OK, there isn’t a “21st Century Thucydides” coming out as part of the exceptional USNI Press 21st Century Foundations series, but work with me a bit here.
If we are going to review the great minds of the 19th and 20th Centuries, then why not from the 400s BC? The Peloponnesian War lasted 30 years. We are 15 years in to a low degree but still very real war against expansionist Islamic fundamentalism and rising powers to the left and right of us. There has to be something there.
Why look at what happened between two city-states at the dawn of Western history? Take awhile to read Mark Gilchrist’s article at RCD, Why Thucydides Still Matters;
Thucydides’ History of the Peloponnesian War is a book that all who seek to understand the influence of war must read.
…reading The Peloponnesian War we come to realise the complexities of modern life have not rendered everything experienced by past generations irrelevant to the problems of today. In fact, as he intended, Thucydides provides a sound basis from which to discover how best to approach the complex problems facing contemporary strategists through allowing us to better understand war’s continuities and discontinuities.
Thucydides charts the impact of war on the character of the states involved. He uses Athens’ transformation as a cautionary tale about what war will do to a state unprepared for its influence and of the cost of applying power unwisely or unjustly in the pursuit of a political objective. His writing is grounded in the understanding that war’s nature is inextricably linked to human nature, which in turn shapes the strategic and military culture that manifest in war’s character and the political objectives for which it is fought. Through a narrative approach, his work serves as a warning about the moral decline of society over the course of protracted war.
As we try to understand today why Russia does what it does, why China is motivated to push where she is pushing, it is helpful to recall that human nature, at its base, has not changed for thousands of years;
Thucydides tells us there is a tipping point where a rising power becomes too powerful to contain. By this point, conflict between near equals may present as an inevitability, particularly when junior allies are agitating for action from the dominant partner. In such circumstances, war’s political objective can be heavily influenced by fearing the costs of not going to war as much as a fear of war itself.
About 2/3 of the way through Gilchrist’s article, I was reminded of another one on Thucydides I read over a decade ago by one of the premier classicists of our day, Professor Victor Davis Hanson, in his 2003 review in Commentary Magazine of Donald Kagan’s book, The Peloponnesian War.
As he is want to do, Hanson uses every opportunity to grab his reader by the lapels and plead with them to know that the keys to the unlocking all their questions are there, and have been for thousands of years.
The Peloponnesian War, then, is not really so ancient. Even if some classicists think that Athens’s war with Sparta was relatively uninteresting, outsiders still write books with titles like War and Democracy: A Comparative Study of the Korean War and the Peloponnesian War or Hegemonic Rivalry: From Thucydides to the Nuclear Age. The conflict continues to be evoked in the present—its supposed lessons both astutely and clumsily applied to most of our own wars of the last century.
Why is this ancient war between tiny Athens and Sparta still so often used and misused? First, it was long—twenty-seven years—and it lined up the entire Greek world into opposite armed camps. Second, the two antagonists were antithetical in nearly every respect, and thus the bipolar fighting was proclaimed to be a final arbiter of their respective values—political and cultural values that still divide us today. Third, it started in Greece’s great Golden Age, and its attendant calamity was felt to have ended for good that period of great promise. Fourth, players in the war were the greats of Hellenic civilization—Socrates, Pericles, Euripides, Alcibiades, Sophocles, Aristophanes, and others—and their lives and work reflect that seminal experience. Fifth, Athens lost, casting into doubt ever since not merely the power but also the morality of democracy, especially when it executed Socrates in the war’s aftermath. Sixth—and at last we arrive at the theme of the Oxford Classical Dictionary’s brief entry on the war—Greece’s preeminent historian, Thucydides, was not merely an analytical and systematic writer of a great extant history; he was also a brilliant philosopher who tried to lend to the events of the war a value that transcended his own time, making his history of ideas “a possession for all time” that could furnish lessons for men at war in any age. Thucydides’ man of the ages is a pretty savage creature whose known murderous proclivities are kept in check—albeit just barely—by an often tenuous and hard-to-maintain civilization.
During moments of big change – and we are about to go through one in the course of the next few months – many will wonder; what is coming next? What should we look for? What have others done?
To see the future, you have to be comfortable with and acceptable of the past.
Most wars, of course, do not end like they start. Before Shiloh (April 6–8, 1862), for example, Grant thought one great battle would win the Civil War. After the battle he realized that years, thousands of lives, and millions of dollars in capital were needed to ruin rather than defeat a recalcitrant Confederacy. So too the Spartans marched into Attica in Spring 431 BC thinking that a year or two of old-style ravaging of fields would bring them victory; seven years later neither side was closer to victory, and they still had another twenty far-worse seasons to go.
The Peloponnesian War itself proved to be a colossal paradox. Sparta had the most feared infantry in the Greek world. Yet it was Sparta’s newly created navy that finally won the great battles of the war. Democratic Athens sent almost 40,000 allied soldiers to their deaths trying to capture far-off Syracuse, the largest democracy in the Greek world—even as thousands more of her enemies were to plunder her property with impunity less than twenty miles outside her walls from the base at Decelea. Alcibiades at times proved the savior of Athens, Sparta, and Persia—and their collective spoiler as well. Athens started the war off with gold piled high in its majestic Parthenon; it ended the conflict broke and unable even to flute the final columns of the Propylae, the monumental gateway to the still unfinished temples on the acropolis. Sparta fielded the most terrifying army in Greece, and yet most of its opponents fell not in pitched battle, but rather either to disease, at sea, or in guerrilla-style killing.
So, get to the bookshelf. Put down the fiction and reach deep.
Others have been here before. They’ve learned lessons you didn’t even know existed. All you need to gather this treasure of knowledge is time to read and open eyes to see.
Kagan’s abridged Peloponnesian War is still important because the solid judgment of its author remains throughout. No one—not a majestic Pericles, a fiery Cleon, or the chameleon Alcibiades—can fool Don Kagan; he appreciates the genius of bad men he does not like, and praises the inspiration of rogues he despises. Bad plans like Sicily can work if implemented well; good ideas of good men failed in the Delium campaign for bad luck and the simple want of common sense. Things about radical Athens bother him, but not to such a degree that he denies its energy and dynamism. He admires Spartan discipline, but hardly the blinkered society that was at the bottom of it all. If democracy was often murderous, oligarchy and tyranny brought the same violence but without the grandeur.
Finally and most importantly, Kagan has no condescension for his subjects. Cleon and Brasidas, Nicias and Lysander are not silly squabbling ancient peoples in need of modern enlightenment, but men of universal appetites to be taken on their own terms, just like us whose occasional crackpot ideas, fears, jealousies, and sins can sometimes—if the thin veneer of civilization is suddenly stripped away—lead into something absolutely godawful. If you don’t agree, ask the Serbians, Rwandans, Afghans—or those with cell phones and briefcases who politely boarded planes to butcher thousands.
Nothing is new; only new to you.
In the next few weeks to months we should find out who will be the next Secretary of the Navy. Especially with President-Elect Trump’s desire for a path to a 350 ship Navy, there will be a lot of fine detailed work to be done, but out the door there is a larger theme that I would recommend to whoever finds their way in the office; back to fundamentals.
Long deployments, running rust due to fewer deck Seamen and less time and money to do preservation, DDG-1000 that can’t survive a Panama Canal transit, LCS engineering casualties almost every fortnight – these and other items are just external manifestations of a Navy that is a bit off balance. Some will argue that many of the causes of this ill-resonance felt throughout our Navy predate the present SECNAV, but that isn’t really the issue at hand.
What would be more important than attacking detailed issues first? Former Navy Intel Officer and Asst. Secretary of State Robert Charles recent article, Securing the Navy, had me thinking about that last night.
He based his article on the SEP 2016 Navy survey (which if anyone has a copy, I’d love to see it). Some of his observations are a bit evergreen,
…sailors are “increasingly unhappy with lengthy deployments, high operational tempo, and calls to reduce pay and benefits,”
“Sailors are most likely to leave uniformed service because of poor work/life balance, low servicewide morale
Yep. I think you will get that in almost any survey to one degree or another.
Then some other items are brought up;
How did we get here, … leadership appears to have become distracted or dissuaded from traditional ways of inspiring, rewarding, reinforcing and guiding men and women. Instead, leadership became enamored with domestic political ends and social engineering, forgetting to inspire and reward the resolve of men and women in uniform.
The next administration needs to focus on the Navy not as a social experiment, not as a way of pulling in fringe votes for fringe candidates, but as a group of professionals, selfless and committed, patriotic and hard-working, mission-focused and mutually respecting. They deserve good leadership, leaders devoted to them and to their success, not to political agendas. Individual careers matter, and so does the mission to which individuals devote their lives, assuring America’s national security.
A good starting point. As a great man one said; excellence is achieved by a mastery of the fundamentals.
In David Maraniss’s book on Coach Lombardi, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, the author outlined what Lombardi said to his new players in the summer of 1961.
He took nothing for granted. He began a tradition of starting from scratch, assuming that the players were blank slates who carried over no knowledge from the year before… He began with the most elemental statement of all. “Gentlemen,” he said, holding a pigskin in his right hand, “this is a football.”
Fundamentals. The basics. One should always make sure those are mastered first – but when things don’t seem to be going right, then what? You need to step back a bit and start again with the basics.
A lot of SECNAV Mabus’s time in office and political capital was spent on items a few layers beyond Navy basics; “green” fuel, shoehorning women in to every USMC combat position possible, excising “man” from ratings … no wait … eliminating ratings altogether, and a few other priorities. We all have our list. It was his watch, he had his priorities. Fair.
What would be a good start for the next SECNAV? Perhaps a start would be a moment to state, rather simply,
This is a Navy.
One of the worst kept secrets is that the balance of our surface fleet can do very little surface warfare outside their 5″ gun. Sure, we can play defense until Winchester like champs, but more often than not we’re hoping the aviation side of the house will be there to punch back – and if their lucky, a SSN might be lurking about. Hope and Luck; not a warrior’s ethos.
Like a fleet of Lotus Eaters, through compromise, risk hedging, and pulling the cost-saving short straw – we drifted through a post-Cold War complacency and a post-GWOT ground combat focus to a point where we decided that we would be happy to rely on an increasingly dated ASCM, Harpoon, on fewer and fewer platforms. As we advanced with our primary surface combatant, offensive ASUW was so out of mind that when it came time to move from Flight II to Flight IIA, we decided we didn’t need even Harpoon. As a result, the majority of our most numerous class of surface combatant can’t really effectively engage other warships at sea in combat. We’re the US Navy – who would ever want to challenge us at sea? Right?
Our FF(not-so-G) could carry Harpoon, but they are long gone after the even earlier removable of their ASUW capable SM-1. Our CG can, but they need to stay close to the bird farm. With an arc welder, duct tape and a few pounds of bailing wire, we managed to slap a few ASCM on a LCS – but that is about it when you run out of the Harpoon capable Flight I and Flight II Arleigh Burkes, 28 out of the 76 commissioned or planned of the class.
This is well known, and in the last few years some steps have been taken to patch up the gap. LRASM is under development, we’ve played around with the option of the Norwegian Naval Strike Missile, and there are steps to bringing back the anti-ship capability of the TLAM. Some people will shyly whisper about the sort-of ASUW capability of the SM-2 – but that argument usually never survives first contact with a raised eyebrow. We’re coding ASUW in to the SM-6 – but how many of those will be forward deployed in 2020? 2025? A lot can happen between now and then – so what does one do?
This is good and should receive more funds to accelerate the gap-fill. In the last decade or so, from the “1,000 Ship Navy” to “We Don’t Need Frigates, but if We Do, Our Allies Have That Capability,” response, we have assumed that others will be able to cover capabilities we don’t have. Well, more news came across recently involving our most capable partner nation at sea, the British Royal Navy;
Royal Navy warships will be left without anti-ship missiles and be forced to rely on naval guns because of cost-cutting, the Ministry of Defence has admitted.
The Navy’s Harpoon missiles will retire from the fleet’s frigates and destroyers in 2018 without a replacement, while there will also be a two year gap without helicopter-launched anti-shipping missiles.
So, we’ve got that going for us in the Global Maritime Partnership, which is nice.
That is a summary of where we are – and this topic of an offensive ASUW shortfall comes up inside navalist conversations on a regular basis – but it never gets the traction it should. Perhaps it is because we just have not used the right methods to demonstrate it.
Well, I think we have a solution from to that educational challenge at least.
I’ll let you read the full article, but there are two images that provides an overview of our ASCM shortfall in crisp profile.
When looking at the Chinese Navy in WESTPAC, how do our surface units that can or should carry ASCM line up – just in quantity?
Yes, I know there is quite the quality differential. That really isn’t the point – not the time to go down that rabbit hole in comments. Focus.
Let’s look at what these units bring to the ASCM fight.
Put your, “but..but…but” points about defensive capabilities and whose weapons are more primitive in the corner and look at that in detail, and you see the problem.
In a sad insult to the rump class of Pocket Battleship sized Destroyers we are building, the three ship ZUMWALT Class, this week fate delivered what many expected for a while.
Just a couple weeks after the Navy commissioned its most advanced warship, the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), the service says it won’t be buying any more of the guided precision munitions the ship’s Advanced Gun Systems uses, called the Long Range Land-Attack Projectile (LRLAP).
What are we to learn of this? There are a few things.
First of all; we have to acknowledge that of the ships of the Transformationalist Era; LCS, DDG-1000, LPD-17, and FORD – have something in common; they proved history and critics of Transformationalism right.
You cannot pack too much technology risk in to new platforms, slather them with hope and PPT and assume that all will turn out well in future people’s PCS cycle long after you are gone.
Somehow we have lost a larger sense of that handmaiden of ownership, stewardship. We need to move away from the desire to have others fawn over ourselves for our supposed “visionary embrace of the future,” but instead have a calm dedication to stewardship of the continuous improvement of our navy. That is what gave us AEGIS, TLAM, and the Virginia Class SSN.
The programmatic Hipsterdom that is Transformationalism begat the shambolic parade of our last few classes of warships.
Next; bespoke, expensive, and exquisite systems that will not have wide use in the fleet are low hanging fruit when people come looking for money. If there is something good and less expensive that can replace the awesome, you will get the good. If the good can’t be had at enough savings, you just might get a void and a blank-plate.
As smart people are moving away from “salami slice” ideas of cost savings towards whole wedges, this is what will happen.
“The Navy continuously monitors the gun and ammunition industry capability and capacities,” Capt. Thurraya Kent, spokesperson for the service’s acquisition directorate, said Nov. 4 in an e-mail. “To address evolving threats and mission requirements, the Navy is evaluating industry projectile solutions (including conventional and hyper-velocity projectiles) that can also meet the DDG 1000 deployment schedule and could potentially be used as an alternative to LRLAP for DDG 1000.”
“We are looking at multiple different rounds for that gun,” the Navy official said, adding that “three or four different rounds” have been looked at, including the Army’s Excalibur munition from Raytheon, and the Hyper Velocity Projectile (HVP), a project under development by the Office of Naval Research and BAE Systems.
“There are multiple companies that have looked at alternatives to get the cost down and use that delivery system,” the Navy official said.
But the likelihood is that there will be no LRLAP replacement before the Zumwalt enters operational service.
Current plans call for the guns to be fired during CSSQT and, the Navy official said, “the intention is to shoot the guns.” The 2015 budget provided $113 million to buy 150 LRLAP rounds and associated items, and those rounds will be used for the tests.
No funds for LRLAP acquisition were included in the 2016 or 2017 budgets. The latter included $51 million in 2018 for the program, but it’s not clear whether or not that money will be requested.
Last, we need to be willing to return to a practice of evolutionary development with room to allow that you will now and again fail small and keep going, as opposed to assuming you will always win big or have nothing.
We have a new gun system? Great. Mature it ashore and install on an established platform and see how it works at sea. New engineering plant? Same. Manning concept … etc.
Decades – really centuries – of naval best practices shows us how it is done. We should go back to that template.
For now we find ourselves in 2016 without meeting the need that started us down the road – effective and accurate NSFS from the sea. Recent combat experience Al-Faw’s “5-in Friday,” to Israeli corvettes off Gaza, to the French Navy’s 76mm and 100mm guns off Libya, the modern requirement is clear – but it can be done better.
Where to next? In the near term, “good enough” 155mm solutions will need to be found and hopefully will work.
So much wasted time for so little gain for the nation. I hate to say it, but this is also true – none of this should be a surprise to anyone. How as an institution did we go this far down this path? That is the most important lesson – one I don’t think we have really dealt with yet.
While software changes will certainly be needed to incorporate other munitions into the AGS, adapting the handling system for a different round could be complex. The automated magazines, designed to hold 300 LRLAPs, are sized for that particular weapon and it’s unlikely another munition would have exactly the same dimensions.
Other rounds under development for the 127mm guns arming all other US destroyers and cruisers could be adapted to the AGS, but would likely need a sabot arrangement to adapt the smaller shell to the 155mm weapon.
Read that again as you ponder the institutional mindset mentioned earlier on in this article. This nugget about DDG-1000 needs to be repeated. This was a warship the size of a Pocket Battleship that would carry the largest guns of any warship in our navy – gun with a large rate of fire and range – that was intentionally designed not to be able to use these guns to engage an seagoing enemy.
Let that soak in.
But as the Zumwalt moved from shipyard to sea and to the fleet, the Navy has notably downplayed that attribute, and while the technical achievement of the cutting-edge DDG 1000 has been widely trumpeted this year, its ability to directly support Marines ashore has not.
There was no requirement for the AGS to strike seagoing targets, and the system does not have the programming to do so. But the big guns could be adapted to target ships if necessary, the Navy official said.
“We would have to do the software modifications to make that work.”
Institutions are just like people in some ways. When situations allow, there is a drift towards the easy and the comfortable. Not the most efficient and productive – that would be ideal – but towards the point where there is a conservation of effort satisfactory enough to get by but still get the job mostly done.
Without external stresses, firm leadership or an institutional bias towards creative destruction, difficult progress will lose out to comfort.
We can build our own myths to explain why things are the way they are. They don’t have to be correct at war, just comfortable at peace.
David Vergon over at army.mil has a nice summary of some comments by Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, Jr., USA that are refreshing to see – as are most things from McMaster.
His comments are Army specific, but the thought process would do every service good. What are our myths? Our pleasant self-delusions? The sweet little lies we tell each other to make us avoid uncomfortable realities?
I encourage you to read McMaster’s comments in full for the context of each four myths, but below I’ll just provide the four myths he believes the Army has when it comes to ground combat vehicles. It is refreshingly direct and blunt, putting some of the statements of his peers in direct contrast to his own.
The Army needs to make “clear and compelling arguments” for capabilities that advanced ground combat vehicles will bring to the fight with their effective mobile protective firepower, he said.
Unfortunately, it’s sometimes difficult to make the case when there are myths that are still circulating out there, he commented, pointing to four persisting myths.
Existing platforms are already the best in the world and are sufficient for future conflicts.
The next war won’t be fundamentally different from previous ones and will be resolved through long-range, stand-off capabilities.
Combat vehicles have a limited role in restricted environments and dense urban areas.
Combat vehicles are too expensive.
This is good. This is creative friction practiced at a high level.
As you read it, think to yourself, “Who is the aviation Vice Admiral who will make a similar myth critique of our aviation myths? Who is the surface Vice Admiral and submarine Vice Admiral who will do the same?”
Too often, our senior leaders and their PAOs sound more like defense industry PR representatives and talking points, than the customers of the defense industry, or just another thought-pod in a monoculture field of cloned thought-pods planted and harvested with each POM.
Again, McMaster sets a template.
Consider for a few moments two benchmark facts.
1. Aircraft Carriers are the premier capital ship in our navy and for navies throughout the world. Sorry submarine bubbas, it’s true.
2. By the time he leaves office, SECNAV Mabus will have been on the job roughly eight years.
Mid-month, SECNAV put out this rather remarkable comment;
“The Ford is a textbook example of how not to build a ship,” Ford told reporters. “(We were) building it while it’s still being designed” — which results in costly do-overs of already-finished components — “(and) trying to force too much new and unproven technology on it” — whose teething troubles result in unplanned delays and costs.
“That was already on fire when I got in,” said Mabus, who became Navy Secretary the year the Ford’s keel was laid. “But we’ve stopped the cost growth.” The carrier’s schedule is still slipping, however, with a November delivery to the fleet postponed indefinitely due to problems in the Main Turbine Generators (MTG).
Mabus is correct. He did not conceive this baby, but it has been his responsibility to raise it. I am sure his comments are informed from what he has been briefed on via the review our Sam reported on back in August, or what led up to the review.
How could we have such a screwed up program for the crown jewel of our navy? The premier capital ship in the world’s premier navy? For regular readers, this will come as no shock; spawn of the Cult of Transformationalism that abandoned the evolutionary for the revolutionary.
FORD sprouts from the same intellectual well that LCS and DDG-1000 do. The Transformationalists decided that they could just wish aside centuries of experience on how to modernize a fleet. By their own confidence in their own self-perceived brilliance – compounding risk; technology, budgetary, programmatic, etc – none of those problems would be theirs.
I was hoping the issues with FORD would be a focus on itself, but then things got a bit strange. Mabus quickly pivoted and started to defend what almost all agree is a snake-bitTtransformationalist flop, LCS;
Isn’t LCS also a textbook example of a troubled ship program, I asked Mabus, for much the same reasons as Ford?
“No,” said Mabus. LCS is more an example of typical teething troubles on a new design, he argued.
“Every time you start a new class of ship…you’re going to have issues,” he said. “LCS gets a lot of attention, but during the first deployment of an LCS to Singapore…it was ready for sea more than the (US) Pacific Fleet average.”
“It’s got a lot of attention mainly because it looks different,” Mabus said. “It is a different kind of ship.”
Ummmm, no. FREEDOM Class does not look all that different, and eight years after the commissioning of HULL-1, “new class of ship” excuses for the cascading failures no longer applies. INDEPENDENCE looked different a decade ago. We’re used to it now. Then again, he has a lot of personal capital invested in LCS, so one would expect a bit of a blinkered view.
Why do two programs with similar troubles get such a different reaction from Mabus? It’s especially striking because the carrier program matters much more to naval traditionalists, who often disdain the relatively tiny and lightly armed LCS. But throughout Mabus’s seven years in office — the longest tenure of a Navy Secretary since World War I — he’s measured his success in terms of numbers of ships.
From 2001 to 2008, Mabus said today (as he says in every speech he makes) the US Navy fell from 316 ships to 278 and put only 41 new ships on contract. In the seven years since 2009, Mabus has contracted for 86.
“Quantity has a quality all of its own,” Mabus said — and you don’t get quantity without a small ship cheap enough to build in bulk. In the face of two skeptical Defense Secretaries and sometimes bitter criticism from Congress, Mabus’s commitment to LCS explains a lot about its survival
Perhaps it would be unkind to state that we have been engaged all month in littoral combat off of Yemen, but no one in their right mind wants a LCS anywhere near that coastline.
Perhaps it is best to leave that there so we don’t wander in to another LCS post. Let’s stick to the FORD issue.
If I may be self-indulgent a bit; when we few, we happy few anti-Transformationalists began tilting against the Transformationalist series of ships that came before FORD; LPD-17, LCS, DDG-1000 – from titanium fire mains to NLOS, one of our primary critiques was a cavalier view towards technology risk. It is great to see that, in his own way, Mabus is on the same page of the hymnal with us now.
Speaking Thursday with the massive carrier in the background, Mabus said, “I think we’re a long ways down that road” to fixing the power-generation issue.
He gave a similar assessment of the advanced arresting gear (AAG), which has been installed on the Ford but is still being tested.
The Navy is studying whether to continue with AAG on the next Ford-class carrier, the John F. Kennedy, which is under construction at the shipyard and about 23 percent complete.
“Everything that has been brought up lately, we have been looking at for years, and testing for years,” he said.
Kendall ordered a review of the Ford program, which is now under way and should be complete by December. Until all concerns are resolved, Mabus said he can’t specify a delivery date.
“As soon as it’s ready,” he said. “I’m not going to give you a date. But the testing is going well. Getting to the root cause of the generator problem is going well.”
He also reiterated an oft-stated observation: that the Ford suffers from a decision made more than a decade ago to pack new technology on the ship instead of phasing in new systems over three ships.
“It’s not the shipyard,” he said. “It was us doing this to them.”
How bad is the AAG issue?
The ship’s Advanced Arresting Gear (AAG) is more problematic, and “has had significant delays in completing its land-based test program due to the technical challenges encountered in transitioning from design” through final testing, Mabus reported. Other Navy sources report dozens of roll-through tests have been conducted with the AAG at the Navy’s test facility in Lakehurst, New Jersey, but to date no true arrested landings have been accomplished.
Mabus noted that the Navy is reviewing whether to continue with AAG installation on the Enterprise (CVN 80), third ship in the class, or return to the standard Mark 7 aircraft recovery system operating on all current carriers. Installation of AAG on the second ship, John F. Kennedy (CVN 79), is continuing for now, Mabus noted, because design and construction work has progressed to the point where a replacement would have a significantly negative impact on costs and schedule.
Less of a Transformationalist problem, LPD-17 has been made useful with the extra Sailor sweat and seabags of money prescribed to fix her. LCS and DDG-1000 are what they are, but there was great hope that we would somehow get FORD right. That we would be lucky and good – looks like we were neither.
I think everyone understands technology risk as a factor described above, but what is programmatic risk? Part of programmatic risk is just that; as the DDG-1000 people will tell you, if you are too much of a burden your program will be cancelled. You also can become your own parody. In doing so, you open the door for those who want to do things with that money and effort – specifically the likes of our friend Jerry Hendrix;
The first move of a new presidential administration will not be to “cancel any of these programs but we’ve shown it is possible to make significant changes in short time,” said Jerry Hendrix, one of the report’s authors and a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank.
“We want to stir the debate.” he added.
The proposal was first reported by The Washington Post.
Most notably, the report calls for canceling the $40 billion Ford-class aircraft carrier program, halting construction of the littoral combat ship, and purchasing fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.
Those funds would be reallocated for the stealthy B-21 bomber, adding 16 additional submarines, and investing in emerging technologies like high-energy lasers, the CNAS report recommends.
Combine the latest news with FORD and the bitter fruits of the Light Attack Mafia’s bureaucratic victories in the 1990s and early 2000s, and you give other ideas room go grow. You can get the full report here.
The 2020s will be, how do the Chinese put it? Interesting.
One of the primary responsibilities of leaders is to be an example to junior personnel. The expected ideal is to “lead by example.” That “example” is understood to be a positive one, but often it is not. On occasion a leader becomes a negative example – “that guy” who everyone is told not to be.
This week we saw one of the last parts of Act-III from the tragedy of General James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, USMC (Ret.).
Josh Rogin over at WaPo outlines the story and its context well, and we’ll get to that later on in the post, but here is the take-away everyone in uniform must know – you are not part of the cool-kids club in DC. Only a very few ever have crossed that barrier, and you are not one of them.
There is a problem with spending too many years in the Imperial City rubbing elbows and watching the Byzantine stew of politics, press, sex, fame, money, and power that swirls around you. If you are lucky, you have enough of a sense of history and self-awareness to know your place, or you have a wife or the ever-rare circle of friends you will listen to who will keep you grounded. Even then, it may not be enough. Even the greatest are human too.
Some can spend the balance of the decades of their life in DC and remain unsullied by its nature, uncompromised, unmoved by the warped ethics and moral compromise one sees every day. Others can be seduced by it inside a single PCS cycle.
It is not a hard sell to think that you have to play by the rules those in suits and pants-suits do to make things happen. You can feel forced to bend, but just as many want to bend. They can smell what is there, and they want to be part of it.
High rank, personal staffs, and a parade of sycophantic obsequiousness can build on top of the existing human desire for power, influence, and position. A person in uniform can see which civilian tactics, techniques, and procedures are used to best effect, and that the civilians get away with it.
Why not you too?
Here is why; you are not them. You wear the uniform. It isn’t that you are held to a different standard, you are, but not for the self-serving reason you think. It isn’t your “higher sense of honor” or any of that. No, it is much baser.
You are not in their club. You do not know their secret handshake. You are not in their circle of influence, cabal, or family though marriage, affairs, or shared history. Even if you went to the same schools, you are outside that circle. Even if they make you feel you are – you are only being patronized for their own interest; you aren’t.
To many there, you are just “The Other.” You are just another government employee who, even as a General Officer and Flag Officer, are seen somewhere between a GS-15 and a Deputy Undersecretary.
You can play some of their games, but even then you will not be allowed to play by their rules. To them, you aren’t just expendable, you are a potential sacrifice to appease whatever is the angry god of the moment’s demands.
The Imperial City is a fascinating place, but only if you know it for what it is. Its standards are not for you. Its concept of accountability do not apply to you. It isn’t because you are better, it is because you are The Other.
Go back to the fundamentals you learned as a JO and grab a map/chart. The Pentagon isn’t even in DC, it is in northern Virginia. Keep that in mind.
The Obama administration Justice Department has investigated three senior officials for mishandling classified information over the past two years but only one faces a felony conviction, possible jail time and a humiliation that will ruin his career: former Joint Chiefs of Staff vice chairman General James E. Cartwright. The FBI’s handling of the case stands in stark contrast to its treatment of Hillary Clinton and retired General David Petraeus — and it reeks of political considerations.
Monday marked a stunning fall from grace for Cartwright, the man once known as “Obama’s favorite general,” who pleaded guilty to the felony charge of lying to the FBI during its investigation into the leaking of classified information about covert operations against Iran to two journalists. His lawyer Greg Craig said in a statement that Cartwright spoke with David Sanger of the New York Times and Dan Klaidman of Newsweek as a confirming source for stories they had already reported, in an effort to prevent the publication of harmful national security secrets.
The defense attorney’s job is to paint the best picture for his client. Re-read the above last paragraph for clarity.
Under his plea deal, Cartwright could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Last year, Petraeus cut a deal with the Justice Department after admitting he had lied to the FBI and passed hundreds of highly classified documents to his biographer and mistress Paula Broadwell. He pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor of mishandling classified information and was sentenced to two years probation and a $100,000 fine.
Clinton was not charged at all for what FBI Director James B. Comey called “extremely careless” handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information.” Comey said that although there was “evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information,” the FBI’s judgment was that no reasonable prosecutor would have filed charges against Clinton or her associates.
Is this fair? Is it right?
That doesn’t matter. It is.
“The FBI will continue to take all necessary and appropriate steps to thoroughly investigate individuals, no matter their position (emphasis added), who undermine the integrity of our justice system by lying to federal investigators,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Abbate.
That statement reveals that the FBI is trying address public criticism that it gives senior officials like Petraeus and Clinton special and favorable consideration, Aftergood said.
“They seem to be trying to make a policy point,” he said. “The Justice Department would say they are not influenced at all by policy or political considerations. In the real world, of course they are influenced.”
One of the best things Cartwright could do is, after a cooling off period, write a book about this whole affair. Not a book to push blame on others. Not a book to try to spin the story in his favor. No. He is a Marine Aviator. He needs to look at this as a mishap report. Focus on what he did wrong. Clear, unblinking honesty of how he found himself walking up the steps to a courthouse. It might help those who follow. Might.
Cartwright, by contrast, was short on high-profile Washington friends. He had long ago run afoul of his two Pentagon bosses, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, who never forgave him for going around the chain of command to join with Vice President Joe Biden to present Obama with an alternate plan for the Afghanistan troop surge in 2009.
Cartwright’s greatest mistake was not talking to reporters or lying about it; he failed to play the Washington game skillfully enough to avoid becoming a scapegoat for a system in which senior officials skirt the rules and then fall back on their political power to save them.
Bingo. It wasn’t his game to play. He didn’t even understand the rules.
I just hope this doesn’t eat in to his soul, as it would take a lot for it not to eat in to mine;
Will the other Stuxnet leakers be held accountable? No one has suggested that Cartwright was the primary source of the Stuxnet disclosures. According to emails obtained by the conservative action group Freedom Watch, Sanger had meetings on Iran with several other high-profile administration officials, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns and even Clinton herself. There’s no evidence of any other Stuxnet leak investigations of high-level officials.
Not being in the club has its consequences.
In his best-case scenario, Cartwright could avoid prison time but will be saddled with a felony conviction that will bar him from most money-making opportunities. In the worst-case scenario, he could be getting released from prison around the same time Clinton finishes her first term.
In his statement taking responsibility for lying to the FBI, Cartwright asserted his motivations were patriotic. “My only goal in talking to the reporters was to protect American interests and lives; I love my country and continue to this day to do everything I can to defend it.”
All glory is fleeting.
Let us talk as adults. It is the mutually respectful thing to do.
Brush aside the spin, the squid ink, the general excuse making and post-decision 2nd and 3rd order effect justification on why this change was made, for what purpose, and what manner. Things such as giving a job description that will help a Sailor or Marine have a better civilian resume. Really, just stop. No one is buying it, and trust me, as someone who made the transition a bit more than half a decade ago, it won’t make a difference in that area.
With some time behind us post-announcement, there is more to discuss. We are lucky in that Mark D. Faram of Navy Times has a thorough, balanced and much needed expose from “behind the scenes of the Navy’s most unpopular policy.”
The simple answer is this; fed by some of the less intellectual threads from the 3rd Wave Feminist theory that seems to inform much of his ideas on “gender,” the SECNAV wanted to grind in his stamp on a pet agenda item before he leaves office.
How it was to be done? That was the question. There was no question of “if.”
This action began and ended with the SECNAV and full credit positive or negative belongs firmly there.
Now, let’s get in to some of Faram’s details.
Good ideas are usually given a nice warm up. This, however, was known from the start that it would be toxic upon delivery. As a result, the delivery was for most as a bolt out of the blue;
Beyond a small working group, convened this past summer and led by then-Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens, next-to no one in the Navy saw this change coming, sources with knowledge of the decision-making process say. And it’s been received with near universal contempt by sailors past and present.
In the course of military service, we have all done things we did not agree with, but duty is what duty is. If it is a lawful order, you do it. If it is a nasty bit of work, you try to come up with the least horrible way of doing it while still getting the OK from the boss. This is why I believe that those who oppose the new policy should hold no ill feeling towards those in uniform who were in the group that produced this for approval by the SECNAV. Likewise, those supporting it should not give them credit either. We’ve all been there, they did the best they could – but the initiating directive came from SECNAV, and if it weren’t for him, it would not have happened.
“I felt it was not optional,” Stevens said, “but my duty to lead this effort, knowing all along that there would be controversy attached to it.” The former MCPON, as the position is known throughout the service, says he believes the move is necessary and that now Navy leaders “must follow through.”
The post announcement spin has been a solid effort to define some positive 2nd and 3rd order effects, which there may be, but that is all they are – 2nd and 3rd order effects. Not designed, just byproducts.
Mabus declined to speak with Navy Times. He and other top Navy officials, including Richardson and Burke, have said that the change, while a nod to gender neutrality, will facilitate sailors’ professional development and career advancement by freeing them to cross train and attain broader skills spanning multiple specialties. That should make them more marketable when they leave the military, too, they’ve noted.
Mabus did speak today, and we’ll end the post with that, but let’s stick to this part of the story for now.
It would be hard to find a more divisive way of making such an announcement that impacts every Sailor.
Much of the frustration tied to Mabus’ decision stems from its timing. Most average sailors and deckplate leaders alike don’t understand why the announcement was made while so much of the plan remains undeveloped.
Well, many did. There were hints and background warnings over the summer.
Mabus, sources said, was determined to put ratings reform in motion — and on the record — before he leaves office.
The power of the office. Once you have been in a while, you begin to enjoy it and find ways to use it. When you see that power soon leaving with much work left undone, well, time to get moving.
Let’s go back to the sausage factory. Direction and guidance was both clear and vague. Interesting how MCPON tried to cobble something workable together.
…while Mabus was focused on removing the word “man” from the Navy’s job titles, he never specifically asked for a plan to eliminate rating titles entirely.
The MCPON assembled a working group composed of “about 12” individuals,…
“Course of action number one was simple: Remove man from titles,” Stevens said. “What we found was that you could in most cases, remove the word ‘man’ and replace it with the word specialist or technician…
The second proposal built upon the first and sought to determine whether the job titles in fact aligned with the work being done. An example here is yeoman; it’s a historic title, but it was decided that “administrative specialist” was a better fit for the work being performed, …
But none of the changes seemed right, he added. Taken in total, they did not amount to the profound change he felt the Navy needs. That’s when Stevens suggested something groundbreaking.
“What if we just eliminated rating titles altogether and simply referred to ourselves by our rate? That’s the traditional Navy word for rank. You could feel the air leave the room,” he said.
There you go.
In case you are wondering, the article didn’t outline well what COA-3 was, but it does not really matter.
“If you want to do just what you asked us to do, here are the rating title changes that need to happen to remove ‘man’ from those titles. He said ‘it’s done and it’s easy and we can do it tomorrow,’” Stevens said, recalling the conversation with Mabus.
Stevens then outlined the idea of removing all rating titles, telling the secretary that he felt this was the the best proposal for the service. But he followed up with a warning.
“Make no mistake about it,” Stevens recalled telling Mabus, “this course of action will be the most labor-intensive, probably the most expensive, certainly the most controversial as well as difficult to accept socially throughout the Navy. But it certainly advances us the furthest.”
Mabus “sat there a little bit, pondered it, asked a few questions and then decided, in the best interest of the Navy’s future, this was the path he wanted to take,” Stevens said.
And that is how a very personal part of our Navy for over two centuries ended.
The pushback was as expected, I assume.
There was “absolutely no signal, no hint that a move of that magnitude was being planned, discussed or soon-to-be forthcoming,” said the command master chief, who also spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity. “Our sailors don’t understand it. They don’t understand why the ratings that they chose to enter have been selected for elimination, and they don’t see the need for it.”
Actually, there was, but few wanted to believe it. No question now.
“We don’t understand why this could not have been a two-to-three year, very gradual process that examined all of the effects from advancement to recruiting, and how it will affect the administration of our Navy on many different levels. It doesn’t appear,” the CMC said, “that any thought was given to that.”
Come on Master Chief, you have to understand why. The focus is all on the calendar, a calendar getting short for the SECNAV.
I know there are many who refuse to accept that this all comes from the SECNAV’s desire. Thanks to Hope Hodge Seck’s article today on his speech at the National Press Club, SECNAV Mabus underlined his priority and should remove all doubt,
“Ratings names change all the time,” Mabus said. “Corpsmen, our medics, that rating came in after World War II. Corpsmen were first called Loblolly Boys, which, I’m not sure where that came from. I thought it was important to be gender-neutral.”
In case you aren’t fully up to speed, looks like we are losing Corpsman for Medic.
I know. I know.
At least for the Western democracies, my initial push-back has always been that regardless of how good your AI gets the legal/ROE issues will get in the way if you cut away the man-in-the-loop such that we have now in the TLAM to Reaper spectrum of autonomy.
Other parts of the world? Not everyone has the niceties that we are used to when it comes to moral or safety considerations.
You cannot classify math, and what is cutting edge for one generation is old and primitive for another. The North Koreans building nuclear weapons is a case in point.
There is, of course, the usual reply from the AI advocated that AI will be the next thing in military etc etc etc.
What if we are scope-locked in our AI discussion? What if we simply do not get the big picture of what is going on?
Author Sam Harris is having me rethink all of my previous assumptions about the direction we are going with and thinking about AI.
The question we should be asking isn’t as much, “if it will meet the promise,” as “should we even let it get close.”
“We.” Unfortunately, there is no international “we” with the force to keep a genie in a bottle, is there?
You need to watch the full video from his TED Talk below, but in it he outlines three assumptions you need to hoist onboard in order to fully understand what the real challenge of AI is.
1. Intelligence is the product of information processing. General Consciousness will eventually be built in to our intelligent machines.
2. We will continue to improve our intelligent machines.
3. We are not near the peak of intelligence.
Agree with the above? Well, you may not want your AI air superiority fighter anytime soon
Look at all the nations we invaded (often like Haiti multiple times) and then left as soon as we could with the hope the “natives” would make the best of the opportunity and we wouldn’t have to come back. The closest we came to empire was with the former Spanish colonies we took after the Spanish-American War. We never really wanted Cuba and let them go. We didn’t quite know what to do with The Philippines and tried to help them go their own way. We still don’t know what to do with Puerto Rico – but then again, neither do the Puerto Ricans. In any event, most of Puerto Rico is moving to Florida – which is probably best for everyone except for those who have to drive to work on I-4.
We were forced in to WWI and for that matter WWII. The hot spots of the Cold War were a mixed bag for us, but one thing is clear – the American people do not have the patience for colonial wars – which would be the archaic term for most of the hot spots we fought in during the roughly four decades of the Cold War.
With our allies we won the Cold War, but we have yet to break our habits. Not just our habits, but the habits of the international security infrastructure that have come to rely on the USA being the indispensable nation, if we like it or not. We are 5% of the world’s population, 20% of its economic power, primary cultural power, and the unchallenged global military power. Other nations are increasing their wealth and power – Russia, China, & India with the greatest impact – but for the foreseeable future, we are it.
Even at the height of our supposed “neutrality” in the 19th and early 20th Centuries, we were not isolationist. Especially our Navy and Marine Corps, from the Revolutionary War on, we have been forward deployed and engaged in order to promote what has always been in our interest – the global flow of goods at market prices. That has never changed.
So, in the middle part of the second decade of the 21st Century – what should we do? As a nation, how do we match what the American people will support with what the international community needs from us?
So far this decade we have tried and failed on two faculty lounge concepts made flesh; nation building and Responsibility to Protect (R2). Good people can argue either side of the argument, but if they failed because they were not executed properly, we lacked strategic patience, or the concepts themselves are just not compatible with the human condition – it really does not matter. From Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo, Libya and Syria – the record is clear.
With this understanding, it was with a slight cringe that I read the Op-Ed by William Burns, Michele Floumoy, and Nancy Lindborg, “Fragile States and the Next President: What Washington Should Do.”
What I thought at first glance might be another integration of the neo-imperial nation-building or R2P repackaged with the help of a thesaurus was actually a framework that could provide a basis for a desperately needed bi-partisan consensus on what type of national security policy we should have towards those nations that have a tendency to produce more problems than can be consumed locally.
The opening paragraph sets out an idea that is not really new, but would be a new area of emphasis and dedication of effort;
Fragile states lie at the root of much of today’s global disorder, from turmoil in the Arab world to the refugee crisis, and from pandemic diseases to economic malaise. When governments exclude citizens from political and economic life, they lose legitimacy, become brittle, and break.
”Fragile States.” A useful term for the “about to be a Failed State.” Not quite full blown nation building – not the humanitarian driven R2P – but a national enlightened self-interest of nudging? Close.
First, the United States must be strategic—concentrating its efforts where its interests are greatest, where the stakes for regional order are most profound, and where, together with its partners, it can invest in prevention and resilience so that festering tensions don’t bubble over into conflict and instability.
Nigeria, Tunisia, and Ukraine all fit the bill, and all deserve priority attention.
The 2nd and 3rd parts require planning. This is where you need to have the right intellectual capital on the project.
Second, the United States must be systemic—tackling security, political, and development challenges in relationship with one another and not in isolation. It is one thing to bring the full toolkit of statecraft to bear. It is another entirely to make sure that the tools in the toolkit work in concert.
Third, the United States must be selective; it must focus on a few countries where it has leverage and set realistic goals that align with key actors within fragile states.
The 4th? Here is where your whole-of-government approach needs its buy-in. Money to feed it and strong bi-partisan leadership to keep the national support. Not our strong suit.
Fourth, U.S. engagement must be sustained; it often takes years or even decades for a state to transcend fragility. Without strong domestic political support, the United States will never be able to make the kind of patient and flexible investments required for success.
That last clause above is a big bucket of cold water. Look at the blood and treasure that we threw away with our premature zero-option in Iraq that midwifed the Islamic State. Look at the cresting wave of 2nd and 3rd order undesired effects of the December 2009 West Point speech where President Obama moved from a conditions based to a calendar based plan in Afghanistan. Not just patience, but strategic patience that is decoupled from Party politics and personal pique is what we need more than anything.
As for the levers of power to make it happen, the sisters of D.I.M.E., we can do this and probably do it well with the right intellectual capital running it. We have a long history of helping “fragile states” so there is a lot to draw on – but as with all things, there is a chance to do it better. Where it may have been a supporting effort to a larger operation, how can we make it the supported effort? Where has it been done well in the past, and where has it failed? Why?
That is the follow on I’d like to see. Fragile States case studies. If you see some, let us know in comments.