Archive for October, 2013

For the 150th anniversary of the U.S. Naval Academy, the Naval Institute’s Proceedings compiled memories of midshipmen who went on to prominence later in their lives. The following is from Captain Edward L. “Ned” Beach Jr., who recalled Orson Welles’ 1938 (75 years ago today) radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” Though he remembers it to have happened on “Halloween night,” it actually took place the night before. The Naval Institute’s headquarters in Annapolis, Beach Hall, is named after Ned and his father, Captain Edward L. Beach Sr. Murray Frazee, the midshipman who tipped Ned off about the “invasion,” went on to become the Executive Officer of the USS Tang in World War II under Richard H. O’Kane.
—Fred Schultz, Managing Editor, Proceedings
Hat tip Claude Berube

Beach Cartoon

CIMSEC-LogoUSCG Mobile Training Branch member, James Daffer, has traveled the world. We talk with him about what he’s seen in the world of capacity building for maritime security abroad, soft power and relationship building, cultural challenges when working amongst different peoples, and stories about his travels. SC Episode 6 – USCG Adventures (Download)

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SC Episode 5: Africa
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Sea Control: First Podcast

1705 by Sean Lawler

1705 by Sean Lawler

Four years. It really doesn’t seem that long really; a tour at a land unit, maybe two afloat. However, in terms of loosing Shipmates, reality of time lost starts to set in the next day and thus any time afterwards is, well, forever.

It was four years ago today that the Coast Guard and the Marine Corps lost some of their Shipmates during a midair collision of Coast Guard Rescue 1705 and a Marine Corps helicopter off the coast of California.

On the night of 29 October 2009 I was standing watch within the LANT Area Command Center as the SAR Controller; I took the Critical Incident Communications (CIC) call as it came in from the West Coast via HQ. I can easily recall the near three hour long conference call and listening to the voice fluctuations of the Search and Rescue Controllers as they were getting the direct communications from those on scene.

The most vivid moment that’s still ground into my skull was hearing- through a radio over the phone- that those on scene had found a “huge tire” with a marking of “Sacto” on it… my heart sank; my stomach hurt. As I rushed to find out who was on that flight I remember going into a cold sweat; the Coast Guard isn’t that large of a service. The aviation community within is even smaller. I was, as many know, a prior Navigator aboard our C-130′s. While most of my time was spent in Kodiak, AK I have a deep appreciation of those who fly in the more traffic-heavy areas of the nation- it’s hard work.

In the end little to nothing was found from the downed aircraft, less immediate debris, nor any bodies recovered. Please take a moment today to remember those who were lost four years ago today;

  • Lt. Cmdr. Che J. Barnes was the commander of CG-1705, an HC-130 long-range surveillance aircraft based at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, Calif. A 1996 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, Barnes was awarded the 2009 Cmdr. Elmer F. Stone Aviation Crew Rescue Award. During his 17-year Coast Guard career, Barnes also received the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, three Coast Guard Achievement Medals and two Coast Guard Letter of Commendation

    A native of Capay, Calif., Barnes is survived by his father, Martin K. Barnes; twin brother, Noah L. Barnes, brothers; Thaddeus F.M. Barsotti, and Freeman O. Barsotti; and girlfriend, Carrie Reynolds. He is preceded in death by his mother, Kathleen F. Barsotti.

  • Lt. Adam W. Bryant was the co-pilot of CG-1705. Bryant was a 2003 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy and was a recipient of the Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation ribbon.

    A native of Crewe, Va., Bryant is survived by his mother, Nina Bryant; father, Jerry Bryant; and brother, Benjamin Bryant.

  • Chief Petty Officer John F. Seidman was the flight engineer of CG-1705, an HC-130 long-range surveillance aircraft based at Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento, Calif. In his 23 years of service, Seidman was awarded the Coast Guard Commendation Medal, Coast Guard Achievement Medal, Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and
    seven Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Stockton, Calif., Seidman is survived by his wife, Jennifer Seidman; parents, William (Bill) and Connie Seidman; and brother, Jeffery Seidman.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Carl P. Grigonis was the navigator of CG-1705. In his nine years of service, Grigonis was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and three Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, Grigonis is survived by his wife, Kristen Grigonis; his son, Hayden; the upcoming arrival of their daughter, Kalina; his mother, Janina Grigonis; and brother, George Grigonis.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Monica L. Beacham was the radio operator of CG-1705. In her nine years of service, Beacham was awarded two Coast Guard good conduct medals.

    A native of Decaturville, Tenn., Beacham is survived by her husband, Seaman Travis Beacham; her daughter, Hailey; her mother, Shirl Jean Merrell; brother, Michael Gipson; and sister, Kelly Johnson.

  • Petty Officer 2nd Class Jason S. Moletzsky was air crew for CG-1705. In his seven years of service, Moletzky was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal, two Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbons, and two Coast Guard Good Conduct Medals.

    A native of Norristown, Pa., Moletzky is survived by his fiancé, Christiana Biscardi; parents, John and Lisa Moletzsky; and sisters, Amanda and Rebecca Moletzsky.

  • Petty Officer 3rd Class Danny R. Kreder II was drop master for CG-1705. In his four years of service, Kreder was awarded the Coast Guard Commandant’s Letter of Commendation Ribbon, and the Coast Guard Good Conduct Medal.

    A native of Elm Mott, Texas, Kreder is survived by his wife, Victoria (Sovey) Kreder; parents, Jeff and Jodi Woodruff; brothers, Brandon and Cory Kreder; grandmother, Pamela Sue Lyle; grandparents, Wayne and Shirley Sovey; and in-laws, Sam and Tracy Sovey.

Never forget, always remember.

(Cross post from

(This article originally appeared at RealClearDefense on October 24th, 2013.)


In an earlier article for the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), I argued that in order for the U.S.-South Korean alliance to effectively counter threats emanating from North Korea (DPRK), South Korea (ROK) must gradually move away from its Army-centric culture to accommodate jointness among the four services. In particular, as Liam Stoker has noted, naval power may offer the “best possible means of ensuring the region’s safety without triggering any further escalation.”

The appointment last week of former ROK Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Choi Yoon-hee as the new Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff seems to augur a shift in focus in the ROK’s strategic orientation. Given that the ROK’s clashes with the DPRK have occurred near the contested Northern Limit Line throughout the late 1990s and 2000s, President Park Geun-hye’s appointment of Admiral Choi as Chairman of ROK JCS seems to be appropriate. Indeed, during his confirmation hearings two weeks prior, Admiral Choi repeatedly vowed retaliatory measures in the event of another DPRK provocation.

Furthermore, by tapping Admiral Choi to head the ROK JCS, President Park also appeared to signal that she is mindful of the feverish East Asian naval race. The ongoing naval race among three East Asian naval powers (China, Japan, and South Korea) is rooted in historical grievances over Japan’s wartime atrocities and fierce competition for limited energy resources. These two factors may explain the ROK’s increased spending to bolster its naval might.

General Curtis Scaparrotti (left), head of USFK, and ROK CJCS Admiral Choi Yun-hee (right)

General Curtis Scaparrotti (left), head of USFK, and ROK CJCS Admiral Choi Yun-hee (right)

Indeed, the ROK Navy has become a great regional naval power in the span of a decade. The ROKN fields an amphibious assault ship, the Dokdo, with a 653 feet-long (199 meters) flight deck. The ship, named after disputed islets claimed by both the ROK and Japan, is supposedly capable of deploying a Marine infantry battalion for any contingencies as they arise. Given that aircraft carriers may offer operational and strategic flexibility for the ROK Armed Forces, it is perhaps unsurprising that “funding was restored in 2012” for a second Dokdo-type aircraft carrier and more in 2012 and that Admiral Choi has also expressed interest in aircraft carrier programs. Moreover, the ROKN hassteadily increased its submarine fleet in response to the growing asymmetric threats emanating from North Korea and Japan’s alleged expansionist tendencies. As the Korea Times reported last Wednesday, the ROKN has also requested three Aegis destroyers to be completed between 2020 and 2025 to deal with the DPRK nuclear threats and the naval race with its East Asian neighbors.

Thus, at a glance, it would appear that the ROK has built an impressive navy supposedly capable of offering the Republic with a wide range of options to ensure strategic and operational flexibility. However, this has led some analysts to question the utility and raisons d’être for such maintaining such an expensive force.

Kyle Mizokami, for example, argues South Korea’s navy is impressive, yet pointless. He may be correct to note that the ROK “has prematurely shifted resources from defending against a hostile North Korea to defeating exaggerated sea-based threats from abroad.” After all, at a time when Kim Jŏng-ŭn has repeatedly threatened both the ROK and Japan, it may be far-fetched to assume that Japan may “wrest Dokdo/Takeshima away by force.” It would also make no sense to purchase “inferior version of the Aegis combat system software that is useless against ballistic missiles” which does not necessarily boost its naval might.


However, what Mizokami may not understand is that the seemingly impressive posturing of the ROKN does not necessarily mean the expansion of the Navy at the expense of diminishing Army’s capabilities. As my January piece for the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and Michael Raska’s East Asia Forum article argue, the greatest barriers to service excellence for the ROKN may be South Korea’s uneven defense spending, and operational and institutional handicaps within the conservative ROK officer corps. One telling indication which bears this out may be the fact that the expansion of the ROKN and Admiral Choi’s chairmanship of the ROK JCS did not lead to the reduction of either the budget allocated for the ROK Army or of the existing 39 ROK Army divisions in place.

Moreover, if, as Mizokami argues, the ROK seems bent on pursuing strategic parity with Japan—and to a lesser extent, China—I should point out that it does not even possess the wherewithal to successfully meet this goal. As I notedin late August, in order for the ROK to achieve regional strategic parity with its powerful neighbors, South Korea must spend at least 90% of what its rivals spend on their national defense. That is, the ROK’s $31.8 billion defense budget is still substantially smaller than Japan’s $46.4 billion. If anything, one could argue that the ROK’s supposedly “questionable” strategic priorities have as much to do with political posturing and show aimed at domestic audience as much as they are reactions to perceived threats posed by its powerful neighbors.

Finally, neither the ROK military planners nor Mizokami seem to take into account the importance of adroit diplomatic maneuvers to offset tension in East Asia. In light of the fact that the United States appears reluctant to reverse its decision to hand over the wartime Operational Control (OPCON) in 2015, the ROK may have no other recourse but to deftly balance its sticks with diplomatic carrots to avert a catastrophic war on the Korean peninsula.

In short, it remains yet to be seen whether the ROK will successfully expand the scope of its strategic focus from its current preoccupation with the Army to include its naval and air capabilities. One cannot assume that this transformation can be made overnight because of an appointment of a Navy admiral to the top military post, or for that matter, because it has sought to gradually bolster its naval capabilities. Nor can one assume that they are misdirected since a service branch must possess versatility to adapt to any contingencies as they arise. Instead, a balanced operational and strategic priority which encompasses the ground, air and maritime domain in tandem with deft diplomacy may be what the ROK truly needs to ensure lasting peace on the Korean peninsula and in East Asia.

Photo credit: U.S. Forces Korea, SinoDefence, ITV

During the mid 20th century, with the United States having been part of the defeat of the Axis during World War II and the beginning of Cold War with a former ally, the Soviet Union, California had two infantry divisions, the 40th and 49th, as the primary units of its Army National Guard. At the time, California had a population of thirteen million residents in 1955. As time passed, the 40th became an armor division, the 49th was inactivated, and the 40th once again became an infantry division. Later the 40th was transformed into a multi-state division, which it had originally started as in World War I, with only one of four combat brigades being primarily from California. Thus at its height during the 20th Century the California Army National Guard had at least thirty-four thousand Soldiers compared to about twenty thousand Soldiers who are serving today out of the thirty-eight million residents of the state.

As the California National Guard was not a recipient of draftees during the mid 20th century, and the National Guard remains a volunteer force, this has me wondering as to the disparity between the ratios of California Army National Guard Soldiers then compared to now. When both the 40th Infantry Division and 49th Infantry Division were active, the ratio between Soldiers to state residents in 1955 was about 1 to 382; today that ratio is about 1 to 1900. Especially after the United States, and many units of the California National Guard, has been involved in multiple conflicts since the September 11 attacks, should not California be able to support a larger number of Soldiers due to the increase of combat veterans who live in the state?

Therefore, here is an idea to increase the number of Soldiers serving California that may be cost effective. As I have not ran the numbers the idea is definitely open to criticism and reviewing, which I am interested in receiving, and that can only help improve the concept. Although not part of the California Army National Guard, the California Military Department has the California State Military Reserve (CSMR) and California Naval Militia. Both forces are voluntary organizations, operating under military discipline, at a relative low cost due to the units being voluntary organizations not subject to Title 10 of the U.S. Code. As California is the largest state by population in the United States it should be safe to say that it also has the largest population of combat veterans in the United States, as slightly greater than 2.5 million veterans reside in California in 2000. As I understand it, Soldiers in the CSMR pay for their own uniforms, attend drill like their National Guard counterparts, and do not receive drill pay, but paid by the state if activated.

Thus, if the CSMR begin to establish and activate units comprised of combat veterans, who meet the normal volunteering requirements for the CSMR, California should be able to increase the number of Soldiers it can call upon during times of emergency. To incentivize combat veterans to volunteer to serve in these units, the state can grant those Soldiers a deduction from their state income tax equal to the pay they would receive if they were California Army National Guard Soldiers for the drills that they attend. Depending on the number of combat veteran California residents who volunteer for these units, it could be possible to establish a new brigade. To test the concept, after necessary legislation is written and signed into law that will allow for the test of the concept, the CSMR could begin by attempting to form an infantry company, which would be about 160 Soldiers, and see how it functions. If the concept at the small scale proves successful, then the number of units can be increased following this idea, and perhaps other states can find the concept useful to them as well. If the concept proves unsuccessful, the state is only out the tax revenue that it would have received from those combat veterans who volunteered, and their unit disbanded.

One of the impetuses behind this series was a desire to understand transition and innovation in the Navy. This model gunboat helps highlight just how the navy learned and grew in its early years. This episode also helps show why the War of 1812 is so important for naval leaders today. Current Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert briefly tells us just why he studies the War of 1812, and then Dr. Harmon explains how this gunboat would have worked had it been built, and elaborates on the circumstances under which it was designed.

This week marked the anniversary of a great battle—and Americans too love to remember it. Last year at the Naval War College, the war-gaming department reenacted the entire battle, minute-by-minute, with splendid and colorful ship-counters, on the hallowed tile floor of Pringle Hall, which has been the site of many an ancient war game.

My colleague Jim Holmes’ recent “Top Five Naval Battles of All Time” reminds us what fun we can have handicapping history. Playing “pick your decisive battle” is a favorite game of ours. Jim calls it a “bloodsport,” but the very idea of “decisive” battle is a construct, an artifact, a literary invention. Its inventors were eminent Victorians like Edward Creasy (Fifteen Decisive Battles of the World) and our own Alfred Thayer Mahan (The Influence of Seapower Upon History).

These Victorian men were selling their nations a confection called “destiny.” They declared there were forces outside of us, like Darwin’s theory of evolution, or Marx’s vision of history, that determined our fate. Moreover these forces were real and thus could not be shirked. History was all about winning, and for our country and cause to win, we needed to seize the force and ride our destiny. Theirs was a world of conflict and struggle, and only the fittest would reach the top. Hence it made perfect sense that those destined to win would both show their mettle and also shape the path of destiny in highly dramatic moments of contest. “Decisive battle” became the proof of a nation’s future place in history. Deep down we still believe this. To Jim Holmes, a naval battle that “decides the fate of civilizations, empires, or great nations” is decisive — and so it would be, if such a battle actually existed.

Just consider Lepanto and The Armada, for example, two perennial favorites among decisive naval battles. Did they “decide the fate …”? Lepanto actually failed to “assure European, not Ottoman, command of the middle sea.” What it did assure was a renewed and vigorous Ottoman sea offensive, including the completed conquest of Cyprus, the wresting of Tunis from Spain, and the capture of Fez. Nor did Ottoman Seapower thereafter quickly recede. From 1645-1669 the Porte leveraged Crete, jewel of the Venetian seaborne empire, from the grasp of the greatest Mediterranean navy of all. Even as late as 1715, the Ottomans retook Morea (the Peloponnesus) from Venice, fighting their fleets to a virtual standstill. So the middle sea, from Morocco to Otranto to the Dardanelles, plus the whole of the Black Sea, was still ruled by Ottoman fleets and corsairs for a long, long time after Lepanto.

The Armada seems equally “slam-dunk” decisive to us today. Like Lepanto a fleet is destroyed, with 20,000 casualties: What could be worse? Unlike the Holy League, however, the English tried to follow up their victory with an expedition just as big as the Armada, launched against Spanish Lisbon. It was, as my son would say, an “epic fail.” The Spanish Armada (1588) and the English Armada (1589) suffered, at 20,000 each and scores of foundered ships, equal losses. Spain remained one of the big three sea powers, and totally effective defending its world empire for two more centuries. So was there is something decisive here?

Only a wildly entertaining sleight-of-hand lets us believe battles are “decisive.” That sleight-of-hand is this: Picking your decisive battle must be a game with the highest stakes. Hence, if the “bad guys” won at Lepanto we would all be Muslims today; if the “Dagoes” (as enlightened Brits called them for centuries) succeeded with their Armada, we would all be speaking Spanish and crossing ourselves daily.

At Lepanto, according to this sleight-of-hand, the Ottoman fleet could have crushed the Holy League as badly as it was itself crushed by them. But then, on top of that, the (less-than-magnificent) Sultan Selim II could have rushed full-throttle into Italy and made Rome a protected Islamic fiefdom. In that scenario, only the Alps would obscure the view of a Muslim Europe. By extension, at Gravelines, the Spanish fleet could have smashed English galleons and then landed Parma and his army on Kentish soil. Then, with a wave of the hand, that army could have overturned England and stayed fully resupplied by sea, while also maintaining its iron grip on the Spanish Netherlands in absentia. Amazing.

How could this have been done? No Ottoman army could have survived in Italy, let alone quickly conquered it. Logistics from the Balkans made such an enterprise an instant loser, and the tercios would have wiped out such a forlorn army. Moreover Ottoman defeat in Italy would have been far more shameful than any temporary and easily requited loss at sea. Equally, the Protestant cause would actually have benefitted from a Spanish military lodgment in Kent, because the wily Duke of Parma would have at last been cornered. Thus the Dutch-Calvinist cause could have split Spanish forces and cemented their doom. Instead of merely gaining independence (in 1640), they might even have expelled Spain entirely from the Netherlands by 1600. Spain dodged a strategic bullet by losing their Armada.

What we have codified in literary canon as “fate of civilization” moments are instead merely tokens — if useful tokens — that a big military enterprise has reached its limit, and maybe should just stop. Like the old saw: “Death is nature’s way of telling you to slow down;” what we cherish as “decisive battles” are really just flags and signposts not to go any farther. The Ottomans had some natural imperial limits, and Lepanto was the message. Likewise for the Spanish Hapsburgs, bogged down in the Netherlands, the Armada was a “slow down” message.

So how does reaching a simple threshold make someone else’s shining destiny? We might conclude that the decisive battles we instantly recognize as the Armada and Lepanto are in reality highly refined and very expensive ad campaigns that have lasted centuries, into our own era. Spinning the “fate of civilization” is really all about spinning a narrative about just how great you are, and how a sea battle proves it for all time. You can call the efforts of generations of English novelists and filmmakers propaganda, or you can call it transcendent national marketing, or maybe just one of the greatest campaigns in cultural strategic communications.

But you cannot call what they created in song and story (or movie) a decisive battle. Likewise, Lepanto was even more of Hapsburg-Papal ad campaign: Titian, Tintoretto, Vicentino and Veronese (superstar artists of their day) were each commissioned to create bodacious propaganda paintings on behalf of Mitre and Crown. The very titles of recent best-selling books like, “The Contest for the Center of the World” (2009) or, “Victory of the West: The Great Christian-Muslim Clash” (2008) show that their 16th century ad campaign is somehow still ongoing.

Decisive naval battles are really about celebrating national identity by highlighting the core significance of that identity in a narrative shaped by the great ships of its navy at a moment when the perceived stakes of history are the highest and it could have gone either way. This is especially true of Trafalgar and all modern “decisive” naval battles.

Great ships, whether they are sailing battleships or dreadnoughts or aircraft carriers, have come to personify the nation itself. They often have names with existential significance in a nation’s person and history: Victory, Bismarck, Enterprise, Yorktown, Yamato, Droits de l’Homme, and so many more. These are ships whose great size and power and carefully calculated majesty have already entered the consciousness of their nation’s citizens.

Battles between ships carrying such names are high drama of a sort rarely achieved in war. It is drama; moreover, that lends itself to passionate presentation in all the dimensions of a nation’s collective consciousness. There is as well no doubt that navies, as special sub-cultures of national society, benefit tremendously from the continuing narrative power of “decisive battles.”

But there is a problem, half-hidden perhaps but potentially corrosive.

Wars at sea are not won by decisive battles. Over the centuries in fact there are precious few battles that can be argued were truly “decisive,” which is perhaps why “pick your decisive naval battle” is such a fun game.

A lesson: Too much Navy-focus on your own decisive battles also skews your understanding of what makes navies important. Trafalgar is a reminder in point.

With Trafalgar, it was not the battle that mattered: It was the years of blockading Brest and Toulon and Ferrol that preceded it. Franco-Spanish forces had lost their sailing skills and combat edge. Forced at last to give battle, they knew they were not serving the cause of Alliance victory but rather the cause of British glory and its national morale. The blockade had beaten them, and they were a sacrificial fleet. Not only did Villeneuve’s fleet not stand a chance, the victory itself was built by a much larger naval enterprise. It was a much bigger victory at sea.

Likewise, our wars at sea last century were won in long at-sea campaigns of ocean-grit and day-to-day tribulation, and it was built by fleet submarines and transports and ASW escorts. It is wonderful to enshrine in song and story the grand fleet that wins the literary construct. It is essential, however, to enshrine as well the fleet that wins the actual war. We need to maintain a “balanced fleet” in our own minds.

Before the advent of GPS, how did sailors navigate across the open ocean? Did you know that the War of 1812 raged all over the country, including a great naval victory for the fledgling U.S. states on waters of Lake Erie? What is a sextant and how is it used? This are the questions answered by today’s episode.

Readers of the NextWar blog will recall that in the past I’ve bemoaned the U.S. Navy’s limited success tapping into web-enabled “social” tools. Specifically, I noted the lack of efforts to use either crowdsourcing tools to generate and develop ideas, or to provide the sort of collaborative tools to which Sailors have grown accustomed in their personal lives.

”Let me zee vhat you are verking on…”

”Let me zee vhat you are verking on…”

In addition to the exceptions I mentioned in the article, such as the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)’s MMOWGLIs, commentators kindly pointed out a few more, and I have through professional exposure since stumbled upon others. Further, as many are likely aware, in just the past month some new tools have come online or been revamped. I feel, therefore, a reassessment is warranted. What follows is a brief overview of the social web-enabled tools on offer for U.S. maritime professionals – whether by culling ideas (the Crowdsourcers) or by empowering organizations (the Collaborators). I’m more familiar with some than others, but this is not intended to be an exhaustive review – the best way to fully learn the caps and lims of any of these sites is to play around with them and see how they can aid in your specific mission accomplishment.

From our non-U.S. friends, I’d be interested to hear what’s available in their toolboxes to leverage the concepts and underlying platforms of the web.

The Crowdsourcers

Massively Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging the Internet (MMOWGLIs)
NPS partners with various other Navy commands to run these online games, which tap into the combined knowledge and ideas of the invited crowd to respond to scenario prompts. These response ideas are critiqued by other players, steering the decisions in future actions in the game, allowing people to work through (and the game sponsors to collect input on) the second- and third-order consequences of potential solutions. Past MMWOGLIs have focused on topics such as piracy and the electro-magnetic spectrum, and additive manufacturing (aka 3D-printing), of which we have written about much at CIMSEC. The next MMWOGLI (scheduled for September) will focus on “Capacity Capabilities Constraints: Active and Reserve Force Strategies” in November and December. My only real complaint is that I’ve had trouble accessing past MMWOGLIs on a lot of NMCI computers at the Pentagon, so can’t really speak personally to the “gameplay”.

This new site is the core of the CNO’s recent tasking to find ways to create a more efficient Navy by Reducing Administrative Distractions — or RAD. The site uses the IdeaScale platform and boasts a clean look, crowdsourcing, and gamification: users vote for favorite posts, earn points through a variety of manners – incentivizing input, earn patches for a variety of “accomplishments”. While a leaderboard displays the top point-earners, the Admiral in charge of the effort is looking to tie the virtual rewards with real ones. According to NavyTimes:

“While they are still working out details, [RDML] Shelanski said he hopes to secure funds to reward the generators of the top 10 ideas. He would like to award $1,000 prizes for the top three ideas. The rest of the top 10 would each earn $500.”

Nearly 1500 ideas were submitted and you can see the top 15 listed here. While the 3 phases of the RAD “campaign” are complete, the outgrowth of this project is an effort to effect real change with at least the top ideas, particularly in the areas of training and 3M. It will be interesting to see if the Navy ever tries for a repeat performance in a year or two’s time.

NWDC’s CollabLab

NWDC’s CollabLab: Not to be confused with Bob Lablaw’s Law Blog

NWDC’s CollabLab: Not to be confused with Bob Lablaw’s Law Blog

The proverbial “suggestion box” set up by the U.S. Naval Warfare Development Command (NWDC) asks users to “pose solutions to problems by providing an easy-to-use platform to submit ideas, provide feedback, and vote for the best ideas.” Similar in function to RAD, but more broadly focused. You can participate both by donating your brightest thoughts and critically evaluating those of others. Also uses voting feedback to rate the ideas, although comments are more plentiful than votes.

The site features a handy Domino’s-like status “tracker” of your idea in the review/implementation process (although unlike the pizza it will unfortunately take longer than 20 minutes to see results). You can also see if it has been rejected, and the reason why, or moved over to the SIPR version for processing. It may suffer, though to a lesser degree, the same challenge of giving every idea a fair shake and collating duplicative submissions.

(Full disclosure: I’m a member of NWDC’s CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell, or CRIC)

The Collaborators

Although it would mean a loss of some control over functional design, for efficiency’s sake Navy organizations or groups in search of cloud collaborative sites should consider using Milsuite, Intelink,, or Navy Lessons Learned rather than spending money to create their own.

logo-milbookThrough Milsuite’s Milbook site, small (or large) DoD teams can use a an access-controlled, slick-looking cloud collaborative site to centralize documents, tasks, and discussions in a specific “group”. Users have a variety of project management tools they can integrate, and search for other users with expertise in a given functional area to bring in to critique ideas. The only real downside is that some functions, especially the permissions/access settings, are not entirely intuitive and the help documents leave a bit to be desired.

This site is restricted to federal employees with associated email or CAC/PIV. But like, by keeping it broadly open it enables collaboration for projects across federal agencies. Users can on NIPR can create an Intellipedia page and on SIPR create a “team” to do the discussion and file-sharing collaboration. NIPR is expected to increase functionality and tools with Google platform tie-ins, but for now the SIPR version is a bit easier to use for collaboration.
This site is restricted to federal employees with associated email, allowing for cloud collaboration on projects across federal agencies. I have only poked around it a little but my first impression is that it is functional (posting documents, commenting, discussions), but some what bare-boned.

Defense Connect Online (DCO)
DCO_LOGO_200DCO’s basic purpose is web conferencing. It allows DoD users to create a virtual meeting that can integrate voice (with computer microphone/speakers), chat, and PowerPoint display functions – sharing slides and other files. Those on the go can also access the website via smartphones and a downloadable app, and a SIPR version is available. The site is great for those of us without VTC capabilities who want to add some visual oomph to telecons and keep everyone on the same page. The ability to hang and trade information is also nice – the files can also be kept up for a long time, so anyone who wants them again can just be directed back to the site.

The computer-driven version is pretty easy to use and understand, but I had a little more trouble on a smartphone working the site (There is an updated mobile version that I’ve not yet had the chance to try). I’d also like to see DCO directly integrate phone lines as those hosting meetings typically must set up a separate telecon bridge to allow those who can’t pull up DCO from a phone or computer to also participate. With the reduction in travel spending there has been a marked uptick in the usage of this site – to the point where it has been maxing out its capacity. Lastly, I’m not sure how bandwidth-intensive this would be for anyone underway, but my guess is it wouldn’t handle well.

In mid-October, the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) released DCO 2.0. Unfortunately the upgrade means the site no longer recognizes my old account or allows me to register for a ‘new’ one – so there are some kinks to be worked out for sure, but I look forward to seeing what the improvements are.

NWDC’s TacticsLive site
Another collaborative site run by NWDC could be used to pick up some of the slack left by the loss of groups such as the Surface Warfare Development Group for tactical innovations. Unfortunately in my limited poking around on the site on SIPR ( It doesn’t appear much used. This points to one of the fundamental truths of the collaborative sites: No matter how good in concept or design they are, they can’t help users collaborate unless they have users to begin with (often through command endorsement or enforced use).

Interagency Lessons Learned
I decided to return to the source – several years ago – of my angst with the Navy’s web-enabled tools and find out what’s changed. Navy Lessons Learned, part of Interagency Lessons Learned, has definitely undergone a facelift, and the ability to submit lessons learned has increased. There is also a “Communities of Practice” feature that allows those with the initiative to collate/centralize data (share observations/lessons learned/documents, etc., and comment on them) for communities at any level – from interagency groups to a wardroom. So those are big improvements.

Unfortunately, it’s still a bit clunky, dated looking, and not intuitive to navigate or search. It’s also split between NIPR and SIPR – which on one hand allows users to get more specific, but on the other splits efforts and users – sometimes in confusing fashion, as with the otherwise valuable Port Visits feature.

An “Issue Resolution” crowdsource function is ignored on NIPR, but has some legs on SIPR. Yet the process is opaque and clunky in comparison with the RAD and CollabLab sites. Without reading through the “training material” one has no idea who moderates the submissions or whether they will end up getting a fair look.

However, for its flaws, staffs or other groups looking for the infrastructure to quickly stand up restricted group to share restricted (FOUO or SECRET) files and lessons learned will find this site provides the no-frills functionality to do so, but as with the others it needs someone to convince or enforce everyone in the group to use the site. As with the Port Visits feature, there’s good nuggets in the site, but you have to dig for them.

CIMSEC-LogoThe Center for International Maritime Security has been running a podcast!We speak to James Bridger, author of a menagerie of CIMSEC Articles on Africa and an Africa/Middle East Asymmetric maritime security analyst for Delex. Take a look at Episode 5, our revisit of African security issues (DOWNLOAD)  after African Navies week:

African Navies Week: Al Shabaab Is Only the Beginning
Searching for a Somali Coastguard
East Africa: More Than Just Pirates
Nigeria’s Navy: Setting Sail in Stormy Seas
Balanced Public/Private Effort for West African Maritime Security
East Africa: A Historical Lack of Navies

Particular to James Bridger:

Egyptian Instability and Suez Canal Security (Part I)
Crafting a Counter-Piracy Regime in the Gulf of Guinea
From Fighting Piracy to Terrorism, the PMPF Saga Continues
Re-examining the Gulf of Guinea: Fewer Attacks, Better Pirates
Pirate Horizons in the Gulf of Guinea

We talk about Somalia, Nigeria, piracy, terrorism, and the movie Captain Phillips. Join us on Itunes, Xbox Music, or the website. Stay tuned next week for our episode on USCG mobile training teams.

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