Thursday, October 30, 2014

The right-brain, left-brain balance

What are the reasons that even a technically minded organization would want to value a liberal arts education?

What are the lessons from some of the most successful civilian companies in the technology sector?

I'm discussing it over at USNIBlog - stop by and give it a read.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Oh, you beautiful DELTA of my youth ...

Here is a retro-Wednesday that has me going over my passive sonar equation, trying to remember how many teeth there were in the turbine of the DELTA III (Project 09786), working the CZ slide rule, working out F0, wondering what kind of propellers she had ... and ahhhh ... yes.

Look at her old, yet beautiful converted SSBN self. 

To many K-129, so some BS-136 - but to her friends, the ORENBERG. The old flirt, she seems to have popped her head up to say, "Hey there!"

Yngve Kristoffersen and Audun Tholfsen, two Norwegian researchers, were coming to the end of their day when they spotted something unusual on the water. 
"In the evening we spotted lights at a distance," the scientists recorded in their blog for October 16. 
"Turned out to be a submarine at the surface in position: 89° 17.5' N, 172° 42.9' W. We were not able to identify it." 

The men said that they approached the boat, but she sank back under the ice when they were within 100 metres of her.
How do you say, "Crap ... those aren't Polar Bears!" in Russian?
They did, however, obtain several photographs which show a distinctive profile, with the outline of the fin and bulbous bow pointing to her being a Russian nuclear submarine.

She has been potentially identified as the Delta class boat Orenburg.

If so, then the scientists met an old monster, a former ballistic missile bomber which displaces 13,700 tons when submerged, and was originally commissioned into the Northern Fleet in 1981.
Yep, that's her. Here is a shot of her pierside - they've taken away her classic DELTA hump;

The old girl has had an interesting post-Cold War life.

Man. I bet that CO is about my age, probably doing a bonus Command tour or perhaps the ORENBURG is considered a Major Command at Sea. I'd really love to share a bottle with that man and his XO to talk about, "back in the day." There is an old VICTOR III and TANGO cruise I would love to pick their brains about. If he was a JO on either, I could die right then a happy man.


Want to get underway on the ORENBURG? Me too ... believe it or not ... you can, in a fashion. Take some and enjoy the below video. I can almost smell that submarine funk through the screen. For a Russian ship, they seem to have taken good care of her considering her age.

Underway with wine, cigarettes and a cat. Sailors are Sailors, but in some ways - some still have a different kind of fun.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What N-code is Eeyore again?

After reading Lance Bacon's bit over at Navy Times, I felt like we all need to go get a drink or six.
The atmosphere was one of frustration shrouded in uncertainties as 1,100 Navy and industry leaders discussed ways to provide maintenance and modernization to a surface fleet burdened by growing demand and diminishing funds.

The Fleet Maintenance & Modernization Symposium 2014, aptly titled “Delivering Readiness in Austere Times,” provided a forum for ship crews, maintenance centers and industry to express their needs, challenges and potential solutions.
Sailors said they are increasingly mired in the mess that routine maintenance has become. Even things that should be a quick hit — something as simple as laying non-skid surface on a frigate’s tiny O3 level weather deck — is burdened by paperwork, conflicting requirements and the lack of contract flexibility. Similarly, civilians said they have insufficient visibility of what is happening on ships to better assess maintenance issues.

There are 89 administrative steps to hurdle from request to work for common maintenance, and that is “incredibly burdensome for the crew,” said Jeffrey Baur, maintenance policy manager for Fleet Forces Command. To overcome this “malicious expectation of adherence to a process,” a new planned maintenance system is in the works that will front-load maintenance schedules to ensure the right parts and people are sent to meet the problem. The new PMS is expected to be implemented by late 2021.
Yes, you got that date correct. Seven (7) years.

We fought and won WWII in less than five (5). Chew on that a bit.

Back to the Joy Parade;
While the Navy has looked in 92 percent of tanks and bilges aboard ship, some amphibs have not had that inspection in nearly 20 years.

Even more startling: Fewer than 29 percent of items identified in assessments are actually fixed, ... Even carriers have been forced to defer work — something once unheard of — because the surface Navy’s dire needs have drawn all available maintainers.

“I can’t get a pipe fitter because of the amount of work going on in surface,” said Capt. Mark Oesterreich, Naval Air Force Atlantic’s director of ship material. “There is a lack of resources to do critical jobs.”

Public shipyards are about 1,500 workers per day under the requirement, said Vice Adm. William Hilarides, head of Naval Sea Systems Command. The result: a carrier more than two months late in availability; two attack subs more than six months late, and two guided-missile subs more than a year late.
There is a great phrase that has always been a reference point for me from one of my intellectual heroes, Adam Smith;
“Be assured, my young friend, that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation”
-Adam Smith, 1782
There is a Salamander corollary that goes with that,
“Be assured, shipmate, that there is a great deal of deferred maintenance to be drained from a once well led Fleet.”
Things can get very bad, but with the right leadership and priorities, things can be turned around. We have the Sailors and knowledge, we just need the right leaders.

And to wrap it up ... we got so close,
“If we surge in the next four months, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Oesterreich said, pointing out that the West Coast has less availability than his fleet.

The reality of shorter maintenance periods and longer deployments is leaving too little time to fix problems and the cycle is increasingly unrealistic, a panel of command master chiefs said.

“I’ve seen ships that are scarily undermanned and under experienced,” said Command Master Chief (SW/AW) Justin Gray, who serves on the destroyer Gonzalez. “It’s not the sailors’ fault. It is the Navy doing that to the ship.”

According to one official estimate, as much as 40 percent of planned work is not done or done incorrectly.
How long have we been numbly accepting the "9-month deployments are the new normal for awhile until we settle in to a 8-month new normal for a few years?" Do we think this has no cause or consequence?

Master Chief Gray - you won't say it, so I will. The "Navy" isn't doing that to the ship, the Navy's senior leadership is allowing it to happen. It starts with SECNAV, his deputies, and then the CNO. What are their priorities? What are their speeches on? Where is their travel time spent?  

OK, let's be fair. Re-read the above, the linked article, and the below as well. Keep in mind the following from SECNAV's article in the Harvard Business Review from this year;
Leading a large, complex organization like the U.S. Navy ... calls for a certain approach. You begin with a narrow focus on your organization’s unique strength and role. ... 
That focus helps establish priorities. .... 
My primary objective since becoming the secretary of the navy, in 2009, has been to rebuild a fleet that declined from 316 ships in 2001 to just 278 before I took office. 

As the governor of Mississippi, I learned the power of setting a few specific priorities and relentlessly pushing them. As the CEO of a private company, I saw that creating a compelling vision and crafting an inspiring narrative are key to achieving results. You must never lose sight of the ultimate goal.   
Leadership in an interdependent system also means taking responsibility for keeping the system healthy.

Inside big organizations, managers themselves work interdependently, bringing their various strengths to the mix. Devote your energy as a leader to reminding your organization what its crucial role is, creating the vision and the narrative, and looking out for the health of the system. Then your presence, like the navy’s, will make a difference.
Well, crap.

How is that working out for us? 

That is who should be answering the questions. This did not happen out of the blue. We've seen this movie before. We are here on his watch. Given all he has said - he needs to address how we got here head on.

No blaming others - no - again - this has happened on his watch. If he thinks Rowden and Oesterreich are wrong, then fire them.

While we are at it, let's look again at Captain Oesterreich's point about manning. How are the shore billets doing compared to deploying units? How thick and rumpled has the tail gotten as the Fleet starves? Is there as much pain ashore as at sea? 

All those people ashore may have spent the last decade making sure that everyone got their special snowflake non-warfare pin, but what about the unsexy but important like pipe fitters, did they spend a little time there? 

What has been the percentage change in BA/NMP for HT over the last decade compared to the diversity and inclusion commissariat (both military and civilian). Did we design HT to be in a position to "optimally man" the Fleet? 

What support staff was working on decreasing and streamlining those 89 steps, as opposed to creating and finding redundant SAPR training events?

This did not happen by accident. This was not benign neglect. This happened for one main reason; leaders sand bag and delay either making a decision or a ruckus until the PCS cycle makes it someone else's problem. They are trying to survive in a command climate where you are to shut up and color, be one of the Carebears, and join in the sing along.

When the music stops, then the person left standing has to fix what others pushed to the right.

Here and at Midrats over the last few years we have reminded everyone that we will reach the point of fail-to-sail or catastrophic failure at sea. So far, we seem to be doing our best to make EagleOne and your humble blogg'r correct - again.

I think it is great to have a panel like they did at the Fleet Maintenance & Modernization Symposium, but what about action? Let's parse the 3-star's statement;
Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, the new commander of Naval Surfaces Forces, said this era must be marked by competence among maintainers and confidence in decisions made by leadership.
OK. Work with me a bit. What era in our Navy did not require "competence among maintainers?" The implication is, of course, that the era just prior to now is/was one that was beset with "incompetence among maintainers." If so, who are they, why were they allowed to be incompetant, and how are they being held accountable?

If we now, shockingly, find ourselves actually requireing competence to rebuild the material readiness capital that has been beset with ruinious policy in the near past, then what changes are being made to bring about the needed competance?

Also, if we need for there to be "confidence in decisions made by leadership" - then that implies that we are in a position where there is not confidence in decisions made by leadership. If that is believed, then, why? Who is responsible for this loss of confidence, and how are they being held accountable? What steps are being made to re-establish that confidence?

If nothing is being done, then we can assume that everyone is just fine with the level of competence and confidence in October of 2014 ... but no one is.

So, again - deeds not words. What is being done, who is doing it, and what is going to be made a lower priority so warfighting - and without proper maintenance there can be no warfighting - is the priority?

Back to Master Chief Gray,
“But if we want ... a Navy of true technicians, we need to invest in them.”
Agreed. But in a time of decreasing to at best steady state budgets - we have to establish priorities. The budget is a zero-sum-minus game. We have to take the money from one thing to create another. If we cannot do things now we are being asked to do without destroying the future ability to do it and more important things, then we need to say, "No" until resources match requirements.

That call isn't the Master Chief's. No, that is a 4-Star problem that requires 4-Star leadership inside direction and guidance from civilian leadership.

That is who we need to hear from. If we don't get what we need, then we will need to have CDR, CAPT, RDML, and RADM who reconcile themselves that they are happy with their terminal rank and decide to make a stand.

If we don't make this stand at peace while our material readiness capital is still at a salvageable level, then someone out there will be this century's Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky. Don't be "that guy."

Study your Admiral Rozhestvensky - and while you are at it - your Admiral Makarov as well.

Monday, October 27, 2014

The Moral Warping of D1 Sports Shows its Head Again

For most of the first two decades of my life, I had the experience of most young American men, I played sports. Lots of sports. At one point or another, at varying degrees of mediocrity and length, I had the usual mix of football, baseball, wrestling, and basketball on an official level, and a smattering of other recreational ones as well.

I am a believer in the multi-faceted value of sports on the young mind and body, especially the mind. Team sports especially, I find them instrumental in learning many life lessons and better understanding your ability to control your mind and body, and learn to work with others under stress and emotion.

There is a dark side to sports, and the problem isn't mostly with the players - it is with those in the stands. The weekend tailgater or ESPN addict isn't per-se the issue, that is mostly social and from a love of the game. 

Even thought the root of all evil, money isn't a major source of the problem either. People do make a lot of money from sports (note how much USNA pays its coach) - though again, that is a primary driver of what vexes the institutions that go down the D1 route - there is an even deeper need that sports fill.

There are a lot of people who use sports to fill a psychological void in their life. For some it is reliving their own times on the field when they were younger, freer, more popular, and better looking than they are now in the post-compromise reality. For others it fills a primordial need for tribalism and conflict. When "their team" wins, they win. When their team does not, they are insulted, shamed, and feel less whole as if someone burned their village, raped their women, and stole all their cattle - all for a simple game.

It is that area where the problem comes from, the lower brain-stem drives. Straddling above that brain stem is the catylist of money for others - at that point you have a toxic mix ready to corrode and corrupt everything around it if it is not controlled and contained.

Many of you have read what happened to the Tarheals, but what happened at UNC Chapel Hill is not isolated to that august institution, and that culture is familiar to almost anyone who has gone to a major school with an D1 major sports team. As we have covered here over the years, people who should know better and should have a focus on a larger calling than a simple sport, football, have allowed sports to grow in stature and to enable an unnatural level of play, have compromised on the moral foundation of our military service academies.

You can search this site for the unforced errors by the US Naval Academy in their pursuit of D1 football, but for now - it is the Army's turn to slather themselves with the filth of their own misplaced priorities;
The Army football team wooed recruits this year with an alcohol-fueled party, a dinner date with female cadets, cash from boosters and VIP treatment on a party bus complete with cheerleaders and a police escort, documents obtained by The Gazette show.

The U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., which acknowledged the misconduct to The Gazette, disciplined 20 cadets for promoting underage drinking and other misdeeds and self-reported a recruiting violation to the NCAA. Two officers were reprimanded along with a pair of coaches. Those involved, though, avoided more serious punishments, including dismissal from the academy for cadets and courts-martial for officers.
I love this excuse;
"Although seen as a minor infraction by the NCAA, the U.S. Military Academy takes this very seriously and adjudicated this at the highest level of the disciplinary code," West Point said in a statement. "We adjudicated this under Article 10 of the Cadet Disciplinary Code and all cadets appeared before the Commandant's Disciplinary Board."
By all means, find a low standard and meet it. Yea team. Go Army, Beat Navy. Rah. Rah. Yawn ... rah.

How about that Air Force Academy leadership building team!
The superintendent of the Air Force Academy has called for an investigation into allegations of sexual assault, drug use, cheating, and favoritism among star student athletes. A report from the Colorado Springs Gazette found evidence that between 2010 and 2012, members of the football team and others took part in parties where heavy drinking, drug use, and sexual violence were commonplace.

According to The Gazette’s report, which was based on interviews and hundreds of documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, a drink laced with Rohypnol, a date rape drug commonly known as “roofies,” was made specifically for women who attended a Dec. 2, 2011, party. According to a confidential informant who spoke to investigators a few days later, “four or five females did not recall what occurred the following day after the party.” The informant added that a gang rape took place that night.

The Office of Special Investigations eventually looked at 32 cadets, including 16 football players. Eight faced punishment and were dismissed for separate instances of misconduct, three of whom were court-martialed for sexual assault.
It is what you get when you have grown men and women who desperately want to sit in the stands and live vicariously through others. Combine that with outstanding athletes who were special snowflakes starting in middle school, and there you go.
The findings are egregious enough that academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Michelle Johnson told The Gazette that she has called for an Inspector General's investigation of the athletic department.

"These efforts will help in eliminating subcultures ... whose climates do not align with our institutional core values," she said in a statement released Thursday exclusively to The Gazette. Johnson said the academy has taken steps to correct the problems within the athletic department. "Despite all of our efforts, I expect we'll still have issues with a few young people who will make poor choices," she wrote.
No, start with the adults involved with your athletic program and set your priorities correctly. The young men and women will respond accordingly.

Speaking of people involved in athletics. Over at the Severn School for Wayward Boys and Girls ... look who pokes his head out of the scupper to tut-tut the tribe;
Just prior to kickoff of Navy's home football game against Western Kentucky, the atmosphere at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium was electric. More than 30,000 fans were standing and cheering while the Brigade of Midshipmen were making a ruckus with the thunder sticks they had been given.

It was a completely different story as the two teams took the field for the start of the second half. There were only scattered fans in the seats as the grandstands on both sides of the field had significantly emptied.

Navy had led the game, 14-13, at halftime, but was outscored 23-13 in the second half and lost by a score of 36-27. When the Midshipmen tried to mount a game-winning drive in the waning minutes, there was very little noise or excitement inside the stadium.

This has become a worrisome trend at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in the opinion of athletic director Chet Gladchuk, who issued an email to all season ticket holders on Thursday urging them to remain in their seats for the entirety of home contests.

Titled "All In… All The Time," the email used the slogan of the Navy football team as a call to action for fans.
"That's the marching order for all members of our football team. 'All In… All The Time' reflects the expectation that they give 100 percent on every play for 60 minutes of every game," Gladchuk wrote. "As a catalyst for emotion and fan support, I am asking our fans to give our players 100 percent of their support for the same 60 minutes."
Chet, dude, you can't make someone love you.

OK, there is a review of the issue, what is the resolution?

There is a good conversation over at NYT about if college athletics as we now misuse it should be done away with. One of the articles outlines perfectly the one I have recommended for years. It keeps the unquestionably positive aspects of sports for college students, but eliminates most of the bad things that come with them.

James Davis outlines it very well. No need for DI, enjoy the DIII like a pro;
I am a firm believer that Division III athletics, which prohibits scholarships, is a vital part of a student's education at small colleges when properly developed and managed as a part of the overall college mission. If competition and physical education are important goals for students, then athletics, properly guided and balanced as part of an institutional mission, can be a valuable part of programming.
Coaches can serve as admissions recruiters for students with proper educational credentials and motivations; counselors for athletes who need discipline, skill development and proper exercise and diets; tutors when students need assistance on academic subjects and study habits; and disciplinarians when student residential life becomes a challenge. In short, coaches should operate competitive teams that motivate and teach life skills and team building that are different from other skill sets traditionally found in academia.
... I do believe that scholarship-free competitive sports should be integrated into the full life of the college and be balanced with fine arts, academic research pursuits, scholarship and other leadership training. When done properly, Division III athletics is an important part of a student's college experience. When done poorly, it detracts from academic reputation, financial strength and basic mission.
It is that simple. It is that turnkey. It makes that much sense.

That is unless, of course, you have people in positions of authority that are letting their lower brain stem requirements, tender egos, and for some - yes - their pocketbook - give them an excuse to sell their institutions integrity for a few bits of silver.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Tall ships? Angry whales? I'm in!

It looks like this may be made right.

For those who know the basis for the book Moby Dick, then you should already have your heart beating a bit more right now.

Ron Howard is bringing epic book of the true story, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex to the big screen;

Friday, October 24, 2014

Fullbore Friday

This FbF is, in a way, obligatory - but a good obligatory.

We'll get there, but let's set the stage.

These men and women are all around us. You might be one of them. Most, however, will never be known for what they are. Events show one's nature, we rise to the occasion, we embrace our destiny, or - in a cold way - sometimes the training kicks in.

There was a study done awhile back of all things about ferry sinkings. The researchers found some striking consistency of reports that broke people's response to one of three areas. Some panic, some freeze, and a small percentage take action and save themselves and others.

Those who take action do the best. Then those who panic. But the final and larger group just wait for their fate, often sitting at their tables with blank faces in disbelief as the waters rise around them.

Some just have the right stuff, and we hire those who seem to have it for positions where one day that type of personality is needed.

In the words of Dave Grossman; the sheepdog.
“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath--a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
What does a sheepdog look like? Well, there he is, Kevin Vickers, the 58-year-old ceremonial Sergeant-at-Arms of Canada’s parliament.

I think at this point, the best thing to do is to show how his flock showed their thanks.

Note that Vickers did not need to wallow in therapy. He just needed to get back to work. Bravo Zulu.

A final note, there were other sheepdogs present that day, but fate gave them a pass.
After they heard gunfire outside their meeting room door Wednesday, Members of Parliament snapped close to 15 flagpoles to make sharp weapons.

Some positioned themselves on risers that flanked doors, ready to attack an assailant.

“There were 15 flags up at caucus and all but two were taken down,” one MP recalled.

“These guys were up there holding these spears ready to impale anyone who came in,” the source said.

“It was that or get mowed down,” the Member of Parliament said of the threat posed by a gunman who was ultimately shot dead by Parliament Hill security.

Mr. Harper, meanwhile, had been whisked into a closet in the Centre Block room shortly after the gunfights outside began.

There were more than 150 Tory MPs stuck in this caucus room during the ordeal.
MPs kept their flagpole weapons as souvenirs.

“Everyone was taking their spears home,” said the MP. “I’m going to frame mine.”
Defending their Prime Minister. In 2014, the Anglosphere still has it. 
"Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. 
The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?"

- William J. Bennett
In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy
November 24, 1997

Thursday, October 23, 2014

John Nagl's hard truth on Iraq

Over at FP, John Nagl rolls up what is going on in Iraq about as good as anyone else.

I'm just nodd'n my head in agreement.
The United States is now at war in Iraq for the third time in my lifetime, and after being in the middle of the first two I'm planning to sit this one out.
We seized defeat from the jaws of not-quite victory by not leaving behind a force of some 20,000 American advisors to stiffen the spine of the Iraqi Army and, perhaps more importantly, moderate the anti-Sunni tendencies of the Shiite politicians. But once he came into office, U.S. President Barack Obama overruled the advice of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Petraeus, who had since become director of the CIA. Obama's advisors urged him to keep troops in Iraq. Instead, the president chose to fulfill a campaign promise that he would end the war in Iraq during his first term. He abandoned a country in which Americans had been working and fighting continuously for more than 20 years in an effort to build a stable state.

In our absence, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gave in to his worst sectarian tendencies, firing Sunni leaders of the Iraqi Army and replacing them with incompetent Shiite cronies. Al Qaeda in Iraq staged a comeback across the border in Syria, where another civil war raged without American involvement to moderate it. And this year, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham came roaring to life, seizing most of the Sunni territory in Iraq. Maliki's stooges abandoned their units under fire, and the Iraqi Army, built with billions of U.S. dollars and at the cost of many American soldiers' lives and limbs, crumbled in the absence of American air power and advisory support. Two years without Americans engaged in combat in Iraq ended in tragedy, and last month the president announced that U.S. combat troops were returning to Iraq to fight yet another war there, this time against the Islamic State.

With luck, we have learned a few things from these decades of war in Iraq: that the enemy has a say about when wars end, that in the absence of American leadership such evil forces will rise to power that we get dragged back in to fix things again, that wars are messy and slow and last a long, long time. Unless we finally get it right, I expect a fourth war in Iraq. I'm not optimistic.