Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Flournoy, Fontaine and the Path Not Followed

There is something to be said for the "go big or go home" school of defense policy. A nation's reputation is a fragile thing, not to be trifled with. Decades and centuries of accrued national capital can be wasted in an amazingly short period of time.

Though sometimes lost through the superior efforts of a stronger external force, most great powers throw away the hard work of their predecessors from internal weakness and bad decisions.

Great nations can impose their will on a global scale without firing a shot, simply based on economic power, superior military force, or just a reputation based on past use of both.

With action there is risk, and every action must be fully evaluated with risk in mind. A firm understanding of history must reinforce that in the field of arms, things are rarely as simple, cheap, or fast as can be briefed by those who are selling their bright, shiny idea. 

Once can bring too much force to a problem, but the only downside to that is the accountants "what if'n" you to death. Bring too little to do the job? People will be "what if'n" you for centuries over graves, changed borders, and strange imperial capitals without empires.

Going big can mean tank divisions, but it doesn't have to. It can just mean going big with a certain concept, and you go to win.

In a very important piece over at WaPo, Michèle Flournoy and Richard Fontaine firmly set a marker back to a very successful and traditional bi-partisan consensus point in the diplomacy and national security arena. 

Set opposite the discredited war-is-new theories of the interventionist right and left; nation building and responsibility-to-protect, they provide a way forward that could garner support from both parties, even with the acknowledged constraints and restraints we have to realistically consider;
The announcement this month that 450 additional U.S. trainers and support troops will deploy to Iraq represents a modest step forward in the fight against the Islamic State. But the move by itself will not turn the tide in a faltering effort. To succeed in the president’s ambition of ultimately destroying the Islamic State — or even to contain its gains or roll them back — a broader and more intensive effort is needed.
Iraq is the locus of the current U.S. military effort against the Islamic State, and the administration’s strategy of working with and through Iraqi forces is the right one to achieve gains that are sustainable over the long term. But the execution of this strategy has lacked the urgency and resources necessary for success. A re-energized and more forward-leaning approach should combine the following elements:
- Establish an integrated political-military plan for Iraq. ...
- Provide arms directly to Sunni tribes and the Kurdish peshmerga. ...
- Embed Special Operations forces at the battalion level and allow them to provide advice during operations. ...
- Intensify the coalition air campaign and deploy forward air controllers to call in close air support during combat. ...
- More meaningfully aid the Syrian opposition. ...
- Intensify the global campaign against the Islamic State. ...
Together, these steps would mark a significant intensification in the campaign against the Islamic State, especially in Iraq. Yes, they would involve putting a small number of U.S. “boots on the ground” and would expose our troops to greater risk. Yet the risks of inaction are greater still. If we have learned anything since 9/11, it should be the need to deny sanctuary to a terrorist group that wreaks unspeakable violence and brutality against all except those who share its tortured worldview.
I have been critical of the steps we have taken from Libya to Afghanistan over the last few years - mostly because we never seemed in it to win it, with half-measures and timidity that only encourages our enemies and frustrates our friends.

F2's plan? In it I see a broad bi-partisan consensus point that a plurality could gel around, but to do that, it would take executive leadership. Leadership that simply is not there to do the above.

So. We wait - but as we wait, the world and the Islamic State will keep moving. Where will it find us in early 2017? Who knows, but whoever is waiting for the 3am call will not have an easy job to do.


Monday, June 29, 2015

Kaiser Vladimir I

In a nice companion piece to our interview Sunday with Dr. Dmirty Gorenburg on Midrats, believe it or not, I'm going to point you over to Vox where Max Fisher has an interesting take of Red Worst Case COA. If nothing else, it has the best Putin photoshop of the week.

It is well worth a read in the unlikely event you are feeling Miss Mary Sunshine-ish;
This means that should the US or other Western countries become sufficiently involved in Ukraine that Russia cannot maintain control of the conflict, then Russia may feel this puts it at such existential threat that it has no choice but to escalate in response. Even at the risk of war.

Russia knows it would lose a full-blown war with NATO, of course, but it has other options. An official with the Russian Defense Ministry's public advisory board told the Moscow Times that should Western countries arm Ukraine's military, it would respond by escalating in Ukraine itself as well as "asymmetrically against Washington or its allies on other fronts."

Russian asymmetrical acts — cyberattacks, propaganda operations meant to create panic, military flights, even little green men — are all effective precisely because they introduce uncertainty and risk.

If that sounds dangerous, it is. American and NATO red lines for what acts of "asymmetry" would and would not trigger war are unclear and poorly defined.

Russia could easily cross such a line without meaning to, or could create enough confusion that the US believes it or its allies are under a severe enough threat to demand retaliation.

"You don't get to walk this back," Matthew Rojansky, the director of the Kennan Institute, warned in comments to the New York Times about what could happen if the US armed Ukraine's military, as Congress is pushing Obama to do.

"Once we have done this we become a belligerent party in a proxy war with Russia, the only country on Earth that can destroy the United States," Rojansky said. "That’s why this is a big deal."

Remember: With LCS, Every BB is Golden

In eratic spasms of alternating manic celebration followed by depressive confession, LCS continues to struggle up crest towards mediocracy - consuming vast stores of Sailors' careers, money, credibility, and opportunity along its course.

Why keep bringing this up? Simple; the next generation of program managers and leaders need to see over and over again what they need to avoid. What not to do. The LCS program has all those lessons in two different hull types. The LCS debacle has always been a failure of the mind and leadership, not the worker and Sailor.

Halfway through 2015, I think everyone accepts now that LCS is a warship, but a warship-in-being only.

Like a fleet-in-being, it is useful mostly in peace and to fix opposition forces during war.

Long gone is the concept that a ship needs to fight hurt. One that has redundant systems and multiple batteries to bring fire on the enemy and project national will ashore. Ships like the USS Samuel B. Roberts (DE-413) - of 1,370 tons, 306 ft length, and 6,000NM range that could,
"We're making a torpedo run. The outcome is doubtful, but we will do our duty." With smoke as cover, Roberts steamed to within 2.5 nmi (4.6 km; 2.9 mi) of Chōkai, coming under fire from the cruiser's forward 8 in (203.2 mm) guns.

Roberts had moved so close that the enemy guns could not depress enough to hit her and the shells simply passed overhead. Many hit the carrier Gambier Bay. Once within torpedo range, she launched her three Mark 15 torpedoes. One blew off Chōkai‍ '​s stern. The American sailors cheered "that a way Whitey, we hit 'em" as if it were a ballgame, as shells were still incoming. Roberts then fought with the Japanese ships for a further hour, firing more than six hundred 5 in (127.0 mm) shells, and while maneuvering at very close range, mauling Chōkai‍ '​s superstructure with her 40 mm and 20 mm anti-aircraft guns.[citation needed] At 08:51, the Japanese landed two hits, the second of which damaged the aft 5 inch gun. This damaged gun suffered a breech explosion shortly thereafter which killed and wounded several crew members. With her remaining 5 in (127.0 mm) gun, Roberts set the bridge of the heavy cruiser Chikuma on fire and destroyed the "Number Three" gun turret, before being hit by three 14 in (355.6 mm) shells from the battleship Kongō. The shells tore a hole 40 ft (12.2 m) long and 10 ft (3.0 m) wide in the port side of her aft engine room.

Gunner's Mate Third Class Paul H. Carr was in charge of the aft 5 in (127.0 mm) gun mount, which had fired nearly all of its 325 stored rounds in 35 minutes before a breech explosion.
Instead, we have the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3), a ship of 3,900 tons, 387 ft length, and 3,500nm range that can ... do ... well, over to gCaptain;
Weeks before one of the U.S. Navy’s new Littoral Combat Ships departed for Asia, tests had exposed its vulnerability to a potential enemy attack, according to the Pentagon’s testing office.

A “total ship survivability test” of the USS Fort Worth conducted off of Southern California in October “highlighted the existence of significant vulnerabilities” in the design of vessels built by Lockheed Martin Corp., according to Michael Gilmore, the Pentagon’s director of combat testing.

“Much of the ship’s mission capability was lost because of damage caused” by the simulated effects of a weapons attack and a hypothetical fire that followed, Gilmore said in an assessment for Congress obtained by Bloomberg News.
Come now ... we've all been wrong here. We have advanced so much, things like range, armament and survivability was of a different age. War in new! ELEVENTY!
Kent, the Navy spokeswoman, said the test on the Fort Worth “was a successful event that allowed the Navy to demonstrate that the inherent ship design features and applied LCS tactics, techniques and procedures provided the crew with the ability to contain damage, restore capability and care for personal casualties given the expected damage.”

Post-test analysis “identified potential system, equipment and procedural improvements which could further enhance ship and crew survivability,” she said.

But Gilmore’s unclassified summary said damage during the simulated October test “happened before the crew could respond and the ship does not have sufficient redundancy to recover the lost capability.”

“Some of the systems could be redesigned or reconfigured to make the ship less vulnerable” and faster to recover from damage “without requiring major structural modifications,” he wrote.
Well, at least we're quick on the uptake. LCS-1 was only commissioned seven years ago.

Please, I hope beyond hope we never have to ask our Sailors to go to war in this Frankenstein of a concept playing warship.

Shipmate will do his best to get his Sailors ready though;
Commander Rich Jarrett, the Fort Worth’s commanding officer, said in an interview Monday from the ship moored at Palawan that he’s also sailed on the first vessel of the class, the USS Freedom, since 2008. From that ship “to Fort Worth, we’ve made a number of substantial improvements,” he said. “A lot of improvements to the machinery system.”

The first ship “went from cocktail napkin to commissioned warship in five years, which is unbelievably fast in terms of producing a new machine of this complexity,” Jarrett said. “So there were a number of improvements that should have been made, just because it was built so fast,” he said.
That last bit just cracks me up. At last, my Navy has gone complete Salamander on LCS. We told them this a decade ago ... but ... what the h311; welcome to the front porch, there's a chair over there between to Sid and Byron;
A draft of a revised Navy concept of operations “indicates the Navy’s original vision of a nimble, mission-focused ship has been overcome by the realities of the multi-mission nature of naval warfare” in high-intensity conflicts, Gilmore wrote Defense Secretary Ashton Carter in a summary memo, also on April 29.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Restless Russia and its Near Abroad with Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg - on Midrats

It is time to catch up with Putin's Russia, her domestic developments, involvement in Ukraine, and the changes she is forcing border nations and the near abroad.

To discuss this and more, this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern we will have returning guest Dr. Dmitry Gorenburg, Senior Analyst, CNA Strategic Studies, an Associate at Harvard’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, an author, and host of the Russian Military Reform blog.

Dr. Gorenburg focuses his research on security issues in the former Soviet Union, Russian military reform, Russian foreign policy, ethnic politics and identity, and Russian regional politics. He is also the editor of the journals Problems of Post-Communism and Russian Politics and Law and a Fellow of the Truman National Security Project. From 2005 through 2010, he was the Executive Director of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

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.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, June 26, 2015

Fullbore Friday

What are the obstacles you think you have in front of you? What are those things that frustrate your ambitions - those things you know will keep you from ever reaching the furthest ring of your desire?

How do you react? How do you adjust? How do you let it impact your attitude and drive? How do you strive to at least excel at the achievable?

Fullbore is, often, just attitude. In that light, one of the most FbF personalities of the last few years was Sam Berns. From his OCT 2013 TED talk. It is only a little more than a dozen minutes, and well worth your time.

He passed four months later. Most people with his condition only live 13 years. He made 17. What a way to fill those few short years.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Diversity Thursday

Before DivThu was DivThu - there were others out there banging the gong ... in that light; DivThu's spirt animal has to be DiploMad's W. Lewis Amselem.

Read the whole thing - something '90s Washington hands will recognize as the famous cable quoted in the Washingtonian's "Undiplomatically Yours."

Just a taste, but read it all;
17. I find diversity's obsession with race and gender repugnant and potentially dangerous. Despite what the Director General claims, it is not those who object to diversity who corrode efficiency and morale in the service, it is those who promote diversity who do so. I might add, the Director General takes a cheap shot in her March article (pg. 18) by implying that those opposing diversity so do either out of fear of change or resentment over diminished promotion possibilities.

18. There are many legitimate and idealistic reasons to oppose diversity. Not the least is that qualified women and minority officers are being stigmatized by diversity and the obvious ``white man's burden'' mentality behind it. The assumption is that women and minorities (however defined) can't compete unless the Great White Father designs a ``special program'' for them (what would the Bulls say about that?). Diversity is causing serious, perhaps permanent damage to a service already battered by years of abuse as a playground for unqualified political appointees (not always: I've served under some very fine political appointees). Can you imagine a used car salesman commanding a nuclear aircraft carrier? No? How about one as ambassador of the world's most important country?

19. My parents did not immigrate to America so their kids could face quotas. They came to get away from prejudice. The social engineers in the Department and its AFSA sidekick have forgotten that the idea of America is to let people be their best and in that way we all benefit. If engineering schools have an ``overrepresentation'' of Asian-origin students, it doesn't bother me. If for whatever reasons one group or another has a greater tendency to go into one sort of business rather than another, that doesn't bother me at all. Diversity zealots are toying with explosive issues; no matter how ``civilized'' we think we are, eventually, as we have seen in Yugoslavia and only God knows how many other places, we all will come out to defend our ethnicity, race, religion, etc.--and at times violently. Call it tribalism or whatever you want, but it's there under the surface. Let it stay there; don't stir it up with misguided polices.

20. Thank you for this opportunity to express my views.
Hat tip J&C.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Good and Bad of Dogs and Cats Living Together

As our nation continues to dig for that one last grain of sand in its collective bellybutton with a dull pickax, nations in the drift are finding themselves falling in to bed with the strangest partners; some in the main good but fraught with danger; others creating both policy problems and the potential for significant strategic risk.

One hookup looks like a productive and pleasantly surprising one;
For the first time, Japan has deployed one of its P-3C maritime patrol aircraft to Palawan, Philippines for an exercise. The aircraft, along with 20 personnel arrived on Jun. 21.
Hopefully no one will be offended by the meatball.

A little more close to home - this hookup seems morbid and a bit ghastly in it potential downside.

Many of you know how many were killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan by Iran's actions - and yet;
The U.S. military and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are getting closer and closer in Iraq, even sharing a base, while Iran uses those militias to expand its influence in Iraq and fight alongside the Bashar al-Assad regime in neighboring Syria.

Two senior administration officials confirmed to us that U.S. soldiers and Shiite militia groups are both using the Taqqadum military base in Anbar, the same Iraqi base where President Obama is sending an additional 450 U.S. military personnel to help train the local forces fighting against the Islamic State. Some of the Iran-backed Shiite militias at the base have killed American soldiers in the past.
What could go wrong?
The U.S. intelligence community has reported back to Washington that representatives of some of the more extreme militias have been spying on U.S. operations at Taqqadum, one senior administration official told us. That could be calamitous if the fragile relationship between the U.S. military and the Shiite militias comes apart and Iran-backed forces decide to again target U.S. troops.

Both of the above remind me of reading old newspapers articles about mildly obscure events that set in motion significant events. Maybe nothing ... but a good fiction writer could do a lot with both.

It couldn't get any more "interesting."

Monday, June 22, 2015

This may be all I have to say about that ...

I actually had a rather long post about the horrible murders in Charleston last week typed up and ready to go, but I don't know if I want to put it up.

Watching so many people wanting to use this nightmare of a terrorist attack on a people, a church, a city, a culture - for their own petty and small political agendas has just drawn me thin.

They don't know, they don't care, they aren't interested in what is really at stake. Maybe later this week I'll put that post up, but as a lot of it is about me, I'm just not comfortable doing that right now.

The below will have to do, and it does quite well.

For those who have been fetishistic chasing bits of cloth, hunks of metal, and the detritus of your own worldview - maybe I cannot explain the South of 2015, or at least my corner of it. For those who mean well but just are not from the South let me just say this; it isn't what you think, what Hollywood tells you it is, or what the people at the Kennedy School of Government postulate about it.

It simply isn't.

Today, I'm going to go somewhere I don't as much as I should. I've usually avoided more than passing mentions of religious beliefs as that is not the nature of this blog. Though as this blog is just me, it seeps out now and then.

Like all fallen men, my religious nature waxes and wanes. The last few years has been a waning phase, so my postings on the topic has been a bit thin.

Of all I've read and heard to inform myself since last Wednesday, and ideas I've thought to use to explain to others, nothing is better than the below, so I'll use that to share with you. 

I'm an evangelical, so the AME style isn't too far from my comfort zone - but even for high Anglicans, Jews, agnostics, pagans or even Unitarian-Universalists, you'll be fine ... please listen to it all.

If you don't or can't understand what is going on in Charleston - listen (especially the 6-9 min point) and open your mind and your heart. Things warm up at the 16-min point ... so keep at it.

Either way, for now I will let the Reverend Norvel Goff of the Emanuel AME Church of Charleston speak to you. I would also offer that you listen to Reverend John H. Gillison here first. 

My South; we're working on it.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Sunday Funnies

The only way you will get me involved with a marathon. I'm pretty good on the jug. I think they need one.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Fullbore Friday

I'm guilty - I haunt other place's comments section. I haunt as I don't really comment there but rarely.

I had to control myself earlier this week, as another person kept hitting at, "That isn't in their CONOPS ... that isn't their mission ... they won't operate that way ... "

That always drives me up the wall. When the enemy is at the gate, you do what needs to be done and what your commander tell you to do ... and that reminded me of a great example we covered back in '08 in an FbF. Time to bring her back again.

Not one of our Primary Mission Areas. We will never be asked to do that. If we did that, it would take away from the job that we think in most important. There are more important things we will have to do. That is a distraction. Our platform isn't optimised for that. We think other platforms can do that better. My boss won't let us talk about that.
You hear lots of that sometimes. Nonetheless, warfare asks a lot of people and machines. You often have to do the mission that is most needed, not the one that you like doing, the one your peacetime theorizing told you would be important - or the one that you are told you are supposed to push.

No, in the end - everything you do is, and should be, focused on the most important warfighter in any war. The man with his foot, sandal, or boot is on the ground with a weapons saying "this is ours."

Our friends in the VP Navy found themselves in this very spot in 1951 - and in every other war since - even though they don't like it.

Welcome to Lamp Lighter.
Patrol squadrons (VP) were among the first from the Naval Air Reserve to deploy overseas. Recalled to active duty on 20 July 1950, VP-892 reported to NAS San Diego the following month, and on 18 December logged its first mission, the first by a reserve squadron during the Korean War. Eventually, seven recalled patrol squadrons served during the conflict, flying PBM-5 Mariners, PB4Y/P4Y-2 Privateers and P2V-2/3 Neptunes. The crews flew a variety of missions, including long-range antisubmarine warfare and reconnaissance flights in the Sea of Japan and along the coasts of China and North Korea. This could get dangerous, as evidenced by the experiences of a VP-731 crew operating over the Yellow Sea off the west coast of Korea. On 31 July 1952, two Chinese MiG-15 jets attacked a squadron PBM-5S2, killing two crewmen and wounding two others. The plane's pilot, Lieutenant E. E. Bartlett, Jr., descended to low altitude, weaving in an effort to avoid further attack, and limped to Paengyong, South Korea, where he made an emergency landing. Two squadrons, VPs 772 and 871, harkened back to the days of the famous "Black Cat" patrol squadrons by operating at night over Korea, dropping flares to support night interdiction and close air support missions by Marine Corps aircraft. 
Privateers from VP-28, VP-772, and VP-871 flew flare missions in support of Marine Corps F7F Tigercat and F4U-5N Corsair night fighters. They carried up to 250 high-intensity parachute flares, enough to provide target illumination for several teams of attack aircraft during a single night sortie.
In 1951 VP squadrons were pressed into another role, this time over land, dropping illumination flares in support of air strikes. Known as Firefly missions, they helped deny the night to enemy supply movements. Admiral Arthur W. Radford suggested the use of P4Y-2 Privateers as flare ships to replace the more vulnerable R4D Skytrains in illuminating targets for Marine Corps F4U-5N Corsair and F7F-3N Tigercat night hecklers. One P4Y from VP-772 was modified For the mission and proved highly successful, and three more P4Ys from VP-772 and VP-28 were assigned as "Lamp Lighters" (later operated by successive squadrons). During a typical mission, the P4Y would rendezvous with four attack aircraft, search for truck convoys and illuminate the targets for the attack aircraft.
Although United Nations forces were successful in maintaining air superiority over most of the Korean peninsula, lumbering patrol aircraft had a few encounters with enemy aircraft. A VP-42 Mariner was damaged on 11 May 1952 by a MiG-15 fighter over the Yellow Sea, and on 31 July 1952 a VP-731 PBM was seriously damaged by gunfire from a MiG-15, which killed two crewmen and injured two others.
Low level. At night. Large, slow plane. Not trained for it. Do it anyway. 2/3 initially done by Reserve Squadrons. Great success. Almost forgotten. Enemy killed. Americans saved.

D@mn Reservists. Fullbore.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Diversity Thursday

As someone who has supported women fully serving in all places they are physically qualified to do so since the 1980s, the latest developments on women in the service have been sad to watch. 

We have moved beyond a fact-based system of opportunity, in to a minstrel show of feminist theory and socio-political agenda pushing. It is insulting to the outstanding women serving today, attempts to deny their natural femininity, and promotes the political over the intellectual.

Here's a little I&W on what is happening next.

I'm not going to Fisk this for you - I want you to take the effort to Easter Egg hunt all on your own.

Here's what we have to start - new terms.

Of course we need new terms, as they help hide what we are actually talking about; a wholesale adoption of what is most kindly described as low-grade, 2nd tier undergrad gender-studies sociological theory. But, I'm doing your job for you.

Take some time and learn your updated newspeak, words and phrases like "Enriched culture" and "richness of solutions."

Evidently we do not have a rich culture if we don't have an artificially managed quota system for women. We all know how such systems are managed and metrics gained - quotas and discrimination against unprotected classes.

Then again, as we move through the Jenner-Dolezal era where evidently you can self-identify as any sex/gender ethnic group you want, maybe this will be easier to manage with just a few keystrokes.

That wouldn't work for the usual rent seeking, victimhood pimping, and grievance mongering cadres, they will always move goals and methods in order to secure their jobs and support their political masters' agendas.

The "science" behind this socio-polical movement is so weak, lame and illogical, that it makes otherwise smart and mature people speak and produce such tortured prose as if they have had a stroke.

Here, sadly, is the the VCNO, who is starting to behave in a manner that only validates her critics. Behold!
"We celebrate the idea that women and men should share the burden of citizenship on the battlefield as well as have equal rights to vote, to run for public office, to shape the direction and laws of our countries. We are afforded the opportunity to make our visions happen and our voices heard with matched enthusiasm. We are granted uniform expectations. Equality and civic engagement are germane to our role and entitlement as citizens.

However, equality and gender integration are areas where numbers and percentages matter. Sheer numbers of women can mean all the difference between a culture of acceptance or an environment of prejudice. The magnitude and impact of what you can "make happen" becomes mightily constrained if your voice is lost because it is the sole feminine sound in the office, in the government or in leadership.

Once you attain a certain size of cohort, you reach a point where challenges diminish. Some refer to this threshold of presence as critical mass. Once you reach this level, issues like tokenism and stereotypes, that are filters for communication and understanding, start to fall away. There are enough women to build shared and common experiences with men. Both sexes become accustomed to working as a team and equally depending upon each other. Our natural contexts make significant differences in how women can contribute to security in their communities or defense. What remains constant is that women are capable of greatness. Women have the same obligations to employ their talents for the good of mankind."
As a wise men mentioned to me last night, there is a kernel of truth in a pile of gobbledygook - but it is the gobbledygook that is dominating.

That truth though, stands apart from others that need to be part of the discussion; truths that show many highly educated professional women, like Mrs. Salamander, will make a decision that they want more out of life than to just be what men are - they have found a spouse who they want to try to have a full life with in their manner, and that involves having more than one kid, raising that kid themselves, and to be a full partner in creating a steady, secure, and supported household.

You cannot have it all ... and that should be OK. 

Evidently, that isn't OK for some who, from a distance, seem to be resentful that others have chosen different paths in life. They seem to want to cast dispersions on those who took that different path. Either that, are they are in a deep hole of science denial; men and women are biologically different. Conceiving a your first child after 30 is much more difficult than in your 20s - and there is nothing wrong with those who recognize that fact and act accordingly.

You can always work 60-hr weeks later in life, you cannot have children, raise children, and work 60-hr weeks at the same time. Well, you can, but you will use most of your income paying others to raise your children. What little time you see your children, you will be tired, distracted, and inattentive. Oh, and your spouse who is also working 60-hr weeks - what about that?

Maybe you will be like two friends of ours who did make it work - their husbands left active duty and are full time fathers. Good luck finding more men like that. Do that, you can make the VCNO happy.

As for the VCNO, a little unsolicited advice: just be the best VCNO you can be - our Fleet desperately needs one. Be a VCNO that just happens to be a woman - don't be seen as a woman VCNO. Whoever is advising you to be seen as the later more than the former is not doing you or our Navy any good.

Hat tip P.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

NAVAIR Manning Crunch? What could go ... right?

Looks like NAVAIR wants to find efficiencies in its manning?

If you have some ideas, check out my post at USNIBlog and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Behold the naked fragile egg

History is full of transition points where technology changes everything. As with any innovation, be it the Maxim gun or nuclear weapons, the first adopter has an advantage. With luck and good OPSEC, that monopoly on a new technology can be extended. There is one thing that is hard to classify, that is math.

In the exceptionally Darwinist nature of military progress, there is a sharp capability/counter-capability mechanism that is always at work. With every great threat, there is an equally great effort to counter that threat. Eventually, there is a counter. The greater the threat, the greater the effort to blunt that threat.

Great recent examples from the cold war were the U-2 vs SA-2 vs SR-71 saga, and the great acoustic chess game. Technology races technology - and you have to be open to someone taking away your greatest advantage.

Let's go back to that great open source capability - math. Everything can be broken down in to an equation. Everything in the physical world. There are no exceptions. Moore's Law has brought our computers to an almost unimaginable capability to process the big data that our sensors can collect. The right sensors, the right algorithms, the right person - and in the blink of an eye, new capabilities are born.

If you are lucky, you know what your opponent is developing, if not - you are in for a shock.

One should always look at your competitive advantage and wargame out, "What if I didn't have that anymore?"

My favorite one is our assumption about access to the electromagnetic spectrum for networking, especially via satellites. Over at TheNationalInterest, our friend James Holmes gives us a polite tap on the shoulder about another one;
Subs are uniquely suited to loiter unseen off such narrow seas, watching—and potentially interrupting—traffic that passes through.

But what if they’re no longer unseen? If the sub and its human crew must keep their distance to avoid anti-access defenses, will UUVs—robots without human intuition and powers of observation—provide an adequate substitute? If not, strategies like “archipelagic defense” in Asia could underperform. If subs and their robot fleets can’t close narrow seaways to surface and subsurface traffic, the outlook for strategies premised on controlling them could prove dim. Thinking ahead about workarounds is imperative.
Amen, amen, amen. Read it all.

Think about the submarine - what is its competitive advantage? It is "unseen." Why? It hides in water. In living memory - barely - the night gave one that advantage for aircraft - but in large measure with peer and near-peer, no more.
More likely, the vicissitudes of naval competition being what they are, the subsurface theater will come to resemble the aerial and surface theaters. The silent service will periodically introduce new passive and active measures to restore its advantage of concealment, while access deniers will experiment with countermeasures of their own. And on and on the cycle of one-upsmanship—of challenge and reply—will go.
Holmes makes the call to "embrace it." Absolutely. I would add, "Accept it; assume it; embrace it; own it."

No one wants to be the 21st Century version Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty to replace ships with submarines;
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody submarines today"

Monday, June 15, 2015

Your Weekly LCS Update: Still an Embarrassment

Most people responsible for the birth and midwifing of the LCS program have long since retired. Everyone working now in the program are really blameless - they are just good people in hard jobs trying the best to build monuments of brick without straw.

Unfortunately, that excuse does work for many in senior leadership now. The self-fulfilling prophecy that was the Small Surface Combatant program hard-wired some upgraded LCS platform. Once all now in power move on, there will be plenty of professionally researched program management post-mortem that will outline what we already know: for reasons best known to those who made them, the US Navy hobbled its future capabilities by doubling down on a bad idea. Instead of moving on from a mistake, they figured if they just used enough imaginations, all would work out well in the end.

That doesn't work well for relationships, it doesn't work well in program management either.

All this came back this weekend with a well timed tweet by our friend Phil Ewing;

Phil is, as usual, spot on. I'll pass on the horrible name choice as that horse was beaten and buried awhile ago for the class in general and LCS-10 in particular, let's stick to the topic. We've raised the point before, but let's do it again.

LCS-1 of the FREEDOM class was commissioned in NOV '08. (I like commission dates vice christening, so let's go with that). LCS-2 of the INDEPENDENCE class followed 2-yrs later in DEC 10. That class has the even numbers. Only LCS-4 has been commissioned, LCS-6, 8, and 10 are all "fitting out." Unlike the LCS-1 class that has at least shown the flag in WESTPAC, in over 5-years not a single INDEPENDENCE class has even done that.

For reference; five years after the commissioning of FFG-7, 26 of that class had been commissioned with many full-on deployments. DD-963? Well, 30 of the 31.

Keep pondering that. And remember, we have done better and can do better - as long as how we did business with LCS is not seen as the new normal. What we did with LCS was, is, and will be the example of how not to run a program. Don't forget, don't stop mentioning that - our Sailors deserve better ships to go to sea in.

Decisions of convenience now have repercussions for decades.

How will the class, both LCS and FF perform through its service life? About the same as a brick building made of bricks without straw. Sure, you can build one and it will look nice ... for awhile ...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Napoleonic Warfare - on Midrats!

18 June will be the 200th Anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, fought in present-day Belgium.

Just in time, regular guest to Midrats, John Kuehn has his latest book out, Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns where he covers the operational level analysis of European warfare from 1792 to 1815, including the tactics, operations, and strategy of major conflicts of the time.

More than just a description of set piece battle, there is a discussion of naval warfare, maneuver warfare, compound warfare, and counterinsurgency.

We've got him for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern ... we should be able to get to most of it.

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

His previous book was, A military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century.

Join us live if you can with the usual suspects in the chat room and offer up your questions for our guest, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio

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.

Listen to internet radio with Midrats on Blog Talk Radio

Friday, June 12, 2015

Thursday, June 11, 2015

COA-"New Coke" for Net Assessment

Generally, I have been content with SECDEF Carter's tenure to this point.

I think he has made a significant error, one that will have long lasting negative consequences for our national security intellectual capital.
In a June 4 memo labeled "Guidance," Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlined a subtle shift for the Pentagon's renowned Office of Net Assessment and its new director, retired Air Force Col. Jim Baker. With Carter's memo, the office, which traditionally looked toward the horizon when it comes to defense concerns, will incorporate more of today's issues in its analyses.
ONA's value proposition is based on one thing - it isn't caught up in the POM cycle crunch ... the CNN effect ... the personality driven priorities of the present ... the political flavor of the day.

It is the long view, it is the big picture, the "what's next" after the "what's next." It isn't the eyes searching the horizon; it is not the cupped ear ... no ... it is the elder with his head to the ground, feeling for what is missed by the other more obvious and immediate senses.
"Your work remains future focused, but you must ensure the team's work has present relevance to me."
This the toxic quote. This is where the corrosion will begin on a national asset; self-inflicted damage to our collective intellect.

Woven throughout the DOD nomenklatura, we have legions of people, uniformed and civilian with billions of dedicated budgetary dollars, working on the present and immediate future. If that isn't enough to serve the needs of the Secretary to the degree that we have to dilute and degrade ONA's core competency, then I would argue that the SECDEF's restructuring and re-missioning is being focused in the wrong direction.

Bookmark this; circa 2025 when a black swan defiles our national security assumptions and everyone around the table is going ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ you can look back to this moment and go, "Well, we used to see these emerging challenges earlier, but then ...."

As a great man messaged me yesterday; sigh.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

MV Honey Badger view from the bridge

Law of gross tonnage displayed outbound San Diego, from our buds at gCaptain.

WWP - not just any charity

That logo, it seems to message one thing.

Those commercials, another.

I'll stop at that. If you have seen the commercials, you know why I will not have anything to do with the Wounded Warrior Project.

They could be the best charity on the earth, helping those who need the help the most - but I would never give them a red cent.

I think that stands for itself. Google yourself and watch the commercials if you must. If you still don't get my issue, then it can't be explained to you.

If you can't quite grasp my reason, there is another reason why you should think twice - via Tim Mak over at TheDailyBeast, here are a few things for you to ponder.
The renting of private information is a betrayal of donors, argues Sandra Miniutti, the vice president of Charity Navigator, a group that rates nonprofits. “When a donor gives to you there’s a level of trust, that you’re going to repay that with respect, that together you’re working to make the world a better place, and that [the charity is] not going to flip and sell my personal information,” she said.

A top official for a another large veterans nonprofit was aghast when informed about the practice. “We have never rented out, sold, or shared our donor list,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Our donors would kill us if we did that…I can’t believe their big, midsize, and small donors would be too happy with that.”

Nardizzi’s group not only engages in the selling of donor information, but he’s apparently proud of it, brazenly arguing in its favor.
The Wounded Warrior Project CEO’s own salary rose by nearly $100,000 in the course of one year, to $473,015 in 2014. The group’s 10 most highly compensated employees made approximately $2.6 million in total that year.
In fiscal year 2014, it brought in more than $342 million in revenue—making it one of the largest veterans charities in America. That’s up from $235 million in 2013 and $155 million in 2012.

By comparison, the WWP raised more than the National Labor Relations Board’s requested budget, and just slightly less than the budget for the entire Peace Corps.

And the WWP is unapologetic about supplementing those fundraising levels by selling off donor information.

“Sound and common business practice dictates that organizations or companies mailing marketing materials to the public share and exchange lists,” said Ayla Hay, a spokeswoman for the Wounded Warrior Project. The charity declined to list the organizations it sold/shared personal information to, except to describe them as “numerous large, national veterans service organizations.”
The Wounded Warrior Project does not make obvious when individuals donate that personal information could be sold to third parties. There is no disclaimer on the form individuals use to donate online, nor on the form used to mail in a contribution.

In small print at the bottom of the page, the Wounded Warrior Project links to its privacy policy. On the second page, on the seventh point, the Wounded Warrior Project informs donors that the group may share “financial donor postal mailing lists with other non-profits and third parties.” In order to opt out of having personal information sold, donors must fill out a long form.
On the other hand, giving money to the $342 million Wounded Warrior Project takes just a few clicks.
They also do this;
According to a number of smaller groups, the Wounded Warrior Project, with annual revenues of $235 million, has been spending a good deal of time and money suing other veteran-serving nonprofits on the basis that their names or logos constitute infringement on their brand.

The Daily Beast reports that they talked with at least seven such charities. “They do try to bully smaller organizations like ourselves,” said a representative of one of the groups, who chose to remain anonymous. “They get really territorial about fundraising.” The rep said that they have been pressured to change their name, which includes the term “wounded warrior.”

“They’re so huge. We don’t have the staying power if they come after us—you just can’t fight them.” The term “wounded warrior” is, by the way, a generic phrase in the military community for an injured service member, used often within the various branches. But apparently WWP wants to own the name now and it appears willing to spend its donors’ and beneficiaries’ money to ensure that that is so.

Most recently, a small, Pennsylvania-based, all-volunteer project named the Keystone Wounded Warriors has become a target. Its annual budget is $200,000—which is, as the Beast points out, $175,000 less than the CEO of the WWP makes annually. But the small group had to spend two years and $72,000 in defense against the charge that their logo and name were similar enough to WWP’s to cause irreparable damage to its business, goodwill, reputation, and profits.

“That’s money that we could have used to pick up some homes in foreclosure, remodel them, and give them back to warriors. We spent that money on defending ourselves instead,” said Keystone Wounded Warriors executive director Paul Spurgin. “The lawsuit was just the coup de grâce,” he added. “They want us gone.”
In a word; unseemly.

Everyone must make their own decision - but an organization that uses the same visuals, tone and background music for those who fight our wars, that are are also used for starving African children ... and at the same time squash local organizations using a huge legal budget.

No thanks for me.

I get a vibe from WWP, and it isn't good for the larger veteran charity ecosystem. If they continue on the path they are on, WWP will do for veterans' charities what the Prosperity Gospel did for evangelicism. 

$02, YMMD.

Monday, June 08, 2015

The Islamic State and the War that Won't Wait

There is a very good chance that at some point historians will convene a panel titled something to the effect; "Assad as our SOB; the Path not Taken."

The Assad family is what they have always been, no need to state otherwise. If we wanted something better, there was a window for that - but our premature departure from Iraq's Sunni west and our less than tepid support early on of the Syrian rebellion was less then helpful, and help set conditions for what we have now. Our misreading of the false dawn of the Arab Spring just boosted an already growing momentum for expansionist radical Islam.

By not helping and not opposing, we seeme to have only muddled the middle. That line of thought has been around for awhile, but it seems even more an accurate critique. How old is the wisdom? "If you set off to take Vienna; take Vienna." "If you are going to strike at the king, you had better kill him."

Smart words.

Noah Rothman is on to it;
Had America and its willing partners intervened in Syria in 2013 in order to punish the Assad government, it is likely that those nations would have eventually formulated a strategy to contain the remnants of the Assad regime and, by necessity, the Syrian Civil War in Syria.

Even if there were no ground component to that campaign, the weakening of the Syrian regime would have presented anti-Assad rebels a more urgent and tempting target in Damascus than that which lay helpless on the eastern side of the Syrian border with Iraq. For those who contend that the collapse of the Assad regime at Western hands would have resulted in Syria becoming an Islamist-dominated basket case, it appears as though that reality was merely forestalled by two years and Iraq has been lost in the interim.

“The United States refuses to work with Jabhat al-Nusra, regarding it as a band of unrepentant al-Qaeda followers, even though the group is said to receive indirect support from Turkey and Qatar,” Ignatius reported. “U.S. officials weren’t persuaded by an interview broadcast last week by Al Jazeera with al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammad al-Joulani, in which he offered conciliatory statements toward Syrian minority groups and said his fight isn’t with the United States.”

The catastrophic results of the West’s careless dithering should be evident to any neutral observer today. A suboptimal situation has, in the space of just two years, become a disastrous situation. This should be a lesson to all who gallingly present advocate for a policy of cowardice masquerading as prudence.
The decaying situation in Syria as Assad's forces continue to withdraw - and the only alternative to him in 2015 is the Islamic State, remember that - is being supported by and equally dire facts on the ground in Iraq.

As Max Boot puts it;
The Obama administration is now at a turning point in Iraq. It is roughly at the same place where the US was in Vietnam in 1967 and Iraq in 2006. In all those cases, the falsity of the assumptions under which we had been fighting had been revealed. The question was whether the president would execute a change of strategy. LBJ did not really do that, beyond his ineffectual bombing pauses and refusal to provide 200,000 more reinforcements to Gen. Westmoreland. It was left to Nixon and Gen. Creighton Abrams to transform the US war effort. By contrast, in Iraq in 2007 George W. Bush did execute a transformation of his strategy that rescued a floundering war effort.

Which way will Obama go now? Will he be another Johnson or a Bush? All signs, alas, point to the former. Thus it is particularly appropriate that to show progress (what used to be known as “light at the end of the tunnel”) the administration is now resorting to the discredited body counts of Vietnam days.
Obama is turning in to some twisted mix of both LBJ and Carter? The foreign policy mistakes he is making will result, like Carter, in generations of people doing all they can to try to fix them. 

As with LBJ and Carter, hopefully our nation will be lucky enough to get a President to follow Obama who will, imperfectly, start to repair the damage and halt the decay. If we're lucky.

Is the term "mistake" too strong? Maybe. A fairer term might be "sub-optimal policy decisions" as that is what we are seeing.

I am under no illusions that there is an easy solution to what we are seeing in Syria and Iraq. There are only a series of difficult choices with different risk/payoff equations. By choosing or delaying choosing the path Obama is taking our nation and the region down, there are consequences. Better or worse, they firmly belong to him.

This is Obama's Mideast; we just have to make the best of it. Even if, as some think, Obama is just punting to his follow-on, it is still his.

Back to the Long War. Graeme Wood over at The Atlantic sets a reminder for what we are facing going forward.
We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of al‑Qaeda to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaeda’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terror and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohamed Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.
The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.
. . .
The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy, and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.
In this battle, we have to do our best to cultivate what friends we have. As those of us who have deployed to or spent years of our life in that part of the world know, this is a culture of aggressive bargaining, respect, face, gesture, and relationships. That is why I am just gobsmacked about what happened below.

Either it was unintentional, in which case President Obama's staff support is dangerously incompetent - or this was intentional, in which case President Obama is, well ... wow ... note the shrug at the end.  An actual ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Ponder it yourself.

In case you aren't in a funk yet, I want to leave you with something to think about over the course of the next week from The Institute for the Study of War; the forecast for what we can expect from ISIS. 

My Operational Planning brothers will like the context; Most Likely and Most Dangerous Courses of Action. Read the whole thing; but here are the maps.

Hat tip B-Daddy.