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"Hey, I'm just a mere figurehead, really..."

The big reason to attend WEST 2011 is quite simple… Undersecretary Robert Work is already confirmed to speak!

Enjoying lunch while listening to America’s own reincarnation of Jackie Fisher, Winston Churchill and a wild strain of Roosevelt is a treat too rarely served to us far-from-Beltway residents of the West Coast. It is not something to miss.

Register for WEST 2011 here.

It’s the least you can do for the guy who, with the unveiling of last weeks’ LCS “Unselect”, is relentlessly forging the Navy after Next (and hey, he even finds the time to craft the occasional essay for Proceedings, too!)

I mean, to give you some idea of how influential Undersecretary Robert Work is, I’d wager that Admiral Rickover would be horribly jealous given just how effective Robert Work has been–in the space of just two years, too…

In short, the guy is unstoppable, well worth hearing, and, hey, even if you don’t like Undersecretary Work, USNI has invited a whole lot of other interesting folk to drop by WEST 2011, too. Take a look. Anybody can register, and, well, what better way to justify a trip to visit San Diego in January?

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J. Michael Gilmore, the Defense Department’s director of Operational Test and Evaluation, has the most thankless job in the Pentagon. This guy, more than anybody else, knows where the bodies are buried on various platforms–and nobody listens to him.

As a weapons tester and evaluator, he is hated by program managers, dismissed as a cantankerous, meddling fool by the programs dinged by DOT&E testers, and yet, sadly, his data-driven critiques are often right.

J. Michael Gilmore was the one who first raised the red flag about the Virginia Class–and it’s issues with troublesome subsystems. The Program Managers pushed back, got their two-hull per year production agreement inked and then, in the space of a few weeks, three Virginia Class subs showed up with their Special Hull Treatment in tatters. I blogged about it, and then the story went national.

J. Michael Gilmore is changing DOT&E. Usually public DOT&E stuff is buried in a hard-to-reach annual catalog for Congress, little-reported upon beyond the cozy confines of the Inside the Navy subscription wall (and, well, this blog and maybe Tim Colton). But things are changing. DOT&E reports are now posted, here.

And J. Michael Gilmore is talking.

To find out what this new–and very welcome–voice on Naval Affairs is talking about today, here’s my complete story–or, if you don’t take my word for it, visit good ‘ole Galrahn for his view on this.

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After experiencing the 2010 San Francisco Fleet Week and observing the “Green Machine” that is the USS Makin Island, I had to wonder just what the heck happened to the Air Force? That military branch was, back in 2006, surfing the leading edge of the Green Wave. But today, the Air Force has entirely lost momentum, ceding the Green Lead to the Green Hornet, the Great Green Fleet and the force of nature that is SECNAV Ray Mabus.

To read more about why the Navy is beating the Air Force in the race to adapt Green Tech, head over to and read all about it

Well, before one of the more successful San Francisco Fleet Weeks in recent history winds down, here’s a little summary of what we set out to do, presented by Google Earth…The video is a little rocky, so if you can, run the Google Earth Tour (just make sure your volume for the embedded Google Earth video player is on mute!). But the video/tour gives you a good idea of what the folks who put together Fleet Week set out to do this week–and it sets the stage for the future! So…quit reading and go watch the San Francisco Fleet Week Video.
View this tour in Google Earth: Download KML
(Download the latest version of Google Earth here.)

The IDF is facing a manning problem. According to Ha’aretz, the Israeli Defense Forces’ sub fleet is working to expand the submariner pipeline, growing from three sub teams to a total of ten. Are women going to be a part of this new cadre?

Look, finding enough guys capable of completing the grueling training cycle is hard enough, but, as the IDF sub fleet grows to five hulls, trebling the IDF sub force is pretty much impossible without a new source of recruits. Which gets us to the image at the right, taken from the Ha’aretz story. The sailor training in the background (working in the IDF’s sweet new “land-sub” training facility) is either sporting some unusually long-hair or…the sailor is a woman.

Could the traditionally-all male IDF Sub force be integrating? Read more at NEXTNAVY.COM

A Canadian oiler in better days...

We Navy-Gazers write a lot about anti-access threats. Most of the threats are frighteningly kinetic–the Type 022 carrier-killing small boat or the DF-21D carrier-killing missile. But looming environmental anti-access threats–the legal exclusion of replenishment vessels that pose a potential environmental “threat”–are just as scary. And possibly, in a raw strategic sense, more effective, too.

International legalese may not be as exciting as a Type 022 catamaran, but insuring access for mundane old replenishment vessels is important. If a carrier–or any other warship–can’t get fuel, it can’t do the job.

So over at, you can find out why Canada’s government worries that the HMCS Protecteur and the HMCS Preserver, their two 40-year-old oilers, are going to pose an environmental anti-access threat to Canadian Forces.

And you can find out why America may face a rather rude surprise if it doesn’t engage on this issue–and get serious about recapitalizing (or re-conceptualizing) its long-underfunded logistical train.


Commanders, if you ever have trouble understanding what your PAO does, just realize they have to deal with can’t-win stories like this:

A Marine sergeant is set to be arraigned Thursday in San Diego County Superior Court on a felony charge of animal abuse for allegedly hurling a kitten at a wall, authorities said.

Fernando Pacheco, 27, is assigned to administrative duties at the Marine Corps’ San Diego boot camp. The kitten was badly injured, but survived after extensive medical treatment, officials said.

The case was brought to the district attorney by the San Diego Humane Society. The 4-month-old kitten named Cullen allegedly suffered a broken leg, head trauma, and bloody eyes and a bloody nose.

The incident allegedly occurred off-base while Pacheco was not on duty. Still, a Marine Corps spokesman said the Marines will cooperate with authorities in the case.

“If these allegations are true, they are a violation of our core values of ‘honor, courage and commitment,’ ” the spokesman said.

What’s your PAO’s nightmare?

(If you don’t know CDR Brown (He’s a perfect example of a top-notch PAO), start following him.)


In the pantheon of privately managed Navy memorials, one of the most envied is the Intrepid–the centerpiece of New York City’s Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. Perched in Manhattan, the Intrepid draws in enough revenue to survive complex–and pricey–maintenance, grow facilities and attract a high-profile board (Including Xe/Blackwater founder Erik Prince). To envious outsiders, the institution seems like it is on the right track.

But how healthy is the Intrepid, actually?

Find out more here, at

I have long thought the Army’s little Navy had the potential to drive some innovation–unencumbered by the Navy’s biases and relatively unfamiliar with the traditional way of waging influence at sea, the Army’s fleet has a chance to generate some creative tension by stealing a march or two on the Navy and Marine Corps. Fabrication of the Army’s new littoral tool, “Spearhead,” the first JHSV, got underway this week.

But I’m not talking about the shiny new ship–I’m cheering the doughty old Littoral Support Vessel, a platform we already have.

If you read the July 2010 Proceedings–all the way through–you might have found a little technical note detailing one of the more thankless contributors to America’s “National Fleet”, the U.S. Army’s Logistic Support Vessel (LSV).

It’s a great note–The 8 General Frank S. Besson Class LSVs are next-generation LSTs–expendable, beach-able, plodding, “fill-with-what-you-will” vessels (the picture is one of the Philippine Navy’s 2 helicopter-ready LSV’s working in Balikatan 2010). They are long-legged, lightly-manned utility infielders–perfect for experimentation, maintenance support, logistics aid or, well, almost anything but “high-threat” stuff.

I write about it over at defensetech, but, I’ll say it here too–the LSV is a perfect example of defense “humbletech”–a technical asset so mundane it gets completely overlooked by the wiz-bang gadgetry of modern defense technologists. (The LSV is also a small-yard project, so it doesn’t have a big lobby like the oddly named “American Shipbuilding Associationwriting editorials in favor of the platform, either.)

We should be putting these platforms to work in the field. For low-threat regions, the $32 million dollar LSV is a great platform. We should be using it for presence missions, and planning to see how it could support influence squadrons or work in support of a JHSV or LCS. They are simple to make, so we should be handing out contracts to make variants of these things, get ’em into the fleet and then hand ’em out to our friends. They’d be perfect for Africa and the South Pacific–but we’ll have more on that later.

In the meantime, head over to defensetech, read the post, and take a moment to cheer USNI contributor Chief Warrant Officer 3 Michael W. Carr for taking on the thankless task of popularizing this low-profile and under-appreciated platform! (As some of us in the USNI crowd might say, “HUZZAH!”)


So if, over the next two years, the 7,804 Vertical Launch System (VLS) cells in the surface fleet suddenly acquired a Prompt Global Strike capability? It’s gonna happen.

As I wrote over at

Putting PGS into the VLS does something far more interesting than just “add capability”. It changes everything. PGS on a surface ship transforms the largely “defensive” nature of the U.S. surface combatant/carrier escort to, well, “offense”.

And that shift from the “Missile Defense” destroyer or “Air Defense” cruiser of old to a “Global Strike Combatant” will pose a real conceptual challenge for everybody–from those walking Aegis deckplates to any potential adversaries.

The idea that America’s 7,804 VLS cells may soon gain the ability to rain almost instant havoc on targets some 2,000 nm away should put a bit of a damper on those who counted on overwhelming a hunkered-down and relatively passive “defense-oriented” AEGIS fleet. It’s a big deal.

You heard it here first–A shift of the U.S. surface combatant fleet from defense to offense is a real game changer.



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