Friday, June 18, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Were there milbloggers, gadflies, and other agitators before their time? You bet there were.

Before “CDR Salamander” emerged from the head of Neptune, there were many examples that nudged “me” in to being. They are sprinkled throughout our history, some like Sims are well known – others have faded a bit in to the mists of time.

Today I want to bring someone out in to the light that is worth remembering. He saw well in to the future what realistic technological capabilities were emerging  that would more effectively and efficiently deliver what makes or breaks war at sea; delivering ordnance to target.

Let’s take a moment to appreciate a great naval officer, Admiral Sir Percy Moreton Scott, Royal Navy, 1st Baronet, KCB, KCVO.

To honor him I want to pull a few quotes from his 1919 book, Fifty Years in the Royal Navy. You can get a hard copy at the previous link, or via, a free PDF is available.

Heck, I'll embed it below too.

Remember, this is right after World War One ended.

As I could not convince the Admiralty that the sub marine was anything more than a toy, I considered it my duty to communicate with the Press. On the 15th December, 1913, I wrote a letter but withheld it on representations by a member of Parliament that the Little Navyites, then very powerful in the country, might use it as a weapon to cut down the Navy Estimates, and that I should better serve the country by waiting until the estimates were passed, and Mr. Winston Churchill had got the money. He could then, if he agreed with me, easily strike off some battleships from the building programme, and spend the money voted for their construction on submarines, aircraft, and anti-submarine measures.

Their Lordships were so annoyed with me for venturing to put their heads straight as regards submarines that at the end of the year they took away the pay that I had been receiving for helping them with director firing. Their letter was remarkable for the statement that the installation was practically completed in several ships and that the manufacture of the gear was in a very advanced stage. As a matter of fact, it was only completed in two ships and was not even designed for the various classes of ships in which it was to be installed. In this letter, dated the 30th December, 1913, the Admiralty bade me farewell, expressing " their high appreciation " of my services in connection with “ this sighting gear ” and referring to its marked success."


In due course the Navy Estimates for 1914-1915 were published, and as the substance of them revealed that the Admiralty had realised neither the menace that submarines were to this island country not the necessity of providing measures against them, I sent a letter to the Times on the 4th June, 1914, the gist of which was as follows : 

“ That as we had sufficient battleships, but not sufficient submarines and aircraft, we should stop building battleships and spend the money voted for their construction on the submarines and the aircraft that we urgently needed.

“ That submarines and aircraft had entirely revolutionised naval warfare.

“ That if we were at war with a country within striking distance of submarines, battleships on the high seas would be in great danger ; that even in harbour they would not be immune from attack unless the harbour was quite a safe one.

“ That probably if we went to war, we should at once lock our battleships up in a safe harbour, and that the enemy would do the same. “ That all naval strategy was upset, as no fleet could hide from the eye of the aeroplane.

“ That submarines could deliver a deadly attack in broad daylight.

“ That battleships could not bombard an enemy if his ports were adequately protected by submarines.

" That the enemy's submarines would come to our coasts and destroy everything they could see."

What is the future Navy to be ? Some officers say that the battleship is more alive than ever; others declare that the battleship is dead. I regarded the surface battleship as dead before the War, and I think her more dead now, if that is possible.

The battleship of today costs roughly £ 8,000,000; she carries about 1000 shells containing about 100,000 lbs. of high explosives ; her effective range is, say, 15 miles, she is vulnerable to aircraft with bombs and aerial torpedoes, and to submarines, the latter possibly carrying a 15-in. or 18-in. gun; and the ordinary automobile torpedo is still in process of development, and may, in the future, carry a ton of high explosives, which would probably sink any battleship.

For £8,000,000 we could build many aeroplane-carrying ships, equipped with aeroplanes carrying over 100, 000 lbs. of high explosives. If these aeroplanes carried fuel sufficient for five hours, their range would be about 150 miles out and 150 miles home.

In the battleship we put all our eggs into one basket.

In peace-time the aeroplane - carrying ships could be used as passenger ships, and the aeroplanes for carrying passengers instead of bombs.

As to relative cost of upkeep, the single battleship would require in peacetime about:

- 40 officers ... £8,000 

- 800 men ... £60,000

- Provisions and stores ... £30,000

- Coal ...  £10,000

- (total) ... £108,000

Say £120,000 a year. 

The aeroplane-carrying ships and the aeroplanes would cost nothing ; they would be earning money. The officers and men to form the crews of the ships would belong to the Merchant Navy. Aeroplane pilots will be as numerous as taxi drivers and get about the same pay. The battleship waddles along at twenty miles an hour, and cannot waddle very far, and in comparison with an aeroplane has a very low rate of speed.

The object in war is to introduce high explosive materials into your enemy's ships or country ; transmitting this high explosive by guns is expensive as the container of the high explosive has to be very strong, and consequently very heavy, to withstand the shock of discharge.

It takes a battleship weighing 30,000 tons to carry 100, 000 lbs. of this explosive. Ten aeroplanes weighing about three tons each would carry the same amount, so the relative weights of the carriers is as 30 tons to 30,000 tons.

When the battleship nears the end of her coal or am munition, she must waddle home at about the same speed as a South Eastern Railway train ( I am told that this is the slowest line on earth ), and it takes her several hours to fill up even if she uses oil fuel. The aeroplane does not waddle home, but comes back at 100 miles an hour, and it takes three minutes to fill her up with fuel and am munition. 

The future is with the aeroplane, which is going to develop rapidly in the next few years. Probably we shall also have submersible battleships of 10,000 tons. What chance will the surface battleship, presenting a huge target, have against such a vessel?

Be a gadfly. Take the slings and arrows. You serve your navy and your nation, not a bunch of imperfect people conflicted by personal ambition and the bias of the now. 

Always demand that those in charge of your navy are doing all they can and investing their money wisely so when your nation orders your Sailors in to harm's way, they have better and more capable tools to do their job than your nation’s opponents.

Admiral Scott, fullbore.

As a final note ... I'll just leave this here for the Front Porch;

Financial independence allowed Scott to indulge his intellectual arrogance and judgemental nature, which, when combined with his flair for self-publicity, formed the basis of his fractious relationship with Navy authorities. 

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Today we return to the subject of the addition to the CNO's reading list of a book that openly calls for the most sectarian view of race. Worse, it calls for the official application of racism in to official policy.

For those who have not read his book, let me pull out how Ibram X. Kendi defines things in his book, "How to be an Antiracist," the book in question. 

Words mean things, and when people redefine words, you need to pay special attention;


Now operationalize that concept in your mind every time in our Navy you hear, "equity." From Flight Surgeons to Nuke Power School - operationalize the above concept and how, once people read this CNO recommended book, they move to reflect that in how we do business.

Outside our Navy, by that example everything is racist from medical school, to the NBA, cattle ranching, and the music world.

To accept that definition is to either encourage unending sectarian conflict and activated "one drop rule" discrimination based on race, creed, color, national origin, etc ... which naturally, will lead to sectarian conflict.

To inject Kendi's world view is to invite conflict. Indeed, that is exactly where it wants to go. Chaos and conflict are opportunities for those who desire power and control.

Now to yesterday's hearing. 

You can watch the full hearing here or here, but below is a cut specifically to the 01:08 point where the CNO is asked about the disgraceful addition of the divisive and sectarian Ibram X. Kendi to his reading list.

It is one thing to see the obviously flustered CNO try to maneuver around his own minefield, but I think it is much more revealing to read the transcript;
Congressman Lamborn (R-CO): "Admiral Gilday, I have to ask you about something first, that I'm concerned about and a lot of people in the civilian world. I sent you a letter with two dozen people on it concerned that you recently added several books to the Navy's professional reading list promoting Critical Race Theory and one of these books is Ibram X. Kendi's "How to be an Antiracist" and it argues that the entire American system is corrupted from top to bottom by racial prejudices which account for all differences in outcomes in out society and one sentence out of that book says that, "The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination. The only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination." Now, I understand that this is a voluntary reading list, but how does exposing to our Sailors to the idea that they are either oppressors or the oppressed, and that we must actively discriminate to make up for past discrimination improves our Navy's readiness and lethality for great power competition?"

CNO Gilday: "Sir, initially you mentioned Critical Race Theory. I am not a theorist, I'm the Chief of Naval Operations, but I can tell you is factually on a substantial enough of time talking to Sailors there's racism in the Navy just like racism in our country and the way we're going to get after it is to be honest about it and that's what we're doing and that's one of the reasons that book is on the list doesn't mean I have any expectation that anybody believe or support everything that Mr. Kendi states in his book. I don't support everything that Kendi says, but the key point here is the Sailors in our Navy, we have to be able  to think critically. They have to be able to look outwardly at China and Russia and they have to understand what these societies, why those societies who are potential dangers to the United States inwardly. We have to understand ourselves and we have to understand critically that we value diversity, and I thought okay..."

Lamborn: "Admiral, I agree that we should have a robust and a great discussion and any racism uprooted and taken away. I absolutely agree and I endorse that, but should we have future discrimination? Do you, don't you disagree that particular statement, do you?" 

Gilday: "Sir, I have to look at the context of it. I'm not trying to be evasive, but I don't, as I mentioned, I don't support everything Kendi asserts, I don't believe everything that I read. I think that I hope, I think that everyone has to be in a position to weigh facts from fiction. Even our Sailors, they're bombarded every day from misinformation, much of it comes from China and Russia on this issue that's getting in our national psyche. I'm trying to get after it in the Navy."

Lamborn: "OK, well I hope that's one statement you don't endorse and maybe we can follow up on that."
There is so much to unpack here, and so much that is revealing. I can't cover it in one post, and if you've watched the clip and read the transcript, the problems with the CNO's response and understanding are self-evident.

Let me pick my top issues.

Theory: I'm sorry, but the CNO specifically and Flag Officers in general damn sure better be theorists. That is their job.

You have to understand and execute the practical application of theory; just war theory; deterrence theory; recruitment theory; etc. The oft mentioned, "Project Overmatch" is a theory. Alliances are based on theory. Most of what the late great Wayne Hughes taught us was theory.

Sorry, that dog don't hunt CNO.

Kendi: OK Admiral, now let's get to why of all authors you have Kendi on your list. If you don't support all of what Kendi asserts, what do you support that he asserts such that you would put it on your reading list? If you want Sailors to think critically, where are the books out there that provide a different view than Kendi on the topic of how to address racism so our Sailors can critically weigh his ideas against others? If that is your desire, then you've failed. If that isn't your desire, then it is clear what you are doing - endorsing political sectarianism - intentionally or unintentionally.

Misinformation: What specific examples of misinformation that our Sailors see daily on racism is coming from China and Russia that you think Kendi's work is helpful with? Are people entitled to state that the ideas, examples, and opinions about the USA - its people and institutions - in Kendi's book are themselves "misinformation?" 

This very revealing exchange - there have been more and I hope there will be more - clearly tells us we have one of two things, or both: 

1) Either the CNO is fully engaged in Kendi's view of our nation and it's people, or... 
2) ...he has decided to let the Navy's branch of the diversity industry bully him in to including his and similar works so they will not raise trouble and call him nasty names.

Either answer to the above is unacceptable.

Yes it matters. The United States of American is an experiment in self-governance by a gloriously polyglot people. The only way this will work is if the people see themselves as Americans first, and believe that their government will treat them as individuals; equal to all other citizens. We've spent the entire history of our republic striving to get better at this ideal and have been more successful in this regard than any other nation in the history of the world. 

As we approach the middle of the 21st Century, if we turn from the concept of judging people by the content of their character instead of their race, creed, color, national origin, or other sectarian divisions, and turning back towards lower-brainstem sectarianism, we are heading to a very dark place. No society that encouraged sectarianism amongst its people has ever survived. It always leads to division, and usually rivers of blood.

To inject that view in to a nation's military, as opposed to suppressing it, is the height of foolishness and greases the path towards self-destruction.

UPDATE: Later on in the hearing, Rep. Banks (R-IN) also weighed in to the topic. 

The CNO comes off even worse.


Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Tomorrowland is Going to Get us Killed

We think we know the future, we don't.

We thought our leadership would learn from killing 17 Sailors in the summer of 2017, but it didn't.

We thought our Navy would be ready for war sometime this decade, but we've decided to taunt fate and push two decades down the road.

Pray for peace.

Details over at USNIBlog.

UPDATE: Link fixed. Sorry, my bust.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

A Graduate Level Class on Efficiently Grilling the CNO

No, this isn't Rep. Luria (D-VA) week on CDR Salamander, though it is playing out as such ... but my post that was going up today is going on the back burner so we can bring up this jewel ... dare I say a Salamanderesque episode as uploaded by our friend Herb Carmen from today's HASC hearing.

I'll let Rep. Luria take it from here.  If we could have another dozen or so like this on The Hill, that would be great. Thanks.

Now, dig deep in to the point she's making here. Our Navy got in the pickle it is right now from overpromising and underdelivering; by acting like a salesman for the defense industry, vice a customer of same.

More of this is needed ... and on THU we'll have an earlier exchange with a different member of Congress that we'll cover.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Where is Our Admiral William Small? Rep. Luria Would Like to Talk to Him.

The Front Porch got some nice top-cover to start the week off. This is good.

As we covered here and on Midrats, sadly, the US Navy’s uniformed and civilian leadership over the last decade left a record of a serial inability to plan for the future of our Navy and worse, clearly define its importance to the security of our republic. 

Compounding the errors at the dawn of this century in the Age of Transformationalism, in the middle of the last decade it became clear to me in stark relief that the key to avoid further compounded errors lies in Congressional action.

We need to identify and support Representatives and Senators of all parties (remember, there are (I) in the Senate), who show the right focus and understanding to lead the required change through legislative change. DOD/DON is incapable of reforming itself, but it will follow the law and the holder of the purse. 

Ultimately, legislative change will need to replace Goldwater-Nichols, the COCOM structures, and accretion bound and ossified procurement system. Until then, we can do other things in parallel that can help shape the future – and must shape our fleet now. 

One such action is strategy.

During to the last Navy strategic effort of heft back in 2007, I dug out my hard copy of the 1986 Maritime Strategy I received as a Midshipman. As this is 2021, let us take a moment to contextualize those timelines.

Here we are in 2021 referencing 2007, 14 years ago, and 1986, 35 years ago. 14 years is the length of time from the end of WWII and the commissioning of our first ballistic missile submarine, the USS GEORGE WASHINGTON (SSBN-598). 35 years is the same length of time from the end of WWI to the de facto end of the Korean War.

Yes, we are thinking at the speed of smell.

What about today? What can we do when our uniformed and civilian leadership seem hobbled by socio-political distractions or intellectually frozen in aspic? Again, we need to look to Congress.

One of the congressional leaders navalists should keep in their scan is Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA). Consistently solid on naval matters, as one would expect from a fellow member of the exalted order of retired Navy Commanders, her article out today at WOTR is worth your time to review.

In it she states one of the most important concepts people in 2021 need to understand about the urgency of the needed change in the direction of our Navy;

As the Navy focuses almost exclusively on future capabilities, it risks overlooking the immediate threats posed by that competition today. A Battle Force 2045 plan does little to ensure a ready battle force in 2025. Today, no longer in uniform, but as the vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee, I believe the constitutional role of Congress “to provide and maintain a navy” should be based on something more than future hopes in technology and budget expectations. We need to be prepared now for any contingencies that may occur on our collective watch.


U.S. maritime leaders need to answer the question: How would the U.S. Navy deter or defeat Chinese naval aggression, which may perhaps be compounded and complicated by other states such as Russia, Iran, or North Korea acting opportunistically while U.S. Navy forces are engaged elsewhere?


...the U.S. Navy has lost a generation of shipbuilding to failed programs. For example, the DD-21 program office (which resulted in the Zumwalt-class destroyer) was established in 1998. Originally scheduled for a 32-ship production line, but pared down to just three, the Zumwalt and her two sister ships have not deployed. ... Similarly, the CVN-21 program executive office, which was set up to produce what became the Gerald Ford-class aircraft carrier, was established in 1996. The USS Ford has not yet deployed.


 Multiple challenges with the Littoral Combat Ship program have resulted in some of those ships being slated for decommissioning only a few years into their intended lifespan. The Constellation-class frigates, intended to provide a more capable alternative to the lightly armed littoral combat ship, will not be present in the fleet in significant numbers for a decade or more.

Hard truth, and glad to hear it from Congress. 

Time is of the essence, and we are late.

Today, U.S. Navy leadership should heed the words of Lehman: “First strategy, then requirements, then the POM, then budget.” The global situation and America’s competitors and adversaries may have evolved, but the process by which the U.S. Navy designs and builds the fleet should take a valuable lesson from the 1980s. If the United States is to remain a global power, it needs a Navy fit for the purpose and the United States, as a nation, needs to make the commitment to prioritize national defense and make this investment.


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Small Islands in Great Power Competition, with Alexander Gray - on Midrats

China is interested in a lot more than just the first or second island chain. In the vast reaches of the Pacific Ocean, the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia, and Polynesia are critical to the sea lines of communication for the economic powerhouses on both sides. 

From the Age of Discovery to today, their importance rises to the top of any power who wished to influence the area.

To look at this area of returning importance with us for the full hour from 5-6pm Eastern this Sunday will be Alexander B. Gray. 

The starting point for our conversation will be the issues he raised in two recent articles; How the US Can Protect the Sovereignty of the Smallest Pacific Islands in The Diplomat, and Why a Crisis in the Pacific islands Matters for Washington and Beijing in The Hill.

Alex is a Senior Fellow in National Security Affairs at the American Foreign Policy Council, served as Director for Oceania & Indo-Pacific Security at the White House National Security Council from 2018-2019.

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. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Our Navy needs a 4th USS Aaron Ward.

Read all of this and tell me this isn't a name that needs to be active in our fleet.

We also need a ship named after her CO, Adam Sanders.

I'll just stick with the citations:

The Presidential Unit Citation for Aaron Ward reads as follows:

For extraordinary heroism in action as a Picket Ship on Radar Picket Station during a coordinated attack by approximately 25 Japanese aircraft near Okinawa on 3 May 1945. Shooting down two kamikazes which approached in determined suicide dives, the USS AARON WARD was struck by a bomb from a third plane as she fought to destroy this attacker before it crashed into the superstructure and sprayed the entire area with flaming gasoline. Instantly flooded in her after engine room and fireroom, she battled against flames and exploding ammunition on deck, and, maneuvering in tight circles because of damage to her steering gear, countered another suicide attack and destroyed three kamikazes in rapid succession. Still smoking heavily and maneuvering radically, she lost all power when her forward fireroom flooded after a seventh suicide plane which dropped a bomb close aboard and dived in flames into the main deck. Unable to recover from this blow before an eighth bomber crashed into her superstructure bulkhead only seconds later, she attempted to shoot down a ninth kamikaze diving toward her at high speed and, despite the destruction of nearly all her gun mounts aft when this plane struck her, took under fire the tenth bomb-laden plane, which penetrated the dense smoke to crash on board with a devastating explosion. With fires raging uncontrolled, ammunition exploding and all engine spaces except the forward engine room flooded as she settled in the water and listed to port, she began a night-long battle to remain afloat and, with the assistance of a towing vessel, finally reached port the following day. By her superb fighting spirit and the courage and determination of her entire company, the AARON WARD upheld the finest traditions of the Unites States Naval Service.

For the President,

James Forrestal

Secretary of the Navy

The Navy Cross citation for Commander Sanders reads:

The President of the United States of America takes pleasure in presenting the Navy Cross to Commander William Henry Sanders, Jr., United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the Destroyer USS AARON WARD (DM-34), in action against enemy aircraft on 3 May 1945, while deployed off Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands. With his radar picket station the target for a coordinated attack by approximately twenty-five Japanese suicide planes, Captain Sanders gallantly fought his ship against the attackers and, although several bomb-laden planes crashed on board, skillfully directed his vessel in destroying five kamikazes, heavily damaging four others and routing the remainder. Determined to save his ship despite severe damage and the complete loss of power during this action, he then rallied his men and renewed the fight against raging fires, exploding ammunition, and the flooding of all engineering spaces until, after a night-long battle to keep the ship afloat, he succeeded in bringing her into port. By his inspiring leadership and courage in the face of overwhelming odds, Captain Sanders upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

Like I said, read it all ... and be humbled at man's ability to persevere.