Monday, July 31, 2017

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXI

Is China really that robust? In economic, demographic, and political ways, no. What about geographic?

George Friedman over at RealClearWorld has a great way for you to start your week.
When you look at a map of China, you will see that a good part of what we think of China is not ethnically Chinese.
Within Han China, there are also divisions. The population is concentrated in the east because western China has limited rainfall and can’t sustain very large populations. In this sense, China is actually a relatively narrow country, with an extremely dense population. The interests within Han China are also diverse, and this has frequently led to fragmentation and civil war.

The most important distinction is the one between coastal China and interior China. Coastal China, when left to its own devices, is involved in regional and global maritime trade, while the interior has fewer commercial opportunities. Coastal China’s priority is reaching its customers, whereas the interior wants Beijing to transfer the wealth from the coast to help support the poor interior. Many other regional disagreements exist of course, but this is the source of discord between the two regions.
There is a lot to chew on in this efficiently constructed article.

A great example of its efficiency is how the author explains in just a few short paragraphs the reason and real fragility of two of their signature programs this century; the "One Belt-One Road" and China's growing navy;
In the event there was an economic falling out with the U.S., China had to consider the possibility of a military confrontation. But the key issue was the ability to guarantee China’s access to sea lanes. In this, China had a major geographic problem. The South and East China seas are ringed with small islands, spaced in such a way that passage between them can be blocked with relative ease. The U.S. Navy is far superior to the Chinese navy, and the Chinese were concerned that in some unforeseen crisis the U.S. would block access to their much needed sea lanes. Those small islands were now at the center of Chinese national interest. The Chinese could claim the entire region, but they were not in a position to seize it.

At the same time, the Chinese devised a political solution to their strategic problem. If a country like Indonesia or the Philippines aligned with China instead of with the United States, access to the global sea lanes would be assured without having to confront the United States. The problem here is that the two strategies undermined each other. Aggressive assertion of Chinese power in the regional waters and finding accommodation with regional powers were inconsistent approaches. What’s more, they could only work if the United States was not present. And, of course, it was.

China had one other option for getting around potential U.S. actions: creating an alternative export route through Asia to Europe. This was the One Belt, One Road concept. But it, too, was flawed. First, the cost of building the requisite infrastructure was staggering. Second, it would run through countries that were unstable and, for the Chinese, unimportant customers. Add to that the speed with which One Belt, One Road needed to be enacted, and this was more posturing than policy.
Like I said, there is a lot here to ponder about your assumptions of China headed to mid-century.
This is a strategy that emerges not from a position of strength but from one of fundamental weakness. China’s internal contradiction is that prosperity creates instability, and stability is incompatible with prosperity. There are complexities and nuances of course, but this is the root of China’s problem. China is therefore trying to maintain what prosperity it can without destabilizing the system. In doing this, it is jeopardizing its overseas markets, particularly the United States, creating the opportunity for a conflict it can’t win and opening the door to regionalism and warlordism.

Unlike Japan, which moved from being a high-growth country to a low-growth country without social upheaval, China may not be so lucky. Japan had a homogeneous, socially integrated society. China is not homogenous, and it has irreconcilable social differences. Its global strategy reflects these contradictions and ultimately poses a greater risk to China itself than to others. And in such a situation, the key is to look confident and try to keep others off balance. But this can only work for so long.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Sometimes Fullbore is a battle, a campaign, a concept. Sometimes it is a moment in time - sometimes it accrues over decades.

Fullbore can be found everywhere - could be just down the table from you at the DFAC.
In 1969, Eugene Krueger left his young wife, Sharon, and headed off to Vietnam, where the 20-year-old's heroism as an Army pilot would be recognized with two Distinguished Flying Crosses and a Bronze Star.

Krueger returned home, raised four daughters and embarked on a civilian career with Northwest Airlines while serving with the Washington National Guard.

But Krueger was not through with war.

As part of a marathon military career that ended this week with his retirement, he returned to the front lines as a pilot in Afghanistan. There he spent four months in 2006 flying missions out of Bagram Air Field.
I served with a few in AFG who retired in the late 80s and were called back from the Army. Mostly Special Forces guys who had a very good Civil Affairs background. A very untold story - I'm glad I've had a chance to share one here.

One little note: notice how the Army can still tap into its pool of talent decades back in the Reserves and National Guard - as a result it can do something the Navy can't - tap in to institutional memory.
He also chafed at inefficiencies he found in an Army that had become much more bureaucratic.

During the Vietnam era, for example, cargo could be quickly loaded into slings and then hauled by Chinooks to and from combat outposts. But during his Afghanistan tour, cargo was loaded inside the helicopter, a more time-consuming task that forced the helicopter to idle on the ground for hours with engines running so that pilots could escape quickly if the aircraft came under attack.

Krueger suggested that the unit consider slings, but to no avail.

"My argument is we could do the mission in half the time, thus saving half the fuel, half the crew time, half the maintenance, half the $$$," Krueger wrote in a journal entry. "This should be a no-brainer."
Chief Krueger; Fullbore.

Hat tip KP. First posted July 2011

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Diversity Thursday

This is a rather depressing DivThu, so gird your loins, take a deep breath, and say a prayer for the Naval War College - as it is being subjected to the cancer of the worst Cultural Marxist diversity babble I have seen in a few years coming from a Flag Officer in such an influential position.

The identity politics of MizzouEvergreen State have made their way to Newport.

Quotas are out in the open.

The incoming SECNAV needs to look in detail at the email I quote below and what it means. The CNO and VCNO need to consider if this is really the intellectual environment they want our leaders soaked in.

This doesn't just represent active discrimination against people based on race, creed, color, and sex - by giving preferential treatment to some over others simply based on same - it is an insult to all female professionals who have earned their positions through hard work and merit. It is patronizing to those it pretends to want to help - and is discriminatory against everyone else.

This has no place in a modern institution that should be focused on nothing but excellence.

This is a blight on our Navy.

So, I guess I'll have to Fisk the entire email paragraph by paragraph in an Old School DivThu way.

We are continuing to make great strides in hiring and advancing a more diverse and robust work-force across the Naval War College. Over the last 5 years, 20% of our faculty hires have come from traditionally underrepresented communities, and their academic rigor, intellectual capacity, and broad experience base have challenged our students to push their own intellectual boundaries, enhanced their critical thinking skills and expanded their perspectives. Although I am proud of the progress we’ve made in diversifying our College, this is an area that requires our continued and direct focus…we are not there yet. We must proactively recruit, develop, and retain the absolute BEST talent that our Nation (and partner nations) have to offer and we need to broaden the aperture by which we, as an institution of higher learning, examine and affect our dynamic and uncertain world. To that end, we will execute the following:
Classic DivSpeak internal contradiction. Once you get through the usual word salad from the Diversity Advisor Random Squid Ink Generator, you get to the core. He wants everyone to start being selective on who they recruit based on racial and sexual groupings. That is active discrimination taking priory over merit. When merit takes a back seat, average quality suffers - and it becomes apparent very quickly. You cannot say you are going to get the best talent by intentionally refusing to accept the best just because one or another group may already be overrepresented. It doesn't work for the NBA or for spelling bees - and it never works in war.
-- We will establish the following funded Chairs: Admiral Grace Hopper Chair of Cyber Security, Madeleine K. Albright Chair of Women, Peace, and Security Studies, and the Charles F. Bolden Jr. Chair of Science, Space, and Technology. A decision panel for these first Chairs will include PNWC, VPNWC, and Provost but the obvious goal is to appoint the corresponding named Professorships. Announcements will be made before Cloister. Our ultimate goal will be to have the respective Chairs financially endowed but until then we will fund each at 30k for faculty development/conference support/travel.
These are professionals with substantial accomplishment on their own, but by grouping this way and this manner, you instantly make them tokens. Insulting, patronizing, and transparently ham-fisted. On top of that - they are going to take away substantial amounts of money for the professional development and conference attending by existing faculty. That is essential for them to remain current, proficient, and to hone their areas of scholarship. It is like selling your work tools to buy a pet pony while your family starves.
-- We will also conduct a national level search for a future Condoleezza Rice Chair of Women in National Security and Diplomatic Studies.
Condoleezza Rice succeeded because she was good. To simply stamp "Woman" on her head is, again, an insult to the service she did to her nation. The fact she is a woman is tertiary to her service. To reduce her to just her sex is, well, sexist.
-- We will take advantage of our nascent post-doctorate hiring program so we might quickly assimilate the best and brightest of these young professionals into our AD ranks.
"These?" Oh, you mean "them?" As in "Us vs. them?" Clumping people together as "the other?" Really? We're back to that? I've called those drunk on Diversity Industry swill as being "retrograde" - but I don't think retrograde is a sufficient word to use to describe this ongoing divisive email.
-- As we finalize our new hiring instruction, all hiring committees within the College will have a 25% composition of women/diverse faculty representation will a goal of getting to 50%. Additionally, each hiring recommendation will include a review and certification by the committee members that ALL candidates were considered on a fair and equitable basis. These opinions will be reviewed by Provost, VPNWC, and PNWC before any offers of hire are made.
"...will..." That is a requirement, an order. The only way you can get a hard number like that is if you actively discriminate on the basis of race, creed, color, or national origin - and actively remove opportunities from others based on same. This is not poor and clunking wording - which it is too - but an active call to perform recruiting in a discriminatory manner. Hey, credit for being out in the open about it, I guess.
-- We have undertaken an extensive compensation review that I anticipate coming to completion shortly. Additionally, we will establish an annual compensation review to ensure we are institutionalizing equal pay for equal work.
So, whose getting paid less? What is going to be the factor to determine who is paid what? Is race, sex, and ethnicity going to determine how much you are going to get paid?
-- As you know, we’ve established some faculty advisory committees to review various issues and the contours of the college. One of these areas of interest is diversity. I will receive a detailed brief by the end of July on this critical subject and look forward to their recommendations. A quarterly update meeting will be scheduled to review status and progress.
Metrics & incentives. I've been in those meetings. They have a certain pedigree.

--In early August, we will also conduct an all hands call for our female faculty. Please be on the lookout for this opportunity to engage.
"Please look out for this opportunity to be segregated and given a safe space!" My mother would have refused to go to such a patronizing, self-preening and ultimately degrading show.
Our diversity as an organization - in thought, perspective and experience - helps challenge us to see problems in news ways and find broader solutions. It is key to innovation. These are critical capabilities in our complex and dynamic world of Nation Security. I am open to other recommendations as we move out more smartly in this

jeff "one team, one fight" harley

Jeffrey Harley
Rear Admiral, USN
President, U.S. Naval War College
sipr: [redacted]
Ah ... the smoke screen. Until that last paragraph, did you see any call for diverse "thought, perspective and experience?" No you didn't ... unless you think that your DNA determines your thoughts, your perspective, and your experiences. The eugenics movements peaked about 80 years ago - are we going to retrograde that far?

I'll be kind; he doesn't actually mean that - it is just the standard smoke screen we have seen here on DivThu for the decade we've been doing this.

It would be nice to not make this personal, but the man signed his name to this call to actively discriminate against present and future employees of his command based on race, creed, color, national origin or sex.

That has no place in a merit based organization based on equality and fairness.

I would also offer that you cannot have "one team, one fight" if you insist on breaking your team up by race, creed, ethnicity, national origin, and sex. That is sectarian and divisive - the exact opposite.

Let me put my economist hat on for a moment before I go. What happens in such situations is that the most qualified people in the groups you actively discriminate against will not want to go to your institution. They will get hired elsewhere and will take their expertise there. As such, the most important thing at an institution of higher learning - the cumulative quality of its scholarship - will shift left on the quality curve.

Nice legacy.

Oh, and if define your legacy on showing preference for one racial or ethnic group over another, or another sex over another - you know what they call those kind of people, right?

Hat tip Salamander Underground.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Type 26 and the Remnant Royal Navy

Joseph Trevithick over at TheDrive has one of the better summaries out there on the Royal Navy’s new frigate, the Type-26 “City Class” whose first hull will be named HMS GLASGOW. 

She’s a nice bit of kit;
Originally known as the Global Combat Ship (GCS), BAE’s frigate will displace approximately 6,900 tons and have a crew of just more than 150. A pair of electric motors, four high speed diesel generators, and a gas turbine will provide onboard electrical power and propel the ship to a maximum speed of over 30 miles per hour over a range of some 7,000 miles.

Intended primarily for anti-submarine warfare, the ships will have both a sonar system in the bow and a built-in towed sonar array, both linked to a central BAE Systems battle management system. An enlarged helipad and attached hangar can accommodate a Wildcat or Merlin helicopter or vertical takeoff capable drones, any of which could carry torpedoes or additional sensors.

In addition, the vessel will have significant air defense and surface warfare capabilities, consisting of 12 vertical launch system (VLS) cells for the Sea Ceptor surface to air missile and another 24 multi-purpose Mk 41 VLS cells. European defense consortium MBDA’s Sea Ceptor missile is a navalized variant of the company’s active radar homing Common Anti-Air Modular Missile (CAMM).
What is striking to me in the review is the heartbreaking numbers of how many they plan on building. Heartbreaking, as it is simply amazing how small the Royal Navy has become.

Let this sink in a bit;
… construction of the Royal Navy’s future Type 26 frigates has officially begun at a shipyard in Scotland. The full class of eight ships will provide a number of critically needed capabilities, including acting as additional escorts for the United Kingdom’s up-coming pair of supercarriers. The first of those flattops, HMS Queen Elizabeth, is in the middle of her first sea trials in the North Sea.

As The War Zone noted in its deep dive into the Queen Elizabeth carrier, the Royal Navy would need to commit significant numbers of ship to escort the flattop during actual operations. With only six Type 45 Daring-class destroyers and seven Astute- and Trafalgar-class attack submarines, as well as another 13 Type 23 frigates, in total as of 2017, the service could be hard pressed to sortie out a carrier battle group while still conducting other missions, yet alone two battle groups.
Make no mistake; Great Britain is the best friend our nation has, and she has stood shoulder to shoulder with us for most of the last 100 years – but her military capability is auxiliary. She makes up for it with national will and professionalism, but that is about it.

They have a spotty capability to patrol, much less control, their home waters. We should be very clear eyed on what they would be able to supply from the sea in any future conflict … and plan our fleet accordingly.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Let it be written; let it be mocked

Your weekly reminder to question the “who” and “why” of everything you read. Don’t assume alternative news outlets are all garbage, and don’t assume mainstream brands deliver brilliance to your brain.

A classic case of being very careful with what you read comes to us today from Reuters. Having that stamp should not give news or opinion any more credence than anything else. Same from BBC, CBS, CNN, Fox, etc.

First, always check if you are reading straight news or opinion. Yes, that can be difficult in some places, but in other cases like Reuters, they will give it an “Opinion” stamp as they did here.

Then look at the author. Give your head an extra tilt if it isn’t a regular opinion writer – as a lot of the stuff out there is all about something else but providing an opinion or viewpoint. You can figure that out on your own – but case in point is Peter Apps’s dogs breakfast from July 18th. There is so much wrong here, but let’s look at the Top-5;

This month’s G20 meeting in Hamburg showed Western countries still struggling for a strategy to stop suspected Russian meddling in their politics and hacking their elections.
Style note: anyone thinking Russia “hacked” the election – as in they got in to systems to change votes - is either grossly mal-informed, or is a hack – or both. Russia and the Soviet Union before it, tried to influence or generally jackass elections in the West. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, we have done the same in their elections and that of their allies. You will never stop meddling any more than you will stop spying.

This summer has seen NATO conducting cutting-edge anti-submarine and electronic warfare exercises in the North Atlantic, near daily flights by surveillance aircraft operating in the Baltic and a host of other war games from the Black Sea to the Arctic.
”Cutting-edge?” As defined by whom? Air & Surface ASW and to a lesser extent EW have been starved of funds more than any other area since the end of the Cold War. Most equipment are based on or are themselves a generation or more old. They are no more cutting edge than a 1995 Mercury Mountaineer is the cutting edge of SUV design.

The effectiveness of Moscow's techniques shocked U.S. strategists, many of whom had come to believe Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya-style insurgent foes were all they would ever confront.
Who? Give me some names. The latest iteration of the COIN vs. Conventional intellectual debate is well over a decade and a half old – and the pro-COIN side lost. I don’t know a single professional who was “shocked” by what Russia has done recently. Impressed? Sure, but shocked? No. This hyperbole gives the Russians too much credit, and makes the West look like a bunch of buffoons. Though there might be cases for each in detail, in general? Silly.

Growing numbers of Western strategists believe Putin hopes Russia’s propaganda and political disruption efforts may ultimately cause both NATO and the European Union to collapse. Few see that as likely - but countries most vulnerable to Russia, such as the Baltic states and Finland, are taking few chances.
Again, who? Names. Only fringe types or carnival barkers see an ultimate collapse of both NATO & EU due to Russia. Both are under stress, but it is almost entirely due to internal conflict and contradictions, not outside pressure from Russia.

That may not be enough to stop Russia launching a surprise assault on a slice of NATO territory. However, even that would likely just further intensify Europe’s commitment to defending the rest of its territory.

The fact is that Europe is now better defended than at any point in decades. If Russia feels threatened by that, then Putin has only himself to blame.
Come on! “…likely just further intensify…” – GMAFB, that would be war.

As for the last paragraph, define “decades.” 30 years ago was 1987. Just look at what NATO was then. 20-years, 1997. Look at the size of the Royal Navy compared to now, just as an example.

Beyond silly, and it would be funny if so many people didn’t give the Reuters name such props.

Don’t get me wrong, I love opinion bits – as a blogger it is pretty much all I do – but this article is something I wouldn’t publish as a guest post on my homeblog it is so disjointed and unsupported by any objective review of facts concerning its core points.

This is pretty ballsy stuff for a well-biased blogger who can’t even copy-edit his own stuff, I know - but question everything you read, regardless of where it is. Sure, in The Economist you don’t know who the author is – but everywhere else you can – and you should take that in to account. You can get some good stuff from some, but don’t assume quality or insight just because of the URL.

Watch out for those who shop around cobbled together articles that are really just self-promotional items that are meant to signal that, “We need to listen to this person.”

Well, hogwash.

Find out who manages to get Peter’s stuff on Reuters? Sure, that is a good idea. If this can get published at a major institution …. well.

Peter should be smarter than this, and given his CV, I expected better from him. That’s OK though – he gave us a good example; question everything you read.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Midsummer's Thucydides with Kori Schake - on Midrats

For a man who last walked the Earth almost 2,500 years ago, 2017 has been a great year for Thucydides.

The old Greek historian is having quite a renaissance. Of course, he's always been there, but the Whitehouse is interested in him, so everyone else is as well, especially with regard to the often mentioned, "Thucydides’s Trap."

For those not familiar with his work, The History Of The Peloponnesian War, in her article earlier this month in The Atlantic, our guest this week outlines where people should focus.
Thucydides is often associated with hard-edged realism, as in the quote “the strong do what they will, the weak suffer what they must.” ... But it’s important to remember that those views are one thread in a tapestry—Thucydides recounts the views of the war's combatants, but he doesn’t endorse them. In fact, the states that profess those hard-edged sentiments are plunged into ruin by them. 
When and how they take the plunge has, at the crucial moments of decision, everything to do with rambunctious crowds or ambitious usurpers of their betters egging on policies that result in the destruction of their state’s power.
For this and related topics, please join us this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern with our guest Kori Schake for the full hour.

Kori is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. She teaches Thinking About War at Stanford, and with Jim Mattis edited Warriors and Citizens: American Views on Our Military. Her book on the Anglo-American hegemonic transition comes out from Harvard in the fall.

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, July 21, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Inspired by a scene from "Dunkirk" and giddy that our friends from ThinkDefence have already done the work.

You make what you can with what you have.

First via the BBC;
A makeshift pier

After the first day or so we began to receive motorised units in La Panne, after which a new evacuation stratagem was devised. At low tide, the highest vehicles were to be driven out to a given point, and a pier formed by driving out and parking up more trucks alongside. From these, the troops would be able to clamber into the boats that were now able to come alongside.

The hard part was the organisation of the assembly of the pier between bouts of shelling, low-level bombing and machine gunning from enemy aircraft. Once it was done, though, this procedure was a most welcome break for us. It made filling the boats so much easier. There was no more brute force required to push out the boats and get wet through in the process.
The amazing thing - no one to this day really knows who idea it was.
The piers were built by various Royal Engineer units including 246 Field Company RE, 59 Field Company, 38 Field Company and divisional elements from 1 and 4 Division, read more here. I have also read that members of the Corps of Military Police took part, especially in driving the lorries onto the beach at low tide.

I suppose the reality of the situation was that anyone and everyone was involved to some degree although there are conflicting reports of whose idea it was, the balance of evidence seems to point to a Royal Navy Sub Lieutenant requesting a pier be built be who came up with the idea of using 3 ton trucks, I guess that is lost to history.
The piers enabled several thousand personnel to escape to fight another day.
Read it all ... and check out all the great pics.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Diversity Thursday

Some good news in the diversity battles.

One of the most excused and patronized organizations in the USA that centers its existence on racist assumptions is having a bit of trouble as more and more people realize what they are about. So much, it appears, they had to change their name.
La Raza has decided to rebrand. The liberal political group announced last week that it would change its name from one suggestive of adversarial Chicano politics to something with broader appeal: UnidosUS.
Here's why;
The name La Raza—“the race” in Spanish—flies in the face of this reality. It is off-putting to many “Hispanics,” an artificial Census category comprising many razas. The organization’s CEO, Janet Murguia, admitted as much in a video announcing the name change: “We must make sure that our name and our organization evolves along with and remains relevant to our ever changing Hispanic community.”
The shift appears to stem from a recognition of long-ignored social and financial transformations in the U.S. 
Since its inception in 1968, made possible in part by a grant from the Ford Foundation, La Raza has been far more dependent on boardrooms and government than grass-roots support. But with government largess drying up, the liberal political-advocacy group may find itself needing greater support from the rank and file. This won’t be easy.
The nation’s “Hispanics” are undergoing a radical shift that most politicians are missing: A white majority is likely to persist in America. “Many children growing up today in mixed families are integrating into a still largely white mainstream society,” sociologist Richard Alba noted in American Prospect last year. These children are “likely to think of themselves as part of that mainstream, rather than as minorities excluded from it.”
As I've always said; the diversity industry is a racket. It is an amalgam of rent-seekers, grievance mongers, racists, and otherwise unemployable people who have no desire to bring people together, but to keep them apart in little manageable tribes to use for block political and financial gain.

Along the way, people are moving in our direction towards a more equal and color blind society. People who first see race are simply that, racists. They have no place in a modern society.

You can change your name, but you remain what you always were, "UnidosUS" - a group acting like the most base racists who use tribalism, fear, and division to enrich yourselves. Nixon's made up ethnicity, "Hispanic" exists no other place but in the minds of the American left. About as useful and deserving of special treatment as "Scandinavian." Actually less so. Danes, Swedes and Norwegians have more in common than Cubans, Mexicans, & Uruguayans. 

More work needs to be done, but each day that organizations such as this have to change to try to survive, the better. They should be kept at the margins to stew in their own sectarian juices - shunned by well meaning, modern, forward looking Americans.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

In Syria, Looks Like We're Very Close to my SEP 2015 PLAN SALAMADER, Rev 1

If you are not too familiar with the almost 2-yr old PLAN SALAMANDER for Syria, JUN 2016's REV 1 is here, and the SEP 2015 original here.

This predates the Trump Era by over a year, so you can stow any lame attempt to play Boot on Carlson's show - that won't wash.

Here is the unvarnished truth that has been evident for a year prior to my coming up with PLAN SALAMANDER; the only way to successfully eliminate the Islamic State is to at a minimum coordinate with the Russian, and preferably plan with them. Also, unless you have a realistic plan for someone to take Assad's place without slaughtering the balance of non-Sunni Syrian Arabs & Kurds, than go sit in the corner and play with the other children on Earth 2.

In a solid interview by The Tampa Bay Times with CENTCOM Commander General Votel, USA - the truth is right there for anyone to see it.
What are your thoughts on working with the Russians?

The word we use is not cooperation, but it is deconfliction and that is principally what we are doing. I have characterized this interchange as being very professional military to military interchange and I think trust certainly has to be earned over time here. But I will tell you the deconfliction line that we have had in place and has become more robust over time, meaning that not only do our air components talk to each other but (Army Lt. Gen. Stephen) Townsend (in charge of the ground war against Islamic State) now has the ability to talk to his counterpart.
That is a mature approach.

Read the whole interview, and keep this in mind as the investment of Raqqa moves forward;
The battle for Raqqa is now on. How long will that take?

We are not going to make any time estimates on this. You just watched what took place in (Mosul), a city of 1.6 million, 1.7 million people. It took nine months. Raqqa is probably 300,000 to 400,000 people, but it's in an area that again has had a long time to prepare and the forces we are operating in Syria are different than the forces we are operating with in Iraq. We're not talking about the Iraqi army that has ministries to lead it. Now we are talking about a much more indigenous force made up largely of Syrian Arabs and Kurds — and Kurds are part of that indigenous force. They don't have all the trappings of a big army, so I think it is important for people to understand the context of what we are doing here. A large city, an indigenous force, a well-prepared enemy. And by the way, an enemy now that has suffered a significant defeat, so they are running out of space there. We would expect they are going to fight harder, and more aggressively than they are and a large part of that is going to be exploited again. So I think it is going to be a challenging fight and it will take months.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The 350 Ship Navy: Don’t Hold Your Breath

Editor's Note: The below is a guest post by Bryan McGrath. 

It was originally posted elsewhere last week, but the editor of that site feared retribution from their sponsors and pulled it down shortly after it was posted.

I offered to post it here, and Bryan accepted the offer.

President Trump has made a large increase in the size of the Navy the centerpiece of his promise to rebuild American military strength, telling audiences on the campaign trail that he would grow the Navy from its current size of 276 deployable battle force ships to 350, to include growing the carrier fleet from 11 to 12 hulls. 

Scheduled to speak at the July 22nd commissioning ceremony for the USS GERALD R FORD (CVN 78) (a ship he had considerable criticism for earlier this year), it is conceivable that he will renew his call for this expanded fleet. This is music to the ears of naval advocates who believe American Seapower occupies a unique place among the components of American military power in its capacity to advance the nation’s prosperity and security. 

The enthusiasm for Trump’s naval buildup was somewhat dampened with the release of his FY18 budget, which did not grow the Navy appreciably over the levels described in his predecessor’s final budget. There was no shortage of criticism of the President for this seeming reversal of a campaign promise, but as I wrote elsewhere, there was wisdom in using the FY17 budget amendment and the FY18 budget submission to shore up anemic readiness and weapons procurement accounts before beginning what would be an expensive, decades long project to grow the Navy by 25%. Secretary of Defense Mattis’ statement of priorities upon assuming office made this emphasis clear.

I am no longer sanguine about the prospects for a 350 ship Navy, and I base my view on the uninspiring testimony yesterday of Richard Spencer, appearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee as the Trump Administration Secretary of the Navy nominee. Spencer was presented with the opportunity to voice full-throated advocacy for the fleet called for by the Commander-in-Chief and buttressed by a recent Navy Force Structure Assessment calling for 355 ships. Instead, he waffled, sounding very much like those in the Obama Administration who argued against a larger fleet, telling the SASC “What I will tell you is that, whether it’s a 355-ship or not, what we also want to get our head around is, can we have a capacity number, but have a capability that’s even greater than that, so have the capability of a 355 that might be a 300-ship Navy.”  

This debate between naval capacity (numbers) and capability (i.e. weapons, sensors, and networking) is evergreen, and every responsible administration must wrestle with it. Resources are not unbounded, and the right mix between numbers and capability is the ultimate aim of Navy budgeteers. But for a Secretary of the Navy nominee—given the gift of Presidential imprimatur upon a vast naval buildup—to make his public debut by questioning the wisdom of such a buildup, something is amiss. That something is, I fear, the Secretary of Defense.

Tucked into Mattis’ statement of priorities linked-to above, is a section in which he points to an ongoing strategic review (the 2018 National Defense Strategy) that will provide a new force sizing methodology to be used to shape the growing force. Presumably, the National Defense Strategy will be used to impact the FY19 defense budget process later this year, to include broad guidance on where additional resources are to be prioritized. Putting it another way, if there were going to be a significant naval buildup, it would be reflected in the strategic narrative advanced by the Secretary of Defense and then codified in the FY19 budget submission.

That Secretary of the Navy nominee Richard Spencer did not get behind the President’s goal appears to indicate lukewarm support for it within the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), especially if it means re-allocating resources from other parts of the Department. Given the ongoing budget stalemate on the Hill, this would appear to be the only way the Navy would get a significant budget increase. And since Spencer is known to be close to Secretary Mattis (but not particularly close to the Trump inner circle) it is not difficult to envision Mattis providing Spencer with clear direction not to enthusiastically ratify the President’s naval buildup, in order to retain sufficient freedom of maneuver while the strategic review is underway. 

A military buildup the size of what Trump called for on the campaign trail would be very expensive. I calculate the annual cost to build, man, maintain, and operate a fleet the size the President desires to exceed $40B a year in FY17 dollars. Trump also wishes an increase in the size of the Army and a stepped up program of fighter procurement for the Air Force. These increases would dramatically raise the defense budget, something the President simply does not possess the political capital to accomplish. Contributing to this lack of political capital is the administration’s seeming inability to frame policy and then harness the Congressional majority to achieve it. Mattis sees this, and I suspect he realizes that there will be no significant buildup, although there will be a modest boost to the DoD topline. 

This bleak outlook for increased defense spending leaves Mattis in very much the same position as his predecessor Ash Carter was, in which expensive programs designed to increase capacity (including shipbuilding) were sacrificed to fund what were considered higher priority needs such as offensive weapons, networking capabilities, cyber capability, and electronic warfare upgrades. This is a reasonable position to take in a severely restricted budget environment, but Trump campaigned on ending that environment to rebuild the military. Success in achieving this goal was always a long-shot, but with the President’s ongoing weakness, it is virtually unachievable. I suspect the Secretary of Defense is aware of this.

Given the theory I have advanced, what can navalists hope for?  

First, it is clear that the operating forces can expect better operations and maintenance funding, enabling ships and aircraft to gain the proficiency they need through at sea and on-range training even as their accumulated maintenance backlogs are worked through. 

Second, I expect there to be significantly higher investment in increasing the capability of the platforms we already have by fielding more and more capable weapons and sensors, and then backfitting them into the current fleet. 

Third, I expect the Navy’s shipbuilding program to increase fleet size at a gradual pace, with much of the growth planned for 10-30 years from now, when future administrations will have to figure out how to pay for it. 

The prospect of a dramatic naval building program was fun while it lasted, but the reality of our modern political milieu has intervened. Unless the Congress steps up and takes control of the naval building effort—in spite of what the Secretary of Defense may desire—we are in for at least four more years of muddling through. 

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, and the Assistant Director of the Hudson Institute Center for American Seapower. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Building the right carrier; heavy, medium, or light with Tal Manvel - on Midrats

As the USS FORD (CVN 78) delivered to the US Navy, the Royal Navy’s new HMS QUEEN ELIZABETH underway, and many nations either building or wanting built carriers of a variety of sized, the second decade of the 21st Century is an exciting time for those who are interested in carrier design.

With the Senate recently dedicating $30 to the study of a light carrier design, the discussion has begun again about what is the right size carrier for the requirements of our navy.

We have the perfect guest Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss, returning guest J. Talbot Manvel, Captain, USN (Ret).

Tal teaches at the US Naval Academy. While on active duty he served as an engineering officer specializing in aircraft carriers. He served on three, assisted in building two, and ended his career developing the new FORD class of aircraft carriers. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1972, earned a masters in mechanical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1979, a masters in liberal arts from St John’s College in 2008.

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

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Friday, July 14, 2017

Fullbore Friday

The USCG's Medal of Honor recipient from WWII's Guadalcanal campaign and then Lt. Col. Chesty Puller, USMC - a natural FbF.

Head on over to the USCG's website for Dr. Robert M. Browning Jr.'s full story, but here's and extended quote describing an exemplary example of combat leadership, SM1 Douglas A. Munro, USCG.
...word arrived that the Marines were in trouble and were being driven back toward the beach. Their immediate plight had not been known. The bombing raid had driven Monssen out of range to visually communicate with shore. Furthermore, the three companies of Marines had failed to take a radio and were unable to convey their predicament. Using under-shirts they spelled out the word "HELP" on a ridge not far from the beach. Second Lieutenant Dale Leslie in a Douglas SBD spotted the message and passed it by radio to another Marine unit. At 4 P.M. Lt. Colonel Puller, realizing that his men were isolated, embarked on Monssen to direct personally the covering fire for the marines who were desperately trying to reach the beach.

The landing craft had meanwhile been readied at Lunga Point Base. Again, virtually the same boats that had put the Marines on the beach were assembled to extract them. Douglas Munro, who had taken charge of the original landing, volunteered to lead the boats back to the beach. None of these boats were heavily armed or well protected. For instance, Munro's Higgin's boat had a plywood hull, it was slow, vulnerable to small arms fire, and was armed only with two air-cooled .30 caliber Lewis machine guns.

As Munro led the boats ashore the Japanese fired on the small craft from Point Cruz, the ridges abandoned by the Marines, and from positions east of the beach. This intense fire from three strong interlocking positions disrupted the landing and caused a number of casualties among the virtually defenseless crews in the boats. Despite the intense fire Munro led the boats ashore. Reaching the shore in waves, Munro led them to the beach two or three at a time to pick up the Marines. Munro and Petty Officer Raymond Evans provided covering fire from an exposed position on the beach.

As the Marines reembarked, the Japanese pressed toward the beach making the withdrawal more dangerous with each second. The Monssen and Leslie's Douglas "Dauntless" dive bomber provided additional cover for the withdrawing Marines. The Marines arrived on the beach to embark on the landing craft while the Japanese kept up a murderous fire from the ridges about 500 yards from the beach. Munro, seeing the dangerous situation, maneuvered his boat between the enemy and those withdrawing to protect the remnants of the battalion. Successfully providing cover, all the Marines including twenty-five wounded managed to escape.

With all the Marines safely in the small craft, Munro and Evans steered their LCP off shore. As they passed towards Point Cruz they noticed an LCT full of Marines grounded on the beach. Munro steered his craft and directed another tank lighter to pull it off. Twenty minutes later, the craft was free and heading to sea. Before they could get far from shore, the Japanese set up a machine gun and began firing at the boats. Evans saw the fire and shouted a warning to Munro. The roar of the boat's engine, however, prevented Munro from hearing and a single bullet hit him in the base of the skull. Petty Officer Munro died before reaching the operating base, but due to his extraordinary heroism, outstanding leadership and gallantry, Munro posthumously received the Medal of Honor.
All of 23 years old.

"For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action above and beyond the call of duty as Officer-in-Charge of a group of Higgins boats, engaged in the evacuation of a Battalion of Marines trapped by enemy Japanese forces at Point Cruz, Guadalcanal, on September 27, 1942. After making preliminary plans for the evacuation of nearly 500 beleaguered Marines, Munro, under constant risk of his life, daringly led five of his small craft toward the shore. As he closed the beach, he signaled the others to land, and then in order to draw the enemy's fire and protect the heavily loaded boats, he valiantly placed his craft with its two small guns as a shield between the beachhead and the Japanese. When the perilous task of evacuation was nearly completed, Munro was killed by enemy fire, but his crew, two of whom were wounded, carried on until the last boat had loaded and cleared the beach. By his outstanding leadership, expert planning, and dauntless devotion to duty, he and his courageous comrades undoubtedly saved the lives of many who otherwise would have perished. He gallantly gave up his life in defense of his country."
Hat tip Ken.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Return of at Sea Reloads: The Big Importance of Small Things

On the list of "unsexy but important" are many items from icebreakers, to command ships, to hospital ships, that every POM cycle get left on the cutting room floor by the gaggle of cats chasing laser pointers we have in charge of building our fleet.

On occasion, someone on the inside manages to do the right thing. 

Today we have one of those things. In case you missed it, let's pull it above the ambient noise a bit;
The U.S. Navy is looking to restore its ability to reload its ships’ vertical launch systems at sea, which could be a dramatic logistical game changer in the planning and execution of high-intensity contingencies against peer competitors.
After discussing the means by which the Navy seeks to ensure its forward-deployed naval forces remain survivable and up-to-date with the latest tactical and technological innovation, Admiral Richardson said in reference to vertical launch system (VLS) underway replenishment, “we’re bringing that back.”

Since its operational debut in 1986 aboard the sixth Ticonderoga-class cruiser, USS Bunker Hill, the Mark 41 vertical launch system and its successor the Mark 57 have become the main battery of the preponderance of the Navy’s surface fleet, while the Mark 45 has become the principal means of deploying cruise missiles aboard submarines. Vertical launch systems are among the most adaptable weapon mounts that the Navy fields, allowing a ship to carry a variety of defensive and offensive missiles in the same shipboard infrastructure, and to fire them in rapid succession.

However, unlike other Navy striking arms like the carrier air wing, vertical launch systems cannot, at present, be practicably resupplied and reloaded while at sea. Once a VLS-equipped ship or submarine expends its missiles, it must withdraw to an equipped friendly port to replenish. This represents a significant operational liability, especially in high-intensity combat scenarios against peer adversaries.
Not just peer adversaries. As an old TLAM guy who managed to empty every operational TLAM out of one DDG and left a few DD & CG with only a handful of D1 & D2 warhead TLAM left - the inability to reload puts you in a pickle.

With our "peace dividend" carrier strike groups, you cannot afford to order a DDG or CG to steam a few days to some friendly port (if you have one) and then come back. Nope.

This is great news - and shows that now and then the right ideas can meet up with the right opportunity.

Now, let's talk about those armed icebreakers ....

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

FFG(X) Just Might Work

It came out Monday, and we're discussing it over at USNIBlog.

The RFI is out. Come on by and give it a read.

Demographics, Migration, and the Coming Crisis

Tomorrow we're going to beat up on LCS some more with the FFG RFI because we can't beat up on the Little Crappy Ship every day, regardless of how much fun it is.

No, today we're going to return to a more serious topic - one that has no easy fix and will not get better with time in our lifetime.

This is a story slowly unfolding that will not have a happy ending. We are only in the second chapter, and everyone is already tired ... but you cannot put the book down and there are many chapters to go.

The waves of humans crashing on to mostly Western Europe's shores are not going anywhere. These masses of military aged, unaccompanied men with nowhere else to go are not just going to blend in to their new found land. No.

Let's start all official is a surprisingly clear eyed report from UNHCR;
...refugees and migrants in Libya are predominantly young men (80%), aged 22 on average and travelling alone (72%). Women tend to transit towards Europe over a short period of time and many of them, particularly those from West and Central Africa, are victims of trafficking. The number of unaccompanied and separated children travelling alone is rising, and now represents some 14% of all arrivals in Europe via the Central Mediterranean route. These children come mainly from Eritrea, The Gambia and Nigeria.

Refugees and migrants in Libya tend to have a low level of education, with 49% having little or no formal education and only 16% having received vocational training or higher education.
These are not refugees from Syria. Those are people who don't have the skills to do any job in a modern economy.
They come from diverse backgrounds but can be grouped into four different categories:

Nationals of neighbouring countries (Niger, Chad, Sudan, Egypt and Tunisia). Most of them report travelling to Libya for economic reasons, and many engage in seasonal, circular or repetitive migrations.

Nationals of West and Central Africa countries : mainly from Nigeria, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Cameroon. They report having left largely for economic reasons. Some are victims of trafficking, in particular Nigerian and Cameroonian women, and some might be in need of international protection.

Nationals of Eastern Africa countries: from Eritrea, Somalia, Ethiopia and Sudan. They reported making the journey for a range of reasons, including political persecution, conflict and poverty in their countries of origin.

Individuals from other regions: Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis, Moroccans, Bangladeshis and others. Some flee conflict and violence while others are looking for livelihood opportunities.
Look at the graph at the top. The supply is not going to slow, and with each passing year, these uneducated, untrained, unskilled people will continue to bulge from nations that do not have the educational or economic ability to gainfully prepare them for a modern economy, much less employ them.

European nations are fully developed. As with all developed nations, they cannot employ their own unskilled workers in their modern economies - what on earth will they do with more unskilled people? People who have no desire or ability to assimilate?

In an already crowded continent, a stabilized or even shrinking population would be very manageable, as technology will help maintain a standard of living. Those nations will not survive these masses of "the other" in the numbers they are coming in and still be the civilizations they once were. They will simply debase themselves in line with the unassimilable nations the masses are coming from. We are already seeing it from London to Malmo to the suburbs of Paris. If the numbers were smaller and the people more inclined to assimilate, it wouldn't be a problem.

Are nations required to commit suicide? No. Already we are seeing a growing percentage of the voting population firmly say "no." As the hard lessons of mass immigration of the last few years are hitting Western Europe, those people are starting to shut their borders - and the Eastern Europeans want nothing of it. If their mainstream political parties do not do anything, the people will turn to others. By the time they do that, all the easier solutions will no longer be an option.

How bad will it be? How tough will these nations have to be if they want their societies to survive?
Half the world’s nations have fertility rates below the replacement level of just over two children per woman. Countries across Europe and the Far East are teetering on a demographic cliff, with rates below 1.5. On recent trends, Germany and Italy could see their populations halve within the next 60 years.

The world has hit peak child, says Hans Rosling at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Peak person cannot be far behind.

For now, the world’s population continues to rise. From today’s 7.4 billion people, we might reach 9 billion or so, mostly because of high fertility in Africa. The UN predicts a continuing upward trend, with population reaching around 11.2 billion in 2100. But this seems unlikely. After hitting the demographic doldrums, no country yet has seen its fertility recover. Many demographers expect a global crash to be under way by 2076.
Even Elon Musk is worried - but he's not fully up to speed on the global challenge. 49 years to 2076 is both a short and a long time. A lot can happen. I won't be around to see it, but my kids will.

If, as I believe they will, nations move to protect themselves, then those nations with high birthrates and low economic potential will have no outlet for their demographic stress.

I see a lot of blood in line with what we see today in Syria & Yemen. Poor, desperate people slaughtering each other over what ever excuse there may be to remove their "other." The more modern nations involved from the edges and patrolling the seas to keep the problem contained until nature takes its course.

Advanced nations will have to make the choice; bring it in, or wall it out. A few may keep with "bring it in." The other nations will see what happens there, and will elect "wall it out." It is already happening.

People may have been taken aback from the French President's remarks that had the usual suspects heading for the fainting couch earlier this week - but he seems to know that his nation will be one of the first to be bathed in blood if they don't get this fixed. France knows Africa well, and no serious person who has studied the demographics and economics of Africa would disagree with the broader substance of his remarks.

 Some would argue it may be too late for France, but I think there is still time.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Do We Keep Building LCS?

In some ways, the argument about LCS is over. They are coming to the fleet and we'll have to do the best as we can with them. As we search for as many ways as possible to grow the fleet, an existing platform that is already in production will almost always keep going until a replacement gets enough political support. 

For LCS, it isn't the ships utility or efficiency that is keeping it going, it is politics and votes mostly - but for those not completely cynical, there is a another reason too. This is a reason I support and can accept as long as we are moving to a new platform in the medium to long term. The reason? The industrial base.

Travis Tritton at The Examiner has a nice summary;
Armed Services Republicans and analysts say, despite the ship's shortcomings, there is at least one good reason to keep buying them: The Navy's shipbuilding industrial base.

"The industrial base issue is a very real issue and if we aren't buying enough ships to keep the industrial base alive then it makes it exponentially more difficult at any point in the future to expand," said Chris Harmer, a senior naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. The monohull Freedom class is built at Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin. The aluminum trimaran Independence class is built at Austal's yard in Mobile, Ala.
There was a move to truncate the buy, or at least slow its roll, but it was short lived.

As our friend Bryan reminds everyone, politics always gets a 51% vote;
The Navy has decided two is the right number, but only after some of its own mixed signals. Acting Navy Secretary Sean Stackley testified to a Senate committee in May that one LCS would be enough to keep the shipyards operating and healthy.

"My theory is they figured Congress would stick at least another one in at some point. Why spend that half a billion dollars in the budget when you know they are going to put it in later?" said Bryan McGrath, deputy director for the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute. "Instead, they took half a billion dollars and spread it around to higher priorities."

But the White House intervened on the same day Stackley testified and the service clarified that it would instead request two LCS hulls. It sent an official budget amendment to Congress in late June.

McGrath says the sudden shift likely came down to President Trump's promise to vastly increase the size of the Navy during and after the campaign. Alabama is a deep red state that went big for Trump, and Wisconsin flipped Republican to seal his victory.

"When it went over [to Congress] as one ship, I think the Alabama and Wisconsin delegations and lobbyists went nuts and reminded the political side of the White House what the president's promises were and got a very short-noticed order to go over to the Department of Defense to fund that second LCS," McGrath said.
Of course, you know where 'ole Sal stands. Chris and Bryan are correct - but the Front Porch is still waiting for all the free beer people owe us.
Taxpayer watchdog groups such as the Project on Government Oversight also see the ship as a boondoggle and a "big waste" of taxpayer money that is best avoided.

"When congressmen are making the industrial base argument for the LCS, they're basically telling us that the ship does not fit any real combat function," said Dan Grazier, a Jack Shanahan fellow at POGO. "They're basically giving up the ghost that the LCS isn't worth anything except as a practice venue for the shipbuilders."
Hat tip Bryan.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

How do we get to 355 ships, on Midrats with Will Beasley.

Everyone seems to have a plan to get to 355 ships as the new President desires. Most plans include new construction, digging in the mothball fleet, extending service life of existing ships, and even some of the exotic options such as license building foreign designs. Most plans include a mix of some or all of them.

The political and strategic foundations need to be put in place to support it - and a new SECNAV in place to push it - but that has not stopped the ideas from flowing.

To review the options being discussed, we have a returning guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern, William M. Beasley, Jr.

Will is an associate attorney with Phelps Dunbar, LLP in Mississippi. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Mississippi with a BA and MA in history where his research focused on naval history. Mr. Beasley earned his JD from the University of Mississippi School of Law, where he served on the editorial board of the Mississippi Law Journal. Prior to joining Phelps Dunbar, Mr. Beasley worked as a research consultant on legal and international security issues with the Potomac Institute in Arlington, Virginia. His work on naval history and maritime security has appeared in Proceedings, at The Strategy Bridge, and USNI Blog. Mr. Beasley's views do not reflect those of Phelps Dunbar or its clients and should not be construed as legal advice. Follow him on Twitter @MSNavalist.

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