Thursday, August 06, 2020

Mini Hospital Ships and Influence Squadrons

The end of July brought us this little nugget that I have not pulled out of draft yet;
Republican senators want to include $2.2 billion for Navy shipbuilding in the latest round of relief funds meant to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

According to the text of the bill, lawmakers would allot $1.45 billion of that money so the service could buy four “expeditionary medical ships.”

The proposed funds for medical vessels come after the Navy dispatched its two hospital ships, USNS Mercy (T-AH-19) and USNS Comfort (T-AH-20), earlier this year to aid in pandemic relief efforts. Austal USA, which builds the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) vessels in Mobile, Ala., has evaluated the potential to use the EPF hull for missions like hospital ships.
Here and over on Midrats we've asked for more hospital ship and for more "unsexy but important."

From both a manning and utility point of view - there is a whole lot of potential for presence, public relations, and info ops with these vessels inline with Jerry Hendrix's "Influence Squadrons" concept from the previous decade.

It is as correct now as it was then. Many of the naysayers when it comes to hospital ships touch on the fact our existing hospital ships are hard to man, have obsolete engineering plants, etc, etc.

These are smaller, more flexible, easier to ... well ... as VADM Merz said more professionally;
“The problem with those [hospital] ships is, there’s only two of them, and they’re big, and we’re moving to a more distributed maritime operations construct,” Merz explained at the April 2018 hearing. “There’s no lack of commitment [to this medical capability]; matter of fact, we’re taking a broader look at the capabilities on whether or not they are aligned with the way we plan to fight our future battles. So you’re going to see that requirement surface probably this year, and then we’ll start the process on how we’re going to fill that requirement.”
I think we should at least experiment with a variation of Jerry Hendrix's influence squadrons with these at the core.

Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Tom Wolfe, Tomorrowland, Transformationalism and getting ready for the next naval war.

People who should know better are promising the same miracles they've promised before ... hoping no one notices, no one cares, and no one refuses to send them billions.

I'm controlling my desire to rage over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and grind your teeth with me.

Tuesday, August 04, 2020

COVID & Central American Gangs

While keeping a weather eye on China is required, we need to multi-task. 

If you are concerned with the long term national security challenges the USA and her allies face - you need to check in on a regular basis with sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.

From the exceptional Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) team - something from Latin America that is worth putting in your scan for a few minutes;
Governments in Central America have imposed a variety of measures to contain COVID-19. The government of Mexico officially declared a national health emergency on 30 March 2020 after its first case of COVID-19 was reported at the end of February, suspending non-essential economic activities and advising the population to shelter at home. Some Mexican states imposed further restrictions in addition to the federal order. In the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, governments began establishing preventive measures in mid-March, albeit with different degrees of stringency. On 13 March, Guatemala introduced a travel ban for any person arriving from Canada and the United States. Meanwhile, in El Salvador and Honduras, a state of emergency was announced on the 13 and 16 March, respectively. These measures were followed by a national quarantine at the end of March in El Salvador, and curfews during the first week of April in Guatemala and Honduras.

These restrictions have had immediate impacts on gang operations. Locally, the temporary closure of non-essential economic activity has hindered money laundering, as it is traditionally carried out through front businesses that appear to be engaged in legal commerce, while mobility restrictions have similarly impeded extortion rackets. Globally, the demand for recreational drug use has decreased amid the pandemic, and travel restrictions obstruct both drug users looking to purchase as well as drug traffickers aiming to supply (Global Initiative, May, 2020).The reduction of the international traffic of goods and passengers also makes the discovery of illegal cargo by authorities more likely, resulting in the scarcity of certain chemical products essential for drug production (InSight Crime, 18 March 2020).These challenges have forced cartels to seek alternative means of drug distribution and income generation during the crisis.
OK kiddies, take out your JPME-I papers ... what does instability bring?

The health emergency and the consequent economic crisis will certainly shift the balance between cartels and lead some to seek new business models (Al Jazeera, 29 April 2020). Smaller gangs, or those with less economic capacity, are threatened by more established groups and may try to survive by diversifying into violent street crime, extortion, kidnappings, and attacks (Infobae, 25 April 2020). Despite COVID-19 quarantines and stay-at-home orders, Mexico’s homicide rate hit a new high in March 2020 (Government of Mexico, 21 March 2020).
Economic pressures have led to increased competition in Honduras, where battles involving gangs as well as reported fatalities stemming from gang violence have spiked, hitting their highest levels of the year (see graph below). Inter-gang fighting has particularly increased across the country, with multiple clashes between the larger mara groups Mara Salvatrucha 13 (MS-13) and Barrio 18 (B-18) and smaller local gangs.
Violence, instability, and economic fragility drives migration. Large scale migration drives instability where they migrate to.

That is us.

Monday, August 03, 2020

Are we living in the 8:20 of American Seapower Dominance?

In a recent article unrelated to all things maritime, Rod Dreher quoted an anonymized teacher, a “Mr. Smith” who stated,
We have been living, he said, in a condition “like the eight minutes twenty seconds between when the sun dies and we experience it.” He’s talking about the time it takes for light from the sun to reach earth. If the sun suddenly went out, it would take eight minutes and twenty seconds for people on earth to realize it, because that’s how long it will take for the sun’s final rays to arrive here.
When I read this, what immediately came to mind was an article that bothered me since the moment I first read it, the David Ignatius interview at the end of last week with the CNO, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, USN.

Everyone knows the US Navy has not been over-performing the last two decades. We continue to suffer under the unrecoverable sunk cost of the Age of Tranformationalism that begat the sub-optimal drains of LCS, DDG-1000, and the Tiffany good-enoughs of LPD-17 and Ford Class CVN. The dry-hole fiasco born of ill-discipline that was the aborted CG(X) will haunt us well in to the 2030s. No suitable organic tanking, no deep strike. The list goes on and on – regulars here know it.

We think we’ve had bad press, and we have, but we are lucky this is was not worse. Our nation for 19 years decided to invest its blood and treasure in land wars in Asia, distracting the natural focus of a maritime power like the USA on the performance of its Navy. Fat Leonard and the horrible summer of 2017 were bad. The recent burning of BHR in San Diego not quite as bad. Other issues abound.

We also have good stories, important stories, and we owe the American public an opportunity to see that they have a Navy of strong technical expertise, superior deployed leadership, and a capability second to none to guarantee the free flow of goods at market prices through the global maritime commons. The American public should have confidence that their inheritance is in good hands and will continue to protect their interests.

How do we do that? There are a lot of ways, but I don’t think we are getting off to a solid start. Why do we have an inability to do this? Why do we have an inability to move forward?

After an extended period of minimal presence in the public spotlight, we have the Ignatius interview. Help me find the good here, because I can’t;
Gilday discussed the Navy’s problems with me during a frank, hour-long interview last week, initiated at his request. When I asked for his “theory of the case” about what’s wrong, he focused on two areas. The first was professional competency, which was demonstrably flawed in two 2017 ship collisions and in Crozier’s ham-handed handling of the Theodore Roosevelt. The second involved character lapses, evident in SEAL discipline cases and the “Fat Leonard” corruption scandal involving the Pacific fleet.
You guessed it – most of this is simply picking at the failures of the past, and not doing it well – by Ignatius or the CNO.

The CNO asked for this interview with the WaPo. As such, he was hoping to get in front of the major political players in DC and lower levels of the traditional news media that feed off what the WaPo produces. This is not a minor attempt … and IMAO it has backfired.

Read it all, but here’s a few more pull quotes to ruin your Monday;
“After the two collisions in 2017, we asked: ‘Are we building the right values? What can we do better than in the past?’ ” Gilday told me. The Navy revamped its training and tried to inculcate what Gilday describes as “fearless communication” up the chain of command. The goal: “We need a tougher, more resilient sailor than what we saw in those two collisions.”
No. Not just “no,” but “hell no!”

That is not what I saw. That is not what anyone saw. The damage control efforts on the FITZ and MCCAIN were exceptional. The Sailors we saw there were as tough and resilient as any Sailors our Navy has produced. Full stop.

What we need are better leaders – leaders that ensure ships have the depot level maintenance support they require so they don’t have to do other people’s work on top of their own. They need a personnel system that will ensure ships have the proper manning levels … and not just bodies, but qualified Sailors for the equipment that they will operate. We need a culture that does not hide CASREPS, but demands them and aggressively works to resolve them – especially in our forward deployed units. We need training and inspections for personnel and ships as another check to insure that a local unit level failure does not become a national strategic level negative effect.

Sailors are not our problem – their leaders are the problem.

So, we have this precious column space at WaPo … and what is it used for again?
The Navy’s troubles continued, compounded by political interference. Commanders knew a decade ago that the Navy SEALs had become too famous for their own good, and that discipline was eroding. The SEALs were deployed almost constantly in the brutal killing zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, and senior officers tried to weed out those who committed ethical violations. But the force was exhausted and overwhelmed.

The Crozier incident was one more fireball for the Navy. Crozier was relieved in April after he sent a desperate email about the situation on board his ship to fellow Navy aviators, without first informing the commander of the Theodore Roosevelt’s strike group, his immediate superior.
…and so on. Yes, I know – this is a political year … but here we are.

Then things just get strange;
What’s the best way to fix a Navy that has been so damaged by this series of broadsides? Harlan Ulman, a former Navy officer and prominent commentator, wrote recently that the Navy needs a leader like Fleet Adm. Ernest J. King, the famously hard-nosed admiral who ran the Navy during World War II. But the days of the profane, sometimes belligerent King have vanished. A better World War II model would be Adm. Chester Nimitz, a quiet, cerebral officer who commanded the Navy in the Pacific and took it from the aftermath of the disaster at Pearl Harbor to victory.
We are in the post-National Security Act of 1947 and the mid-1980s Goldwater-Nichols Act world. Even if we had a King or Nimitz, they couldn’t be “King” or “Nimitz.”

We go from strange to a bizarre world of the non-self-aware;
Can Gilday be the leader the Navy needs? He’s off to a rocky start, but he has time to recover if he takes firm command now. He has the Navy version of a perfect résumé, having worked four times for Adm. Mike Mullen, the former CNO and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gilday also worked closely with Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., a former Joint Chiefs chairman, who named Gilday head of the joint staff and recommended him as CNO. Despite misgivings from some top admirals, Gilday was appointed by Richard Spencer, a widely respected Navy secretary who was ousted by Trump as part of the Gallagher affair.
So many of the latent causes of the miasma our Navy is in can be directly traced to Admiral Mullen’s tenure as CNO & CJCS. It was his rack-and-stack of priorities that set the foundation of what followed. I cannot think of a worse example. Also, Richard Spencer tried hard and is respected for his efforts – but the results are a different thing altogether.

So, there we are. For the record, I have zero beef with the CNO. He is a good man in a tough job trying to do his best … but this interview and a few other recent decisions tell me he needs to look hard at his staff and the advice he is getting. He is the boss, so that only goes so far – but he is also only a man. A good man needs a great staff to be an effective man.

We’ll call this a Mulligan. Put Ignatius in the time out chair and review why we went with him … and use opposite criteria next time.

I can’t help wondering that we are running out of Mulligans. No one owes us our mastery of the world’s oceans we’ve enjoyed since WWII, and to an even greater degree since 1991.

Each generation of civilian and uniformed leaders must execute superior stewardship of their inheritance, improve on it, and give the next generation a better baseline than the previous generation received. This is the only way a civilization continues to prosper, and we are failing.

Over the last two decades, our relative power has decreased. This relative decay accelerated by distracted leadership and clumsy program management. One aggregate cohort failure layered on top of another.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Pacific a new maritime power grows. Already their extensive and expanding shipyards are set to build a fleet with regional superiority of numbers, if not capability. Global presence of equal stature is just a few years to a decade behind that.

Yet, there is the great United States Navy – poised to go where, exactly?

Are we living in our 8:20 phase – our period of global maritime dominance is gone; we just don’t know it yet?

As a final note, if you missed Sunday’s Midrats with Bryan McGrath, we started to discuss this article in the second half of the show.

Sunday, August 02, 2020

Time to Get Serious about Seapower Advocacy with Bryan McGrath - on Midrats

This week we are returning to a critical topic that, like it's subject, needs an ongoing push. At the very moment that the need for American Seapower advocacy is most critical, it is nowhere to be found.

Are there existing institutions that can refocus their efforts or expand their mandate to do the job - or do we need something new?

Building off his article from earlier this week, our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern is returning guest, Bryan McGrath, CDR USN (Ret.), Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC defense consultancy.

Bryan grew up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and graduated from the University of Virginia in 1987. He was commissioned upon graduation in the United States Navy, and served as a Surface Warfare Officer until his retirement in 2008. At sea, he served primarily in cruisers and destroyers, rising to command of the Destroyer USS BULKELEY (DDG 84). During his command tour, he won the Surface Navy Association’s Admiral Elmo Zumwalt Award for Inspirational Leadership, and the BULKELEY was awarded the USS ARIZONA Memorial Trophy signifying the fleet’s most combat ready unit. Ashore, Bryan enjoyed four tours in Washington DC, including his final tour in which he acted as Team Leader and primary author of our nation’s 2007 maritime strategy entitled “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.”

Since retirement, Bryan has become active in presidential politics, serving first as the Navy Policy Team lead for the Romney Campaign in 2012, and then as the Navy and Marine Corps Policy lead for the Rubio Campaign in 2016.

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, July 30, 2020

The PRC is Testing the Americas

There is a test of international law and regional solidarity going on in the Southeast Pacific.

Hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels are waiting right outside the territorial limits of Ecuador's Galapagos Islands.

More over at USNIBlog where I ponder the implications, and pull a possible solution from an unlikely source.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Seapower Advocacy: Time to Get Serious

Regulars here and at Midrats know the discussions we have had through the years on the scourge of navalists; seablindness, the Navy's retreat from the press, and the growing bunker mentality as we stumble from crisis to crisis. 

The last decade showed a series of events blend in to a general disconnect from the national conversation at a time when the challenge from China demanded a greater discussion of how our Navy brings value to the national security challenges we face. We were not driving the conversation and often were not even part of it. Others actors with other priorities drove the agenda and steered it in the direction they wanted. 

We need a sustained navalist message, but our present institutions are not able to do it - nor inclined to change to do it. 

Today's guest post comes from a navalists who has been looking at the challenge in a deep and broad context, Bryan McGrath.

Bryan, over to you.

Folks, I am worried. I am worried that as a nation, we are unserious. We are unserious about what a security environment pitting two global powers against us means, and we are unserious about leveraging the great advantages we enjoy in that contest. I am speaking of course, about seapower, and I think the time has come to honestly assess the various means through which American Seapower is explained and advocated for in the public square. In this piece, I argue for the creation of an organization focused on the advancement of American Seapower through direct participation in the democratic process. This organization would be unconstrained in its ability to disagree with a particular administration, Department of Defense, or even Department of the Navy should political considerations or bureaucratic infighting reveal those organizations to be unduly timid (or statutorily limited) in the pursuit and maintenance of dominant seapower. Some reading this may be asking, “Isn’t that what the Navy League is for?” or “Isn’t that what the Naval Institute is for?”, and these are good questions I hope I’ll answer by the time I’m finished.

The Problem

The problem, simply stated, is that at the very moment that the need for American Seapower advocacy is most critical, it is nowhere to be found. Ok. That is probably an overstatement. There is advocacy. It is, however, insufficient, ineffective, untargeted, uncoordinated, poorly resourced, diluted, and inadequately championed.

In a perfect world, the Secretary of the Navy and the Chief of Naval Operations would serve as the spiritual and intellectual lead clergy of such advocacy, and the two of them—in addition to various four-stars and other subalterns—would devise and preach the Gospel of American Seapower. There would of course, be civilian organizations that would join the choir (see Navy League of the United States, United States Naval Institute), but the vicar and the curate of this congregation would be the senior civilian and senior uniform in the Navy.

But we do not live in a perfect world, we live in the National Security Act of 1947 world and more importantly, the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 world. These two pieces of bedrock national security legislation of accomplished many things, some of them positive. These laws also—in the period of time where both have been the active law of the land—have dramatically reduced the level of coherent advocacy for American Seapower, as doing so within the current rules of bureaucratic conduct is seen at best as a threat to “Jointness”, and at worst, a political threat to the unassailable power of the Secretary of Defense. This reality is not likely to change appreciably, and so hoping for a CNO or a SECNAV who is an unconstrained American Seapower advocate (they generally do the best they can within the rules of the game they play) is not a path to success. And so, across the past four decades, a vacuum of formal advocacy has developed, as the uniformed and civilian leadership of the Navy fell into line with the realities of bureaucratic life in the Pentagon. Outside organizations could have stepped into this void, but they have not. Let us start with the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI).

The mission of USNI is to be “…the independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write in order to advance the professional, literary, and scientific understanding of sea power and other issues critical to global security.” As such it serves as a professional organization inwardly focused on the needs and desires of its membership. Key to this mission are two additional statements on the USNI mission page: the first, is that USNI will remain “independent”, defined further as “a non-profit member association, with no government support, that does not lobby for special interests.” Second, that it will remain “non-partisan”, as “an independent, professional military association with a mission, goals, and objectives that transcend political affiliations.” Put another way, USNI serves a valued purpose in the constellation of organizations that consider American Seapower, but its MAIN purpose is to its members. It assiduously avoids lobbying, and it avoids the rough and tumble of American politics, as in this case, “non-partisan” and “apolitical” are difficult to discern. Under the leadership of VADM Pete Daly, USNI has become more visible across a number of fronts (public events and new media chief among them), but it has—as has been its historical practice—continued to stay out of active advocacy roles, which is as its membership desires.

Moving on then to the second logical outside organization to look to for aggressive advocacy and political activity—The Navy League of the United States (NLUS)—it is more difficult to see any real conflict between the organization’s mission and these pursuits. “The Navy League of the United States, founded in 1902 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, is a nonprofit civilian, educational and advocacy organization that supports America’s sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. As part of its mission focus, the Navy League of the United States:
  • Enhances the morale of sea service personnel and their families through national and council level programs.
  • Provides a powerful voice to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our sea services to our nation’s defense, well-being, and economic prosperity.
  • Supports youth through programs, such as the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Junior ROTC and Young Marines, that expose young people to the values of our sea services.”

Clearly this mission statement contains the seeds for the kind of muscular, political advocacy required. And were the second of the three bullets above to be the primary focus of the organization, there would be little need for this post. But forceful, Washington DC-based advocacy and a relentless dedication to American Seapower policy formulation is not what NLUS either concentrates on or is successful in doing. And the deficit between what the organization says it is dedicated to, and what it does is not so much a function of desire, but organization. The real emphasis of NLUS is in the first and third bullets of its mission statement, in no small part because that is where the power and energy is within the Navy League by design.

By way of an anecdote, several years ago, I was contacted by a group of people who wished to see a more forceful and effective approach to American Seapower advocacy. There was at the time (and to be honest, it continues) a bit of envy when we looked at our ideological analogues in the air power and land power realms. The Air Force Association (AFA) and the Association of the United States Army (AUSA) both seemed to be more effective in influencing the debates on Capitol Hill than NLUS, and I set out to discover why. I had a meeting or two with the DC-based NLUS leadership team, and I came away with a few impressions that remain to this day.

For starters, the de-centralized, bureaucratic structure of NLUS governance militated against the kind of nimble advocacy and policy formulation that an effective Washington DC-based organization requires. The more I studied the by-laws then in place, the more I realized that the DC presence was not where the action is within the Navy League. The geographically differentiated councils dispersed power and authority broadly across the country, and the DC based Executive Director had insufficient authority to direct the efforts of the organization.

This became obvious when I brought up the possibility of the Navy League creating a “Seapower Think-tank”, analogous with the then rising-in-prominence “Mitchell Institute” of the Air Force Association. From around the table at NLUS headquarters in Arlington, VA, I got nods of agreement and bright-eyed enthusiasm for what sounded like an unobjectionable good idea. When we got to the discussion of how to make it happen, the bright eyes dimmed, and heads began to droop. There was in the room, a sense of powerlessness to make something like this happen for a few reasons. First, because there was within NLUS an inherent skepticism of central direction and execution, and this rendered the DC/Arlington presence relatively disadvantaged when trying to make decisions and move with alacrity. Second, such an effort would take funding, and while NLUS prized its relationships with industry sponsors, there was not an appetite for providing the seed money such an undertaking would demand or asking their donors to step up more aggressively in support of it.

Next, I came away from the meeting with the Arlington/DC-based executive staff with a sense of complacency, that all that was really being asked of them from a centralized execution perspective was to produce their (valuable, readable) “Seapower” magazine, and broadly support whatever budget the Navy, the Maritime Administration, or the Coast Guard put forward. Knowing what we already know about how the national security resourcing process works and the virtue of “Jointness” above all other virtues, the “advocacy” provided in supporting an administration budget submission is of little additional value to that which can be safely given by the administration representatives submitting it. Put another way, lobbying Congress to pass the submitted budget is not a great lift, and the degree to which Navy League lobbying efforts in any way deviate from the least-common denominator solutions put forward by federal agencies with skin in the seapower game is questionable.

I am told that the Navy League’s governance structure has changed in the six years since I last studied it, that there are fewer than the (if memory serves) scores of Directors that had a hand in making policy then. I did a bit of poking to find the current by-laws online but was unsuccessful. I have spoken recently with three persons who have in-depth knowledge of the current structure, and each indicates that the League’s priorities remain focused on the geographically distributed councils, rather than on federal influence.

What to Do?

The United States needs an organization dedicated to the development of sound policy in support of American Seapower and the advocacy required to bring that policy about. The center of mass of this organization must be the seat of the federal government in Washington DC, and its main audience is the Pentagon, the White House, and the Congress. It must simultaneously be a catalyst for policy development and education, and a powerful agent of American Seapower advocacy. While its efforts and emphases are primarily aimed at the federal government, this organization MUST have an effective outreach program utilizing all appropriate forms of media to inform and educate an American public grown distant from and uninterested in the degree to which their security and prosperity derive from seapower.

It would be correct to view the paragraph above as firmly within the Navy League’s current remit. It would be incorrect to assume that the Navy League either performs these functions or can perform them as currently organized. My preference would be for the Navy League to fundamentally reform itself and centralize authority (read: authority to determine where can money be spent) in Washington DC. I have little hope that this can or will occur.

And so I find myself believing that a new organization should be formed, and that this organization would have four broad lines of operation: research into the nexus between national strength and seapower, the development of seapower related policy, active advocacy for seapower in both the Executive Branch and the Congress, and dedicated outreach to civic minded Americans through targeted media and events.

This organization would occasionally disagree with the government agencies it advocates for and would look at budget submissions with skepticism rather than as marching orders. It would issue reports under its marque written by in-house scholars and free-lance researchers. It would provide for a stable of competent experts who would become the “go-to” voices on matters of seapower-related strategy, policy, and operations from a world-class, on-site media center and from the home-offices of the experts involved. It would populate and curate a website of seapower related thinking from around the world. It would host events either independently or with other organizations that raise and debate important seapower issues. It would fearlessly advocate for American Seapower without the level of suspicion under which traditional think tanks work because anyone (individual or corporate) who donated money to fund this organization would EXPECT policy advocacy. The quality of the work created would be the return on investment, and if the work were analytically rigorous and contributed to the advancement of American Seapower, the organization would be doing its job.

What I am suggesting is—for lack of more suitable comparison—the creation of a “Planned Parenthood” or a “National Rifle Association” for American Seapower: an organization that believes in the constitutional basis for its advocacy and connects the general population to its advancement. This organization cannot be apolitical; it would by nature be very political because the advancement of American Seapower is, a political process. It must, however, be non-partisan, and it must cultivate friends of seapower wherever they may be.

These are my thoughts. Most of the people who read this who might be interested in helping such a venture get off the ground, know how to find me. The time is now.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC defense consultancy. Neither his private clients nor his Navy clients were consulted on this essay, and his words and thoughts are his own.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

We May Need an Intervention for Our Navy-USMC Team

No, no, no ... let's not.

This tweet from The Krulak Center makes me break out in a cold, Bullsh1t Bingo sweat;

Just look at it!

Mosaic? Child please.

h/t Jack.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Iran's Performative Art

In the words of the great philosophers, "But why?"

This just continues to be strange.
Iran has moved a mock-up U.S. aircraft carrier to the strategic Strait of Hormuz, satellite images show, suggesting it will use the look-alike vessel for target practice in war games in a Gulf shipping channel...“We cannot speak to what Iran hopes to gain by building this mock-up, or what tactical value they would hope to gain by using such a mock-up in a training or offensive exercise scenario,” said Commander Rebecca Rebarich, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
While the strangeness of this does not change and one wants to just mock it and move on, you also need to examine the Red Most Dangerous COA.

Iran is not a rich nation. It has a lot of challenges. What are they doing that makes this worth the investment? It can't just be for the performative art of it all, can it? 

What is the worst reasonably expected use of such a mock up? I hope we have some smart, imaginative, and skeptical eyes on this and what they are using it for.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Military Power & Intellectual Property, with Robert M. Farley - on Midrats

How do different standards related to intellectual property influence the spread and adoption of emerging military technology?

How does the respect for law, process, and customs impact what shows up on the battlefield in the hands of both friend and foe?

In a return visit to Midrats this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, we are going to explore this topic with Robert Farley. As a starting point to our discussion we will look at the issues he raised in the new book he co-authored with Davida H. Isaacs “Patents for Power: Intellectual Property and the Diffusion of Military Technology.”

Rob Farley teaches national security courses at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky, where he tolerates the Wildcats, although his heart remains committed to the Oregon Ducks. His interests lie in maritime history, airpower theory, and the politics of national defense.

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, July 24, 2020

Fullbore Friday

That part of the bookshelf caught my eye again this AM and I remembered the passing last decade of Admiral Woodward, RN.

I figured it was time to bring back my post from 2013 on him. Wish I had a chance to meet him before he passed, but life is fast and short.

When I heard the news this week, I went over to a corner of The Salamander Library and pulled out three books from my Falkland Islands War corner; Admiral Sandy Woodward's One Hundred Days: The Memoirs of the Falklands Battle Group Commander, Commander Sharkey Ward's Sea Harrier over the Falklands, and Michael Clapp's Amphibious Assault Falklands: The Battle of San Carlos Water - and gave the lot a quick once over during cocktail hour.

No need to go in to a lot of background here; hopefully everyone here has read at least one of these books. If not, shame on you - that war is still the template to think about the next naval war.

But again, no. Today, let's just take a moment to reflect of the kind of leader at sea we should all aspire to;
Admiral Sir John ('Sandy') Woodward, who has died aged 81, commanded the carrier battle group Task Force 317.8 during the Falklands conflict.
A life well lived. Served to the end as best he could. Bravo Zulu, Admiral.

As a final note - you have to like his leadership style;
On the passage south Woodward visited as many ships as he could, though his message to the various ships’ companies of the destroyers and frigates was uncompromising: “You’ve taken the Queen’s shilling. Now you’re going to have to bloody earn it. And your best way of getting back alive is to do your absolute utmost. So go and do it.”

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Diversity Thursday

So, knowing all the work hours our Sailors are expending and all the challenges we have in our navy, what do you think a 4-star staff's Chief of Staff would want his staff to read?

I really don't need to say anymore.
*From:* Mohler, Hallock N JR CAPT USN SECOND FLEET (USA)

*Sent:* Friday, July 17, 2020 1:13 PM *To:*

*Subject:* COS WEEKLY FOR 17 JULY 2020

1. *JFCNF/C2F BOOK CLUB*. We are starting a new all volunteer professional reading and discussion program for All Hands at Second Fleet and JFC Norfolk. It is designed to further our personal and professional development, enhance our mission readiness, and build our critical thinking and engagement skills. Every month, we will have a new book and topic area. All Hands will be invited to read that month's book. For those that are not avid book readers, we will also include other material, such as YouTube videos of discussions with the book author, so that everyone can participate with minimal time and effort. In addition to the book, we will have small group discussions of C2F/JFC-N personnel to share the book insights. We will have sign-up sheets for these groups. Our first book will be: *White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson.*
That book is one of most divisive and racist books in circulation today being used as a grift by a corporate consultant..

Shame on everyone who would promote this book.

I'll let Matt Taibbi take the critique from here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

By 2030 Who Will Have the Largest Amphibious Force in the Pacific?

If you haven't been tracking the Chinese Navy's growing amphibious capability, now is the time to start doing so.

I'm pondering a nice article over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

If you speak, you can be heard

I guess this is electronic warfare week at CDRSalamander ... and why not.

Our Navy has a problem; it has gone so long without a serious competitor at sea that we have convinced ourselves that some temporary assumptions we gained after the fall of the Soviet Union have become permanent. We are designing entire systems around assumptions that are fragile and based on peacetime operations and permanent naval supremacy.

At war against any global or regional peer, we need to look carefully at all our assumptions. Most fragile of all are our assumptions that we will have full access to the electromagnetic spectrum, satellite vox and data bandwidth, and the deep sea will be our sanctuary.

The irreplaceable David Larter rolled a little ball of truth a few days ago that would be funny if it were not so serious;
The Navy’s investment in SPY-6 is not without some controversy. Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, said while the Navy needs a radar like SPY-6 for ballistic missile defense, the service still must figure out how to perform passive detection to avoid giving away its location to adversaries that will be able to electronically sniff out a big, powerful radar.

Kremer said he wasn’t comfortable discussing concepts of operations surrounding the issue of keeping electronically quiet with SPY-6. But he reiterated that during active electronic attack, the radar would perform.

“You have to be able [to] operate around electronic attack, and on the active side we have a lot of capability to do that,” he said. “But when you get into that other stuff, you’re really starting to talk about concepts of operations, and I don’t think it’s appropriate for a contractor to talk about CONOPS.”
The enemy gets a vote, and they have capabilities too.

We used to practice fighting in EMCON. Hopefully we have some tricks under our sleeves that will let us. No reason to discuss them on this net, but let's hope.

Monday, July 20, 2020

The Secrets We Forgot to Tell Ourselves

Is 48-yrs long enough to consider something unclassified?

Well, why not. I personally don't care if this is exactly how it happened or not, this is a great story.

It reminds me that most people who served have a lot of events that to us were just an interesting day. We don't think all that much about it, but to others it is exciting.

This in one of those days. Via the OkieBoat website ... let's go back to 1972 and the Harry Navy at war;
In January 1972 the Oklahoma City steamed to the Gulf of Tonkin to do some "radar hunting." We were waiting for the chance to use the new RGM-8H missiles in the Ready Service Magazine. We were looking for another BAR LOCK radar in the vicinity of the Mu Gia Pass, although few people aboard knew this. We maintained a position about 30 miles off the coast of North Vietnam near Vinh (18° 43.6' N 106° 15.8' E) for most of the period from 28 January to 4 February, holding position within 2000 yards from a reference buoy, waiting to shoot. During this period we operated at Condition II AAW with the Talos missile battery and the 5"/38 guns manned, and with either the USS Decatur DDG-31 or the USS Mahan DLG-11 "riding shotgun" with their short range Tartar and Terrier missiles.
I was on-watch that night in the EW shack and was on the receiver and picked up the BAR LOCK ATC radar that the Vietnamese were using. I remember the incident pretty vividly... how long we'd trained to be able to pick up those threat emitters, determine the key characteristics so we could pass on just the kind of info that was used to program the TALOS that night. Some of the measurement gear was NOT part of a standard electronics package. A few OW-div buddies and I collaborated to put together a couple pieces of outboard 'off-the-shelf' test equipment (an audio signal generator and XY scope so we could accurately determine PRR frequencies of incoming signals). It was this set up that allowed us to pass on not one...but three of the frequencies that BAR LOCK was using that night (since it was a Frequency Scanning...FRESCAN...radar to allow it to determine bearing/range AND approximate altitude).

I remember passing parameters on to the fire control folks continuously as the missile was being prepared for launch (BAR LOCK radars were notorious for changing frequencies during operation). I remember feeling/hearing the launch... I continued to monitor the signal as the missile was in-flight. After a minute or so (I didn't have a stopwatch on it) I remember hearing a weird screeching... then the signal went silent. Apparently that was the precise moment of the impact/explosion that "killed" the radar.

RD2 Doug Rasor, OK City 1968-72
Everyone has their own view of an engagement;
On the night of the ARM engagement, I recall leaving Weapons Control immediately after launch of the missile and running up to the Fire Control Workshop above Weapons Control, where the AN/SKQ-1 Telemetry set had been installed and was receiving data [TLM] from the missile in flight. Having set the pre-launch parameters into the missile, after discussion with CDR Mel Foreman [Weapons Department head], I knew what to look for in the telemetry as regards the general flow of the missile flight regime. FYI, the AN/SKQ-1 data was projected onto light sensitive paper for subsequent development and analysis.

I saw the missile acquire the Bar Lock radar, and wing movements generating the lateral accelerations as the missile acquired and began homing on the target. Angle Rate Gate Enable had been transmitted to the missile prior to launch, so the missile had been fired to a point in space roughly 8 Kyds beyond the radar site, which caused the missile to reject possible “spoofing” targets beyond/to the side of the actual target. So the missile nosed over and dove on the target approaching from directly overhead and thereby maximizing the fuse/warhead effectiveness against the target. TLM was lost just prior to the predicted intercept so warhead fusing was not visible on TLM. However, all of the available TLM data suggested that the missile had homed on (and probably destroyed) the target.

WO1 Greg Dilick, OK City 1970-73.
I don't know about you, but I love a story with a happy ending;
However, at the moment we didn't know if we had hit the target. The Electronics Warfare people in CIC told us the radar signal had disappeared about the same time the missile arrived, but you can bet the BAR LOCK operators would have noticed if we had missed and shut down their radar! The next day our Weapons Department head CDR Foreman showed me aerial recon photos. The radar antennas were scattered all over Southeast Asia, and what remained of the trailer was lying on its side at the edge of a 30 foot diameter crater.

This was all classified Secret at the time, and our missile crews were told to keep quiet. Of course everyone aboard knew something was going on (missile shots were very noisy). I overheard one sailor say we had fired a nuclear warhead and he had seen the explosion! Such is scuttlebutt!

The next morning at 0004 (four minutes after midnight) the Oklahoma City left the operating area for Yankee Station in the Gulf of Tonkin to rendezvous with the USS Coral Sea CVA-43 for personnel transfers. At 1339 (1:39 PM) we left the area and went to Subic Bay in the Philippines for R&R. The Chicago was in port when we arrived. Imagine our surprise when we learned that the bar girls knew about the shot before we got there! One of our first class POs told me that as they walked into a bar one of the girls saw the ship's name patch on his sleeve and started asking about the missile shot! So much for secrecy!
So you Vietnam Era Shipmates ... about those Subic bars ...

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Future of Australian National Security with Peter Dean, on Midrats

How does Australia best position itself in today's security climate? How does her history shape how she sees her place relative to new and possible future alliances?

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be Dr. Peter Dean.

Peter is a Professor & Chair, Defence Studies Director, at the University of Western Australia’s Defence and Security Program, and their Public Policy Institute.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Diversity Thursday

Self-improvement and self-reflection are a daily requirement and a good thing.

Institutional self-loathing is never a good look and it is both self-destructive and counter-productive.

It appears that our leadership has decided to throw away one of our crown jewels, race relations. 

In the face of the howling mob attacking someone else, it appears that instead of standing up and telling the nation the focused efforts our Navy has made over the last 50+ years to work toward a fair and equal opportunity organization for all – an imperfect but solid sustained effort – we are instead going to accept the false and worst accusations put against us and so invite some of the mob to climb inside our lifelines too.
The Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Gilday, has said, "We cannot tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind."

On Monday, the branch held a virtual first meeting of Task Force One. Its goal: to address the issues of racism, sexism, and other destructive biases and their impact on naval readiness.
Since day-1 I was a MIDN a quarter century ago, the message "We cannot tolerate discrimination or racism of any kind." was clear as can be. With the crooked timber that is the human condition, we have striven to do the best we can for an inclusive force. Something anyone can quibble with here and there in its execution - but still - those doing the quibbling all agree it is something to be proud of and much better than anything going on in the civilian arena.

What is the CNO saying, we have done nothing?

It appears he's found officers that agree and pushed them to the front. 
"I think we should assume there are barriers everywhere for minorities," said LT Destini Henderson, who is African American, and a Naval Flight Officer. "That was definitely the case for me throughout my career, or even getting into the Naval Academy."
No Lieutenant, we should not make that assumption. If there are barriers, you need to point them out and we can continue the conversation from there. No one wants barriers - tell us where they are. I can identify 336,978 active duty personnel, 279,471 civilian employees and 101,583 ready reserve personnel standing by. 99.9% will help you pull those barriers apart, and the 0.01% are in TPU.

So, who is leading this?
Rear Adm. Holsey will be supported by Fleet Commanders and leadership from a number of organizations such as the Judge Advocate General of the Navy, Chief of Chaplains, Surgeon General of the Navy, Chief of Legislative Affairs, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy (MCPON) Russell Smith and many others.

The task force will seek to promptly address the full spectrum of systemic racism, advocate for the needs of underserved communities, work to dismantle barriers and equalize professional development frameworks and opportunities within the Navy.

“We are at a critical inflection point for our Nation and our Navy and I want to ensure that we are fully responding to this moment as we work to facilitate enduring change,” said Nowell. “We must use the momentum created by these events as a catalyst for positive change. We need to have a deeper inclusion and diversity conversation in our Navy and amongst our own teams.”
First, there is no “systemic racism” inside the Navy if you are using the term as plain English would define it. Are there individuals who hold racist views and may act on them? Sure, the Navy reflects the nation it serves. Are those people properly dealt with once discovered? In my experience, yes.

That is a hell of a charge. You need to define each one of those items you define as systemic racism, and then specifically explain why they have remained in place and who allowed them to stay there.

Next to CNP, VADM Nowell’s comment. Do we read you right here?
“We must use the momentum created by these events as a catalyst for positive change. We need to have a deeper inclusion and diversity conversation in our Navy and amongst our own teams.”
By “events” do you mean the wide spread riots by mostly Marxist led, race-baiting, American-hating mobs taking advantage of real concerns Americans have with the killing of an African American man by a bad cop? How exactly are you going to take advantage of a killing and lawlessness unconnected to our Navy … and it that a moral thing for a Flag Officer to be excited to do?

Are you really looking for a conversation, or are you looking at giving speeches inside a wafer-thin Overton Window?

From the CNO to CNP and down – every Flag Officer needs to be directly asked, “Do you lead an organization that is structurally racist?” Yes or no. 

No one should have to wait for an official report to tell them the answer. If yes, then ask them what they have done in their career to eliminate structural racism that they so clearly see? Did they willingly participate in it? If so, does that make them racist or, being that they clearly benefited from these racist policies, why do they continue to enjoy the fruits of that poisoned tree?

Of course, we all know the answer. The Navy is not racist and has not been that way for the length of anyone serving’s career.

Does our Navy “look like America?” In some ways yes, some ways not. Depending on designator or rating, we can be wildly one way or another. The reasons have to do with the fact that we are a huge nation with a great diversity of people, regions, sub-cultures, and traditions.

Our intake is our nation's outtake. We will see the differences in education, crime, and desire to serve as reflected in our diverse nation when people reach 18-years of age.

Unless “Task Force One” becomes something I don’t think it will, we will once again miss a great opportunity to look closely at who we are to make sure we are doing things right -never a bad idea as the nation you serve is being rendered- but we have an opportunity to show the nation what unity actually looks like. The Navy has a lot to be proud of with regards to our record on race relations. Way ahead of the country in so many ways, yet we seem to be hoisting on board the absolute worst and wrong take. It isn’t just divisive; it is bearing false witness against ourselves.

We didn’t set this self-loathing up overnight; the conditions were set for a long time. Never pushed back against those who smear from the Diversity Industry, never wanting to stand up for ourselves in our imperfect but very real desire to make sure everyone has an even chance regardless of race, creed, color or national origin, and now it looks like we’ve surrendered control to people who don’t want to do that. They want to accuse and shame our Navy by saying it is “structurally racist” and thus needs to be changed.

Changed how? Back to an earlier pull quote;
..equalize professional development frameworks and opportunities within the Navy.
Assign rates, designators, jobs, ranking and promotions by race, creed, color, and national origin? Go towards some kind of Woke Jim Crow where the most important thing first of all is the most useless identified – your DNA?

Is that where we are going? This is real “structural racism.”

If there will be a spoils system, who will police it? Can we self-identify our own race, creed, color, national origin … or even sex?

If we are to set up an apartheid like spoils system, will the Navy share what is the most advantageous? If a retired Navy CDR’s father is from Nigeria, mother from South Dakota German stock, his wife’s father was from Ecuador of mixed Italian/Amerindian heritage, and her mother Peruvian Japanese … if his daughter wants to get in to the Naval Academy … how exactly should she identify herself for the most advantage? As a daughter of a Navy CDR, and all the privilege that comes with it, should she be given any advantage over the son of Bosnian immigrants? If so, why?

In the zero-sum game that is promotions and assignments, if race and ethnicity become a factor for selection, will that drive division and resentment in our navy?

Does any of this do anything to win an urban insurgency in some poor nation, or win the battle of the first salvo against a rising power on the other side of the Pacific?

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Navy is MIA

Whoever decided that we needed a small public affairs footprint and minimal press engagement while one of our capital ships burns for days in the middle of San Diego, they are wrong.

I have thoughts over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read!

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Our Long National Uniform Faux Pas is Over (kind of)

It has taken almost two decades, but the "everyday casual" meets COSPLAY meets to damn lazy to look professional uniform trend birthed by the Boomers post 911 seems to be retreating.

Excellent news;
In recent messages to their respective forces, the services announced that, effective July 6, Marines and sailors must exchange their comfortable camouflage utilities for crisper service uniforms, at least when they're in the Pentagon and in certain locations around Washington, D.C.
Sadly, it was not a fully victory. Some people who just COSPLAY too hard went in to high-warble for an exception;
It notes that sailors who are on duty in the National Military Command Center, Navy Operations Center and DiLorenzo Tricare Health Clinic within the Pentagon reservation are permitted to wear camouflage utilities and flight suits.
I will take the "W" and carry out the plan of the day.
The standard uniform of the day for sailors in the National Capital Region is now service khaki for officers and chief petty officers, and the Navy Service Uniform for enlisted sailors in ranks E-1 to E-6, Ed Zeigler, a spokesman for Naval District Washington, told

A corresponding All-Marine message released June 30 dictates that the uniform of the day for Marines within the Pentagon reservation is the seasonal Service "B" or "C," a uniform with olive-green trousers or skirt and a long-sleeved or short-sleeved khaki shirt, depending on season.

"We aligned the Navy-Marine Corps uniform policies in the National Capital Region and the Pentagon Reservation to demonstrate a unified, professional image of our integrated Naval Force," Zeigler said, adding that the decision was made by Naval District Washington "in coordination with Navy and Marine Corps leadership."

Monday, July 13, 2020

The Burning of the USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6)

The pic on the right is from 0700 local time in San Diego via Denis Bondarenko, a civmar across the pier. Over the last 24-hrs, she has burned bow to stern, and overnight fire made it up the island to the bridge, the aft mast collapsed and more. That is only what we can see from the outside, you can imagine the damage internally.

BHR spent the last two years in a yard period. The 22-yr old big-deck amphib was being modernized and made ready for F-35B and to be a critical part of our fleet through this decade. Last night when I realized that after the ship was abandoned, we now had firefighting crews back on board, I was uncharacteristically optimistic, but with the morning not anymore.

I’ll go ahead and make this bet; the ship is a total loss. The big battle now is to make sure the ship does not sink pierside.

There is a lot we do not know, and even though almost everyone who served has their pet theories about fires in a yard, it is best to see what is discovered during the upcoming investigation. With this much damage, finding the cause might be difficult, but we have the world’s best at this, so I’m willing to wait.

There are a few observations that have been top of mind over the last day.

1. We were not ready for the inevitable: I don’t care if it were a Sunday, the Navy was MIA from the information flow as one of our nation’s premier cities was blanketed with smoke from a capital ship burning in the heart of the city. We almost seemed paralyzed and waiting for everything to be fully smooth and approved while the city and nation wondered what was going on. In San Diego especially, there is a special bond between the city and its Navy. We let them down by not showing in a very public way who was the face and voice of the Navy during this crisis.

2. We are not as good at safety as we think we are: Fires during maintenance availability are not uncommon for any navy. How and why was this fire allowed to spready so fast and so far? There are rumors, but I won’t repeat them here as they are just speculation, but this should be known far and wide once the investigation is done. The people of San Diego and the nation need to know. No overclassification issues here. Don’t even try.

3. Can you get underway?: The USS FITZGERALD was right across the pier from BHR and was the first, under a blinding cloud of smoke, to get underway and out of the way. BZ to her crew. From the cheap seats though, that took way too long and not enough ships joined her. That story, along with the other ships close to BHR, sitting there soaking in all those toxic fumes, is another story I want told. That doesn’t even begin to discuss what would have happened if the fuel stores on BHR went.

4. We got lucky: we got lucky the ship was not full of Sailors and so far there have been no deaths. We are lucky that there were no weapons onboard. We are lucky this was not a nuclear powered ship. We are lucky, at least as of 11am Eastern, BHR has not sunk.

PACFLT has had a bad run the last three years, this is just another black eye. More to follow.