye back to your history books!

Back on topic though; yes, the facts are clear.

Though you can find +/- difference depending on source, definitions, and recent com/decom; here are the numbers:
Royal Navy:
Helicopter Carriers: 2
Amphibious Ships: 2
Destroyers: 7
Frigates: 13
Submarines: 6-SSN, 4-SSBN

We’ll call that 24.

Japanese Navy:
Helicopter Carriers: 2 (technically 4, all of which are helicopter carrying destroyers. The SHIRANE Class of 2 are only half decks and are really just destroyers. HYUGA Class of 2 are no-kidding helicopter carriers. Two more much larger 19,500 ton ships on the way this decade as well).
Amphibious Ships: 5
Destroyers: 40
Frigates: 6
Submarines: 16-SS

We’ll call that 67. If you are what Salamander defines as “major combatants” then you have 2.8 times, not 4x, but there are lots of ways to count. Perhaps they are looking at smaller ships as well. By either definition though, it should give one pause not only to reflect about the decline of the Royal Navy – but more importantly – the latent and potential power of the Japanese Navy.

Anyone who has worked with the Japanese will agree with me as well that from a professional point of view, they are an exceptionally quality force.

Here is the tie in.

Did you catch this little memo?

Japan’s Defense Ministry will request a second boost to its military budget, according to reports, just a day after the government announced the first Defense budget increase in 10 years.

The boosts, although relatively modest compared with Japan’s overall defense spending, coincide with increasing tensions in the Asia Pacific region.Japan’s Defense Ministry intends to ask for 180.5 billion yen ($2.1 billion) from a government stimulus package – on top of an increase of more than 100 billion yen ($1.1 billion) to its military budget announced earlier this week – in order to upgrade its air defenses, according to the BBC..

Good. Japan needs to continue to do this, and we should welcome the move as long overdue (though don’t get too excited, their larger budgetary problems are even greater than ours). Europe fades, Royal Navy withers … where can the USA look for its major partner at sea?

We don’t have to look far. With the tweaks they are on the road to make in their Constitution – Japan is right there.

Discussing Congressional politics over at Facebook I made the following comment.

The past is dead, and only exists on the pages of books. Chart a new course and new future.

I was questioned pointedly as to what I exactly mean in that statement; and rightfully so. Am I saying that that history gives us no lessons to learn from? Am I saying that we live in such unique times that all that’s come before is irrelevant? Not quite. I will use this blog to expand on my sentiment, and hopefully give some insight into what I consider the defining theme of the current Era.

We don’t live in the 20th Century any more. The themes we based our American Perspective on are geopolitically (and more) dead. There is no iron curtain, there is no soviet menace, there are no dominos to keep from falling. In the last decade or so we have not witnessed the end of history, what we have witnessed was the end of the 20th Century American paradigm.

America’s waffling in international affairs, our inability to articulate a strategy–especially grand strategy–comes not from lack of strategic ability, but from a lack of grand narrative. While it seems as if it were easy for us creating such a narrative in looking back, it was not an easy thing to clearly accept and define who we were (and who we should become) as a Nation from the start of the Cold War. Though we made the decisions, and we thus defined who we were going to be politically, socially, and on the world stage. Such decisions are made generationally and change with each subsequent generation.

My perspective differs greatly from those older than myself. I turned 18 in 2000, I will be 31 in a few weeks. Think about that for a minute. Much is said regarding the personality of Millennials, Generation Y, older Generation X, or whatever the nomenclature is for people around my age. But what is said is largely centered around the personality quirks of Americans 30 and younger. But, those quirks are based upon experience.

I’ve been in Europe for two years and three days. I’ve worked in NATO for this whole time. The impetus for NATO’s creation largely no longer exists, NATO has for the last few years been reinventing itself because of the loss of its impetus. But, beyond NATO all of the geopolitical realities of Europe are in flux. Additionally, the United States and our relationship to Europe is also undergoing change. While we were liberators in the 20th Century, the deeds done by the US are not a vibrant living memory any more. The monuments are here, the appreciation for what was done is still here. But, the men and women who did the liberation for the most part are not. As well, those who were liberated are not. The decisions made by US and European leaders are not being made in the Cold War paradigm either; decisions are not being made between people who were making decisions during the 20th Century.

Now, take this one step further–the average person. The average person not being either academically or personally steeped in the history of the Second World War or the Cold War, what do they think of the World in which we all live today? How do they self identify as a citizen of a nation? How do they understand the actions taken by other nations? Inherently, it will have to differ significantly from how those that lived through the Second World War and Cold war did (or do).

While I live in a World that results from theirs I cannot make decisions based upon what they did. I must inherently stand on my own and make decisions based on my own merit. This is the nucleus from which my generation of leaders will make decisions.

In all this, I am saying that for all intents and purposes, for those currently in power and for those who are coming to power: That history, which is arguably the greatest in all of America’s history, is not relevant in the sense that I cannot claim credit for it, nor should anyone give me that credit. My self and my nation are only as good as it’s current generation.

Perspective matters, as does how a people identify themselves and their nation. In the American experience I’ve noticed a predilection to point to our recent history as an exemplar of who we are. There is inherently nothing wrong with this, but there is some peril in doing so. The peril is in making decisions based on what once was. On living under the auspices of those no longer alive. A habitual form of ancestor worship in the worst sense.

America needs to come to terms that the 20th Century is over. The ways we did things then do not translate over very well into this 21st Century. Mark Twain talked about how history rhymes. And what we’re doing now is looking for that syllable that fits perfectly in relation to the previous stanza, and the whole World is too. Culturally, geopolitically, philosophically, and damn near everything is being defined for a new age. That, is the defining theme for today.

We can either be annoyed or frightened by this reality, or we can embrace it. But, by embracing it we have to let go of the past and not conflate what we do today with what was done in the past. What we do today defines what America is, not what our ancestors did. We’re only as good as we allow ourselves to be. The goodwill we earned as liberators and defenders of freedom has nearly run its course. It’s now up to the living to make new decisions predicated upon today’s realities that can either be as good or worse than our ancestors decisions.





Join us at 5pm (Eastern U.S.), 6 Jan 2013, for the first live episode of the new year, Episode 157: “Force Structure and Tipping Points”:

What happens when a global maritime power finds itself in a position where it can no longer sustain the global presence it once considered an essential requirement?

The US Navy has been in a period of decline in both numbers and capability for awhile, and as budgetary reality sets in and burn out starts to hollow remaining capabilities – the decline is set to continue for at least another decade.

How far the decline goes until stability sets in is unknown, but what is the best reaction to this reality? Are the lessons one can derive from history that can help policy makers shape direction and priority going forward?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss will be Daniel J. Whiteneck, Ph.D.

Dr. Whiteneck is a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Naval Analyses. He has directed projects ranging from Tipping Point and the future of US maritime dominance, to the use of naval forces in deterrence and influence operations. He also led studies on naval coalition operations and maritime security operations focusing on counter-piracy and counter-proliferation.

Dr. Whiteneck deployed twice with Carrier Strike Groups for OEF and OIF. His CNA field assignments included two tours on numbered fleet staffs, as well as field representative to the Commander of NATO Joint Command Lisbon in 2004-05. He also did three tours in the Pentagon as CNA Scientific Analyst to N51, N31, and OPNAV DEEP BLUE.

He held academic positions at the Seattle University, the University of Colorado, and the Air Force Academy, before joining CNA. In addition to authoring a number of CNA studies over the past 14 years, he has published articles and book chapters on US and British global leadership and naval operations, NATO’s expansion and operations, and the role of conventional and strategic deterrence against terrorist networks and rogue states after 9/11.

Join us live here or download the show later from Midrats on BlogTalkRadio or from our iTunes page.