Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Large Surface Combatant Act 1: What Happened to CG(X)

With the news out that we are restarting the process (again) to replace our effective but aged TICONDEROGA Class CG, it would be helpful to look back at the first attempt to deliver a concept, last decade's aborted CG(X) study.

A friend known to me IRL was involved in that process first hand, and he agreed to put together a guest post, anonymously, on what he saw as the most important things for the new team to consider.

Over to him.

It was encouraging to read that the Navy is pressing forward with a “large surface combatant requirements evaluation team” to address replacement of the Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruisers. Early in the last decade, I was involved in the $20 million CG(X) Study that burped out a $7 billion nuclear cruiser and was, understandably, discarded. We did things the usual way and we got the usual results—an unaffordable platform. In this case, unlike other notable shipbuilding programs, somebody had the courage to reject it out of hand.

Our CG(X) study was a multi-year effort which involved every organ of the defense industry: OPNAV, NAVSEA, Naval Reactor Navy Labs, FFRDC’s (Federally Funded Research and Development Centers), AEGIS-BMD and, importantly, industry.

The study was led by an intrepid young officer, who worked for a rotating pool of Captains, and a rotating pool of Admirals, all of whom were in DC to make their mark and go onto the next career milestone. It was from this blur of leadership that the requirements for the new cruiser emerged. At that time, it concerned the Chinese DF-21D missile.

Requirements for power also emerged. Even then we could see that the new direction was directed energy or other high energy systems (e.g., railgun). Sustainability (the ability to operate independently for sustained periods) was recognized as a priority.

During the processes of analyzing alternatives, we looked at several hull forms. One suggestion was the LPD-17 LPD. It was the “knee in the curve” cost- and capability-wise. But it wasn’t fast. And it wasn’t CRUDES. And it couldn’t operate without support.

Superimposed upon all this was a lingering imperative from then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld that if a platform didn’t have “transformational” technology (new stuff) it was subject to divestment. So, the result of the CG(X) study—now incomprehensible--is completely understandable if you understand the politics and the less austere budget at the time.

If I were to offer those undertaking this new study some advice, it would be this:

1. Requirements Evaluation Team. Require they produce a written letter (not a PowerPoint brief) at the end of their study and have each of them sign it. All the members. That way, years from now, we will know who to thank or blame. This is part of the problem.

2. Billet permanence in requirements generation. Imbed senior Program office people into OPNAV N96 (Surface Warfare). Let the people who actually have to execute this stuff at least be in the room when these requirements are generated. Make the tour lengths five years.

3. Surface warfare really needs to rethink its love affair with BMD. Once seen as a cash cow for building Aegis ships, what has actually happened is the Navy is paying for much of this mission out of hide. Specifically out of surface warfare readiness. BMD ships are tethered to a spot in the ocean to provide missile protection, are often denied opportunity for in port maintenance. The ships I saw in worse shape were those doing BMD.

4. Resurrect the “one technology innovation per platform” rule that guided us from post-WWII through the cold war.

We used to limit the introduction of new technologies to one per platform, so as not to risk the efficacy of a platform because of the failure of a single new system.

My sense in reading RADM Route’s comments is that this is the direction they are heading in (using an existing platform). But I wanted to say it just in case.

Photo credit sabotage181.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mali and Africa's Past, Now, and Next

The forever war has many fronts - the one in Mali, once OPERATION SERVAL now BARKHANE has France in the lead.

Mali has a historic ties to France, its former colonial ruler. Mali experienced the usual socialist led dysfunction following independence in the later-middle part of the 20th Century, but in the last decade or so has tried, in fits and starts, to become a modern, more-free nation. Sadly, they are right on the bleeding edge of Dar al Islam and all that comes with that. Combined with nightmarish demographics unimaginable to the Western mind - this will not be an easy fix even if they were not facing an aggressive internal threat.

Stability is the key, but due to the above and more factors, instability will be the expected norm for Mali for awhile. All France and her allies can do is to try to mitigate the negative effects, and nurture the positive developments in the country. The more they succeed there, not just in the Long War, the better for everyone from Cape Town in the south, to Bear Island in the north.

As old as human history, as it is now;
His door and iron-sheet roof were missing; his granary was a mound of rubble on the floor. In his hands, the 59-year-old held out a pile of charred groundnuts he had cultivated, before crumbling them into dust.

“It is painful to look at,” he said.

Besides one stoic village chief who sat sharpening his knife on a rock under the baking sun, there is nobody left in Kara. Everybody else fled the ethnic Dogon village one morning in May when armed men from the neighbouring village – populated by Fulani herdsman – climbed over a sand dune shooting wildly in the air.

Everything of value was stolen; the rest was burnt.

Kara is just one among dozens of villages looted and torched in the past few months as a conflict between armed members of Mali’s Dogon and Fulani communities ripples through the heart of the country, claiming hundreds of lives and displacing thousands of people.

Analysts say the conflict has been triggered by the increasing presence of jihadists linked to al-Qaeda in central Mali. They have recruited heavily among Fulani herders, fuelling distrust with other ethnic groups, including the Dogon, some of whom have organised into abusive new self-defence militias.

“Both sides are killing each other,” said Fatou Thiam, head of the Mopti office of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.

The conflict underscores Mali’s struggle to restore order three years after a peace deal was signed between the government and armed groups in the north, including separatist Tuareg rebels, who seized large parts of the country following a 2012 military coup in the capital, Bamako.

Islamist militants, who joined forces with the separatists before a French-led intervention pushed them back, have gradually expanded their sphere of influence from the desert north into Mali’s previously peaceful centre.

This year 5.2 million Malians are in need of humanitarian assistance, compared to 3.8 million in 2017. The number of internally displaced people has also doubled since January to 75,000, according to the UN’s emergency aid coordination office, OCHA, the majority in the central Mali.
I know, I know. I am the one who pushes back against getting involved in foreign adventures, but this is not quite like a full-on invasion of a nation with sketchy impact on USA or allied national security.

This is helping our oldest ally who is helping another nation fight our common enemy - radical Islam. Mali itself is a Muslim country, 90% Muslim - but Islam is not the enemy. Radical Islam is.

Africa will never join the rest of the world in a future of promise if its northern half is under the black flag of radical Islam.

Worse, the conflict and death that a Western defeat in Mali would bring would further drive the exodus of millions to Europe - further destabilizing European nations' hard-won democratic systems and social norms.

This is something we should help our French allies with. Not lead; not dominate - this is their backyard. There are things we can do to help.

One example; you know what the US Navy could do to help the French? They have a riverine challenge;
French desert troops recently took to boats to patrol the Niger River in Mali, the first time that the crafts have been used in the Barkhane counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel, the French armed forces said.

Anticipating the rainy season and river flooding, soldiers attached to the French army’s Desert Battle Group – Infantry (GTDI) deployed the boats which enable them to get to areas difficult to reach by land.
Just look at what they are trying to patrol the Niger with.


Remember my post from FEB 2005? France looks to be in a place we were at then.

We have units that would be perfect for this. Additionally, we should call our friends in Colombia who have exceptionally good kit and the best operational riverine experience in the West. Have them join us in an ongoing rotational deployment. This would be a good way to contribute to the good work France is doing in support of the Mali government.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Fullbore Friday

A return to a topic we've covered before on FbF, but I think we should be thinking about the Battle of Tsushima more, and not less - so we're bringing it back.

A couple of great videos to review while you keep a couple of things in mind; an established power with maintenance issues and long lines of communication to get to the fight; a rising power with well run and maintained ships fighting in their backyard.



If you want to see more of the MIKASA (and you know you do);



If you'd rather just see warships belching coal and belting out broadsides ...



Never underestimate your enemy. Never underestimate the Japanese. Always, fullbore.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Depot Dearth

Why do we seem to have such a problem keeping an eye on the unsexy but important? Isn't one of the cornerstones of a mature professional to know the importance of keeping a long view on the hard work needed in the background to keep the marquee shiny-sexy objects functioning?

Especially when money gets tight or the pressures of the now ratchet up, there is a temptation for the short-sighted to sacrifice long-term viability for today's green bubble on the PPT. We saw this in spades during the "Peace Dividend" era of the 1990s and again in a slower way once the Long War kicked off.

There is a lot of ruin in a navy, and deep decay can take root for a long time until it finally undermines the structural strength of its host. So it is, it seems, with depot level maintenance.

On the Surface side of the house, one of the big takeaways on the latent causes of the WESTPAC incidents of 2017 was that our ships were not getting the depot level support they needed. As a result, ship's company was doing depot level work - in addition to the work they already had to do. As humans only have 24-hrs a day, you can figure out the rest.

As we are reading more and more, we have a long-standing readiness problem on the aviation side of the house as well. Is it part of the same myopia?

The GAO is on the hunt. See if you can spot a pattern.


How bad is it?
This report is a public version of a sensitive report that we issued on April 25, 2018.7 The sensitive report included an objective related to the trends in aircraft availability. DOD deemed some of the information, such as aircraft availability, not mission capable status, number of aircraft in depots, and budgeted and executed flight hours, to be sensitive (i.e., For Official Use Only), which must be protected from public disclosure. This public report omits the information that DOD deemed to be sensitive. Although the information provided in this report is more limited, it addresses the same objectives and uses the same methodology as the sensitive report.

Why is depot level maintenance so important?
Depot-level maintenance occurs less frequently but requires greater skills. Specifically, depot maintenance is an action performed on materiel or software in the conduct of inspection, repair, overhaul, or modification or rebuild of end items, assemblies, subassemblies, and parts that, among other things, requires extensive industrial facilities, specialized tools and equipment, or uniquely experienced and trained personnel that are not available in other maintenance activities. Depot maintenance is independent of any location or funding source and may be performed in the public or private sectors.
Legacy systems are needed now and in the near future for when a war does or does not show up. Why are these problems so bad, and can more resources to depot level maintenance help?

Sadly, it appears no one knows.
Without clarity about whether the DOD instruction and the Navy guidance apply to legacy systems, program officials will not know whether they are required to have a sustainment strategy or are required to update the plan for their respective fixed-wing aircraft. Furthermore, the program offices, the services, and DOD may not have full visibility of necessary requirements to document program objectives, related risks, and the effectiveness of the program, ultimately jeopardizing the sustainability and affordability of each of the programs.
In absence of metrics, this is when you have to rely on experience and factual judgement.

While the bean counters work to get the right number, can a reasonable person assume that more support for depots now would result in better availability?

Yes.

So, let's do that and then adjust later if needed. History is losing patience with us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Aviation degradation does not happen by accident

We need to be more open and transparent about our bad decision making processes, otherwise we will just do it again.

Come on over to USNIBlog to see the details.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hospital Ships: Open Your Intellectual Aperture

One of the more frustrating parts of blogging occasionally on hospital ships is having the usual suspects chime in somewhere in the middle of the comments section telling us how "These are of little use in how we practice modern medicine. They take ..."

Bla, bla, bla, bla.

They are both correct and 100% wrong at the same time.

One of the many assumptions we make out there has to do with our ready access to cargo aircraft and efficient, open, and safe airways to use them. We also think in narrow little lines.

In war, there is more unknown than known. You can mitigate risk - and in a small way, hospital ships do that. That is only a secondary mission.

They have a primary mission (in Salamanderland at least) and others seem to see it more than we do;
As a statement of soft power, a floating hospital packs a punch with a helping hand to poorer nations in need.

So much so that in the Pacific region major powers are increasingly flexing their humanitarian muscles by sending hospital ships and similar aid missions to the region.

China's 10,000-ton medical ship, the Peace Ark, has cut a broad arc through the Pacific, stopping off in Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and Fiji and Tonga.

The raw numbers alone are impressive. According to Chinese state media, the ship has 300 beds, eight operating theatres, and can conduct 60 surgeries in a day.

The Peace Ark said it has so far provided free medical treatment to more than 4,000 people in PNG's capital Port Moresby, 4,500 people in Vanuatu, 6,000 in Fiji and more than 5,500 patients in Tonga.
Our hospital ships are larger and better, but MERCY and COMFORT are only two, and they are a bit aged.

We should have at least 4 - and they should be at the yards being built now. They are, alas, unsexy but important.

Shame this isn't getting more play, but here is an example;
The U.S. is sending a Navy hospital ship off the shores of Colombia this fall to provide urgent medical care for Venezuelan refugees.

An estimated 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled their country in the wake of a devastating economic crisis that has caused shortages of food and medical supplies. Over one million of those refugees have crossed the border into Colombia, creating what Mattis called a "destabilizing impact" on the country.

"It is an absolutely a humanitarian mission, we’re not sending soldiers, we’re sending doctors," Mattis told reporters. "And it’s an effort to deal with the human cost of [Maduro and his increasingly isolated regimes."

Pentagon spokesperson Col. Rob Manning said on Monday that the ship will be the 894-foot long USNS Comfort, one of two U.S. Navy hospital ships and one of the largest trauma centers anywhere in the United States.

In a press release on Wednesday, U.S. Southern Command announced that the Comfort would deploy for the two-month-long humanitarian mission in late September with stops in Colombia and the region.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Fullbore Friday

So, what did you do before age 21?
Tributes have poured in for the Second World War's youngest Spitfire pilot who joined the RAF at just 18 and has died just two weeks before his 97th birthday.

Geoffrey Wellum, who was given the nickname 'Boy' as he signed up in August 1939, famously said his life 'peaked' at 21 after helping the RAF saw off Hitler's Luftwaffe in 1940.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Trust today revealed Mr Wellum, one of just eight surviving members, died at his home in Cornwall on Wednesday evening.
Things go quickly when a nation is at war.
Showing no fear despite the average four-week life expectancy of war pilots, he was sent up to fight the Nazis in his teens and described how ahead of his first air battle he was told to jump in his Spitfire and warned: 'Break it there will be bloody hell to pay'.

He would later become a squadron leader and served on the front line including the Battle of Britain 'dogfights' above London and the Home Counties before taking the fight into Europe where he led the air battle to free Malta.

But on the way to victory he lost many of his closest comrades from the RAF and said recently: 'You just had to accept it, get on with living and remember absent friends'.

He went on to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and was promoted to Flight Commander with 65 Squadron and later led eight Spitfires from HMS Furious to relieve Malta.
Read the whole thing.

What a life, and a meaningful life well lived.

Fullbore.


Hat tip M.R.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Fat Leonard a Big Scandal? No, I Think We've Topped It.

I had to read this twice for it to sink in; this could be worse than Fat Leonard in a variety of deep and meaningful ways. 

Read all of this from Carl Prine over at NavyTimes;
In a landmark decision Wednesday, the military’s highest court ruled that the Navy’s top lawyer, Vice Adm. James W. Crawford III, illegally meddled in the case of a SEAL accused of rape.

The split 3-2 decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces tosses out the highly decorated commando’s 2014 court-martial conviction and bars the armed forces from ever trying him again.

The legal victory of Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Keith E. Barry — who never quit proclaiming his innocence — will ripple across the entire military.

Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Scott W. Stucky, a retired Air Force colonel, determined that not only can the military’s most senior attorneys be held responsible for bogus advice that helps to unlawfully coerce a prosecution but that Crawford “actually did so in this case."
There is corruption for booze and chicks ... it is another thing pressuring one person to take away another's freedom for political reasons.
To Brennan, the ruling also threatens to leave the reputation of Crawford “in tatters," a belief shared by Barry’s appellate attorney, David Sheldon.

“This is a vindication not only for Senior Chief Barry, but it stands as the first step in righting what is the pervasive unlawful command influence in military justice,” Sheldon told Navy Times. "In this case, the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Vice Adm. James Crawford, caused a decorated Navy SEAL to be wrongfully convicted. "
You really need to read it all, I mean ...
Barry’s case came to light only because a retired Navy rear admiral admitted that he helped pervert justice.

Barry was tried and convicted at court-martial by a military judge in San Diego in 2014 for allegedly forcing a girlfriend to engage in nonconsensual sexual intercourse, but doubts about his guilt dogged the case.

The flag officer who convened the SEAL’s trial, Navy Region Southwest commander Rear Adm. Patrick J. Lorge, considered vacating the verdict or granting clemency to Barry, but instead let stand a sentence of three years confinement and a dishonorable discharge, a decision he came to regret.

In both sworn affidavits and testimony during a special hearing convened 11 months ago, Lorge said that he felt political pressure on “many fronts” from civilian and military leaders to convict Barry.


To Lorge, the advice he got from Jones appeared to be echoed during an April 30, 2015 visit by Crawford to his San Diego office. At the time, Crawford was a two-star admiral and the Deputy Judge Advocate General of the Navy.

During the powwow, Crawford gave Lorge “the impression that failing to approve the findings and sentence would place a target on his back,” a sentiment apparently repeated during a later telephone call between the flag officers, according to the appellate decision.

Crawford was later promoted to vice admiral and put in charge of the Navy’s criminal justice system.
BZ to Carl for putting this out. This whole episode needs close attention to see exactly what, if anything, Crawford should be held to account for.

Time is short.
Crawford is slated to be relieved by Vice Adm. John G. Hannink and retire at noon on Sept. 12 during a change of command ceremony at the Washington Navy Yard, according to invitations leaked to Navy Times.
How does Senior Chief Barry get his good name back and four years of his life in limbo?

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Follow the Money

What defense companies from which nations do you think had the greatest year-or-year increase?

It's all out there at USNIBlog. Come on by and give it a look.

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

The Hard History of the Baltic Republics: Latvia Wakes Up

Scale. Always important to keep in mind scale.

The Latvians just completed a very big exercise, Namejs 2018. This isn't just any exercise - no, this is an informed exercise based on modern, real-world threats. You really don't have to read between the lines.
"There will be a lot of movement throughout Latvia... there will be tasks too for both the navy and the air force and, of course, the State Police will carry out their tasks that are necessary for their training. There will be loud noises. We apologize and alert the public to this fact," said Chief of Defense Leonīds Kalniņš at a pre-drill media briefing August 2.

Live ammunition will not be used outside established military zones, but the training will be very realistic, Kalniņš said, acknowledging that Russia's hybrid operations in eastern Ukraine had been taken into account when devising the scenarios.

However, he also stressed that the drills are defensive in nature and not directed against any outside country.
25% of the Latvian population is ethnically Russian.
One of the several scenarios that will be played out during Namejs 2018 provides for suppressing spontaneous riots in Jekabpils and Valmiera. The unrest would be fomented by armed people without military insignia. Law enforcement authorities would be the first to respond to these events, with the armed forces expected to rush to help quell the riots.

“During the exercise we will be training to defend our state using obstruction and defense operations. All brigades will be involved in relocation and ensuring the local defense of particular cities. The national defense structure will be tested one hundred percent. We will not be devising a scenario against a particular country as we are preparing the National Armed Forces to defend Latvia against any threat,” Lt. Gen. Kalnins said.
Data:
- Population of Latvia: 1.9 million.
- Exercise Namejs 2018: 10,000 participants from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Poland, USA, Canada, Albania, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Spain.

How big was the exercise presence for the Latvian population? Well, let's upscale that for 'ya.
- Population of USA: 320 million
- Upscaled Nanejs 2018: 1,684,210

Imagine if we held a military exercise that mobilized 1,684,210 military personnel from a dozen nations from Maine to Hawaii, Florida to Alaska. One military person in an active exercise per 190 citizens from infant to petitioner.

Latvia is serious. They are moving as aggressively as possible to match their Estonian neighbors with 2%+ GDP in military spending.

Speaking of which, though this is about the Estonian War of Independence after WWI, this covers some of the Latvian play as well. Solid video worth your time.



PS: If we meet IRL, ask me about the Latvian Air Force guy I served with in AFG. Good story.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Well, that sets a marker down

I've spent no small bit of my time around Marines.

I am, in a word, shocked, that we have any to deploy after the latest from Shawn Snow;
An infantry battalion commander sacked in the middle of a deployment with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit, or MEU, was at least partially fired for allegedly using a term that could be disparaging to members of the LGBTQ community, Marine Corps Times has learned.

Following a vandalism incident during a port call visit by the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock New York in Gaeta, Italy, Lt. Col. Marcus J. Mainz, the commander of 2nd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, allegedly used the term “faggot" or “faggoty” during a meeting with the 2/6 Battalion Landing Team leaders, multiple sources have told Marine Corps Times.

Corps officials have said Lt. Col. Marcus J. Mainz was fired May 19 over a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to lead.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Though the Americans are now in the fight, still on every front; desperation.

At every morning brief, more ships sunk.

The enemy surrounds you as you starve.

Your ships and aircraft sit idle for lack of fuel and parts.

Through waves of attacks, a relief convoy comes ... and you wait.

Do they know your desperation? Will they make it? What can be done?

Well, in comes the US merchant marine professional, Captain Dudley Mason - the master of the tanker SS OHIO - and his crew and convoy.

For the details, let's look at the citation for his George Cross and the award to two of his crew, Frederick August Larsen, Jr., Junior Third Officer and Francis A. Dales, Deck Cadet-Midshipman on SS Santa Elisa/SS Ohio. 

A little note about those two men, they were not originally part of the crew of the OHIO. They had been rescued from the SS SANTA ELISA when it was sunk. Then they volunteered to man the guns on the Ohio. Via WWIIToday:

During the passage to Malta of an important convoy Captain Mason’s ship suffered most violent onslaught. She was a focus of attack throughout and was torpedoed early one night. Although gravely damaged, her engines were kept going and the Master made a magnificent passage by hand-steering and without a compass.

The ship’s gunners helped to bring down one of the attacking aircraft. The vessel was hit again before morning, but though she did not sink, her engine room was wrecked. She was then towed. The unwieldy condition of the vessel and persistent enemy attacks made progress slow, and it was uncertain whether she would remain afloat.

All next day progress somehow continued and the ship reached Malta after a further night at sea. The violence of the enemy could not deter the Master from his purpose. Throughout he showed skill and courage of the highest order and it was due to his determination that, in spite of the most persistent enemy opposition, the vessel, with her valuable cargo, eventually reached Malta and was safely berthed.
The George Cross citation is very brief, as is the British custom. More detail is available with Larsen and Dales' Merchant Marine Distinguished Service Medal citation;
His ship was a freighter carrying drums of high-octane gasoline, one of two American ships, in a small British convoy to Malta. Orders were to “get through at all costs.” Heavily escorted, the convoy moved into the Mediterranean, and before noon of that day the enemy’s attack began. From then on the entire convoy was under constant attack from Axis planes and submarines. Assigned the command of an anti-aircraft gun mounted on the bridge, Dales contributed to the successful defense of his ship for three days.

At 4:00 A.M. on the morning of the fourth day, torpedo boats succeeded in breaking through and two attacked from opposite sides. Sneaking in close under cover of the darkness one opened point-blank fire on Dales’s position with four .50 caliber machine guns, sweeping the bridge and killing three of his gun crew in the first bursts. The other sent its deadly torpedo into the opposite side of the freighter. Neither the heavy fire from the first torpedo boat nor the torpedo from the second drove Dales and his crew from their gun. With only flashes to fire at in the darkness, he found the target and the first boat burst into flames and sank. But the torpedo launched by the other had done its deadly work. The high-test gasoline cargo ignited and the American ship was engulfed in flames. Reluctantly, orders were given to abandon her.

Two hours later, the survivors were picked up by a British destroyer, which then proceeded to take in tow a tanker [SS Ohio] that had been bombed and could not maneuver. After five hours constant dive-bombing, the tanker was hit again–her crew abandoned her–and the destroyer was forced to cut her loose. But the cargo she carried was most important to the defense of Malta, and it had to get through. The rescue destroyer and another destroyer steamed in– lashed themselves on either side of the stricken tanker–and dragged her along in a determined attempt to get her to port.

Dales and four others volunteered to go aboard the tanker and man her guns in order to bring more fire power to their defense. The shackled ships, inching along and making a perfect target, were assailed by concentrated enemy airpower. All that day wave after wave of German and Italian bombers dived at them and were beaten off by a heavy barrage. Bombs straddled them, scoring near misses, but no direct hits were made until noon the next day, when the tanker finally received a bomb down her stack which blew out the bottom of her engine room. Though she continued to settle until her decks were awash, they fought her through until dusk that day brought them under the protection of the hard fighting air force out of Malta.
Here's the twist. How did they get the OHIO back to port with this much damage?
Because of the vital importance of her cargo (10,000 tons of fuel which would enable the aircraft and submarines based at Malta to return to the offensive), she could not be abandoned. In a highly unusual manoeuvre, the two destroyers (HMS PENN and HMS LEDBURY) supported her to provide buoyancy and power for the remainder of the voyage.

Mission focused; mission first.

Fullbore.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Diversity Thursday

One of the worst kept secrets in college admissions is the open discrimination by many institutions against applicants of Asian extraction based on nothing but the geographic sourcing of their DNA.

One of the most important legal cases for civil rights of all Americans to come through the courts in the last few decades is working its way above the background noise - and this is great news.

As we have stated through the years here on DivThu - the actions of the diversity industry cannot survive the light of day and transparency in the face of objective fact. 

Because so many people have a paycheck and a twisted sense of self-worth wrapped up in their sectarianism, they will fight every effort to bring us to a better place where we evaluate everyone on the basis of the content of their character, and not something as meaningless as their self-identified race, creed, color or national origin.

So, as reported from inside their own lifelines, this was a feel-good story today;
The United States Department of Justice said in a court filing Thursday morning that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions policies inflict “unlawful racial discrimination” against Asian American applicants.

“The record evidence demonstrates that Harvard’s race-based admissions process significantly disadvantages Asian-American applicants compared to applicants of other racial groups — including both white applicants and applicants from other racial minority groups,” department officials wrote.

The Justice Department’s criticism came as part of a “statement of interest” it filed in the ongoing admissions lawsuit that alleges Harvard discriminates against Asian Americans in its admissions process. Its statement is meant to oppose the University’s earlier motion that the suit be dismissed before it goes to trial.
In the likely event that this long awaited case succeeds, we have the opportunity to pull back the covers at all institutions of higher learning's admissions process. We also have the chance to see where else in our society that merit is punished on the alter of racial fetishists.

Harvard is defending itself, but not convincingly,
“Harvard does not discriminate against applicants from any group, and will continue to vigorously defend the legal right of every college and university to consider race as one factor among many in college admissions, which the Supreme Court has consistently upheld for more than 40 years. Colleges and universities must have the freedom and flexibility to create the diverse communities that are vital to the learning experience of every student,” the university said in a statement.
They need to get on the same sheet of music with their supporters though. Oops.
A broad coalition of Harvard supporters filed briefs in support of the school Thursday condemning the lawsuit and saying that it would effectively threaten diversity at American colleges.

Those groups include 25 alumni and student groups represented by the NAACP’s Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the American Civil Liberties Union, a group of economists who criticized the experts whose work was used in the original lawsuit and a group of 531 social scientists and academics who study access to college.
...
“Eliminating race-conscious admissions would disproportionately harm applicants of color, including some Asian-Americans,” Harvard alumni said in their filing. They contend that race is “one of many factors in its holistic admissions process,” in compliance with the Supreme Court’s demand that the use of race be narrowly tailored in the admissions process.

“Applicants’ opportunities to amass credentials that make for a competitive college application are greatly affected by race,” alumni and students wrote. “Given racial bias in standardized testing and endemic racial inequities,” they said the school must continue to consider race.
2018, and people still expect to have a charter to discriminate.

May the wheels of justice grind fine as its arc continues to bend towards justice.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXVII

Who doesn't love themselves an ORBAT?

Want to get a handle on the Chinese Air Order of Battle? Head on over to our Dutch friends at Scramble.

Great interactive map. I'd start with the PLAAF here, but you can get their naval aviation here as well.

Monday, August 27, 2018

DTS: How Long Does it Take to Get Rid of a Bad Military Program?

It looks like a bit over a dozen years. It was clear as early as 2006 that DTS was FOD, but ... well ... I guess DOD works on its own timeline;
The Defense Department has selected a new vendor to overhaul and replace the aging and widely-reviled IT system military personnel use to book airline flights and make other travel arrangements, the Pentagon said Thursday.

DoD issued a $9.3 million other transaction agreement (OTA) to SAP Concur to build a prototype that will eventually take the place of the current Defense Travel System (DTS), which processes nearly $9 billion in travel spending each year.

Concur is a subsidiary of the global software giant that focuses primarily on delivering travel and expense management as a service, a model that lines up with what Pentagon officials had previously said they wanted: a commercial “travel-as-a-service” offering to replace the government-owned systems that currently make up DTS.
Should we be optimistic?

Once can hope.


Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Navy of the Gilded Age, with Scott Mobley - on Midrats



The last quarter of the 19th Century, the Gilded Age, was a period of breathtaking change in society, technology, politics and industry. This rapid change helped drive the intellectual and institutional change that brought the US Navy to the world’s attention in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The first two decades of the 20th Century are generally called the Progressive Era, but that only took place due to the advance of progressive ideology the quarter century prior during the Gilded Age.

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss these and related issues raised in his new book, Progressives in Navy Blue: Maritime Strategy, American Empire, and the Transformation of U.S. Naval Identity, 1873-1898, will be Scott Mobley, CAPT, USN (Ret).

Scott is the current Associate Director of the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy (CSLD) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and holds an M.A. in National Security affairs from the Naval Postgraduate School. Most recently, he earned a Ph.D. in History at the University of Wisconsin.

As a career U.S. Navy surface warfare officer, Scott commanded USS BOONE (FFG-28) and USS CAMDEN (AOE-2). While under his command, CAMDEN participated in the opening assault phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Other notable tours included: Reactor Officer in USS HARRY S. TRUMAN (CVN-76); Navy Section Chief at the U.S. Military Group in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Chief of Staff for Commander, Naval Surface Group Pacific Northwest. Scott retired from the Navy with the rank of Captain, after thirty years of service.

Scott also serves on the U.S. Naval Institute Naval History Advisory Board and is a founding editor for Voices & Visions, an open-access online reader featuring primary media sources that illuminate the history of U.S. foreign relations.

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.


Friday, August 24, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Attention to Citation:

Technical Sergeant John A. Chapman distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism as an Air Force Special Tactics Combat Controller, attached to a Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Team conducting reconnaissance operations in Takur Ghar, Afghanistan, on March 4, 2002. During insertion, the team’s helicopter was ambushed causing a teammate to fall into an entrenched group of enemy combatants below. Sergeant Chapman and the team voluntarily reinserted onto the snow-capped mountain, into the heart of a known enemy stronghold to rescue one of their own. Without regard for his own safety, Sergeant Chapman immediately engaged, moving in the direction of the closest enemy position despite coming under heavy fire from multiple directions. He fearlessly charged an enemy bunker, up a steep incline in thigh-deep snow and into hostile fire, directly engaging the enemy. Upon reaching the bunker, Sergeant Chapman assaulted and cleared the position, killing all enemy occupants. With complete disregard for his own life, Sergeant Chapman deliberately moved from cover only 12 meters from the enemy, and exposed himself once again to attack a second bunker, from which an emplaced machine gun was firing on his team. During this assault from an exposed position directly in the line of intense fire, Sergeant Chapman was struck and injured by enemy fire. Despite severe, mortal wounds, he continued to fight relentlessly, sustaining a violent engagement with multiple enemy personnel before making the ultimate sacrifice. By his heroic actions and extraordinary valor, sacrificing his life for the lives of his teammates, Technical Sergeant Chapman upheld the highest traditions of military service and reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.



One note about the "we left him behind" whispers. I know MG Harrell, USA (Ret.). I stand with him;
An integral part of the acts of valor review in Chapman’s case, was viewing drone footage that showed the airman unconscious but alive, when his fellow service members thought he was dead. The footage showed him waking up, continuing to fight and thwart the grenade attacks on the Ranger helicopter.

The New York Times first reported this finding in August 2016. The newspaper also reported that many military officials felt the mission was poorly executed.

Maj. Gen. Gary Harrell, a retired Delta Force commander who managed the operation, told the newspaper that those who weren’t there shouldn’t second-guess.

“It’s easy to say, ‘Well, I’d never leave someone behind,’” he told The Times. “It’s a lot harder when you’re getting your ass shot off.”

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

LCS: An Easy Post as Always

Should we laugh, cry, or scream?

I don't know about you, but I'm numb.

Come help me find my safe-space over at USNIBlog.

Yes, their comments are a bit off, but even though it says "O" your comment will be there.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Russia, Fortresses, and Spheres


The two-dimensional view of Russia and Putin we so often, even by otherwise serious natsec folks, is anti-intellectual and counter-productive in the extreme.

If you want to have a better understanding of Russia and her interplay with the West, you need to read as widely as possible from a variety of ideological viewpoints. It is especially important to read as much as you can from outside the USA. It is the only way to make sure you don’t get yourself too narrowly scoped by agenda and ignorance.

Everything thing you read, especially about Russia, you need to review the background of the author, the nationality of the author, and the publication the author’s work is found. Even obviously biased media organizations from RT to The Nation can have useful articles, you just need to make a conscious effort to remember that as you read.

In line with my own advice, today I offer to you an article by retired British diplomat Andrew Wood, presently a fellow at Chatham House, writing over at the Dutch think tank RaamopRusland.

Read it all, but here are the items I found most interesting;
Dmitri Trenin's address of 18 May to a conference at The Hague has led to a debate organised by the RaamopRusland think tank as to where the blame lies for the current estrangement between East and West.

Trenin is the Director of Carnegie Moscow and also an experienced and authoritative exponent of views widely held within the Moscow foreign policy establishment. In setting out his inevitable conclusion that the United States bears the principal responsibility for the present situation, he argued that the Soviet Union lost a real war, call it ‘Cold’ though we do, to the United States and that today's Moscow is justified in reasserting itself because of the dismissive way that it was treated by Washington thereafter. Russia, as the successor state to the USSR should have been taken by Washington as a co-equal in deciding the affairs of lesser nations, not least in Europe.
That may help explain the Russian insecurities, but being on the losing end of a conflict does not automatically grand the lowe the status as a co-equal. In a word; delusional.

Wood does a good job throughout the article using Trenin as a foil.

Wood it correct here;
It is perhaps even more to the point that the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, and the disintegration of the Soviet Union which followed it, stemmed from the internal decay of the USSR and the eventual defeat of military force used by Moscow to ensure the subservience of its own ostensible allies.
Ah, yes. The policy of containment – with teeth. It would be a bit neglectful not to mention that there was very real fighting in the Cold War. At the top of the butcher’s bill we need to mention the 36,574 Americans (and thousands of non-Korean allies as well) killed in action in the Korean War, and 58,193 American dead in Vietnam. Those wars made a point to Communists that the USA would fight.
That repression has helped to feed the emotional prejudices that lie behind the Fortress Russia proposition. Taking the United States to be your principal enemy as for instance Trenin did on 18 May (‘Russia's conflict is not with the West, it's with the USA.
By and large Europe is caught in a crossfire.’) may be, and indeed is, questionable, but such beliefs, which are encouraged by official propaganda, are now widely shared.
Another reason why we need Continental European NATO to spend the bare 2% GDP on defense. With Germany at the front with firm Baltic republics and Visegrad Group nations at the front, it will force the Russians to see this is not a rivalry of two nations.
Russia is not alone in its concerns as to the way that the United States, especially under the present Trump Administration, tries to force its way in particular cases. But the United States has not in fact tried or been able over the years unilaterally to draw up the international rule book that has by and large been in accepted international force for decades. There is the further problem of what exactly Russia would like to see take its place.
Exactly, and not should the USA.
‘Finlandisation’ was the product of particular circumstances, which do not apply to Ukraine. One of those was the Cold War militarised division of Europe between two rival camps. The supposition that Russia has a sphere of interest justified by its security needs is a pale reflection of that. No other state in Europe would willingly accept the subordination to Moscow's diktat which would go with accepting a tributary role in an arbitrarily defined ‘sphere’. It is the attempt to force others into such a condition, or the fear of it as a possible threat, that has led many to seek shelter in NATO, or if that is not on offer, to get close to it.
That won’t stop Russia to, as it is doing, nibbling around the edges.
The question of who is to blame between Washington and Moscow for the estrangement between them, or rather between Moscow and the West, seems to me to be the wrong question.

Dmitri Trenin suggested that the blame rested with Washington, the United States being the stronger power. Others might point their fingers at the Kremlin, with cogent examples to support them. But the pursuit of a bilateral US/Russia relationship as the decisive factor in achieving a healthier relationship between Russia and the West is a chimera stemming from assumptions derived from the Cold War era. Neither Washington, which in any case has other preoccupations than dealing with Russia, nor Moscow, which may be more focused, can command the obedience of other countries, in Europe and for that matter outside it too. These countries have their own concerns to nurture.

Russia has evolved in such a way that Trenin can convincingly assert that his country will not accept the tutelage of the USA, and to believe that this is a real threat that Russia must face. Other countries are not ready to accept the tutelage of the Kremlin, for that matter, and to defy the prospect of it being imposed upon them. Neither power, whether the stronger or the weaker, can look to bilateral negotiations or for that matter bilateral competition to decide for others what the outcome should be in particular cases. Not even the Cold War itself was dissolved on that basis. Europe today is evolving in uncertain ways. Russia will not remain in its present condition for ever. The United States has a troubled Administration.
In some ways, Russia is the former heavyweight fighter past his prime trying to get back in the ring, but insists that only the reigning champion is a worthy opponent. Frustration at not being taken as a player of consequence is fed by an inflated ego, insecurity and a wounded pride.

How to get to a better place with Russia – a nation we really should be partnered with and not rivaled against? I don’t know, but perhaps it isn’t a diplomat to get us there, not a businessman, and unquestionably not someone in a military uniform – perhaps we need to get a therapist.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The next COA in AFG; Talk?

Rod Nordland in the NYT has your Monday must-read article out on Afghanistan. He gives a great view of the state of play as we enter the ending weeks of the traditional fighting season.

Read it all, but this is the part that, as an old AFG hand, I find interesting;
American commanders have long since stopped talking about winning in Afghanistan. None see how 14,000 American troops can achieve what 110,000 could not.

Taliban leaders have always insisted that as long as any American troops remained in Afghanistan, they would negotiate peace only with the Americans. But American officials had insisted on an “Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process.”

Aides to President Trump, who once called the Afghanistan war a total disaster, have moved to authorize such talks. A State Department official met in July with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, according to Taliban officials.

In the past, Afghan officials have opposed that sort of American role, but apparently no longer. “As President Ghani has indicated that he’s ready to pursue something without conditions, that speaks for itself,” said Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of the American military’s Central Command, when asked about American-initiated talks during a visit here on July 23. “Everything can be on the table here as we move forward with this Afghan-led process.”
Well, let's see what happens through the New Year.

Remember what we said back in January?
Fighting in Afghanistan has escalated with US and Afghan officials tipping 2018 to be a "game-changer" as relentless airstrikes pummel Islamist militant groups — but others warn the 16-year war has simply become a more violent stalemate.
...
The escalation of the conflict foreshadows a "particularly bloody year", Michael Kugelman of the Wilson Center in Washington, DC told AFP, forecasting more Afghan and US casualties.
...
The escalation in fighting has all but dashed hopes for peace negotiations with the Taliban anytime soon.

Trump ruled out talks last month after the spate of attacks, an apparent reversal of the position set out in his Afghanistan strategy.

But Washington is still hoping to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan said last week following a trip to Kabul.

Sullivan's comments come as the Afghan capital gears up for the Kabul Process meeting at the end of February, where the central government is under pressure to present a framework for peace talks.

But expectations for progress are low. "There's no way Kabul, or Washington for that matter, would agree to extend an olive branch to an outfit that is placing explosives in ambulances," Kugelman said.
Like I said, we'll see.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Eight Months as the Under - on Midrats


Eight months in to his tenure as the 33rd Under Secretary of the Navy, our guest this week from 5-6pm Eastern will be Thomas B. Modly.

We'll cover the bold-faced items including his background prior to his appointment as the Undersecretary of Defense, his first priorities and challenges as the Under, reorganization of the Department of Defense, the upcoming review of education of our leaders, and more.

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.



Friday, August 17, 2018

Fullbore Friday

From 12–25 August 1920 there was one of the more important battles of modern history that is relatively unknown out of the country the battle took place in. It is a story of audacity in th eface of incredible odds by a nation only reborn less than two years earlier against an equally younger malignancy.

The Battle of Warsaw;
The Polish-born and much feared head of the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police), Feliks Dzierzinsky, was made head of a Polish Revolutionary Committee, which would follow the Red Army and form the new government. Lenin was absolutely confident of success. Initially all went well, and within six weeks the Red Army was at the gates of Warsaw. But as the Polish Communists had warned, all classes did indeed unite, and there was no rising in the city. Also the Polish commander, Józef Piłsudski, drew up a bold, if not foolhardy, plan of counterattack. The Polish army would stand on the defensive in front of the city, and when the Red Army was fully committed to the battle, Poland’s best units would launch a flanking attack from the south, cut the Bolshevik lines of communication, and encircle much of the Red Army. Some Polish generals were aghast at the risks involved, but in their desperation there seemed no alternative.
As often happens in war, things did not run as per the plan. The enemy has a vote, and they were advancing too fast. The Poles had to move a day early.
The Red Army fought its way to the village of Izabelin, only 8 miles (13 km) from the city, but the Polish attack succeeded beyond wildest expectations. Driving through a gap in Bolshevik lines, the Poles advanced rapidly against little opposition. In the Red Army, all was chaos; commanders lost control of their units, with some divisions continuing their advance on Warsaw, others fleeing. Three armies disintegrated, and thousands fled into East Prussia, where they were interned. In an encounter that saw Polish lancers charging and overwhelming Bolshevik cavalrymen, the First Cavalry Army, trapped in the "Zemość Ring," was all but annihilated.

The Fourth Army meekly surrendered after being encircled. Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky desperately tried to pull his troops back to a defendable line, but the situation was beyond redemption. A few more engagements followed, but the war was effectively won. Lenin was forced to agree to peace terms that surrendered a large tract of territory whose population was in no way Polish—the Red Army returned to reclaim it in 1939.

Losses: Soviet, possibly some 15,000–25,000 killed, 65,000 captured, and some 35,000 interned in Germany; Polish, up to 5,000 dead, 22,000 wounded, and 10,000 missing.
In the seeds of one victory often hold the next defeat.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

From Strangelove to Merkwuerdigeliebe

If you think a nuclear Japan is interesting, what about ....

Head on over to USNIBlog where smart people are contemplating some interesting things.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Emperor Xi and his troubles

While it is important to keep a close eye as China grows stronger and flexes her insecure muscles, one should also recognize that there are significant structural issues that will not be easy to overcome, if ever;
Having concentrated power, Xi is responsible for all policy setbacks and policy failures,” said Joseph Cheng, a retired City University of Hong Kong professor and long-time observer of Chinese politics.

Notably, Xi used to dominate state-run newspapers’ front pages and the state broadcaster CCTV’s news bulletins on a daily basis but has in recent weeks made fewer public appearances. “He can’t shift the blame, so he’s responding by taking a lower profile,” Cheng said.
...
Both the stock market and the currency have weakened in response and the Communist Party itself conceded at a meeting last month that external factors were weighing heavily on economic growth.

At the same time, a scandal over vaccines has reignited long-held fears over the integrity of the health care industry and the government’s ability to police the sprawling firms that dominate the economy.

“Trust is the most important thing and a loss of public confidence in the government could be devastating,” said Zhang Ming, a retired professor of political science in Beijing.

And last week, the authorities mobilized a massive security effort to squelch a planned protest in Beijing over the sudden collapse of hundreds of peer-to-peer borrowing schemes that underscore the government’s inability to reform the finance system to cater to small investors.
...
Meanwhile, Xi’s signature project, the trillion-dollar “Belt and Road” initiative to build investment and infrastructure links with 65 nations, is running into headwinds over sticker shock among the countries involved. Some Chinese have also questioned the wisdom of sending vast sums abroad at a time when millions of Chinese remain mired in poverty.
...
Resentment lingers also over Xi’s moves to consolidate power, including pushing through the removal of presidential term limits in March and establishing a burgeoning cult of personality.
...
Much of the discontent with Xi can be traced to his administration’s perceived ineffectiveness, said Zhang, the retired academic.

“If you want to be emperor, you must have great achievements,” Zhang said. “He hasn’t had any, so it’s hard to convince the people.”
The readers of CDRSalamander know their history well. So Front Porch, autocratic leaders throughout history have usually looked to what as a quick way to achieve something considered a boost to national greatness?