Thursday, September 12, 2019

Germany: the Weak Sister

Of course, no one likes dunking on the German military like the Brits, but strip away the chortling, and this article from SpectatorUK has a few good datapoints to the very sad condition of the military of NATO's central state;
The most recent embarrassment for the Bundeswehr — the grounding of all 53 of its Tiger helicopters this month due to technical faults — is just the latest in a long series of humiliations to have sprung from Ursula von der Leyen’s spell as defence minister.
Christian Democrat Rupert Scholz, who served as Helmut Kohl’s defence minister: ‘The Bundeswehr’s condition is catastrophic. The entire defence capability of the federal republic is suffering.’
...when Germany took control of Nato’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force, charged with combatting the threat from Russia. Germanypromised to have 44 Leopard 2 tanks and 14 Marder armoured infantry vehicles available for the task, yet in the event could only muster nine and three respectively.
...for a period from October 2017, when a Type 212A submarine damaged its rudder, none of the country’s six submarines were available for use.
What von der Leyen has done is increase the military budget, which rose sharply last year from €38.5 billion to €43.5 billion. A further €3 billion a year is planned by 2024. But even at that level, Germany will fall well short of its obligation as a Nato member to spend 2 per cent of GDP per year on defence — it will merely take its spending from 1.2 per cent to 1.5 per cent. True, few of Nato’s European member states fulfil this obligation, but of all of them you might expect the continent’s largest economy to be setting an example. Since the end of the Cold War, Germany has found it all too easy to exempt itself, or play only a token part, in joint military operations around the world — its aggressive past serving as a convenient excuse, as if it is telling the world: now, you wouldn’t want a Germany which was flexing its military muscles, would you?
There is no small bit of truth to that last part. With each year, that dated excuse has less bite and its overuse has further degraded its usefulness to almost parody.

Under the CDU/CUS, Germany by acts of commission increased her economic reliance on Russia - as policy - and under-invested on her and NATO's defense. The parties of the left; SDP, Greens, The Left etc most certainly will not promote a stronger defense. AfD and FDP? No.

Germany is a weaker and more fragile partner in the West under what for them is a conservative government. She seems incapable of righting herself any time in the near future - and the rest of the alliance needs to keep that in mind and act accordingly. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Transgenerational War

The 18th anniversary of 911 is more personal than usual for me. I'm still pondering it a bit.

I'm oversharing over at USNIBlog.

If you're interested, head on over and give it a read.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Your Next Airwing

For those who didn't make it to Tailhook this year, here's a peek on the evolution of the airwing over the next decade.

Of note, you see UAS coming online and you can see the slow sunset of the Hornet.

Speaking of which ... I look forward to seeing more about the F/A-XX. We were supposed to see more this Summer, but I didn't see it anywhere. The earlier Boeing tandem cockpit concept looked very promising. Hopefully Mabus's foolish, "must be unmanned" fever dream is as dead as his maintenance legacy, but we'll see.

Remember; you can make a manned unmanned ... but the other way notsomuch.

Moar please.

Hat tip XBrad.

Monday, September 09, 2019

LCS: The Case for Skeptical Optimism

Time to see if the additional money, intellectual heft, and Sailor sweat will pay off. For the star-crossed LCS program, we are now at the "Post-Reset and Forward Deployed" stage in the bespoke "Build a lot; test little to none; hopefully learn something along the way" central core of the transformationalist mindset that birthed LCS and other programs at the dawn of this century.

As I've said since I threw in the towel on killing LCS earlier this decade, they key is to simply find the best way to make the best use of what we have showing up to the fleet ... because showing up they are.

Good people have been working very hard to make it work, and the next 12 months are so will tell us how this reset - a decade after commissioning of Hull-1 - has succeeded. 

I try to restrain my informed pessimism and internalized rage at they whole opportunity cost with the belief that internally we accepted the inadequacies of the two LCS classes and have put some of our best minds to work on the problem so we can get ... something of use.

Megan Eckstein at USNINews is doing a solid job keeping everyone up to date on progress for the last few months, and her article from last Thursday is full of all sorts of goodies.

Here are a few things that caught my eye.
In just a few years, he (VADM Richard Brown) explained, the Navy will have 66 LCS crews to support 38 LCS hulls in their deployments, training and testing activities. This compares to 68 destroyer crews today. While the LCS program won’t rival DDGs in terms of percentage of manpower – the LCS has a much smaller crew – the LCS’s much higher operational availability means it’s conceivable that as many LCSs may be on deployments as destroyers at any given time.
66 crews to support 38 ships.

Remember one of the fables used to sell LCS was how "optimal manning" would save so much money? Of course, that was exposed as folly years ago, but it still comes up now and then. Do the math yourself and you come up to the actual manpower requirements. The trade-offs aren't that sexy. Never forget - as these bad ideas continue to pop up with the, "We'll do it smarter" crowd. 

Also, is the fact that the sub-optimal LCS will be at sea as often as the fully useful in wartime DDG a feature or a bug? Do we have the maintenance support to sustain it? 

I'm a full believer that it is useful to have a good number of smaller, affordable, less capable ships for presence and low threat missions ... but LCS is not small, not all that affordable and ... if we are a nation at war do we really like that fleet balance?

I think the presence missions are great - and better to have a LCS do it or counter piracy etc than a DDG - but ... that ratio is, I would argue, a bug, not a feature. It is a natural by product of the false dawn of the "no need for FFG if you have LCS" and the trainwreck that was CG(X).

You never really know what you have until you give it to Sailors to work with ... and we are going to get a lot of data in the next year.

Here is the lineup,
USS Montgomery (LCS-8) is deployed in the Western Pacific today. A second Independence-variant hull, USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10), deployed earlier this week, from San Diego to WESTPAC like its sister ship earlier this week, a Navy official confirmed to USNI News on Friday. Defense News first reported the deployment. Freedom-variant USS Detroit (LCS-7) will deploy from Mayport, Fla., later this year to U.S. Southern Command, and USS Little Rock (LCS-9) is also working up for the next deployment from Florida.
This is good, and the crews have been working hard - under a bit of a shadow - for deployment to get started.

We should all wish them well - and we should all hope that the additional time, effort, money and focus of the last few years will pay off for LCS useful to the fleet.

If this year goes well and money keeps flowing, 2020/21 deployments should build on this cycle and bring even more useful data on how to make this work.

RDML Casey Moton, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned and Small Combatants, spoke well to this guarded optimism;
“And so I come back, and things have progressed. We are 19 ships delivered; four this year, I think, two or three left to go. A big change there. … We are now firmly into executing the LCS plan, the fleet plan, in terms of both the ships getting out there in their (training and deployment) cycles, getting the crews certified. … It’s in a different mode. The ships are out there; we are now putting them to good use and doing what we always hoped.”
...and yet, we have this. It goes back to trying to make the manning construct work;
Under the Career Management System/Interactive Detailing process, Brown said, the Bureau of Naval Personnel can identify a replacement for a DDG sailor and get that new person trained up in time to report to a ship. That’s not the case for LCS, because the training pipeline sits at about 15 to 18 months, longer than the CMS/ID process.
18-months. That is what, 548 days? Keep that number handy.

Back in 2015, I coined a new measurement of time, the worldwar.

A worldwar is the length the USA was involved in WWII; 1,366 days. 548 is .4 of a worldwar.

In 40% of the time it took to fight WWII, we take to train someone to be on LCS. This is progress? This is cost effective?

Is this a process that has any flex to it in case of peer conflict? The whole manning concept here ... needs additional review. We should be able to do better.

Saturday, September 07, 2019

Sea Shepherd, Public/Private Partnership and Protecting our Seas with Paul Watson - on Midrats

Even developed nations have difficulty effectively managing marine resources, enforce pollution controls, and maintain the rule of law in their territorial seas. With most of the world's coastal nations struggling to maintain authority ashore, the sea is left lawless.

From fisheries to waste disposal, bad actors are taking advantage of these localized challenges with negative impacts not just on the coastal nations, but on the global environment and integrated ecosystems.

For over four decades, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has grown to the world’s most passionate and powerful protector of ocean life. They've expanded their expertise to include partnering with nations from Africa to Central American in a maritime public-private partnerships to bring order and proper stewardship to the already endangered maritime domain.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Captain Paul Watson, the Founder, President, and Executive Director of what is commonly known as just, Sea Shepherd.

Paul is a marine wildlife conservation and environmental activist from Toronto, Canada. Watson was one of the founding members and directors of Greenpeace. In 1977, Watson left Greenpeace and founded the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Watson has served as Master and Commander on seven different Sea Shepherd ships since 1978 and continues to lead Sea Shepherd campaigns.

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

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, September 06, 2019

Fullbore Friday

It hasn't even been a year, but given the interest in yesterday's post ... time to reload a FbF.

Earlier this month, there was a lot to discussion about drydocks.

How important are they in wartime? Well, all you need to do is to look at one of the great acts of WWII, via Michael Hull at Naval History magazine; The Sacrifice at Saint Nazaire;
The port contained an enormous wet and dry dock—built in peacetime for the 82,800-ton French luxury liner Normandie—that was the only facility on the Atlantic coast where the German Navy could accommodate its two biggest battleships, the 42,900-ton Tirpitz and 41,700-ton Bismarck. The Royal Navy had sunk the latter on 27 May 1941 after an epic chase, but the Tirpitz, operational since mid-January 1942 and a prime threat to the British, was lurking in the fiords of Norway.
The chosen plan, drawn up in strict secrecy, called for an old destroyer laden with explosives to ram the steel outer lock gate, or caisson, of the Normandie dry dock and then be scuttled. Three eight-hour fuses on board would detonate the charges. The operation was to involve a 300-mile sea voyage and a five-mile run up the Loire estuary.

The destroyer chosen for the raid was the 1,090-ton HMS Campbeltown, formerly the USS Buchanan (DD-131). She was one of the 50 four-stack, flush-deck World War I–era destroyers turned over to the Royal Navy by the Roosevelt administration in September 1940 in exchange for British bases in Bermuda, the West Indies, and Newfoundland. For her “Trojan horse” role, the decrepit, flimsy vessel was heavily modified, in part to reduce her displacement enough to allow the ship to traverse the Loire estuary’s shallows and avoid its more heavily defended channel. The destroyer’s explosive charge consisted of 24 400-pound depth charges concreted in a specially built steel compartment below her foredeck. She also would carry two assault and five demolition teams of Commandos.

The raiding force assembled in the Cornwall port of Falmouth on the craggy southwestern tip of England. Besides the centerpiece Campbeltown, the vessels comprised a motor gunboat (MGB-314), a motor torpedo boat (MTB-74), and 16 unarmored motor launches. Manned by 346 naval personnel, the boats and destroyer were to carry 265 Commandos armed Bren light machine guns, Thompson submachine guns, hand grenades, and explosive charges. The vessels would be escorted by the Hunt-class destroyers Atherstone and Tynedale, which would remain outside the estuary, and additional support was to be furnished by the destroyers Cleveland and Brocklesby.
Shortly after 0100 on 28 March, Mecke received a warning that unlighted ships were sailing up the Loire estuary leading into the Saint-Nazaire harbor. Rushing to an observation post, he squinted through a telescope and discerned the dark shapes of about 15 vessels. Captain Mecke called for searchlights to be switched on, and Ryder’s flotilla was outlined brightly.

The Kriegsmarine officer was hesitant to give an order to open fire because one of the intruding vessels, the Campbeltown, appeared to be German, but the others did not. Yet all were flying German flags. He ordered a shell to be fired across the bow of the leading craft, and moments later the British fired a green flare that split into three red stars, the German recognition signal.

Flanked by enemy guns on both sides of the Loire, the flotilla moved carefully between mudflats and sandbanks, churning steadily onward. It was less than a mile from the Normandie dock at 0130 when the German batteries opened up with a deafening roar. While flotilla guns fired back, the German flags were rapidly lowered and replaced by Royal Navy ensigns. The British deceit had paid off, and the raiders had managed to penetrate the enemy lair before being identified as hostile.
Standing calmly on the bridge while tracer fire hissed around him, Commander Beattie could see the dock clearly outlined by the searchlights’ glare. “Full speed ahead!” he shouted. “Prepare for ramming!” Rocked by the shells, his vessel lurched toward the massive dock gate as flame, smoke, and flying debris filled the air. Closer and closer went the Campbeltown at 15 knots until, with a grinding crunch, she slammed into the gate dead center. Ten yards of her bow was sheared open like a tin can, but she came to rest with her forecastle hanging over the heavily damaged caisson.

The jarring impact knocked the seamen and Commandos down. The unruffled Beattie scrambled to his feet and remarked to the officers on the bridge, “All right, here we are.” Glancing at his wristwatch, which read 0134, he added with a hint of disappointment, “Four minutes late.” The Commandos swiftly clambered down her sides. The gallant Campbeltown had fulfilled her sacrificial duty, and her crew disembarked after the Commandos as Saint-Nazaire Harbor became an inferno of exploding shells, smoke, and tracer streams.
Within half an hour of the Campbeltown’s ramming, they had destroyed the dry dock’s machinery and mechanisms. They also disabled the winding gear of the gate, but their efforts to attack the U-boat pens were unsuccessful.

Pandemonium in Saint-Nazaire
With their mission completed, the Commandos regrouped to take a breather and tend their wounded. Under increasing enemy fire, Lieutenant Colonel Newman and the 150 weary men he had left took up a defensive position behind some trucks near the embarkation point, the port’s Old Mole. They waited patiently for the motor launches to return, but none arrived. As the minutes passed, it became all too clear that they were marooned in Saint-Nazaire and surrounded by thousands of Germans. The Commandos were not surprised; they had been warned that their chances of getting away were slim at best.

Newman ordered his men to split into small groups and try to slip or fight their way to the countryside and then work their way south to neutral Spain or Portugal.
...but there is a lot more to the story from there. Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: Superb tip by Bill in comments. You simply must watch Jeremy Clarkson's special on the raid.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

Remember how we laughed at the Russians ....

...when their only carrier-capable dry dock ... had an oopsie?

Well, I think that was the only one ... well - don't laugh too hard.

You know how long we've known the dimensions of the FORD Class CVN? In an unfortunate time to get enough eyes, Ben Werner had an important article out on the 30th that missed my scan earlier with the holiday and hurricane;
Only one of the Navy’s 18 dry docks used for maintaining the nuclear-powered carrier fleet can support a Ford-class carrier, Navy officials told USNI News.

Dry Dock 8 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard can handle a Ford-class carrier, but only after a temporary cooling water systems is set up. A permanent cooling water system and other upgrades to Dry Dock 8 are scheduled to occur before USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) enters its first planned dry dock availability, Anna Taylor, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told USNI News in an email.

The Navy also plans to upgrade a West Coast dry dock to handle the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), Taylor added.
So, a single source of failure now, and maybe two later? Hope a war doesn't break out.

Here is the zinger; I know the EDO types have been beating this drum in the background ... but who was the one who kept sending the power-down signal until their PQS cycle was complete?
“The Navy has taken a hard turn on how do you do readiness in a more efficient way, and that’s being led from the secretary’s office,” Petters said. “We’ve talked about readiness in my career for a long time. This is a no-kidding effort to go get it sorted out.”
So, if this is a "no-kidding effort" - then when was the kidding effort?

Maybe no in the USN studies the St Nazaire Raid any more - but I bet the Chinese do.

Hat tip DJ.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

China: an Autocratic STEMocracy

We know the USN has a pro-STEM bias.

It that a net positive, negative, or a wash?

I have some ideas bouncing around USNIBlog. Come check it out.

Hat tip Gordon.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

6.8mm on the Way: Eventually, Everyone Goes Salamander

Let's see, back in January 2006 I wrote;
Ground combat is not my specialty, my professional toolbox has big things that make big fireballs going out and going in, look cool on video, and require AC power - but please. There are more bad theories there than you can shake a stick at. I thought we stressed Aimed Fire? Spray and pray is what poorly trained targets do. Say what you want about the Soldier or Marine of 2006, but "..poorly trained and clueless 18 yr old" isn't very accurate. There was a move post OEF/OIF experience to go to a 6.5/6.8mm, but the bean counters, again, are trying to kill it. This sounds familiar.
I've been writing on and off the topic ever since.

I accepted defeat too early ... it appears that there were unknown Salamander types inside the Army lifelines working hard to make it happen ... and I smile with great satisfaction watching this progress.
The U.S. Army has selected three firms to advance to the next phase of testing to select the service's Next Generation Squad Weapon.

The Army chose General Dynamics-OTS Inc., AAI Corporation Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. -- which makes the service's new Modular Handgun System -- to deliver prototypes of both the automatic rifle and rifle versions of the NGSW, as well as hundreds of thousands of rounds of special 6.8mm ammunition common to both weapons, according to an announcement posted Thursday night.
The Army's goal is to select a final design for both weapons from a single company in the first quarter of 2022 and begin replacing both M4s and M249s in an infantry brigade combat team in the first quarter of 2023, Brig. Gen. David Hodne, director of the Army's Soldier Lethality Cross Functional Team, told in July.
Why is this ultimately so important?

At the end of the day, everything a military has must support one thing; the infantryman. From time immortal, you do not achieve victory in war until you have someone in your uniform standing with their weapon - club, ax, sword, or gun - on any damn street corner they want to in a land that was until recently someone else's.

Infantry isn't sexy, but it is the One Thing.

They need the best. They deserve the best.

Green eye-shade types be damned.

Monday, September 02, 2019

Hong Kong's Reminder and Warning

For those who know how precious and rare individual freedom actually is in this world, this summer's series of protests in Hong Kong have been both inspiring and tragic.

The British Empire took land of no value and turned it in to an island of freedom. Even though a colony, by the time the British lease ran out, the people of Hong Kong had built a unique Chinese-Anglo-Saxon fusion culture that was a shining example what the Chinese people and their culture could accomplish if given even a basic level freedom and the rule of law.

The last few decades, Singapore and Taiwan have developed along similar lines. They have small populations (7.3 million, 5.6 million, & 23.8 million souls, respectfully) whose light outshines the autocratic and imperial PRC's 1.39 billion.

Ultimately, what would Hong Kong want - a people who have developed a very different concept of individual liberty, economics and civic culture than the mainland? In a perfect world, independence along the lines of Singapore. Outside a general collapse of the Chinese nation, that isn't going to happen. They also know that once the 50-yr transition period expires in 2047, the PRC would prefer to simply absorb them ... but in a way that keeps the dynamism.

Odds are, that is what will happen - though the PRC will not get the dynamism. Hong Kong's residents know this and hope for some way luck will give them a way to maintain some form of "One Country - Two Systems."

Sad. Very sad.

One thing the Anglosphere needs to start working on a plan for - especially the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand - is how to accept Hong Kong refugees as we approach 2047 or earlier if the PRC reverts to form. Hong Kong was a small island of the West. A smart, hard working people facing assimilation by a soul-crushing PRC. For those who want to leave before the final boot of the PRC comes down, we should let them. Make sure you make sure they are ligit HK and not PRC citizens ... but yes.

Person to person, you could do a lot worse for new citizens.

We don't live an ideal world, and the PRC will in all likelihood just grind down Hong Kong resistance - and another little light of relative freedom will fade out - a footnote in history like so many other little island states.

While so many small minded, blinkered, self-loathing native born in the best of the Anglosphere; UK, USA, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand - like to bad mouth their nations - those who know the world know what special places they can be. Imperfect, yes, but less so than others.

Hug your passport a little more. Take a moment to appreciate your liberty. Nurture it, protect it, help it to grow both in your nation and elsewhere.

Also, look to Hong Kong's brave people - and thank the Fates that you were born where you are, and not there.

Friday, August 30, 2019

Fullbore Friday

The United Kingdom and her Empire were fighting WWII for over two years before we entered the war. Her Navy was fighting Germans from the North Cape to the South Atlantic, from the Grand Banks to eastern Indian Ocean while we sent a cruiser to South Africa to load up on her gold to buy weapons.

80 years and a day ago in 1939 the Admiralty ordered the mobilization of Royal Navy. Just five days later, she would be at war with Germany.

She started the war with a fleet 332 strong. Before the end of the war, she would have 885 ships serve under her flag. She lost 278 of them.

At the start of the war, the United Kingdom herself had a population of 47,550,000. Between her navy and merchant marine, by war's end she would suffer 81,006 dead.

To put that in perspective, in 1939 the USA had a population of 130,900,000. Our navy and merchant marine suffered deaths of 68,276. To understand fully the British losses at sea, if you adjust by population size, for the USA to have as many killed at sea, our number would be 261,800 souls.


Hat tip @OnthisdayRN, photo credit burritojustice.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Breach of Faith: The Navy Must Fix the Way it Pays Mobilizing Reservists

When I arrived in Kabul for my last deployment, one of the first things I noticed was a shockingly high percentage of the USN cadre there was USNR. The months that followed was the first time in two decades on active duty that I started to fully appreciate the unnecessarily Byzantine bureaucracy they had to exist in – almost designed to make people not want to be in the USNR.

Today’s guest post outlines to those outside the USNR lifelines a few of the unnecessary processes our reserve component has to deal with. Many of these exist for one reason only; we allow them to.

Blake, over to you.

The US Navy Reserve is failing its deploying Sailors by sending them forward into harm’s way with administrative burdens that damage financial standing, negatively impact their families at home, and detract from readiness. These problems begin at the outset of reserve mobilization and continue through to the day upon which reservists are demobilized and sent home and, in some cases, beyond. Intervention is required if the Navy Reserve is to execute its stated vision of providing transparent and seamless administrative systems in support of its deployed force.

Most US Navy Reserve Sailors are familiar with a certain degree of extra administrative burden that is not felt as strongly by active duty Sailors. Reservists must learn the administrative system intimately and be prepared to shoulder responsibility for requirements that would be handled by personnel and pay departments in the fleet. It is a common joke that serving as a Selected Reservist (SELRES, or drilling reservist) is like having a second full time job for which you are paid one weekend a month. Reservists, in my experience, accept that responsibility with good humor and understanding in most situations.

When a reserve member is mobilized, however, the issues commonly snowball to an unacceptable level beginning on the day they report to the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center in Norfolk, Virginia. During the first morning, reservists are told that “due to 1’s and 0’s issues” their allowance for lodging is not the US Navy’s official rate for their geographic location. Instead it is a lower total, set as part of the Integrated Lodging Program Pilot (ILPP). Most reservists will have made their lodging reservations months in advance and, due to Norfolk being a fleet concentration area, many will have been forced to obtain Certificates of Non-Availability (an official document certifying that DoD lodging was unavailable and authorizing the sailor to make arrangements elsewhere) and make reservations in non-DoD lodging, oftentimes at a higher rate than otherwise allowable. The gathered Sailors are informed that their CNA’s will not be honored due to incompatibility between the Navy’s travel management system and the new program. In layman’s terms, this means any sailor in lodging above the ILPP limit, even if unable to obtain any other DoD-approved lodging, will personally bear the cost of any overage and will not be reimbursed during the travel claim process. A large number of deployers leave at lunch on the first day to find new lodging. Those that are unsuccessful in finding lodging within a reasonable distance are left with the bill, regardless of their rank.

In the same morning, Sailors are informed that their travel claims (the document detailing all costs incurred by the sailor from the time they leave home until they reach their gaining deployed command) will not be reconciled within the Congressionally-mandated timeline of 30 days. These travel claims include air travel (procured at inordinately high rates via the DoD’s contracted travel service), weeks of lodging, and per diem allowances totaling several thousands of dollars. Most of these costs are incurred on each sailor’s Government Travel Credit Card (GTCC). For those unfamiliar, every member is required to apply for and employ a GTCC for any travel expenses incurred during duty status, and those cards are linked to each member’s personal credit rating. Members are advised that travel claims may take three to six months to be serviced but that the issue is “receiving flag-level attention.” Many members, to avoid late penalties and damage to personal credit, use their personal savings to settle the government’s bill or place the mobilization-related bills on personal credit cards – a direct violation of DoD policy and putting members at risk of disciplinary action. The issue, at best, depletes members’ savings or, at worst, negatively impacts members’ credit ratings, as the navy fails to reimburse Sailors for costs it has directed them to incur without an effective method of repayment. As a currently-deployed reservist, my detachment recently relieved a group of Sailors that had at least one sailor de-mobilizing (going home) after 270 days deployed whose travel claim still had not been reconciled. With three weeks to go until re-entering the civilian sphere, that sailor was still bearing a burden of thousands of dollars without any sign of resolution.

Pay issues, a problem not unfamiliar to both active duty and reserve Sailors, becomes a nightmare for mobilizing reservists. When Sailors are mobilized, they pass through multiple commands via intermediate stops (I-stops) delineated in their mobilization orders. Their Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSC’s) at home release them administratively and the fleet picks them up in a process that begins at ECRC. The administrative personnel at ECRC work hard, but are faced with processing dozens, sometimes over 100, Sailors each week. Each sailor is warned during their first week of mobilization that they will likely experience pay issues. While it is appropriate to warn deployers of this, it’s simply unacceptable and the warning of “pay issues” does not remotely approach an accurate description. More apt would be a warning that Sailors cannot rely on their employer, the US Navy, to compensate them sufficiently to pay their bills for a period of time that may be counted in months.

This practice of allowing known pay issues to languish would result in immediate dismissal for the parties responsible in any enterprise outside the DoD. For those that would rebut this allegation with the fact that the US Navy will eventually make those Sailors whole via backpay, that point is acknowledged but who pays Sailors’ bills in the interim? I have rented lodging my entire adult life and have yet to encounter the landlord that accepts IOU’s for months on end, nor the utility company that provides power on the promise of reimbursement, nor the grocery store that offers food on credit. Approaching our fifth month of deployment, my small detachment of five has one sailor being paid correctly. In the last pay period, I received $0.30 as my housing allowance for a month. My rent, for an average apartment - admittedly in one of the most expensive cities in the world, is over $3,000 (well-within the allowable limit for the locale). My Sailors come to me with concerns that they will be unable to support their wives at home or pay their mortgages. We’ve been told that the Personnel Support Detachment responsible for our unit is below 50% manning but they’re hiring and training the required staff to get our issues sorted out. If the DoN is paying those employees half of what they agreed to in their contracts, it is no wonder that they lack the necessary manpower to execute the required tasks. The one thing PSD has definitely accounted for are debts, any overages or incorrect allowances have been withdrawn within one pay period. These are not isolated incidents. Other reservists report their final paychecks were held by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for 100 days beyond their re-deployment dates, exponentially multiplying the stress of re-integration at home. It is not only egregiously wrong, it degrades personal and unit readiness. Members are being plucked from their homes and workplaces and placed into a position of financial instability, draining personal savings and causing insecurity in families. Sailors’ minds are understandably divided between their deployed duties abroad and ensuring their loved ones are not put out into the street at home.
What if I can't pay my bill because I haven't received my reimbursement? 
- Cardholders are responsible for paying their monthly billing statement in-full, excluding any disputed transactions, by the due date indicated on the statement. Unpaid accounts are considered past due at 30 days beyond the billing date, and delinquent at 60 days beyond the billing date. Cardholders are responsible for payment regardless of the status of their travel reimbursements. If your due date is approaching and you’ve yet to receive reimbursement, please contact your travel approving official immediately.
- Defense Travel Management Office GTCC Frequently Asked Questions
As a starting-out proposition, reserve mobilization should be entirely funded via centrally-billed account (CBA) aligned to the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center. It is inappropriate to force members to incur expenses via GTCC without a timely expectation of repayment. This issue is not anecdotal, nor confined to one small detachment. It is endemic and at this point has been reduced from a crisis to a planning consideration.

With regards to travel claims, I propose a mobilization stand-down until the timeline for reimbursement can be brought back within the 30 day requirement set forth by Congress. During the stand-down, an impartial third party should be engaged to conduct a thorough review of policies and business rules that allowed this vast backlog of debts to Sailors. While this is an extreme response, perhaps that extremity might offer motivation to self-assess rapidly and institute solutions, rather than simply briefing our deployers that they might not be repaid until after their 9-12 month deployments conclude.

In terms of fixing the pay system, it is past time to modernize. I know all Sailors reading this will be familiar with handwriting checking account information into a poorly-copied, off-center reproduction of the Navy’s electronic funds transfer form. I am also confident that most Sailors reading this have faced the issue of incorrect pay and fixes that take months to effect. Looking at Navy pay programs and websites is akin to taking a guided tour of the internet of the 1990’s. There are effective, modern solutions to paying personnel. Navy leadership need to choose one and implement it, preferably before the private sector jumps forward another generation in technology and leaves us even further behind.

If the language in this article seems impassioned, or perhaps accusatory, I suppose that is the case. The DoD owes better to its Sailors, and especially those it deploys into harm’s way. It is not enough to tell them that flag level officers are aware of their problems when those problems are damaging their personal credit, depleting their savings, and distressing their families. When we talk about personal sacrifice, are we acknowledging that in addition to leaving spouses and children, missing births and first days of school, and doing dangerous jobs in dangerous places, we’re asking Sailors to do those things without being adequately paid? As Claude Berube detailed for War on the Rocks earlier this year, the USNR has been plugging gaps in our force with reservists for the duration of the Global War on Terror, nearly two decades, but we’re still incapable of getting the right paycheck to those Sailors?

The Navy Reserve’s website proudly proclaims “Our Strength is our People...Every Sailor Matters.” The Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center’s motto is “Nauta Primoris...Sailors First.” It is hard to reconcile those proclamations with the accepted standard. I have no doubt that the staff of the ECRC are dedicated to their mission and doing their best, but they are hamstrung by a system that is not optimized to support a deployed reserve force. As a service, we must do right by our reservist deployers. Assume responsibility for the financial outlay of deploying Sailors, stand down mobilizations until Sailors are being reimbursed within the required timeline, and modernize our pay system to let Sailors focus on the jobs they are deployed to execute. To continue to fail in addressing this known issue is not just a readiness issue, but a breach of faith.

Lieutenant Blake Herzinger is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, whose landlord won't accept flag level attention in lieu of rent. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent those of his civilian employer, the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Moran Defenestration IG Report is Out

No, there is nothing here to make you feel better.

There is nothing here that will make you feel better about your Navy.

IMAO, a great wrong has been done, and done for the most useless of reasons.

Bask in it over at USNIBlog. I'm going to get a beer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

NNN - a New Acronym the Navy Does Not Need

Before we get to substance, I want to ride one of my hobby horses first; style.

We cannot expect to be able to effectively tell our Navy's story - and build public support for our Navy - if we cannot communicate in clear, understandable, and consistent terms.

Both inside our lifelines, and especially outside our lifelines, one of the most significant self-generated barriers we have to effective communications is the self-parody level of acronym use. It seems that we feel the need to create new rafts of idea-choking acronyms every FITREP cycle.

It seems we're doing it again. In an critical document we would want a broad spectrum of people to read, quote, and discuss, Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020, we auto-chaff our message with this unnecessary cloud;
The National Defense Strategy provides the overarching guidance and high-level requirements for sustaining the Navy the Nation Needs (NNN).
It appears that someone spawned this about 18-months ago, and I really wish we would stop trying to make NNN happen. I know it has become shorthand for 355, but stop. What do we do next in this farcical dance, abbreviate it to "3N?"

Someone at NAVSEA needs to be put in the time-out chair.

I think we are moving away from 355 anyway, so we'll see what the report for 2021 says - ringing in the Terrible 20s.

I stand that we will never see 355 outside Chinese expansion east, but here is the vision:

Now let's look to the substance of the report. As we discussed before, it is fun to talk about ship numbers and programs etc ... but that isn't where the greatest challenge is. You can buy all the fancy new things you want, but if you can't maintain them properly, they become tied to the pier and combat ineffective.

We have a significant issue right now.
Sustaining the 355-ship fleet will require changes to both public and private industrial capability and capacity. Current infrastructure will require update and refurbishment to support modern classes of ships and repair. Likewise, additional dry docks will be needed to address the growing fleet size. Navy and industry partners must create work environments where talented Americans will want to work and contribute to the national defense. This includes investments in updating facilities and capital equipment, and as well as providing that workforce training that is both modern and relevant and compensation commensurate with the skill required to repair Navy ships. Finally, we must avoid feast and famine cycles that erode both the repair industrial base and the underlying vendor supply base. Consistent funding matched to steady demand for work will enable the repair base, public and private, to grow to meet the needs of the 355-ship Navy.
Read the whole report with the commentary to the numbers ... but this just screamed out to me as the above the fold issue. We can't service what we already have in the fleet. 

Yes, I'm a spreadsheet guy - I think the numbers speak just fine for themselves;

If I were in Congress - and thank you Buddha I am not - this would get first billing.

It is the adult thing to do. It is the long-term thing to do ... and you know what - there are A LOT of very good jobs that come with shipyards and maintenance. 

A lot.

Oh, and for (R) and (D) politicians who mean well and the best for their Navy; it is the right thing to do.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Nuclear Nations at Total War with Each Other - but Don't Use Nukes?

Of all the bloodshed and slaughter of WWII - though all sides had chemical weapons - they were not used at all. Not even at the very end.

What about nuclear armed nations today? If two nuclear powers go to war, is going nuclear inevitable? Does having nukes help you avoid war?

Maybe not. An interesting theory is that MAD is something that works until it doesn't.

Over at Small Wars Journal, Mangesh Sawant has a few observations about one flash-point many think has the greatest odds of going nuclear; India and Pakistan.

What if conventional wisdom, as it often can be, is wrong?
MAD is ineffectual in the sub-continent. Deterrence worked during the cold war as both the adversaries were armed in terms of nuclear weapons and delivery platforms. Soviet Union and the US had advanced military capability to destroy each other in a nuclear conflict. The arms buildup between the Soviet Union and the US led to the realization of nuclear annihilation having ramifications across the world. This threat led to both the nations signing the START and SALT agreements.

Nuclear deterrence theory and MAD will not work in South Asia due to the following:
The quality of weapons delivery platforms is important for the delivery of nuclear weapons. Technologically Pakistan’s weapons are antiquated and inferior. Most of its weapons systems are imported from China which reverse engineers them from Russian weapon systems.[iv] The Chinese weapons systems are not tested in any battles or wars. In an era of 4th and 5th generation warfare Pakistan still operates the 1st and the 2nd generation of combat aircrafts, naval ships and army weapons systems. India has inducted state of the art 4th generation weapons systems like SU 30 MK1, T 90 tanks, Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, nuclear attack submarine INS Arihant and ICBMs. Technologically advanced weapons will be used by India in conventional warfare to wipe out Pakistan’s military establishments and nuclear facilities in a preemptive strike. The quantity and lethality of conventional weapons in the arsenal is crucial to project the destructive capabilities on the adversary. Pakistan lacks in this aspect as its weapon systems are antiquated and this is the reason it has resorted to the strategy of unconventional warfare through terrorism. Therefore, in South Asia the conventional superiority of India outweighs the nuclear weapons systems capability and empty threats of Pakistan.
MAD is only possible if there is parity in nuclear bombs and weapon systems. MAD is not possible in South Asia due to the overwhelming Indian nuclear second-strike capability and superior conventional weapon systems.
So, like in WWII with chemical weapons - does it become a conventional slugfest?
Small nuclear powers like Pakistan and North Korea resort to belligerent posturing and blackmailing the international community by threatening to use nuclear weapons under the doctrine of first nuclear strike. But there is a tacit understanding between the politicians and the military in both countries about the power of conventional war, preemptive strikes and total nuclear annihilation by India and the US. It’s the age of unrestricted warfare for technologically advanced militaries in conventional warfare environment with nuclear armed adversaries. This is the new normal.
A final note. The author really should have saved this for another article - but I find this something worth a long night's drinking and arguing over. Indian vs. Pakistan would be Clausewitz vs. Sun Tsu?
Classical warfare strategies have been followed by nearly every country. The differentiating factor remains the type of governing systems. Democracies have been practicing Clausewitz while dictatorships and one-party systems have been practicing Sun Tzu. Pakistan has been following Sun Tzu’s art of warfare which is exemplified by concealment, unconventional warfare, unrestricted warfare, deception and manipulation. 
India has been following the Clausewitz strategy which is characterized by restricted and classical conventional warfare. Today Pakistan is the only country in the world which has fused the unconventional and hybrid warfare strategy with a nuclear deterrence doctrine of first strike. Pakistan has been sponsoring and fomenting terrorism in India since the last 3 decades. India has not penalized Pakistan due to the threat of nuclear retaliation to an Indian conventional attack.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Missile Defense at Sea and Ashore with Tom Karako, on Midrats

Not since the last decade of the Cold War have ballistic missile defense, land based cruise missiles, as well as short, intermediate, and medium range ballistic missiles received this much attention outside the compartmentalized and esoteric warfare specialities they belong in.

With the realities of our century bidding farewell to the previous century's INF limitations, you shouldn't expect the topic to fade away anytime soon.

Shipboard and land based missile defense are rising to meet the threat - using both established capabilities and new ones emerging from the lab.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm to discuss these and related topics, our guest will be Dr. Thomas Karako.

Tom is a senior fellow with the International Security Program and the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he arrived in 2014. His research focuses on national security, missile defense, nuclear deterrence, and public law. For 2010–2011, he was an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, working with the professional staff of the House Armed Services Committee and the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on U.S. strategic forces policy, nonproliferation, and NATO.

He is also currently an adjunct professor in the Strategic Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a fellow with the Institute for Politics and Strategy of Carnegie Mellon University. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University and his B.A. from the University of Dallas.

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

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.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Enemy Within

One of the worst kept secrets in academia is that China isn't just using our colleges to train their elite to compete against us, but they are also using them to steal intellectual property and national security secrets - all for a few more pieces of silver.

Paul Bedard over at the Washington Examiner outlines the problem well;
Several foreign nations, notably China, push students flooded into U.S. colleges and universities to steal trade and defense secrets “whenever the opportunity presents itself,” according to a new report that highlights the threat to national security posed by foreign students.
It said that the explosion of student visas to STEM schools takes positions that U.S. students can use and puts potential spies inside institutions that have key national security ties to the U.S. government.

The report said that nearly 70,000 foreign students overstayed their visas in 2017. Chinese students were first, with 18,075.
Only a small portion are a threat - indeed my kids have talked to many who have fallen in love with the USA and do not want to go back to China - but we need to better control who is and is not here.

Not just for national security reasons either; we need to educate our own. When major research institutions have more foreign students than out of state students - we're doing things wrong.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

We Need More Unsexy

USNS, Auxiliaries, dry docks, depot level maintenance ...

Are you asleep yet, or is your blood pressure up?

Either way, I'm beating the drum over at USNIBlog.

Come on by!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Salamander Bill Must Advance

Time again to bring up a Bill I would dearly love to see in Congress. 

Let me set the table first.

- In my lifetime, I've seen when the military was not held in high regard professionally. In the 80s, I caught the tail end of the "be careful when wearing your NROTC uniform around campus" phase. 

We should nurture today's climate.

- In popular culture, there is a disconnect between some of the cartoon character senior officers - corrupt, grasping, ego-maniacal, etc - and what people see day to day in their work; good people in hard jobs doing the best they can.

We need to police our bad actors who play in to that stereotype. 

- The US military spends an ungodly amount of treasure in men and material. When you have all that money sloshing around in often esoteric areas, the usual rent-seekers, thieves, and other parasitic characters will always be there looking to dip their beaks.

Thick and robust firewalls need to be in place.

- The uniformed military leadership should always see itself as the customer of the defense industry - not part of that. We imperfectly play that role.

Prevent perverse incentives by our weaker characters.

- Retired General Officers and Flag Officers (GOFO) are provided with an amazing retirement package - almost unequaled in security and amount by their peers. Look it up.

No retired GOFO can plead poverty.

- When the government makes the decision to spend tens to hundreds of billions of dollars on defense, the taxpayer should have confidence that the best decision was made for the best reasons. Anything that could throw a shadow on that needs to be carefully addressed.


- The revolving door between the civilian sector and industry - especially journalism and financial services - is well known ... and is a growing problem with retired military members.

Do not accept the unacceptable as inevitable.

We need to act in line with what we like to tell others we are. 

Why does the military sector employ so many retired GOFO? Simple; their connections and their perceived integrity ... but mostly their connections. They are also used as a shield against criticism.

I know a lot of retired GOFO who followed a long American tradition of going in to public service or the civilian sector outside the areas they worked on while in the military.

...and then there are the others.

For them, I have long supported the SALAMANDER BILL;
For a period of no less than five years from their effective date of retirement, General Officers and Flag Officers shall not be employed by, be a independent or subcontractor to, an officer of, or a member of a board of directors - compensated or not - with any publicly of privately held company that does business with the Department of Defense.
That's the rough draft - Hill staffers can gussy it up as needed.

Why? If for no reason than to buttress the public trust of the military from situations outlined by Mandy Smithberger at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) - yes, POGO;
This year’s Department of Defense budget request included six fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than planned, setting off a firestorm of protests from the program’s boosters. Part of that pushback, organized by the Congressional F-35 Caucus, was a letter in support of the program signed by 128 retired senior military officers. The letter failed to disclose that 50 of the signatories stand to benefit if Congress authorizes more F-35 purchases because of their actual or potential personal or financial ties to the program.
Some of the signatories to the letter are in the Project On Government Oversight’s Pentagon Revolving Door Database, and others would likely appear in the Defense Department’s own ethics database—though we have no way of knowing, because that database has not been made available to the public. Information about all of these former officials’ connections to defense contractors should be publicly available: taxpayers and lawmakers need to know who’s influencing spending decisions and what interests they’re representing.
While the disclosure should absolutely be public - and shame on us for allowing it not to be - I stand it is not enough.

Also worth your time is Mandy's NOV18 article on the revolving door at The Pentagon.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Large Unmanned Surface Vessel: Relax, We're Just Testing a Little

So, we're taking the next step to see what we can do with unmanned surface vessels;
“We’re at the point where we really have to get them out there to start understanding how tough are these things, how robust, and how are they going to integrate with the fleet, what kind of policies are going to surround these systems when you start talking about potentially separating weapons from humans,” Vice Adm. Bill Merz, then deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems (OPNAV N9), told USNI News in April. 
“So we’re cautious on that side, but we’re very aggressive in getting it out there, so we’re trying to run these parallel paths and illuminate these challenges and start resolving them in parallel.”
You can see the draft request in full here.

It has been curious to watch so many get so overexcited about this - a bit too much science fiction reading, I guess. Perfect example is from the UK. I know it is a tabloid, but a good representation of the heavy breathing in some places about this project. Everyone should slow down their expectations a bit. 1968's view of 2001 was a bit optimistic, as was 1975's view of 1999.

A lot needs to be worked out. My top-3:

1. Operations in a non-permissive EW & SATCOM/NAV environment.
2. Collision avoidance & accountability.
3. Force protection & hijacking prevention.

Big Navy, to my relief, is not overselling this concept. We're investing some significant cheese in the concept - but in a good way. Take some time to review last month's Congressional Research Service report as well.

Build a little, test a little, learn a lot.

It works.