Friday, August 16, 2019

Fullbore Friday

In war, it often is not what you were designed to do. It is not what in theory what you were primarily trained, manned, and equipped to do. No. More often than not it is what you must do. What you are needed to do. What you may be the only unit in place to do.

There is also, like we saw in the below - what must be done now with what is at hand. With the right leadership, a lot is possible. The dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered - things that are often rewarded in peace - are not what gets the job done in war. One hopes that in peace we accept the above truth and only have our minds dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered. Hopefully we have enough intellectual and material flexibility to be able to do what is needed and must be done. To improvise, adapt and overcome.

A bit of a encore FbF, but as the original video links don't work from 2010, and I like to emphasize the important fundamentals, I would like to bring back the Battle of Beersheba; almost 97 years ago.
The Turkish defences of Beersheba were strongest towards the south and west. There they had a line of trenches, protected by barbed wire, supported by strong redoubts, all constructed along a ridge. To the north and east the defences were much weaker, and crucially lacked any wire. No serious attack was expected from the area of rocky hills east of the town. Beersheba had just been designated as the headquarters of a new Turkish Seventh Army, but on 31 October that army had not yet come into being. The town was defended by 3,500-4,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry with four batteries of artillery and fifty machine guns.

Allenby allocated a very powerful force to the attack on Beersheba. Three infantry and two cavalry divisions would take part in the attack. Two of the infantry divisions were to attack against the main Turkish defences, to the south west of the town, to tie down the Turkish garrison. The third division was to protect against any Turkish reinforcements arriving from the north-west. Meanwhile, the two divisions of the Desert Mounted Corps (Anzac Division and Australian Division) were sent around the town to the east, with orders to sweep into the town through the weaker eastern defences.

The infantry attack proceeded entirely according to plan. The bombardment began at 5.55am, and lasted, with one gap, until 8.30. Over the course of the day the Turks were slowly forced out of their strong defensive positions, the last of which fell at around 7 p.m. The attacking infantry suffered 1,200 casualties during the battle.

At 9.00 am the Desert Mounted Corps was ready to attack the eastern defences of Beersheba. The New Zealand Brigade of the Anzac Division soon ran into a problem. The Turks had a strong defensive position at Tel es Saba, a steep sided flat topped hill three miles east of the town. The battle to capture the Tel took up all of the morning and much of the afternoon, and did not end until 3 p.m.

General Chauvel then decided to take something of a gamble. The delay at Tel es Saba threatened to prevent the capture of Beersheba before dark. Rather than continue with the methodical plan of attack, Chauvel ordered one of his reserve brigades, the 4th Australian Light Horse, to mount a direct assault on Beersheba. They had the ideal terrain for a cavalry charge – a long gentle slope running down into Beersheba. It was defended by two lines of trenches, but crucially not by barbed wire.

The attack soon developed into a classic cavalry charge. The 4th A.L.H. simply galloped over two lines of Turkish trenches. Part of the brigade then dismounted to attack the trenches, while the rest galloped on into Beersheba. There they found a Turkish column preparing to retreat. The sudden appearance of the Australian cavalry caused panic. Most of the 1,500 prisoners captured by the Desert Mounted Corps on 31 October were taken during the charge of the 4th A.L.H. The Australians suffered very light casualties during the charge of 32 killed and 32 wounded, most of them in the attack on the trenches east of Beersheba.
The whole movie The Lighthorsemen is available - but I would like you to go ahead to the 1:20 mark for the charge (the German officer's assumptions at 1:34 is critical). One of the best filmed scenes in the genre - if it doesn't raise your heart rate, pressure nothing will.

First posted OCT 2014.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Race is not a Social Construct - it is Targetable

Yesterday's post reminded me that we are well past that point where it is impossible to think that there are entities out there that would, if they had the ability, plan for the murder of hundreds of millions of souls.

In the Cold War, the USA & USSR did - with an after thought by a few others - with nukes, chemical, and biological weapons.

The last one was mostly, but not exclusively, looked at in detail by the Soviets ... but they learned that there is a big problem with biological weapons as a strategic weapon - blow back.

A human is a human, and odds are any weaponized biological infection would cross in to the nation who deployed it first.

Science marches on. Designer babies, custom DNA based treatment programs, chimera, and that interesting CRISPR technology, had to lead to a dark place where we know people reside.

It tickles the tribal brain; kill the other tribe.

Scale up tribe in to ethnicity ... and ... well ... we know more than one group who would like to eliminate certain groups - humans have been doing this to other humans for over a hundred thousand years.


Biological weapons could be built which target individuals in a specific ethnic group based on their DNA, a report by the University of Cambridge has warned.

Researchers from Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) said the government was failing to prepare for ‘human-driven catastrophic risks’ that could lead to mass harm and societal collapse

This has been a topic for futurists of long standing. As Derb pointed out, Irwin Shaw in 1967 wrote about it in, "The Mannichon Solution."

Each year it gets closer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

We Can't Leave the Long War - it Can't Quit Us

A sober reminder over at USNIBlog that regardless of how long we sit at tables with the Taliban and think of ways to leave the former lands of the Islamic State - our enemies may not let us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

3 COAs; Blue Most Likely; Blue Most Dangerous; Blue Most Unpossible

I don't know the politics of Maj. George Fust, USA, the author of an article over at RCD, but this just makes my head hurt.
Imagine a situation whereby the President accuses a U.S.-based news organization of being part of an adversaries' information operation. In accordance with MDO doctrine, the military can and should be leveraged to counter this threat. The Army's operating concept suggests "rapid and continuous integration of capabilities in all domains…to overmatch the enemy." Information operations include "social media, false narratives, [and] cyber attacks." Thus, the commander-in-chief can leverage his military to "defeat" the news organization or at least run counter information messaging. This is problematic. What prevents the President from abusing this control and offensive capability for his own political gain? The President could become a tyrant without a free press to serve as watchdog. The citizenry would subsequently view the military as a political arm to the administration. More than that, they may be viewed as a threat to liberty itself.

This is no random dude.
MAJ George Fust is a Military Intelligence Officer who currently teaches American Politics and Civil-Military Relations in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He holds a master's degree in Political Science from Duke University.
This whole idea runs contrary not just to USA tradition and law - but to the nature of the US military as a whole.

I'm sorry - but maybe this is an Army thing - but I've worked closely with US Army types and no way they would wholesale be involved with this domestic activity.

I have less experience with the USAF, but the USN and USMC ... oh, hell no sister. We would not play. We would slow roll. We would launch every ready-JAG on alert ... just no. Our reservists in Congress would get read in ... no.

To really see this as a possibility, I would offer that George doesn't seem know his military well outside his bubble - I don't think he is all that well traveled in the nation he serves.

I'm not saying that George suffers from TDS ... but - dude. Maybe dry out from politics for awhile. 

Let's not personalize this too much - well meaning people are allowed to be highly wrong; even your humble blogger has on occasion - but instead let's focus on some professional shortfalls.

It seems the good Major lacks a good understanding of the lines between INFO OPS, PSYOPS, and Public Affairs - and how they are executed domestically vs. outside our borders. To get another view of this delicate area, I think he should do an exchange-semester with an institution I had the pleasure of giving a lecture to a decade ago; Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr in Hamburg.

Of the many great things I gained from my years with NATO was serving with Germans. As anyone with some time on staff with German Army officers will tell you, they will not put up with sloppy doctrinal understanding or conflating one concept with another. They not only had a good and well understood doctrine, they were fairly good at practical application (national caveats always held the Germans back in the field. Shame.).

I served with one German Army major who wore the lemon-yellow Signal Corp Waffenfarbe, and this was his speciality. You could see his eyes light up when someone - usually an American - got his INFO OPS, PSYOPS, and PA confused. I don't know if all their Signals guys were the experts on INFO OPS, PSYOPS and PA - but he was.

He would have made a mess of George's overwrought article. German law is a bit different than USA law, but the differences are manageable. 

I don't know if George is up for a NATO tour or the above exchange tour, but in the interim - in addition to understanding his own military's self-regulated firewalls against domestic use as he describes - he should take some time studying some NATO verbiage on the topic.

Trust me - this is mostly written by Germans. It's good.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Some Unsolicited Advice for a New CNO

We're kicking off the week again with a guest post by Brian McGrath with some sound, succinct, and digestible recommendations for our next CNO.

Bryan, over to you!



In April of 2019, I sent an email to the then Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Bill Moran titled “Totally Unsolicited Input”, input destined for next Chief of Naval Operations, as Moran had recently been nominated for that position. The Secretary of the Navy subsequently withdrew Admiral Moran’s nomination for the position, reportedly for Moran’s continuing a friendship/mentoring relationship with a retired officer who left the Navy under a cloud created by his personal conduct. I too enjoy a long-standing friendship/mentoring relationship with Admiral Moran, which is why I submitted the input in the first place. Newly confirmed CNO designee Vice Admiral Mike Gilday and I do not enjoy the same level of familiarity, but in late 2000, he did me a solid when he was my detailer. With sincere gratitude, I submit this unsolicited advice to him patterned after the previously mentioned email.

Embrace Naval Integration. The new Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger recently released his “Commandant’s Planning Guidance”, a truly remarkable document that has justly received high praise (see here and here). Berger created a field of slain Marine Corps sacred cows with his vision of truly integrated American Seapower, a force capable of fulfilling the mandate of the National Security Strategy for a shift to conventional deterrence by denial (rather than punishment), and the requirements of the National Defense Strategy for increased lethality in the contact and blunt layers. Berger’s vision rightly understands that the kind of integration required to meet these obligations does not begin on the waterfront, but springs from a holistic approach that includes integrated planning and budgeting at the Pentagon. I would urge the new CNO to team with Berger and make the case for Integrated American Seapower as our nation’s primary conventional deterrent, uniquely positioned where the nation’s interests are and capable of denying and/or delaying opportunistic great power aggression.

Operationalize a New Fleet Architecture. Consistent with the NSS and NDS emphases on great power competition and conventional deterrence, ADM Gilday should move to implement major portions of the CSBA Fleet Architecture Study of 2017 that bifurcated operational forces into a Deterrence Force providing regionally-tailored forces optimized for presence, deterrence, and transition to war—and a Maneuver Force comprised of large, CVN-based formations of war fighting power largely devoted to preparing for high-end/great power war. Essential to this architecture is the evolution of amphibious aviation assault ships (LHA, LHD) into multi-dimensional, multi-domain combat platforms. Integration of the F-35B is the first step, but it must be followed by the provision of adequate organic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISR/T) capability into the Deterrence Force through a ship-based Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV such as that envisioned by the Marine Corps MUX initiative. The lethality contained in contact and blunt layer force surface and land-strike missiles requires persistent and accurate ISR/T across large portions of seascape, and land-based platforms will be insufficiently numerous to be responsive to dynamic, tactical requirements. The Marines are thinking clearly about this, and the Navy could benefit by jumping onboard.

The Fleet Fights as a System; We Need a Fleet Combat System to Enable It. The Navy’s more talked about than understood concept of Distributed Maritime Operations sinks or swims on the back of its ability to get information where it needs to go in order to be acted upon.  The Navy requires a Fleet Integrated Combat System, and by this, I mean not just the piece that the OPNAV Directorate of Surface Warfare (N96) is working on (though it is an important and enabling piece of the total). It is more of what DMO suggests in its Fleet Tactical Grid or Naval Fleet Architecture discussions, in which common algorithms reason about a common data set to reach consistent conclusions in a distributed manner. This requires adequate and resilient networking and truly “open” system architectures, so that (for instance) the track management algorithms in a surface combatant and the track management algorithms in a UAV are derived of the same code. But—and this is a big but--realizing a Fleet Integrated Combat System will take considerable organizational change --and that kind of change can only come from the very top. Even if the Navy had a perfect understanding of what an FICS is and what it wanted the system to do, it does not have an organization that can system engineer it and it does not have an organization that could acquire it. The Army's experience with Future Combat System (FCS) is insightful here, although they had the dual problems of organization AND immature technology to achieve their ends. The tech for what the Navy needs in FICS is here or almost here, although the means to achieve it are far less clear.

Scrap the 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan. I know, this is a Congressional requirement, but the document is without meaning, at least most of it is. First, although it is the best method of quantifying naval power in current practice (that’s what is known as “faint praise”), it is essentially a work of fiction outside of the first ten years, it fails to count platforms that have (or will have) outsized contributions to naval power (see: LUSV, MUSV, potential corvettes being created in Jerry Hendrix’ garage) in the conventional deterrence mission, and it has little or no influence on future administrations or congresses. The CNO should work to bring SECNAV and the Commandant—along with appropriate DoD, NSC, and congressional leaders—into a compromise “counting” system that more appropriately accounts for both capacity and capability (both being essential to seapower, contrary to the fever dreams of some), while creating a document that industry CEO’s might actually consider as they seek internal investment dollars from rightfully skeptical boards and shareholders. Any suggestion that the current 30-year plan aids in this process is misplaced.

De-Mystify Unmanned Systems. Related to the previous point, Congress has legitimate and important oversight responsibilities over the Navy’s budget and plans, and as the Navy moves to more unmanned capability, it needs to be a better job communicating its plans and intent to the Hill. There are important questions across all domains of unmanned systems, questions of concepts of operation, command and control, cyber-protection, and autonomy. The Navy needs these systems to enable the Fleet Architecture, and so it must explain why more effectively. I believe Congress wants to help but may need more granularity before it provides the resources the Navy seeks. This advice applies mainly to surface and air unmanned vehicles, as it appears the undersea applications are more well-understood.

Become the Nation’s Seapower Advocate. Never miss an opportunity to point out why Seapower is different, how Seapower enables both security AND prosperity, and the wisdom of the Constitution’s framers as our country’s first geo-strategists. This isn’t Service rivalry, it is grand strategy, and the new CNO should be front and center as matters of grand strategy are discussed.
A thousand words into a post devoted to advice to a new CNO and I haven’t obsessed about the size of the Fleet. This isn’t because the size of the Fleet isn’t important, and it isn’t because the size of the Fleet is sufficient. It is because the size of the Fleet is a means to an end, and that end is the provision of security and prosperity through Integrated American Seapower. Get integration with the Marine Corps right, get the Fleet Architecture right, get the Combat System right—because these inputs have a great deal to do with getting to the “right” number, and when arrived at, that number will be more effectively defended.

Good luck, ADM Gilday.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC where his clients include the Navy and industry. He is also Deputy Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. All opinions under his name are his.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Fullbore Friday

In case anyone missed this at USNIBlog a years ago;

Can you lose but win?

Of course you can. The key is to understand that the Tactical, Operational, and Strategic are linked - but they are not perfectly linked and in alignment.

Let's look at the Tactical.

In the battle, a US warship force of five cruisers and four destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright attempted to surprise and destroy a Japanese warship force of eight destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka. Tanaka's warships were attempting to deliver food supplies to Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

Using radar, the US warships opened fire and sank one of the Japanese destroyers. Tanaka and the rest of his ships, however, reacted quickly and launched numerous torpedoes at the US warships. The Japanese torpedoes hit and sank one US cruiser and heavily damaged three others, enabling the rest of Tanaka's force to escape without significant additional damage but also without completing the mission of delivering the food supplies.
All you need to know about Operational and Strategic is right there, but let's stick with the Tactical for a bit.

Do Commanders feel today that they are too limited in their ability to exercise their best judgement in combat? Well, consider it a Navy tradition.

At 23:14, operators on Fletcher established firm radar contact with Takanami and the lead group of four drum-carrying destroyers. At 23:15, with the range 7,000 yards (6,400 m), Commander William M. Cole, commander of Wright's destroyer group and captain of Fletcher, radioed Wright for permission to fire torpedoes. Wright waited two minutes and then responded with, "Range on bogies [Tanaka's ships on radar] excessive at present."[20] Cole responded that the range was fine. Another two minutes passed before Wright responded with permission to fire. In the meantime, the US destroyer's targets escaped from an optimum firing setup ahead to a marginal position passing abeam, giving the American torpedoes a long overtaking run near the limit of their range. At 23:20, Fletcher, Perkins, and Drayton fired a total of 20 Mark 15 torpedoes towards Tanaka's ships. Maury, lacking SG radar and thus having no contacts, withheld fire.
Amazing even in hindsight. Recall - the action from initial radar contact by FLETCHER at 2306 Tanaka's withdraw at 23:44 was only 38 minutes .... roughly 13% of the battle was spent waiting to be micromanaged. Recall that the Japanese did not have radar.

There is a point here that one should keep in mind. As opposed to the leisurely combat the USN has engaged in since WWII - mostly keeping station, supporting TACAIR operations or leisurely TLAM missions - this was as it is - quick, deadly, and devastating combat. Luck, speed, training, and finally your weapons determines success.

Knowing your enemy, and acknowledging that you may not fully know him, is also critical.

The results of the battle led to further discussion in the US Pacific Fleet about changes in tactical doctrine and the need for technical improvements, such as flashless gunpowder and improved torpedoes. The Americans were still unaware of the range and power of Japanese torpedoes and the effectiveness of Japanese night battle tactics. In fact, Wright claimed that his ships must have been fired on by submarines since the observed position of Tanaka's ships "make it improbable that torpedoes with speed-distance characteristics similar to our own" could have caused such damage. The Americans would not recognize the true capabilities of their Pacific adversary's torpedoes and night tactics until well into 1943.
Logistics.
Due to a combination of the threat from CAF aircraft, US Navy PT boats stationed at Tulagi, and a cycle of bright moonlight, the Japanese had switched to using submarines to deliver provisions to their forces on Guadalcanal. Beginning on November 16, 1942, and continuing for the next three weeks, 16 submarines made nocturnal deliveries of foodstuffs to the island, with one submarine making the trip each night. Each submarine could deliver 20 to 30 tons of supplies, about one day's worth of food, for the 17th Army, but the difficult task of transporting the supplies by hand through the jungle to the frontline units limited their value to sustain the Japanese troops on Guadalcanal. At the same time, the Japanese tried to establish a chain of three bases in the central Solomons to allow small boats to use them as staging sites for making supply deliveries to Guadalcanal, but damaging Allied airstrikes on the bases forced the abandonment of this plan.[9]

On November 26, the 17th Army notified Imamura that it faced a critical food crisis. Some front-line units had not been resupplied for six days and even the rear-area troops were on one-third rations. The situation forced the Japanese to return to using destroyers to deliver the necessary supplies.
And that is where we get the success of the battle. If all you do is count ships sunk and damages, then sure The Battle of Tassafaronga was a loss for the USA. Cole and Wright sure saw it that way - as do many. But was it really?

What were the Japanese trying to do? What was their Operational Center of Gravity (CoG)? Of course, it was keeping their land forces supplied ashore. By preventing their resupply, you attack and weaken the Japanese CoG .... therefor, at the Operational (and arguably Strategic as well) you actually won.

Not too different from the American experience with Tet. The USA and South Vietnamese forces destroyed the Viet Cong during Tet - effectively removing them from being a threat to the existence of the South Vietnam government. That wasn't the point .... as that wasn't the war's Strategic CoG.

Thanks to a superior INFO OPS and PSYOPS campaign by the North Vietnamese along with their allies and useful assistance by the likes of Walter Cronkite, Tet was an exceptional victory by the Communists as it significantly undermined the Strategic CoG of the Americans - the support of the American people.

There are two examples of why one should be very careful when declaring a victory or defeat. Perspective and a clear understanding of the larger issue is key.

Finally, here is a nice lesson on how Senior Leadership should not act ... and how it should. CYA, wagon circling, and blaming subordinates for your own failure is nothing new.

In spite of his defeat in the battle, Wright was awarded the Navy Cross, one of the highest American military decorations for bravery, for his actions during the engagement. ... Halsey, in his comments on Wright's report, placed much of the blame for the defeat on Cole, saying that the destroyer squadron commander fired his torpedoes from too great a distance to be effective and should have "helped" the cruisers instead of circling around Savo Island.
I think history has done some justice to Cole - and it sure doesn't put a great deal of glory on Wright.

In contrast, look at what Tanaka said. This is a good way to end the post - Leadership 101.

After the war, Tanaka said of his victory at Tassafaronga, "I have heard that US naval experts praised my command in that action. I am not deserving of such honors. It was the superb proficiency and devotion of the men who served me that produced the tactical victory for us."
That and some great Japanese engineering in the Long Lance.

First posted OCT 2009.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Bad Vacation Top-10 from ALCED

Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)'s mid-year Top-10 conflicts to keep an eye on update is out.

Check out their #1, The Sehel.


The French and the USA is there along with a few other European nations in small numbers.

That graph is impressive.

Head on over to ACLED for the rest of their Top-10. More info there.

The Sahel: Most likely to be the geopolitical dilemma of 2019

Yemen: Most likely to induce 2019’s worst humanitarian crisis

Afghanistan: Most likely to suffer from international geopolitics

Iraq: Most at risk of returning to civil war

Myanmar: Most likely to see expanding ethnic armed conflict

South Sudan: Most likely to see second-order conflict problems

Philippines: Most likely to see an increase in authoritarianism

Syria: Most likely to see a shift to mass repression

Libya: Most likely to see non-state armed group fragmentation and alliances

Sudan: Most at risk of government collapse
Can you spot the common thread?

Come on ... you can do it.