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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
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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
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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.



p1-w2-vietnam-a-20140512There is something happening in WESTPAC that needs a closer look.

In addressing China’s push in to the sea, the Western response is almost reflexive – and bellicose. Via David Larter at NavyTimes;

The U.S. military’s top commander in the Pacific is arguing behind closed doors for a more confrontational approach to counter and reverse China’s strategic gains in the South China Sea, appeals that have met resistance from the White House at nearly every turn.

Adm. Harry Harris is proposing a muscular U.S. response to China’s island-building that may include launching aircraft and conducting military operations within 12 miles of these man-made islands, as part of an effort to stop what he has called the “Great Wall of Sand” before it extends within 140 miles from the Philippines’ capital, sources say.

In the closest Western nation to China, Australia, we have an interesting twist from their Latest White Paper;

Former minister Kevin Andrews has used today’s release of the long-awaited Defence White Paper to pressure the Turnbull Government to send warships within 12 nautical miles of contested islands in the South China Sea.

The 2016 Defence White Paper maps a course towards a total of $195 billion in Defence capability or equipment by 2020-21, together with a larger military force of 62,400 personnel, the largest in a quarter of a century.

Mr Andrews’ call comes just days after the Commander of the US Navy’s Pacific Fleet said it would be “valuable” if the Royal Australian Navy conducted “freedom of navigation” operations in the disputed region.

The Liberal backbencher said Australia must now follow the United States’ example.

“We have to exercise that freedom of navigation and means being prepared to sail our naval vessels, to fly our aircraft through that region and say we want unrestricted trade routes in this area,” Mr Andrews told the ABC.

OK. those are grey-hull ops, FON ops, and generally showing everyone you have a big stick.

What are the nations closest to China doing, those of a distinct Asian culture and a few thousand years of national history in dealing with China? They have grey hulls, they have warships – but it isn’t their navy by-and-large that they are sending out.

Let’s go north to south. Japan;

Japan has placed 12 of its coast guard vessels around the disputed chain of islands in the East China Sea. The deployment comes days after it inaugurated a new defence radar system in the region, and is meant to patrol the islands called Senkaku by Japan and termed Diaoyu by China.

The fleet comprises 1,500-tonne patrol ships – all of them newly inducted – and two Shikishima class helicopter carriers. All the newly-built ships, capable of high-speed manoeuvres, are fitted with 20mm guns and water cannons. Tokyo said the enhanced patrolling is to protect the waters surrounding the region, according to the Kyodo news agency.

Vietnam;

The stand-off between China and Vietnam over the former’s decision to place an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea escalated on Tuesday when a Chinese coast guard ship rammed a Vietnamese coast guard ship. The Vietnamese vessel allegedly suffered several “gashes” in its metal hull according to the Wall Street Journal. No Vietnamese sailors were injured and the boat did not sink. The incident reflects a sort of escalation in the dispute. While a Chinese vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese civilian vessel (a fishing boat) last month, Tuesday’s incident is a case of two coast guard ships from the two countries becoming involved in a physical altercation. In another incident, a Chinese vessel fired a water cannon at a Vietnamese ocean inspection ship. No naval assets from either side were involved in either exchange.

So far, neither Vietnamese nor Chinese officials have commented on the incident. The initial report comes courtesy of a Vietnamese TV news station VTV1.

Indonesia:

On Saturday, a large Chinese coast guard warship in Indonesian waters rammed a vessel that was being towed by an Indonesian patrol vessel. The vessel being towed was a Chinese fishing boat that had been illegally fishing in Indonesian waters around the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea. Another large Chinese warship arrived on the scene and forced the Indonesians to release the fishing vessel. However, the eight-member crew of the Chinese vessel had already been arrested, and are still in custody.

The Natuna Islands have always been sovereign Indonesian territory. They are far away from China, but because of the rich fishing grounds, China would like to use its military power to seize the islands from Indonesia.

They could be using their navy, but they aren’t.

When you have a grey hull, you are signaling that you consider this dispute a national security issue; a white hull signals that you see it as a legal issue.

As we plan to run up the battle flag at flank speed, we may want to ponder a bit why those closest to China are taking a different approach.



hitchhikerHow did we get here, to this place pointed out to us by Kyle Jahner at ArmyTimes?

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has repeatedly complained about the convoluted, slow and expensive acquisitions process, and cited the Modular Handgun System program as a glaring example.

“We’re not figuring out the next lunar landing. This is a pistol. Two years to test? At $17 million?” Milley said to an audience at a Washington, D.C., think tank on March 10. “You give me $17 million on a credit card, and I’ll call Cabela’s tonight, and I’ll outfit every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine with a pistol for $17 million. And I’ll get a discount on a bulk buy.”

Leadership; that is how.

It all starts in Congress, of course, but the uniformed services have much of the blame to share along with them. As warfighters allowed themselves to transmogrify in to simple fonctionnaires – so we find ourselves at this point.

Through the years allowed ourselves to become numb to the various habits, regulations, instructions, regulations, and laws that have layered us like so many beggarweeds on a long-haired spaniel after a run through a fallow field in summertime.

Each little part can be traced back to someone’s good idea made flesh, or an attempt to prevent fraud, waste, abuse, or the hobby-horse of a pushy and ill-informed leader advocating a program no one wants. Each bit accumulates, but no part leaves.

We also have the sad effect of allowing leadership and integrity to be substituted by paperwork and process. We exist in a world where it is common and accepted practice to say, “The right thing is to do X, but IAW OPNAVINST 1313.99Xy, Section IV, para 1.A.(2).g.iii, we can’t.” Always with the royal, “we.”

As even a small and simple thing as a pistol takes an absurd length of time, we attempt to jump generations of developments to compensate – and as we see time and time again from A-12 to DDG-100 to a replacement for the M-16 and the 5.56mm – we fail in the face of the green eye-shade.

What to do? I think General Milley has shown the way. Within acceptable guidelines, point out publicly with a bit of scorn and sarcasm, the system we have been given mostly by those wearing civilian suits. Fix what we can, shame what we can’t.

Even before the submission deadline last month, the road to a new pistol has been long and winding. In 2008, the MHS started as an Air Force program. But little progress was made before January 2013, when the Army kick-started the latest efforts by asking industry for more information. Additional discussions with industry drew out the release of the 350-plus-page document until August 2015. Then the solicitation’s deadline for submissions was Feb. 12 of this year.

As defined before, this timelineis 1.6 WorldWars. Six years just to submit a solicitation.

Congressman Thornberry; over to you.



IMG_0114Everyone has their own name for the series of conflicts spinning off from the waxing of the most radical interpretation of Sunni Islamic Extremism, but with each passing incident, I become more and more comfortable with “The Long War.”

At its core, this is a religious war, and those wars last the longest time as you are not fighting primarily for land, resources, power, or ego – but for ideas and the pursuit of a home for your immortal soul. Many are not comfortable with that concept, but they need to get over it. Regardless of what your motivations are, if any; if you are being attacked by someone motivated by a religion, then you are part of a religious war.

The latest attack on Brussels is just that, a tactical action in this phase of a war that pre-dates 11 September 2001. Others can argue the start date, but it is older than those fresh faces showing up at boot camp this summer.

Why Brussels this time? Simple, Brussels isn’t just the capital of the small nation of 10-million souls, Belgium – it is the capital of Europe. In the mind of the Islamic State, Europe is the heart of the West. The West is the home of secularism, Christianity, and tolerance of Jews. It also happens to be a place where there are sanctuaries near targets where, relatively unmolested by authorities and under the protection of cowed co-religionists, they can plan, support, and if needed, hide after their operations.

There is ease of mobility and an ability to blend in that makes the most difficult part of any operation is gathering the weapons and explosives to do the killing. Basic OPSEC is all that is needed. Money is of little issue, nor is finding willing fighters.

After a half-century of an uninterrupted and failed experiment in multi-culturalism, Belgium and other Western nations now have a critical mass of unassimilated native born radicals. Even better, they have been recently reinforced by well over a million unaccompanied military aged males born and raised in even more radicalized cultures. The direction unaccompanied, unemployable, and alienated young men usually head points to one thing – there will be more and more attacks like we saw in Brussels. An attack, by the way, that is just another iteration of what has been seen in the USA, UK, France, Spain, Russia and other nations over the course of the last few decades. There is nothing new here, except that a few more people are noticing.

Besides the self-inflicted demographic foolishness Western Europe beclowned itself with over the last half-century, in Europe’s near abroad forces are continuing that will drive more and more radicals their way to join the cells that are planning additional attacks.

From sectarian Iraq to the Madmaxistan that followed the Arab Spring from Libya to Syria, reality has hopefully put to bed any fevered dreams of democracy in North Africa through to the Middle East’s Arab states. The least radical nations, and our best allies, are those who have a strong monarchy like Jordan, or that have a military strong man keeping a lid on the bubbling Islamists that are woven through their society, like Egypt. The best we can hope for is something like Tunisia where the political elite are doing their best, but as the graphic shows, they do not have a benign populous that can be relied on to create a civil society in mass for at least a generation – if then.

Even inside the Western umbrella, there are huge problems. Turkey continues to drift out of the Western orbit, by design. Their leadership’s increasingly authoritarianism, handmaiden to the refugee crisis, and open flirtations with Islamism sends another clear signal that the once sick man of Europe is drifting to something not seen in the modern period. It isn’t pleasant, but the facts are right there for all to see. The modern, secular West has lost the war of ideas in Turkey. That leaves them one way to go – and they are half-way there already.

The Gulf States are small, but important and fickle allies. Their security is balanced on their benefactor against Shia and Persian ascendency in the East – Saudi Arabia.

Lower oil prices has emphasized that the House of Saud’s nation is held together with bailing wire and duct tape. They are rightfully focused on the problem in Yemen – a challenge that is beyond the scope of this post, but is more important than the press it gets.

OK. That is a lot of “what” and “so what;” what about “what’s next?”

Two things. First, we need to look very seriously about which nations we allow visa free travel from. The UK, Belgium, Sweden, and Germany among others already have a significant critical mass of native born radical Islamists – and their numbers are about to increase dramatically.

Second; the Islamic State must be destroyed. If not, well … let’s use as a planning assumption that it will be. Syria and her allies will push from the west. The Kurds will clean up their lines and serve as an anvil in the north. The Shia-led Iraqi forces with American help will squeeze the Islamic Forces out of Sunni Iraq. As that happens leading up to the inevitable fall of Raqqa, many of the thousands of Western passport holding Islamic State militants will return home. Some will try to just get back to a normal life, but many will not. They will be tasked to either move to other ungoverned areas of the world to continue the work of the Caliphate there, or will return home to attack from within with their fellow radicals who stayed home to build the logistics, intelligence and HUMINT needed to get the best effect from attacks inside the belly of the Western beast.

What about the USA and her navy? Regardless of the results of this year’s election, this war will continue to come to us. As we have back away, it has followed us – and will continue to. As we saw in Brussels where Mormon missionaries and a USAF officer’s family were wounded – they can kill American anywhere. Also know this; we will be attacked again here just like we were in Boston, San Bernardino, Ft. Hood, and Chattanooga. As you read this, there are multiple cells working on the next mass casualty attack in the USA.

There will be ungoverned areas in the world, or poorly governed areas, that will be sanctuaries and areas of expansion for radical Islamists. We will have to work with local forces where we can, and take independent action where we must. Though many want to re-focus on some imaginary possible future great power conflict on the high seas – and we must – or want to keep rejustifying the results of the CONOPS playsets of the 1990s with LCS/FF, but we must also man, train, and equip for what we have now and will have as an ongoing engagement – The Long War.

From high-volume, high-accuracy naval gunfire, to special operations, to land attack cruise missiles, to TACAIR, we will need to be able to project national will ashore from waters, airspace, and property that we alone control. We must be able to do it with no notice, or with great fanfare. A light footprint with as little risk to casualties as possible, or lighting punitive expeditions ashore that accepts losses.

That is the reminder from Brussels. This enemy gets a vote, and it is voting for war. To paraphrase Trotsky; we may not be interested in a religious war, but a religious war is interested in us.



CompanyWe are a Navy at war. The war we are in is not a conventional war, but it is one nonetheless. It is a war that relies heavily on intelligence.

Irrespective who or where you wish to place the blame, can anyone be even remotely comfortable with this timeline?

After Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) expressed her displeasure of the ongoing situation during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Mabus explained that when Branch’s name came up in 2013 in connection to the Glenn Defense Marine Asia bribery case, he chose to pull Branch’s clearance out of an abundance of caution with the understanding that Branch would either be cleared or charged within the coming weeks.

“So by the early fall, September 2014, I decided that we had to nominate a successor, which we did, but because of intervening events that nomination did not appear until last fall,” Mabus continued. In September 2015, Rear Adm. Elizabeth Train was nominated as Branch’s replacement.

Let’ review the timeline:

NOV 2013: Clearance of VADM Branch pulled.

SEP 2014: 10 months – Decision to replace VADM Branch.

SEP 2015: 22 months – Relief identified by name.

MAR 2016: 28 months – Still no action.

Has there been a sense of urgency from the very top? Ownership of the problem? Priority rack-n-stack?

“At the same time the nomination appeared, we had a new chief of naval operations who rightfully wanted to make sure that flag officers were in positions of the best skill sets and the best qualifications,” he continued.

Since Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson took command in September 2015, there has been no further word on Branch’s future in the Navy or his potential replacements.

“I’ve been checking with Gen. (James) Clapper, the head of national intelligence, to ask him if there was any degradation of naval intelligence, any concern about how we’re operating or the quality of information that we are gathering or how we are processing that. And I have been assured that there’s not,” Mabus said.

His two deputies, each of whom has more than 30 years of experience, have handled the classified information, Mabus said.

So, SECNAV’s implication is that he has punted the question of if a VADM with no security clearance can run and serve as the leader of the world’s largest naval intelligence organization to a subordinate – and being that there has been no action in half a year – he thinks that all is fine? That the SECNAV has no opinion if this is having any impact? That, in 28 months, the organization is doing just fine with a leader who cannot attend meetings, read message traffic, attend briefings, or evaluate projects in work or in development?

Does that not beg the question – then why on Earth do we need to fill that billet in the first place?

28 months.

“When I was informed in late 2013 that Adm. Branch was possibly connected to the GDMA case, I thought because of his position I should remove his clearance in an excess of caution. I was also told — assured — at that time that a decision would be made in a very short time – in a matter of weeks, I was told – as to whether he was involved and what would be the disposition of the case,” Mabus explained.

“We continued to check on that over and over and over again and got nothing.”

The so-called Fat Leonard investigation is still ongoing today, two and a half years later.

OK. So we are, the entire organization, content being subject to the IG’s sloth-like progress?

What else has been done on the same timeline?

WWII:

DEC 1941: Pearl Harbor
10 Month Mark: OPERATION TORCH Invasion force underway
22 Month Mark: Forces reach Voturno River in the invasion of Italy
28 Month Mark: D-Day invasion 2 months away

Development of the atomic bomb from US entry in to WWII:

10 Month Mark: Manhattan project 2 months old
22 Month Mark: Oppenheimer appointed head of Manhattan Project
28 Month Mark: First Plutonium sample produced.

What harm is the delay? There is the harm to our nation and its navy. There is harm to the SECNAV who is forced to seem hapless to his own organization’s Ottoman level of bureaucratic inadequacies. There is harm to a US Navy Vice Admiral who for 2.5 years has been denied justice – forced to live under a cloud that has brought in to question his decades of service, and unquestionably has not only permanently degraded his professional life, but his personal life as well.

Who will be held to account if the assumption of innocence is validated? If charged, at what price?

Either way, if there is no action taken from the Navy Yard to The Hill to address this blot of a process, no one will be in a position to wonder why subordinates hold orders and our legal/IG/NJP system in contempt.

To shrug your shoulders and say, “That’s just how it is.”, is to be part of the problems, not the solution.



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