Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A Finn Taps the West on the Shoulder and Whispers, "Friend, Dial it Back a Bit."

We move ABM systems to their border, they move nuke-capable SRBM to Kaliningrad. We encourage Ukraine, they invade Ukraine. We move small numbers of company sized maneuver forces in to the Baltic Republics, they reactivate and upgrade 3,000 MBT. We encourage the NATO Eastern Flank to increase spending on defense, Russia does the same.

We accuse them of trying to manipulate our elections and funding radical parties in West ... and so on.

This has been an interesting year when it comes to Russia in Europe.

As always when dealing with Russia, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
- She is not of the West. She is Russia.
- She holds grudges.
- She trust no one.
- She has an incredible ability to deal with hardship.
- She is a bit paranoid.
- She is very insecure.
- She is large.
- She has great potential.
- She is weaker than she thinks.
- She is stronger than she appears.
- Sometimes, she just likes to see the world burn.

You also do not need to tell the former Soviet Republics, former Warsaw Pact nations, or those who have been at war with Russia in the last century to respect her, they know all too well.

It is helpful to listen to those who have a record of success of getting along - at a respectful distance - with the Russians while still being independent. Of course, I'm talking about Finland. A survivor of the Cold War through a slightly embarrassing compromise; "Finlandization" was a soft-freedom - but it kept Finland free. She knows her former imperial master and neighbor Russia well, and we should listen to her.

Let's jump to today with a little note of caution from Finland's defense minister, Jussi Niinistö. First of all, know where he comes from. He is from the True Finns Party - one that is hard to place in the Left-Right spectrum in the American sense, and even the European one. It is a populist and nationalist-oriented political party that holds some left-wing economic policies, but some conservative social policies. The more you read about the True Finns, it almost seems like a Trumpist party without a Trump - but I could be wrong as my American lens cannot see their political system with much clarity. It opposes Finland's entry to the EU and NATO - so keep that in mind.

Niinistö is a military historian by trade and holds a position between an American Associate Professor and a Tenured Professor at university in Finland.

Here are some points he made recently that are worth pondering a bit.
"We naturally support detente. And we practice an active policy of stability," Niinisto said in an interview with Finnish MTV3 News. "We'd like to see the military situation calm down in the Baltic Sea, rather than escalate." 

... he said, there were no current threats against Finland, which shares a 1,300-kilometer (800-mile) border with Russia.

Niinisto said he hadn't seen "any inclination among the Russian leadership to threaten" the small Nordic country. "In that sense Russia is not a threat to Finland."
I think that behind closed doors, Niinistö would have a few scenarios where that might not be true - but I think the tone he sets is helpful.

If you have a large and dangerous neighbor who is off her meds a bit, is paranoid, claustrophobic, and loves trash talking - perhaps a good approach is to just humor her, talk in soft terms, and as long as she stays on her yard - generally try not to provoke her.

Have the police on speed-dial, a good security system, flood lights in the yard on a motion sensor, a bat by the door, and a gun in your nightstand? I would do that too. Otherwise - maybe being a bit patronizing until she calms down is not that bad of an idea.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Aleppo Endgame

For months and today, the most humane thing "to do" about Aleppo is to convince the garrison to surrender to the Syrian Army. There is no longer a viable path to a "moderate opposition" to Assad. That option was lost years ago with this exchange;
With “respect to Syria,” said the president, the notion that arming the rebels would have made a difference has “always been a fantasy. This idea that we could provide some light arms or even more sophisticated arms to what was essentially an opposition made up of former doctors, farmers, pharmacists and so forth, and that they were going to be able to battle not only a well-armed state but also a well-armed state backed by Russia, backed by Iran, a battle-hardened Hezbollah, that was never in the cards.”
Obama's view of the conflict from 2014 is well outlined below - in addition to the video at the "this exchange" hypertext above. Though this commentary is mostly about IRQ, the mindset applies to SYR as well.

That gave a clear signal that we were not going to do anything, and it let what "moderate" forces that were there know that if they wanted to fight Assad, they would need to look elsewhere for support. That somewhere was AQ and IS.

Sad thing is that Obama in many ways is correct in the above video ... if you are talking about domestic Western democratic politics. His advisors never were able to explain to him that this isn't how things work in the real world.

The world is largely a place governed by the application of and threats of hard power. Outside the Western democracies, the world aligns more with the Russian world view than the Brussels world view.

Without any leadership from the USA, the fate of the Syrian opposition was firmly in the hands of what the Russians and Iranians could do to prop up Assad. The fate of Aleppo was, with each passing day, just a matter of time.

All the talk of "aid to civilians" was just virtue signaling. For thousands of years it has been known that there is no such thing as "aid to civilians" in a siege. The garrison feeds first. 

"Cease fire?" That is only useful to buy time to negotiate surrender. With the besieging forces having clear supply lines, the only thing left is the calendar. As my ancestors found out in Vicksburg, if there is no army on the way to help lift the siege, your fate is sealed.

So, Aleppo today in two maps. 

First, where things stand after the fall of eastern Aleppo:

Now, zoom in on the old city;

This is what an endgame looks like. With the citadel fallen, the rest is just clean up. We are close to or well in to the "no-quarter" phase of the fall of Aleppo if garrison doesn't surrender.

Was staying out of the Syrian conflict the right call? Yes, but perhaps not in the national credibility shredding "red line" way that we did it.

There is still time, now that Russia has helped Assad clean up his front lines, to work with the Russians to eliminate the Islamic State. 

PLAN SALAMANDER proposed over a ago still applies; use the Kurds as an anvil; Russia and Syria move from the west and north; USA and Iraqi forces move from the east and south. Iraqi forces stop at the IRQ-SYR border, let SYR and her allies do the ground work inside SYR while we do what we do best from the air and SOF. 

No. Quarter.

Best we can do? Keep the Turks out and help Kurds help themselves in the post-war settlement from a position of strength. 

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fullbore Friday

For those must work today, we should pray for those who - for some reason - feel that they must dive in to shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

As such, we should have a FbF that has a bit of zing to it. 

I have always liked this story and the painting it tells - truth is always better than fiction.

If you so wish, do a little reading up on the history of the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine; but let's keep this FbF clean and to the point. 

As everyone is hip to "cultural sensitivity" let's try to get some insight in to the cultural foundation and references of the Ukrainian people (and the Russians too). This took place, roughly, in 1676. 100 years before our Declaration of Independence, and the same year we first recognized by proclamation the very American holiday of Thanksgiving. So, yea ... it works.

First of all, we have a letter from the Ottoman Sultan Mahmud IV. 
Sultan Mahmud IV to the Zaporozhian Cossacks:

As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the sun and moon; grandson and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God Himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians -- I command you, the Zaporogian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.

--Turkish Sultan Mahmud IV
... and the Ukrainians pondered a response ...

... and then you have a bit of poetry (potty-mouth warning);
Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan! 
O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil excretes, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother. 
You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!

So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding pigs for the Christians. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!
Fullbore. An American would have simply said, "Nuts" - but we are a simple folk.

This FbF first posted MAR14.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Two Minds on Russia

I originally dismissed Sumantra Maita's article over at Quillette, The Restart of History and the Russia Question, but on second reading I thought it outlined well two sides of the present view of Russia that are worth considering. Here is her opener;
We have a policy paralysis in the West with regards to Putin’s Russia. Recently, two essays “The Cold War is Over” by Peter Hitchens and the “Realism We Need” by Edward Lucas both agreed that Putin is a tyrannical despot, as any sane individual would. They both accept that Russia is a wondrous country with incredible contribution to global literature and culture, and Russians as people are exceptional, as do I. Anyone who disagrees with this, needs to get their head checked. They however differ on the causality of Russian revanchism, and prescribe completely opposing policy to counter this threat.

In his essay, Hitchens, unlikely a Realist himself in the academic sense of the term, agrees with a basic Realist explanation of the causation of Russian revanchism in Europe, and squarely blames it on NATO expansion, Eastern European colour revolutions as well as democracy promotion and liberal hegemony. He also suggests that the Cold War is over, and there’s no need to rush into another rivalry with Russia and renew a great power confrontation, given that Russia is in no position to actually threaten, (militarily or economically) any plausible Western interests unless we keep on redefining our interests in moralistic terms.

Lucas rightly states that there is indeed a new cold war, but wrongly dismisses the West’s culpability when it comes to Russian revanchism. He also suggests that we should “stand up to Putin”, a common theme of action, among foreign policy liberals. Lucas however, then bizarrely refers to Hitchens’ isolationist policy prescription as ‘Realism’, and then proceeds to valiantly slay the mythical strawman blaming Realism for everything. That might come as a surprise to actual Realist policy makers and researchers (including yours truly), because Realists haven’t been in Western policy positions, neither in US, nor in UK or EU to actually influence the countless myopic miscalculations since 1993. Both are, needless to mention, partially correct in the identification of current Russian revanchism, and in the policy prescription, but both are also clearly wrong, as I will point out below.

These two essays highlight the two dominant schools of current Western political thought process. One is a minor but influential conservative isolationism, and the other a more prevalent and mainstream liberal hegemony. Neither of them either represent and define Realism as a school of foreign policy, or prescribe a Realist policy position to deal with Russia, although Hitchens is a little closer to it than Lucas.
If, like your humble blogg'r, you are looking for the realist path to a foreign policy as a way to best secure the interests of the USA, then we all need to think hard about picking the best long-term path. This article is helpful. Give it a full read.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy - UK

Though sadly much smaller, the Royal Navy continues to be the best outside benchmark when it comes to ideas from theory to shipbuilding. As such, its developments are important to watch and read as it is to watch what comes out of OPNAV.

So, add to your reading list today the 15 NOV 16, Restoring the Fleet: Naval Procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy, from the House of Commons
Defence Committee
(full PDF at the link and below).

Just a reminder of scale. As we talk about building our fleet from ~270 to ~350, with a present fleet of 63+ DDG, 22 CG, & 8+ LCS as our primary surface combatants, here is our rump Royal Navy;
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is embarking on a major modernisation of the Royal Navy’s escort fleet. It has undertaken to replace the thirteen existing Type 23 frigates with eight new Type 26 Global Combat Ships and at least five new General Purpose Frigates, provisionally referred to as the Type 31. At the same time, the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers are about to undergo a major refit of their engines, after serious and repeated power failures.
The last part is a bit of bother and really a scandal. If nothing else, it is good to know that others have a less than perfect record. Technology is hard.

What is even harder is the human capital part of shipbuilding. They bring this fact out in the second paragraph - a topic that should always be top of mind.
Delays to the construction of the Type 26 have had a negative impact on the skills of the shipbuilding workforce,and could have major implications for costs and availability. The National Shipbuilding Strategy must provide industry with the certainty it needs to plan and develop a stable, sustainable and highly skilled workforce. If it is to be more than a statement of aspirations, the Strategy should set out clear, timed production schedules for the delivery of both classes of frigate.
This doesn't just focus on the surface force, but reviews the strategic reasons for a fleet. Example;
The Government’s Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) 2015 noted that the Royal Navy delivers the UK’s nuclear deterrent, projects our maritime power and provides world-class amphibious forces.5 Given that the UK is an island nation, the importance of these tasks cannot be overstated. Indeed, our first Report of this Parliament, Flexible response? An SDSR checklist of potential threats and vulnerabilities highlighted several potential threats which would require a response delivered entirely or in great part by the Royal Navy, including:

  • Growing instability in the Middle East and North Africa;
  • Potential for conflict in the South and East China Seas; and
  • Potential for Russian aggression in Europe and the High North and possible dilution of the commitment to Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. 
In relation to those threats, the Report also highlighted a number of vulnerabilities which the SDSR had to address, which included:

  • Inadequate training opportunities for UK Armed Forces; and
  • A lack of numbers in UK Armed Forces as well as gaps in capabilities.
Before we go, let's review the issues with the Type 45. Again, this is from the first page of the summary, and the authors should be given credit for such open and direct critique of their own program;
As well as delivering the new frigates, the MoD has been forced to refit the engines of all six Type 45 destroyers. The ships have suffered from serious engine failures as a result of shortcomings in specification, design and testing. Blame for those failures can be attributed both to the MoD and its contractors, but the taxpayer will have to foot the bill. The refit of the Type 45 engines should restore confidence in the reliability of the ship but it must be carried out in a way that minimises disruption to the availability of an already depleted number of destroyers.
That, my friend, is how it is done.

That should be an inviting taste for you. Now, take some time to read the whole document. There is a lot here is worth absorbing as we look to rebuild our own fleet.

H/t LandSharkUK.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Foreign Policy Short List for the New CINC, with Mackenzie Eaglen - on Midrats

Old foreign and defense challenges return, new ones emerge, and existing ones morph in to something slightly different. The only thing that is constant is that there is no opportunity for a learning curve for the Commander in Chief of the United States of America. From the first day in office to the last, a needy, grasping, and unstable world will look to or at our nation.

What are those challenges that will test President-Elect Trump in his first few years in office, and what in the background is waiting for the opportunity to spring to the front.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute where she works on defense strategy, defense budgets, and military readiness.

Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the House of Representatives and Senate and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. In 2014, Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated National Defense Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess US defense interests and strategic objectives. This followed Eaglen’s previous work as a staff member for the 2010 congressionally mandated bipartisan Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, also established to assess the Pentagon’s major defense strategy. Eaglen is included in Defense News “100 most influential people in US Defense” both years the publication compiled a list. A prolific writer on defense-related issues, she has also testified before Congress.

Eaglen has an M.A. from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and a B.A. from Mercer University

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

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Fullbore Friday

This week I'm going to bring back again a classic FbF from a decade ago to honor the men of ABDA Force destroyed at the opening of the Pacific Theater of Operations in WWII.

I bring them back as news came out this week that should bring a pause to all Sailors - these men have been victimized by grave robbers.
Three Dutch warships sunk in the Battle of the Java Sea in 1942 have largely disappeared from the sea bed, defence minister Jeanine Hennis has told MPs in a written briefing. The wrecks of cruisers HNLMS De Ruyter and HMLMS Java and destroyer HMLMS Kortenaer were found by divers in the waters off Indonesia in 2002 and declared a war grave. However, the two cruisers have vanished, as has part of the destroyer, the minister told MPs on Tuesday. The discovery of the illegal salvage was made by divers during preparations for next year’s 75 year anniversary commemorations, Hennis said. The battle, involving Dutch, British, American and Australian ships, took place on February 27, 1942 and proved disastrous for the allies. Some 2,200 people died, including 900 Dutch nationals and 250 people of Indonesian Dutch origin.
It appears that it isn't just the Dutch who have this problem;
The Guardian says it has seen 3D images, showing large holes in the seabed where HMS Exeter, HMS Encounter, the destroyer HMS Electra, as well as a US submarine, used to be.

Experts say salvaging the wrecks would have been a huge operation.
There were reports a few years ago that the grave robbers have been to the USS HOUSTON (CA-30) as well.

I like to think that I am not a superstitious man, but all Sailors can be a bit superstitious and in that light I hope that those people who disturbed their graves in such a crass and thoughtless manner are brought to justice if not by man, but then by Mother Ocean.

So, in their honor, let's revisit The Battle of The Java Sea;

65 (now almost 75) years ago. At the bottom of the post you will find a video companion to my Battle of Sunda Straight post a couple of years ago.
The Battle of the Java Sea was a major naval battle of the Pacific campaign of World War II. Allied navies suffered a series of disastrous defeats at the hand of the Imperial Japanese Navy, in actions over several days in February-March 1942.
he ABDA force consisted of two heavy cruisers (HMS Exeter, USS Houston) and three light cruisers (HNLMS De RuyterHNLMS Java, HMAS Perth), and nine destroyers (HMS Electra, HMS Encounter, HMS Jupiter, HNLMS Kortenaer, HNLMS Witte de With, USS Alden, USS John D. Edwards, USS John D. Ford, USS Pope and USS Paul Jones. (Doorman's flagship),

The Japanese convoy was escorted by two heavy (Nachi, Haguro) and two light cruisers (Naka, Jintsu) and fourteen destroyers (Yudachi, Samidare, Murasame, Harusame, Minegumo, Asagumo, Yukikaze, Tokitsukaze, Amatsukaze, Hatsukaze, Yamakaze, Kawakaze, Sazanami, and Ushio) under the command of Rear Admiral Shoji Nishimura. The Japanese heavy cruisers were much more powerful, armed with ten 8-inch (203 mm) guns each and superb torpedoes. The Exeter & Houston were armed only with six of these guns. While the carried nine 8-inchers, only six remained operable as her aft turret had been knocked out in an earlier air attack.
The main ABDA naval force had been almost totally destroyed: 10 ships and approximately 2,173 sailors had been lost.
One thing I would like to see made into a movie by Clint Eastwood is the last 24 hours of the USS Houston and HMAS Perth.
HMAS Perth and USS Houston in Tandjong Priok

These ships were there as a result of Admiral Doorman's final order in the Battle of the Java Sea. They arrived in the morning of February 28th, and immediately tried to obtain oil and ammunition. The could get the first, although not without effort, but ammunition, that they so badly needed, was not available. At this time, the PerthHouston only 50 rounds. If they got into a fight, it was sure they wouldn't last long. They were battleready that night and left the harbor at about 1900 hours, and Captain Waller, the highest in rank, decided to sail directly to Sunda Strait, without making a curve around the invasion forces as Admiral Helfrich had ordered. This was the shortest way, but also the most dangerous. The Japanese had landed in the Bantam Bay on the north coast of Java, at Merak in Sunda Strait and at Eretan Ewan, east of Tandjong Priok. The two allied cruisers had to deal with the escorting squadron, which was devided into three groups: One was of the invasion force for Merak and consisted of the light cruiser Yura and four destroyers, the second was the invasion force at Bantam Bay and consisted of 1 cruiser and 11 destroyers and finally, the support group in the Java Sea, with the light carrier Ryujo, the heavy cruisers Mogami, Mikuma, Kumano and Suzuya. Mikuma and Mogami were cruising very close to the landingsite in Bantam Bay. There was also an invasion force at Eretan Ewan, but that one took no part in the final destruction of the Allied ships. The Perth and Houston, as said, sailed at top speed directly to Sunda Strait and encountered at about 22.30 the Japanese destroyer Fubuki, which guarded the Eastern approaches. She fired her 9 Long Lance torpedo's at about 3000 yards and retreated. The cruisers now saw the invasion force in the Bantam Bay and fired on the several dozen transports there. At that time, there were two destroyers in the bay and those immediately tried to make smoke screens to protect the transports. Nevertheless, the Allied cruisers scored hits on the transports, but no ship was sunk. At this time, stronger Japanese forces were closing in on the small squadron, but the only result was hits on Japanese warships and none on the Allied. This was soon to change. Japanese destroyers fired about 28 torpedoes, of which luckily none was a hit. The Perth and Houston replied which rapid gunfire and in the case of Perth, also torpedoes and managed to score several hits on the destroyers, but were themselves also slightly damaged by gunfire. But the heavy cruisers MogamiMikuma arrived at the battleground. Their 8 inch grenades surrounded the Perth and Houston and they also fired torpedoes. At about 23.20, the allied cruisers were out of ammo and now could only hope to reach safer waters by high speed. Japanese torpedoes were flying all over the battleground, and scored one hit on Perth, later followed by another two. This resulted in heavy loss of life, especially in engineering. Waller ordered to abandon ship, but the Perth received her fourth hit, which was too much for her. She sank and took half the crew with her. By this time, also the Houston had received several hits, including vital hits. A whole gun salvo hit the aft engine room where the high pressured steam killed almost everyone. The central fire control system was down along with one of the forward 8 inch-turrets. At about 00.20, the last operational turret was hit and Captain Rooks ordered to flood the forward magazines. Without the heavy batteries, she now fought a useless battle. But she still had her 5-inch guns and her machineguns and continued the fight. At about 00.30 three torpedoes hit the Houston on her starboard side. The water entered the ship from all sides and Rooks ordered to abandon ship. Captain Rooks died when he was hit by a part of a machinegun foundation. He died in the arms of his officers. Commander Roberts noticed that the Houston still had a lot of speed and decided to wait with abandoning the ship. The guns were still firing at this time, but the ship was lying dead in the water and the Japanese destroyers took the decks under fire with their machineguns. The Houston sank and took two thirds of it's crew with her. Only about 368 of a crew of over a 1000 were taken prisoner.
Gives me shivers to this day - thought I have read the account any number of times.

Besides going over the details again (you can do that some more at the links above), I would like this chance to personalize it. You need to see the very personal, one man's son's story from the HMS Exeter(you remember her). Click here to see it. Nicely done.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Diversity Thursday

So, you may be wondering, how far will the Department of Defense go to execute SECDEF Carter's open door policy towards transvestites, transgender, and all in that little wedge of human sexuality predilections? All the way it seems.

Some DivThu kind of write themselves - and this is one of those times. I thought of a few ways to cover this, and I've decided to take my own advice - I'll keep it simple.

Below is the full DoD Handbook on transgender service in our military. I'll let you review it yourself.

Of note, I have received some Navy specific direction and guidance as well that I will not be publishing here for simplicity's sake.

I know some of you cannot get the attachment until you get home or to a desktop, so let me summarize a few above-the-fold points for you - plus an additional few from USN documents not posted here that I received SEPCOR from my nest of spies;
  • Though Dr. Frankenfurter may disagree, I may have to put myself on report already. Evidently, the language police have decided that “transvestite” is an outdated term that is considered derogatory. They go further to make sure that we all know that a “cross-dresser” is a person who wears clothing of the opposite sex for reasons other than gender identity. A transgender person who dresses according to their gender identity is not “cross-dressing.” So, hopefully that is clear. A guy who dresses like a woman today may or may not be cross-dressing, but may or may not be tomorrow for doing the same thing depending on how they define their gender today. Or not.   
  • The briefing materiel keeps emphasizing that there is no attempt to change anyone's opinion about the subject of transgender individuals. That just makes no sense.  
  •  Accessions will be fully open effective 01 JUL 2017. 
  • The Military Health System will be required to provide all medically necessary care related to gender transition. 
  • Preferred Gender will be recognized only after the gender marker in DEERS is changed - except for the lawyer-full-employment-act exceptions that creep up every third page or so. 
  • Real Life Experience (RLE) is when a man dresses like a woman when DEERS considers them still a man, or vice versa. That is fine and dandy when off duty. All command functions will be considered "On Duty" - so I guess you have to dress in whatever manner your DEERS says you can. There are four different categories of RLE that the Navy recognizes, but to go through the matrix of how everyone is supposed to carry out the plan of the day inside those definitions would require a dedicated post on that alone, and my DD-214 blanket is just too comfortable and I am exercising my right to snuggle deep enough in there so I don't have to. 
  • Commanding Officers must approve a medical treatment plan. COs can't say, "no" - can only try to adjust the timeline. Commanding Officers - remember, COs of warships etc here - are given responsibility for everything in this process when it comes to coordinating with the Sailor for all things from who watches them pee in a bottle, to berthing, to their medical plan. Talk about an administrative burden. Did anyone with recent Command at Sea have a say in this? Did anyone care if they did? That's OK though, we have created another bureaucratic office; the Navy Transgender Service Central Coordination Cell (SCCC) in Arlington VA to help everyone out. So that is nice.
  • Associated medical care will be treated like any other medical condition. 
  • The transitioning servicemember will inform their leadership when their medical condition causes the member to be non-deployable and may need to transfer to a shore unit. Yes, read that again. 
  • PRT standards are determined by DEERS gender marker, though it can be waived. Yes, keep your local JAG handy. 
  • You cannot disclose who is "transitioning." Even after changing their gender on DEERS, they may still retain their "birth-gender" (yes, our Navy uses that term now) anatomy. 
  • If you ID as female but still have all the male hardware and it is time for urinalysis, you will have sexual males keeping an eye on sexual females and the other way around - and they won't know until droptrou. Of course, that is silly. Everyone will know regardless of the privacy demands of the transitioned individual, but we've ignored human nature and reality so far, so why stop now. 
  • The US Attorney General determined that discrimination based on gender identity is a form of sex discrimination ... so if you are a female and object (though remember, no one is trying to change your personal opinion) to having to share a room or shower or observe peeing a fully intact sexual male, guess what - you are behaving in a sexually discriminatory manner. COs, if you have concerns, you are being sexist. I think that is clear, and I don't think you want to be the test case. Sure, you might avoid NJP or Courts Martial, but that would take at least two FITREP cycles and no one is going to chance their #1 bullet on you. Thank you for your service. You cannot refuse any duty based on moral issues either.  
  • Here is a direct quote from the CO's handbook - something that contradicts other statements about berthing and head assignments only happening post-DEERS change, "The Commanding Officer and Sailor may amend the Transition plan to allow the earlier use of appropriate-gender facilities prior to the administrative change of gender completion if it is beneficial, desirable, and to the Sailor's comfort level." Yes, read that again. Sure, DEERS says "Male" but he wants to live in female berthing. Nothing about that being "beneficial, desirable, and to the Sailor's comfort level" for female Sailors, but if I read all the guidance correctly, they don't matter. Any objections they have are discriminatory and therefor ... you know the drill. I think I may have to put myself on report again for using the pronoun "he" - but I really have no idea at this point.
  • Once they change their ID in DEERS, Navy now considers it "disrespectful and offensive" if you use the wrong pronoun. So, biology is no longer a science, it is political. Being science based is detrimental to your career. Be careful out there.  
  • For the 18-24 months of the transition period the sailor is probably undeployable and almost certainly won't be able to be on sea duty. 
  • There's nothing to prevent the sailor from later transitioning back, although they'd have to get rediagnosed. The, "I am a lesbian trapped in a man's body" is no longer a joke, I think it may be protected class - I'd have to ask the JAG. 
  • Sailors on hormone replacement therapy will not be able to be in dive or aviation status. After five years (I think) of hormone therapy they can return to flight status. The FAA apparently requires seven years. So, probably won't see any TG aviators, aircrew, or SEALs anytime soon. 
  • We won't recruit anyone that has been diagnosed with gender dysphoria unless they've been stable in the new gender for (I think) two years. BUT, there's nothing to stop someone from joining and getting a fully paid transition and 18 months of shore duty by *discovering* they have gender dysphoria sometime after bootcamp. This is a perverse incentive for these individuals to join and conceal their condition. 
  • Only ~25% of TG individuals undergo full surgical transition. However, once the individual's transition is complete and their 'gender marker' is updated in DEERS, they then are required to live in the berthing and use the shower/toilet facilities of their preferred gender. Ergo, biological men with their genitals intact will be able to shower with women and vice versa. Actually, it isn't "will be able to" - it will be "required to." Also, biological women will be required to shower and use toilet facilities with biological men without objection. To object is to be guilty of sexual discrimination. Starting to get it yet? 
  • The solution to this is going to be revising the SORM to require everyone to cover their naughty-bits in shower facilities, locker rooms, and berthings. I kid you not. Big Navy is scraping up some money to renovate the open-bay showers at boot camp but the rest of the fleet is on their own to figure this out.
  • Here is something for you philosophy majors to ponder; is this simply the inevitable conclusion of post-modernism, where subjective experience is true and objective reality doesn't exist.? 
  • How do you deconflict the need of female SAPR victims to feel safe in their berthing with the requirement for transitioned  (but surgically unaltered) TG males to live in female berthing? Not just sleeping, showering, hitting the head at 3am. You know the drill. 
  • Is this being rushed through in a haphazard manner? DADT repeal was a model of thoughtful preparation and was largely a non-event. In contrast, the SECNAV signed the instruction for this the day the master mobile training teams finished training.

Laugh, cry or scream. So ... I guess it's OK now to talk about the best Halloween outfit Mrs. Salamander ever picked out for me. I still have the legs to carry it off, so don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mind the Gap

A anti-ship cruise missile gap?

Yep, its a thing. A thing of our own creation.

I'm discussing over at USNIBlog. 

Come by for the pictures if nothing else.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A Path to 350? Here's One Right in Front of Us

This is a great time to be a navalist. In the week since the election of Donald Trump, a growing chorus of voices are talking about how our Navy is set to grow. 

Last Sunday on Midrats with Bryan McGrath we touched on the core argument that feeds and supports the reasons why a large and capable navy is an essential and natural part of the United States. From the birth of our nation to now, the argument and requirement has not changed all that much, just the application and access to resources.

I think there needs to be more work done to flesh out the national strategy to justify and explain a larger navy - and then sell that vision, but the President-elect even before the election stated that a core part of his plan to enhance our national security is a larger navy. He actually put a number to it; 350.

We are at 272 today, and growing a feet to 350 will take a long time to do, but to get up on the curve, you have to act now. The first step to get there is to start the conversation on ideas on what to do now with what you have ready to go.

Our friend Jerry Hendrix from CNAS put out yesterday in The National Interest a great conversation starter, a plan to get things moving in the right direction. This will be an iterative process with a few twists and turns, course adjustments and an occasional correction - but you have to start.

Read it all, but here are a few pull quotes from Jerry's plan. In a word, solid;
President Elect Donald Trump, correctly understanding the current strategic environment, is committed to building a 350 ship Navy. This will set aside thirty years of steady declines in the size of the Navy and put those who would make themselves the United States’ enemy on notice that the “irreplaceable nation” has picked up the mantle of leadership that it so recently cast off in an attempt to become more “normal” and less “dangerous.” However, while 350 ships may seem huge in comparison to the battle force of 272 ships we have today; it actually represents the bare minimum that is actually required to maintain presence in the 18 maritime regions where the United States has critical national interests.

The last time the US Navy had 350 ships in its inventory was in early 1998, at which time it had twelve carriers, 30 cruisers, 53 destroyers, 40 frigates and 70 fast attack submarines. Five years later the Navy crashed through the 300 ship mark on its way to the 272 ships it has today...
There is the background, now to the core. Jerry also brings in an equally important point; there is a lot more to our Navy than ship numbers.
We now have a President and a Congress committed to a “peace through strength navy” that will once again allow the United States to maintain global security and stability on the seas. ... A 272 ship Navy simply does not have enough cruisers and destroyers to surround and protect each of the carriers it deploys, but a 350 ship Navy can generate enough platforms to protect a twelve carrier strike force.
...Changing the composition of the carrier’s embarked air wing is the key improvement the Navy can make in the near term to guarantee the success of its carrier strike groups in the future.
During the 1950s the average unrefueled range of the carrier’s air wing was 1,200 miles with some aircraft able to go 1,800 miles to deliver their weapons. By the late 1970s the unrefueled range number had shrank somewhat to 900 miles, but the carrier had developed a strong organic tanking capability that could extend the range of its aircraft in flight to meet strategic requirements.
Today, the air wing’s average unrefueled range is around 500 miles and its organic mission tanking capability is significantly degraded when compared to the past.
How? Here is where the realist nods his head. What do we have at hand?
...pull the nearly 90 S-3B Viking anti-submarine aircraft with 9,000 hours of life still on their wings out of the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base boneyard and get them refurbished and back into the carrier air wing ...
Second, extend the range of the F/A-18 Super Hornets that we already have by completing testing of the conformal fuel tanks that are currently under development and accelerate their introduction to the fleet.
Third, push to get the unmanned MQ-25 organic mission tanker into the fleet quickly, ...
This is not just rewinding the clock, but getting back up on step focused on the evolved threat.
The Navy needn’t look exactly like it did the last time it had 350 ships, we have far more destroyers today than we did in the 1990s for instance, and they are far more lethal than their predecessors, so perhaps we can have fewer cruisers than we had in the past. Frigates, smaller, cheaper and of a more lethal design than the current Littoral Combat Ship, something more analogous to those built by our European allies perhaps, should be bought in large numbers to provide increased naval presence patrols.
Here is the entering argument, a plan to work towards.
Twelve carriers, 350 ships, and a longer ranged carrier air wing should be the basis for the United States’ grand strategy going forward. We are a maritime nation. We have always been a maritime nation since our founding, and now there is a commitment to make the investments needed to execute a new maritime based national security strategy. This will be a national effort from the start, an effort that will rebuild Blue Collar jobs throughout the nation in support of our national defense, and while there will surely be challenges to come; there is at least a vision and a number (350) and a beginning on January 20, 2017.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Make NATO Great Again

As an old NATO hand who dearly loves the alliance, I've long called for some tough love and clear talk. We've had lots of talk, notsomuch the other. 

Luke Coffey from Heritage has a great outline of where the new administration should start its conversation with our friends. A compromise, in a fashion. Whoever President-elect Trump sends as his NATO team, these should be their entering arguments.

Nothing shocking here. Many of these points have been raised over and over by outgoing SACEUR's such as Gen. Craddock, USA and outgoing SECDEFs like Robert Gates.

Read it all for the details of each point, but this is hard to argue with. A little action for us; a little action for them - a stronger Western security structure as a result;
Lead NATO back to basics.

Reiterate America’s commitment to Europe.

Take a realistic approach to Russia.

Commit unconditionally to America’s NATO treaty obligations.

Lead by example in the alliance and reverse defense budget cuts.

Press allies on defense spending.

Encourage NATO to involve finance ministers.

Set a concrete timeline for achieving NATO benchmarks.
How to make some NATO members move in the right direction? Here's an idea. Let me pull one of my "NATO Motivator" concepts out of my goodie-bag.

You learn quickly in NATO that one of the most critical and important things to many in the alliance is a thing called Flags-to-Post.

It is when NATO decides which nations will get which senior uniformed and senior civilian adviser billets. Trust me on this; the conflict in AFG, refugee crisis, etc - none of that stuff goes in front of anything related to Flags to Post.

If you'd like to bring attention to the "Press allies on defense spending" point, do this; the minute an Estonian General (pop. 1.3 million, percent of GDP on defense, 2.04%) take a position usually held by say, a Belgian General (pop. 11.2 million, percent of GDP on defense, 1.05%), then you will get people's attention.

Just an idea.

Hat tip Jorge Benitez.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Seapower Imperative with Bryan McGrath - on Midrats

Why a Navy? Why a strong Navy? Why is a strong Navy an essential requirement for the United States Navy?

From its ability to project national will, to it hidden hand in the economics of every citizen's life, why is it so critical that we have a Navy second to none.

To discuss this and more this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern - including some emerging issues related to the recent election results - will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath, Commander, US Navy (Retired).

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

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

He is the Assistant Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower, and he is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a small defense consulting firm.

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

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fullbore Friday

A little something different this Veterans Day as so many are doing Veterans Day themed events. Let's go back to a previous FbF on a rather unique slugfest from WWII with the German Navy in ... the Indian Ocean.

Training. Drills. PMS. PQS. Attention to detail.

Do you do just the minimum, or do you ask for extra time to get it better and better? Do you train and inspect hard? How many times have you gone through different scenarios with your crew?

Do all your watch standers know how critical their position and responsibility is? From the OOD to the YN3 on the 50cal.; do they appreciate that they are as important as the Commanding Officer?

Discipline. Discipline and obedience in the time of stress, strain, and unimaginable threat to life an honor. Have you and your crew's training been built to refine and demonstrate those qualities? How do you address shortcomings? Are your Chiefs and First Class focused, demanding, masters of their team and
As the Sydney approached the starboard beam of the larger Kormoran, the cruiser used a daytime searchlight to flash the signal “NNJ,” the maritime code ordering the merchant ship to identify herself. After a delay, the Kormoran ran up the signal flags of the Dutch vessel Straat Malaaka, although their location ahead of the freighter’s single large funnel purposefully made it difficult for the Sydney’s spotters to read. The warship requested the freighter to re-position the flags, and as German crew slowly complied, the distance between the two ships, still sailing due west, shrank to a mile.

“Where bound” came the second signal flashed by the Sydney. “Batavia” was the reply from the Kormoran, indicating the capital of the Dutch colony of Java lying over a thousand miles to the north.

Aboard the German raider, Detmers and the bridge staff watched the exchange of signals anxiously and urged the enemy cruiser to sail away and leave them alone. Their fear rose when they saw the Sydney’s crew prepare to launch the spotter plane from the amidships catapult. The plane, once airborne, would easily spot the hundreds of naval mines strewn about the Kormoran’s high deck, giving away its identity as a raider. But the launch crew apparently received new orders and returned the plane to its storage position.

According to the recollections of Heinz Messerschmidt, a 26-year-old lieutenant commander aboard the Kormoran at the time, Detmers turned to his officers and reassured them again, “Ah, it's tea time on board. They'll probably just ask us where we are going and what cargo and then let us go on.”

By luck and guile the Kormoran had survived for almost a year by preying on isolated Allied merchant ships. But this was its first encounter with a warship brandishing guns of equal firepower. Still playing on its disguise as a helpless merchantman, the Kormoran’s radio operator began broadcasting the alert signal “QQQQ” meaning “suspicious ship sighted.” The anxious signal likely confused the Sydney, whose radio operator would have received the transmission, as did a wireless station 150-miles away in the Australian coastal town of Geraldton.

As the parley continued, the distance between the two ships shrank to less than a mile. Lookouts on the Sydney scanned the freighter for suspicious markings or signs of weapons.

But carefully concealed behind special screens and tarps on the Kormoran’s decks was an arsenal of naval guns, torpedo tubes, and anti-tank guns, all manned, loaded, and trained on the unaware cruiser. Later investigations would attempt to determine why Captain Burnett approached so closely to the Kormoran, or if he was lured into false sense of security.

Although both ships possessed guns of similar caliber, the Sydney’s fire control system and experienced turret crews only would be an advantage at longer ranges. Whether by inexperience or trickery, the Sydney’s vulnerable position would soon turn perilous. Over an hour after the cruiser first sighted the freighter on the horizon and gave chase, Burnett ordered the Sydney to flash the signal “1K”–one half of the secret Allied call sign for the Straat Maalaka—across the short gap between the ships. The actual Dutch freighter of that name had a codebook with the corresponding two-letter response. The Kormoran did not. Detmers realized that the time for hiding was over. He ordered the Dutch flag taken down and the German naval ensign run up the mast as the camouflage screens fell away to reveal the line of gun barrels trained on the Sydney. The Kormoran’s 5.9-inch guns fired first, while the rapid-fire anti-tank and machine guns opened up on the officers visible on the cruiser’s bridge. It was shortly after half past five in the afternoon.

The first two 5.9-inch salvos from the Kormoran missed the Sydney, according to reports from the German gunners. But the third volley crashed into the bridge and gun director tower, crippling the cruiser’s ability to return accurate fire just seconds into the battle.

Meanwhile, the raider’s anti-tank and machine guns raked the Sydney’s bridge, presumably killing or wounding many of the officers standing there. Other guns sprayed the exposed portside 4-inch gun mounts and torpedo tubes, preventing their crews from manning them. According to German witnesses, the gap between the two ships was between 1,000 and 1,500 yards—a distance more appropriate for the muzzle-loading cannons of Trafalgar than the rapid-fire guns and high explosive shells of the Second World War.

The Sydney’s first response was a salvo of 6-inch rounds that passed over the now exposed raider. However, the next shells from the Kormoran smashed into the cruiser’s forward “A” and “B” turrets and put them out of action. Another German shell exploded the spotter plane amidships, spilling burning aviation fuel over the decks and black smoke billowing into the sky. Sydney’s “X” and “Y” turrets located in the rear of the ship continued to fire under local control for a few more minutes, but only the crew of “X” achieved hits, sending three rounds into the high-sided freighter. One shell struck amidships, and another punched into the engine room. But the third shell tore through the raider’s funnel, severing the oil warming lines and sending burning fluids cascading down into the motor room to ignite a major fire.

At about this time the Kormoran reportedly launched two torpedoes; at least one struck the Sydney between the mangled “A” and “B” turrets tearing a huge gash in the bow and igniting even more fires. Locked together like two wavering boxers, the warships exchanged constant blows that crippled them both within a few minutes. A storm of shells swept across the water as impacting rounds blossomed into fireballs and pillars of smoke from burning fuel climbed into the evening sky.

Fifteen minutes after firing began, the stricken Sydney made a sudden turn to port, passing close behind the Kormoran and allowing the raider’s rear guns to engage the previously sheltered starboard side of the cruiser. But the Sydney’s turn also permitted her crew to launch a spread of four torpedoes at the raider, all of which missed.

By this time the fires in the Kormoran’s engine room had spread to destroy the machinery, causing the freighter to stop in the water. The Sydney limped slowly away to the south still under fire, down severely at the bow and burning ferociously. Around six o’clock the now immobile Kormoran loosed a final torpedo from an underwater tube at the fleeing Sydney that apparently missed. The 5.9-inch guns on the raider continued to engage the cruiser for another half hour as the range increased and darkness fell. The Germans’ last view of the Sydney came a few hours after sunset—a burning glow on the distant southern horizon that slowly flickered and faded away.

Detmers soon realized that the Kormoran’s uncontrollable fires threatened the hundreds of volatile mines stored on the deck. He ordered his crew to set scuttling charges and abandon ship. Without panicking, the German crew launched lifeboats and watched as the charges detonated along the ship’s keel shortly after midnight, sinking the Kormoran on her 352nd continuous day at sea.

Of the raiders crew of 397 officers and men, 317 survivors reached the Australian coast over the next few days. And in an outcome that has fueled controversy ever since, neither the Sydney, nor her crew of 645 officers and men, were ever seen again.
That is why we have standards. That is why we have qualifications. That is why we should demand excellence and discipline. Are your standards and expectation focused for the same reasons as Fregattenkapitän (Commander) Theodor Detmers? An epic story.

Both KORMORAN and SYDNEY have been found.

This FbF first posted in April 2011.