Saturday, March 30, 2013

Midrats Sunday, Best of Kirk Lippold & Steve Phillips

This Easter at 5pm EST, let's go back to October of 2010 for a great duo of guests. 

First, since the end of US involvement The Vietnam War almost 40 years ago, there are just a few USN Commanding Officers who know what it is like for a warship under attack; one of the handful will be our first guest, CDR Kirk Lippold, USN (Ret.). He was the Commanding Officer of the USS Cole (DDG-67) when it was attacked while in port Aden, Yemen 12 October 2000 - the 10th anniversary will be this Tuesday. We will discuss his experiences then as well as the work he has done since his retirement with senior military fellow with Military Families United, and any other topics that fold their way in to our conversation. (since his first guest on Midrats, he published his book, Front Burner

Our second guest will be from the shadows of the Navy EOD world, Steve Phillips. After graduating from Annapolis in '92, Steve found honest work as a SWO, but then transferred into EOD where he served as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician at EOD Mobile Units Six, Eight, and Ten. He is the author of Proximity: A Novel of the Navy's Elite Bomb Squad which received a Gold Medal from the Military Writers Society of America in 2008. Some of the proceeds from the book support the EOD Memorial Foundation which provides scholarship to the children of EOD Technicians who made the ultimate sacrifice. 

If you like his work, Steve is currently working on a non-fiction account of EOD Technicians in our current conflict with a working title of Improvised: EOD Techs in the War on Terrorism.

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

Bloomberg's LCS 2-minute Hate

Byron and and the rest of the Front Porch should feel free to preen ... our "Little Crappy Ship" is now more or less a mainstream description of LCS.

Enjoy the vid.

Sooooo many people owe us sooooo much beer.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Fullbore Friday

When ignored and left to wither on the vine, how long does it take a nation to build up a world class military?

A navy can take much longer, but in general - if there is the will - how long does it take? 

Let's go back to a FbF from half a decade ago to review an important data point just on the edge of living memory.

 OMC sent me this awhile ago, and it tells a story not well known. Forget the image you have of the castrated Belgium of today; the Belgium that spends much less than 2% of her GDP to defend herself and whose Capital's most popular name for newborn boys is Mohammed - no think of what was - and give them credit. Why credit? They held so others could bring victory.
In 1936 Belgium started its policy of "Armed Independence", which is different than a policy of strict neutrality. The Policy of "Armed Independence" was highly supported by the Belgian people even if it meant that 25% of the national budget was spent on the military and that in times of economic recession. Nor Britain or France were able to outline such a policy. In both countries military expenditures were highly criticized by public opinion until it was too late.

The inability of the French and British government to react when Germany re-occupied the Rhine-land had brought the German army at the Belgian-German border. The international agreements were broken (Locarno pact). At that time Belgium was the only country prepared to help France in case of a war with Germany. But France didn’t react, as Britain didn’t want to support a war.

Before 1936 Belgium was obliged to help France or Germany when the other attacked the other one and vice versa. French generals and politicians saw Belgium not as an independent state but as the ideal battleground to fight another war with Germany. As tensions grew all over Europe Belgium needed a policy which was supported by the majority of the Belgian people, "Armed Independence".

The majority of the Belgians were against the Germans, but also against the French and this goes back to what happened after WOI, where Belgium was completely forgotten by the French in the Versailles Treaty. Also by not extending the Maginot Line at the Belgian-French border, the French practically invited the Germans to attack France through Belgium. The Belgian government asked the French government, on several occasions, to extent the fortifications, but as the French post-war commission wrote the French military preferred to fight the war with Germany in Belgium. This refusal resulted in a growing mistrust of the French by the Belgian population.

The British government supported in the 1930's the Belgian policy. The following is written in official documents of the Foreign office: The military built-up in Belgium, and the strengthening of their defenses, increases their chances to remain neutral, an attitude, which is beneficial for France and for ourselves.

In 1940 Belgium would have the best-prepared army in its history. Even Germany was impressed by the military built-up in Belgium and Hitler counted to need one million troops to defeat the Belgian army. While Belgium was doing an extraordinary effort to strengthen his army, Britain was following a policy of "no responsibility". Or in military terms, in the winter of 1939 the British Expeditionary Force was only 152.000 men strong. In May 1940 the BEF counted only 237.000 men. If it had spent the same proportional amount of its national budget on the military as Belgium, Britain would have had an army of 4.8 million men strong.
When on the 10th of January German military plans were captured when a German plane crashed, Belgian King Leopold III was prepared to accept allied troops in his country if the following conditions were agreed:

* Peace negotiations are not started without Belgian participation
* Belgium's integrity and of his colonies would be guaranteed after the war
* Financial support when Belgium needed to rebuilt his country after the war

For the British government (except Churchill) these conditions were unacceptable. The French decided that they didn't need to wait for an invitation and if Holland was attacked would march into Belgium with or without Belgian approval. The speech of Churchil on the 30th March stating that the neutral countries were scared to chose a side was an insult to the efforts which Belgium had done regarding its military efforts far more greater than Britain or France.
Short sighted politicians in the face of evil is not unique to our age.
The Belgian army counted 650 000 men (22 divisions). With another 150 000 men drafted in May 1940 to be sent to France to form reserve units. Totaling 800 000 men out of a population of 8 million In comparison it was three times a strong as the BEF (British Expeditionary Force). The majority were infantry divisions (all around 17 000 men strong), 2 divisions "Ardense Jagers" which were considered by the Germans as elite units, 2 divisions Cavalry (motorized infantry), a heavy artillery division, and several specialized regiments.
It started in a beautiful part of Europe on a beautiful day.
10/11 May 1940: Battle at the Albert-Canal.

On a sunny day WWII started for Belgium. The Germans obtained tactical surprise by attacking without any warning a large number of military targets and succeeded in destroying most of the already small Belgian airforce on the ground. It succeeded in taking two bridges over the Albert-canal and destroyed the strong fortress of Eben-Emael.
Read it all - read about the 17 days of an incredible fighting retreat.
Battles at the Lys River: At the Lys river the most fiercest battles of the Belgian campaign occurred.

While the battles at the Derivation canal took place 6th Army of Von Reichenau attacked the positions of the Belgian troops at the Lys river. The Belgian troops had extended their front to Menin to link up with the British front. Both fronts formed a 90° angle. The British front was diagonal with the German attacking direction. Which made the German left flank very vulnerable to British flank attacks and British artillery

The Belgian front was held here held by two divisions. The 1st (only 7000 men left) and 3rd (only 6000 men left) division and the 10th in reserve. The lack of material was even worse (no radios, few machine guns left). The divisions were supported by twenty artillery formations, something the Belgians still had plenty. These two divisions faced 6 German divisions and one division (7th) in flank protection against the British front.

Already on the 23rd of May the Germans made contact. The whole day and night the German artillery bombed the Belgian positions and the sky was full of German planes. The Germans lost on the 23rd 16 planes over this area, which is an accomplished as the Belgians didn’t have any plane in the sky. The Belgian artillery also participated and as usual dominated the German one. Several German units designated to attack the next day were replaced because the casualties they had taken by the Belgian artillery.

24th May: On the 24th of May 6 German divisions attacked the Belgian positions near the city of Kortrijk. The first attempt of the 30th division failed completely, as did the second, third and fourth one. But after two hours, 26inf managed to cross the river after sustaining very high losses in men and material. At two other places the German division managed to get over the Lys river, at Bavikhove (German 19th division) and Beveren. After a day of fighting the Belgian troops needed to retreat here, but some units remained fighting off the Germans until being eliminated. In the history of the German 30th division is written, "the resistance was much higher than expected"

Between Kortrijk and Menin the 31st German division attacked and managed to break through the Belgian front of the 1st division. The town of Bissegem was lost. The front was lost here as the Germans were now attacking two regiments in the flank. The Germans created a bridgehead of 3km long. The 1st division received units to perform a counterattack to retake Bissegem, but these units could only move slowly to their attacking positions because of the constant Stuka attacks. Still they managed to stop the German breakthrough and reduced the German Bridgehead(4km long and 3km depth)

The main German attack took place around Kortrijk. 4 German divisions, the 18th, 14th, 19th and 30th smashed in the front of the Belgian 3rd division. The 3rd division put up a tenacious fight, defended every meter, and inflected heavy casualties to the German troops. The division itself sustained heavy casualties and its defenses cracked everywhere. The German commander of the 18th division would later write that the attack against this elite Belgian division was very hard and costly.

It wasn’t an elite division, hell it wasn’t even on half it strength. The 3rd division was starting to give away when it supporting artillery fell out of ammo. The supply convoy had been destroyed by another air attack. At 21.00 P.M remnants of the division retreated behind the Roulers canal, leaving a temporary breach of 9 km in the front.

Between the Kortrijk area and the Derivation canal the Germans attempted also to cross the Lys river. The German 255th division failed completely. The German 216th division managed to get a foothold over the river by using two regiments (348 and 396 infantry) but they were quickly beaten back by the precise shooting of the Belgian artillery. The German commander wrote, "The enemy shoots with such a precision that we were only able to retreat back over the Lys river during the night"

25th May: On the 25th of May the Germans had created two bridgeheads, only separated by a small corridor in the Kortrijk area. This corridor included the city of Kortrijk itself. Still the city of Kortrijk was evacuated as it was endangered by encirclement. Belgian troops were moved from other places of the frontline to strengthen this sector, as there were no reserve units left.
A fight to the end.
On the 27th May Belgian command realized that the situation was hopeless and that the army was on its last legs. The army couldn’t dislodge anymore and casualties increased by the day. The supply situation was dramatic. While for many different weapon types there was simply no ammo left, the real problem was that the German Luftwaffe had gradually paralyzed the supply convoys.
The information coming from the corps commanders to the Belgian high command on the 27th was dramatic:
    • The I Corps reported that is was endangered to be encircled
    • IV corps was heavily attacked
    • V and VII corps reported enemy breakthroughs and that their front was broken
    • With other corps commanders contact was lost
It was cleat that the Belgian army was falling apart.
In the evening of the 27th of May negotiations started and unconditional surrender was accepted. The cease-fire started at 4.00 A.M the next day.
And what did that buy?
The battle at the Lys river had been very costly for the Belgian army as it had sustained 40.000 casualties (4000 KIA, 36.000 WIA), but it had managed to disturb the Germans plans and had aided, without their knowledge, in the escape of the BEF at Dunkirk.
Dunkirk. With not an hour to spare, the nucleus of the Army and the Allied forces that would liberate Europe 4 years later was saved. Saved by the Belgian Army.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The IG Pedigree

Has it always been such, that the IG is this strange, non-lethal shadow of other organizations through history that used open-ended investigations in order to find something, anything, to smear and destroy someone?

I saw it happen to a friend of mine who had the last 6-months of his command tour destroyed by a vindictive IG. A guy who made CDR early and selected for command early, wound up professionally destroyed by bad paper from an ISIC who was afraid of placing a bet on what could be spoiled goods. He was cleared within a year of his change of command, but the damage was done.

Others have their own examples. I'll wait for the FOIA ... but we may be here again.
Rear Adm. Charles M. Gaouette, who led Carrier Strike Group Three, which included the U.S.S. John C. Stennis, had been accused of using profanity in a public setting and making at least two racially insensitive comments, officials familiar with the investigation said.

He was cleared of any criminal violations under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the laws governing the behavior of armed services personnel. But a set of administrative penalties will effectively end his career.
Admiral Gaouette was the subject of a five-month investigation by the Naval Inspector General ... the complaint had been filed by Captain Ronald Reis, the commander of the Stennis, after the admiral admonished the captain for his ship-driving practices.
Read the whole story at the NYT and you will come away feeling a bit unclean. Five months and a career destroyed ... for what?
Think back to your time in the Navy, and ponder;
The investigation ultimately found that the admiral had used profanity while being the subject of a shipboard roast, called a “Foc’sle Follies,” and had made racially insensitive remarks on two previous occasions, officials said.
Captain Reis, the officers said, had been an exceptional EA-6 pilot before commanding the carrier, and was highly regarded for his intellect and drive.

But he did not follow normal protocols for driving the ship through busy shipping lanes, and ran a bridge in which the surface officers under his command felt tense and unable to offer their input, the officers said.

Three officers and two former officers familiar with the ship’s bridge procedures said the captain tended to act alone and by eye, and not carefully track the Stennis’s position relative to other vessels in crowded seas; one of them said he tended “to fly the ship.”

After Admiral Gaouette had ordered the captain to slow down as the vessel was steaming through ship traffic in the Malacca Strait in excess of 20 knots, the officers said, Captain Reis filed a complaint to the inspector general, claiming the admiral was abusive.
I am sure there is a lot more to follow, but no officer I have ever served with could survive being, "... the subject of a five-month investigation by the Naval Inspector General, ... ", and since when does a senior O6 cry to the zampolit when someone hurts his feelings?

Do we really have a CVN CO serving up this weak cheese ... calling an IG because he's butthurt that the SOPA had issues with his ship driving?

Profanity at “Foc’sle Follies?” GMAFB; I've never seen one that didn't. As for the "racially insensitive remarks" - let me see them - see them in context. An Admiral of a strike group of thousands wandering off the shores of people who have been killing and being killed by American Sailors for decades might say something a bit "off," at least I hope so. Methinks the "racially insensitive remarks" thing, once it is known, will not be what 98% of the US sane adult population would think is "racially insensitive" for an Admiral at that place at that time.

I checked in with a friend in the Queer community ... wait, one can't use that phrase anymore ... excuse me, the "Electronic Attack" community - and he gave me this snapshot.
"... it is truly crazy to me. The embarrassing thing for me is that the guy who filed the complaint is a Prowler guy. I had friends on the Stennis that were in positions where they witnessed the events discussed in the article and they say the public profanity (at follies after getting roasted by the airwing) and "racially insensitive" comments were taken out of context and not offensive. They were about Iran and kicking their arse if called upon. The bottom-line is an O6, carrier CO got his feelings hurt because he got yelled at so he complained to the IG about it and based on their investigation which expanded to all kinds of subjects finds the RADM guilty of other things they discover during the investigation unrelated to the original complaint. I would expect a leader to confront his boss privately and explain to him what he disagreed with him about and ask for him to change his methods in the future.

The Chinese much love this. We are doing this to ourselves."
Can't say it any better.

Unforced error on our part. Let us ponder that a bit. Review and ask - how did we get here?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Retro Wednesday

Sailors immortal.

USS BROOKLYN from 1899.


Hat tip SP.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Well, so much for better spring parking

Via Sam@NavyTimes;
The defense secretary officially terminated five upcoming ship deployments last week and ordered one deployed frigate to return home.
• The hospital ship Comfort will not conduct its “Continuing Promise 2013” humanitarian mission to Central and South America.

• The rescue and salvage ship Grasp will not deploy to U.S. European command.

• The frigate Kauffman will not deploy to U.S. Southern Command, once scheduled for April 5.

• The frigate Rentz will not deploy to U.S. Southern Command, once slated for April 19.

• The attack submarine Jefferson City will not deploy in April.

The frigate Thach, nearly half-way through its six-month counter-narcotics cruise, has been ordered to return to its homeport, San Diego, in April, PACFLT’s statement said.
Hat tip Lee.

The Shame of the Name Game

As anyone in the idea business will tell you, the important but dull things need to be repeated over and over and over again until others see the light.

It's behind the pay-wall, but all of you are USNI members ... so that isn't an issue, right

Anyway; Norman Polmar - again, outlines the intellectual immaturity and simple wrongheadedness of how we name our ships.

It is a symptom ... like going from F-22 to F-35, but worse. It is the fonctionnaire mentality that calls something an FFG, even after you neuter away the "G."

Enough of my grump'n, Norman - over to you;
During the scheme’s 90-plus years, the first letter of a symbol designated a major category of ships. Thus, the letter D for destroyer-type ships evolved from the basic DD (destroyer) and DL (destroyer leader) to DD, DDE, DDG, DDH, DDK, DDR, DM, DMS, as well as the DE (now FF) and DL (frigate) series.

The first major change to the original 1920 scheme occurred during World War II with the plethora of landing ships and craft, the most famous being the LSD, LSM, LSMR, LST, LSV, LCI, LCM, LCS, LCT, and LCVP. This application of the prefix letter L for amphibious ships and craft was expanded in 1955 with the LPH classification for amphibious assault ships. 2 These “aircraft carriers” that operated helicopters and carried Marines would be developed into the larger LHA/LHD assault ships of today’s Fleet. The L prefix was further expanded in the late 1960s to encompass “attack” cargo ships and transports (changed from AKA and APA to LKA and LPA, respectively), and amphibious command ships (changed from AGC to LCC).

This neat system, periodically expanded, survived throughout the 20th century. Now it is being perverted. Probably the first major corruption was the littoral combat ship (LCS).
Ahhhh yes; that poster-child of all that is unclean.
A much more meaningful designation for the littoral combat ship would be based on the F for frigate. A logical and reasonable designation for these ships would be FMM for “frigate, multi-mission,” or FCS for “frigate, combat support,” ... The two other recent major corruptions of the designation scheme are the joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) and the mobile logistics platform (MLP). The JHSVs are high-speed troop/vehicle transports of a wave-piercing catamaran design. Like the littoral combat ship, the Navy’s leadership has taken the program name and “converted” the initials to a ship designation. Again, confusion reigns. There has never before been an official J-series ship in the Navy.
The same is true for the MLPs. All other M-series ships have been mine-warfare ships (e.g., MCS, MMD, MMF, MSB, MSC, MSO).
Unquestionably, the LCS, JHSV, and MLP designations must be changed—it is logical and sensible to do so. It can be done with the stroke of a pen by a Secretary of the Navy notice. At the same time, two other ship classes should have their hull numbers changed: The three ships of the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) class and the three submarines of the Seawolf (SSN-21) class should be assigned realistic hull numbers within their respective types, and thus be in accord with the 90-year-old directive that stated ships were to be designated in sequential order within their designation types.

The U.S. Navy’s basic ship-designation system is excellent and deserves to be carried out professionally and logically.
Huzzah, huzzah, huzzah! Thank you for bringing this up again ... and it should continue to be brought up until changes are made.

LCS, MLP, JHSV (which isn't Joint anymore BTW) is the low hanging fruit. For goodness sake, it cannot even survive the follow-on question.

And do it fast out of respect for what came before, and to advertise that you have the common sense to see something wrong and will right it.

Names and words matter ... and I would ad one thing more. ZUMWALT is not a destroyer - it is a CA. I would also add that the Arleigh Burke FLT III are not destroyers either, they are easily a CGL.

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Defining Quote of 2013

“The tide of war is rising, America is receding,..."
Dr. Charles Krauthammer makes one of the clearer points I have heard about what is going on in the IRN-IRQ-SYR arch.

Watch the below for a demonstration of what impotence is in the body of one of the most important position in what is for now the planet's premier power - and though he is SecState ... at least he was never President.

While we scratch-n-sniff about homosexual marriage and why 7=10=15, the world continues and history drives on increasingly blind to the flabby, loud, overdrawn fat lady in the personal hygiene department at Walmart.

Hat tip NRO.

Benchmarking South Portland

With the start of the less than glorious retreat from AFG that President Obama announced back in 2009, I've been in a bit of a funk - and since then I have been feeling the same vibe from others too - but I've had a hard time putting my finger on it as to exactly what it is.

I think we can throw away the post-Vietnam model; throw it way away. This post-war period will be different and if, like me, you are trying to figure it out, read Lexington from the 02MAR13 issues from The Economist. Get your best Pepperidge Farm accent ready with a little post-industrial landscape that smells slightly of fish.
By the end of next year the war will be over, the mission completed. After a grinding decade, Mr Obama declared ringingly in his state-of-the-union address that “our brave men and women in uniform” are coming home.

That pledge earned a standing ovation. Beyond Washington, in the sort of American communities that provide the backbone of the armed forces, it prompts a more complicated response. The small city of South Portland in Maine is one of many obscure places to be heavily touched by war since the September 11th 2001 attacks. No state has lost more soldiers in Afghanistan, per person, than Maine—a fertile recruiting ground in every conflict since the civil war and still today home to an unusual number of veterans. And the Afghan and Iraqi campaigns cost South Portland dearer than most places in Maine. A windswept coastal city of 25,000, it lost four local men, three of them young graduates from the same high school.

One town cannot represent American opinion. Yet talking to a cross-section of locals, as well as to state military and government officials, the same observations come up repeatedly. It may be useful to record some of them.
Read the whole thing - but this is what got me to read it three times;
They call their city more overtly patriotic than a decade ago, yet more cynical, too. For all Mr Obama’s assurances, many fear an untidy ending in Afghanistan, and further messy crises to follow. Whether fresh interventions might be justified divides them. In short, they will believe in the homecoming of the brave when they see it.
That I think is one flavor in the post-conflict stew we are cook'n.

An interesting note about editors at The Economist. The title on deadtree and the text link is, "The view from Maine streets: Barack Obama’s talk of peace does not convince a city marked by war" - I assume an editor changed that. The author's preferred title, one that is much closer to what the article is about, can be found on his blog;
America and its military: How it feels to end a war without really winning
Bingo. We have a leader who engineered a retreat, skipping an entire phase of an operation that had a chance of some measure of success - but none after DEC09. That's the funk - and we're only now starting to internalize it.

Forget post-Vietnam - things are different now. How, don't know ... but you didn't see this in the 1970s.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Saturday, March 23, 2013

CNP Operationalizes Sequestration/CR

What are the Chief of Naval Personnel's priorities in the face of sequestration/CR?

We're discussing it over at USNIBlog. Come visit!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fullbore Friday

In honor of a friend that I served with who was on this crew ... a encore FbF from four years ago.

An under-told story from an under-studied (at least in the last decade) war.

The story of Vulcan 607.
"We're short of fuel, but we've come this far," he told them. "I'm not turning back now." At 290 miles away from the target, 607 began a shallow descent towards Port Stanley.

Even now they could not be certain where they were. The inflight navigation system gave two different compass readings.

The Radar Officer, Bob Wright, and the Navigator, Gordon Graham, had split the difference. If they were on course, the computer would respond with the information needed for Wright to get the bombs on target but only when the radar was switched on again - seconds before the planned drop.

Simon Baldwin in Waddington had worked out that the bomber should approach low to minimise its 'footprint' and then climb upwards to 8000 or 10,000 feet to try to stay clear of the "kill zone" of the Argentinian defences before unleashing its weaponry.

As Vulcan 607 streaked towards her target, Graham called the mileage before the rapid climb, and Hugh Prior, the electronics officer, made sure that the chaff and decoy flares, which would be fired to draw enemy fire, and the American Dash 10 detection jammer were operational.

A radar contact appeared: 607 was dead on target. It was 4.30 in the morning, local time, when the Vulcan roared upwards, straight into view of the Argentine search radars. But the young radar operators were unperturbed. The bomber could only be one of theirs - this had not been a shooting war so far.

During the few minutes it took the Argentinians to wake up to the fact that this was in fact an enemy aircraft, the Vulcan had soared to its 10,000ft altitude and levelled off for the bomb run.

Its speed was 400 mph. From this moment the aircraft could not deviate, even if enemy radar was locked on them. At this height the runway would have been the size of a scratch of a fingernail on the map and the bomb run had to be precise to a few yards.

Two miles from the runway the first of the thousand-pounders fell away from the Vulcan's cavernous belly. When all 21 were away, Withers turned the Vulcan in a steep curve, in time for the crew to see a blossom of fire as the first bomb bored deep into the centre of the runway and detonated. Other blasts hit the airfield, gouging out massive chunks of its surface.

Vulcan 607 did, in fact, have enough fuel to make the rendezvous. It returned to Ascension Island and a heroes' welcome. The most ambitious sortie since World War II, had by the skin of its teeth been successful.

The damage destroyed any remaining hopes Argentine forces had of using the runway for their fast jets. Their entire Mirage fighter force had to be moved promptly back to the north of Argentina, and any jet cover during the coming British invasion would have to come from the mainland.

It shook Argentine morale to the core and provoked Galtieri's decision to order a naval offensive against the British Task Force, which had disastrous consequences for the Argentine Navy.

The V-bomber had been designed decades before to reach into the snowy wastes of Soviet Russia, but had never been used in anger. Their last outing, to a part of the world no one had dreamed they would visit, had finally justified these beautiful aircraft.

The Falklands War lasted just 74 days. Though taken by surprise, Britain launched a task force to retake the islands and after conflict costing 255 British and 649 Argentinian deaths, the Union Jack was hoisted in Port Stanley on June 14.

USCG, the Arctic, and the Need for Teeth - on Midrats

There is a fair bit of talk about the rush for the arctic for economic and strategic reasons - and where there is international interest on the seas, the nations involved need to think about what is the best way to secure their interests.

While the initial thought might be Navy - is the natural answer really the Coast Guard? If the USCG is the right answer, is it trained, manned and equipped for the job?

What does it need to do in order to fulfill its role - and why may it be the best answer to the question - who will show the flag up north?

Our guest this Sunday for the full hour from 5-6pm EST will be U.S. Naval War College Professor James R. Holmes. As a starting point for our conversation, we will use his latest article in Foreign Policy: America Needs a Coast Guard That Can Fight: As the Arctic becomes an arena for conflict, the United States’ forgotten naval force will need to cowboy up.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio - the best way to get the show and download the archive to your audio player is to get a free account and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

CIMSEC Ask the Right Question

The answer is a bit more complicated than 42. Asks Jason;
... where is the sailorbob or cdrsalamader ‘site on the high side? Given the requirement to keep much of our tactical discussion away from prying eyes, how easy has the Navy made it for the average watchstander to find high-side sites where tactics are routinely and robustly discussed?
Reminds me of the Great Loss of '92 when the PC police took away the Esoteric Book of Gouge. You know, the green-cloth covered watch-book written in the blood of years of upgraders/non-quals - boiling down piles of hard to get information in pubs with lessons learned and the most tricky oral board issues to one easily accessible package - where you could revise and improve the gouge as needed.

The PQS sadists always hated it - but the Gods of JOPA always protected it ... until ... some hinge of a fun-sponge post-Tailhook also realized that it had some of the better liberty gossip and "observations" about certain unevaluated "qualifications" and "specialties" some people had and how they could be procured. So, one day the XO took it and that was that.

Well ... that was about the only written TS forum I can think of that was close to what CIMSEC is asking for ... and it was on deadtree. The question is; does the Navy have the culture, infrastructure and hours in the day for their to be something new mediaish on the high side? I don't think so, for a variety of reasons.

I think a SB or CDRS in RED or ORANGE networks would, unless given proper the top cover, quickly die once the wrong person got butthurt because LTJG Upstart put out a scathing POSTEX about VADM Insecure's favorite program/theory that he just published that LT Nevergetscredit ghost wrote for him, and VADM Insecure called RDML Paranoid - the ISIC of CDR Needtofeedfivekids - the CO of USS COLDIRON - who was informed in no uncertain terms that the COLDIRON's wardroom needed to shut up and cover ... and then ... "Delete that post, ban that user, get me the number of the administrator's boss ... etc ... etc."

We talked about just that problem on the last Midrats with a Naval War College professor. That issue is very real.

While a lot of people know who SB-actual is, and a smaller number who CDRS-actual is - they are separate from DoN and their personalities are somewhat prickly and hard to eradicate. SB has a degree of separation from some of the ideas on his forum, and when on active duty - only two people knew who CDRS-actual was - so no real direct threats.  Govt. owned, govt hosted, and subject to all that means? A bit hard to duplicate.

Perhaps that isn't fair. Perhaps it is. Perhaps that is why the anon side of the web works - people can share with some protection if they trust the venue. SB has its own culture (stab, stab, twist, stab ..... just kidding, I kid because I love) and my little front porch has its own too. People know that their identity and confidentiality is safe with me. I only post 10% of the things that are sent my way. So many things are sent, "on background" or just, "don't even hint at this, but I wanted you to know..." or "Look at this, but don't publish the pic as its source would be easy to track back ..." because since 2004, people have learned that CDRS is a "safe place." Will people trust DoN RED and ORANGE SB and CDRS like that? Not for long methinks.

Though CDRS is a one-man-show, if someone is itching to tell story, I let guest posts once a quarter or so - or as is often the case, people will hand me a story and say, "Publish as your own if you wish in whole or part ... but keep me out of it." And of course, comments is a free-fire zone, where unless you are excessively personally rude or make psycho-sexual threats, you are as free to advertise your ignorance as the host is. You can't be that free wheeling in RED and ORANGE.

Both SB and CDRS serve a certain part of the information ecosystem - but they are what they are because Sailor Bob and 'ole Sal run their ships they way they do, service the same cause - just in slightly different flavors - and it works because of that. But ... as the folks at CIMSEC point out - it has a huge limitation; UNCLAS.

I exchanged emails with a friend of the blog who knows me IRL too, and we were talking around a few things that we used to do operationally back in the day - topics that we simply cannot dig in to via any UNCLAS means ... so we talk around it. The two specific topics just beg for the open forum of SB and CDRS - if there were such a thing TS-SCI. That is where the cynicism of the above paragraphs is pushed back against what is a real need for an open forum on the high side. Just and example.

X & Y is put out in industry publications claiming Z ... but we have known for WW years that what is put out by industry is a lie. A lie that a lot of national security assumptions are based. Lies that are fudged in wargames, simulators, and yes - open source publications. You cannot directly push back though because to do so breaks well past UNCLAS.

Behind the cypher door, I am quite sure people are still saying, "This won't kill sh1t outside very specific _____ and _____ if you happen to _____. Do they know that there are only ______ of ______ that will support_____ of _____ anyway?" ... just like we did about the same systems 10, 15, and even 20 years ago.

And no one outside that small circle hears that. A dozen people read what has been written before behind the cipher door - but for most up the chain the Best Case is briefed as the Most Likely, the Most Likely is briefed as the Worst Case, and the Worst Case is put in backup slides. The filter performs its function - and the programs continue unchanged.

It would be good to have such a Navy wide forum online in RED and ORANGE ... but I don't think right now we have the culture to support it. Heck, I remember a specific topic that came out of a RIMPAC that was cut out of the TS brief simply because it was too negative an estimation of a new system's performance in the real world vice simulation. Not inaccurate ... just different than what the Flags were briefed about what its performance would be. We didn't say it was great, we didn't say what it actually did, we just said it was tried.

From what I hear in the Fleet, not much has changed in the last few years. Put another way;
The more insidious factor being a silencing of innovation in warfighting thought because of the perception that sharing of views outside of one’s own chain of command is seen in a negative light. Jeff Gilmore’s excellent post titled “Where is Lt Zuckerburg“ illustrates the challenges the military has placed upon its own innovators, from the lack of a coherent social media policy to the impediments placed upon junior thinkers by senior staffs. When coupled with the perception of ideas flowing into a doctrinal “black hole” once they leave the unit (due to the length of the vetting process, or due to failing to find advocacy outside the lifelines), what motivation do junior leaders have to share their ideas?
That is a panel discussion I would like to see led by Admiral Stavridis with a bunch of uppity-LTs.
We can overcome the lack of organizational inertia that bureaucracy forces upon warfighting; but doing so requires us to train our young leaders to use a healthy dose of critical thinking, some self-righteous zeal, and a bulldozer when necessary.
Critical thinking, self-righteous zeal, and a bulldozer personality ...  a pain in the tail at times - but isn't that what you want in the balance of your warfighting JOs to be?

This is a tough line of work - we should encourage a wide ranging and intellectually challenging exchange of ideas - it is better to do it in peace, than to wish you had in war.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hug Your Constitution Closer

People need to remember that the American Revolution did not start out as a desire to leave our British mother country. No ... and even to the end, a fair percentage of Americans did not want to leave ... many, ahem, families actually fought for Loyalist militias, especially in the South.

Our founders were on to something though. They took their Natural Rights as Englishmen seriously and folded them in to the best ideas of The Enlightenment.

They probably would not be shocked about the below.

Freedom and Liberty - those were the ideas that our experiment in republican self-government is all about. If you go back to those basic rights that Englishmen had - from an armed citizenry to freedom of speech - sadly, year after year it seems that it is no longer in the Mother Country.

A key foundational basic element of all - freedom of speech - is critically supported by freedom of the press.

From John O'Sullivan; BEHOLD.
Today, Britain’s three major parties agreed on a shameful compromise to bring the fractious British press under official regulation for the first time since 1771, when John Wilkes — the English equivalent of John Peter Zenger — successfully established the right of newspapers to publish uncensored reporting of parliamentary and public affairs. It is a serious attack on freedom by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, and a cowardly retreat in the face of that attack by Prime Minister David Cameron and the Tories.

The motives behind it are all too obvious. With all their flaws, Britain’s newspapers — not least the despised tabloids and the Daily Mail, hated for its strong defense of middle-class values — have uncovered a series of grave public scandals, including the fraudulent misuse of parliamentary expenses by MPs, that have embarrassed the politicians and the establishment.
All three party leaders are complicit in this enterprise even if David Cameron is involved due to timidity rather than malice. It is a very depressing prospect. Only Nigel Farage, of UKIP, seems to grasp the seriousness of the issues at stake. He is standing by his statement of a few months ago:
Nigel - take it away;
For this government, or any bunch of so-called politicians to support the legislative underpinning of a voluntary agreement to oversee the press would be a huge mistake, and the first step on a very slippery slope. Control of the media should not now, or ever, be in any way the responsibility of politicians. Any Government intervention almost always fails, as would this. It is about politicians creating a cosy world of silence where they can live and act in peace and behave without public accountability. It would be a huge mistake and be laughable in the age of the Internet. Just completely the wrong thing to do. . . . My own phone was hacked, but that is neither is neither here nor there. Things go wrong in the press, as they do in every walk of life and business, but we already have legal redress. Criminal actions are criminal actions, and are already covered by the law. Those of us in my position already have recourse to the law. We must not create anything that restricts freedom.

More from TheDailyMail, Samizdata, and TheGuardian.

This is a cause that should unite left, right, and center. Yes, the press is obnoxious, messy, and often wrong. So what? That is freedom. How do you respond to bad speech or wrong speech, simple ... more speech.

Don't let the neo-feudalists take that away in the Mother Country. Like gun control ... it will find its way over here too.

Pics via TheCommenter.

Retro Wednesday

Smoking!  Drinking! Sailors oogling foreign women in bikinis! Wearing uniforms on liberty in foreign ports!


... ahhh ... Destroyermen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

About the Iraq War

I pondered all Monday how to in a short little bit give my nod to the 10th Anniversary of the Iraqi invasion. I think I'll do that by quoting someone else, if for no other reason than to stop me from pounding our 8,000 words to the wee hours of the AM.

My executive summary is founded on this - on 9/11 I was actually in theater, a quick jump to the Iraqi border. In those first few days after the attacks, you know what the N2/J2 folks were kicking out as threats? All coming from Iraq. From small groups of terrorists to actual chemical weapons coming over the walls in mortar shells. The message traffic, the briefings ... it is all part of the public record now. Either the US military and all our allies were suffering from mass delusion, were part of a huge conspiracy, or ... perhaps ... we were making estimates based on the information and intelligence available to us - and what we saw - at that place in time - without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight from pampered agenda-driven, foam flecked partisan haters.

Here is the ES: we were justified in our attack. It was the right war, fought imperfectly through three of four phases. No one can see alternative presents, but my bet is that both we and Iraq are better because of it. 

As in all wars, it took awhile to get good leaders. We forgot sound military history and example, and too many people thought they were smarter and better than those who went before. We got better, we got a little lucky ... and in a case of true leadership - Bush '43 gave the finger to his bad advisors and leveraged the surge with progress at the tribal level and we left in what I define as a victory in the fall of 2008. The rest is up to the Iraqi people ... as it should be.

It all went political in a ramp-up to the 2004 election - and that is where we find ourselves now.

Though it is behind the WSJ firewall - Naval War College professor of national security affairs Stephen Knott speaks much better than I do in reminding everyone of a core truth. History is what it is.
In the U.S., there was a bipartisan consensus that Saddam possessed and continued to develop WMD. Former Vice President Al Gore noted in September 2002 that Saddam had “stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.” Then-Sen. Hillary Clinton observed that Saddam hoped to increase his supply of chemical and biological weapons and to “develop nuclear weapons.” Then-Sen. John Kerry claimed that “a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his [Saddam's] hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”

Even those opposed to using force against Iraq acknowledged that, as then-Sen. Edward Kennedy put it, “we have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing” WMD. When it came time to vote on the authorization for the use of force against Iraq, 81 Democrats in the House voted yes, joined by 29 Democrats in the Senate, including the party’s 2004 standard bearers, John Kerry and John Edwards, plus Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Sen. Joe Biden, Mrs. Clinton, and Sens. Harry Reid, Tom Harkin, Chris Dodd and Jay Rockefeller. The latter, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, claimed that Saddam would “likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years.”

Support for the war extended far beyond Capitol Hill. In March 2003, a Pew Research Center poll indicated that 72% of the American public supported President Bush’s decision to use force.

If Mr. Bush “lied,” as the common accusation has it, then so did many prominent Democrats—and so did the French, whose foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, claimed in February 2003 that “regarding the chemical domain, we have evidence of [Iraq's] capacity to produce VX and yperite [mustard gas]; in the biological domain, the evidence suggests the possible possession of significant stocks of anthrax and botulism toxin.” Germany’s intelligence chief August Hanning noted in March 2002 that “it is our estimate that Iraq will have an atomic bomb in three years.”

According to interrogations conducted after the invasion, Saddam’s own generals believed that he had WMD and expected him to use these weapons as the invasion force neared Baghdad.

The war in Iraq was authorized by a bipartisan congressional coalition, supported by prominent media voices and backed by the public. Yet on its 10th anniversary Americans will be told of the Bush administration’s duplicity in leading us into the conflict. Many members of the bipartisan coalition that committed the U.S. to invade Iraq 10 years ago have long since washed their hands of their share of responsibility.

We owe it to history—and, more important, to all those who died—to recognize that this wasn’t Bush’s war, it was America’s war.
The rest is just posturing, Monday AM quarterbacking, and the usual post hoc ergo propter hoc grabassery.

Hat tip Powerline.

Monday, March 18, 2013

No Hobgoblins in CNSL's Nogg'n

Via our buddy Chris at DefenseNews, you may want to tighten your 5-point harness a bit. We have gone from here;
It’s a high speed, shallow draft, multi-mission workhorse full of technology that is our future. As we decommission different ships of various classes, LCS will step up and fill multiple roles.
To here;
A recommended re-evaluation of the next flights of LCSs — beyond the 24 ships now delivered, under construction, on order or with contract options — is only part of a classified memo, “Vision for the 2025 Surface Fleet,” submitted late last year by the head of Naval Surface Forces, Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert. The Navy’s current plans call for building 52 littoral combat ships, so if the service opted to go in a different direction it would essentially cut the LCS program of record in half.
OK, avoiding foolish consistency isn't too bad. Hey ... remember LCS(I) from '06 & '09, and VISBY from '07?
The successor may either be the Freedom-class or Independence-class designs now being built, an up-gunned, multimission variant of the current ships, or a completely different type of ship, according to senior Navy officials familiar with high-level thinking.

The up-gunned, multimission variant would perhaps be similar to the “international” versions that both builders have developed to entice foreign customers.
Something is going on here ... VADM Copeman ... have you been hanging out on the front porch all these years, or is everyone at last going Salamander on us? More people owe me beers.  More;
Also recommended, sources said, is a replacement for today’s dock landing ships limited to capability and capacity actually needed, rather than the expensive San Antonio-class LPD 17 amphibious transport dock ships (LPDs) being built. Shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls already is proposing a scaled-down LPD, dubbed LPD Flight II, that keeps the LPD 17’s big hull but dispenses with many of the 17’s more expensive features and larger superstructure.
Wow. Welcome to 2005.

Well ... I'm not being fair. Just like you can't classify math - you can't take credit for common sense. The following is something we used to complain about since I was and Ensign & Bush 41 was President ... and it is still true.
The fleet also needs a better anti-surface missile with increased range and the ability to destroy an enemy warship, yet not too expensive. Copeman also called for more credible ship-launched anti-submarine weapons.
We are WAY late in having an adult conversation about our ASCM and more importantly, our LWT capabilities.

This paragraph is a bit more sporty;
Copeman, according to several sources familiar with the document, also recommended against building the DDG 51 Flight III destroyers, a modification of the Arleigh Burke class to be fitted with the new Air Missile Defense Radar (AMDR) under development to replace the SPY-1 radars used in Aegis warships. The AMDR, designed with higher power and fidelity to handle the complex ballistic-missile defense mission, will require significantly more electrical power than the current system. And, while the AMDR apparently will fit into the DDG 51 hull, margins for future growth are severely limited.

Instead, sources said Copeman recommends creating a new, large surface combatant fitted with AMDR and designed with the power, weight and space to field “top-end energy weapons” like the electromagnetic rail gun under development by the Navy.

The new ship could also be developed into a replacement for today’s Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers in the air defense mission of protecting deployed aircraft carriers — a mission Copeman says needs to be preserved. All flattops have a “shotgun” cruiser that accompanies them throughout a deployment, but the missile ships are aging and, by 2025, only four will remain in service to protect the fleet’s 11 carriers.
I differ.  FLT-III is a gapfiller ... really a light cruiser. It will word as a "good" as to be frank; we have only begun the budget squeeze - through 2030 we simply do not have enough money for "perfect." 

We cannot re-capitalize our Strategic deterrent even at half-strength and design-build a new large surface combatant at what will be a much smaller budget (unless we ignore, in spades, Jim Lacey). Prior to 2030 we nor any other navy will be fielding in any operationally significant manner a "top-end energy weapon" - much less design-build and deploy in 12-years from now when we are down to 4 TICOs.

No, the CGL that will be the FLT-III will have to do.

Hat tip Travis.

How do you look after a deployment?

As a watched this video, all I could think of is - they just got back from a 5-month deployment.

Look at the condition of the ships. Look at the uniforms and general squared away nature of the Sailors.

I'm sorry - but appearances matter and can tell you a lot about the rest of a Navy; just ask the Imperial Russian Navy after the Russian-Japanese War a bit over a century ago.

I don't know about you - but it makes me want a whole bunch of Chinese BM1s. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Intellectual Integrity, PME, & NWC - on Midrats

How do we advance the intellectual development of leaders through Professional Military Education, the Naval War College, and else where?

What is the purpose and how are we trying to achieve the goals to best serve our nation? Are we doing it right? What are the trends, and what could we do better?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Dr. Joan Johnson-Freese, Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island.

Her publications include: Heavenly Ambitions: America’s Quest to Dominate Space; Space As A Strategic Asset, and over 80 journal articles. She is a member of the Space Studies Board of the National Academy of Sciences, a Fellow of the International Academy of Astronautics, and a member of the Editorial Board of China Security. She has testified before Congress on multiple occasions, and is regularly interviewed by the media, including CNN, CBS, ABC, The New York Times, Reuters and the BBC, on space issues. She also teaches courses on Globalization & US National Security, and Space & Security, at Harvard Summer and Extension Schools.
UPDATE: If you enjoy the show, you may also be interested in her book from last fall; Educating America's Military.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio - the best way to get the show and download the archive to your audio player is to get a free account and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Black smoke means ....

LCS still isn't ready for prime time?

OK, I'll bite; why? In port? A tribute of old whalers that used to hang around HI? A nod to Native American History Fortnight orsomesuch? Someone wistfully remembering bunker?  "Oops, should have done that before we entered port."

Is that how we are going to announce we have arrived in Pacific ports? "Hey, the Americans are here, I see their smoke signal." All that modern engineering and we wind up looking like a tramp steamer running plastic dog shi'ite out of Hong Kong?

I also have a question for all my SWO-daddies out there; if LCS is going to be showing the flag in all these ports throughout the Pacific ... is she going to need the assistance of three harbor tugs to get to the pier? Are we sure there are three harbor tugs available in Bamalamadingdong, Indonesia when we pull in?  Again - a "modern" ship of 3,000 tons with more joysticks than a 12-yr old president of the science club? 

C7F budget for this? Planning assumption? Risk mitigation to stop the kids from denting dad's Buick on the way to the prom? Do we need a YP to deploy with the crew so they can practice seamanship?
“This ship is probably the most automated ship in the Navy today, even though it’s only 3,000 tons,” said Lemmo. “We have over 8,000 points on the ship that get monitored” by computer systems that report on the systems’ status. Everything from fire alarms and flooding alarms, to oil pressure and temperatures can be displayed on monitors throughout the ship. By contrast, an Arleigh Burke DDG-51 class destroyer has 2,500 remote monitoring points.

“Everything can be controlled from the bridge, and you can drive the ship from elsewhere in the ship,” said Lemmo. On either side of the bridge, there are “bridge wings” that extend out. A condensed ship control station on each wing allows a sailor to drive the ship during docking.
A lot of good that is doing. Sounds more like we are driving the ship to the place where the tugs can take it "to docking."
The water jets provide better steering ability than a standard screw-and-rudder configuration.
Someone help me out here. I have some first hand reports from Old Salts in Pearl - and they are not impressed.

OK, everyone needs a few tugs, I know.

Yes, yes, yes - I know; stopping kicking it. Still.

As we are intent on bringing dozens of these platforms in to the Fleet, I guess one day we will have white smoke ... but until then ... black smoke it is.

"Oh Sal," you say, "That isn't fair. Even modern ships have to be careful in such a tight space." 

Salamander Woman of the Week: Laura Byrnes

Now and then I read something like this, and I feel a lot better about what I have done since 2004, and why I have done it.

I am not longer in "deep cover" and 100% anon, and haven't been for the last 4 years. Many of the front porch know my very normal and garden variety self - but I don't walk around blaring it all over the place. Part of that is an online branding, part of that is I am comfortable with my alter-ego, part of it is I don't want it to be about "me" but about the ideas - and part of it is the fact I don't want to deal with all bother.

Laura though is a much braver person than I am, and her post is a must read not only for those who write opinion, but those who actively participate in the creative friction online. Here is just a taste;
I am opinionated, and I stand up for others. When called for, I stand up for myself. I don’t see myself as the only person who can or should be doing these things, and so I actively encourage others to do the same.

I’ve noticed a few problems that seem to come up as a result of my being open and genuine online:
I am very frequently told that *because* I have a platform, I should stay silent or risk being seen as “unprofessional”. I am told that my opinionated nature will hurt my business - in many cases, this is said in a very shaming and punitive way, as in “Well I’m sure once people see what you’ve written you’ll surely lose business”.

When I talk about this phenomena to well meaning friends, the phrase “You put yourself out there” will inevitably come up.

And it annoys me every time. Here’s why:

I reject the idea that if you distinguish yourself in any way - be it through your words online or because you wrote a best selling novel or a #1 hit - you forfeit the right to live as a fully formed human with feelings and opinions. That because you have more people listening to what you have to say, you must be sure not to say anything that might trigger an attack, and if you do? Well, you put yourself out there.
Someone attacks you for their own warped reasons, but it’s your fault because you have fans and opinions. Or because you chose a career in fashion, music, or film.

You dared to be pretty, smart, funny, or opinionated in public, so you get what you deserve. It “comes with the territory”. You “put yourself out there”.

Well I say, fuck the territory. I HAVE put myself out there, and I see the territory is infested with rats. I’m not going to shut up and let the vermin run rampant, I’m going to say “Look at all these rats, they need to go”.

... it is your imperative to speak up and stand up, no matter who you are, no matter what they say the “territory” is like.

Change the territory. Clean out the vermin. The only way to do this is by STANDING UP.
Hat tip Chap.