Author Archive

17th

A Munich Moment

February 2016

By

Yesterday, Richard Fontaine over at WarOnTheRocks provided one of the better summaries I have read about what was floating around in the ether at this year’s Munich Security Conference.

As a result of the discussions, a mood of frustration, even somberness, settled on the Munich participants this year. There have been difficult conferences before: in 2003, during the white-hot transatlantic fight over the looming war in Iraq, and in 2007, when Vladimir Putin denounced a “unipolar” world and previewed a more aggressive and anti-Western Russian line. Perhaps Munich 2017 will be sunnier and more hopeful, with many of this year’s challenges having faded into mere annoyances. Yet there is a good chance that many of the problems that so bedeviled the transatlantic partners this past weekend will remain on the crowded agenda for time to come.

A good chance? Yes, a very good chance.

He had five major take-aways:

1. Russian confidence.
2. European disarray.
3. Pleas for U.S. leadership.
4. Sense of American irrelevance.
5. Little hope for Syrian peace.

I’ll let you read his full post for how he outlines the five, but I think his five are about spot on – mostly because it is what has been groaning out of Europe all year.

You can batch these in to three groupings, though all five are interrelated, but not in the way most people think. We’ll get to that in a moment, but for now let’s stick in order.

Russian confidence and European disarray: For the entire period I wore the uniform and now over a half a decade since my retirements, people who respect history have been warning the Europeans and Canada that they need to take national defense seriously. In recent history, there have been those who thought they could move the needle from within, only to lash out once their turn on the rowing bench was done (Gen. Craddock, USA and SECDEF Gates just two examples).

Some of the cry had been out of a proper sense of fairness and shared sacrifice, but others like myself did it out of affection knowing that my nation was only an election or two away from the American public not willing to defend those who won’t defend themselves.

The Russians are confident as they have seen the Europeans’ failure to rise to the occasion after the slow but steady American decoupling from Europe. The Russians are confident because they perceive that they are winning. They respect strength and have contempt for weakness. The only stiffening of spines they have seen recently have been from the Poles and a little more concern from the Americans – but for the balance of Europe? No.

In the diplomatic and informational domains, they have probed with success. In economics, they are the weakest – but with what they respect the most, their military efforts continue to be a plus from them from the eastern borders of Ukraine, Crimea, and even to the point that the once great Royal Navy cannot even defend its coastal waters;

Britain had to rely on the US, Canada, France and Germany aircraft to protect its territorial waters more than 20 times last year, with the Royal Navy’s reliance on its Nato allies far greater than previously thought.

Defence experts say Russian submarine activity off Britain is returning toward Cold War levels.

Pleas for U.S. leadership & sense of American irrelevance: for almost all of living memory, the Western European nations have lived and prospered under the American military umbrella and have become too used to not carrying their load. Ukraine, Syria, and the migrant crisis is an order of magnitude greater European issue than North American. America isn’t irrelevant, it is just that in elections over the past eight years, the American people have decided that they no longer wish to unequally take on the West’s burdens, to only then be pilloried, insulted, and blamed for the effort. America decided that we will help others who help themselves – so Europe will have to re-learn how to keep their own house in order and we’ll help where we can, if it is in our national interest. Selfish and irresponsible? Not really, just traditional statecraft.

This mood is from both sides of the political spectrum in the USA as well. Where there was once a bi-partisan consensus for American to lead in all significant European security issues – that consensus is long gone. There is now a bi-partisan consensus for just the opposite.

The numbers back up the general vibe. As derived from the CIA factbook, let’s review the top-line numbers.

natojpg

Until these numbers come more in line, there is only so much any elected American official can do to convince the American people that, once again, the American must do what the Europeans can, but won’t.

Now let’s shift to the last – little hope for Syrian peace: define “peace.” Is peace a frozen conflict? No. If nothing else, we have proven that over time. Why is Western Europe at peace right now? Simple. There was a sound military and political defeat of fascism in Western Europe. There were boundaries made and then for the most part there was massive and merciless ethnic cleansing that created relatively ethnically homogeneous nations inside agreed borders. Where there is conflict today is where in places like eastern Estonia, eastern Ukraine, and spots of bother in the Balkans where significant minority groups were left. That is an uncomfortable truth, but a truth nonetheless.

Syria and northern Iraq is the Balkans of the Arab World. If militant Sunni Islam is your greatest enemy, then you have one option in the Game of Thrones-ish war going on now in Syria; let Assad win and play the strongman over a subjugated people, come to some accommodation with the Kurds, and move to destroy ISIS with the Russians before Turkey gets involved. There is really no other realistic option. If we will not back the Russian play, if we cannot offer a better way to end the conflict, then we should just get out of the way. At other earlier points in time, there were perhaps other more attractive options, but 1QCY16, this is where we are.

There are a lot of places where people seemed to believe because we should do something, we will/can do something. To get from “should” to “will/can” there has to be a critical bridging function known as leadership from the POLMIL level.

Shifting to the original failure in the Arab Spring, the Libyan theater of operations; listen to the following from our friend Admiral Stavridis, USN (Ret.)

The clock is ticking for Western powers to intervene militarily against ISIS in Libya — and Canada has a responsibility to join a potential mission there, says NATO’s former supreme allied commander.

“If we’re going to have an impact in Libya, now is the time to get involved, over the next six months,” retired U.S. navy admiral James Stavridis said on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

“We have to act before the Islamic State becomes even stronger … otherwise we’re going to have another massively failed state on the periphery of Europe.”

Is he correct? Is this something the international community “should” do? Yes and of course. What is missing then?

Let’s go back to the fundamentals. Is there a popular will in Europe to conduct peace enforcement operations in Libya with German, French, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, and British forces and money? No. Is there a popular will in North America to conduct peace enforcement operations in Libya with Canadian and USA forces and money? No.

Is there leadership in place at the levers of power in Europe and North America that has the desire to bring the popular will to a national will to take action? No.

As such, as much as the theory is sound in early 2016 – as sound as the theory of the invasion of Iraq was in 2003 – will there be any such action in Libya or Syria? No.

As a result, what should one do? Think and plan for consequence management. Wargame Most Likely and Most Dangerous COA and then clearly identify Decision Points for Branch Plans. Do it twice; once with pro-active leaders, one with passive/dithering leaders. If that has not already been done, then we will just have to make it up as we go along when, as our politicians like to say on occasions, we find out about events on the news.

This is the world that was asked for at the end of the last decade, especially in Western Europe. It is what we have. Tomorrow will have to do the best it can with its inheritance.



c5db817c565459e739af64f9cd6c617a9189b9eaLack of self-awareness. We all know people who suffer from this problem. Can organizations suffer from the same?

Let’s look at the basics of looking for problems and fixing them and see where it takes us.

As a firm believer in continuous improvement, no organization can remain excellent over time without clear, and often cutting, self-examination. Good, regular “preventative maintenance” is just solid leadership. When all is well, you want to make sure all is well. You inspect, measure, compare and report. If something is not what it should be, you correct and move on.

Sometimes, problems come to you before you can find them. At sea, in the air, or even in a car – you can often “feel” something is not quite right well before a light or alarm goes off. Sometimes it is obvious like a subtle shimmy or noise, other times obvious – but you never just ignore it, you investigate.

As is often the case, you may not find the cause of your unease on the first path you take in trouble-shooting. You try one thing for a certain period of time, and if that is not productive, you move on to another possibility. What you don’t do is to double down on an area of investigation that, in a reasonable period of time, shows you nothing that is wrong.

Most can agree with this. So, let’s move away from the practical area of trouble shooting to the other side of the brain, the bureaucratic method.

What if an organization created to fix a problem finds nothing, but in its search, exemplifies a greater problem that is infecting the entire organization?

Well, we may have that.

Behold, the Pentagon’s Office of the Senior Adviser for Military Professionalism;

(RADM Peg) Klein has spent nearly two years helping the services sharpen their professional development and leadership training. Her office was created in March 2014 by then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel amid a spate of scandals involving senior officers and mounting concerns of a systemic or cultural problem in the ranks. Those fears may have been overblown, she said.

“We’re not in a crisis. But this subject of human behavior requires constant attention,”

What have we found?

The slew of scandals that emerged a few years ago made for stunning headlines. A Navy corruption scandal. An Air Force major general who oversaw nuclear missiles was fired after his drunken bender on a visit to Moscow offended both his Russian hosts and his own staff. An Army four-star general was reprimanded for spending lavishly on official trips.

But Klein said those are anecdotal and she’s found no systemic or deeply rooted cultural problem. “We’re seeing numbers within historic norms,” she said.

OK. No crisis. Good intentions here though;

“We always want to be shooting for a target that decreases the incident rate.”

“We think the right answer is a little different for each service based on their heritage.”

Improvement. Good. What other subjective ideas have come up in two years? I say subjective, as I don’t see any metrics. What we know is that they like the Marines and the Army and all their schools. They think, ahem, that the Navy and USAF officers spend too much time … well … not going to school, I guess;

During the past two years, Klein and her seven-member staff have helped the Navy and Air Force set up their own centers: the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center at the Naval War College in Rhode Island and the Air Force’s Profession of Arms Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio.

“Those two organizations are helping airmen and sailors to understand the importance of trust, humility, integrity, empathy. They are helping them understand those very important virtues of command,”

Let’s take a moment and let that soak in. Based on a staff of seven’s subjective service envy, we have set up schools that won’t touch but a few officers, to understand “trust, humility, integrity, empathy.”

If you have made it through the selection process for an officer program, OCS, NROTC, USNA, and go through at least one sea tour – and we as an organization do not know at a minimum that you are a trustworthy person with integrity – what are we doing? As for humility and empathy, neither one of those things can be taught, they can only be demonstrated.

I’ve worked a lot with Marines, Army, and Air Force personnel, and have served in their units as well. Do they have different cultures? Sure do. But …

“The Army and the Marine Corps have a very mature profession of arms,”

“The ground forces, they send really junior people into leadership positions. They have company command, they have O-3s going into command, and their professional identity is learned very early on,” Klein said, referring to the paygrade for captains in the Army, Marines and Air Force. Navy O-3s are lieutenants. Yet the Navy and the Air Force, historically, “are very technically focused,” she said.

That is an incredibly broad brush. I’m not sure what she is actually going for here. Is the implication that our Navy is “immature” in its professionalism? That your standard issue Navy O3 has no “professional identity?”

That might be true in isolation, but I don’t see that in any general way in the Navy than other services. A LTjg flying a EA-18G? A LTjg XO of a PC? A LT SEAL?

Do we need more LT and LCDR commands? Of course, and to our great shame we don’t, but I don’t think that is what her team is focused on.

… Klein found that the Army and Marine Corps created “centers of excellence” for commanders’ professional development, but the Navy and Air Force had not. These organizations develop training programs for current and future leaders that focus on the intangible virtues of leadership as well as more mundane matters like travel regulations, restrictions on accepting gifts and using official vehicles — issues that can cause headaches for some leaders and their staffs.

I’ll stop there. You can read the rest Andrew Tilghman’s bit over at MilitaryTimes. But after two years, the answer for the Navy and the Air Force is less time leading Sailors, forward deployed, honing their craft – but busy work ashore to make sure they don’t have issues with,

travel regulations, restrictions on accepting gifts and using official vehicles

This has nothing to do with “warfighting first” or building leaders, this has everything to do with trying to prevent bad news stories that evolve from fallen beings in an imperfect world making leadership read embarrassing stories like Fat Leonard in … MilitaryTimes.

Goodness knows we don’t want “some leaders” having headaches or their staff’s dealing with problems.

Shipmate, I’ve got news for you – the job of “some leaders” and their staff is just that – dealing with headaches. That is why they exist.

I am not impressed. We have no uptick in human failings, by her own admission, and are not in crisis, but we are acting as if we are in crisis. It begs the question, why?

If we are concerned about people with personality defects being promoted, then we need to stop promoting them. Do the regression analysis. More schooling is not going to make an adult suddenly have more empathy or humility. Look deeper in to a culture that promotes people with these problems. If we actually have one.

Do we have things in our Navy culture that needs improving? We sure do, but I don’t see anything in RADM Klein’s report that would do that except more LT commands.

Another thing we need to do is to know when we have dug a dry hole. Let’s go back to part of an earlier quote;

RADM (Peg) Klein has spent nearly two years helping the services sharpen their professional development and leadership training. Her office was created in March 2014 …

Wait for it;

She has asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter to extend its life through January 2017. “A little bit more time is a really inexpensive investment in getting traction in these ideas that we’re trying to institutionalize,” she said.

A few years ago, I tried to create a measure of time that would give proper context to the programs we keep shoveling money borrowed from our grandchildren in to. I called it a WorldWar, or WW.

A WW is the length of time it took to fight WWII. 1,366 days = 1 WW.

From March 2014 to Jan 2017, that is roughly .76 WW.

In ~3/4 the time it took us to fight WWII, we are going to have a 2-star and a staff of 7 look in to the cause of,

a spate of scandals involving senior officers and mounting concerns of a systemic or cultural problem in the ranks.

~.5 WW in to that investigation, the group realized that concerns were unfounded, but they liked their little exercise and wanted to extend its life by another 50% to see if they could find any more happys that needed to be put in to glads. Any light grey that needed to be dark grey.

If you are looking for cultural problems, you can start here. In a time where the US Navy is facing,

… a $7 billion reduction in fiscal 2017 funding – about 3.5 percent over last year’s plan … The Navy is planning on a uniformed force of 322,900 sailors in 2017, down from 327,300 authorized in 2016 and last year’s forecast of 326,500 for 2017. … the permanent elimination of a tenth carrier air wing and four aviation squadrons, and a new request to take seven cruisers out of service in 2017 …

… and we are trying to keep a Flag Officer project alive another year that, after two years, determined that the purpose for which it was created was unfounded, nothing is systemically broken, but they found some things they personally found interesting that they want to spend unknown millions of dollars to tinker with.

This staff has done its job. It has some recommendations – some that one could argue could have been discovered in a much quicker time. It is time to let it submit its report and to recode the manning document.

It has been .5 MM.

The Tamarians may have had, “Shaka, when the walls fell,” perhaps we can have, “Klein and Hagel on leadership.”



130517-N-YZ751-017 ATLANTIC OCEAN (May 17, 2013) An X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator conducts a touch and go landing on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). This is the first time any unmanned aircraft has completed a touch and go landing at sea. George H.W. Bush is conducting training operations in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tony D. Curtis/Released)

I have found some of the responses to the latest announcement about UCLASS to be sadly telling about how little some have learned from the Age of Transformationalism that begat LCS, DDG-1000, and F-35.

To me, the decision on UCLASS is a good news story about a focused and learning institution, but others seem slightly stuck between rage and disappointment when they realize that by the end of FY17 we won’t be launching sharks with lasers on their foreheads off the #3 catapult.

First the announcement via Sam on Monday;

The Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) effort is being retooled as primarily a carrier-based unmanned aerial refueling platform — one of several Pentagon directed naval aviation mandates in the service’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget submission.

The shift from UCLASS to the new Carrier Based Aerial Refueling System (CBARS) will be made alongside an additional buy of Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets over the next several years and accelerated purchases and development of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).

Let’s pause here a bit and review two things.

First, we have known for a long time that we have intentionally taken away one of the most critical requirements of carrier based aviation, deep strike. The light attack community won their internacine Beltway war and killed off the VA and VF community with the help of accountants and industry lobbying. Yippee for them, I guess.

In an ever more short sighted effort to dig around the cushions to find more change, we mindlessly let an organic tanking ability fade away. As people decided that long range strike and anti-submarine warfare wasn’t going to be an issue in their PCS cycle, why not go ahead and take that money now and let others deal that those papered over problems later. Action complete.

Their personal victory did work for their PCS cycle, but as requirements regressed to the mean, we found our aviation fleet tactically limited, operationally confined, and the nation’s power projection ability at strategic risk.

Second, let’s be clear about where we stand with unmanned systems. Ignore the PPT vignettes and cartoon sci-fi theory, but rest on the cold facts that the hardware is relatively untested in a sustained operational environment. The software is between crawl and walk in the crawl-walk-run spectrum. The JAG community and diplo-political considerations are not even close to being ready to ponder any type of strike capability beyond some kind of “reusable TLAM.” For those who think of autonomous strike and AAW with Unmanned Air Systems (UAS) or drones or whatever we are calling them this week, they need to fully hoist onboard the fact that the hardware and software are the easy problems. The JAG and diplo-political problems? Good luck with that.

Where does that put us now? Well, we don’t have any attack aircraft on the drawing board, nor do we have any heavy fighters on the way. FA-XX is looking to be more “F” than “A” – but we’ll see – but that is WAAAYYY off from making shadows on the ramp.

Right now and in the next decade, what do we need? We need to do what we can to regain what we lost, a airwing with legs.

USNI News understands the Navy commissioned a study last year with the Center for Naval Analysis that found that modifying the existing UCLASS program was more capable and cost effective than a modified V-22, Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye, bringing back the retired S-3 Viking or using the JSF.

Tanking with UAS from a hardware and software standpoint is doable and reachable. Extra bonus, the carrier airwing and aircraft carriers will build experience of maintaining and operating with UAS at sea. We will learn things we have not even thought of yet. We will refine the equipment, modify requirements, and smart men and women will come up with ideas that will make the next steps a greater success.

It is natural that UAS move on to ISR and even strike – but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We can do something earlier that we need yesterday, tanking. In doing so, we greatly increase the odds of moving in to ISR and strike with success.

Even tanking will be a challenge, but if we can’t make that work, we can’t make ISR or strike work anytime soon either.

We can make that work, or we can’t. Either way, tanking first is the best approach to UAS today given what we know of the hardware and software that exists today. Not aspirational, not on the PPT, not on the vignette. No. What the folks at Pax River can work with inside a POM or two.

NAVIAR (sic) spokeswoman Jamie Cosgrove would not confirm any details on the CBARS program ahead of the release of the FY 2017 budget next week when reached by USNI News on Monday.

One defense official told USNI News the Navy’s priority would be to develop and perfect the control and the connectivity systems with the idea being those basic systems could be used to on different carrier based airframes.

“The Navy has already said it wants to develop the airframe iteratively and that the most expensive part of the [development] is creating a system for an aircraft to move on, off and around the carrier,” one defense official told USNI News on Monday.

That, my friends, is beautiful thinking. UAS skeptics and UAS fanboy enthusiasts should all nod their heads in support.

Innovation, imagination, and progress is part of our competitive advantage when we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. This is good.

One final note; as he is on many things, the SECNAV is greatly mistaken on manned vs. unmanned carrier air;

Last year, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus said the F-35C would be “almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly,” he said in address at the Navy League’s 2015 Sea-Air-Space Exposition.

Step away from the PPT. UAS have a future, but they are simply a tool. They are a tool that can do many things – but there will always be a requirement for a “man in the loop” in the messy business of war. A man there, on station, with the training and mind to make decisions on the spot – and to be held accountable for his actions.

Also, talk to your JAG at the end of the vignette. The news of the death of the manned aircraft has been greatly exagerated.



navyflag-596x425Experimentation is good and fine, but when is it time to take a cold view and say – that’s enough?

In a time where we complain of tight budgets, are we throwing too much at one of the SECNAV’s pet projects? Via David Alexander at Reuters;

When the Navy first tested biofuel versions of marine diesel and jet fuel in 2012, it spent eye-popping sums for small amounts.

In one case, it paid $424 a gallon for 20,055 gallons of biofuel based on algae oil. To test the Great Green Fleet in the summer of 2012, it spent nearly $27 a gallon for 450,000 gallons of biofuel, later mixed into a 50-50 blend. The $15-per gallon-cost was four times that of conventional fuel.

The fuel for the Great Green Fleet deployment over the next year is a competitively priced blend of 90 percent diesel and 10 percent biofuel made from beef fat, Navy officials said.

A California firm, AltAir Fuels, is contracted to supply 77 million gallons of the fuel between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016.

The Navy pays $2.05 a gallon, thanks in part to a subsidy of 15 cents a gallon from the Commodity Credit Corp, a government-owned enterprise that supports farm products.

Fuel costs in the last few years have fallen through the floor. We are now an oil exporting nation once again, and via fracking, we have greatly expanded access to fuel at inside our lifelines. Supply is no longer an issue for the economy in general, and well beyond a threat to our Navy.

Why are we doubling down on an idea that seems from the 1970s? Why are we also creating our own pet industrial policy?

To boost production of alternative fuels, the Navy has awarded $210 million to help three firms build refineries to make biofuels using woody biomass, municipal waste and used cooking grease and oil. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is providing an additional $161 million in crop supports.

The refineries are expected to begin operations this year, with full production not likely until 2017.

Is this what we need to spend our money on?

There is a financial cost, but what other risks are we taking on? What are we buying in to? What are we investing our reputational capital in?

Robert Bryce has outlined some shoal water we should all note;

One of the companies that got a lucrative biofuel contract from the military was the San Francisco–based Solazyme Inc. According to the Congressional Research Service, in 2009, Solazyme got a $223,000 contract for 1,500 gallons of algae-based motor fuel. That works out to $149 per gallon. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but Solazyme has also been a big donor to Democratic causes, giving some $300,000 to Democratic candidates and committees. The company has also donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to the Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

Last month, Fortune reporter Katie Fehrenbacher wrote an excellent piece about the spate of failed cellulosic-biofuel companies that have been backed by Silicon Valley promoter Vinod Khosla. In 2006, Khosla claimed that we “can replace most of our gasoline needs in 25 years with biomass.” One of Khosla’s investments was in Range Fuels, the failure of which I wrote about on NRO back in 2011. Range Fuels got a $76 million grant from the Department of Energy as well as an $80 million loan that was guaranteed by the federal government. Despite the failure of Range, Khosla plunged forward with a company called KiOR, which claimed it could profitably produce liquid fuels from the wood of pine trees. The company got tens of millions of dollars in government money, but its process never worked as promised, and it filed for bankruptcy in 2014. The state of Mississippi, which provided the company with a $75 million loan, is now suing Khosla, as well as several KiOR executives, claiming the state was deceived about the company’s technology.
… the marketplace is trumping government mandates and subsidies. Today, ethanol distilleries are consuming about 40 percent of all domestic corn output in order to produce fuel equivalent of about 600,000 barrels of oil per day. (Total U.S. consumption in 2014 averaged about 19 million barrels per day.) And it took roughly four decades of mandates and subsidies for the corn-ethanol industry to grow to that size. Let’s compare that result with what has happened in the oil patch. Since 2006, thanks to the shale revolution, domestic oil production has increased by more than 3.6 million barrels per day. Thus, in just this past decade, the oil sector has increased production by six times the total output of every ethanol distillery in America. That increased oil production didn’t happen because of congressional mandates or subsidies. It happened because privately owned companies risked billions of dollars, and in doing so they innovated in everything from drill bits to mud pumps.

With the service still suffering from the Fat Leonard scandal, all this money going to places it has no economic reason to makes me a bit itchy. That is the worst-worst case. Best worst-case, just a boondoggle. Best case? You were just following orders.

My instincts are that this remains what it looks like, a well meaning but misguided personal priority of the SECNAV. It does not make sense from an economic or national security point of view – but that is just my view, and he’s the SECNAV. His call.

Government money chasing hard to defend programs do not result in a kind judgement from history. Sal’s recommendation: let this be pushed by the civilians and political appointees – this is their business. If in uniform, do what your job strictly requires, but edge your way out of the picture when the PAO comes around. The reward is small, but the potential frag pattern is huge.



Nothing is written.crisis_background3

What everyone is planning to happen may, in a very short time, seem like a paranoid fever dream.

We need to be humble as we try to think about what China will be in the coming decades. Japan stretches, The Philippines decides that they like us again, and all of a sudden Vietnam is one of the most welcoming places in Southeast Asia for an American.

The 2nd decade of the 21st Century is an interesting place, but what about China in the next couple of decades?

Will the South China Sea be full of PLAN CSG, or awash in a pathetic mix of warlord weapon smugglers and refugees? China the hegemon, or China the bloodbath of tens of millions fighting each other for scraps? Something in between?

If you lean towards some natural rise of China to displace the USA and stand astride the globe, Daniel C. Lynch over at FA has an article that demands your attention;

Over the past three months, uncertainty over the course of Chinese development has intensified, with a steady flow of mostly bad economic news: yet another plunge in the stock market, which was already crumbling and kept afloat only by massive state intervention [1]; mounting corporate debt; and a hemorrhaging of foreign exchange reserves, to name a few. The reality is that China is staring economic stagnation in the face, and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is panicking. The party appeared to have acknowledged the seriousness of its economic woes, which can only be worsened by a declining and aging labor force …

No country in history has relied as heavily on investment to both fuel GDP growth and maintain the existing structure of GDP as China.

Even though China’s rise seems to be on the verge of setting, outsiders should exercise caution in how they interpret this dramatic shift. It need not, for example, lead to China’s “collapse.” Some who predict a Chinese collapse [9] point to the dissolution of the Soviet Union: another half-reformed communist superpower. A more appropriate comparison would be to Japan and its “lost decade” … The end of China’s rise will most likely hurt the CCP far more than Japan’s did its elites.

Even so, saying that China’s rise is ending is not the same as saying the country will collapse. Poor, authoritarian countries can stagnate for decades and yet never face political collapse.

Bingo. China has a history of this kind of behavior. That would be my most likely COA inside the “China staggers” construct.

There is some evidence to suggest that younger Chinese are, like their counterparts in other societies, becoming increasingly “postmodern” in their political and cultural outlooks: more tolerant of diversity, exploratory in their studies and careers, and spiritually rather than materially focused. In particular, they have become strongly conscious of an imperative need to preserve and nurture the environment. As the CCP increasingly finds itself beholden to this segment of society, it may be compelled to accept a gradual transformation in the party itself, one that results in a more open and enlightened institution. This is a long-term vision. It may not even be realized in the next ten to 20 years, but it is an outcome for which everyone with an interest in the situation should, at the very least, hope.

Hope isn’t a plan, but if it is, a plan must have Assumptions. With each Assumption should be a Branch Plan in case that Assumption is found to be false. The prudence of caution and hedge should be our guide so we don’t invest precious resources in things that are a little too based on what we think China could be.

For our Navy, the service that needs the longest lead time, multi-mission flexibility should be the cornerstone of everything we invest in training, manning and equipping our forces.

History will deliver to the future the China it wants to. Odds are, it won’t be what the majority of the people in the national security nomenclatura are briefing.

Ask for three Red COA … and then a 4th.



13th

The Strategic Everyone

January 2016

By

NB: Scroll to the bottom for updates.


Some blog posts are best put together with few words, but lots of pictures. Pictures matter. Pictures also need to be understood in each cultural context in which they are viewed.

Yesterday’s events that led up to the capture and release of our 10 Sailors will be better known in time, and is best reviewed then. That “how they got there” story is a very separate story than the more important story about what the Iranians did with the opportunity we gave them.

Think about not so much the view with your eyes, but with the eyes of those who do not wish our nation well; those who are on the fence, looking for the strong horse; those friends who lean heavily on their confidence in the great United States Navy.

Look and think about this part of the story – it will have much longer impact on our nation than the tactical details about how we got to the point where our flag was pulled down, our Sailors had their hands behind their heads, and from that sad view in the corner, our female Sailor appears to have been forced to wear a head scarf.

CYm79MlWAAAMmv4

CYnB1sKUkAETx9-

14ships_web2-master675

Oh, and yes; you must watch the video.


Update: More video.


Update II – Electric Boogaloo: Like Malcolm McDowell’s Alex, you will be made to watch.


UPDAE III: Interior video post capture. Nice comm gear.



140725-N-FC670-343-1024x479We have a new CNO, and now we have his view of where he sees the Navy and where he wants us to go; A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.

Let’s do something a bit different and go through it together. I don’t feel like crafting a broad overview, and I don’t want to Fisk the document either. Let’s go Old School blogger and put this together as I read it.

Before we get started at page 1, let’s define what it is not. If you are looking for a strategy paper, then this is not the publication you are looking for.

You can go to the embedded document below, or click here and open it in another tab, but let’s get started.

The initiatives laid out in this Design represent initial steps along a future course to achieve the aims articulated in the Revised Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century (CS-21R) in this new environment.

Oh no. Off the bat we have all sorts of staff failure. I am disheartened. As a recidivist staff weenie, I can be scrappy on such things, but really folks. From the “planning to plan” school, we lead with “initial steps” … following a MAR15 update to a 2007 document? This does not inspire confidence, but let’s push though and assume that we have not been marching in place for eight years. We’ll give you a mulligan.

Clunk. Just as we step forward, we clang our nogg’n in to the overhead; What was that again?

Revised Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century

Oh no. It is actually “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.” Not good golf so far, but I’ll try not to be too pedantic. After all, this is only from the staff of a 4-Star, ahem.

I really want to like this, so let’s take a deep breath and see if we can make it to page 2.

Hey, we can call page 2 the BJ Armstrong memorial page, as we kick it off with Mahan. You can never go wrong quoting Mahan for a good review of the fundamentals … but … oh no again …

The essence of Mahan’s vision still pertains: America’s interests lie beyond our own shores. What was true in the late 19th century holds true today – America’s success depends on our creativity, our entrepreneurism, and our access and relationships abroad. In an increasingly globalized world, America’s success is even more reliant on the U.S. Navy.

newnotnewNo, no, no. None of this is new and the tone here is a bit too excitable. There is a difference between enthusiasm and excitability. Harumph.

Wait, we’re warming up;

this Design will address three major and interrelated global forces that are increasingly used, increasingly stressed, increasingly important, and increasingly contested. These three forces energize the quickly changing environment in which the Navy must operate, and if required, fight and win.

Good, increasingly.

The first global force is the traffic on the oceans, seas, and waterways, including the sea floor – the classic maritime system.

OK, standard.

A second increasingly influential force is the rise of the global information system – the information that rides on the servers, undersea cables, satellites, and wireless networks that increasingly envelop and connect the globe.

OK, standard as well.

The third interrelated force is the increasing rate of technological creation and adoption. This is not just in information technologies, where Gordon Moore’s projections of exponential advances in processing, storage, and switches continue to be realized. Scientists are also unlocking new properties of commonplace materials and creating new materials altogether at astonishing speeds.

Helpful review, but let’s keep going to the middle of page 3, and there it is.

For the first time in 25 years, the United States is facing a return to great power competition. Russia and China both have advanced their military capabilities to act as global powers.

Russia and China are not the only actors seeking to gain advantages in the emerging security environment in ways that threaten U.S. and global interests. Others are now pursuing advanced technology, including military technologies that were once the exclusive province of great powers – this trend will only continue.

We have named names. Excellent and the right call – and a solid departure from previous such documents. This brings focus to the mind.

On to page 4, we also have a very welcome datapoint,

There is also a fourth ‘force’ that shapes our security environment. Barring an unforeseen change, even as we face new challenges and an increasing pace, the Defense and Navy budgets likely will continue to be under pressure. We will not be able to “buy” our way out of the challenges that we face. The budget environment will force tough choices but must also inspire new thinking.

Bravo Zulu CNO. As we get within range of the Terrible 20s, an understanding of this will be essential for everyone to understand.

So far, we seem to have a King Cake of a new year’s document. A fun little prize in the middle of a bunch of cake, but that is OK. I don’t think this is designed for the maritime chattering classes, think tankers, or keyboard armed pontificators. This is an introductory document; a “Design.”

As you get to page 5, you get the “Core Attributes;” Integrity, Accountability, Initiative, Toughness.

Do these seem like sound fundamentals? Sure, and welcome. These are refreshingly time tested, clearly delivered, and a absent some of the socio-political agenda checklist items found in previous such documents. These are solid items leaders in the field can build things around.

Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.
George Orwell

Page 6 brings the Four Lines of Effort; 1;

Strengthen Naval Power and and From The Sea

Outstanding. All of this is related to projecting national will from the sea and builds off the previous CNO’s “Warfighing First.” More of this.

2;

Achieve High Velocity Education at All Levels

An education focus with four specifics on page 7. Fine, especially;

Understand the lessons of history so as not to relearn them

So, we will expand history requirements in line with STEM requirements? Asking for a friend.

3;

Strengthen Our Navy Team for the Future

Weak leaning towards fluff in the beginning, but strong at the end. Five points that mention leader/leadership five times … in the last two bullets. I do have some embedded issues with Sailor 2025 the first two bullets seem to be rubb’n on it like a dog on fresh deer skittles. 2025 is worm eaten with divisive, quota driven, Social Justice, and retrograde items in its “Culture” section – but I’ve always assumed much of it is harmless feeding of Vaal, so no deal killer.
4;

Expand and Strengthen our Network of Partners

A bit from the “take-charge-and-carry-out-the-plan-of-the-day” item bin, but in line with Orwell’s quote above, workable.

That is about it.

As stated in the opening, if you expected more, you won’t find it. This is good at what it is, a broad directional outline of what a leader wants you to keep in mind as you focus on your area of responsibility.

My takeaway?
– Focus on how you will project force in a more challenged sea, with more constrained resources.
– This is a service that has time tested fundamentals that you should use as a benchmark.
– Don’t get distracted by shiny objects other have thrown in your way.

More to follow.

CNO_STG by CDR Salamander



Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy, Policy | 8 Comments
Tags:

2000px-Emblem_of_the_Военно-Морской_Флот_Российской_Федерации.svgWhat should be on every navalist’s “Top-5” list for 2015 should be the re-awakening of the Russian Navy to the international stage.

It has been building for awhile, but it took Syria to have it break above the ambient noise for many.

Some of the best writing has been of the curious and interested variety with a raised eyebrow or two, but unfortunately, some in the general press has been a bit alarmist. Though I don’t blame him for the title, David Axe’s article at the DailyBeast, U.S. Fears Grow of a ‘Newly Awakened’ Russian Navy, is a more benign example of the type;

A new report from the U.S. Navy’s intelligence branch paints a sobering picture of Putin’s increasingly aggressive fleet—and its deadly international shows of force.

For the first time in 24 years, the U.S. Navy’s intelligence branch has published an unclassified report warning against a rapidly rearming and increasingly aggressive Russian fleet.

And while the report—which the Navy intends for public consumption—has been years in the making, recent events have underscored just how serious its findings are. It’s becoming clearer by the day that, with the strong backing of President Vladimir Putin, the Russian navy is making a serious effort to challenge the world’s preeminent maritime power—the United States.

David makes some good use of folks from the USNI cadre, Norman Polmar and David Wertheim, and the tone of the article is mostly calm – but the choice of the headline is important.

Though much of us in the national security chattering class have always kept an eye on Russia, a large segment has not. They have been focused on the Long War and not much else besides a glance across the Pacific. For them, a returning Russia to the international stage in force has upset their table and is messing with their preconceived notions of what this century should be about.

No reason, at least from the maritime side of the house, to “fear.” Be curious, be watchful, but really nothing to fear. One thing we should do is to continue to watch, write, and discuss where Russia is going. By doing so, the conversation will keep people informed.

Mostly, people only fear the unknown. That is where we come in – let’s study and write about Russia more. Some of us miss her anyway, and who knows – maybe she can give us some ideas we can use to improve our own navy.



3344532-9319612342-DavidThe USA can’t do it all in WESTPAC, and we shouldn’t do it all. When it comes to regional security, the USA does have comparative advantage compared to some of our friends and allies, specifically economic power, and technology.

They have comparative advantages in geographic location and manpower. If we can combine our advantages in to the right package, there is more then enough there to give China pause in her expansionist ambitions.

Over at The National Interest, Jerry Hendrix is thinking about this and thinking right;

There is a Goliath menacing the western Pacific. China’s construction of three huge artificial islands with obvious military capacity in the South China Sea has already destabilized the security equilibrium in the region. Given the rising tensions and outright challenges to the established international security order in the western Pacific, it is time for the United States to align its Foreign Military Financing (FMF) program with its Pivot to Asia initiative, in order to strengthen the region’s Davids.

Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Singapore have been increasingly united in their resistance towards Chinese aggression, but their unity, though powerful symbolically and legally compelling, can go only so far in the face of China’s rapidly expanding military capacity and capabilities. They will need new platforms adept at complicating China’s territorial designs and integrating with allies, partners and neighbors.

Exactly.

Jerry covers the math well further in the article, but when reading it, I kept coming back to the title, If China’s Goliath Threatens Asia, Then Arm David.

That got me thinking of Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk, The Unheard Story of David and Goliath. As with many things in the Bible, it isn’t quite what you think it is at first glance;

So David, in that story, is supposed to be the underdog, right? In fact, that term, David and Goliath, has entered our language as a metaphor for improbable victories by some weak party over someone far stronger. Now why do we call David an underdog? Well, we call him an underdog because he’s a kid, a little kid, and Goliath is this big, strong giant. We also call him an underdog because Goliath is an experienced warrior, and David is just a shepherd. But most importantly, we call him an underdog because all he has is — it’s that Goliath is outfitted with all of this modern weaponry, this glittering coat of armor and a sword and a javelin and a spear, and all David has is this sling.

Well, let’s start there with the phrase “All David has is this sling,” because that’s the first mistake that we make. In ancient warfare, there are three kinds of warriors. There’s cavalry, men on horseback and with chariots. There’s heavy infantry, which are foot soldiers, armed foot soldiers with swords and shields and some kind of armor. And there’s artillery, and artillery are archers, but, more importantly, slingers. And a slinger is someone who has a leather pouch with two long cords attached to it, and they put a projectile, either a rock or a lead ball, inside the pouch, and they whirl it around like this and they let one of the cords go, and the effect is to send the projectile forward towards its target. That’s what David has, and it’s important to understand that that sling is not a slingshot. It’s not this, right? It’s not a child’s toy. It’s in fact an incredibly devastating weapon. When David rolls it around like this, he’s turning the sling around probably at six or seven revolutions per second, and that means that when the rock is released, it’s going forward really fast, probably 35 meters per second. That’s substantially faster than a baseball thrown by even the finest of baseball pitchers. More than that, the stones in the Valley of Elah were not normal rocks. They were barium sulphate, which are rocks twice the density of normal stones. If you do the calculations on the ballistics, on the stopping power of the rock fired from David’s sling, it’s roughly equal to the stopping power of a [.45 caliber] handgun. This is an incredibly devastating weapon. Accuracy, we know from historical records that slingers — experienced slingers could hit and maim or even kill a target at distances of up to 200 yards. From medieval tapestries, we know that slingers were capable of hitting birds in flight. They were incredibly accurate. When David lines up — and he’s not 200 yards away from Goliath, he’s quite close to Goliath — when he lines up and fires that thing at Goliath, he has every intention and every expectation of being able to hit Goliath at his most vulnerable spot between his eyes. If you go back over the history of ancient warfare, you will find time and time again that slingers were the decisive factor against infantry in one kind of battle or another.

So what’s Goliath? He’s heavy infantry, and his expectation when he challenges the Israelites to a duel is that he’s going to be fighting another heavy infantryman. When he says, “Come to me that I might feed your flesh to the birds of the heavens and the beasts of the field,” the key phrase is “Come to me.” Come up to me because we’re going to fight, hand to hand, like this. Saul has the same expectation. David says, “I want to fight Goliath,” and Saul tries to give him his armor, because Saul is thinking, “Oh, when you say ‘fight Goliath,’ you mean ‘fight him in hand-to-hand combat,’ infantry on infantry.”

But David has absolutely no expectation. He’s not going to fight him that way.

So the Israelites up on the mountain ridge looking down on him thought he was this extraordinarily powerful foe. What they didn’t understand was that the very thing that was the source of his apparent strength was also the source of his greatest weakness.

And there is, I think, in that, a very important lesson for all of us. Giants are not as strong and powerful as they seem. And sometimes the shepherd boy has a sling in his pocket.

Let’s stick with this angle on David vs. Goliath.

If we want to help our Davids, how do we do that? By using each partner’s comparative advantage, and acknowledging critical vulnerabilities as well – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. We should make sure we keep our Davids light, mobile, efficient and deadly. If we do that, who knows, perhaps we too can stand in the distance and watch them fight and win for themselves.



RUSTLAMTRHREAfter the Russian moves in to the Crimea, there was a fair bit of goofing at the old Russia hands in the Pentagon who were excited after years of being ignored, shuffling around the halls waving dusty Harvard Graphics slides to anyone they met – but that cute phase is long past.

Almost everyone appreciates that, while not the Soviet Union, the Russian bear still demands respect. Encouraged by their victory over the USA in the strategic direction in Syria – expect Russia to continue to push the envelope of their regional influence back to her traditional boundaries.

In line with that, everyone should keep up to speed with the latest Russian naval developments. With both domestic use and sales on the international marketplace, our Sailors of the middle of the 21st Century will have to know Russian hardware as well as their fathers knew Soviet Hardware at the end of the 20th.

You can go ahead and put on your Christmas vacation reading list the latest from ONI, The Russian Navy: A Historic Transition. You can download at the link or read below … but this is an excellently digestible UNCLASS primer.

Just a few pull quotes:

The new technologically advanced Russian Navy, increasingly armed with the KALIBR family of weapons, will be able to more capably defend the maritime approaches to the Russian Federation and exert significant influence in adjacent seas. This multi-purpose force will be the forward-layered defense of Russia and its maritime exclusive economic zone and will be able to promote Russian diplomatic interests, advance maritime science, combat piracy, and provide humanitarian assistance.

It will also provide a flexible platform for Russia to demonstrate offensive capability, threaten neighbors, project power regionally, and advance President Putin’s stated goal of returning Russia to clear great power status.

They have a mission as we do. They also have catch-up to play, and some grievances to work on. They are not Western, nor Eastern – they are Russian.

Part of being Russian, they like to follow their plans – if they have the resources to do so. As their capabilities and resources grow, where will they go and what will they do? Well, they will tell you.

The Navy’s peacetime missions are:
Deter. Maintain strategic nuclear deterrent forces—strategic nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs)—in permanent ready status, able to deliver a timely retaliatory strike or deploy in times of growing tension to deter an attack against Russia.
Defend. Maintain and deploy constant ready general-purpose naval forces to protect and defend Russia’s national interests both in adjacent seas as well as in more distant waters.
Demonstrate. Use the select deployment of general-purpose forces as an “instrument of state” to support Russian foreign policy.

In times of increased tension and war, the Navy’s priority missions are:
Protect. Protect the sea-based strategic deterrent force.
Interdict. Interdict or blunt an aero-space attack against Russia from the maritime directions.

Note their ease of discussing nuclear weapons. Don’t discount it, not a bit.

Again, read it all – especially the end of it. A lot of the old Soviet Navy gear will begin to fade year by year, and the newer stuff will take its place. Some of which we have seen in use in Syria. It will give the Russians not just a new look, but new capabilities and a new mindset.

Oh, and the pic above, there is another one for PACFLT in the report. I like the above though as it gives a nice insight in to what the Russians see as “their” naval zone of influence. What we think of the Caribbean and the waters between Guam and San Francisco? Yep, perhaps what these waters mean to the Russians.

Ponder, then ponder some more next time someone starts to speak of no fly zones, maritime exclusion zones and all that.

Russia Pub 2015 ONI by CDR Salamander



« Older Entries Newer Entries »