Author Archive

swimming-elephantAlternative Title: Navy Grants Salamander Lifetime Beer Tab at Army-Navy Club’s Daiquiri Lounge.

From the start, and we are talking about over a decade ago, surface, aviation, and submarine offices with operational Fleet experience, not theory or PPT hype, warned that both crew manning and mission module concepts as proposed for LCS were problematic at best, and non-executable at worst. They were silenced at best, career adjusted at worst.

It took a decade, billions of dollars of opportunity cost, and untold numbers of careers and reputations to get here, but it looks like our Navy is going to take the right steps to salvaging as much utility as possible from this – how can I put it in a polite non-homebloggy way – “white elephant” of a program.

Let’s take some time to review our friend David Larter’s latest;

The review ordered by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson will likely include recommendations to shift to a Blue and Gold crew structure, a set-up used on ballistic missile and guided missile submarines where two crews swap custody of a single hull to maximize deployed time. The Navy has been moving away from rotational crew models other than the Blue and Gold out of concern that maintenance issues may slip through the cracks for crews serving only temporarily aboard any ship.

The review will also recommend changing some of the signature modularity of the program — the concept that ships at sea could readily swap out sensors and weapons packages to meet emergent missions.

Instead of three mission modules being available to switch out on deployment, the Navy is looking at moving to a “one ship, one mission” approach, where each LCS will be designated as surface, anti-submarine or mine countermeasures ships with the ability to switch out if needed.

As warned, and it will do neither well, but it will do better than nothing – which by design, is the only other option previous decisions have left us with.

“The goal of the review and specifically the crew proposals made by SURFOR is increased stability, simplicity, and ownership,” the official said. “An updated crewing plan, as well as adding more sailors to the core crew is the first step.”

Admiral Vince Lombardi approves. When nothing is going right, focus on the fundamentals first. This isn’t rocket science. Well, close to rocket science – but nonetheless, not rocket science.

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus testified in 2015 that he opposed all cuts to shipbuilding because it is harder to build a ship that any other thing the Navy could cut to save money.

“Because cuts to our shipbuilding programs are the least reversible in their impact on our fundamental mission of providing presence and in their consequences to the industrial base and to our economy, I am committed, to the maximum extent possible, to preserve ship construction and to seek reductions in every other area first, should further budget reductions such as sequestration become reality,” Mabus said in written testimony.

As in all things related to shipbuilding, there is the political and economic to consider. Though in the case of LCS the end result displacing water is sub-optimal, SECNAV is exactly correct on this aspect of it all. The money must flow, good or bad, it must flow.

The next step remains clear; we need a replacement for LCS at least on paper, using the better EuroFrigates in production as the benchmark for the right ship between 3,500 and 5,500 tons displacement. We need it now more than later so we can have them in the Fleet FMC in their PMAs as LCS-1 is ready for the breakers at the end of the Terrible 20s.

This time, no pinkie promises, no Flash Gordon, no Tiffany, no transformationalism. That mindset failed us so far this century. As we Southerners are like to say; let’s not get stuck on stupid.

If we learn our lessons well, there is great opportunity here. With the process and mindset as outlined in Larter’s article holds, indications look solid going forward.



hqdefaultIf you have not already, you need to read one of the more important wake up calls written by a navalist this year; Bryan McGrath’s remarks published over at WarOnTheRocks, War and Survivability of U.S. Naval Forces.

It will come to no surprise to those who read my post last week, that I am roughly in full alignment with the direct and unblinking comments he brings to the reader;

(in the post-Cold War era) …we built and operated a Navy in the post-Cold War era that reflected this. We created a fleet architecture that raised defense to a high art. We became proficient in the art of precision land-attack and maritime constabulary missions while the surface force essentially abandoned the playing field of offensive naval warfare. Because there was no anti-submarine warfare threat to speak of, we walked away from the mission while turning our sonar techs into .50 cal gunners and visit, board, search, and seizure crew. We walked away from the anti-surface mission to the point where we haven’t built a ship in the United States that could kill another ship over the horizon since USS Porter in 1999.

That is where we find ourselves by our own hand, and this is where we need to go;

We have to be begin to be more direct about what we face. We have to recognize that our unchallenged mastery is now challenged. We now have to recognize that there are nations who see the system we’ve crafted since World War II as unhelpful to their strategic goals. We have to recognize that in order to deter nations like this, naval forces operating weeks over the horizon are insufficient. We must recognize that presence, showing the flag, being there, is just not enough.

Distributed lethality is the leading edge of that recognition. By increasing the unit-level lethality of virtually every ship in the Navy and then operating them innovatively in a dispersed posture designed to present an adversary with numerous and diverse threats to what he holds dear, we are once again realizing the deterrent value of offensive power. The surface force seems to have recognized the changed environment, the re-emergence of great power dynamics, and the requirement to break a defensive mindset while taking to the operational offensive once again. Future strike group commanders and numbered fleet commanders and four-stars must begin to think about and more importantly communicate a recognition that the stakes have changed, and that a force that places too much value on survivability may be placing insufficient emphasis on threatening the other guy’s survivability.

We need to harden surface presence forces not just for the sake of protecting the people serving on the ship, but also to present would-be aggressors with a more effective deterrent. We need — when we talk about survivability — to ensure that we are talking about it as a means to an end — conventional deterrence — and not an end unto itself

Finally, I want to try and get something going here with you. I’d like us to stop talking about “survivability” altogether. That’s right — eliminate it from our lexicon. When you folks go back to your jobs wherever they may be, but especially at the Pentagon, the systems commands, or at the surface type command, try to get the Navy to walk away from it. Truth be told, it is a loaded term, and one that conveys defense and weakness and timidity. The Air Force — which has a much tougher job in justifying the expense of large land bases that don’t move — never talks about “survivability.” They talk about “hardening,” as I’ve done here today.

We need to harden the surface force in order to make our adversaries spend more of their tax dollars in trying to overcome it — or better yet — decide that such expenditures aren’t worth the opportunity cost. This is, of course, the essence of conventional deterrence.

He brings a lot more to the discussion. Read it all.



The ongoing discussion of the meaning of “distributed Lethality” and methods of achieving it at sea is a welcome return to a more forward leaning posture. By its nature, it assumes a more aggressive navy – as all successful navies have been. There is another side to this posture, something that is always there but becomes more apparent with a stronger light thrown on the subject. As the cliche goes, the enemy gets a vote. The enemy gets to shoot back.

There are certain timeless fundamentals of the naval service that historically applied to the US Navy in its operations; offensive punch, forward through the fight, and an acceptance that we will lose ships and Sailors, yet complete our mission in spite of it.

Besides the small isolated incident or skirmish, the realities of war at sea have not been known in the present generations’ living memory – only on the edge of rapidly evaporating national memory is it there. As such, do we really have an understanding of what it means to put your ships, your capital ships, in harm’s way? That is what “forward deployed” means. That is what “From the Sea” implies. That is what “presence” requires. Have we become too comfortable, complacent, and entitled in our maritime dominance to think that Neptune’s Copybook Headings no longer apply?

In all the wargames we go through, in our discussions about the next conflict at sea with a peer or near-peer challenger – have we fully hoisted onboard what this means?

What does it mean to lose a capital ship? First, we must define a capital ship. In WWII, the capital ship was the battleship and the large-deck aircraft carrier. The German battleship BISMARCK, the British battlecruiser HMS HOOD, the American heavy cruiser USS HOUSTON (CA 30), and the aircraft carrier USS FRANKLIN (CV 13) all met that war’s rough definition of a capital ship. Three of the above were lost in combat, and the 4th, the FRANKLIN, just survived sinking from same.

War at sea is brutal, often fast, and the destruction of men and material shockingly extensive. It does not matter if it was 31 BC, 1942 AD or 2020 AD, this will be the same. As it was, as it is, as it will be.

What is a capital ship today? For the sake of argument, let me pick two that most of you would agree is if not a capital ship, then at least a High Value Unit. First, the USS RONALD REAGAN (CVN 76) and the USS BATAAN (LHD 5). For planning purposes, let’s assume that the REAGAN’s ship company and attached airwing composes 5,680 souls. The BATAAN, fully loaded with Marines, 3,002.

Let’s look at the average loss rates from our selection of WWII capital ships. Not the worst, just the average. What would that mean today? What loss of life in one day? A loss that cannot stop operations or shock anyone – indeed must be planned for as we know it will happen at one point?

Well, here is the graph that tells the butcher’s bill.

butbill2020jpg

One could argue that the most difficult part of the loss of a CVN or LHD with a full wartime complement on par with other capital ships lost at sea would not be the operational or tactical implications, but the political implications. Do we have the PAO, INFO OPS, and even PSYOPS pre-planned responses well rehearsed and, yes, focus grouped to deal with such an immediate loss? If not, we are at national strategic risk poking our nose anywhere.

Look at the LHD numbers; 2,183 dead in one day. That is just a little more than all the losses of the USA and UK in Iraq during the three years bounded by 2006, 2007, & 2008 – combined.

The loss of a carrier? That would be roughly the same as all the USA and UK losses in Iraq in 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, & 2009 – combined.

In almost any scenario such a loss would take place, there would be no time to pause, consider, or debate. You have to fight on – indeed, you need to assume such losses and plan around it.

Are we prepared for this as a Navy? Has the Navy properly prepared our political bosses? Are they prepared to respond to the citizens’ reaction?

We should all hope so, as history tells us that is not a matter of if, but when.



IMG_3160_zps002a59aePart of our naval mythology is informed by fiction as well as real history. With a few exceptions, as a nation, the USA always likes to see itself as the good guys, the shining city on the hill where good people want to go to do good things. In some ways this aspirational self-reflection is good, but it isn’t reality.

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.
– Winston Churchill

In the Cold War fiction The Hunt for Red October, we had our preferred universe,

Capt. Vasili Borodin: I will live in Montana. And I will marry a round American woman and raise rabbits, and she will cook them for me. And I will have a pickup truck… maybe even a “recreational vehicle.” And drive from state to state. Do they let you do that?
Captain Ramius: I suppose.
Capt. Vasili Borodin: No papers?
Captain Ramius: No papers, state to state.
Capt. Vasili Borodin: Well then, in winter I will live in… Arizona. Actually, I think I will need two wives.
Captain Ramius: Oh, at least.

That is nice to read, but that isn’t where we are today.

We need to be ready for our co-existing parallel universe where the USA and specifically its forward deployed Navy is not seen as the good guys worth running to – but a high value unit worth everything to destroy.

If one small harbor boat can take out the USS COLE (DDG 67), put on your red hat and ponder the next act that could follow a successful operation from this cell;

At least five officers of the Pakistan Navy received death sentences in a secret military trial for allegedly trying to hijack a Pakistan Navy vessel to attack a U.S. Navy refueling ship, Daily Pakistan reports.

The attackers allegedly attempted to hijack the F-22P Zulfiquar-class frigate Zulfiqar, the lead ship of its class, with the intention of using the ship’s missiles to attack a U.S. Navy refuel vessel in the Arabian Sea (other sources claim that the target was a U.S. aircraft carrier).

The frigate they were going to take control of was the Pakistani version of the Chinese Type 053H3 frigate. With a crew of 170 and the offensive surface punch of 8 C-802 ASCM and a 76mm gun – not to mention 3,144 tons and 404-ft of ramming if they wanted.

In nations with significant penetration by Islamic radicals, there is a lot of exceptionally capable naval kit for the taking, if you have the right team. How many on a ship need to turn to make a national asset to a terrorist weapon? Depends on the ship and the clever nature of the conspirators.

The more you think about it, the more you see how lucky we have been that compared to the ground, the seas have been relatively secure. Don’t assume, “if,” but “when” we see Green on Blue at sea.

Something to ponder on a when on watch as the ship from nation X is not quite acting right, not where you expected her to be, and – well – makes your skin itch a bit.



Changing-demographicsPredicting the future is spotty at best, and predictions can change as rapidly as their inputs. As any economist will tell you thought, you have to try to understand what the numbers are trying to tell you if your are going to be ready for what is right around the corner.

A primary driving force through history is demographics. Demographics framed by economics is an irresistible force for change. The future belongs to who shows up, and those people who show up need a way to survive and prosper. All else flows from that.

Lets say we have to long range planning groups that we want to give an assignment to given the above entering argument. There are lots of options on what we can have them focus on. Here are my top two.

Team OAK: Managing China’s rise is not the challenge, managing their rapid decline relative to India will be.

Data source: US Census Bureau IDBVisualization by @aronstrandberg

Team PINE: AFRICOM will be next decade’s most important Combatant Command.

Visualization by Aron StrandbergTwitter: @aronstrandberg



CoverVHair
Now that the seal has been broken on poor uniform changes recently thanks to the defenestration of the Blueberries, let’s walk in to the area so few dare to speak and write about; the male combination cover on the female head.

What a mess of mixed message and bad fashion we have made of female uniforms. Uniforms matter. When uniforms appear that are completely out of synch with norms, that is an indication of a deeper issue. Until we address that bucket of goo that may not be possible to fix in anytime soon, can we at least take a fresh look at the shambolic mess we have made of the female officer’s uniform?

From spotty and rather silly uniform involving moving the male combination cover to unisex status, to the questionable decision to endorse the socio-political book sales of Sheryl Sandberg – there is something a little off on the advice our senior uniformed and civilian leadership is getting about women. It isn’t so much as addressing the concerns of our Shipmates who happen to be female, but in using them to make larger socio-political points.

For those who have studied it a bit or watched in in action, it is clear that we have adopted some of the sillier strains of 3rd Wave Feminism along with some of the standard cant from second semester Gender Studies courses as policy, and as a result it is making us all look just, well, unprofessional.

Many of you know where the above picture was taken, and who that officer is. This isn’t about her (sorry Shipmate, nothing personal; your’s was just the latest example), and this is in no way her fault – she didn’t prescribe the required uniform. Anyway, look at it.

We have the old school female summer white coat that has not counterpart in the male uniform vice choker whites, and the men’s combination cover struggling to find purchase on the female skull, thick hair, and bun. Clunky and incomplete. If we are going to go full unisex, we should go full unisex.

What are we trying to do here, and why are we subjecting our female Shipmates to this bizarre experiment in poorly engineered pangenderism? Why the half measures? Especially after it was so thoroughly panned when rolled out? Why?

All you need to know about the birth of the transgender combination cover you you can find out from those it was first experimented on, the female Midshipmen at USNA who were forced to be the first ones to wear it at graduation. Ask them.

Since then, the female Midshipmen and junior officers that have reached out to me with their concerns have also provided me a view of the command climate we have when it comes to discussing this. When I asked them to write about it, they backed off as they don’t want to deal with the backlash.

After I saw the above picture, I thought, “What the heck, I’ll do it. It’s out there in full bloom for a year, why not.”

In waiting, it has folded in to context on other things that have happened recently. For some reason, it seems that our Navy has an issue with being feminine, but only in certain ways.

The U.S. Navy said Tuesday it has scrapped a national recruiting mailer that promised women they can enlist without compromising their feminine side and pursue careers that “most girls aren’t even aware of.”

Navy officials said they made the decision amid criticism that the wording was condescending and perpetuated stereotypes. …

The mailer invites women to take on “the kind of exciting, hands-on work that most girls aren’t even aware of. Making your mark in career areas that certainly aren’t just for the guys. And what’s more, you can do all this while staying in touch with your feminine side – and while bettering your world along the way.”

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality, said the wording undersells a woman’s potential.

“You wouldn’t recruit a boy by saying that,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, a national group that works for women’s equality. “What does it say about the Navy? It’s relying on old stereotypes instead of a picture of modern women who can really make a contribution to the Navy and how needed they are.”

Apologize for being feminine? What is wrong with being a female? For that matter, what is wrong with a woman who wants to serve her nation, but still be a woman? It is a legitimate concern.

As the father of two teenaged young women, I know it concerns them. As they will be the first to tell you, they don’t think the same as a teen aged young man. They don’t have the same motivations. If you want to reach them, you better not talk to them as if they are some “d0^&%ey lacrosse player.” They are not better (well, they think they are), and they are not worse (honor students both, as a father I am happy to brag about) – they are just different and that should be OK.

If, as an organization, we have issue with that – and the shoe-horning of the male combo-cover sure reinforces is seen as part of getting over “old stereotypes” – then why allow women to keep the hair and bun, and avoid choker whites?

Why do we immediately bow to just one view – and it is just one view – of women, womanhood and what women want? The Navy has used that mailer for half a decade, and now it is a horror?

OK. We want women to wear men’s clothes. We think being feminine is wrong (inside our lifelines I see that 1st and 2nd Wave feminism fighting is with those who adhere to some aspects of 3rd Wave feminism. Well, we hired them as GS and SES to do this, so we might as well enjoy it). We want 120lb women to fight hand to hand with 200lb men … but we want women to still be able to have long hair and a bun to vex their combination cover?

Why can’t men wear a bun too, if we are going to go there? There are plenty of safety reasons for the short hair, and safety does not care if you are XX or XY – so why the long hair for women if that is to keep things feminine – something we think is bad?

Confused? Of course you are. We all know what is going on here. Reactionary and ungrounded leadership when it comes to addressing the desire for greater numbers of women in the service. Inconsistency and irrational, hysterical, defensive reactions to weak threats are classic indications of a leadership problem in any organization – even if you don’t have any strawberries onboard.

Over and over again in this area we have seen this pattern and it manifests itself in strange ways, from the combo cover to ignoring science based experimentation.

One has to wonder if the same reason that many female leaders – the same ones who put their lives on the line in the Fleet – are bullied in to silence, also explains the response from senior leaders in making decisions; they live in a climate of fear. They fear their own advisors and their own ability to defend their positions. “You have to do this, you have to do that, otherwise you are anti-woman. You aren’t anti-woman are you? So, do this or I will denounce you.

With little to no top-cover, I really don’t blame them for being quiet.

Solution? Well, I don’t think we will have one anytime soon as those who have approved these latest professional fashion horrors are too personally vested in it. At some point, the right leader will show up and will benchmark the best, most professional looking uniforms of other nations, and will approve designs for ours to best adjust to the female form and promote a professional appearance without looking like they are playing dress-up. Will it have to look just like the male uniform? No.

Why should it? Again, as the son of an entrepreneurial women cut from the same cloth as RDML Grace Hopper, USN, what is wrong with being feminine? I think of the 21 years of active duty, all of which I served with women, not one of those Shipmates ever stated, “I wish I could look like a man.” No, they just wished that they could have a uniform that was tailored better and as a result was more flattering at best, comfortable at a minimum. The young women in the Fleet today tell me the same exact thing. Sure, some may want to look like a man, but are they 51%. I doubt it.

As a final data point of one, in the demographic our Navy is trying to recruit from. When I showed the above picture to my daughter just recently home from college finals, she responded in cheeky voice,

“Awwww, poor thing. Just trying to do her best to get by in a man’s world.”

She has a point. By forcing women to wear something that is obviously not designed for their average bone structure, it does put out the message that there is something wrong with being a woman, that you are the “other” and that you have to hide that fact. How incredibly regressive. How incredibly unfair.

Just as we don’t know exactly who it was that forced Blueberries on everyone, so too we won’t know who bullied this unisex fashion faux-pas. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take a decade to fix this mistake too.

We can do this better. We can ignore some Russian ideas, but we can do better.



Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 62 Comments
Tags:

Over at WOTR, the staff published a powerful graphic. Though simple, it tells a many layered story on how this nation has fought its wars and pursued its commitments over the course of the last 55 years. It uses as the base of comparison the commitments placed on the Army (demand), and then the budget allocation and personnel levels (supply).

What strikes me most is what we have done with the all volunteer force. In the Gulf War and the Long War, you see logical spikes in commitment and budgets, but no relative impact on personnel levels. That worked well for the short, sharp nature of the Gulf War – but not with the Long War.

USAWC-CSP-infographic_bitmap_hq

Some may argue that modern weapons give you the ability to substitute money and equipment for manpower, but that isn’t the story being told here. No, you are just short-cycling your people to burnout hoping that at some point the conflict will end. Bad thing is, they are ending. Ending when we lose our Strategic patience and quit. That doesn’t seem to be working out all that well.

While the Army has received a “breather” the last few years, with 8 to 9 month deployments in the Navy being the new normal, I would be very interested in seeing a comparable graphic for the Navy with “commitment” being Sailor-days deployed at sea and ashore, or something that captures that intent.

One simple graphic done right is better than 4,000 words and 14 spreadsheets.

Has anyone seen a comparable Navy graphic? In blue and gold; natch.

On a not unrelated topic, the authors point us to The Elihu Root Study on the Total Army where they look at where they come from as a reference point on where the Army should go. Well worth your time as well.

Navy; over to you.

Infographic Credit: Andrew Hill, U.S. Army War College, and Shayan Kheradmand, Boost Labs.


not-my-circusIf you have not already, before you go further in this post, I highly recommend that you read the recent and important article by Admiral William H. McRaven, USN (Ret), A warrior’s career sacrificed for politics.

Seriously, click the link, read, and then come back.

Now that you’re back, I suspect that at first blush many of you had a similar reaction that I did; a rush of agreement and relief that a senior officer has come to the defense of a colleague who, as many of us have seen with our own friends and colleagues, was caught in the Kafkaesque IG process.

As most who have been around for awhile have their own stories about good people who were caught in a vindictive and unaccountable witch hunt of a system, it is easy to slide in to a position of agreement and sympathy for McRaven’s line of thinking. It is, after all, a heartfelt and reasoned argument. I am in full alignment with McRaven, but there is a blindingly incomplete sense of proportion and outrage that by now I hope is sinking in.

If not, wait for that first flush to exhaust itself in your system. Take a deep breath. Let your head and blood clear, then think about the article and its central argument anew.

There we have McRaven, standing athwart RDML Losey’s crumpled body bravely pointing a finger at the hulking civilian politicians in the distance who have done wrong for crass, self-serving political gain … but … wait. Something seems a bit, well, off.

That is when it hits you. Like Bender says, “No dad, what about you?

This isn’t personal, there is much more than that. Both officers are great Americans and great leaders – but that is not the story. They are good stand-ins for a larger issue, so let’s dive in to it with that understanding.

As much of an injustice that seems to have visited Losey’s service, at this point I’m not sure I see why his case, now, should be such a big deal to anyone else. Priority. Proportion. Perspective.

Not that I don’t care, I do, but like seeing a broken window on a derelict building, I don’t see how it is a shocking eyesore in the context of a full view of the general neglect upon the whole facade. As McRaven the General Officer/Flag Officer (GOFO) points his finger at civilian politicians, what about the other three pointing back at him, and as a representative of his peer group, his entire cohort of leaders?

As with the many instances I have covered at my homeblog over the years, we have a habit of abandoning leaders to the ravages of spiteful “hotline” callers and rogue IG investigations. To be charged is to be convicted. Not willing to blow their “#1” on someone who is tainted, one or two FITREP cycles pass and innocent or guilty – it does not matter; professionally you are done.

All it takes is a call. An email. One unsubstantiated claim. One unbalanced subordinate. One grievance. One ISIC scared of the shadow of a potential cloud covering them as well as the accused.

Welcome to the party.

From McRaven’s article, does this sound familiar?

…over the past decade I have seen a disturbing trend in how politicians abuse and denigrate military leadership, particularly the officer corps, to advance their political agendas. Although this is certainly not a new phenomenon, it seems to be growing in intensity. My concern is that if this trend of disrespect to the military continues it will undermine the strength of the officer corps to the point where good men and women will forgo service — or worse the ones serving will be reluctant to make hard decision for fear their actions, however justified, will be used against them in the political arena.

And it is clear in this case that certain members of Congress didn’t care about Losey’s innocence. Nor did they seem to care that he has sacrificed more for this country than most members on Capitol Hill — or that the emotional strain of this investigation was devastating to his family. It is clear that all these lawmakers cared about was political leverage.

The case of Brian Losey is a miscarriage of justice. But the greater concern for America is the continued attack on leadership in the military.

During my past several years in uniform, I watched in disbelief how lawmakers treated the chairman, the service chiefs, the combatant commanders and other senior officers during Congressional testimony. These officers were men of incredible integrity, and yet some lawmakers showed no respect for their decades of service. I saw the DOD Inspector General’s Office frequently act as judge and jury, apparently accountable to no one, dismissing the recommendations of the services and ruining officer’s careers. I watched time and again how political correctness and pressure from Capitol Hill undermined command authority and good order and discipline.

Although we in the military understand the absolute necessity to serve and respect our civilian leaders — and every good leader understands and appreciates the value of anonymous complaints to ferret out bad leadership — we also need civilians to understand that a strong military, particularly an all-volunteer one, needs the support of our civilian leaders, not the constant refrain of disrespect that seems so common in today’s political narrative.

Let me rewrite that for you.

…over the past decade I have seen a disturbing trend in how GOFO abuse and denigrate military leadership, particularly those in Field Grade Command, to advance their political agendas. Although this is certainly not a new phenomenon, it seems to be growing in intensity. My concern is that if this trend of disrespect to those in Command continues it will undermine the strength of the officer corps to the point where good men and women will forgo service — or worse the ones serving will be reluctant to make hard decision for fear their actions, however justified, will be used against them in the political arena.

And it is clear in this case that certain GOFO don’t care about innocence or guilt. Nor did they seem to care that leaders in Command sacrificed more for their country than many GOFO — or that the emotional strain of this investigation was devastating to their family. It is clear that all these GOFO cared about was political leverage.

The case of innocent Commanders caught in a drawn out and expanded IG, there is a miscarriage of justice. But the greater concern for America is the continued attack on leadership in the military.

During my past several years in uniform, I watched in disbelief how GOFO treated the those in Major Command at Sea, sea-going Commander Command, Shore Command and even Senior NCOs during and after any IG. These leaders were men and women of incredible integrity, and yet some GOFO showed no respect for their decades of service. I saw the DOD Inspector General’s Office frequently act as judge and jury, apparently accountable to no one, dismissing the recommendations of the chain of command and ruining officers’ careers. I watched time and again how political correctness and pressure from Capitol Hill and more senior GOFO undermined command authority and good order and discipline.

Although we in the military understand the absolute necessity to serve and respect our senior uniformed and civilian leaders — and every good leader understands and appreciates the value of anonymous complaints to ferret out bad leadership — we also need senior uniformed and civilian leadership to understand that a strong military, particularly an all-volunteer one, needs the support of our senior uniformed and civilian leaders, not the constant refrain of disrespect that seems so common in today’s political narrative.

Look at that one more time.

I watched time and again how political correctness and pressure from Capitol Hill undermined command authority and good order and discipline.

What about you dad? What about you?

Where was McRaven, Losey, and their GOFO peers as good leaders were destroyed? Where were they when the accused were shunned like lepers while under investigation, and then punished for things unrelated to the initial complaints but dug up in the course of ambitious and broad reaching investigations that few would survive? Where were the articles to support them, to call attention to their scourging?

So, why are we to be concerned in April of 2016 about a GOFO being sacrificed at the alter of “political agendas” when more junior personnel have been fed to the politically correct Vaal for years with nary a peep? The disconnect is gobsmacking.

Again, welcome to the party, Shipmate.

We know where you’ve been, we’ve been right there with you. I was a JO when McRaven and his Year Group +/- were senior LT and LCDR. I know what they did and how they comported themselves, I was right there watching them. I know they saw what I saw post-Tailhook. I know they watched throughout their career so many sacrificed so more senior people could be, “shocked, shocked I say,” at what was said to be normal behavior, but, after a good sniff of smelling salts, was actually unheard of.

Where were all those First Flag Officer in the Chain of Command and up the chain further who swore when younger that when they were senior leaders, they would not be part of watching innocent junior leaders flayed alive like we saw after Tailhook?

Where were they in the last decade when RDML Gaouette, CAPT Honors, CAPT McWherter, CDR Jackson and others were thrown bound and gagged in in front of the Star Chamber?

Unfair to McRaven? Perhaps, as this is not his fault. After all, he has been at the tip of the spear fighting a decade and a half long war most of the time, but he brought up the subject. I do applaud Admiral McRaven for rising in defense of Losey – a great leader and great officer. This may help bring more attention to the IG system, but Losey is not the posterchild to rally a movement behind. What Losey is, however, is just a datapoint in a long, sad, and shameful series of datapoints.

We have a broken IG system and parallel bodies that have their tentacles throughout our system, not just at the GOFO-Congress interface. It has created, and is encouraged by, a culture riven with fear of being denounced by a power hungry IG cadre running around like some diluted and slightly pathetic version of the French Terror and the Chinese Red Guards.

I would offer, if GOFO desire not to be a victim, that they start standing up to the menace that they are presently allowing to consume CDR and CAPT and more junior personnel in positions of authority. Take care of them first, then ask mercy for yourself. By the example of how you treat others, you show how you would wish to be treated. Fix our side of the house, then we can concern ourselves with the elected representatives of the American people.

The first step in fixing this cultural problem must begin with the action of GOFO down the chain. Until that takes place, do not expect any groundswell from the masses as that same culture you enable consumes one of your own … again.

Admiral McRaven, in case you and your peers don’t know it; this is your circus. These are your monkeys.


UPDATE: I would also recommend that you read CDR J. Michael Dahm’s article from the April Proceedings, Innocent Until Investigated. Must be a USNI Member to get the article online.

H/t BJ.



Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 15 Comments
Tags:

RS-GIUK-gapThe world keeps waking up from history – in this case a quarter century nap it seems.

During the Cold War, the maritime choke points between Greenland, Iceland, and the UK were key to the defense of Europe. This “GIUK gap” represented the line that Soviet naval forces had to cross in order to reach the Atlantic and stop U.S. forces heading across the sea to reinforce America’s European allies. It was also the area that the Soviet Union’s submarine-based nuclear forces would have to pass as they deployed for their nuclear strike missions. In response, the United States and its northern NATO allies spent considerable time, money, and effort on bolstering anti-submarine warfare capabilities and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance in the region. Maritime patrol aircraft from the UK, Norway, and the U.S.(Navy P-3s, flying from Keflavik) covered the area from above, while nuclear and conventional submarines lurked below the surface. The choke points were also monitored by an advanced network of underwater sensors installed to detect and track Soviet submarines.

But after the Cold War ended, the GIUK gap disappeared from NATO’s maritime mind. U.S. forces left Iceland in 2006, and the UK, facing budget pressures, retired its fleet of maritime patrol aircraft fleet in 2010. (The Netherlands did the same in 2003.) Anti-submarine warfare and the North Atlantic were hardly priorities for an Alliance embroiled in peacekeeping, counter-insurgency, and fighting pirates in far-flung Bosnia, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa.

That appears to have come to an end;

Russia’s growing sub-surface capabilities are coupled with an apparent political will to use them. Its recently revised maritime strategy emphasizes operations in the Arctic, along with the need for Russian maritime forces to have access to the broader Atlantic Ocean. And that access will have to be, just as during the Cold War, through the GIUK gap.

Now the United States is pivoting back to the region; witness the Obama administration’s recent announcement that it intends to spend part of the proposed 2017 European Reassurance Initiative budget on upgrading facilities at Keflavik.

And the U.S. is not alone. Britain recently announced that it will seek to rebuild its maritime patrol aircraft fleet, probably by buying P-8s from Boeing. Norway is also considering its options for the future of its maritime patrol aircraft, and is also looking to buy a new class of submarines. Norway also recently upgraded its signal intelligence ship with new U.S. sensors, and the ship is primarily intended for operations in the vast maritime spaces of the High North.

Of course, history has been busy while everyone else was distracted. Time for a little catch-up.

The UK is without an indigenous maritime patrol aircraft capability following a decision in 2010 to axe its fleet of Nimrod aircraft for budgetary reasons. However, that has widely been viewed as a mistake, and November’s Strategic Defense and Security Review (SDSR) included a decision to procure nine P-8 aircraft to reinstate that capability.

Those planes will not be operational until 2019, at a time when the increasing presence of Russian nuclear submarines in the North Atlantic has spooked some in London.

Several possible sightings of Russian boats in the approaches to the Royal Navy’s nuclear submarine base at Faslane, Scotland, have resulted in US and other NATO allies drafting in maritime patrol aircraft to mount a search for the vessels.

British crews have been training on US Navy P-8’s and other maritime aircraft following the Nimrod program cancellation.

The program, known as Seedcorn, is aimed at maintaining British anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills. As many as British 20 crew have at any one time been embedded with the USN on P-8 operations.

Dunne also confirmed that the United Kingdom still plans to operate US weapons on its P-8 fleet when the planes first come online, before potentially transitioning to British weapons in the future, the nation’s head of military procurement has confirmed.

The equipment on the UK P-8s will “initially” be the same as the US Navy operates, Dunne said. “On the P-8, we are looking at essentially an off the shelf, [foreign military sales] purchase. It’s a [commercial off-the-shelf] capability. We are looking at acquihiring the same suite of capability as the US Navy operate.

“There may be some communications stuff that we need to introduce but as far as the capability is concerned it’s coming sort of as is, fully formed,” he added.

Asked if there was a timetable for when UK equipment might end up on the P-8, Dunne simply said “no.”

That is a nation in a hurry. They slow-rolled this to the point they cannot even defend the approaches to their strategic deterrence in their territorial waters.

Imagine having to call Australia and France to help us look for Russian submarines off Seattle and Kings Bay. Yep.

As the West returns to ASW, it will be at a smaller scale. Things are a bit different now. Russia, while something to contend with, is not the Soviet Union. She is also not the supine Russia of 20 years ago.

Unlike the height of the Cold War, she does not need to get her SSBNs to their designated “Yankee Box” in the middle Atlantic. They can deter from the pier if they need to. They no longer have the Red Banner Fleet, they have assets that if they want to show the flag, they need to get out of the North Sea. To get out of the North Sea, they have to make it through the GIUK Gap. If the Most Dangerous COA takes place and they find themselves in a war – they must threaten shipping and NATO warships in the Atlantic. NATO must prevent that. That is the driver.

They have more than legacy Soviet systems. The Russians are building some impressive modern kit, but in smaller numbers – as are we.

NATO’s military does not have the capacity to do ASW like it used to, so we are lucky. ASW is a numbers game, and you have to have enough hunters to match the game. The days of the Norwegians and other folks getting cracks at them before Bear Island, then you had all sorts of SSK and SSNs from European NATO nations that could create issues, not to mention the flightlines full of USA, CAN, GBR, NOR, NLD and other nations Maritime Patrol aircraft that had regular almost daily real world ASW experience – throw in USNS and USN/NATO RW and surface forces too … and on a good day we were all over them, and that was before the Soviets even got through The Gap.

If the Russians want to come out to play again, then we will have to join them. How much? Hard to tell, but we don’t want to be where the British have found themselves.

So, it is time to return to old stomping grounds and to break the adhesions of intermittent real world ASW prosecutions.

Now, how to fund it? FRA, NLD, DEU – I’m looking to you. NOR and GBR look to be stepping up. ESP, POR, and ITA, we’ll bother you next if the Russians insist on coming through the STROG to bother everyone through the Malta escarpment.

An aerial view of the ramp areas and facilities of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, with other facilities in the background.

 



12948e232c6112544b98d11a051008aeSmart people in the last few years expended a lot of effort asking the question, “Where is our strategy?”

From “Pacific Pivots” to “Offshore Balancing” to “Leading from Behind,” as a culture, the national security chatterati and professionals have been grasping for a good “Ref. A” that looked like anything close to strategic thought – even if in reality some of them are only rough operational concept outlines.

As such, heads turned when CNO Richardson announced last week,

Adm. John Richardson, the current CNO, is seeking to accelerate learning and information processing and reportedly has decided the eight months each group takes to study a problem and generate a report is too long. On March 30, he directed retired Vice Adm. Phil Wisecup, the current SSG head, to stand down the group after the current team completes its work.

As a backgrounder,

The CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) at the US Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, has been working on particular CNO-directed topics since 1981. The group, according to the Navy, is tasked only by and reports directly to the CNO.Organized each year with about 18 to 22 members, many of whom are considered bound for flag rank, the SSG is thought of as a concept demonstration team, often taking on topics that could have great potential but are not being pursued in other Navy organizations. Study topics have included the integration of rail guns into operational concepts, the convergence of cyber power and sea power, and the development of synthetic fuels.

With a name like “Strategic Studies Group” and such a pedigree, one would think in a time of flux that would not be a body that the CNO would want to get rid of. Give all the squid ink about “speed” a pass and look a bit deeper on why we would do such a thing.

Why would the CNO decide it was no longer value added? I think the answer is a simple one; the product.

Such an organization produces a poor product for one of two broad reasons, neither are comfortable to talk about in the open.

1) The Process: this is what the CNO mentions as “speed.” Process is also the easiest thing to fix. Why was this not looked at in detail first? Too hard? Really not. That is what leads me to the next reason.
2) The People: if the people in the Flag holding pen are really our best and brightest, what was it about the SSG that produced such ossified thought to the point it was negative help? What does that say about either how we direct the energies of our talent, or the talent we are selecting? Those are uncomfortable and hard questions that make enemies, but they are ones that have to be asked.

This is not a process issue. Nuclear trained Admirals can fix process. The smart money is on a people problem, and that should worry us all.

As one highly respected professional told me,

SSG has been slowly descending into irrelevance, a holding pond for a bunch of post major command guys to give them a veneer of being smart guys, but the products have become increasingly vanilla. Sort of a wasted exercise where the CNO sends a really tough and important question up to Newport and nine months later the answer … comes out the other end (and sucked). I have given up reading their final reports a few years ago, a waste of time, but still three guys were selected for flag out of there in the past few years.

Why are our best and brightest producing inferior produce, and being rewarded for it? That too is a question we should want an answer to.



« Older Entries Newer Entries »