Thursday, December 31, 2020

Annus Horribilis's Top-5


So, we’ve made it – 2020 is about done.

It is cliché to go over all the things that will make this year stand out more than any other, but for the navalists out there, perhaps we should take a moment to ponder the Top-5 events that come to mind.

1. Captain Crozier, USN and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71): it would be difficult to write a screenplay – and I am sure we will see one after the book – of the circumstances in the 1QCY20 as COVID-19 appeared on the scene. This will be a study in leadership for a long time. I think with time and distance that my original take, with sympathy towards Crozier, will become the standard. As more is found out about what happened up the chain of command from him, that will become the major part of the story. Sure, in hindsight there is a lot to criticize, but none of us were there at that specific time with that specific information with that level of support receiving that specific advice. In the end, two things can be both correct at the same time; Crozier did the right thing, and firing him was correct. Perhaps.

2. Public shaming of USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Gravely (DDG 107): everyone by now should understand the cumulated deferred maintenance of our warships. This is something that has been with us for decades. The condition of the SPRUANCE DD in the early 00s was an early warning that was ignored. Substandard has become the standard. That being said, this year saw enough pushback that there may be enough traction to get the funding and mindset back to where it needs to be in order to be proper stewards of the nation’s navy. Perhaps.

3. The burning of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6): I am waiting for the full investigation, but even months later, the initial observations remain. As they did after the collisions of the FITZ and MCCAIN in 2017, our Sailors responded in the finest traditions of our navy to the crisis. Also like the events of 2017, the weakest part of the story is the senior leadership – mostly absent, hiding from the press and people, and hoping someone else will take the PR hit. Just horrible.

4. Callous disregard for the lessons of 2017: of the many bold-faced lessons we thought we took away from 17 Sailors drowning in berthing in the summer of 2017, I though we agreed that we cannot over-deploy and under-support our fleet without negative results to follow. However, we are double-pumping CVN on pointless deployments and extending already exhausted ships at sea for … what?

5. The Culmination of the 355 Ship Navy: navalists, whether they were Trumpists or not four years ago, were excited that the 2016 election was won by a candidate that had a 355 ship navy as an above-the-fold priority. For reasons that are his as the Chief Executive, Trump failed to put the civilian leadership in place and promote the uniformed leaders who would follow through. We failed. It took the National Security Advisor – of all people – to take the point of leadership on this issue. The 2020 election pushed that on to the off ramp. A new administration is coming in, and there are no navalists or mandate from the Biden supporters for a larger navy. There are some good, right-thinking people coming in to the Biden administration … but none at this point who will fight and act towards a larger navy. Will have to wait. Hopefully navalists will take the time in exile to do the intellectual work, and build the right network of like minded people who will take action, so when the next opportunity presents itself, action can take place on day-1.

So my good friends of the Front Porch – and I do consider <most of> you friends, we come to another year. Though I don’t jump in all that much, I do read the comments section for every post. Many of you are much smarter and have greater experience than I do and you help make CDRSalamander what it is. I look forward to reading the comments section here, I don’t fear it.

I wish everyone the best as we go forward, and peace in dealing with any weight 2020 has placed on your shoulders.


Cheers,

Sal


crossposted to substack.

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

CNO Goes Salamander?


OK, that may be a stretch but we may have an opening to discuss the logistics and maintenance holes that everyone else was ignoring this century.

I'm not a fan of all he has plans for 2021, but I am encouraged by a recent statement.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and tell me your thoughts

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Japan's Slow Entry in to the Arms Market Begins at Sea


Unlike Germany and Italy, Japan has been much slower to get back in to the military game outside its borders. Much of that derives from the constitutional restrictions we put in their new government after WWII. With that are the habits generations of Japanese leaders have developed when looking at this area and are comfortable with.

Slowly, that is changing. Especially as memories fade of Japanese occupation, and a sober appreciation of the very real threat from China, each year brings more details.

The government is considering exporting the Maritime Self-Defense Force’s destroyer to Indonesia, according to informed sources.

Negotiations on the export are underway with the Indonesian government, the sources said.

A successful destroyer deal, if struck, would provide momentum for Japan’s exports of defense equipment and help realize the country’s initiative to make the Indo-Pacific region free and open, the sources said.
More steps need to be taken in Japan to make this happen;
Japan’s three principles on defense equipment transfers, adopted by the Cabinet in 2014, allow exports of equipment that will be used for life-saving, transportation, vigilance and surveillance activities, or minesweeping.

“Exporting a destroyer will not be easy (in light of the principles) because the ship has not only warning and surveillance functions but attack capabilities,” a senior Defense Ministry official said.

But the export may be possible if it is made for the purpose of joint ship development with a foreign country, the official added.

In fiscal 2015, the ministry set up the Acquisition, Technology & Logistics Agency for uniform control of exports of defense equipment.

But the agency had failed to arrange equipment exports until it worked out in August this year a deal to ship four radars to the Philippines.

I support this for a variety of reasons, top most would be that it is in our interest for regional cooperation as a bulwark against China. The Japanese can play a significant role in this, and military ties would bring them closer.

Additionally would be the military effectiveness this will bring to nations that are no threat to us. The Japanese build quality kit, most of which the USA could help support if needed.  

Good. All good.

Crossposted to substack.

Having Trouble Seeing the Blog?

Problems with accessing this content on facebook - mostly due to OPFOR action, has been longstanding and hard to fix. On NMCI and some other platforms, there are issues with the entire blogspot domain ... again, longstanding.

As such, while I am not changing platforms as of yet, from here on out I am going to be crossposting to the CDR Salamander page on Substack. I've decided to let Bryan's post be the test run as FB now won't let anyone link to my stuff, and NMCI trolls have done there work there as well.

Some of you may like that format, and through the years many of you have asked if I had a "tip jar." I have not moved to pay subscriptions, but may add that in the near future over there. If I do, it will be for you the same as a "tip jar" as you can't buy me all the beer you owe me, but I think I may offer extra content for paid subscribers.  More to follow ... but until then, you can head on over to my substack page where you can, as you can here, subscribe via email to have it come directly to you.


Monday, December 28, 2020

The Navy Has Problems and Must Be Bold to Fix Them

For the last Monday of 2020, we are bringing in one of our favorite regulars guests, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan offers one of the better situation reports of where our Navy finds itself in the first year of what will be an incredibly challenging decade. 

Get a fresh cup of coffee and dig in. He doesn't just provide the solid analysis of where we are, he offers a way forward.

Bryan, over to you.



Coming as it has on the heels of scandal, tragedy, leadership failure, and pandemic, recent news of plans for a dramatically larger Navy seemed to be a lifeline to an organization that has had a few difficult years. That this planned Navy comes after a year of intense scrutiny from the then Secretary of Defense (who rose to that job came through Army service and the Army Secretary position) and has been buttressed by the support of a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (who had previously been Chief of Staff of the Army), seemed to add to the sense of certainty. 

That said, reading the tea leaves in this manner ignores that there are problems with the Navy Department that could put these optimistic growth plans in jeopardy and, worse, risk holding back the Navy at a time when its strategic value to the country is rising. 

There is an opportunity for a fresh start with an incoming administration. Focused leadership and a willingness to pivot offer the best paths to moving beyond some of these issues and to placing the Navy on the firm footing the nation requires. This essay identifies several key problems and then offers a set of recommendations to address them.


Trust

To say the Navy has lost the trust of its governing institutions goes too far, but trust has frayed. Congress, the Secretary of Defense, and the White House have each taken actions that indicate dissatisfaction with basic functions that in the past have been carried out within the Department of the Navy, and for which the Navy was generally considered competent. The pathologies leading to diminished trust seem to disproportionately spring from major shipbuilding acquisition failures. The post-Cold War Navy placed efficiency over effectiveness and, in the process, lost both. The government acquisition and technical workforce, specifically those who in the past were trusted with being the honest brokers between program managers and requirements organizations, was eviscerated, with these functions largely outsourced to industry. The mania for “efficiency” led to too few watchers even as the complexity of desired technology exploded, along with the basic costs of owning a Navy (personnel costs chief among them). In the end, increasingly expensive platforms advanced with immature designs shepherded along by a process that relied on optimistic assessments of technology readiness and a sense that whatever was broken could be fixed in the endgame. 

We are now two decades into this era of efficient shipbuilding and it is an unmitigated failure. To the extent that there are any successes in the Navy’s shipbuilding portfolio, it is from programs that began prior to the year 2000 (DDG 51 and LPD 17) although both are wrestling with major modifications in their latest variants. The Navy’s CONSTELLATION CLASS Frigate program seeks to return to the 20th Century approach by capitalizing on an existing hull and proven technology, but success is not predetermined here. The degree to which Congress doubts the Navy’s basic approach to shipbuilding was reinforced in the omnibus spending measure passed last week, in which language was inserted to essentially zero the Navy’s “Large Surface Combatant” program, and by continuing resistance on Capitol Hill to the Navy’s Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle program

Trust in the Navy has also been an issue within DoD, manifesting itself in the historic micromanagement of fleet architecture and force structure by OSD over the past year. And while I consider the process to have ultimately produced a supportable and reasonable architecture (which in many respects resembled the Navy’s original work), it also injected delay and disruption in the logical sequence of architectural development. That sequence should have started with a strategic basis, then moved to a fleet architecture to support the strategy, and finally onto a 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan that would project the resources and pace necessary to implement a large portion of the architecture. For those keeping score at home, this is a representation of the classic “ends, ways, and means” of strategy-making. 

The Trump Administration provided the Navy with superb bases for moving forward. The National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy both point clearly to the benefits of naval power, and the fact that there was nearly a three-year gap between the release of the NDS (January 2018) and the new Tri-Service Maritime Strategy (December 2020) is inexcusable. Into the void, the new Commandant of the Marine Corps General Berger released his 2019 “Commandant’s Planning Guidance”, which was, as I said at the time, the most important bit of naval strategic thinking since the famous maritime strategy of the 1980’s, but which for all its worth, represented the distillation of thinking and discussion about naval integration that had been ongoing for eight years. A maritime strategy effort timed to drop within three months of the release of the NDS, followed shortly thereafter by an update to the fleet architecture studies released in early 2017 could have resulted in a 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan submitted with the FY 21 budget in the spring of 2019. That plan would likely have had a lot in common with what was submitted earlier this month in the dying days of the Trump Administration but would have had the benefit of two years’ worth of familiarity. 

Instead, the pathologies cited earlier (scandal, tragedy, leadership failure, and pandemic) dissipated Navy senior executive time and energy while Congress grew increasingly impatient with the Department of the Navy’s inability to articulate its needs. On a human level, it is difficult to imagine that the Navy’s troubles did not also color its relationship with OSD, and pressure from Congress on OSD certainly did not help this problem. For that matter, neither did pressure from the White House.

That pressure arrived in the person of National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, who entered the picture in the Fall of 2019.  O’Brien, who has an interest in naval matters and fleet architecture, came into office determined to make progress on Trump’s campaign promise to grow the Navy, but which had not seen much progress due in no small part to the foregoing issues (and to an inattentive President). The energy with which OSD interposed itself into Navy force structure planning in 2020 was a sign of both impatience with the Navy and a bureaucratic response to NSC pressure. Mostly though, what played out in 2020 was a case of diminished trust in the Navy across the board; trust deeply impacted by decades of shipbuilding failures, compounded by other perceived failures, and pressurized by doubt in the ability of the Navy to do things it once was good at. 


Communication

If the Navy does its job properly, its contributions to national defense and economic prosperity are difficult for the average American to discern. Over time, questions rise as to the necessity of providing the enormous sums required to maintain a first-rate Navy, especially in the face of other important national priorities. Freedom of the seas and the everyday business of conventional deterrence around the world do not convey easily to mass entertainment. Americans understand the importance of ships, submarines, and aircraft when the shooting starts, but they do not hold a firm grasp of the fact that those weapons must be regularly procured in peacetime and must be constantly modernized and postured forward to keep that shooting from happening in the first place. 

It is the job of the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to make this case relentlessly, both to the public at large and to their representatives in Congress. Over time, the zero-sum power game between the Service Secretaries and the Secretary of Defense has moved decidedly in the direction of OSD, and the consensus-driven, grand-unifying theory of Jointness has dampened the public advocacy of naval power as a foundational element of national power. 

The costs of providing and maintaining the world’s most powerful Navy are considerable, as are the myriad claims upon national resources made by our modern economy and social safety network. The Navy must do a better job in communicating the value it provides to the nation and the role it plays in the stability and prosperity that underpin the other elements of national power. Advocating for seapower does not mean criticism of other elements of military or national power. It means making the persuasive case for the obvious linkage between the health and power of our Navy and the well-being of the Republic. 

The development and implementation of this communication strategy must be driven from the top and aligned among the various constituencies targeted.  Message alignment across the fleets, within the force, upward to OSD, Congress, and the White House, and outward to the American public, our allies, AND potential adversaries must be carefully managed and implemented. Strategic communication is a first order responsibility of leadership, and it must be treated as such. 


Organization

The Department of the Navy is not well-organized to produce its main, desired product, and that is ready, integrated naval forces in support of conventional deterrence, warfighting, and war-termination. Two services exist within the Department, and it is meet and proper that they do. Existence and organization are different things, and no one should take from this essay a sense that the differences should be eliminated. But within the Department of the Navy, there is no organization resourced to determine the warfighting requirements necessary to achieve the Integrated American Naval Power that the CNO and the Commandant desire. And if such an organization existed, there would be no organization resourced to do the systems engineering and systems architecture necessary to achieve those requirements. And if such an engineering and architecture organization existed, there is no acquisition organization resourced or constituted to field these requirements. There is instead a kluge consisting of military services, each with its own requirements organizations, doctrine commands, systems commands, and program offices all operating within their lanes and achieving truly integrated capability largely as the result of the efforts of talented persons working together on an ad-hoc basis rather than as the result of repeatable processes that work despite leadership talent or personality. 

Naval integration must be top down and bottom up, and changes need to be made throughout and between the Navy and the Marine Corps. Nothing is as cliché as a reorganization carried out by a new management team. That said, the Department of the Navy must organize better to achieve its mission, to include the possibility of larger staffs and additional organizations suitable for a new era of great power competition. The age of efficiency at the cost of effectiveness has ended. 


Recommendations

There are of course, other problems in the Department of the Navy. I have chosen to concentrate on the ones that senior leadership can best tend to, but there is no substitute for ethical, deck-plate leadership to address many of the others. To complete this essay, I offer the following recommendations to address the deficiencies noted.

  • When you are in a hole, stop digging.  Rebuilding the relationship with Congress should be job one. Being uncommunicative and stubborn with your bankers is self-destructive. A better relationship with Congress will lead to less micromanagement from OSD and the White House. 
    • Fully fund the basic engineering and test facilities that Congress rightly believes underpinned previous shipbuilding success for the Large Surface Combatant and LUSV programs. Alter current shipbuilding plans to reflect a realistic timeline for these facilities to mature, even if it means injecting several years of delay in the desired shipbuilding profile. In the meantime, continue to build ships already designed, increase capital investment in desired industrial capability, and spend more on innovative networking schemes. 
    • Commit to a shipbuilding philosophy that relies on mature designs and technologies, with batch implementation of only proven upgrades. 
    • Move more cautiously in identifying a second source to build the CONSTELLATION Class Frigates; be confident in the design and learning curve before dramatically increasing production rate. 
  • Remember your AOR. The AOR for the Secretary of the Navy, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps extends from their offices on the fourth deck of the Pentagon, to the Offices of the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to Capitol Hill, to the White House. The overwhelming majority of time and effort should be spent in this small AOR. Travel outside of Washington should be rare and impactful. 
    • Make immediate plans to implement Congressman Mike Gallagher’s initiative to bring Congress more fully into the discussion of fleet needs. Routinely invite key staffers to participate in DC area forums, war-games, and table-top exercises. 
  • Get the order right. Ends. Ways. Means. The Department has a strategy now—the Tri-Service Maritime Strategy—and although its release was timed unfortunately, it is an excellent document that ought to be discussed and briefed across the naval service, around the country, and within the leadership AOR. When the Biden Administration releases its NSS and NDS as it inevitably will, this strategy should be re-evaluated against the new political direction and updated. Immediately thereafter. Future fleet architecture efforts and force structure assessments must be routine, and the 30 Year Shipbuilding plan should be delivered with the budget every year, on time. 
    • Large swings in the shipbuilding plan are difficult for the industrial base to digest and strain an already brittle supply chain. Any hope of successfully growing the Navy hinges on consistent growth over time resulting from sound analyses and strategic insight. 
  • One message, many voices. Strategic communications within the Department of the Navy needs to be formalized, regularized, and reformed. The Under Secretary of the Navy is the perfect place for this responsibility, and he or she should convene a regular process of message development, targeting, and assessment. This process should be holistic, encompassing communications with OSD and CJCS, operational movements and fleet messaging, international messaging, test and evaluation, internal service messaging, legislative affairs, and media relations. 
    • The Chief of Information (CHINFO) and the Chief of Legislative Affairs (CLA) should be blended USN/USMC staffs that report solely to the Secretary of the Navy through the Under Secretary. Leadership of the organizations should pass between the Navy and the Marine Corps. 
    • USN and USMC flag and general officers must be directed to deliver standardized educational briefings to civic groups around the country and report back to CHINFO on what their audiences bring up as important and relevant. 
    • Navy leadership should encourage the Navy League of the United States to execute its advocacy and education missions more fully and formally and should support these efforts consistent with law and practice. 
  • Organize for Success. The Secretary of the Navy should consider a reorganization that brings certain important functions currently delegated to the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps into the Secretariat to drive closer integration of the planning and budgeting functions in DoN. Specifically, the DCNO for Integration of Capability and Resources (N8) and parts of the Deputy Commandant for Programs and Resources would merge into an Integrated Naval Power Capability and Resources branch. The individual service staffs would continue to execute resource sponsor responsibilities and requirements validation, but the Secretariat would be where the trades would be made across capabilities and services in pursuit of greater integration.
    • The Under Secretary of the Navy create and implement the Strategic Communications process discussed above, and both CHINFO and OLA would reform accordingly.
      • A four-star Systems Engineering, Design, and Acquisition Command should be established to create and maintain the integrated naval architecture and enforce architectural compliance across the DoN. The existing SYCOMS would continue to execute construction, delivery, and life-cycle management responsibilities, but design and acquisition functions would accrue to this cross-domain/cross-service organization.  Some other ideas of note can be found in this 2016 piece by current National Security Council Senior Director Mark Vandroff and me
    • Consideration should be given to whether the existing doctrine organizations within the Navy and Marine Corps can produce doctrine for Integrated American Naval Power. Currently, there is no organization charged with this task. 
  • Do Something Big but, Unexpected. A new administration coming in with President whose electoral process did not require a detailed program of military spending and national security planning has a lot of options, and there will never be a better opportunity to do something bold. Some candidates include:
    • Cancel the remaining LCS ships, take most existing ships out of commission (exempt MIW), and offer for foreign military sale or if necessary, direct transfer. 
      • Re-invest any savings into modifying the three ships of the DDG 1000 class with the same combat system as the DDG 51 Flight III (including an upgraded IAMD worthy radar) and install a launcher to accommodate Conventional Prompt Strike Missiles. Create a true Maritime Dominance Destroyer.
      • Direct the installation of a variant of the DDG 51 Flight III combat system be employed in the LPD 17 Flight II class; direct each new construction LPD 17 to be equipped with a 32 cell VLS Launcher. Backfit all existing LPD 17’s with the Flight III combat system and the VLS Launcher.
        • Both initiatives would move the force toward the future integrated combat system and would increase the available VLS cells. 
    • Consider the truncation of the FORD Class CVN with the latest hull in the budget. 
      • Direct the Navy and Marine Corps to do preliminary design of an aviation capable, nuclear-powered, catapult-equipped platform without a well-deck. 
      • Set the cost ceiling (fully constructed for fleet use) at $10B (FY 20) and give them a year to come back with a plan. 
      • Set a goal of 25 hulls and fully interchangeable with current CSG and ESG missions.
      • Consider the conversion of an existing nuclear capable shipyard into a second building yard for this platform.

Good, smart people lead and follow in the Navy and Marine Corps. What they do is of supreme importance to the nation, and the difficulties of the last few years weigh on many of them. There are no silver bullets, there are no quick and easy paths to the easy life. 

Providing, maintaining, organizing, training, equipping, and operating the most influential and powerful Naval Force the world has ever known is hard. Tell the truth about what you think you need, show the math when you tell the truth, explain the assumptions behind the math, and when your bankers tell you to do something, do it. Don’t be satisfied with organizations that aren’t aligned with your goals. Work to change them. Question your own assumptions more aggressively than your opponents do. Take on the best arguments against you. Make your case, make it well, and make it often. Things will get better. They have to. 


Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC. All opinions here are his own and do not reflect the views of his clients, which include the U.S. Navy. 


Crossposted on substack.


Thursday, December 24, 2020

A Note of Caution

This has been a difficult year, and many of us are not where we want to be this Christmas, or with who we want to be with.

This too will soon pass, but to my nation's enemies, in the Christmas spirit, I will offer you this reminder for this evening;






Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Waterfront of Missed Opportunities


Ignoring all that we will be fighting during the Terrible 20s, I can't think too much about the fleet we have provided to our Sailors to fight with this decade too much without having a slow-building rage.

Maybe you're happy. If so, head on over to USNIBlog and tell me where I'm wrong.

Ho, ho, ho.


(NB: link fixed)

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

OK, the USN Likes to Bear Bait

 

There was a little incident a month ago that kept coming back in to my mind. My guess is that my subconscious was bothered, as it is on a usual basis, that the article did not come with a map.  

You might recall the story ... one in a long list of similar stories;
Russia says one of its warships caught and chased off a US Navy destroyer after it entered territorial waters in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday.

Moscow accused the USS John S McCain of travelling 2km (1.2 miles) across its maritime border in Peter the Great Gulf and says it threatened to ram the ship.

The US warship then left the area, according to Russia.

However, the US Navy denied any wrongdoing and said its ship had not been "expelled".

The incident took place on Tuesday in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, a body of water bordered by Japan, Russia and the Koreas.
The BBC story just does not give you enough information. The key here is "Peter the Great Gulf." That is a lot more specific than "Sea of Japan."

Look for yourself, but in the upper right is the location. No, the marker is not where the close formation exercise took place, just the center of the Gulf.

That is right off Vladivostok. 

No wonder the Russians are a little more touchy than usual. That is their Norfolk or San Diego.

So, sure, we were getting in their business - as we like to do. I'll cut Ivan some slack.

As a side note, the Russian ship is the same one that gave the CHANCELLORSVILLE a little nudge a few years ago - the Admiral Vinogradov. One of the remaining beautiful Udaloy destroyers. 

Pretty girl.


Monday, December 21, 2020

Sweden Executes an About Face


Sweden is not an official ally, but as the largest Scandinavian country, she has influence from Finland, through the Baltic and across the sea to Iceland.

She also has a long history with Russia that she cannot keep an eye off for too long.

This little bit deserves more attention than it is getting;
The Swedish parliament has approved an increase of a whopping 40% in the defence expenditure to counter the threat of Russian aggression. This will take the Swedish defence expenditure to USD 11 billion. This is the first such massive increase in the Swedish defence expenditure in the last 70 years. Only last week, the main parties in the Swedish parliament also adopted the stand to support NATO membership.  
As discussed in the article linked above, this move has been in work for awhile ... but things are accelerating
Troop numbers will rise from 60,000 to 90,000 over the next four years and annual defence spending will increase by 40 per cent to £7.2 billion, or about 1.5 per cent of GDP, under a budget passed by MPs on Wednesday.  
They have been slowing drifting closer to NATO since 1997, and I know their military is game - but is their larger political establishment ready?
A Swedish parliamentary majority in favour of readiness to join NATO as a possible security policy option has emerged for the first time after the far-right Sweden Democrats party shifted position on the military alliance.

However, the government, which decides foreign and security policies, remained opposed to adopting such a “NATO option”.

The introduction of a “NATO option” would not mean Sweden would apply for membership of the U.S.-led Western alliance but rather that Sweden would consider it down the road if deemed necessary for security.
I've taught a seminar at Försvarshögskolan, the Swedish Defense University in Stockholm, and served with Swedish officers on staffs in Europe and Afghanistan. They are great professionals, pound for pound as good as any American, German, or Brit. It would be great to officially have them on our team.

Even though they are just a bit under 10-million souls, their leadership in Europe on defense if very welcome.

Now, if we could just get them to at least 2% vice 1.5% at the end of the day ....

Sunday, December 20, 2020

It's a Year End Wrap Up on Midrats!

2020 has been a year … that is an understatement. From the maritime and national security perspective what were the bold-faced items that changed the outlook the most. While COVID-19 absorbed much of everyone’s time, the world kept turning and history kept moving.

Using our ever-popular melee format – open topic, open chat room and open phones for Midrats’ end of the year review.

We’ll be live and hope you’ll join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern.

DON’T MISS IT!

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, December 18, 2020

Fullbore Friday

 A reboot from almost four years ago. 

We have a new class of FFG to name ... we need a USS ENGLAND.


What can one small ship, well trained, well led, and well armed do when she finds herself in the right place at the right time?

I give you the USS ENGLAND, (DE 635), via Michael Peck at TheNationalInterest;
The saga of the England began on May 18, 1944, when the England and two other destroyer escorts received orders to find a Japanese submarine reported heading toward the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. On the afternoon of May 19, the England's sonar detected the submarine I-16.

What happened next is detailed in an account written by Captain John Williamson, who served as the England's executive officer during that time. In a March 1980 article in Proceedings Magazine, Williamson and co-author William Lanier describe the destroyer escort's baptism of fire. Four times the ship made attack runs over I-16 to launch Hedgehogs, which missed. The Japanese skipper cleverly tried to evade its pursuer by following the England's course and wake.

On the fifth run, the sub's luck ran out. Williamson recalls the crew cheering as they heard four to six Hedgehog hits. Then the England's “fantail was lifted a full 6 inches, then plopped heavily back into the water....We had, with cataclysmic certainty, heard the last of one Japanese submarine. Sobered, and more than taken aback by that final blast, we no longer felt like cheering. But we did stand a little straighter.”

Later that May, the Japanese Navy implemented Operation A-Go, which called for concentrating the Japanese fleet to ambush the Americans in a decisive battle. The plan included establishing a blocking line of seven subs northeast of the Admiralty Islands and New Guinea, across the expected path the Americans would take. The subs would give the Japanese early warning and then sink enough of the American battleline to affect the decisive fleet battle that would follow.

But after U.S. codebreakers deciphered the Japanese orders, the Americans decided that the England and her two companions would roll up the Japanese sub line from one end to the other. On the night of May 22, the USS George's radar picked up the RO-106 cruising on the surface, and illuminated the sub with its searchlight. The sub dived, only to run into the England conducting Hedgehog runs. The England obtained at least three hits, and observed wreckage bubbling to the surface.

On May 23, the RO-104 became the England's third victim, followed by the RO-116 on May 24. On May 26, a hunter-killer anti-submarine task force arrived, centered on the escort carrier Hoggatt Bay, which allowed the England and her two consorts to head to the port of Manus for resupply. On the way, the England sank the RO-108.

After taking on supplies, the destroyer escorts sailed back to what was left of the Japanese underwater picket line. On the early morning of May 30, the destroyer Hazelwood, escorting the Hoggatt Bay, picked up the RO-105 on radar. While several American ships hounded the sub, the England was ordered to stick to its own patrol area.

For almost 24 hours, the other U.S. ships hunted the RO-105, on which was sailing Captain Ryonosuka, the highly experienced leader of the Japanese Navy's Submarine Division 51. The sub managed to evade their attacks. Williamson recalls that the England offered to help and requested the location of the U.S. ships, only be told that “We are not going to tell you where we are. We have a damaged sub, and we are going to sink her. Do not come near us.”

By now out of air, the RO-105 surfaced between two of the American ships, which blocked each other's fire, then submerged again. Disregarding orders, the England headed to the vicinity, and was finally cleared to make its own attack. After surviving 21 attacks over 30 hours, the RO-105 was sunk by the England's Hedgehogs.

Two of the seven subs in the Japanese picket line had previously returned to port. The remaining five had all been sunk by the England.
...
Admiral Ernest King, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Navy, had this to say about the destroyer escort's exploit: "There will always be an England in the U.S. Navy."
Kind of full of huzzah, eh?

Well, this is CDRSalamander, so - here we go.

Look at King's quote again.
"There will always be an England in the U.S. Navy."
USS England (DE-635) was decommissioned in 1945 as it was just too much to repair her after surviving damage off Saipan. The next ship to have that name was the LEAHY Class ship, USS England (DLG/CG-22). She was commissioned in 1963 and decommissioned in 1994.

Think off all the warships we have commissioned since 1994 - some of which have names of dubious nature.

And yes ... we continue to make a liar out of Fleet Admiral King. In the word of a great American post-modern poet; sad.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Diversity Thursday

 As we have covered here through the years, the USCG used to be the most equal opportunity and race neutral of the uniformed services. Then a decade ago, Congress removed the requirement at the USCG Academy that it could not discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin – and once that firewall was gone, we were off to the identity politics Olympics.

I would like to point your attention to two ALCOAST messages; 452/20 and 195/20. Both went out December 15th, 452/20 about five hours before 195/20. You can read the full messages at the hypertext links above.

Before you do that, let’s establish a few assumptions.

1. The diversity commissariat used to tell us that diversity was a “broad” definition, not just race and ethnicity metrics that can be put on a PPT slide – but a larger definition that included regional diversity, educational diversity, etc, etc. Well, they’ve backed off that in the last few years and, as we will see, are now proudly saying the quiet part out loud that they used to protest wasn’t there.

2. In theory – and you can see this manifested on appointments to the academy – our uniformed services should draw people from our vast nation, and should invest recruiting appropriately in the four corners of the USA as population density would lead you. 

3. We have all heard complaints – for decades – that the uniformed services are “too Southern.” Those people have never read Albion’s Seed or refuse to accept the actual cultural diversity of this nation, so they will never get it – but one would assume efforts would be made to help adjust this imbalance … but … behold!

From 452/20:

To better access the richness of American society to recruit a world-class workforce, the Coast Guard is establishing a dedicated Officer Recruiting Corps. This team will focus on the sustained outreach necessary to attract the best of America’s diverse population that reflects the people we serve.

The Corps will serve all non-Academy officer programs including Officer Candidate School and Direct Commission Officer Programs, with a special emphasis on supporting the College Student Pre-Commissioning Initiative (CSPI) at minority-serving institutions.

3. The Officer Recruiting Corps will initially have five members in two-year billets; one Commander and four Lieutenants. The O5 position will serve at Coast Guard Recruiting Command in Washington, DC. The four O3 positions will be assigned to various priority recruiting markets. 

As usual though, they can't  bring themselves to be completely honest. They call this, "...a dedicated Officer Recruiting Corps" but it is no such thing. That is not its primary focus ... oh no. This is, of course, focused on one thing – race. 

This is just another injection of the cancer of sectarianism in to our nation’s government. Defining people by something as meaningless as their self-identified race or ethnicity – a factor that in any other setting, or mix of variables, would be called out for exactly what it is – racial preference.

I know there are well meaning people who support this, and not everyone who is pushing this understands that this adds to a corrosive stew that is identity politics. We have to make every effort to bring people together, not focus more an more on differences that – to our great credit – the larger culture is trying to get rid of.

So, how is this going to be operationalized? Let’s look at 195/20:

CGRC is in need of highly motivated officers to fulfill several key positions to advance this initiative and immediately begin officer recruiting in various geographic locations. 

The LT officer recruiters are co-located with select Recruiting Offices. Four LT positions are open at the following locations:

Atlanta, GA;

New Orleans, LA;

Hampton Roads, VA; and

Miami, FL.

There you go. All in the South, that land so fertile and rich. That is fine for me, a Southerner of long standing. I have a lot more in common culturally from food to religion to family to music to manners with Southerners of all races than I do with that obnoxious people from Boston or LA – much less those Chicago types … so this is fine, I guess.

Here is what I don’t want to hear.

1. Don’t tell me the USCG does not discriminate on the basis of race. They are. In these two messages they are specifically targeting one racial group to make someone’s PPT slide look better. People and money are a zero sum game. They are taking this away from efforts elsewhere. 

2. Don’t complain that the military is too Southern. We have a more martial culture, always have. Your leftist politicians in bed with greedy developers gave up in the 1990s BRAC much more non-Southern military acreage. You are pooling your recruiting efforts down here too. Sit down.

In case you need a picture, here’s is a map of the USCG’s view of diversity supporting our nation.


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

What Taiwan can learn


One of the best things a military can do - it actually is a requirement - it to look at the most recent conflicts of other nations at a similar technological stage for hints at what does and does not work at war. 

Theories and exercises at peace can be dangerously misleading. Only by looking at what happens at war can you be prepared for when it is your turn.

The most recent iteration of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict is one such example. How could this inform Taiwan? 

Eric Chan over at The Diplomat looked at that angle;

However, the first and most obvious lesson of the Armenia-Azerbaijan war is that through massed unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), it is possible for ground forces to cheaply replicate elements of a robust air force at a localized level.

...

Azerbaijan used a significant number of “unmanned” AN-2 biplanes as decoys to locate Armenian air defense and artillery. These decoys were quite low-tech: the pilots simply aimed at the cheap biplanes at Armenian lines, strapped the controls with belts to maintain course, and bailed out. Paired with strike UAS, this proved to be an extremely cost-effective method of revealing and then targeting an enemy air defense.

Those are just a couple of observations. Good stuff to ponder. Give it a read. 

Monday, December 14, 2020

The 2020s Cruiser Crisis


Over the last few years, I have come to the firm opinion that both structurally and culturally, the US Navy is incapable of fixing itself. We have run out of time and are actually past time. To continue to work inside the same infrastructure, policies, laws, and personalities and expect a different result is insanity. We need relief from Congress. Yes, that Congress.

We need a new law and mindset towards acquisition and program management in line with a Goldwater-Nichols replacement. The latest datapoint is the absolute state of our cruiser fleet.

Like so many of the problems we have with the quality, quantity, and utility of the fleet we have today, this was all unavoidable.

It was also very predictable. We are, in spades, enjoying the fruits of Transformationalism rounded up with a decorative acquisition system which seems to be intentionally designed to prevent the development of an effective fleet. We had a series of leaders who made wrong bet, and then doubled down or allowed themselves to be distracted by the political fashion of the moment instead – as it is always easier to seek the praise of those who sneer at you, than to work hard for those you lead.

The latest chapter of “The Terrible 20s” can be seen in an under-examined part of the latest 30-yr shipbuilding plan … the decommissionings;
 In 2022: 

Six Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers will be placed in reserve: San Jacinto (CG 56), Hue City (CG 66), Anzio (CG 68) Vella Gulf (CG 72) and Port Royal (CG 73).  
...
In 2023:  

Two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers will be placed in reserve: Bunker Hill (CG 52) and Mobile Bay (CG 53). 
... 
In 2024: 

Two Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers will be placed in reserve: Antietam (CG 54) and Shiloh (CG 67). 
In 2026: 

One Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser will be placed in reserve: Chancellorsville (CG 62).
While the budget will determine how much we will buy and how close we get to the goals of the 30-yr shipbuilding plan, the decommissioning schedule you can roughly count on. Time, wear and tear, and the issues of deferred maintenance will ensure that.

If we can’t build more than we scrap, we are a degrading force.

So, at a time when the Chinese Communists have a modern cruiser in serial production and even the Italians will cut steel on a slightly under-armed but still cruiser sized warship, why is the world’s premier Navy being left hoping the latest flight of DDG’s designed during the Cold War will carry the day?

Simply – we have an ossified, adhesion filled pile of accretions that is our acquisition system. To compound the problem, we do not seem to have the right mindset when it comes to ship design.

Just recall the disaster that was CG(X). If we were a properly functioning organization, we would already have Hull-1 ready for deployment, Hull-2 about to commission, and serial production for the next decade. We would also already have plans for the steel cut on the hull in 2025 of the first Flight II of the class, and already be briefing the follow-on CG class. 

Instead, in a period as long as two World Wars, we wait … while the Chinese Communist Navy moves from strength to strength, and allied navies with but a small fraction of our shipbuilding budget have modern ships with proven weapons in production.

It has been over a decade since I warned of The Terrible 20s. Here we are. 

The cruiser crisis of the 2020s is just a small part of a complex problem we are involved with that has economic, political, and demographic factors that would be here regardless of the decisions at OPNAV. Our self-generated failures just compound the challenges.

If anyone you associate with is a senior uniformed or civilian leader in our Navy or industry is panicked or surprised – note that. That just informs you that this person cannot see past the FY they are in. They are a danger to the people who work for them, the organizations they lead, and the nation and Navy they serve.

This is not a wake call, this is a reckoning. 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Naval Primacy is America's Best Strategy, with Jerry Hendrix - on Midrats

When trying to get a grasp on the best way to secure the nation's security and interests, why should Americans look to the sea?

Do American's assume or take for granted what three-quarters of a century of American dominance of the high seas gifted them?

Is this assumption in danger? 

Where do we stand and what steps need to be taken to secure what every American living assumes is their birthright?

To discuss this and related issues this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be one of our favorite guests, Dr. Jerry Hendrix, CAPT USN (Ret.), and author of the upcoming book, To Provide and Maintain a Navy; Why Naval Primacy is America's First, Best Strategy.

Since retirement, Jerry has remain engaged in the full breadth of national security issues while at The Telemus Group and  Center for a New American Security.

When on Active duty, his staff assignments include tours with the CNO’s Executive Panel, the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, and the OSD Office of Net Assessment. 

His final active duty tour was the Director of Naval History. 

He has a BA in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies).

He has twice been named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy Historical Center in Washington, DC, and was also the Center’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. He also held the Marine Corps’ General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Fellowship. He authored the book Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy and received a number of awards, including the United States Naval Institute’s Author of the Year and the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.


Friday, December 11, 2020

Fullbore Friday

One of the most dangerous yet commonly held beliefs about a future conflict with China is that we could somehow hold China back by convincing them we could defeat them in 72-hrs. 

Another is that, for some reason, the US Army should have a role - somehow - in significant numbers. That would imply action on mainland Asia.

Even though WWII has mostly faded out of living memory, the Korean War is still inside that fading line. One would think - especially with all the belated focus of the last few years - we would have a greater understanding of the Chinese military history and tradition that, at least to them, goes back thousands of years.

Many will make comments about the Russian ability to sustain and even thrive on hardship and sacrifice, but they hold nothing against the Chines ability to do the same.

At the very highest levels of our natsec nomenklatura, I fear there are very few that understand the scope of China's ability to take and sustain loss.

Case in point, let's look to just one datapoint from WWII. Americans were involved in relative small numbers in this campaign, heck there was even a movie made, 1960's The Mountain Road with James Stewart and Harry Morgan, but this remains almost unknown to the modern mind.

The best single stop summary of the campaign is over at wikipedia. You should go there to read the whole thing, but let me just pull some numbers for what the Japanese called, Operation Ichi-Go;

Operation Ichi-Go (一号作戦 Ichi-gō Sakusen, lit. "Operation Number One") was a campaign of a series of major battles between the Imperial Japanese Army forces and the National Revolutionary Army of the Republic of China, fought from April to December 1944. It consisted of three separate battles in the Chinese provinces of Henan, Hunan and Guangxi.

These battles were the Japanese Operation Kogo or Battle of Central Henan, Operation Togo 1 or the Battle of Changheng, and Operation Togo 2 and Togo 3, or the Battle of Guilin-Liuzhou, respectively. The two primary goals of Ichi-go were to open a land route to French Indochina, and capture air bases in southeast China from which American bombers were attacking the Japanese homeland and shipping.

...

In the first phase, the Japanese secured the Pinghan Railway between Beijing and Wuhan; in the second, they displaced the US air forces stationed in Hunan province and reached the city of Liuzhou, near the border with Japanese-held Indochina. 17 divisions, including 500,000 men, 15,000 vehicles, 6,000 artillery pieces, 800 tanks and 100,000 horses participated in this operation.

The Japanese included Kwantung Army units and equipment from Manchukuo, mechanized units, units from the North China theater and units from mainland Japan to participate in this campaign. It was the largest land campaign organized by the Japanese during the entire Second Sino-Japanese War. Many of the newest American-trained Chinese units and supplies were forcibly locked in the Burmese theater under Joseph Stilwell set by terms of the Lend-Lease Agreement.

In Operation Kogo, 390,000 Chinese soldiers, led by General Tang Enbo (湯恩伯), were deployed to defend the strategic position of Luoyang. The 3rd Tank Division of the IJA crossed the Yellow River around Zhengzhou in late April and defeated Chinese forces near Xuchang, then swung around clockwise and besieged Luoyang. Luoyang was defended by three Chinese divisions. The 3rd Tank Division began to attack Luoyang on May 13 and took it on May 25.

Japanese occupation (red) of eastern China near the end of the war, and Communist guerrilla bases (striped)

The second phase of Ichigo began in May, following the success of the first phase. Japanese forces advanced southward and occupied Changsha, Hengyang, Guilin and Liuzhou. At the Defense of Hengyang, the Japanese only won a Pyrrhic victory since 17,000 Chinese soldiers held out against over 110,000 Japanese soldiers from June 22–August 8, 1944, inflicting 19,000-60,000 dead on the Japanese. In December 1944, Japanese forces reached French Indochina and achieved the purpose of the operation. Nevertheless, there were few practical gains from this offensive. US air forces moved inland from the threatened bases near the coast. The operation also forced British Commandos working with the Chinese as part of Mission 204 to leave China and return to Burma. The U.S. Fourteenth Air Force often disrupted the Hunan–Guangxi Railway between Hengyang and Liuzhou that had been established in Operation Ichigo. Japan continued to attack airfields where US air forces were stationed up to the spring of 1945.

...

All in all, Japan was not any closer in defeating China after this operation, and the constant defeats the Japanese suffered in the Pacific meant that Japan never got the time and resources needed to achieve final victory over China. The Japanese suffered 11,742 KIAs by mid-November, and the number of soldiers that died of illness was more than twice this.[24][25] The total death toll was about 100,000 by the end of 1944.[5]

The Chinese losses for this series of battles alone? 500,000 to 600,000.

For the entire war, in the Pacific theater USA's killed were 111,606. For the entire war.

I have been warning for the better part of two decades that a war with Communist China is coming - or at least a skirmish. It is only a matter of time and place - both will be of their choosing, unless someone is exceptionally stupid on either side. This will be their coming out party as a military force. Outside chance India might be that nation of choice, but I think less likely than the USA.

We need to be ready. I hope we have smart OPLANS and CONOPS on the shelf and have run some solid war games with modest and limited End States. I worry that, as I have seen before, we don't have the right people with a realistic world view running them, shaping them, reviewing them.

We will see, one day.

Pray for peace. Hope for wise leaders with even wiser counsel.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Surprising Navalists Leave a Marker

 

It has been a bit more than four years ago that navalists were in their second month of excitement about the prospects for a larger Navy with the incoming Trump Administration. 

As most did not expect him to win in 2016, few of us paid any more than passing attention that he picked up on work already done under Obama’s SECNAV Mabus to mark “350-355” as the number needed given the realities of the evolving global security situation – specifically China’s not so peaceful rise.

Not fully appreciated at the time, partisanship and incomplete information led many to not give credit to the Obama team for their work prior to the election. Likewise, in a few years the larger fleet had a Trump stamp on it and it experienced trouble getting broad support. 

That is a shame.

If everyone could take a deep breath for a moment – and remember national security should be on balance non-partisan – what we really have here is a bi-partisan consensus that we need a larger Navy. Will the Biden team pick up where Trump’s left off? We’ll have to see, but we have a reference point, a Ref. A., a marker.

The expected outgoing National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and the Russ Vought, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, have an article out this week at the Wall Street Journal, The Navy Stops Taking On Water. I'm glad they did, as this is a conversation that has to break out in to the open.

Sadly, it is behind the paywall and as a result will get limited viewing, but let me grab a few pull quotes for discussion.

To start, the most simple concepts are always the most important;
As a maritime nation, the U.S. depends on control of the sea to protect its people as well as the flow of cargo.
In the second paragraph, this fact, and various iterations of it, should be part of any navalist discussion or position paper. Anyone with a map, globe, or paper thin understanding of our history knows this to be true. No other service has an argument so sound in the search for resources. Only the USAF gets close.

This is your marker if you’re a numbers guy. Of course, you have to gain the support in Congress to get the money needed to make it happen;
The plan will provide a battle force of 355 vessels within 10 years and nearly 400 within 20 years. It will end the decadeslong decline in attack submarines by building three a year beginning in 2025, with a goal of 80. It will more than double the number of small multimission ships to nearly 70. The backbone of this ship class will be the new Constellation-class frigates, and the Navy will need a second shipyard to increase the pace of construction. The workhorses of the fleet, Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, will be modernized.

There is a bit of wishcasting in the unmanned arena. Yes, I know the PPT is sexy and the manpower savings seductive … but industry only tells you the best case variation of the various best case scenarios. Development, yes … and maybe in 2030 such things can be said, but in 2020, the technology simply is not in reach. Reality is not in line with the PPT;
Finally, the plan calls for significant investments in new unmanned ships, which will enhance the resilient strike capabilities of the fleet at a fraction of the cost of manned ships.
How do we get Congressional and taxpayer support? That is the easiest question;
This road map is accompanied by proposed investments in our country’s shipbuilding industry to increase production capacity and create more American jobs. Stable and consistent shipbuilding investments would employ hundreds of thousands with critical manufacturing skills that are easily applicable to other industries. This new labor demand will inspire young people to obtain the requisite vocational training, helping to sustain U.S. manufacturing strength.
This is something we can give money to with results NOW. We are short of facilities to properly maintain the fleet we have today. If we are to grow our fleet, we will need even more. At a minimum we need two new or re-activated shipyards (spit-BRAC-spit) – most likely three.

This last bit leaves me a bit disappointed; 
The increased costs would be fully paid for by reinvesting savings accrued from drawdowns in the Middle East, managing the size of military personnel, and cutting Pentagon overhead.
Overly optimistic. We don’t have all that much left in the Middle East. There is little, at least on the Navy side of the house, flex in uniformed personnel numbers. As for the always popular “Pentagon overhead,” again, we need Congressional action.

There will be only one way to get more money for the fleet our nation needs; we will have to claw it away from the other services.

Goldwater-Nichols is an albatross around the national security neck. It must be replaced. COCOM reform must be done in parallel. Without that, all else is vanity.  With a conductor’s baton in one hand and a battle axe in the other – walk straight in to the grabasstic acquisition system while we are at it. 

Those three must be done first. I think everyone will be pleased with the results … except for the rent seekers from industry and those who have grown comfortable in their well paid, non-productive billets.

In parallel with this is a 30-yr shipbuilding plan. Yes, I know … I know. However, let’s go to the start of the post; there is a bi-partisan consensus that we need a larger Navy. Have a better way to get there? Well, bring it to the table. Compromise with well meaning people who will also compromise. There is more than one way to get to the fleet we need. The challenge west of Wake Island is getting stronger every month – and for 15-yrs we have moved from weakness to weakness.

Wednesday, December 09, 2020

Biden's Preliminary NATSEC Direction and Guidance


Did you catch Biden's speech where he introduced him nomination for Secretary of Defense?

In it, if you look at a certain angle, you can see an outline of what you can expect from him - broadly - for national security priorities.

I have quotes and details over at USNIBlog.

Come by and give it a read and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Deadheading to Buy Time with Iran

 


Perhaps one day the full story will come out how Iran's top nuclear weapons scientist was taken out, but until then we'll just have to give a nod of respect to the Israeli's ability to execute superb clandestine operations in the Islamic Republic.

Tom Rogan at the Washington Examiner has a nice "Top-5 Takeaways" list you really should read in full ... but here's the summary:

1) Biden will not be able to return America to the JCPOA nuclear accord without significant complication
2) There was likely some U.S. intelligence support for this operation
3) Israel's covert intelligence presence on Iranian soil is growing
4) The attack will fuel Iran's paranoia and provoke retaliation
5) This attack doesn't portend U.S. or Israeli military action against Iran's nuclear facilities
Especially #4.

Just amazing capabilities for such a small nation. Having everyone around you trying to kill you does focus the mind a bit.

Saturday, December 05, 2020

From Fleet to the NSC, with Mark Vandroff - on Midrats

Midrats regulars and all sound thinking navalists rejoiced earlier this year when one of our favorites were offered the honor to serve once again - in this case one of our favorite guests and all around great guy, Mark R. Vandroff, Captain, USN Ret.

Mark found himself back in the mix with his appointment as Deputy Assistant to the President, Senior Director, Defense Policy and Strategy at the National Security Council.

Just in time for the holiday season, Mark will come visit us this Sunday from 5-6pm to talk about his experience so far at the NSC, the NSC in general, and other related topics that may come up in the process.

A 1989 graduate of the United States Naval Academy, Mark was the 10th Major Program Manager for the Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer program and the 37th Commanding Officer of NSWC Carderock.  Immediately before coming to the White House, he was the Vice President of Maritime Programs at Zenetex, LLC.  He holds a Master’s of Science in Applied Physics from the Johns Hopkins University and is a frequent contributor to the Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” and online publications such as Strategy Bridge and CIMSEC.  The programs he led have been the recipient of some of Department of Defense’s highest awards for acquisition excellence, including the 2011 Secretary of the Navy’s Competition Excellence Award and the 2012 David Packard Award.  Mark was recognized by the American Society of Naval Engineers with 2018 Gold Medal award for excellence in naval engineering.  

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, December 04, 2020

Fullbore Friday

I bumped into a post I did over six years ago on the passing of one of our greats.

Phyllis. 

Thought I'd repost today ... because, she deserves it. 


Circumstances display character. Character comes often from places least expected - unless of course you know the best of military spouses
She said in a Richmond News Leader interview in 1971 that while Galanti was a POW, she just “wanted to be a housewife.” She wanted to “sink into oblivion” when he returned.

By 1969, she had become active with other POW wives. 
In 1970, the wives group became the National League of Families and Friends of POWS and MIAs in Southeastern Asia. It evolved into a tour de force in crusading for the North Vietnamese to adhere to Geneva Convention protocols in treatment of prisoners and eventually for the release of POWs and the accounting for those missing in action.
Mrs. Galanti served as chairwoman of the league.

In a televised speech before the Virginia Senate on Feb. 12, 1971, she kicked off an areawide campaign, “Write Hanoi: Let’s Bring Paul Galanti Home,” part of a nationwide project.

Her efforts generated more than 450,000 letters from the Richmond area, around 300,000 letters from Northern Virginia and 378,000 from Gastonia, N.C., where Paul’s parents had moved in 1964.

More than 80 percent of people living in the Richmond area contributed a letter, which was thought to have been the greatest response to the Write Hanoi campaign anywhere in the United States.

In March 1971, Mrs. Galanti was among a delegation of 10 Write Hanoi campaigners who went to Stockholm, Sweden, to try to obtain information on the POWs from the chargé d’affaires in the North Vietnamese embassy there.

They also wanted to send the letters asking for freedom for American servicemen being held in Southeast Asia to the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong delegations attending the World Assembly of Paris for Peace and Independence of Indochinese Peoples. 
Because “they knew we had” the letters, Mrs. Galanti said they were able to talk with officials. The letters were flown to Paris to be given to the North Vietnamese delegation at the peace talks.

By Christmas Eve 1971, she received two letters and two postcards from her husband. “Those four little pieces of mail were the most elaborate Christmas gift,” she said.

She reported in March 1971 that she was using the services of a peace group to correspond with her husband.
Mrs. Galanti called for a shift in strategy in July 1971. Instead of writing Hanoi, she asked Americans to write to President Richard Nixon and Congress. “The issue has become a political matter,” she said. “Their release can come from one place — Washington.” 
In an op/ed piece in The News Leader in 1971, she wrote, “I can honestly say that I have never done anything so rewarding and worthwhile in my life. Knowing that so many people were genuinely concerned gave me a much-needed boost.”
When she and other POW wives went to Versailles, near Paris, in February 1972 to talk about release of POWs with 800 communist delegates from 75 countries at the World Assembly of Paris for Peace, they failed to get an audience. However, Mrs. Galanti said she felt a softening on the part of communist officials to Nixon’s plan to end the war.
Mrs. Galanti and two other POW wives talked about prisoner issues with Nixon and Henry Kissinger, then national security adviser, on May 15, 1972.

In October 1972, she was elected chairwoman of the league and early the next year learned that her husband’s name was on a list of living POWs.

Galanti was released on Feb. 12, 1973, among the first group of POWs freed by the North Vietnamese. Their plane landed at Clark Air Base, Philippines. He arrived in Virginia from Travis Air Force Base, Calif., on Feb. 15. He was reunited with his wife at the Norfolk Naval Station.

At the time, he told reporters, “Phyllis was pretty shy when I left, and I came back to a real tiger.”
We should all be so lucky. 

Ms. Galanti passed in the spring of 2014 after 51 years of marriage.

Fullbore.