Archive for the 'Navy' Category

14523006_612870865559081_753367960923572387_nNow that everyone has absorbed the impact of the announcement last week ditching the Navy ratings system, let’s talk about the what and why.

Let us talk as adults. It is the mutually respectful thing to do.

Brush aside the spin, the squid ink, the general excuse making and post-decision 2nd and 3rd order effect justification on why this change was made, for what purpose, and what manner. Things such as giving a job description that will help a Sailor or Marine have a better civilian resume. Really, just stop. No one is buying it, and trust me, as someone who made the transition a bit more than half a decade ago, it won’t make a difference in that area.

With some time behind us post-announcement, there is more to discuss. We are lucky in that Mark D. Faram of Navy Times has a thorough, balanced and much needed expose from “behind the scenes of the Navy’s most unpopular policy.”

The simple answer is this; fed by some of the less intellectual threads from the 3rd Wave Feminist theory that seems to inform much of his ideas on “gender,” the SECNAV wanted to grind in his stamp on a pet agenda item before he leaves office.

How it was to be done? That was the question. There was no question of “if.”

This action began and ended with the SECNAV and full credit positive or negative belongs firmly there.

Now, let’s get in to some of Faram’s details.

Good ideas are usually given a nice warm up. This, however, was known from the start that it would be toxic upon delivery. As a result, the delivery was for most as a bolt out of the blue;

Beyond a small working group, convened this past summer and led by then-Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Mike Stevens, next-to no one in the Navy saw this change coming, sources with knowledge of the decision-making process say. And it’s been received with near universal contempt by sailors past and present.

In the course of military service, we have all done things we did not agree with, but duty is what duty is. If it is a lawful order, you do it. If it is a nasty bit of work, you try to come up with the least horrible way of doing it while still getting the OK from the boss. This is why I believe that those who oppose the new policy should hold no ill feeling towards those in uniform who were in the group that produced this for approval by the SECNAV. Likewise, those supporting it should not give them credit either. We’ve all been there, they did the best they could – but the initiating directive came from SECNAV, and if it weren’t for him, it would not have happened.

“I felt it was not optional,” Stevens said, “but my duty to lead this effort, knowing all along that there would be controversy attached to it.” The former MCPON, as the position is known throughout the service, says he believes the move is necessary and that now Navy leaders “must follow through.”

The post announcement spin has been a solid effort to define some positive 2nd and 3rd order effects, which there may be, but that is all they are – 2nd and 3rd order effects. Not designed, just byproducts.

Mabus declined to speak with Navy Times. He and other top Navy officials, including Richardson and Burke, have said that the change, while a nod to gender neutrality, will facilitate sailors’ professional development and career advancement by freeing them to cross train and attain broader skills spanning multiple specialties. That should make them more marketable when they leave the military, too, they’ve noted.

Mabus did speak today, and we’ll end the post with that, but let’s stick to this part of the story for now.

It would be hard to find a more divisive way of making such an announcement that impacts every Sailor.

Much of the frustration tied to Mabus’ decision stems from its timing. Most average sailors and deckplate leaders alike don’t understand why the announcement was made while so much of the plan remains undeveloped.

Well, many did. There were hints and background warnings over the summer.

Mabus, sources said, was determined to put ratings reform in motion — and on the record — before he leaves office.

The power of the office. Once you have been in a while, you begin to enjoy it and find ways to use it. When you see that power soon leaving with much work left undone, well, time to get moving.

Let’s go back to the sausage factory. Direction and guidance was both clear and vague. Interesting how MCPON tried to cobble something workable together.

…while Mabus was focused on removing the word “man” from the Navy’s job titles, he never specifically asked for a plan to eliminate rating titles entirely.

The MCPON assembled a working group composed of “about 12” individuals,…

“Course of action number one was simple: Remove man from titles,” Stevens said. “What we found was that you could in most cases, remove the word ‘man’ and replace it with the word specialist or technician…

The second proposal built upon the first and sought to determine whether the job titles in fact aligned with the work being done. An example here is yeoman; it’s a historic title, but it was decided that “administrative specialist” was a better fit for the work being performed, …

But none of the changes seemed right, he added. Taken in total, they did not amount to the profound change he felt the Navy needs. That’s when Stevens suggested something groundbreaking.

“What if we just eliminated rating titles altogether and simply referred to ourselves by our rate? That’s the traditional Navy word for rank. You could feel the air leave the room,” he said.

There you go.

In case you are wondering, the article didn’t outline well what COA-3 was, but it does not really matter.

“If you want to do just what you asked us to do, here are the rating title changes that need to happen to remove ‘man’ from those titles. He said ‘it’s done and it’s easy and we can do it tomorrow,’” Stevens said, recalling the conversation with Mabus.

Stevens then outlined the idea of removing all rating titles, telling the secretary that he felt this was the the best proposal for the service. But he followed up with a warning.

“Make no mistake about it,” Stevens recalled telling Mabus, “this course of action will be the most labor-intensive, probably the most expensive, certainly the most controversial as well as difficult to accept socially throughout the Navy. But it certainly advances us the furthest.”

Mabus “sat there a little bit, pondered it, asked a few questions and then decided, in the best interest of the Navy’s future, this was the path he wanted to take,” Stevens said.

And that is how a very personal part of our Navy for over two centuries ended.

The pushback was as expected, I assume.

There was “absolutely no signal, no hint that a move of that magnitude was being planned, discussed or soon-to-be forthcoming,” said the command master chief, who also spoke to Navy Times on condition of anonymity. “Our sailors don’t understand it. They don’t understand why the ratings that they chose to enter have been selected for elimination, and they don’t see the need for it.”

Actually, there was, but few wanted to believe it. No question now.

“We don’t understand why this could not have been a two-to-three year, very gradual process that examined all of the effects from advancement to recruiting, and how it will affect the administration of our Navy on many different levels. It doesn’t appear,” the CMC said, “that any thought was given to that.”

Come on Master Chief, you have to understand why. The focus is all on the calendar, a calendar getting short for the SECNAV.

I know there are many who refuse to accept that this all comes from the SECNAV’s desire. Thanks to Hope Hodge Seck’s article today on his speech at the National Press Club, SECNAV Mabus underlined his priority and should remove all doubt,

“Ratings names change all the time,” Mabus said. “Corpsmen, our medics, that rating came in after World War II. Corpsmen were first called Loblolly Boys, which, I’m not sure where that came from. I thought it was important to be gender-neutral.”

In case you aren’t fully up to speed, looks like we are losing Corpsman for Medic.

I know. I know.



4th

A Word about Ratings

October 2016

By

Man the Rails

Last week, the Navy’s top leadership announced the swift transition from traditional rates to alphanumeric Navy Occupational Specialty (NOS) codes. In the matter of a three minutes and thirty-four second video, over two-hundred years of U.S. Navy Ratings – and traditions – were history. Gone. Finished. Dead. Never-to-be-talked-about-again.

But not so fast, everyone. Just minutes after the release of NAVADMIN 218/16, Facebook and social media seemingly deteriorated into a bomb box of antipathy, false equivalencies, and irreverent commentary. Public manifestos protesting the continued tyranny of Secretary Mabus’s tenure inundated message boards and status updates. Nuclear meme proliferation.

To be fair, the observed reaction among the force has ranged from tranquil ambivalence to outright hostile rejection. In typical hyperbolic fashion, the Navy Times pounced on the announcement and labeled it “the most radical personnel overhaul in a generation.” Not to be outdone, the San Diego Union Tribune called it a “tsunami of a cultural shift.” Duffel Blog headlined their page with a satirical news story entitled, “Ray Mabus Admits he Just Hates the Navy,” which like most articles attacking SECNAV resort to the usual talking points: he likes to give women a fair shot, he names ships after civilian heroes and leaders, and he doesn’t play very well with Marines.

The announcement dissolving Ratings is not an epochal policy change. It’s a tweak in syntax to ensure the personnel structure is securely in place for the future Navy. Bigger, more imperative changes have already been instituted over the last decade. Every specialty is open to women; gays can serve openly; maternity and paternity leave is guaranteed; and men and women can come to work without fear of sexual harassment or assault. These types of policies took generations of political will to develop and bring to the force, then were implemented and executed by all of us in a short period of time, sometimes despite initial and widspread resistance. Evidence clearly suggests that the aforementioned personnel changes have enhanced us as a fighting force.

Notwithstanding our increasingly connected Navy, it almost seems like Sailors are more self-compartmentalized than ever. Exhibit A is our rating system. Purely designed to categorize people based off professional skill sets, the Rating system mysteriously became a means of singular identity. Although each rate is exceptional (because each sailor is exceptional), perhaps the “Subject Matter Expert” exceptionalism spurred beyond its intended tactical structure and self mutated into hyper-compartmentalized hues of Rate camaraderie. Over time, some sailors identified themselves more according to their Rate as opposed to their service.

Therefore, beyond the minutia of personnel policy, a broader question has clearly emerged. How is it that our sailors identify more with their job title than the credos of a Sailor? Or, better yet, why such a languid and tepid response to something so clearly beneficial to enlisted sailors for the sake of the benign and often mischaracterized zeitgeist that comes with terms like “tradition?”

NOS Policy

Change is hard in an organization, especially when our organization has a predisposition to divide forces into ranks and rates and rules and flow charts. So embedded are our social traditions in the military orthodoxy that even the slightest of changes seem to throw earth off its axis. And to be clear, this policy will result in tangible improvements for everybody in nearly every quantifiable category. With promotion rates in particular rates stagnant, good sailors will be get to stay in, learn new skills, and continue a rewarding career. Shore Duty billets previously reserved for specific ratings can open up to more sailors, thereby placing even more emphasis on performance at sea. Sailors who earn new skills stand to be offered incentives in the form of increased monetary compensation or other substantial benefits.

In other words, the playing field will continue to level out and provide hard-working sailors the opportunity they deserve.

The second order effects are also clear.

  1. The system will tap into the brilliance of our sailors, allowing for ideas and best practices studied in a different NOS to be applied in new ways and in new fields.
  2. If properly managed, critical NEC’s can be adequately covered despite an unforeseen personnel loss.
  3. In the age of autonomous airplanes, unmanned underwater submarines, and sophisticated computer networks, the revised system will naturally find new jobs for sailors displaced by technological improvements throughout the force.

As most of us know, an organization glued to tradition is an organization drifting off course and not innovating.

I confess that I have never wore an enlisted uniform, so my nondescript commentary should be rebuffed with enlisted perspectives, but I must admit, I have found it is interesting to watch people fill the void of change with the call of action to go back to a system so unprepared for the future force. Rather than quibble, we should focus our effort by demanding transparency in the Navy’s new policy so we can all adequately craft the future force.

Under Mabus’s leadership, our personnel changes have occurred with admirable swiftness and efficiency. But we should be clear about the dissolvent of the Rating system. This is not a change. It’s merely a data-driven adjustment to ensure our personnel system is aligned to meet the demand of the 21st Century. Our sailors deserve more opportunity, more flexibility, and more options, even if they choose to get out.

As we transition out of a Navy that once relied on sheer manpower with adequate supervision to a Navy that cherishes specific, individual skill sets, our force structure must change. So before we sign on to more petitions and lay waste to social media, perhaps we can let ideas breath and allow everyone to absorb a new innovation and consider its broader implications.



When I say “The Navy conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations in order to advance security and stability in Europe and Africa,” I truly mean the full spectrum of operations. That includes both the treble and bass clefs.

Sailors assigned to The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform at a cultural celebration in Panza, Ischia Sept. 27, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Musician 3rd Class by Marco Di Rienzo)

Sailors assigned to The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band perform at a cultural celebration in Panza, Ischia Sept. 27, 2015. (U.S. Navy photo by Musician 3rd Class by Marco Di Rienzo)

Within the DoD the Navy takes on a diplomatic role, showing the flag and defending American interest abroad. The Navy is in the vanguard, representing American foreign policy and values as her ships steam across the world’s oceans. The disadvantage of our inherently maritime presence is that a ship underway is often “out of sight and out of mind.” If we are not careful, this lack of awareness can be true for both the American public and our international Partners and Allies. While a warship in the Mediterranean or Black Sea may be a powerful deterrent to potential adversaries and reassurance to policymakers within the Alliance, it is more difficult to get these messages across to the public. Cue the Band. Nothing in the world is able to bridge two distinct cultures while expressing the uniqueness of each quite like music. In their distinctive role, Navy musicians build upon a critical capability of the U.S. Navy presence.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band is a force multiplier. From the headquarters in Naples, Italy, it represents U.S. interests to 105 countries in Europe and Africa, just over 25% of the world’s population.[1] American Sailors are among our most capable ambassadors, and in our area of operation we average 10,000 Sailors at any given time. Most of these Sailors, though, are either underway or concentrated near a few Navy bases. The Band’s 50 musicians—including five Italian members—are extremely adaptive and play as one large unit or within smaller, specialized groups. Like all Navy bands, they support our mission, enhance international diplomacy, improve community outreach, and help forge enduring relationships. Each component of the Navy is concentrated on support of the warfighters and their mission. The Band is no exception.

The U. S. Naval Forces Europe Band plays to a full house Sept. 9, 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Salerno, Italy (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist (select) Brian P. Biller)

The U. S. Naval Forces Europe Band plays to a full house Sept. 9, 2015 to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Salerno, Italy (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist (select) Brian P. Biller)

In Europe, commemorative events surrounding the World Wars are deeply personal. The scars of those cataclysms are still visible. Locals remember the exact moment U.S. Servicemembers arrived in their town, city, and country. Americans fought beside them, and many died and are buried in the very soil they helped liberate. Annually, the Band plays at Memorial Day services for the Battle of Anzio in Nettuno, Italy, and for Operation Dragoon in Théoule-sur-Mer, France, as well as at the commemoration of Operation Avalanche in Salerno, Italy. With each performance they are reiterating to a different audience and with different music the same consistent message, that America is committed to the values and interests that have made the transatlantic Alliance the most successful in history. This year the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band also supported the 72nd Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy, France. As the number of World War II veterans is dwindling, so too are the number of Europeans with the first hand memories of their arrival. By participating in commemoration events, Navy bands reinforce the shared values and common goals we have with other nations.

The band does not limit itself to the European theater. The tyranny of distance makes port calls in Africa even more challenging than they are farther north, but the Band travels throughout the continent. Through music, the Band continues to build mutual understanding and trust, a subtle but memorable reminder of America’s commitment to our friends in the region.

Members of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band pose with students at the Abraham Lincoln Leaders School as part of Africa Partnership Station in Libreville, Gabon April 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler)

Members of the U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band pose with students at the Abraham Lincoln Leaders School as part of Africa Partnership Station in Libreville, Gabon April 14, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amy M. Ressler)

That was exactly the effect we got when we sent a twelve-member Band contingent performing throughout the Gulf of Guinea region in 2010. I was N3 back then, coordinating operations for Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF). The Gulf of Guinea was known for piracy and the local governments had difficulty coordinating efforts to secure the maritime domain. Our goal was to help our partners emerge from “sea blindness” to “sea vision” in a region of increasing strategic importance due to its natural resources. Initiatives included flag officer visits, training, and mil-to-mil engagement, but the star was MU2 Kori Gillis and the eleven other Band members stole the show during a live performance on Gabon television viewed by millions over the course of several days. Regardless of whether or not you like the cliché “winning the hearts and minds,” the fact remains that working effectively with partners requires buy-in from the population. The Band is, plain and simple, a force multiplier for us.

When I returned as the Deputy Commander to Naval Forces Europe and Africa and the Sixth Fleet Commander in 2014, I again saw the Band’s effect firsthand during the opening ceremony of Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal. The history of the region is tumultuous. The westernmost point on the continent, Senegal was the last stop for slaves traveling from Africa to North and South America. Today, though, Senegal has overcome this history and is a bright spot of stability on the West Coast of sub-Saharan Africa. The moderate Muslim country has a tradition of civilian control of an apolitical military much like the United States.

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises play together during the opening ceremony for exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, March 16, 2016. . (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

The U.S. Naval Forces Europe Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises play together during the opening ceremony for exercise Obangame/Saharan Express 2016 in Dakar, Senegal, March 16, 2016. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Weston Jones)

Within that context imagine how poignant it was for the Americans, Senegalese, and African and European partners to hear the Navy Band and the Musique Principale des Forces Armées Sénégalaises belt out in unison New Orleans jazz tunes and the two national anthems. No one remembered the speeches that day. What they and I will always remember was that outstanding joint performance—a clear symbol of how the United States stands beside our partners in the region.

When the Band plays the national anthem of an Ally or Partner, it has achieved its objective within the first few notes. It is up to Navy leaders to ensure these notes are played to the right audience. That could be an MWR Fourth of July celebration showing appreciation for sailors and their families; in a public venue like the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo where military bands from across the world play to sold out crowds each year; or to representatives of foreign militaries. Our Band has participated in ceremonies from BALTOPs in the Baltic Sea—almost within earshot of the Russian border—to Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea where Partners aided by U.S. naval expertise are resting control of ungoverned spaces from pirates, illegal fishermen, and smugglers.

The Band’s “inland ports of call” in nation’s capitals are cities where no Navy ship will ever weigh anchor but where our message must be heard. We deploy the Band to these places to show our commitment to a specific relationship because relationships matter. In the DoD we call them Alliances and Partnerships but they must be fostered just the same. An Alliance is built on much more than goodwill. It is shared interested and shared values. The Band exists at the tactical level of relationship building. At the boundary between cultures, the Band is the bridge.

References

[1] http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/#region



General Omar Bradley—an Army officer, and the last man to hold a 5-star flag in the US armed forces—once said, “Set your course by the stars, not by the lights of every passing ship.” As we face change, we must not forget what makes us who we are.

The United States Navy has experienced a lot of change over 241 years. From wooden ships with sails to submarines and aircraft carriers powered by nuclear reactors, from crackerjacks and dixie cups to a myriad of Navy Working Uniforms, from John Paul Jones to Delbert Black, change seems to come and go as regular as the tide.

Along the way, there has been a healthy tension in our service between those who say “we’ve always done it this way” and those who believe we should implement something better. This friction both encourages sailors to truly master their craft, and helps move the service forward by ensuring we never become too complacent.

Recently, the Secretary of the Navy announced a plan to modernize the Navy’s rating system. This system has been in existence for more than 241 years—indeed, it predates the founding of our Navy. These changes are intended to modify the way we address one another and plan our careers, but they are not without substantial controversy.

Sailors find identity and belonging in their rating. It gives them a sense of pride to advance within their rate. In an undeniably technical service, our rating system develops and safeguards quality professionals that do the hard work of keeping our Navy running every hour of every day. Many men and women continue to identify with their rate long after they have left active service.

Yet, our enlisted force—much like its officer counterpart—has problems with its personnel system. We could use a good dose of flexibility in career management; sailors could benefit from being able to advance in more than one area of expertise. We should be able to leverage technology to better connect sailors with the aptitude and the drive to opportunities that would benefit both them and the Navy.

But today, we sit at a crossroads of massive discontent. Eliminating the rating system will have a long-term, deleterious effect on morale. Indeed, this may lead many to mistrust any important, positive change in the future. But it does not have to be this way.

Winston Churchill once said, “without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.” Tradition and change do not have to be mutually exclusive; we can keep our ratings and change our personnel system. The key to this change—and to all change we have faced in our 241 years of history—is our people.

We must recognize that there is more than one way to bring about change. Sequestering working groups behind closed doors in the Pentagon may not be the best way anymore. We have a Fleet of more than 300,000 men and women who are capable of rapidly iterating solutions to any problem. Leveraging the concepts of human-centered design, we also have many ways to organize those men and women into a powerful idea-generating force.

The real question for our leadership is, how will you harness those sailors? Will you continue to dictate policy to them, or can you trust them to help develop solutions that will work?

If we press the reset button on the rating modernization plan, we can bring sailors together from around the fleet to both define the problems we are trying to solve, and bring about solutions that work well and are representative of all our people. This can serve us better by ensuring all hands both understand and appreciate the problems being addressed, and are fully engaged and bought into the solutions developed.

There are models to bring about this kind of Fleet engagement, and sailors ready to get to work on them. For instance, earlier this year, a small group of DC-area junior officers convened a symposium to address changes to the Navy’s personnel management system. In just a day, this group defined the problems in the system and developed solutions to improve, delivered to the Chief of Naval Personnel. Participants felt engaged, appreciated, and motivated. We can build on this model to address changes to the rating system and develop good solutions to the problems we are trying to solve.

If we are truly to become a “high velocity learning” organization, our old way of solving problems and dictating policy—of waiting for missives from on high—won’t work any longer. “In keeping with the highest traditions of naval service,” it’s time to change how we change, and believe in the intellectual capital of our sailors.



maxresdefaultI was lucky, I was a JO in the last act in the Anti-Submarine Warfare golden age; the Cold War. Headed over to Desert Storm as an Ensign, came back a LTjg and then spent a few glorious years in an ocean where Soviet Tangos and Victor IIIs still prowled, frustrated, and more often than not – snuck by us when we weren’t trying to run away from them.

In exercises towards the end of that first sea tour a few years after the Soviet collapse, we still were a well oiled machine living off of tactical inertia. I have one of those memories at sea that at the moment you knew you’d always remember; a clear, bright evening. RED submarine was, I believe USS GATO (SSN 615). In the distance there were two SH-3 dipping one after another as a P-3 flew in orbits a few hundred feet above them throwing out flares/smokes on occasion while for the DD & FFG, tails were wet and working the same sub.

What made it so memorable wasn’t just the visual beauty of it all, but was that everyone seemed to be able to locate, track, and even make simulated attacks. It wasn’t that easy. It was never that easy – but at that one moment in time it all came together and had a bit of a non-goat-rope feel about it. Though you hoped that is what it would be like with a no-kidding adversary submarine – whichever nation they came from now that the Soviet Union was gone – but you knew that it wouldn’t. You remember the message traffic that outlined that TANGO disappeared when they wanted to, and that Angel of Death VICTOR III – well, people were still collecting jock-straps from Bear Island to the Malta Escarpment.

Surface, submarine, and aviation – everyone was in on the game. Carriers had large numbers of escorts when they deployed – and for the time almost all of them were ASW capable themselves for a knife fight, and the FFG, DD, and CG came with a mix of the last of the SH-2 and the sparkly new SH-60 to reach out a bit. The carriers had the S-3 and the SH-3 with the SH-60 coming along there as well. The submarines, well, say no more. Ashore, you always had the P-3 bubbas for comic relief.

The hope was that somewhere in that mix was the key to keep the submarines away, if not dead. We were never happy with the one trick pony of the LWT – after they took away our DUSTBIN – but if nothing else it might be good enough to make a hostile submarine break contact.

But, then the post-Cold War mindset came in. ASW went to the back and the money went elsewhere right when the potential enemy submarines were getting much better – our ASW technology was only getting marginally better, and our ASW skill against non-permissive and non-scripted submarines drifted and faded in the ambient noise of higher priorities.

As, rightfully, much of our ASW discussions should only take place behind the cipher door, it’s helpful to find something in open source as a reference point. In The Economist last month, there is a great article on modern ASW challenges, Seek, but shall ye find?

Some nice points to ponder a couple decades post-drift;

DURING war games played off the coast of Florida last year, a nuclear-powered French attack submarine, Saphir, eluded America’s sub-hunting aircraft and vessels with enough stealth to sink (fictitiously) a newly overhauled American aircraft-carrier, Theodore Roosevelt, and most of her escort. An account of the drill on a French defence-ministry website was promptly deleted, but too late for it to go unnoticed.

Nor was this French victory a fluke. In 2006, in what was very far from being a war game, a Chinese diesel-electric submarine surfaced near Okinawa within torpedo range of another American carrier, Kitty Hawk, without having been detected by that carrier’s escort of more than a dozen vessels and anti-submarine aircraft. And, from the point of view of carrier-deploying navies, things are threatening to get worse. Saphir, launched in 1981, hardly represents the state of the art in underwater undetectability; in the decade since the Okinawa incident diesel-electrics have become even quieter. For an inkling of the silence of the new generation of such subs when they are running on battery power alone, without their engines turning, Jerry Hendrix, a former anti-submarine operations officer on the Theodore Roosevelt, asks: “How loud is your flashlight?”

The always quotable Jerry!

…submarines are spreading. Since the cold war ended, the number of countries deploying them has risen from a dozen or so to about 40.

While we have rested some, tinkered with “new” ASW search methods a bit, the world continues to build.

Worse, for those trying to defend ships from submarine attack, Western powers have routinely cut anti-submarine spending since the end of the cold war. American carriers retired the S-3 Viking submarine-hunting warplane in 2009, leaving shorter-range helicopters to compensate. Since the Soviet Union’s demise the average surface escort of an American carrier has shrunk from six vessels to four. … Many carry anti-ship guided missiles as well as torpedoes. One such, the CM-708 UNB, was shown off by China in April. It packs a 155kg warhead and, after popping out of the water, flies at near the speed of sound for about 290km. An export version is available but, if you prefer, Russia’s submarine-launched Kalibr-PL missile offers a bigger warhead and a terminal sprint at Mach three.

So, solutions? We need to be careful in putting too much trust in high-demand, low-density “war winning” capabilities yet to be robustly tested (and always remember, no one has really faced a sub threat since the Royal Navy in the early 1980s), or promises of something just around the corner – we should reinforce what we know works.

Keeping track of submarines is good to remove uncertainty in peace, and a quicker kill in the transition to war – but how do you try to recreate the Cold War multilayered tracking system? Well, we don’t have the numbers or the money – so we’ll experiment a bit.

We are thinking about drones, but their utility starts to wear thin after the second follow-on question – but they have great promise not as a solution – but a tool;

Perhaps belatedly, but certainly determinedly, a new approach to the submarine threat is now being developed. It is based on a simple principle: since submarines are hard to detect, when you do find one you should never let go.

Shadowing threatening submersibles is nothing new. Trailing something is a much easier sensory task than discovering it in the first place, when you have an entire ocean to search. But at the moment this job is done by destroyers and (for those that have them) nuclear submarines. These cost billions of dollars to build and tens of millions a year more to run. Instead, the idea is to use smallish unmanned ships—marine drones, in effect—to do the job. These will be packed with enough sensors and artificial intelligence to follow adversaries’ submarines automatically.

Half a dozen Western naval powers are conducting the R&D needed to build these, according to Eric Wertheim, author of the US Naval Institute’s reference doorstop “Combat Fleets of the World”. America is furthest along. In June its Office of Naval Research and its Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, began tests in the Pacific of the Sea Hunter, an unmanned (and, for now, unarmed) 40-metre trimaran, pictured. It is designed to follow an enemy submarine from the surface relentlessly for months, even in high seas. While the crew of the boat being tailed will probably be able to hear their pursuer’s diesel engine, that is not really a problem. Short of a torpedo launch, which would be an act of war, “there’s nothing you can do about it”, says Nevin Carr, a retired rear admiral in the American navy who now works at Leidos, the firm which designed Sea Hunter.

ASW is not that easy. The water column is not constant, busy sea lanes are loud, the ocean bottom can be fussy – and your target gets a vote and the right to have countermeasures.

Saab Kockums’s new 62-metre A26 model will sport a tube from which an underwater drone could slip out to attack surface drones. This, Mr Wieslander says, is the first time that such a feature has been fitted to a production submarine. Mr Krepinevich, however, counsels caution regarding underwater drones. They are fine for attacking other drones, but without huge advances in battery technology (see article), no such machine could keep up for long with a big submarine that charges its batteries from a diesel engine and can travel at up to 20 knots—much less with a faster nuclear-powered one.

More sophisticated systems than this are in the works—including anti-drone countermeasures. According to Torstein Olsmo Sæbo, a scientist at FFI, Norway’s defence-research establishment, drone-towed acoustic arrays can now mimic the signature of a big submarine, luring a drone off in the wrong direction.

A new IUSS?

One way to do this, at least for home waters, is to have a dense grid of fixed detectors. One of the more advanced of these is Singapore’s. It consists of underwaterbuoys called acoustic nodes that are tethered to the sea bed two or three kilometres apart. These nodes can talk to each other. They communicate by broadcasting precisely calibrated vibrations through the water. At the moment they are sending test messages, but eventually they will be equipped with their own submarine-detecting sensors.

Active and passive? Huh … wait unit the whale people find out about that active part.

Anyway, we have been here before;

The arms race between surface vessels and submarines has been going on for almost exactly a century—since Germany’s demonstration to its enemies in the first world war of the threat from its U-boats. By the end of the second world war, the Allies had become so good at finding U-boats that German crews taking to the sea had a life expectancy of about a week. As the examples of the Kitty Hawk and the Theodore Roosevelt show, the balance at the moment has tipped back in favour of the submariner. The great question is how long it will stay that way.

The key in the hyper-Darwinian game that is ASW is to never stop. Never stop developing, never stop training, never stop understanding the threat.

Another lesson of real-world ASW? It takes numbers of ASW units on, above, and under the surface, a wide diversity of units, and the investment to maintain them.

As for the kill-chain part of the problem, well … ahem. Let’s not go there right now.



Posted by CDRSalamander in Hard Power, Navy | 16 Comments
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stressFor some it is at least a half-decade late – or for long term critics, perhaps a decade – to stop what we are doing with LCS and to re-baseline our assumptions about what we have wound up with at the terminal end of the sausage maker.

The events of this year have brought even the most invested LCS advocates to pause a bit.

Via Chris Cavas at Defense News;

Sources said the Coronado is about 800 nautical miles west of Hawaii, proceeding at about 10 knots. The Military Sealift Command oiler Henry J. Kaiser is accompanying the ship. About 70 sailors are aboard the LCS.

The Coronado left Pearl Harbor on Friday for the western Pacific, where it was to operate for at least 16 months based from Singapore. The ship recently completed several weeks of operations with the Rim of the Pacific exercises, operating from Pearl Harbor.

“The extent of repairs and any operational impact is unknown at this time. An assessment of the casualty will be completed upon return to Pearl Harbor and additional details will be made available when possible,” the San-Diego-based Third Fleet said in a statement.

The Coronado becomes the fourth LCS to suffer a major incident since December.

As I outlined at the start of this decade, it is really too late to halt the bureaucratic inertia that is LCS. By design, there is no “Plan B” or other class of ship to shift to. The yet to be seen LCS-FF conversion is only a “Plan A (Rev.1)”. Though we have our CVL’s – oh, I’m sorry: Large Deck Amphibs – full of UK VSTOL aircraft, when there was still time to do so, no one was ever brave enough to want to license build a quality EuroFrigate type. On The Hill, many have become so part-of the Military Industrial Complex as opposed to a watchdog-of or customer-of, that halting any further growth in numbers of this sub-optimal platform is almost impossible with the people holding the levers of power.

So, what can be done? The focus this decade has been to hope for the best with the compound technology risk in the two LCS classes, and just focus on making the best of what we have. CNO Richardson, who has spoken most clear-headed about LCS than any of his processors, is doing just that.

“Last night’s problem is the fourth issue in the last year,” Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson said Tuesday in a statement. “Some of these were caused by personnel and some were due to design and engineering. These issues are all receiving our full and immediate attention, both individually and in the aggregate.”

“To address the personnel and training issues,” Richardson continued, “I established a program-wide review earlier this summer to incorporate deployment lessons learned and identify systemic problems with how the program was structured. Vice Adm. Tom Rowden has completed the review, which recommends changes to the crewing, deployment, mission module, training and testing concepts.These changes will provide more ownership and stability, while also allowing for more forward presence.”

“In light of recent problems, we also recognize more immediate action needs to be taken as well,” the CNO added. “The review is being briefed to leadership before implementation. I also support Vice Adm. Rowden’s decision to improve oversight class-wide, which will result in the retraining and certifying of all LCS sailors who work in engineering.

Still, are the engineering problems buried deep in the bowels of these ships something we can grow and learn through to a fix, or will they be a baked-in characteristic of these ships – an original sin that must be accepted?

We’ll just have to wait and see. Measure the costs and write another chapter in Lessons Identified.

Either way, that Fleet ship count? It is going to need a big asterisk next to it.



Posted by CDRSalamander in Navy | 171 Comments
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Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Midrats Episode 347: Baltic Security with Bruce Acker and Dan Lynch

With a resurgent Russia, the security environment from former Soviet Republics to the traditionally neutral nations of Finland and Sweden has changed dramatically.

What are those changes and how are they changing how these nations see their place in the larger Western security infrastructure? We’re going to look at how thing are changing in how they work and see each other, NATO, and what they need to do to provide for both their and collective defense.

Our guests for the full hour will be Colonel Bruce Acker, USAF (ret) and Captain Dan Lynch, USN (Ret).

Bruce is currently a Defense Strategy Consultant in Stockholm Sweden. He spent 30 years on active duty starting as a Air Defense Weapons flight test engineer upon graduation from the Air Force Academy, and subsequently served in Space, Missile Warning, and Missile Launch operations culminating as a Minuteman ICBM squadron Commander. Following staff tours managing future Air Force and Defense Space systems programs, he broadened to political military assignments as the US Air Attaché to Malaysia and as the US Defense Attaché and Senior Defense Official in Stockholm. Col Acker has published articles on regional security issues in the Swedish Royal Academy of War Sciences journal as well as leading National daily newspapers.

Dan is currently beginning his fifth year on the maritime faculty of the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm. He spent over 35 years on active duty starting as an enlisted Marine and upon graduation from the Naval Academy selected Naval Aviation where he commanded a VP squadron and a patrol and reconnaissance wing. Following major command, he served on the staff of the US ambassador to NATO in Brussels and retired after his last tour as the Naval Attache to Stockholm.

Due to the location of our guests, the show was recorded earlier today. Listen to the show to at 5pm or pick it up later by clicking here. You can also get the show later from our iTunes page or from our Stitcher page.



Please join us at 5pm (EDT) on 21 Aug 2016 for Midrats Episode 346: The Farsi Island Incident – Is the Navy a Learning Institution?

The thankfully bloodless embarrassment that was the Farsi Island Incident is still making news after the January 12, 2016 seizure of 10 U.S. sailors by Iranian forces. Especially for our Surface Warfare community, there are a lot of hard, cold lessons here not just about the incident itself, leadership and professionalism – and institutional lessons about how conditions are set and organizations are sub-optimized to a degree that an incident – in hindsight – was just a matter of “when” vice “if.”

Using his recent article at CIMSEC on the topic, our guest for the full hour to discuss the background leading up to the Farsi Island incident, its aftermath, and the lessons we should be taking from it will be Alan Cummings, LT USN.

Alan is a 2007 graduate of Jacksonville University. He served previously as a surface warfare officer aboard a destroyer, embedded with a USMC infantry battalion, and as a Riverine Detachment OIC. The views expressed in the article and on Midrats are his own and in no way reflect the official position of the U.S. Navy.

Join us live if you can by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later at that link, or by visiting our iTunes page or our Stitcher page.



Please join us for a live show at 5pm EDT (US) on 14 August 2016 for Midrats Episode 345: Fisheries as a Strategic Maritime Resource

We live in a crowded world with limited resources. What happens when this meets modern technology’s ability to shorten the time/distance equation and increase the ability to know of what lies below the waves?

What complications do we fine when the above two points meet up with the eternal search by growing nations to reach for the seas to support their homeland’s growing needs?

As populations demand more protein in their diets as per capita incomes rise, many nations see the open seas as the best place to fill that demand. With more competing for shrinking resources, can fishing be seen as a security threat? How does it impact coastal states’ economic, food, and environmental security? What are the roles of transnational organized crime and state power in this competition. Is international law being strengthened to meet this challenge, or is the challenge undermining the rule of law? More than last century’s quaint “Cod Wars,” does this have the potential trigger to broader, more serious conflict?

Our guest to discuss this and more will be Scott Cheney-Peters, LT, USNR.


Scott serves as a civil servant on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations, and is the founder of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC).

Scott’s active duty service at sea included the USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS Oak Hill (LSD 41). His shore duty before leaving active service was in Washington, DC, where he served as the editor of Surface Warfare magazine.

Scott graduated from Georgetown University with a B.A. in English and Government and holds an M.A. in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. Scott researches issues affecting Asian maritime security and national security applications of emerging technology.

Join us live if you can (or pick the show up later) by clicking here. You can also pick the show up later (along with previous epsiodes) from our iTunes page here or from our Stitcher page here.



Relinquishing command is always bitter sweet because of the people and the experiences you have to leave behind and because there always seem to be so many things that you still want to get accomplished.

As I pen this post, a reflection piece, I am in the final moments of command as Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet – 7th Fleet’s amphibious arm that also includes a mine countermeasures force and a helicopter sea combat squadron. By the time many of you read this, I will have turned over the reins to my long-time friend Rear Admiral Marc Dalton.

I met the expeditionary strike group—emphasis on strike group versus amphibious ready group—about this time last year on their way back from a very successful summer patrol, capped by completion of Exercise Talisman Saber.

Rear Adm. John B. Nowell, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, turns over command to Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) during a change of command ceremony

Rear Adm. John B. Nowell, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7, turns over command to Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) during a change of command ceremony

Our forces are the best of the best in amphibious warfare in the world and have been for years. But, I challenged my staff and the leaders on the deckplate to go higher, to recognize that getting our Marines to the beach is just one component of maritime superiority, a superiority that we should be postured to achieve as an integrated naval force with Marine Corps partners anywhere in the world.

We have applied the Composite Warfare Command (CWC) construct to the operations of the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) with great work by Amphibious Squadron 11, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, Destroyer Squadron 7, USS Shiloh (CG-67), USS Preble (DDG-88) amongst others to robustly bolster our ability to defend the amphibious task force. This work will carry forward as we continue to integrate CruDes capabilities into the ESG.

We are operationalizing the concept of an “up-gunned” ESG, a concept now being promoted by Admiral Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, commander, 7th Fleet, in anticipation of USS Wasp (LHD-1) with the F-35B joining the 7th Fleet amphibious force in the near term.

Rear Adm. John B. Nowell acknowledges the achievements of individual sailors from various commands attached to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 during a change of command ceremony aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)

Rear Adm. John B. Nowell acknowledges the achievements of individual sailors from various commands attached to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 during a change of command ceremony aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6)

The beautiful thing about our trajectory as a naval expeditionary force in this regard is that our Marine Corps brethren have been equally engaged in trying to be more robust in their expeditionary capabilities. The Marine Corps is already scalable with its MEU-MEB-MEF design, but we’ve done some important work, as a Blue-Green team, to look at ways to bring Naval-Marine integration beyond the MEU level. It could mean augmenting the MEU with increased capabilities or using MEU assets from a sea-base to augment MEB assets ashore.

But that’s the big picture stuff, the stuff that many think-tankers can pontificate on for hours – and so could I, but I won’t here. What I’m most proud of is the bonds we have been able to form with our allies in the region, bonds that have true meaning.

It has been said before that while you can surge forces, you cannot surge trust, and trust is what these partnerships have forged.

160419-N-AE545-609 KUMAMOTO, Japan (April 19, 2016) Members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force load supplies onto an MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of the Government of Japan's relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto. The long-standing alliance between Japan and the U.S. allows U.S. military forces in Japan to provide rapid, integrated support to the Japan Self-Defense Force and civil relief efforts

Members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force load supplies onto an MV-22B Osprey aircraft from Marine Medium Tilitrotor Squadron (VMM) 265 attached to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit in support of the Government of Japan’s relief efforts following earthquakes near Kumamoto

We truly see the power of these partnerships during times of crisis, like the recent earthquakes near Kumamoto, where U.S. and Japanese forces worked hand-in-hand, using the 31st MEU’s MV-22 Ospreys ashore and at sea on board JS Hyuga, to deliver critical supplies to those in need. Well before formal messages were sent, critical actions were taken to get the ball rolling, based on our partnerships and trust, at every level.

This is but one example of the many accomplishments made possible through hard work on the deck plates, by Sailors and Marines who have a dedication to duty and a high standard for mission accomplishment day in and day out and second to none.

And so, as I prepare to say those heart-breaking words “I will now read my orders,” I know I leave behind a force that is ever-so capable of standing the watch. I was fortunate to have relieved Rear Admiral Denny Wetherald who took the ESG back to sea as a deploying strike group staff, and I now turn over to an old shipmate in Rear Admiral Marc Dalton, who will now set the bar even higher.

I’m so proud to have been part of this amazing Blue-Green team, and I look forward to watching from afar as the Navy’s forward-deployed expeditionary force does incredible things.



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