Friday, September 30, 2016

Fullbore Friday

I like well hidden history, especially those with good shoes.

There are many stories out there that we are only now hearing about ... and this is one. From
DailyMail,
In May 1919, with World War I recently over but with the Russian Revolution turning into a full-scale "Red Terror," the head of MI6, Sir Mansfield Cumming, known as "C," had a desperate problem.

A British agent - Paul Dukes - had infiltrated spies into the Bolshevik government and made copies of top secret documents, but he was cut off in Petrograd (present-day St Petersburg).

Dukes, a 30-year-old concert pianist from Bridgwater, Somerset, was a master of disguise, hence his admiring soubriquets such as "The New Scarlet Pimpernel" and "The Man with A Hundred Faces."

The only MI6 agent ever to be knighted for his services in the field, Dukes was, as Ferguson writes: "The sort of spy we all wanted to be."

The Government in London desperately needed a personal briefing from him about the situation in Russia, as well as the documents in his possession. But how to get him out?

Cumming asked a 29-year-old naval lieutenant, Augustus "Gus" Agar, to undertake a seemingly suicidal mission to rescue him.
 
An expert in skippering high-speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMBs), Agar was asked to come up with a plan to cross into Russian territorial waters in the Gulf of Finland and spirit Dukes out of the country, before the Russian secret police, the Cheka, were able to capture him.

The task was awesome. The borders had been sealed and a succession of couriers who had tried to cross them had been captured; six were betrayed, tortured and shot in one fortnight alone. So a high-speed boat landing at a pre-arranged rendezvous on the coastline near Petrograd was planned instead.

CMBs were 40ft long, had a crew of three, carried two Lewis machine guns and a single torpedo. They had hydroplane hulls, hence their nickname "skimmers," but were made of plywood so were almost defenceless against enemy fire.

The fastest naval vessels afloat, they were ideal for slipping past the huge array of defences in the Gulf of Finland - except for the deafening noise they made when they reached their top speed of 45mph.

Protecting the sea approach to Petrograd was the forbidding island fortress of Kronstadt and its 15 forts - nine to the north, six to the south - with enough guns to halt any enemy fleet.

Furthermore, the forts were connected by a hidden breakwater that MI6 told Agar was only three feet under the surface and which, since CMBs drew 2ft 9in of water, meant that his two vessels would have only three inches to spare at normal speed.
Although the Gulf of Finland is 250 miles long, it is only 30 miles wide, and with gunboat patrols, floating and fixed mines, searchlights, submarines and seaplanes, it seemed impassable to any but the most intrepid sailor.

Cumming explained the mission to Agar in his office in Whitehall, and ordered him to choose only unmarried men with no immediate dependents for his seven-man team; Agar himself had been orphaned at the age of 12, and although he had a sweetheart they were not then engaged.

Cumming also warned Agar that in the event of capture he could expect no help, or even official recognition, from the British Government.

His unit would be in plain clothes, although Royal Navy uniforms and caps would be donned in the event of capture, to protect them from being shot as spies.
If the story sounds interesting, click the link above for an extended summary, or you can get the details in Operation Kronstadt: The True Story of Honor, Espionage, and the Rescue of Britain's Greatest Spy The Man with a Hundred Faces by Harry Ferguson.

Wouldn't it make a great movie ... if Hollywood still made movies of this type?

Wrong heroes, I guess.


Originally posted JUL10.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

On LCS: the Right Idea Waiting for the Right Leader

If you missed Jerry Hendrix's article at National Review on the 27th, read it all.

For the long time members of the Front Porch, there will be lots of nodding heads.

Here is all you need to see (and Nic, no need to re-post all the pics);
The Navy had planned to move toward a more robust, “upgunned” frigate in the future. The senators recommend that the Navy take this step as quickly as possible. In doing so, however, I believe that the Navy should not tie itself to the current platforms under production. Their designs have proven to be far too fragile for active sea service under rough conditions. Rather the Navy should look to other relatively cheap and reliable frigate designs, perhaps even foreign designs — such as the Italian and French Fremm class, or perhaps the Dutch Absalon class — for rapid introduction in U.S. shipyards. Given the proven stability of these designs and our nation’s desire that our allies and partners purchase some of our more expensive platforms, such as the Joint Strike Fighter, perhaps it would be a wise to show reciprocity and purchase foreign designs for construction in U.S. yards.
Exactly. It would show a lot of respect that we would do what we ask others to do as well. Oh, and look at NANSEN.

As those who have read Jerry's work we've linked to here in the past, and when we've had him on Midrats, you know he is a big fleet numbers guy - and he ties this in as well;
What is critical is that we continue to refine our littoral combat ships right up to the moment that we are ready to cut the new frigates into production. We simply cannot afford, with a Navy hovering at 272 ships, to cease production of these ships for even a year. Despite our addiction to high-end capabilities, we have discovered in our moment of “accepted risk” that quantity has a quality all its own and that we need to continue investing in a larger, more effective Navy. As for the problems the current ships face, we must depend, with apologies to them, on the technical ingenuity of the Navy’s chiefs and petty officers to figure out how to make these ships more reliable in both the short and the long term. This is not the first time in the history of the Navy that they will have faced such challenges, but, regrettably, never have they faced so many at one time.
He is spot on.

All we need is for the right people to buy on to this idea so we can move forward.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

NSC is Playing Wordgames While China is Playing Rugby

Really?

If you had any question why the national security environment is such a mess in 2016 - this should help you understand the root cause;
The White House has barred Pentagon leaders from a key talking point when it comes to publicly describing the military challenges posed by China.

In February, Defense Secretary Ash Carter cited the "return to great power of competition" in the Asia-Pacific, "where China is rising."

Similarly, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson characterized China and Russia as rivals in this "great power competition" in his maritime strategy.

But a recent directive from the National Security Council ordered Pentagon leaders to strike out that phrase and find something less inflammatory, according to four officials familiar with the classified document, revealed here for the first time by Navy Times. Obama administration officials and some experts say "great power competition" inaccurately frames the U.S. and China as on a collision course...
Good googly moogly. Have these sweet little people issued a trigger warning to the delicate, easily offended Chinese?

I'll let Bryan do the spanking for me;
“Their explanation is an exercise in nuance and complexity, purposely chosen by the administration to provide maximum flexibility, to prevent them from committing to a real structural approach to the most important national security challenge of our time,” said Bryan McGrath, a naval expert and retired destroyer skipper.
In other words, it lets them practice faculty lounge name games while the real world it being shaped by adults in other nations run by serious people.

This is a unnecessary distraction and own-goal. This mixes up our messages, and for what?
Rumors of the directive also rankled some on Capitol Hill. During a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., asked Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joe Dunford to comment.

“General Dunford, are we in great power competition with China?” Cotton asked, to which Dunford replied: “We are, senator.”

When Cotton asked Carter, the secretary replied: “We are. Absolutely right."
As mentioned earlier, this is all faculty lounge intellectual narcissism. Mixed in with it you can find the influences of the self-esteem movement, everyone gets a trophyism, mindless non-judgementalism, and national self-loathing.
“My view is that it's unhelpful to describe a very complex relationship in a simple phrase, regardless of whether it is positive or negative,” said Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Michael O’Hanlon, an influential security policy expert at the Brookings Institution, said that focusing solely on the positive or the negative aspects of the relationship isn’t good policy.

“To oversimplify in either direction is not only analytically inaccurate, but consequential for the tone and substance of the relationship,” he said. “The White House really does have it right, I strongly believe.”
Let's end this with Bryan's final points.
“This kind of lawyerly nuancing is not what the American people need,” said McGrath, who leads the consulting firm The FerryBridge Group. “They don’t need nationalism or jingoism, they need a restatement of the role the U.S. plays in the proper function, security and prosperity of the world. To actually contend in great power competition, you have to identify for the American people what is the problem. The problem with this administrations’ insistence in avoiding terms that the American people understand is it lacks clarity.

"What this means is we will spend at least the next 90 days with an administration that’s just trying to tread water.”
Whoever pushed this memo at the NSC should be the first people invited to find a position back in academia where they are less of a hazard to themselves and others.

Sad thing is, Mrs. Clinton will probably keep a lot of them on.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Wars Over Water? Well, Here's Your 2016/17 Most Likely From an Unlikely Place


While we've been picking out belly-button over our shambolic election, history's other lines of operation are moving apace. Have you been briefed up on the Uri Attack of 18 SEP 16?
At least 18 soldiers were killed in a terror attack on an Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir on September 18. All four terrorists, who attacked the camp, were killed.
The Indian Prime Minister is decided to play a card India has held deep in the deck.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi after a fiery speech in Kerala where he blamed Pakistan for exporting global terrorism has now called for a briefing on the Indus Waters Treaty.

PM Modi will meet relevant officials from various ministries today including External Affairs and Water Resources, top sources have told NDTV.

The Prime Minister, sources say, wants to discuss the pros and cons of taking action against Pakistan. This confirms that among the various options on the discussion table for India's response to the Uri attack, reconsidering the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan could be one.
...
One of the suggestions is to turn off the Indus river tap that waters much of Pakistan. It is perceived that the pressure could compel Pakistan to crackdown on non-state and state actors acting against India.
...
The Indus Waters Treaty was signed between Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Pakistan's president General Ayub Khan in 1960, after World Bank brokered negotiations that lasted almost a decade.

The Indus treaty withstood two full scale wars and tense India and Pakistan relations and experts are divided over the benefits of reneging on an international water sharing pact.
...
The Indus originates in China, and unlike India and Pakistan, it has not signed any international water sharing agreement. Should China decide to divert the Indus, India could lose as much as 36 per cent of river water.

Under the agreement, of the six rivers that flow westward in the sub-continent, India has full rights over three - Sutlej, Beas and Ravi - while Pakistan receives the waters of the other three - Jhelum, Chenab and Indus - almost unrestricted.
Two nations with nuclear weapons - the most modern of weapons - potentially in a fight over water - the most ancient of reasons to go to war.
Prime Minister Modi launched a blistering attack on Pakistan on Saturday, saying: “Whenever a terror attack takes place, it emerges either the terrorist set out from Pakistan, or after the attack, like Osama Bin Laden, took refuge there.”

Speaking at a public meeting in southern Indian city of Kozhikode, Modi said India would never forget the militant attack that killed 19 soldiers in an Army base in Kashmir’s Uri District. He also accepted an often-quoted Pakistani “challenge” (read Benazir Bhutto slogan) of a 1,000-year war, saying: “Your (Pakistani) rulers speak of fighting India for 1,000 years. Today, there is such as government in New Delhi that I am ready to accept your challenge.”

Modi ripped into his ‘one-time’ friend and Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif’s needling UN General Assembly speech and phony talks offer, stressing: “Today, I am speaking to the people of Pakistan directly. From the leaders who read speeches written by terrorists, the world can expect nothing. But I want to speak to the people of Pakistan directly. I want to remind Pakistan that your ancestors used to consider undivided India as their land before 1947 and worshipped it. And in their memory, I want to tell you something. The people of Pakistan please ask your leaders that you have Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) and you cannot manage it. Bangladesh used to be yours and you couldn’t manage it. You cannot manage Gilgit, Baltistan, Pakhtun, Balochistan, Sindh and you are talking about Kashmir.”
...
As is evident from Modi’s address, India is well aware of Pakistan’s internal vulnerabilities and will not hesitate to capitalise on it, if necessary. By speaking of Bangladesh, the PM reminded the Pakistani political establishment of a wound it has not yet recovered from and what India was capable of.
Can we stay to the side as the world's largest democracy faces off against an Islamist terrorist safe haven?
China assured Pakistan of its support in the event of any “foreign aggression” and also backed Islamabad’s stance on the Kashmir dispute. Immediately after China vowed to help Pakistan in case of “aggression”, the US announced that it would upgrade military combat exercises with India. In a statement, the US Department of Defence said that it has awarded Boeing a USD 81 million contract to supply 22 Harpoon missile systems for the Indian Navy’s Shishumar class submarines.

A ‘great game’ is getting set to be played between India, Pakistan, Russia, China and the US, as a “tectonic geo-strategic shift” is taking place in Asia.
Speaking of the "Great Game" if you have not read Hopkirk's The Great Game - order it now.



Once you read it - order the rest of Hopkirk's books on Central Asia. You're a decade and a half late, but that's OK. History there isn't going anywhere. She may only be getting started.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Fullbore Friday

It can take decades, but eventually the truth comes out. If the stars align properly, then the truth will also be well known.

The perfidy of UN military operation is well known. Sadly, there is also a history of needless sacrifice because of bureaucratic cowardice and a55 covering.

Well, this is a good news story. Too late for many who have now passed on - but better late than never.

Today, we look to the incredible story of one light infantry company from the Irish Army.

Yes, Irish Army;
FOR THE SURVIVING members of the UN’s 1961 A Company, last night’s Irish premiere of the film The Siege of Jadotville was not about Hollywood stars, massive budgets, or the backing of one of the movie industry’s most powerful production companies. 
It was about memories, and justice, and a chance for the world to see what happened when a contingent of 155 Irish troops were sent to the Congo on a peacekeeping mission that could have turned into a bloodbath.
...
The Siege of Jadotville, which gets a cinema release this weekend before moving to Netflix on 7 October, is set in 1961, when the United Nations intervened in the Katanga conflict in the African Congo. You have probably never heard of these men, or of the battle they fought – one which, facing improbable odds, they all survived – but a book by Declan Power first helped to tell their story .
It was aptly called The Siege at Jadotville: The Irish Army’s Forgotten Battle.
The men were forgotten, and as the film shows, deliberately so.
...
Quinn’s memories of his time at Jadotville are vivid. He’s told his family about when they ran out of water in the trenches, and were only allowed one spoon of the liquid each – and of the time he sucked the juice out of a tin of pineapple.
The men didn’t have enough food, ammunition or water for the siege, and yet they fought with all their might. At one stage, they were sent jerry cans of water – but they were petrol cans that hadn’t been cleaned out. Quinn – who was a mortar commander – shuddered at the memory.
Two video's that demand your time today.

First, the telling of the true story of the siege;



Second, the trailer.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Europe fractures in to familiar lines

If you want to test a system to find where its weak spots are, you have to stress it. Here in the USA, we like to grumble about 2016, but we have it easy - Europe's 2016 ... well ...

Europe, never change.
Members of the influential Visegrad group, which comprises of Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, rejected migrant quotas and blasted the overbearing EU Commission with an incendiary ultimatum.
That's right; the unloved parts of the old Austro-Hungarian Empire; the Hungarians along with the West Slavic provinces of Bohemia, Moravia, Silesia, Galicia, - in whole or in parts - along with their West Slav brothers the Poles are pushing back on their softer brothers in Western Europe.

Was Brexit a catalyst? No, just part of the stew. The start of this new chapter of EU's problems was clear to all who wanted to see it; the invasion of hundreds of thousands of unemployable, unassimilable, unaccompanied military aged men from Muslim nations and chaotic sub-Saharan Africa.
The group represents a faction of nations which have become increasingly concerned by authoritarian Brussels, with Poland and Hungary both locked in bitter legal battles with the EU.

Their demands come after a separate clique of Mediterranean states, including France, Spain and Italy, formed their own interest group to counter the power wielded by Angela Merkel.
With France economically and culturally supine under Socialist leadership, already strong Germany has become the unchallenged power in Europe. It appears that German leadership has embraced it national self-loathing and decided to spread the misery around - and Europe is pushing back against the Germans just being, well, bossy Germans.

Parts of the old Warsaw Pact are focused mostly on the migrant issue, the Mediterranean nations mostly economic - but no one outside Brussels, Strasbourg and government officials who have a vested interest in good paying EU job prospect, are all that remain enthusiastic about the European project anymore.
"Recent terrorist attacks in Europe are proof that there is a new challenge which the EU must deal with - the growing terrorism and cross-border crime."

"The Visegrad Group countries point out that the efforts should be channelled to fully implement the already undertaken commitments aiming at strengthening security in Schengen area as well as the protection of EU's external borders."

Linked closely to security was the issue of migration, which is a key issue for a group of five countries which have been on the frontline of the escalating asylum chaos.

Their statement demanded: "Migration policy should be based on the principle of 'flexible solidarity'.
...
Finally the group addressed the problems with the single market - including the disastrous Euro project, admitting that the EU's popularity had taken a battering due to years of economic stagnation.

They wrote: "It is necessary to inform more effectively the public opinion about the positive outcomes of the Internal Market meanwhile improving the enforcement of its rules to eradicate intra-EU protectionism."
I don't think those who still believe in the EU dream will enjoy 2017 all that much.

Welcome to the party.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LCS - Annus Horribilis

Well ... I guess is time to look at LCS this week.

This time I'm going to keep it a bit short. "Mr.T'sHaircut" and I were exchanging emails where I stated, frankly, that I was having a hard time keeping track of the fail. I may be missing a detail or two below, so help me correct if needed.

In a quick bulleted list, let's look at the annus horribilis that has been the last year for PEO LCS.

If we had to go to war, exactly what would the LCS we've commissioned over the last eight years be able to contribute?

Well, we've commissioned LCS 1 through LCS 8 - minus LCS 7 that won't be commissioned until 22 OCT 16. That is seven.

Where are they?


  • USS FREEDOM (LCS 1): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JUL 16. San Diego.
  • USS INDEPENDENCE (LCS 2): Available, PMC ASUW. NMC all other PMA.
  • USS FORT WORTH (LCS 3): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from JAN 16. Limping to San Diego.
  • USS CORONADO (LCS 4): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from AUG 16. Pearl Harbor.
  • USS MILWAUKEE (LCS 5): Unavailable due to mechanical failures from DEC 15. Mayport.
  • USS JACKSON (LCS 6): Unavailable due to post-shock test repairs. Mayport.
  • USS DETROIT (LCS 7): Not commissioned until 22 OCT 16.
  • USS MONTGOMERY (LCS 8): Not available due to mechanical failures from SEP 16. Limping to Mayport.
I'm sorry, there is no excuse here. 8-yrs after commissioning of LCS 1, and only one of the ships are available, and that one is the first in class "test ship" that is PMC. Pick any class of warship in the post-WWII era - there has never been this record of failure 8 years in.

There are a lot of smart people in hard jobs trying the make the best of this, but just look at that board.

In a few months, we might have JACKSON and perhaps one or two others available, but just look at it.

What to do? We can keep trying to make the best of it. That is an honorable option, I guess. We could also go DDG-1000 on it and stop the bleeding - but that would take Congress and the ability to swallow a much more bitter pill than doing it a few years ago.

Yes, I know, we need the Fleet numbers, but one has to consider the following; if only 1 of 7 ships can even get underway, much less contribute to the fight - off the PPT, what good are they? All those Sailors on "Sea Duty" can't even get underway.

Could this be, "Peak LCS Sucks!"? For our Navy and its nation, we should all hope so. Sailors belong on ships; ships belong at Sea. Both should have a better than 1 out of 7 chance. This is mid-1990s Russian Navy levels of readiness.

For those who will be involved in the next class of warship; take a cold, sober look at what other generations did here ... and don't do that.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Pacific Pivot; Aspirational

In the summer of 2012—around the time that the Islamic State’s inchoate plans for a caliphate merited a mere footnote in a U.S. congressional report on the year-old Syrian conflict—Robert Satloff argued that a civil war was taking shape in Syria, and that its terrible consequences would extend far beyond Syrians; Americans, too, would soon be acquainted with the horror.

Among the plausible scenarios, he reasoned in the New Republic, were a revived Kurdish insurgency in Turkey and thousands of jihadists “descending on Syria to fight the apostate Alawite regime, transforming this large Eastern Mediterranean country into the global nexus of violent Islamist terrorists.”

“None of this is fantasy,” Satloff, the executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, assured his readers.

Today, they need no convincing. In the three years since Satloff issued his warning, the Syrian Civil War has steadily metastasized as a perceived threat to U.S. national security, nurturing ISIS, bludgeoning Iraq, and radiating refugees in the Middle East and Europe.
...
President Obama may believe America’s future lies in Asia, but the Middle East endures as the capital of American preoccupation. As Paul Stares, the report’s lead author, writes, “Of the eleven contingencies classified as Tier 1 priorities, all but three are related to events unfolding” in the Mideast. Several stem from the Syrian Civil War.
In one of the better articles published in The Atlantic in awhile, Uri Friedman provides enough to get your week started. 

He summarized the results of a survey of over 500 national security professional conducted by the Council on Foreign Relations.

It starts, as most good things do, with a map - actually three maps - that outline High Priority Threats (red), Medium Priority Threats (orange) and Low Priority Threats (yellow) to the USA;


There are a few items to quibble with, but I won't. This is an exceptionally good entering argument and a solid opinion on which priorities should help drive our strategy - or at least focus our mind. If nothing else, I like it a lot more than the outdated, "The Pentagon's New Map" by Thomas P.M. Barnett.

This is an in-depth article that needs to be read in full, but here are a few points that stood out to me.
Among the scenarios in this high-priority tier of conflict are a mass-casualty attack on the U.S. homeland; a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure; a crisis with or in North Korea over, say, nuclear-weapons testing or political tumult in Pyongyang; increased fighting between Kurdish groups and Turkish forces, aggravated by the Syrian Civil War; a deterioration in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; political disarray in Libya and Egypt; and Iraq splintering further as a result of ISIS advances and Sunni-Shiite violence.

Another worry appeared for the first time in the survey: “political instability in EU countries stemming from the influx of refugees and migrants, with heightened civil unrest, isolated terrorist attacks, or violence against refugees and migrants.” And this judgment was made before ISIS’s November attacks in Paris; the survey concluded the day of the rampage.
...
Two contingencies were downgraded from high to medium priorities between this year’s survey and last year’s, even though hostilities in each case are still pronounced: an armed confrontation between China and its neighbors over territorial disputes in the South China Sea, and an escalation in fighting between Russian-backed militias and Ukrainian security forces in eastern Ukraine.

A ceasefire in eastern Ukraine “seems to be holding,” Stares noted, “and Russia has a lot on its plate both internally and in terms of its [military] intervention into Syria. Why would they dial up tensions in Ukraine at this moment?” Similarly, “there’s probably a sense that China has made the island grabs that it wants to do, and it is consolidating its position [in the South China Sea]. And given China’s [sluggish] economic situation … and a certain level of high-level agreement between the U.S. and China with the various meetings between [Presidents] Xi and Obama, people are saying, ‘Look, I don’t think the Chinese are really going to rock the boat here this year.’”
...
The third tier includes three contingencies that haven’t featured in the survey before: political instability in both Saudi Arabia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the growth of Islamist militancy in Russia and particularly the North Caucasus region, spurred in part by Vladimir Putin’s military operations in Syria and the threat of Russian ISIS fighters returning home.
Again, this is good in that it is an opportunity to think, but it comes with a few warnings, cautions, and notes hidden between the lines.

This from CFR. It is harder to get more "conventional wisdom" than CFR - and more often than not in the last couple of decades, the CW has gotten it wrong. It has not seen the next turn very well, especially the big turns. The national security establishment from both left and right have bought us a rolling train wreck of bad ideas from making the Middle East safe for democracy, nation building where no nation exists, to the Arab Spring, to whatever the latest manifestation of the neo-colonial "Responsibility to Protect" delivered by the good idea fairy.

I don't see CW as any great source of predicting the future. It has a more important function, as an intellectual dampener. The CW is a good steading influence on policy makers.

As we discuss here on a regular basis; I don't have the right answer, but neither do you. Only by open, vigorous and honest debate can you get closer to the "truth." You don't really get there, but you can get close. 

That is what the CW is good for. It should, respectfully, get the opening comment - but in order to work others must listen and then counter. If you don't have any better ideas, then there is nothing wrong with saying, "OK, that sounds about right. Let's start there, but be prepared to adjust as required." When CW becomes dogma; that is when you get in to trouble.

I am still ill at east. It all sounds mostly right, but as history teaches us - I just can't help but think; what are they missing?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

21st Century Patton, With J. Furman Daniel III - on Midrats

Put the popular, and mostly accurate, image of the flamboyant General Patton, USA given to us by popular culture to the side for a moment.

Consider the other side of the man; the strategic thinker, student of military history, and innovator for decades. This week's episode will focus on that side of the man.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we will have as our guest J. Furman Daniel, III, the editor of the next book in the 21st Century Foundations series; 21st Century Patton.

Furman is an assistant professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Prescott, Arizona. He holds a BA (with honors) from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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.


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Firing Line with William F. Buckley Jr. "Is Modern Architecture Disastrous?"

Yes, as a teenager I watched Firing Line. You can still bite me - and watch this and you'll see why.

Still true today what Tom Wolfe says about modern architecture.



Hat tip Josh Greenman.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Fullbore Friday

The last year a lot of articles are out about the 5.5 million Finns getting closer to NATO.

A small nation - what could they add? Well, you have to understand the character of the people of Finland. Here's a datapoint.
During the Winter War (1939–1940) between Finland and the Soviet Union, Häyhä served as a sniper for the Finnish Army against the Red Army in the 6th Company of JR 34 during the Battle of Kollaa in temperatures between −40 °C (−40 °F) and −20 °C (−4 °F), dressed completely in white camouflage. Stalin’s purges of military experts caused chaos, and Soviet troops were not issued with white camouflage suits for most of the war, making them easily visible to snipers. Häyhä has been credited with 505 sniper kills.[2][5] A daily account of the kills at Kollaa was made for the Finnish snipers. All of Häyhä's kills were accomplished in fewer than 100 days – an average of just over five kills per day – at a time of year with very few daylight hours.

Häyhä used an M/28-30, with serial number 60974, because it suited his small frame (1.6 m (5 ft 3 in)). The rifle is a shorter, Finnish White Guard militia variant of the Mosin–Nagant rifle, known as "Pystykorva" (literally "Spitz", due to the front sight's resemblance to the head of a spitz-type dog) chambered in the Finnish Mosin–Nagant cartridge 7.62×53R. He preferred iron sights over telescopic sights as to present a smaller target for the enemy (a sniper must raise his head higher when using a telescopic sight), to increase accuracy (a telescopic sight's glass can fog up easily in cold weather), and to aid in concealment (sunlight glare in telescopic sight lenses can reveal a sniper's position). As well as these tactics, he frequently packed dense mounds of snow in front of his position to conceal himself, provide padding for his rifle and reduce the characteristic puff of snow stirred up by the muzzle blast. He was also known to keep snow in his mouth whilst sniping, to prevent steamy breaths giving away his position in the cold air.

The Soviets' efforts to kill Häyhä included counter-snipers and artillery strikes,[citation needed] and on March 6, 1940, Häyhä was hit by an explosive bullet[citation needed] in his lower left jaw by a Red Army soldier, blowing off his lower left cheek. He was picked up by fellow soldiers who said "half his face was missing", but he did not die, regaining consciousness on March 13, the day peace was declared. Shortly after the war, Häyhä was promoted from alikersantti (Corporal) to vänrikki (Second lieutenant) by Field Marshal Mannerheim.

It took several years for Häyhä to recuperate from his wound. The bullet had crushed his jaw and blown off his left cheek. Nonetheless, he made a full recovery and became a successful moose hunter and dog breeder after World War II, and hunted with the Finnish President Urho Kekkonen.

When asked in 1998 how he had become such a good shooter, Häyhä answered, "Practice." When asked if he regretted killing so many people, he said, "I only did my duty, and what I was told to do, as well as I could." Simo Häyhä spent his last years in Ruokolahti, a small municipality located in southeastern Finland, near the Russian border. Simo Häyhä died in a war veterans' nursing home in Hamina in 2002 at the age of 96, and was buried in Ruokolahti.
Hat tip Claude.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Worm Turns on the IG ... at least for a bit

Who investigates the investigators?

Looks like a few people now that a SEAL Flag Officer is having his Kafka moment.

I'm reviewing over at USNIBlog. Come by and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The most important defense news you're not watching

Forget buying new ships and aircraft, the most critical part of modernizing our military is to update the framework it is built around, the Goldwater–Nichols act of 1986.

A product of a different age with a few significant flaws, we are well beyond the need to update it. Slowly, there is progress - at least in keeping the topic alive.

Via John Gould's interview with Michael Herson at DefenseNews;
Q. Spending aside, there are some fairly aggressive provisions in the policy bill, overhauling Goldwater-Nichols, aimed at acquisitions reform. What’s the industry view of provisions that promote outside-the-Capital-Beltway firms versus traditional firms?

A. With the first Goldwater-Nichols, the services were very resistant to Congress coming in and making any changes. But that was a time when Sens. Sam Nunn and Barry Goldwater and others spent years studying the problem and survived changes of control of Congress and they came up with a bipartisan solution, studying the problem so they knew what kind of solutions to offer. And it worked and it saved lives.

Q. But that is not the process this time around. Could you argue the most aggressive reforms are a Hail Mary from Sen. John McCain as the sun potentially sets on his tenure in Congress, if not as the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee? What does industry think?

A. I wouldn’t say that’s necessarily John McCain. It has been Congress’ approach ever since Goldwater-Nichols that everything has got to be quick. We see a problem, we put a commission together. The commission looks at it for six months at best. If we can put a commission together and they got legislation passed, problem solved and we walk away. And the problem’s not solved. What McCain’s done is float a lot of ideas. I don’t think John McCain’s going anywhere. I think John McCain is going to win reelection. Regardless of whether we have the majority in the Senate or not, he is going to be a very powerful influential force on the Senate Armed Services Committee going forward. Thornberry is taking a very measured and thoughtful approach to acquisition reform. He’s got six years as chairman so every year he is going to be doing something else. It’s smart because change in Washington tends to be slow and incremental. But at the same time while he is chairman, he can see what the effects are of what they’ve done in the early years and they can have time to modify it and change it and fix it if necessary prior to the end of his chairmanship.
Of the many reasons to support Captain McCain ... errr... Senator McCain's re-election is this; no one else that I see could help push reform of Goldwater-Nichols on the Senate side.

There are some, like Justin Johnson over at WOTR who are much more cautious;
It’s time to pump the brakes on Goldwater-Nichols reform. Both House and Senate versions of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) have sections aimed at improving the effectiveness of the Defense Department. And, yes, the intent is laudable. But neither Congress nor the Pentagon has a clear sense of what problem the proposed reforms would solve. Without a clear understanding of the problem, major reforms can end up doing more harm than good.
...
The current debate about the Goldwater–Nichols reform has invoked a wide range of topics —from the Pentagon’s strategy development process to the department’s organizational structure to the roles and responsibilities of the National Security Council. But, it has yet to clearly define distinct problems.

Certainly, the debate has not produced clear examples of systemic failure. Though there has been no shortage of American defense and foreign policy failures over the last decade, it is by no means clear that they have arisen due to organizational or systemic dysfunction. National security failures in the last decade and a half have largely been the result of bad decisions and bad leadership — individual problems unlikely to be fixed by systemic change or overhaul. Bad decision-makers produce bad results, no matter how good the system may be.

While Congress can adjust many of the national security systems and organizations, with the Senate playing a crucial role in ensuring that qualified people are placed in important positions, Congress cannot guarantee better national security outcomes simply by mandating processes or organizational designs.
...
Congressional Action on Goldwater–Nichols

Unfortunately, lack of a clear problem statement isn’t slowing down Congress. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R–Texas) suggests that, since threats “have become more trans-regional, multi-domain, and multi-functional, …[it] compels Congress to build” Goldwater-Nichols reforms into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Sen. John McCain (R–Ariz.) says his reforms are aimed at what he perceives as a lack of “strategic integration.”

While their analysis of global threats may be correct, the lack of specific examples of U.S. national security failures makes it hard to determine whether the lack of “strategic integration” is an organizational problem or the result of bad decisions by senior leaders.

Monday, September 12, 2016

VADM Rowden Calls an End to the LCS Charades

The news on LCS just won't stop, and based on the comment count from last week's LCS posts - the Front Porch is still digesting it all.

A bombshell was dropped - wait, we're talking Surface stuff, so ... a broadside was fired on Friday as the previous day's letter from VADM Rowden, Commander Naval Surface Forces made the rounds.

The letter rakes the stern of the LCS establishment, and any lingering advocates need to strike their flag. While it is temping to gloat along with the rest of those who predicted much of this for over a decade - let's not do that (OK, maybe a little).

Rowden is doing is exactly what we need done and appears to be heading in the best direction; a smart person with a hard job trying to find a way to make the best of what the mistakes of others has foisted on to his Fleet. It is all I've asked for since throwing the towel in on LCS in 2010, and at last I think this is being done.

Then entire letter is below, but I want to comment on each paragraph, combining when needed - a friendly Fisking if you will.

OK, let's go.
A joint memo from the Chief of Naval Operations and Assistance Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition directed the establishment of a Littoral Combat Ship Review Team on Feb. 29, 2016. Our task was to review crewing, operations, training and maintenance of the ship class.

Our core focus was to maximize forward operational availability, while looking for ways to increase simplicity, stability and ownership. It became clear the LCS crewing construct is the variable that most impacts the other factors such as manning, training, maintenance, and – most importantly – operations forward. As such, one of the main changes to the program will be establishing a “Blue/Gold Plus” crewing concept. This change maximizes forward presence and improves stability, simplicity, and crew ownership. With this change, the crew will now focus on a single mission (Anti-Submarine, Anti-Surface, Mine Countermeasures) for the entirety of their tour.
"Simplicity" - the bane of transformationalists; excellent. Vince Lombardi leadership; superb."Stability and ownership." Lessons of centuries of manning ships and a slap across the face of the green-eye shade Navy; smart. Blue/Gold is a compromise and easy if fix if a failure. The big part of this paragraph - single mission. The fever dream of mission module swapping is dead. We told you that wouldn't work over a decade ago, but we welcome the party. Better now than later.
With Blue/Gold Plus crewing we will create three Divisions of four ships operating on each coast. The divisions will have a single mission (ASW, ASUW, MCM) and be commanded by a major commander identical in stature to officers commanding guided missile cruisers, amphibious transportation docks ships, destroyer squadrons, or amphibious assault ships. The 12 Freedom- variant ships will be homeported in Mayport, Florida. The 12 Independence-variant ships will be homeported in San Diego, California. One ship in each division will be designated as the “training ship,” manned by a single crew comprised of seasoned, experienced LCS Sailors. These training ships will be charged with knowing their mission, training to their mission and training/certifying the remaining six crews in their Division. The remaining ships of the squadron will be the ships that deploy and will be crewed with a “Blue-Gold” construct (similar to the crewing concept of our SSBN’s).
Single mission, focused Divisions run by a CAPT. Each Division will have one LCS in port to make sure all crews are kept trained and ready while their ship is deployed with the other crew. This absolutely works for me. A lot of non-deployable overhead, but you have to work with what you have. I shall not quibble.
The deploying crews will consist of 70 Sailors plus the Sailors manning the aviation detachment. These 70 Sailors are a combination of what was previously known as the “core” crew and the “mission module” crew – ONE CREW focused on ONE MISSION.
In case you missed it, he repeats it. Nod of the head to Rowden.
The Division Commander and staff will oversee all aspects of manning, training and equipping their assigned ships and crews, building expertise, ownership and stability within the crews.

To simplify and stabilize the ongoing testing and evaluation program, the first four ships in the in class will be shifted to dedicated, single-crewed testing ships whose main mission will be test and evaluation of the modular systems being installed on our LCS. Like the training crews, these ships will be manned with seasoned, experienced LCS Sailors. These ships will be available on an as needed basis for training and deployment; however, their main focus will be on system testing.
Back to what works for the Division, and notice Rowden repeats again - "simplify" "stabilize" - this is simply outstanding. Big takeaway here; LCS 1, 2, 3, and 4 are going to be training and evaluation units. This is a subtle admission that we still do not have any idea how to best use these ships with the weapons and systems they may or may not have. There is also a typo in the original, so I am not sure if it is the first four LCS, or first four of each class. If it is 1-8 as opposed to 1-4 ... then, yikes. Things are even worse in 2016 than I thought. Yes, worse than what I thought.
For all of our new ships, a single pre-commissioning crew will remain with the ship through the completion of post-shakedown availability and preparations for the first deployment.

To foster increased ownership by our sailors, we will establish Maintenance Execution Teams within the Division structure. These teams comprised of LCS Sailors will augment the ship crews within the Division in the execution of both preventative and corrective maintenance.
A kick to the groin for another sin of the concept - civilian contractor support. These are Sailors helping - and looks like good shore duty opportunities. Again, this is good stuff.
Finally, as we grow the number of forward operating stations to support our operations forward we will establish Forward Liaison Elements to ensure the support for our LCS where they are operating.

As we implement these changes, we will continue to make iterative adjustments and improvements based on evolving fleet requirements and technological developments. Implementing the approved recommendations from this review and continuing to examine other areas for improvement will better position the LCS program for success – both now and in the future.
This admits that we simply do not know what the future may require, so we'll adjust as needed going forward.

I don't know about you, but this works for me. Given the realities of what can realistically be done at the end of 4QFY16, I can only applaud VADM Rowden and his team on this first iteration of doing what can be done with this star-crossed program. May they squeeze every bit of utility out of it.

Statement from Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces
Results from the Chief of Naval Operations Directed 60-Day Review of the
Littoral Combat Ship Program
Sept. 08, 2016

A joint memo from the Chief of Naval Operations and Assistance Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition directed the establishment of a Littoral Combat Ship Review Team on Feb. 29, 2016. Our task was to review crewing, operations, training and maintenance of the ship class.

Our core focus was to maximize forward operational availability, while looking for ways to increase simplicity, stability and ownership. It became clear the LCS crewing construct is the variable that most impacts the other factors such as manning, training, maintenance, and – most importantly – operations forward. As such, one of the main changes to the program will be establishing a “Blue/Gold Plus” crewing concept. This change maximizes forward presence and improves stability, simplicity, and crew ownership. With this change, the crew will now focus on a single mission (Anti-Submarine, Anti-Surface, Mine Countermeasures) for the entirety of their tour.

With Blue/Gold Plus crewing we will create three Divisions of four ships operating on each coast. The divisions will have a single mission (ASW, ASUW, MCM) and be commanded by a major commander identical in stature to officers commanding guided missile cruisers, amphibious transportation docks ships, destroyer squadrons, or amphibious assault ships. The 12 Freedom- variant ships will be homeported in Mayport, Florida. The 12 Independence-variant ships will be homeported in San Diego, California. One ship in each division will be designated as the “training ship,” manned by a single crew comprised of seasoned, experienced LCS Sailors. These training ships will be charged with knowing their mission, training to their mission and training/certifying the remaining six crews in their Division. The remaining ships of the squadron will be the ships that deploy and will be crewed with a “Blue-Gold” construct (similar to the crewing concept of our SSBN’s).

The deploying crews will consist of 70 Sailors plus the Sailors manning the aviation detachment. These 70 Sailors are a combination of what was previously known as the “core” crew and the “mission module” crew – ONE CREW focused on ONE MISSION.

The Division Commander and staff will oversee all aspects of manning, training and equipping their assigned ships and crews, building expertise, ownership and stability within the crews.

To simplify and stabilize the ongoing testing and evaluation program, the first four ships in the in class will be shifted to dedicated, single-crewed testing ships whose main mission will be test and evaluation of the modular systems being installed on our LCS. Like the training crews, these ships will be manned with seasoned, experienced LCS Sailors. These ships will be available on an as needed basis for training and deployment; however, their main focus will be on system testing.

For all of our new ships, a single pre-commissioning crew will remain with the ship through the completion of post-shakedown availability and preparations for the first deployment.

To foster increased ownership by our sailors, we will establish Maintenance Execution Teams within the Division structure. These teams comprised of LCS Sailors will augment the ship crews within the Division in the execution of both preventative and corrective maintenance.

Finally, as we grow the number of forward operating stations to support our operations forward we will establish Forward Liaison Elements to ensure the support for our LCS where they are operating.

As we implement these changes, we will continue to make iterative adjustments and improvements based on evolving fleet requirements and technological developments. Implementing the approved recommendations from this review and continuing to examine other areas for improvement will better position the LCS program for success – both now and in the future.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

A bright, clear morning

What did I do this AM? Same thing I did yesterday morning and last evening; I sat alone in the middle of my woods with a crossbow waiting for deer that rarely come.

It is always a good time to think, ponder, and generally clear the mind. The kids are scattered with their own things, the wife had stuff to take care of at the home base, so it is just me and the dogs in my country retreat away from it all.

I usually post a video on 911 of the news as it happened - I've told the story many times before about being ONSTA in Bahrain when it all went down, so this year I may give it a pass.

What crossed my mind this AM as I watched the woods wake up was something I mentioned to my buddy Herb over on Twitter; my children - one who is an adult now - have known nothing but the Global War on Terror, or whatever we are calling it this week. I prefer The Long War, but history will figure it out.

As such, the meaning of Orwell's;
"We've always been at war with Eastasia"
...just doesn't have the same meaning to them. For them, "We've always been at war with Islamic terrorists." is reality.

How does this impact their world view? Hard to tell. My entire life up to their age was bounded by the Cold War - but that is a very different game than what we are playing now, a decade and a half after the attack of 911.

What have we accomplished? Both parties have had the Executive Branch for about the same amount of time during this war, and from an objective point of view - I don't think we are winning all that much. The threat of Islamic Terrorism is as great if not greater than it was on 911, they continue to grow.

Due to mindless feelgoodism related to immigration, The West expanded the pond of non-assimilation for the terrorists to swim in, and as a result they have been and will continue to attack us in our homes, businesses, and social gatherings - not to mention the various skirmishes inside Dar al-Islam as it works against modern Islam and what they consider heretics, and on the bleeding edge of where it meets Dar al-Harb.

At home, we've become accustomed to what would have been thought previously as un-Constitutional and un-American intrusions in to our personal freedoms, all for "security." Was it worth the trade? Do you feel safer?

That is what a few hours 15' up a tree with nothing but Cardinals, rabbits, crows, various songbirds and the slow hiss of a Thermocell will bring to mind.

At the decade and a half remembrance of the attack, what is clear to me is that there is much more work that needs to be done. In The West and in our nation specifically, we need to rededicate ourselves to this Long War. We have an enemy more dedicated than we are. Their motivating philosophy is stronger than ours. Their demographics are stronger than ours. We have made progress in some areas, but so have they.

Much more work needs to be done.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Fullbore Friday

When you read modern fiction that takes place in some quasi-Medieval world - things such as Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones - you sometimes wonder how the authors had the imagination for some of the battle scenes. Then as you read real history, now and then it hits you - these authors did not have to make up much of anything. They just paraphrased what actually happened in our world.

When reading about the discovery of the tomb of Suleiman the Magnificent's in Hungary I came across the account of the account of Siege of Szigetvár in 1566, and a Croatian Count in service to the Kingdom of Hungary, Nikola Šubić Zrinski.

There is the Count, in his isolated fortress city with ~2,300 of his men facing an army almost 150,000 led by a man almost a legend.

What do you do?
Szigetvár was divided into three sections divided by water: the old town, the new town and the castle—each of which was linked to the next by bridges and to the land by causeways. Although it was not built on particularly high ground the inner castle, which occupied much of the area of today's castle, was not directly accessible to the attackers. This was because two other baileys had to be taken and secured before a final assault on the inner castle could be launched.

When the Sultan appeared before the Fortress he saw the walls hung with red cloth, as though for a festive reception, and a single great cannon thundered once to greet the mighty warrior monarch. The siege began on 6 August when Suleiman ordered a general assault on the ramparts, although the attack was successfully repulsed. Despite being undermanned, and greatly outnumbered, the defenders were sent no reinforcements from Vienna by the imperial army.

After over a month of exhausting and bloody struggle the few remaining defenders retreated into the old town for their last stand. The Sultan tried to entice Zrinski to surrender, ultimately offering him leadership of Croatia under Ottoman influence, Count Zrinski did not reply and continued to fight.

The fall of the castle appeared inevitable but the Ottoman high command hesitated. On 6 September Suleiman died in his tent and his death was kept secret at great effort with only the Sultan's innermost circle knowing of his demise. This was because the Ottomans feared that their soldiers would give up the battle if they knew that their leader died, so his death was kept secret for 48 days. A courier was dispatched from the camp with a message for Suleiman's successor, Selim. The courier may not even have known the content of the message he delivered to distant Asia Minor within a mere eight days.

Final battle
The final battle began on 7 September, the day after Suleiman's demise. By this time, the fortress walls had been reduced to rubble by mining with explosives and wood fueled fires at the corners of the walls. In the morning an all-out attack began with fusillades from small arms, "Greek fire", and a concentrated cannonade.[Note 7] Soon the castle, the last stronghold within Szigetvár, was set ablaze and cinders fell into the apartments of the count.

The Ottoman army swarmed through the city, drumming and yelling. Zrinski prepared for a last charge addressing his troops:
...Let us go out from this burning place into the open and stand up to our enemies. Who dies – he will be with God. Who dies not – his name will be honoured. I will go first, and what I do, you do. And God is my witness – I will never leave you, my brothers and knights!...
Zrinski did not allow the final assault to break into the castle. As the Turks were pressing forwards along a narrow bridge the defenders suddenly flung open the gate and fired a large mortar loaded with broken iron, killing 600 attackers. Zrinski then ordered a charge and led his remaining 600 troops out of the castle. He received two musket wounds in his chest and was killed shortly afterwards by an arrow to the head. Some of his force retired into the castle.

The Turks took the castle and most of the defenders were slain. A few of the captured defenders were spared by Janissaries who had admired their courage, with only seven defenders managing to escape through the Ottoman lines. Zrinski's corpse was beheaded and his head taken to the new Sultan while his body received an honourable burial by a Turk who had been his prisoner, and well treated by him.

Powder magazine explosion
Before leading the final sortie by the castle garrison, Zrinski ordered a fuse be lit to the powder magazine. After cutting down the last of the defenders the besiegers poured into the fortress. The Ottoman Army entered the remains of Szigetvár and fell into the booby trap; thousands perished in the blast when the castle's magazine exploded.

The Vizier Ibrahim's life was saved by one of Zrinski's household who warned him of the trap when the Vizier and his troops searched for treasure and interrogated the survivors. While inquiring about treasure the prisoner replied that it had been long expended, but that 3,000 lbs of powder were under their feet to which a slow match had been attached. The Vizier and his mounted officers had just enough time to escape but 3,000 Turks perished in the explosion.
Because of this heroic stand by the Croatians and Hungarians, the Ottomans did not continue their march on Vienna. That gave the West another century to get ready, and to win (with a lot of help from the Poles). People wonder why modern Hungarians build walls to keep out hundreds of thousands of military aged muslim men? National hobby.

They knew their mission. They stopped the Ottomans. Fullbore.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

LCS 4 - a Visual Testimony

She was commissioned 2.5 yrs ago.


PEARL HARBOR (Sep. 4, 2016) Littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) returns to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam after experiencing an engineering casualty while transiting to the Western Pacific. Coronado departed Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Aug. 26 to continue its independent deployment to the Western Pacific. Prior to departing Pearl Harbor the ship participated in the Rim of the Pacific 2016 exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Katarzyna Kobiljak/Released)

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Boat?

Well, I am - in a fashion.

The little bastards too.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. Come by and give it a read and tell me what you think.

How Great Organizations With Smart People Can Destroy Themselves

Via a tip from my buddy and fellow Paleoblogger Chap, we have a simply sublime outline about how Target blew itself up in Canada.

In light of the last week's reminder of some of our Navy's self inflicted wounds, I ask you to give Joe Castaldo's article in canadianbusiness.com a full read; THE LAST DAYS OF TARGET: The untold tale of Target Canada’s difficult birth, tough life and brutal death.

In Salamander's world, this article would be fully briefed at the OPNAV and NAVSEA LCS Stand Down (if they had one) at the same time we are having our LCS Maintenance Stand Down.

Let me know if you recognize anything;
The company was having trouble moving products from its cavernous distribution centres and onto store shelves, which would leave Target outlets poorly stocked. The checkout system was glitchy and didn’t process transactions properly. Worse, the technology governing inventory and sales was new to the organization; no one seemed to fully understand how it all worked. The 750 employees at the Mississauga head office had worked furiously for a year to get up and running, and nerves were beginning to fray. Three test stores were slated to open at the beginning of March, followed shortly by another 21. A decision had to be made.

Fisher, 38 years old at the time, was regarded as a wunderkind who had quickly risen through the ranks at Target’s American command post in Minneapolis, from a lowly business analyst to leader of a team of 400 people across multiple divisions. Launching the Target brand in a new country was his biggest task to date. The news he received from his group that February afternoon should have been worrying, but if he was unnerved, Fisher didn’t let on. He listened patiently as two people in the room strongly expressed reticence about opening stores on the existing timetable. Their concern was that with severe supply chain problems and stores facing the prospect of patchy or empty shelves, Target would blow its first date with Canadian consumers. Still, neither one outright advocated that the company push back its plans. “Nobody wanted to be the one to say, ‘This is a disaster,’” says a former employee. But by highlighting the risks of opening now, the senior employees’ hope was that Fisher would tell his boss back in Minneapolis, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel, that they needed more time.

The magnitude of what was at stake began weighing on some of those senior officials. “I remember wanting to vomit,” recalls one participant. Nobody disagreed with the negative assessment—everyone was well aware of Target’s operational problems—but there was still a strong sense of optimism among the leaders, many of whom were U.S. expats. The mentality, according to one former employee, was, “If there’s any team in retail that can turn this thing around, it’s us.” The group was riding a wave of momentum, in fact. They had overcome seemingly endless hurdles and worked gruelling hours to get to this point, and they knew there were costs to delaying. The former employee says the meeting ultimately concerned much more than when to open the first few stores; it was about the entirety of Target’s Canadian launch. Postponement would mean pushing back even more store openings. Everyone else in attendance expressed confidence in sticking to the schedule, and by the time the meeting concluded, it was clear the doors would open as promised. “That was the biggest mistake we could have made,” says the former employee.
...what emerged is a story of a company trapped by an overly ambitious launch schedule, an inexperienced leadership team expected to deal with the biggest crisis in the firm’s history, and a sophisticated retail giant felled by the most mundane, basic and embarrassing of errors.
...
Target ... had simply become accustomed to succeeding. “The company had never really failed before,” ...
...
“The company was pouring in resources left, right and sideways, so it was palpably exciting in Minneapolis,” says a former employee. But there was also immense pressure. “From the very beginning, there was a clock that was ticking,” says the former employee. “And that clock was absurd.” The company did everything it could to remove barriers that might slow progress and to ensure decisions could be made quickly. Timelines were hugely compressed. Building a new distribution centre from scratch, for example, might take a few years. Target was going to do it in less than two years—and it planned to construct three of them.
...
Loblaws started moving to SAP in 2007 and projected three to five years to get it done. The implementation took two years longer than expected because of unreliable data in the system. Target was again seeking to do the impossible: It was going to set up and run SAP in roughly two years.
...
The Mississauga head office, meanwhile, didn’t have a clear picture of how bad the situation was inside stores. The merchandising department’s software often indicated items were in stock, but then the team would field confused and angry phone calls from employees responsible for store operations, demanding to know why they didn’t have products. “We almost didn’t see what the customer was seeing,” says a former employee. “We’d look on paper and think we’re OK. Then we’d go to the store, and it’s like, ‘Oh my god.’”
...
Meanwhile, after a few rounds of store openings, the status update meetings Fisher held at headquarters had turned darkly comic. After the regular rundown of crippling operational problems, the president still ended each gathering with a pep talk of sorts, reiterating how proud he was of the team and all they had accomplished. Despite his stubborn optimism, those meetings had grown more tense too. Everyone knew the launch was a disaster and the company had to stop opening stores so it could fix its operational problems, but no one actually said so. “Nobody wanted to be the one person who stopped the Canadian venture,” says a former employee. “It wound up just being a constant elephant in the room.” There was also a sense of powerlessness. The Canadian expansion was ultimately driven by Minneapolis, and because of the real estate deal hatched by CEO Gregg Steinhafel, the company was committed to opening these stores. Speaking up wouldn’t have changed much. “That’s why, in the end, nobody fell on a sword. Because of the leases, it had to move forward.”
...
“We had so much faith we could solve any problem. If we just work a little harder, we’ll get to the resolution,” says a former employee. “But then the thing in front of you explodes.”
...
Business analysts (who were young and fresh out of school, remember) were judged based on the percentage of their products that were in stock at any given time, and a low percentage would result in a phone call from a vice-president demanding an explanation. But by flipping the auto-replenishment switch off, the system wouldn’t report an item as out of stock, so the analyst’s numbers would look good on paper. “They figured out how to game the system,” says a former employee. “They didn’t want to get in trouble and they didn’t really understand the implications.”
Leadership. It all boils down to leadership, perverse incentives, and the desire for hope to win out over experience.

Here is the cold difference. When companies make disabling mistakes, they go out of business and people have to look for work. When a military makes disabling mistakes, they are defeated on the battlefield, at sea, and their nation is put at strategic risk of defeat and collapse, bending the knee to the smarter, stronger power.