Wednesday, October 22, 2014

LCS Supporters as Art

Almost a decade ... almost, folks here and a few other places have been trying to tell as many people of possible the complete and epic failure of the Little Crappy Ship. As a concept, as a program, as an effective use of shipbuilding money.

Sure, we can have an build as many LCS as we want, but it will be about as useful as using BMWs to plow potato fields.

Every season, new people come in to the discussion anew. They either have not been interested in the topic until recently, have a job related to it, or are doing their best to be a team player for Big Navy.

Our message on LCS has remained fairly consistent over the last decade, and we are a bit over 86% correct. The true believers? Well, no. They keep failing.

We've used lots of words to argue with them - but how do you demonstrate to them how they look, all wet behind the ears and running right in with enthusiasm to the church of the hard truth?

Well, Dave Fothergill has provided us with a artistic representation of each new batch of LCS advocates as they approach the firm, strong, and unmoving truth of the god of the LCS copybook headings.

BEHOLD!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Coastal ASW - yes, it's that hard

Like many of you, I've been enjoying trying to read between the lines over the weekend as Sweden plays hide-n-seek with their old nemesis, Russia.
There are fears of Russians and it is October, but it's not a Tom Clancy novel. It is a case of international naval intrigue off the Swedish coast that brings back memories of the Cold War.

The Swedish military on Monday intensified a search in the ocean off Stockholm for an underwater mystery vessel, but stopped short of calling it a submarine. Civilian vessels were ordered to stay at least six miles (about 10 kilometers) away from the Swedish warship conducting the search, the English-language website The Local reported.

The search began Thursday after Swedish intelligence picked up an emergency radio call in Russian, reported The Local, citing the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

The radio transmissions were being sent to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, 330 miles (530 kilometers) south of Stockholm on the Baltic's southern shore, according to The Local report.

There were also reports that a foreign vessel was spotted in the waters near Stockholm.
Russia on Sunday denied it has any vessel in Swedish waters. Moscow suggested the vessel may belong to the Netherlands and have been involved in naval exercises off Sweden, according to a report from Russia's Itar-TASS news agency.

The Dutch were quick to respond, saying a sub involved in the exercises was anchored in Tallinn harbor of NATO-ally Estonia for the weekend, according to a report from Agence France-Presse.



What I have found most instructive about this exercise is that it should remind all that ASW is a "come as you are" type of evolution. There is no training time out for you to get your act together; you had better have the training and equipment you need to find the sneaky little bastards when they show up in your back yard.

Of course, after the Cold War, the "Awfully Slow Warfare" was often left to wither and starve with many of the unsexy but important things. Looking at what the Swedish Navy has ASW wise, well, I'm glad I'm not trying to find that Russian with their toys. Letting ASW waste away that close to the bear? Not smart, and to paraphrase Comrade Trotsky,
You might not be interested in submarines, but submarines are interested in you.
Over at FP, Elias Groll has done a great job seeing the larger picture of how Sweden found herself playing blind man's bluff, and why.
On Sunday, Oct. 19, the Swedish authorities released a photograph showing what looks to be a periscope peeking above the surface.

The man who took that photo has since come forward and says he is certain that it shows a submarine. Moreover, the newspaper Svenska Dagbladet reported that Swedish authorities intercepted an encrypted distress signal from the area in which the submarine is believed to be located. That signal was reportedly bound for the Russian naval base in Kaliningrad.
One working theory is that the submarine has been damaged and is unable to navigate out of Swedish waters. The incident comes on the heels of the Northern Archer military exercise in the Baltic Sea, which involved Swedish and Dutch forces, and some analysts have speculated that the sub was in the area to observe the exercise and gather intelligence.
...
But in carrying out their search, the Swedish authorities are being severely hampered by their lack of sonar-equipped helicopters. Because the Stockholm archipelago is a dense island landscape, it has become something of a notorious playground for submarines, which have ample natural features behind which to hide and evade surface vessels. Unlike ships moving on the surface, helicopters have a distinct advantage in tracking down submarines, which have great difficulty monitoring aircraft while underwater. A helicopter can quickly cover large areas, surprising submarines by dropping sonar sensors. But Sweden's fleet of anti-submarine helicopters were phased out in 2008, and the replacement isn't expected until 2018.
The cuts were part of Sweden's broader reduction in defense spending in the aftermath of the Cold War.
You know my fetish for the story a nation's defense spending as a percentage of GDP tells, regardless of the size of its economy. Well ... here is your story;



The Swedes just voted in a gaggle of leftists, so we'll see what they do, I'm not optimistic in the medium or long term. Western leftists always fold in the face of power. 

Sweden's neighborhood has been getting more interesting for awhile.
This weekend's submarine incident is a sort of grim cherry on top. "What's been happening in the Baltic Sea, including airspace incursions, shows that we have a new, changed situation," Peter Hultqvist, the Swedish minister of defense, said to Svenska Dagbladet.

As a result, Sweden may very well be recalibrating its defense spending. "I would be extremely surprised if what has happened this summer and is possibly now happening in the Stockholm archipelago hasn't had an impact on all parties' budget priorities," Allan Widman, a defense spokesman for one center-right party, told Svenska Dagbladet.
Well Svendska, you're out of power now. We'll see what you do if or when you get back from the wilderness. Until then, perhaps the Swedish politicians should just shrug and say, "Sometimes you hunt Russians with the navy you have, not the navy you wish you had ... or even need."

Until then, and to my former students and colleagues I offer you this - "You can't buy training like this!"

And to our Russian shipmates, I hope you have managed to sneak home; otherwise you have drowned, or if the Swedes capture you - when you get back to Mother Russia, you're going to have a bad day.

On balance though, I'm with the Swedes. Go get 'em. Here's your Joint Action Area (JTAA).





UPDATE: Elias just made my day and makes my heart even warmer for my friends in the Swedish military;
The Swedish Navy continues to stalk the waters off the coast of its capital for a foreign -- all but certainly Russian -- submarine, and the country's military brass on Tuesday sounded an exasperated note to describe the unsuccessful hunt. "This is very serious," Sverker Göransson, the country's top military commander, told reporters. "I would even go so far as to say," he continued, "to say that it's fucked up."

Monday, October 20, 2014

CNO rethinking STEM bias?

Good news on the intellectual capital development front.

After trending in the wrong direction for years towards and unnecessarily skewed, to 85% STEM, bias in officer accessions, it looks like the CNO may reassess.

Via our pal Sam LaGrone at USNINews;
The Department of the Navy funds 4,200 NROTC midshipmen — around 3,300 Navy and about 870 Marine Corps midshipmen. For Navy options, 85 percent of the funds are devoted to STEM majors while 15 percent is left for liberal arts and language degrees.

“It is of great value to revisit this [issue],” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert at the CSIS and U.S. Naval Institute’s Maritime Security Dialogue on Tuesday in response to a question from a member of the University of George Washington NROTC battalion.
“We should do it periodically and not just sit on it and we’re doing that.”

Greenert said he had met with his strategic advisory group on Monday and the topic has emerged.

As to if the Navy will change the balance of scholarships in the future, Greenert responded with, “well, we’ll see.”
Yea ... I caught that hedge as well. I hope he wasn't just making happy talk to make the uncomfortable question go away. As always, deeds not words will tell the story - but he opened the door for other voices to address the topic.
... retired NATO Supreme Commander Adm. James G. Stavridis suggested the Navy also revisit the scholarship program mix.

Stavridis — who is also the U.S. Naval Institute’s Chair of the Board of Directors and the Dean of the Fletcher School at Tufts University — graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy with a degree in electrical engineering and earned graduate degrees in international relations.

“In all honesty, I found the situations I encountered in the course of my career, I was more benefited by what I had studied about the world international relations and history and all of the other aspects of those disciplines than my electrical engineering background,” he said.

“I don’t know that the balance needs to be fifty-fifty, it is a technical service and that’s part of what we do.”
Spot on.

It is a topic we discussed again for a bit on Midrats yesterday, and one that will not be going away soon.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

A live free for all on Midrats, Sunday!



Believe it or not, this week is our 250th Episode of Midrats.

In celebration, we're clearing the intellectual table, going to open the mic and see where it takes us.

From Kobane, to Coastal Defense, to Ebola and everything in between and sideways that's been in the national security news as of late, plus whatever else breaks above the ambient noise - we'll be covering it.

As with all Midrats Free For Alls, we are also opening the phone lines for our regular listeners who want to throw a topic our way.

Come join us Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, and maybe longer, as we try to figure out how we got to 250.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room if you don't want to call in and practice your radio voice, where you can offer up your questions and observations, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.


Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, October 17, 2014

Fullbore Friday

As during hunting season, your humble blogg'r is always short of time: a encore FbF from early in the run.

Speed. Superior technology. Superior Sailors. Long-range, accurate weapons. Superior training.

From LCS to DDG-1000, we are all told that these are the key to victory at sea. They make up for inferior numbers. They are Transformational. War has changed. We own them.

All that came to mind when I thought of three ships, HMS Exeter, HMS Ajax, and HMNZS Achilles.

The Graf Spee was, well, the Graf Spee. With memories of the SMS Emden in mind, she was the terror of the seas.

To go after her you had three old, under armed, and relatively unarmored cruisers. On paper, there should be no contest. But the combined British and New Zealand Force had a plan. They had what you cannot put on paper or PowePoint - but that which wins almost all battles at sea; audacity.
13th. of December 1939.At 0520 ( 5.20 AM ) the squadron was in position 34 degrees 34 minutes South, 49 degrees 17 minutes West, on a course of 060 degrees, at a speed of 14 knots, cruising in line ahead Ajax, Achilles and Exeter. Smoke bearing 320 degrees, ie to the South West from the force, was sighted at 0610 ( 6.10 AM ) and Exeter was ordered to investigate, she soon replied:
"I think it is a pocket Battleship!"
It did not take long for Graf Spee to act, in only two minutes she opened fire with her 11 inch turrets, one firing at Exeter, and one at Ajax.
The first division altered course to 340 degrees to close the range to the enemy, whilst Captain Bell hauled out of the line, altering course to the west, so he might attack Graf Spee from a widely different angle. All ships increased speed, now it should be noted that the enemy armament had almost twice the power of the British
cruisers, both Ajax and Achilles were light cruisers mounting 6 inch guns in their turrets, whilst Exeter was the lone ship of her class, mounting 6 by 8 inch guns in three twin turrets, A and B turrets forward, and a single Y turret mounted aft.

By 0623 ( 6.23 AM ) all ships had opened fire, and an enemy report was broadcast.Graf Spee straddled Exeter ( that means shells in a salvo fall both sides of the target ), one shell burst short, and killed the starboard torpedo tube crews, riddled the searchlights and the aircraft on the catapult, which was manhandled over the side, leaving the ship without any spotting capability from that source. The enemy ship seemed undecided about her gunnery policy, as she shifted targets several times before concentrating both turrets upon Exeter. The third salvo from
By 0624 ( 6.24 AM ) Exeter sent off 8 salvoes against the enemy, but on the incoming path, she received a direct hit from an 11 shell in the fore part of the B turret, putting it out of action, as splinters from this shell burst swept the bridge it killed or wounded all personnel there except for the Captain and two others. It also demolished the wheel house communications, leaving Captain Bell without any means of giving wheel orders to enable course changes, or orders to the engine room regarding speed changes. He decided to fight his ship from the after conning position, but the communication system here was also damaged from the shell burst earlier that effected the torpedo tube crews etc. A chain of messengers was set up to pass orders to the after steering position.
Now two further 11 inch shell hits registerd in the fore part of the cruiser, and Graf Spee shifted one 11 inch turret onto Ajax, who was straddled three times. The secondary armament of the German ship now took on Ajax and Achilles alternately, but to little effect.
During all of this intensive engagement, Ajax achieved a minor miracle by being able to catapult her aircraft for spotting purposes.
Exeter had fired off her torpedoes at 0632 ( 6.32 AM, ) but did not achieve any result, now at 0637 ( 6.37 AM ) Graf Spee altered course some 150 degrees, steering to the North West under cover of smoke.
0638 to 0650 ( 6.38 to 6.50 AM )At about 0638 ( 6.38 AM ) Exeter altered course to Straboard to allow the firing of her starboard torpedoes, then took off to the North East to close the First Division, at 0645 ( 6.45 AM ) she turned westerly to keep within range.
Two more 11 inch hits fell upon Exeter, one put A turret out of action, and another started a fierce fire in the Chief Petty Officer's flat amidships, the 4 inch magazine was flooded through a burst water main. All the compass repeaters were out of action, the Captain had to rely on a simple boat's compass to allow him to keep the ship pointed so that Y turret might keep up her firing at the enemy, locally controlled, with the Gunnery Officer taking control from the searchlight platform.
At 0640 ( 6.40. AM ) an 11 inch shell fell just short of Achilles in line with her bridge, it burst at the waterline, with splinters killing four sailors, stunning the Gunnery Officer, ( many unkind Officers might comment, But that is but the normal condition for most Gunnery Officers. ) and slightly wounding the Captain and his Chief Yeoman of Signals.
0650 to 0708. ( 6.50 to 7.08 AM )Achilles with her guns firing in local control could not find the right line with her gun fire, her salvoes falling short. The aircraft from Ajax, reporting that the salvoes were all falling short, but in Achilles, their gun control officer was unaware that Ajax was not still in concentrated firing, he therefore wrongly concluded it was his fall of shot being reported as short, and corrected accordingly, this had the effect of all his gunfire falling way over the enemy pocket battleship. A real mix up at a time when to achieve hits on the enemy was crucial. With all the smoke added to the general confusion, direct spotting was quite hard.
Graf Spee made frequent course alterations trying to throw off the British ship's gunfire, she also made skilful use of the smoke she generated.
Exeter valiently kept up firing her Y turret in local control, but she now had developed a 7 degree list to starboard, adding to the difficulties of keeping Y turret firing. She was still a target for fire from Graf Spee, but shots fell consistantly over.
0708 to 0728. ( 7.08 to 7.28 AM )Graf Spee was still 16,000 yards from theFirst Division, and they were ordered to close the enemy at speed, accepting they would lose the benefit of having their guns bear on the enemy whilst they steamed closer to the German ship.
At 0708 ( 7. 08 AM ) Graf Spee made a dramatic alteration of course to port under cover of her smoke, and at 0720 ( 7. 20 AM ) she turned back to the North West to bring her guns to bear, and Ajax was very quickly straddled three times from a range of 11,000 yards.
At the same time, the First Division turned to starboard to bring all their main armament bearing on Graf Spee, their fire appeared to most effective with Graf Spee on fire amidships. But at 0725 ( 7. 25 AM ) Ajax was hit by an 11 inch delayed action shell on the after superstructure, its passed through some cabins, wrecking them, then it went through X turret trunk, wrecking all the turret machinery below the gun house, a part of this shell base then struck Y turret barbette, close to the turret training rack, and jammed the turret. Thus one shell was responsible for putting both X and Y turrets out of action, for killing four, and wounding another six of X turret's crew.
It appeared that Graf Spee was neglecting Exeter, as she steered North West to close on the First Division, with Ajax assuming that the German ship would hold this course, she decided to fire off a broadside of her torpedoes. At 0724 ( 7. 24 A M ) she turned to starboard, and let go four torpedoes at a range of 9,000 yards, but without result.
Graf Spee must have seen them coming, and quickly took avoiding action by turning 130 degrees to port, and then returned to the North West after about three minutes.
Exeter was slowly dropping astern of the action, the forward damage taking it's toll. At 0740 ( 7. 40 A M ) Y turret still in local control stopped firing, this was due to a power failure caused by flooding. At 0740 ( 7. 40 A M ) Exeter was steering South East at a very slow speed, she needed to both make repairs and herself seaworthy again.
Now Ajax and Achilles altered course to 260 degrees so that the range to the enemy was reduced even more, then at 0721 ( 7.21 A M ) the spotting aircraft reported "Torpedoes approaching, they will pass ahead of you." The two cruisers decided to make sure they missed, and altered course to 180 degrees.
At 0732 ( 7.32 AM ) Graf Spee turned away to the West and started to zig zag, and Ajax seemed to be making good use of her three available guns, one of the hoists had failed in B turret, and both X and Y turrets were out of action.
Suddenly at 0736, ( 7.36 AM ) Graf Spee altered course to the South West to again bring all her armament to bear on the First Division, the range now down to 8,000 yards.
Ajax reported she had only 20% of her ammunition left.
The shooting by Graf Spee was accurate, and Commodore Harwood did not think she had suffered much damage from the salvoes from the British ships, so he decided to break off the action, at least till after dark. One of the last salvoes from the enemy had demolished Ajax's top mast, and with it all of her aerials, so jury aerials were rigged as quickly as possible. As the British ships turned away, Graf Spee did not follow them, but then altered course to 270 degrees, her speed 22 knots, this course would take her directly to the River Plate. The First Division, now turned to place themselves in shadowing positions on both quarters of the German ship, at a distance of about 15 miles.
British shipping in the area was alerted to Graf Spee's position, course and speed, this information was also sent off to the British Admiralty.
At 0912 ( 9.12 AM ) Ajax recovered her aircraft, then at 0916 ( 9.16 AM ) Harwood ordered Cumberland from the Falkland Islands to close the River Plate at full speed, he was in dire need of reinforcements to his force.
At 1104 ( 11.04 AM ) a merchant ship close to Graf Spee was stopped and blowing off clouds of steam, a signal from the pocket battleship read: "Please pick up lifeboats of English steamer." When coming up to the British ship, SS Shakespeare, all her boats were hoisted, and she reported that she was not in need of any assistance.
At 1105 ( 11.05 AM ) Exeter signalled that all her turrets were out of action, she was flooded up to No. 14 bulkhead, but could proceed at 18 knots, she was ordered to sail to the Falkland Islands at her best speed without placing strain on her bulkheads.
At 1342 ( 1.42 PM ) the British Naval Attache at Buenos Airies was informed that Graf Spee was making for the Plate. The shadowing of Graf Spee continued, and at 1915 ( 7.15 PM ) she suddenly fired off two salvoes at Ajax who turned away under smoke, the first salvo fell in line, the second in her wake as she turned, the range 26,000 yards.
It now seemed that Graf Spee intended to enter the Plate, and Achilles was told to follow her if she went West of Lobos, now Ajax was to proceed South of the English Bank, just in case the German doubled back that way.
Just after sunset, Graf Spee fired off three salvoes at Achilles, the third lobbed very close, in return, AchillesGraf Spee now proceeded North of the English Bank, and anchored in Montevideo roads at 0050. ( 00.50 AM ) fired 5 salvoes that seemed to straddle the enemy ship.
Harwood now reports that his main concern was how long Graf Spee intended to stay here.
At 2350 ( 11.50 PM ) Ajax and Achilles were ordered to withdraw from the Plate, Harwood did not want to risk them having to face Graf Spee silhouetted by the rising sun behind them. Achilles was to patrol the area from the Urugayan coast to a line 120 degrees from English Bank, whilst Ajax was to look after the Southern area. Both cruisers were to move back to the mouth of the Plate after the threat posed by the dawn had passed.
Fullbore.

UPDATE: Reader Oyster sends along the radio report. Cool.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Diversity Thursday

It is helpful to know that the issues we raise on DivThu are not just a problem with the military or government, it is all through our culture. 

That is why I like to look around in the larger culture now and then so everyone gets a chance to see those perpetually offended in the Diversity Industry for what they are; a fetid stew of rent-seeking grievance mongers, agenda driven Social Marxists, social justice fetishists, clueless frumps stuck in a 1970s intellectual temporal trap, useful idiots, self-loathing auto-masochists, and occasionally the rabidly sectarian hate-pimps using polite words with foam flecks at the corner of their mouths - all squatting athwart our culture for their own sense of self-entitlement.

Of course, we should only attack their idea, not the actual persons - right? Wrong.

These sick narcissists make a living destroying not just institutions, but individual people - all for their own monetary gain and starving egos. They feast on others, so, no - in this case I have no problem getting personal.

In 2014, more and more of what you see are those who are trying to bully-boy others in to shutting up, soak up the guilt they are throwing about, and as a result expect someone to cough up a paycheck for them just to make them go away and try to destroy someone else.

One sub-genre perpetually offended rent-seekers are the professional feminists, some of the most destructive people preventing women from being on a true level with men. As some of you know my personal story, Mama Salamander was a trailblazer and never had need or want for any of them for her success. 

Anyway, professional feminists are not out there for other women to succeed - if so they would be leading marches against ISIS, no, that isn't their priority. There is serious money in that job, if you can pull it off.

For the young pups in this line of work, the sad thing is that after a few decades, a lot of the fertile and easily plowed fields of man-hate is already occupied by some rather stout and stubborn 1st and 2nd generation professional feminists. So, like the second son or the yearling buck (yes, I am trying to find as many XY references I can), they have to wander far and wide to find their place.

The last really fertile holdout territories whose walls finally fell like Constantinople, was taken out by the 2nd generation, Naval Aviation at Tailhook. As a result, this new generation has had to subsist on the outer fringes of that sad battle, and generally making crap up they can't scratch out of academia. That gleaning has run out and is no longer productive. Slash and burn has run its course for that spot ... time to look anew.

Looking for other male dominated areas that may have weak-spined and easily cowed leadership, some of the young buck feminists have gone after that wonderfully "unique" male dominated area - gamers?

As such we have gamergate. If you are not up to speed, let's just go to wikipedia;
Gamergate (sometimes referred to as GamerGate or as a hashtag #gamergate) is a controversy in video game culture which began in August 2014. It concerns ingrained issues of sexism and misogyny in the gaming community, as well as journalistic ethics in the online gaming press, particularly conflicts of interest between video game journalists and developers.
I have to give credit to the uber-nerds of gamedom - they are fighting harder and defending their culture more than the wall of shame that was TACAIR leadership almost a quarter century ago.

One side-show to gamergate that I find particularly delicious is that of Anita Sarkeesian. A perfect specimine of the present generation of professional feminist, full of piss, vinegar, bile, and foam ... with a fair bit of agitprop, misdirection, and what looks like lies. Follow they money, they are;
In 2012, Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign, to raise $6,000 so that she could pay for video games and fund production for a set of videos that would criticize gender tropes in video games. Within a day, Sarkeesian hit her initial goal. She went on to raise $150,000.

Sarkeesian missed her first deadline with no concrete explanation. While I was mildly skeptical when I found this out, I was absolutely stunned after watching a few of her videos.

Sarkeesian’s in-game footage is almost exclusively stolen from several YouTubers’ “Let’s Play” tutorial videos. Sarkeesian gave no credit or notice to the video creators. When several commenters began to accuse her of plagiarism, Sarkeesian disabled the comments and like/dislike options on her videos.

Some other critics accused Sarkeesian of exploiting Kickstarter. Sarkeesian, who admitted in a 2010 interview that she doesn’t even play video games, could not have possibly spent $150,000 on buying games and “production” when she simply took clips from other people’s videos.

When implored by critics and supporters alike to produce just one piece of documentation explaining how she spent the money, Sarkeesian refused.
She has a history in the bit of territory she is farming. Quite a bit of history.

She also seems to have a habit of creating drama when there isn't any naturally occurring;
Canadian-American author, blogger and feminist Anita Sarkeesian has canceled her scheduled Wednesday speech at Utah State University after learning the school would allow concealed firearms at the event despite an anonymous terror threat promising “the deadliest school shooting in American history.”

Utah State confirmed Sarkeesian’s decision to cancel in a tweet sent out shortly after 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.
I guess she was feeling unsatisfied with the gamers, she decided she needed to rub up against the gun folks too.

Well, I'm tired to toying with her around the edges. I'll roll her over to the gamers and let them play around a bit. This guy does it so much better anyway.



So, there you go. Stand up to these bullies, if the gamers can - why can't those in the military who break real things and kill real people for a living? 

I wish more women were like Mama Salamander and went after these rent-seekers, but hey ... if it takes a man to do a woman's job, so be it.

These professional outrage generators like Anita do no good for, in this case at least, the great professional women in our line of work who get it done day in and day out, and handle jerks like everyone else. We and they don't need to support people like Anita's invented career path with their time and tax money. 

We need to stop going to their award ceremonies. Stop going to their conferences, and unquestionably stop paying them to have any association with the DOD/DON.

As a side note, being that Anita seems to not like the song - with standard Kristen warning - here you go; bask in it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Admiral Rickover on our Present Crisis

For many, from the war (let’s call it what it is, in a fashion) against ISIS to the ongoing fumble in the response to Ebola, we seem to be having a crisis in the ability of our self-selecting nomenclatura to effectively lead and manage even the most basic functions of government; national security from outside threats.

There are two broad things at work.

First, in a nation as large and diverse as the USA, an effective federal government governs best when it governs least, and only in those prescribed areas that it can do it best. All other things need to be pushed down to State or local government – or here is a shocker – the people themselves. 

That isn’t just right and highly functional; we are seeing the results today what happens when our federal government does the opposite. People know when a large and all powerful government in the USA is not working. They may not fully understand why, but they see its dysfunction right in front of them every day.

Secondly, at the very highest positions of power, we have elected and assigned all the right people who went to the right schools and know all the right people and who have all the right intentions … and yet, it is being run worse than the Virginia DMV’s C-team.

Are these leaders idiots? No. Are they evil? No. What they have, by personality and education, is a world view and professional practice that has a fatal post-modern design flaw.

This is not a new problem, but it has grown and become greater as the power of the federal government has grown with size and power.

Admiral Rickover saw it in a different venue back in 1953. In part:
… decisions about the future development(s) … must frequently be made by people who do not necessarily have an intimate knowledge of the technical aspects … These people are, nonetheless, interested …

… this confusion stems from a failure to distinguish between the academic and the practical. These apparent conflicts can usually be explained only when the various aspects of the issue are resolved into their academic and practical components.

The tools of the academic-... designer are a piece of paper and a pencil with an eraser. If a mistake is made, it can always be erased and changed. If the practical-reactor designer errs, he wears the mistake around his neck ; it cannot be erased. Everyone can see it.

The academic-… designer is a dilettante. He has not had to assume any real responsibility in connection with his projects. He is free to luxuriate in elegant ideas, the practical shortcomings of which can be relegated to the category of “mere technical details." The practical-… designer must live with these same technical details. Although recalcitrant and awkward, they must be solved and cannot be put off until tomorrow. Their solutions require manpower, time and money.

Unfortunately for those who must make far-reaching decisions without the benefit of an intimate knowledge of … technology and unfortunately for the interested public, it is much easier to get the academic side of an issue than the practical side. For a large part those involved with the academic … have more inclination and time to present their ideas in reports and orally to those who will listen. Since they are innocently unaware of the real but hidden difficulties of their plans, They speak with great facility and confidence Those involved with (the) practical ..., humbled by their experiences, speak less and worry more.

Yet it is incumbent on those in high places to make wise decisions, and it is reasonable and important that the public be correctly informed. It is consequently incumbent on all of us to state the facts as forth rightly as possible. Although it is probably impossible to have ... ideas labelled as ”practical" or “academic" by the authors, it is worthwhile for both the authors and the audience to bear in mind this distinction and to be guided thereby.
A shorter version by another great American, William F. Buckley, Jr;
I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.

Hat tip Cabildo.