Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Red2Alpha Silenced

Another example why I blog anon. The minute your Chain of Command interjects themselves into your writing, or you are influenced one way or another by your C-o-C WRT what you write about, you are compromised.

Red2Alpha of This is Your War did the right thing. Instead of letting someone approve or disapprove his writing (any conflict by such interaction would interfere with good order or discipline) he has decided to mothball his site. Shame, he is a great primary source. I look forward to seeing him again.

Two nights ago SFC Burt, my PSG, knocked on my door.
"You have to go down to the Battalion Commo Shop and register your web site."

It seems there have been problems with OPSEC and blog sites, not mine but others, I know which ones. Families have discovered through those sites, from my own Battalion, that their sons, fathers, husbands have been killed or wounded before official notice could reach them. Now The Man has decided he needs to know who is writing what. All personal sites, blogs, My Space accounts have to be registered like guns in The States.

Part of me thinks it's a good idea; I've been a Soldier long enough to understand the need for action like this but I'm also disappointed. Mass punishment doesn’t always work and it is a sign of poor leadership skills. Whatever. It's done and so is This is Your War.
This is a disturbing trend. More and more people are having their MilBlogs spiked or influenced out of viability. They have done nothing wrong, but they are seen as a threat. I don't buy the OPSEC complaints as a blanket charge by a C-o-C either. R2A did the right thing, and BZ to him. If I am "outed" I will do the same if I feel I can no longer write as I want to.

There is a similar problem in official and unofficial professional publications. The Naval Institute's
Proceedings has been in a battle as of late over the ability of junior personnel having the freedom to write as they wish.

It does exist. It is real. Command influence is huge, hulking, and professionally destructive. Just ask the author of the FEB 05 article of the festering nightmare of Navy aviation,
A Bridge Too Far, Lieutenant B. W. Stone. That brave soul (the background of WHY he sent it to Proceedings proves my point even more) even has retired Admirals coming out of the woodwork coming after him professionally - all this for DOING THE RIGHT THING. In case you can't access the article, here is a little of the truth LT Stone put out that caused the "Old Battlewagons" to leave port to engage his little skiff with their main battery.

Naval aviation recently has suffered radical cutbacks. Operational and flight-training budgets have been reduced drastically, and workhorse aircraft have been sent to early retirements. Justified by the idea that "better business practices" and the money saved by such actions eventually will pay dividends in the form of future readiness, these decisions have undermined readiness during a dangerous time of global upheaval.

Among the chief proponents of the cutbacks, Vice Admiral M. D. Malone, recently retired Commander, Naval Air Force (CNAF); Vice Admiral J. M. Zortman, currently CNAF; and Vice Admiral C. W. Moore, recently retired Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Fleet Readiness and Logistics, all claim "naval aviation must balance current and future readiness."1 But rather than strike a productive balance, their decisions have eroded tactical training and readiness while transferring missions to aircraft incapable of performing them at the same level as the platforms being sidelined. The future readiness promised is at least a decade away, and it will be dearly bought if naval forces are unprepared for the many conflicts possible in the interim.
The Navy's senior leaders proudly assert that "naval aviation allows us to take credible combat power across the globe without a permission slip."23 This may once have been true, but the all-Hornet air wing is sorely taxed to take its combat power further than 150 miles from the nearest blue water. Except for small strikes, this capability, once available to a carrier air wing with organic, dedicated tankers, now exists only when the Navy has Air Force tanker support, which requires permission from a host country. Even if organic tankers return to service, "credible combat power" comes only from a properly equipped, properly trained air wing—one equipped with warplanes, not simulators; one manned by pilots experienced in actual, not simulated, flight. Efforts to "balance current and future readiness" have been a bridge too far. Unless the balance is tilted back toward current readiness, the tactical expertise required to exploit future combatant aircraft will wither away before those aircraft enter fleet service. Most important, the United States will be caught in a very tenuous position if its Navy is unprepared and ill equipped for action against enemies stronger than those it has faced in the past three years
The rest is well footnoted with star-studded petards. If you want the whole thing, email me your request and I will send it your way.

That is why the only thing you will find published under my real name in Proceedings is technical in nature, and is why Proceedings will find more and more of its writers moving to the MilBlog arena to get their thoughts out. If you talk to the editor of Proceedings, Mr. Fred Rainbow (one of the good guys) you know that they are already feeling the pinch of not getting enough submissions from active duty officers.

A couple of non-technical articles for Proceedings I started to write wound up in the Deleted Items folder. I was told that I did so at my professional peril. One was spiked because it was against "community message" and due to the position I held, my ability to hold the job a had at that time would be compromised if I published such a piece without a "chop," and as is it would never be approved. The other was considered "radioactive." I know enough about the
PERS4X shop and have spent adequate time in Diego Garcia to know a threat when I hear it. Therefore, the birth of Commander Salamander. My second spike has been blended in a few posts here and there, and my first spike is still dead. To publish it would out me pronto. The only joy I have is with each passing month my points are proven more and more accurate - so I've got that going for me.

Wimp, cowardly on my part (I have received email saying such)? Let others judge if they wish. Viable but still typing away? You bet ya! Being anon does limit you some. You cannot tell your best sea stories, and you can't discuss those things professionally you know the most about in as much detail as you would like.

What being anon does not allow you to do is to break OPSEC. Anyone with a 11th grade knowledge of the Internet, freeware, and knowledge of the military could find me in a heartbeat. If I, or any MilBlogger, breaks OPSEC, we would have a hammer of ungodly weight brought down on us like you would not imagine. Operational Security is not the issue. Having thousands of people read about how you are not as great a leader as your FITREPS say you are and perhaps impacting you ability to make the next paygrade or Flag....that is the issue. That is what is driving the "register your website" drive. IMAO.

In the JAN 05 Proceedings commentary (you have to be a subscriber to access it)
Critical Dilemma: Loyalty Versus Honesty, General Joseph P. Hoar, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) has a great quote that I think applies. I don't want to put thoughts into Red2Alpha's head, but if I found myself in his shoes and made the decision he did, I would find comfort in this from General Hoar.

In the U.S. military services, loyalty and honesty—often described as integrity—are highly prized virtues. They rank right behind courage as prized characteristics of an officer. Although there is perpetual friction and competition between them, we need go no farther than the oath taken by all military officers: “I solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . .” This provides the necessary direction as to where our primary loyalties should lie—to the Constitution, not to our commanders. As a matter of custom in the Marine Corps, officer promotion ceremonies include a renewal of that oath to underscore at each promotion that there are new opportunities to contribute. Equally important, it reminds officers their overriding fealty is to the nation.

Senior military commanders are most likely to face this dilemma. Because their responses are key to high-level policy decisions, they must realize that weighing honesty against loyalty is an abiding responsibility. When the history of the Iraq war is written, we can be sure that historians, journalists, and government officials will connect the dots dividing those who acted out of honesty and those who acted out of loyalty.
I would add that in the MilBlog arena, everyone faces that delimma.

My advice to the aspiring MilBlogger - go anon if you can. Be open if you want, just let us know when your boss is coming down on you. As MilBlogs grow, the senior leadership will try to control them. Fact. I am waiting for the day that MilBloggers will have to post via email back home so someone on a civilian line can post for them when blogging portals like "blogspot" are blocked by *.mil domains.
Keep and eye out.


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