Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Ship's Maintenance and Shooting up the Horse

Are we proud of unnecessary short-term "make-it-happenism" that is contributing to an underlying failure of our primary jobs?

I'm pondering that question in light of the FITZGERALD and MCCAIN incidents over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

What Poland Sees

John Schindler has a good read over at focusing on Poland's efforts to increase here ability to defend herself - and as a byproduct, NATO and the West.
This spring, NATO finally came through, following years of pleading from Warsaw, and deployed 1,100 troops in northeast Poland. Some 900 of those troops are American, and this NATO battalion group, which is based 35 miles south of Kaliningrad, is merely a tripwire. They would be quickly flattened by Russian tanks if war breaks out, but they guarantee Poland will not be fighting alone.

That fear is widespread in Poland and is no surprise given the country’s painful history of abandonment by unreliable Western allies. No NATO country has taken the threat of a resurgent Russia more seriously.
Warsaw is one of the few NATO countries to spend the “required” minimum of two percent of GDP on defense (the others, aside from America, are Britain, Estonia and Greece).
This paragraph stands out - and should put Germans to shame;
Increased funding has been put to good use, and the Polish military is in the middle of an extensive defense modernization program that will run through 2022. For the army, the largest of Poland’s armed services, this means hundreds of new armored vehicles, including modernized Leopard II tanks and cutting-edge artillery systems. The army possesses three divisions and 13 maneuver brigades, making it one of the biggest land forces in NATO. To compare, the German army boasts two divisions with eight maneuver brigades (one of them half-French), even though Germany has more than twice Poland’s population and its GDP is four times as large.
The small Baltic republics, led by the always game and plucky Estonia, are coming online as well.

The key on the continent is Germany. She simply must stop picking her bellybutton and take her place as a bulwark against Russia. If she just spent her 2%, with or without the USA, Russia would be even more deterred than she is. When Germany moves, so will the other European nations.

Until then, BZ Poland.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Between Ukraine & the USA is Whom?

The conflict in Ukraine continues to drag on to the point that is has become part of the natsec background noise.

It is clear the Ukrainian people want to move towards the West. They no longer want to be in the Russian orbit. They have a lot to do in the civil society and rule of law department, but they are making slow progress in the right direction most of the time, and are at least trying the rest.

Still, it is not a nation at peace - and it is an European nation. Western European, former Warsaw Pact, and Soviet republics now in NATO have a greater combined population and GDP than the USA, and yes when it comes to Ukraine, we seem stuck here;
...Ukrainian soldiers have, throughout the past three years of relentless combat, frequently turned to symbols of America to both intimidate and annoy their enemies—sometimes, in eclectic and creative ways.

Ukrainian soldiers have raised U.S. flags over their front-line trenches and forts—typically to the retort of sniper or mortar fire from across no man’s land. Sometimes, to really get under the enemy’s skin, an English-speaking Ukrainian soldier will radio commands in English over unencrypted channels, pretending to be a member of SEAL Team Six.

At the front-line village of Krymske in 2015, just outside the separatist stronghold of Luhansk, Ukrainian troops renamed a street from that of a Soviet luminary to “John McCain Street.”

When Canadian journalist and filmmaker Christian Borys asked the soldiers when they were going to name a street after then-President Barack Obama, the soldiers replied, “When he sends us weapons.”

Since the war in the Donbas region began in April 2014, Russian propaganda has spun yarns about U.S. military forces actively participating in the war. Consequently, Ukrainian soldiers know that flaunting American military support for Ukraine is a potent psychological weapon against their enemies.

Any instance of U.S. military support for Ukraine is also a powerful morale booster for Ukrainian troops as they continue to grind out a 3-year-old war against a combined force of Russian troops and pro-Russian separatists.

“U.S. support lets the Ukrainians know the stronger guy is on their side,” Mamuka Mamulashvili, commander of the pro-Ukrainian Georgian National Legion, told The Daily Signal in an interview.

Now, after three years of war, Ukrainian troops may soon have at their disposal the one tangible affirmation of U.S. military support they’ve wanted the most—weapons.
Why not Europe? Well, I think the Ukrainians know their neighbors better than we do, and simply have little faith in them.

My heart continues to be on the side of the Ukrainians, and my head is mostly for supporting them with defensive arms as needed - but two things concern me.

1. Where are the Europeans? Yes, I know they are there a bit - but shouldn't they and not the USA be top of mind for the long term success of Ukraine's drift to the West?
2. Are we being careful enough? Is Ukraine worth risking war over? We need to be careful not only with what we do, but what the Ukrainians may do if they think they can fight for their nation using American blood at the front end.

It's a tough neighborhood; be careful out there.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Zeebrugge. If you have been there or to its inner city Brugges you know what a beautiful and peaceful place it is - as most all of Belgium is in 2008. 

In 1918 though, Belgium was a nightmarish slaughterhouse where the bodies of millions were blended into the beaten earth - where like Okinawa and Iwo Jima over a quarter century later - the living earth would move with a blanked mass of maggots.

In one of history's subtle hints she will give you early if you wish to listen, Britain found herself on the edge of starvation due to a threat few understood or even knew of at the beginning of the war - the submarine. Something new, unexpected and decisive needed to be done.
By 1918, the Great War had entered a decisive phase. While Russia had been knocked out of the war, its place had been taken by the United States, which now provided a fresh pool of manpower and industrial capacity to the Allied cause. The transfer of these resources however was threatened by the continuing war at sea and the U-Boat menace that also threatened Britain's link with the continent. The early advance by the German Army in 1914 had meant that the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge had been overrun and with the expansion of the port facilities, the Germans were in a position to threaten the very lifeline that supplied the Allied armies in France. The two ports were connected by a canal network with the city of Brugges that also gave access to the open sea. Brugges in turn, was connected to Germany by the railway network and partially completed U-Boats were shipped from Germany, to be finished at Brugges and then make their way to the open sea by means of the canal system. The canals formed a triangle and inside this, the Germans had built a series of airfields from which they conducted air raids on Britain and fortified the entire length of the coast with light and heavy artillery batteries. The Royal Navy did not attempt to bombard these ports until 12 May 1917 when it bombarded Zeebrugge in order to put the lock system out of action and used a smoke screen to hinder German observation. While the bombard failed in its task, the Germans stepped up defensive measures and as the war progressed, the front line drew ever closer to Ostend, bringing it within range of the Royal Marine heavy howitzer battery in France, forcing the Germans to transfer many of its facilities to Zeebrugge.

One of the objectives for the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) was the expulsion of the Germans from Flanders and to capture the ports of Zeebrugge and Ostend. The battle however failed to achieve the intended breakthrough and so any attempt to expel the Germans from these ports or to deny them the use of these facilities meant that any future attempt would have to made from the sea. The mounting losses in the war at sea caused the Royal Navy to look at the problem. A suggestion by Admiral Keyes that the ports might be blocked by sinking a ship in the entrance was initially rejected but as the war dragged on, the Royal Navy returned to the idea and it was decided that it might be done with the use of several ships, although the exact position would have to be chosen with care so that it would not be possible to get around the ships or to dredge around them to create additional channels and their bottoms would have to be blown to sink them as quickly as possible and prevent drifting.
So, as it is often done in this line of work, the word went out. Volunteer for a mission you have no idea about - odds are you won't come back. You will be trained quickly, sloppily with a pick-up team. You execute.
As the ships were approaching the entrance to the port, some protection would be afforded (in the case of Zeebrugge) by the Mole, which extended in an arc across the entrance to the channel. It was over a mile in length and some 100 yards wide, having extensive storage facilities and hangers for seaplanes. A railway connected the Mole to the shore and was used to transfer men, equipment and stores. As the planning for the operation got underway, a special Royal Marine battalion (mainly volunteer) was formed in February 1918 to eliminate the battery that was situated at the end of the Mole and would threaten the block ships as they approached the canal. Lt Col F E Chichester was appointed to command the battalion but was succeeded by Major B N Elliott. The battalion consisted of a headquarters, a machinegun section, a mortar section, three rifle companies and medical support staff. The troops were to be conveyed to Zeebrugge in HMS Vindictive, assisted by the Iris and the Daffodil, two Mersey ferry boats that had been provided for this operation. Once they had reached Zeebrugge, Daffodil was to push Vindictive against the Mole until she could be secured and disembark the troops. The ships were modified for this task. Special ramps were fitted to Vindictive so that the storming parties could reach the Mole, while Iris and Daffodil had been fitted with ladders to that their parties could climb up onto the Mole. Vindictive was strengthened and armoured against the storm of fire she would receive and additional armament fitted so she could support the troops as the moved onto the Mole.

By April 1918, the preparations for the raid had been completed, the men trained for their tasks and the shipping collected for the operation. Three block ships were to be sunk in the Zeebrugge canal entrance, HMS Thetis, HMS Intrepid and HMS Iphegenia. The first time the force sailed, 11 April 1918, the weather conditions changed as they neared Zeebrugge, which forced a postponement, but on the eve of St George's Day, 22 April 1918 the force sailed and during the passage, Admiral Keyes signalled "St George for England". Commander Carpenter on the Vindictive replied, "May we give the dragon's tail a damned good twist." By 23.20 on 22 April, the monitors had opened fire on Zeebrugge. Twenty minutes later, the motor launches that had accompanied the force began to make the smoke screen. One minute after midnight, St George's Day, Vindictive arrived alongside the Mole after which Daffodil arrived alongside her to push her against the Mole. By this point the smoke screen had begun to lift and the defensive fire was intense. In the approach to the Mole, many of the ramps fitted to Vindictive were damaged and only two could be used to allow the storming parties to disembark on the Mole. The ladders fitted to Iris were damaged as well and so the troops had to transfer to Vindictive to land. Once on top of the Mole, they had to endure intense German machinegun fire in order to get to the battery and while they failed to knock it out, they prevented it from firing on the blocking ships and so succeeded in their mission, something for which they suffered heavy casualties for.

The distraction caused by the motor launches and Royal Marines enabled the block ships to approach the canal entrance without too much difficulty. Thetis ran into problems when one of its propellers got caught in a net, forcing her to collide with the bank. She had to be sunk some distance from the entrance but performed admirable work in helping to direct the remaining two ships into the canal entrance itself. Both Intrepid and Iphigenia were able to be sunk in the correct positions, thus blocking the canal. Two submarines, C1 and C3 were packed with explosives and rammed into the viaduct, demolishing it, thus isolating the Mole from the shore. The crews from the submarines and the block ships were picked up by the motor launches despite heavy fire from the German batteries. By 00.50 on 23 April the recall had sounded and by 01.00 the survivors were all aboard. A quarter of an hour later, Vindictive had cleared the protection of the Mole and was undergoing intensive fire from the Germans but managed to come through it. The raid on Ostend at the same time proved to be a failure but another attempt was tried the next month and Vindictive was used as a block ship in that operation. The Royal Marines had been on the Mole for just an hour and the force had displayed such courage and devotion to duty that it gave great encouragement to the Allied forces at such a dark hour in the war. The 4th Royal Marine Battalion was awarded two Victoria Crosses with another six being awarded for the action at Zeebrugge and three being awarded for the actions at Ostend. At Deal, on 26 April 1918, a ballot was held as to who should receive the awards, with Captain Bamford and Sergeant Finch winning. In order that the gallantry of the battalion would be remembered, it was decided that no other marine battalion should be named the 4th.
In a day where entire nations ponder abandoning the battle against an existential threat to their very existence due to a number of casualties suffered at Zeebrugge in a matter of minutes, it can make you wonder if we can even try to understand what these men did and why. We can try. That is what the study of history is. That is why what we have done to the study of history from elementary school through college and as adults is a crime in itself and a shame on our culture.

And in the end;
Much was made of the raid. Keyes was knighted, and 11 Victoria Crosses were awarded. The Germans, however, made a new channel round the two ships, and within two days their submarines were able to transit Zeebrugge. Destroyers were able to do so by mid-May.
Did it make a difference? Of course it did. Did the pundits of the day nit-pic it to death? No, they understood that war from the Strategic to the Tactical is a dark room you step in to. No, it has only been nit-pic'd once the pundits were safely behind the wall of freedom that those who bled built.

First posted NOV08.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

SECNAV Spencer's First Crisis, and Opportunity

As we look to the latest rash of incidents and firings in WESTPAC, it is really just another chapter in a long story.

I don't think anyone thinks we can fire ourselves out of it - is it an opportunity to change some cultural problems and perverse incentives that have led us here?

Over at USNIBlog, I'm discussing how some of the new SECNAV's stated preferences may point to a chance for positive change.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The WESTPAC Four of 2017

I had a great conversation with Hope Hodge Seck earlier this week on the challenges we are having in WESTPAC. 

I'm in good company with others in her article, and you really should read the whole thing.

Here are a few of my comments;
"I'm disappointed in a few people who are using this as as a reason that we need a bigger Navy; that's tertiary," said another retired Navy officer and popular military blogger who goes by the pen name CDR Salamander. "We have a high op-tempo, but that's no excuse. This is a Vince Lombardi Navy: 'See that ship? Don't let another ship hit it.'" Lombardi was a famous football player and coach.
Salamander recalled the 2007 incident when the destroyer USS Arleigh Burke ran aground at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay in daylight because the navigational system had an input error and no one had looked out the window to confirm the ship's position.

"There's no bad computer bad radar that's going to substitute for you not looking out the bloody window," he said.
In addition to the challenge of green crews, Salamander said he believes "perverse career incentives" to get command tours elsewhere can result in fewer and shorter at-sea periods for surface warfare officers.

And while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has said the Navy's new review of practices will include external input from other military services and industry, Salamander suggested looking to the navies of other nations, including the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, which also sail around the globe but appear to maintain lower major mishap rates than the U.S. Navy does.

Internationally, he said, some ships give a wide berth to U.S. Navy vessels, which are developing a reputation for sloppy sailing that is only validated by recent mishaps.

"This would require a culture change, a career change, a training change," Salamander said. "It would require us to take a deep breath and say, 'We may be the world's largest Navy, but we are not the best Navy.'"
The last part is hard to say, but I've spent way too much time over way too many beers with officers from other navies having blunt conversations - not to mention what I've seen myself - not to say it.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

We're taking the 2nd ausfahrt prior to the Friendship Bridge, it seems

President Obama outlined his policy towards Afghanistan in his disastrous December 2009 West Point speech that I covered here at the time. 

For the better part of eight years since I’ve outlined the absolutely wrong-headed nature of this approach to AFG; you can read some of that archive here. In four months less time than his predecessor, yesterday President Trump outlined his plan. A little of the pre-Obama concepts, but adjusted given the realities of today.

If, like me, you have style, substance, or personal reasons not to enjoy listening to President Trump speak, then ignore the video embedded below. Instead, read the transcript in full. Ignore the selective pull quotes, inaccurate opinionating, or bitter political posturing by his perma-opponents who would say Trump was wrong if he said puppy noses were cute – read it yourself.

I’ll bring out some pull quotes of interest in a moment, but here’s the Executive Summary: two of the best military minds of their generation, National Security Adviser McMaster and Secretary of Defense Mattis, helped develop a plan that they believe gives us a chance to salvage something in Afghanistan after seven years of dithering. Not a perfect plan, but a doable one. I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and fully support it. The major reason is that it returns to something I have written about for well over a decade, Conditions Based Planning, and throws away what remains of the Obama Administration's bollocked-up Calendar Based Planning.

Read it all, but here are the significant points.
…nearly 16 years after the Sept. 11 attacks, after the extraordinary sacrifice of blood and treasure, the American people are weary of war without victory. Nowhere is this more evident than with the war in Afghanistan, the longest war in American history, 17 years.

I share the American people’s frustration. I also share their frustration over a foreign policy that has spent too much time, energy, money — and most importantly, lives — trying to rebuild countries in our own image instead of pursuing our security interests above all other considerations.

That is why shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia. My original instinct was to pull out. And historically, I like following my instincts.

But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office,
Once you get behind the door, the perspective changes. Once you have some of the best minds in the country define the 2nd and 3rd order effects of a decision, you can quickly come to a different conclusion. That is one reason Obama never fully did what he wanted to do in his DEC 09 West Point speech, and this is why Trump is changing his mind too.
I arrived at three fundamental conclusion about America’s core interests in Afghanistan. First, our nation must seek an honorable and enduring outcome worthy of the tremendous sacrifices that have been made, especially the sacrifices of lives.

Second, the consequences of a rapid exit are both predictable and unacceptable. 9/11, the worst terrorist attack in our history, was planned and directed from Afghanistan because that country was ruled by a government that gave comfort and shelter to terrorists.

A hasty withdrawal would create a vacuum for terrorists, including ISIS and Al Qaeda, would instantly fill just as happened before Sept. 11. And as we know, in 2011, America hastily and mistakenly withdrew from Iraq. As a result, our hard-won gains slipped back into the hands of terrorist enemies. …

Third, and finally, I concluded that the security threats we face in Afghanistan and the broader region are immense.
In some ways, we are roughly right where Osama wanted us – involved in a long term war on the ground in Afghanistan – but the circumstances are different than what he and we thought in 2001. 

It is also 2017 now. We are where we are. The key is how to make the best of it.

This is the most important part of the speech;
But to prosecute this war, we will learn from history. As a result of our comprehensive review, American strategy in Afghanistan and South Asia will change dramatically in the following ways.

A core pillar of our new strategy is a shift from a time-based approach to one based on conditions. I’ve said it many times how counterproductive it is for the United States to announce in advance the dates we intend to begin or end military options.

We will not talk about numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities. Conditions on the ground, not arbitrary timetables, will guide our strategy from now on.
That is where Trump went Salamander. We are back to Conditions Based Planning – what military best practices tells us is the best path to success.
Another fundamental pillar of our new strategy is the integration of all instruments of American power — diplomatic, economic, and military — toward a successful outcome. Someday, after an effective military effort, perhaps it will be possible to have a political settlement that includes elements of the Taliban in Afghanistan. But nobody knows if or when that will ever happen.
Did you get that? All the traditional levers of national power. This is not just a military way forward. We are also willing to come to accommodation with SOME of the Taliban elements. Good to open that door.
Ultimately, it is up to the people of Afghanistan to take ownership of their future, to govern their society and to achieve an everlasting peace. We are a partner and a friend, but we will not dictate to the Afghan people how to live or how to govern their own complex society. We are not nation-building again. We are killing terrorists.
That is “no” to nation building as the conceit of the Bonn Agreement begat, and accepts that Afghanistan will have to order its affairs on Afghan terms. Not nice from our perspective, but what works for them.

Now for what I see as the largest risk in this new direction; the India card vs. Pakistan.
The next pillar of our new strategy is to change the approach in how to deal with Pakistan. We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organizations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.

It is time for Pakistan to demonstrate its commitment to civilization, order and to peace.

Another critical part of the South Asia strategy for America is to further develop its strategic partnership with India, the world’s largest democracy and a key security and economic partner of the United States. We appreciate India’s important contributions to stability in Afghanistan, but India makes billions of dollars in trade with the United States, and we want them to help us more with Afghanistan, especially in the area of economic assistance and development.
You can never have a more than 5-min conversation with a Pakistani officer without India coming up. Pakistan has always played both sides in AFG, so they've used up too much capital to stop us from pulling that card. India is a more natural ally for the USA anyway. This is a risky play, but probably the right one in the overall game. I wouldn't have recommended going that hard in the open, but not my job.

So, we have our next phase in Afghanistan. This is a good plan, and given everything, probably the best to be expected.

I’ve called during the time of calendar based dithering that we would probably be best to just go home and hope for the best. That was because with a calendar based plan, defeat is inevitable; it is only the timing and method that is in question. This plan gives of a chance to salvage something.

For those looking for End States, Objectives, Decisive Points, Criteria for Success, etc – this isn’t the venue for that. This speech gives us approximately the Commander’s Intent and Initiating Directive. The Operational Planners can build a plan off that, and are.

Monday, August 21, 2017

... and Now the McCain

Unless you went to bed last night early, you should be aware that we've had another collision in WESTPAC;
The destroyer John S. McCain arrived at Changi Naval Base in Singapore mid-afternoon Monday after a harrowing collision with a commercial tanker that has left 10 crew-members missing and five others wounded.

It is the second major collision involving a U.S. Navy warship attached to U.S. 7th Fleet in recent months, following the June 17 collision involving the destroyer Fitzgerald off the coast of Japan, in which seven sailors died.

Four sailors with non-life threatening injuries were evacuated off the destroyer John S. McCain earlier to a hospital in Singapore Monday morning, according to 7th Fleet officials.
As we still wait for the details of what happened with the FITZ, and we need to wait for the results of MCCAIN as well, we really don't know if we keep rolling snake eyes in WESTPAC or if there is some common thread that is worth pulling.

If for no other reason than respect for the families of the dead and still missing, everyone should be careful with too much speculation - there is already a lot of that out there - but that shouldn't stop people from opening their minds to find out what is happening in their Navy.

Let's look at the major surface combatants forward deployed to Japan;

USS Antietam (CG 54)
USS Shiloh (CG 67)
USS Chancellorsville (CG 62)

USS Barry (DDG 52)
USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54)
USS John S. McCain (DDG 56)
USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62)
USS Stethem (DDG 63)
USS Benfold (DDG 65)
USS McCampbell (DDG 85)
USS Mustin (DDG 89)

Just this year:
- FEB, USS Antietam ran aground.
- JUN, USS Fitzgerald collided with a merchant off Japan.
- AUG, USS John S. McCain collided with a merchant off Singapore.

In May, San Diego based USS Lake Champlain (CG 57) ran over a S. Korean fishing vessel.

Our Navy is good at getting to the cause of these things. I hope that somewhere the chain of events that led to these four incidents are put up on the white-board dug in to.

I'm not a believer in this much "luck."

Friday, August 18, 2017

Fullbore Friday

There can be only one FbF today, nothing else comes close.

The supplemental preliminary inquiry into the collision involving the USS FITZGERALD (DDG 62) and the ACX CRYSTAL from 17 JUN of this year is out.

The report is dated 11 AUG 17. You can get it from the SECNAV's site here, or read the whole thing posted below.

I wanted to pull one extended quote from it for your review. It really got hold of me, as it drove something home about the sea that Sailors know, but others don't; there is no normal day at sea. You are always one moment away from water, fire, steam, or flying shards of metal.

It also shows that on every ship, on every watch, there are Sailors who will be capable of exceptional bravery and sacrifice - the opportunity to demonstrate that character just hasn't come up yet. 

Even at sleep, the sea waits for her time.
Evacuating Berthing 2

21. Of the 42 Sailors assigned to Berthing 2, at the time of collision, five were on watch and two were not aboard. Of the 35 remaining Sailors in Berthing 2, 28 escaped the flooding. Seven Sailors perished.

22. Some of the Sailors who survived the flooding in Berthing 2 described a loud noise at the time of impact. Other Berthing 2 Sailors felt an unusual movement of the ship or were thrown from their racks. Still other Berthing 2 Sailors did not realize what had happened and remained in their racks. Some of them remained asleep. Some Sailors reported hearing alarms after the collision, while others remember hearing nothing at all.

23. Seconds after impact, Sailors in Berthing 2 started yelling “Water on deck!” and “Get out!” One Sailor saw another knocked out of his rack by water. Others began waking up shipmates who had slept through the initial impact. At least one Sailor had to be pulled from his rack and into the water before he woke up. Senior Sailors checked for others that might still be in their

24. The occupants of Berthing 2 described a rapidly flooding space, estimating later that the space was nearly flooded within a span of 30 to 60 seconds. By the time the third Sailor to leave arrived at the ladder, the water was already waist deep. Debris, including mattresses, furniture, an exercise bicycle, and wall lockers, floated into the aisles between racks in Berthing 2, impeding Sailors’ ability to get down from their racks and their ability to exit the space. The ship’s 5 to 7 degree list to starboard increased the difficulty for Sailors crossing the space fromthe starboard side to the port side. Many of the Sailors recall that the battle lanterns were illuminated. Battle lanterns turn on when power to an electrical circuit is out or when turned on manually. The yellow boxes hanging from the ceiling in Figure 14 are battle lanterns.

25. Sailors recall that after the initial shock, occupants lined up in a relatively calm and orderly manner to climb the port side ladder and exit through the port side watertight scuttle. Figure 14 provides an example of the route Sailors would have taken from their racks to the port side watertight scuttle on a ship of the same class as FITZGERALD. They moved along the blue floor and
turned left at the end to access the ladder. Figure 14 provides an example and sense of scale. Even though the Sailors were up to their necks in water by that point, they moved forward slowly and assisted each other. One Sailor reported that FC1 Rehm pushed him out from under a falling locker. Two of the Sailors who already escaped from the main part of Berthing 2 stayed at the bottom of
the ladder well (see Figure 8) in order to help their shipmates out of the berthing area.

26. The door to the Berthing 2 head (bathrooms and showers) was open and the flooding water dragged at least one person into this area. Exiting from the head during this flood of water was difficult and required climbing over debris.

27. As the last group of Sailors to escape through the port side watertight scuttle arrived at the bottom of the ladder, the water was up to their necks. The two Sailors who had been helping people from the bottom of the ladder were eventually forced to climb the ladder as water reached the very top of the Berthing 2 compartment. They continued to assist their shipmates as they climbed, but were eventually forced by the rising water to leave Berthing 2 through the watertight scuttle themselves. Before climbing the ladder, they looked through the water and did not see any other Sailors. Once through the watertight scuttle and completely out of the Berthing 2 space (on the landing outside Berthing 1) they continued to search, reaching into the dark water to try to find anyone they could. From the top of the ladder, these two Sailors were able to pull two other Sailors from the flooded compartment. Both of the rescued Sailors were completely underwater when they were pulled to safety.

28. The last Sailor to be pulled from Berthing 2 was in the bathroom at the time of the collision and a flood of water knocked him to the deck (floor). Lockers were floating past him and he scrambled across them towards the main berthing area. At one point he was pinned between the lockers and the ceiling of Berthing 2, but was able to reach for a pipe in the ceiling to pull himself free. He made his way to the only light he could see, which was coming from the port side watertight scuttle. He was swimming towards the watertight scuttle when he was pulled from the water, red-faced and with bloodshot eyes. He reported that when taking his final breath before being saved, he was already submerged and breathed in water.

29. After the last Sailor was pulled from Berthing 2, the two Sailors helping at the top of the port side watertight scuttle noticed water coming into the landing from Berthing 1. They remained in case any other Sailors came to the ladder. Again, one of the Sailors stuck his arms through the watertight scuttle and into the flooded space to try and find any other Sailors, even as
the area around him on the landing outside of Berthing 1 flooded. Berthing 1, with no watertight door between it and the landing, began to flood.

30. Another Sailor returned with a dogging wrench, a tool used to tighten the bolts, on the hatch to stave off flooding from the sides of the hatch. The three Sailors at the top of the ladder yelled into the water-filled space below in an attempt to determine if there was anyone still within Berthing 2. No shadows were seen moving and no response was given.

31. Water began shooting up and out of the watertight scuttle into the landing. Finding no other Sailors, they tried to close the watertight scuttle to stop the flood of water. The force of the water through the hatch prevented closing the watertight scuttle between Berthing 2 and Berthing 1. The scuttle was left partially open. They then climbed the ladder to the Main deck (one level
up from the Berthing 1 landing), and secured the hatch and scuttle between Berthing 1 and the Main deck. In total, 27 Sailors escaped Berthing 2 from the port side ladder.

32. One Sailor escaped via the starboard side of Berthing 2. After the collision, this Sailor tried to leave his rack, the top rack in the row nearest to the starboard access trunk, but inadvertently kicked someone, so he crawled back into his rack and waited until he thought everyone else would be out of the Berthing 2. When he jumped out of his rack a few seconds later, the water nearly reached his top bunk, already chest high and rising.

33. After leaving his rack, the Sailor struggled to reach the starboard egress point through the lounge area.

34. He moved through the lounge furniture and against the incoming sea. Someone said “go, go, go, it’s blocked,” but he was already underwater. He was losing his breath under the water but found a small pocket of air. After a few breaths in the small air pocket, he eventually took one final breath and swam. He lost consciousness at this time and does not remember how he escaped from Berthing 2, but he ultimately emerged from the flooding into Berthing 1, where he could stand to his feet and breathe. He climbed Berthing 1’s egress ladder, through Berthing 1’s open watertight scuttle and collapsed on the Main Deck. He was the only Sailor to escape
through the starboard egress point.

35. The flooding of Berthing 2 resulted in the deaths of seven FITZGERALD Sailors. The racks of these seven Sailors were located in Rows 3 and 4, the area closest to the starboard access trunk and egress point and directly in the path of the onrushing water, as depicted in Figure 15.

36. After escaping Berthing 2, Sailors went to various locations. Some assembled on the mess decks to treat any injuries and pass out food and water. Others went to their General Quarters (GQ) stations to assist with damage control efforts. Another Sailor went to the bridge to help with medical assistance. One Sailor later took the helm and stood a 15-hour watch in aft steering after power was lost forward.
As a side note, BZ to the main author of this report. Through their exceptional writing and narrative style, they have brought great honor to those Sailors on the FITZGERALD who died, lived, saved others, and fought to keep their ship afloat that night and following days.

"In the finest traditions of the naval service" is almost a cliche, but these men and women proved it that day. Fullbore.

I believe it does great credit to our Navy and its culture that we make these reports open to the public. I hope we are able to learn and incorporate as many damage control lessons as possible from this unfortunate incident so that in the future, other lives and ships may be saved.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Diversity Thursday

After the events of the last week can we, at least for the moment, agree that there are few things as corrosive, divisive, and play to the worst tendencies in the human mind than to break people in to sectarian groups based on race, creed, color, and national origin?

Cannot we agree that doing so does nothing but promote division and conflict? That when you encourage one group to do it, you open the door for all groups?

Especially for organizations that require unity to succeed, there can be no more wrong-headed idea than to encourage division?

Well, we have a problem at the Naval War College. Of all places, it has been infected with the same disease as Mizzou and Evergreen State College.

It is time for the second shoe to drop after the NWC DivThu at the end of last month.

From the top of NWC there is the promotion of division. This is just another example.
From: Jeffrey Harley RADM NAVWARCOL <[REDACTED]>
Date: August 9, 2017 at 16:49:38 EDT
To: _NWC Staff and Faculty <[REDACTED]>
Subject: All Female Faculty and Staff Call


I will be holding an all-female faculty and staff call on Thursday, 24 August, at 1200 in Spruance Auditorium. This is an opportunity for me to review recent College initiatives and some issues that have been identified.

I look forward to seeing all of our female faculty and staff at the call if you can make it!

jeff harley

Jeffrey Harley
Rear Admiral, USN
President, U.S. Naval War College
sipr: [REDACTED]
Do we even need to cover the wrongheadedness of patronizingly putting your female Shipmates in some segregated "safe-space?" If there are things that need to be known involving College initiatives and issues, then everyone needs to be in on the conversation in order to address those issues and move forward on these initiatives.

Shame on everyone involved. Our Navy is better than this - and our Navy deserves better than this.

At a time when our nation needs examples of unity, the Navy should show the way forward, not be some socio-political plaything, retrograding back to segregation. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

March of the Zombie Transformationalists

Thought the Transformationalists and their habits would have drifted in to the shadows in shame given the bitter fruits of their labors?

Well, you'd be wrong. I'm pointing a light on their resurrection over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and behold.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Black Swan Tuesday: The China-Indonesian War of 20XX

If history tells us anything, it is that nations often find themselves in conflicts that aren't so much unimaginable, as unlikely. These wars develop out of the ether and quickly gain their own momentum.

History also teaches us that rising powers can be the most unpredictable when they get in to conflict. As with all human institutions, the international community can get used to certain patterns and rhythms. 

Falling powers in graceful decline are often given too much weight and attention, while the rising powers start to probe and affect structures, habits, and mechanisms in ways they never had before.

China is such a growing power. She has economic, historical, and ethnic grievances that have always been there, but for most of modern history she has been too weak to do anything about them.

Over at FP, Sebastian Strangio sets out a scenario for conflict China and Indonesia that had me nodding my head saying, "You know what, he's on to something."

Why Indonesia?
Indonesians of Chinese descent, who make up around 1.2 percent of the population and are traditionally one of the country’s most prosperous groups, dangerously vulnerable — and might magnify local tensions into international clashes.

In May 1998, when Indonesia’s dictator Suharto fell from power after 31 years, much of the popular anger was directed at Jakarta’s small but wealthy ethnic Chinese community. More than 1,000 people were killed in the riots, many of them Chinese; dozens of Chinese women and girls were raped. The Chinese were targeted on the assumption that they had grown fat from Suharto’s rule, even though many of the victims were small-scale traders.
As the author does again in his article, for years I have read Indonesian ethnic Chinese described as, "Indonesia's Jews" - and given the history of anti-Chinese pogroms, the comparison is not all that inaccurate.
“They are seen as a people apart,” he said, “and in their pursuit of commerce often become the victims of periodic bloodletting — pogroms, if you like.”

It is a pattern that dates to the beginning of Dutch rule in the 17th century, when Chinese merchants were granted a preferential role and helped develop Batavia (today’s Jakarta) into a flourishing entrepôt, prompting occasional eruptions of violence from other locals. These prejudices persisted after independence, and Chinese were singled out during the 1965-1966 anti-communist bloodshed that preceded Suharto’s takeover. At the time, they were seen as fifth-columnists for Communist China, then in the midst of exporting revolution throughout Southeast Asia. Since then, anti-Chinese rhetoric has tended to go hand in hand with paranoid imaginings of a renascent communism.
Though the Chinese reaction was muted in 1998, a far more powerful Beijing is unlikely to take such a hands-off position today. In 2006, when anti-Chinese violence tore through Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, Beijing responded immediately by evacuating 312 ethnic Chinese residents by air. The episode received extensive coverage in Chinese state media, which declared that “the government attaches great importance to the security and rights of the overseas Chinese.” Though it is hard to say just what Beijing’s reaction would be in Indonesia, Vatikiotis said that “there is every indication” that Beijing is watching closely, and would be “willing to do something to help its fellow Chinese.”
Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim nation, and is becoming more and more radicalized each year. The Chinese are mostly Christian. Combine ethic and religious differences in one package, and, well, history tells us much about that as well.

There is no land border between China & Indonesia. If China did want to do anything she would need a significant navy. That navy would need air-cover from carriers. 

Oh, and the SLOC from China to the south? They go right through the disputed South China Sea.

If you haven't already, you may want to catch up on a topic I covered back in Feb. of this year; the 500 Ship Navy ... the Chinese 500 Ship Navy.

We live in interesting times.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Neptune's Empty Throne

The slide down from denouement can be exhausting. 

It's been nine months after the surprise election where navalists regardless of their political leanings were suddenly juiced by a President Elect who ran on a 350 ship Navy. With time though, the adrenaline is leaving the blood, the keg is empty, and everyone is wandering around trying to find their favorite hat they let some girl wear about 3am.

Time to sober up.

It takes more than just the right people with the right desire to grow the fleet. There has to be the money, political sponsorship, and an effective process and structure to make it happen.

With the calm and light of time, the reality is setting in that things may be more difficult.

Over at War on the Rocks, Bryan McGrath back in 2014 had a bucket of cold reality for everyone to ponder then, and not that much has changed three years later.

To get to where we want to go, we may need to change the structure that is supposed to help get us there if and after the money shows up. What we have right now? It may support something, but building the effective fleet the nation requires may not be it. The names may have changed, but the process hasn't;
...whose job is it to describe the Navy we need, rather than the Navy we can afford? Is it Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert? Maybe in days gone by, but the Goldwater-Nichols Act did a fine job of removing any incentive for service chiefs to advocate for their own service’s particular contributions. Chiefs of Naval Operations of late tend to do their yeoman best to build and maintain navies that are affordable. Is it Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus? Perhaps, but any SECNAV who advocated for a Navy that exceeded the controls passed to it by the OSD Comptroller would find him or herself in hot water with the Secretary of Defense, if that person did not agree and could/would not provide top cover. Maybe then, it is the Secretary of Defense. A secretary with gravitas could sit down with the president and the Director of OMB and argue for greater resources for DoD, if he felt that the Navy we needed greatly exceeded the Navy we can afford.

The point of all of this is that we have created a system in which it is very difficult for any individual with authority to do or say anything effective to address the mismatch between the Navy this country needs and the Navy it currently claims to be able to afford. Worse yet, there are penalties to be paid for doing so. The one individual with the mandate to do so is the president, ....  
The U.S. Navy is to some extent, a victim of its own success. It consistently provides presidents with flexible options for response and it rarely has to say, “No, we cannot do that.” Unless a president comes into office with the idea that the nation must begin to prepare for the rigors of great power competition again, the Navy will appear sufficiently sized to meet the requirements of crisis response, for these are the requirements against which its size and capabilities are resourced. And since there is no bureaucratic incentive for anyone within the chain of command to advocate for such preparation in the absence of presidential leadership, we may unfortunately someday find ourselves with a navy we can afford, but not the one we need.
Is the new president and his team, pulled in all directions and yet to be fully staffed, really able to invest the time and political capital to push for a larger fleet? When you look at the rack-and-stack of what they must invest their time and effort in - from Korea to Syria - Iraq to Afghanistan - and more ... who will lead the push and get noticed above the ambient noise?

Sunday, August 13, 2017

NGO's and Migrants in the Med - on Midrats

What role are Non-Governmental Organization (NGOs) playing in the ongoing crisis in the Mediterranean Sea as wave after of wave of people try to make the passage to Europe?

Are they doing good? Are they filling a gap of lawlessness caused by government inaction, or increasing the problem?

What are the motivations and goals of governments, international organizations, traditional NGOs, and new players on the scene?

To discuss these question and related issues they raised in their two part series at War On the Rocks and CIMSEC from 5-6pm Eastern will be returning guests Claude Berube and Chris Rawley.

Claude is the director of the Naval Academy Museum and a Lieutenant Commander in the Naval Reserve. He is the author of the Connor Stark novels – THE ADEN EFFECT (Naval Institute Press, September 2012) and SYREN'S SONG (Naval Institute Press, November 2015.) He earned his B.A. in History and Soviet Studies, his M.A. in History from Northeastern University, and his M.A. in National Security Studies from the Naval War College. He is currently writing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds on Andrew Jackson’s Navy.

Chris is a Captain in the Naval Reserve where he is the commanding officer of a reserve unit focusing on building partnerships to enhance maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. He is also founder and CEO of the agriculture investing company, Harvest Returns, and serves on the board of directors of the Center for International Maritime Security.

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, August 11, 2017

Fullbore Friday

There are some who do a small thing of good and will tell you about it over and over. With time, they embellish it – always to their gain.

There are other who do a great good and tell no one about it, or if they do, downplay their part as a small role or – if anything – feel what whatever they did was simply not enough and prefer to move on to other topics.

One are small men, the others giants.

A couple of years ago a giant passed at a great age of 106. His story should humble all mortal beings who think they have accomplished great things.

I give you Sir Nicholas Winton.

Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised the rescue of 669 children destined for Nazi concentration camps, has died aged 106.

Sir Nicholas, then a stockbroker, arranged for trains to carry Jewish children out of occupied Prague.
The prime minister described him as a "great man" and the chief rabbi praised his "exceptional courage".

He died on the anniversary of the departure of a train in 1939 carrying the largest number of children - 241.
60-minutes did a good overview of a great man.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Diversity Thursday

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not comment on the Google Diversity Memo for this week's DivThu, and yes - I'm late. Here's why.

I actually had about 1,000 or so words commenting in a Fisking kind of way, but I simply did not think it added anything to the conversation. so I deleted it. 

If anything, I'm in rough alignment with Debra Soh, so you can read her.

Before you do that though, humor me a bit. 

So much of what has been written about the memo this week is just plain wrong. People are emoting and not thinking; being political and not critical thinkers - all my usual bugaboos. My readers are a smart, independent group of people, so I'm going to ask you to just read the memo in full yourself. Once you do, you'll see all the posturing, signaling, and quasi-libel that otherwise smart people have been engaged in about the memo.

Read it, then see the interview with the author below the memo. Let the man speak for himself.

The text of the post was reproduced in full by gizmodo and I'm going to reproduce that version here with the minor formatting modifications made and the two charts and several hyperlinks removed.

Here you go.

Reply to public response and misrepresentation

I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber. Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired. This needs to change. 


  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

Background [1]

People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.[2] Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. What follows is by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.

Google’s biases

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

Left Biases

  • Compassion for the weak
  • Disparities are due to injustices
  • Humans are inherently cooperative
  • Change is good (unstable)
  • Open
  • Idealist

Right Biases

  • Respect for the strong/authority
  • Disparities are natural and just
  • Humans are inherently competitive
  • Change is dangerous (stable)
  • Closed
  • Pragmatic
Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.
Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech [3]

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.
On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:
  • They’re universal across human cultures
  • They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  • Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
  • The underlying traits are highly heritable
  • They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective
Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

Personality differences

Women, on average, have more:
  • Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
  • These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
  • Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
  • This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
  • Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.
Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that “greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits.” Because as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality becomes wider.” We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.

Men’s higher drive for status

We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.
Status is the primary metric that men are judged on[4], pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.

Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap

Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women’s representation in tech and without resorting to discrimination. Google is already making strides in many of these areas, but I think it’s still instructive to list them:
  • Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things
  • We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).
  • Women on average are more cooperative
  • Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive. Recent updates to Perf may be doing this to an extent, but maybe there’s more we can do. This doesn’t mean that we should remove all competitiveness from Google. Competitiveness and self reliance can be valuable traits and we shouldn’t necessarily disadvantage those that have them, like what’s been done in education. Women on average are more prone to anxiety. Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits.
  • Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
  • Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in tech.
  • The male gender role is currently inflexible
  • Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.
Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principles reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that. For example currently those trying to work extra hours or take extra stress will inevitably get ahead and if we try to change that too much, it may have disastrous consequences. Also, when considering the costs and benefits, we should keep in mind that Google’s funding is finite so its allocation is more zero-sum than is generally acknowledged.

The Harm of Google’s biases

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more. However, to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices:
  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race [5]
  • A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
  • Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate
  • Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)
  • Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination [6]
These practices are based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions. We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology[7] that can irreparably harm Google.

Why we’re blind

We all have biases and use motivated reasoning to dismiss ideas that run counter to our internal values. Just as some on the Right deny science that runs counter to the “God > humans > environment” hierarchy (e.g., evolution and climate change) the Left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ[8] and sex differences). Thankfully, climate scientists and evolutionary biologists generally aren’t on the right. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of humanities and social scientists learn left (about 95%), which creates enormous confirmation bias, changes what’s being studied, and maintains myths like social constructionism and the gender wage gap[9]. Google’s left leaning makes us blind to this bias and uncritical of its results, which we’re using to justify highly politicized programs.
In addition to the Left’s affinity for those it sees as weak, humans are generally biased towards protecting females. As mentioned before, this likely evolved because males are biologically disposable and because women are generally more cooperative and areeable than men. We have extensive government and Google programs, fields of study, and legal and social norms to protect women, but when a man complains about a gender issue issue [sic] affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and whiner[10]. Nearly every difference between men and women is interpreted as a form of women’s oppression. As with many things in life, gender differences are often a case of “grass being greener on the other side”; unfortunately, taxpayer and Google money is spent to water only one side of the lawn.
The same compassion for those seen as weak creates political correctness[11], which constrains discourse and is complacent to the extremely sensitive PC-authoritarians that use violence and shaming to advance their cause. While Google hasn’t harbored the violent leftists protests that we’re seeing at universities, the frequent shaming in TGIF and in our culture has created the same silence, psychologically unsafe environment.


I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).
My concrete suggestions are to:

De-moralize diversity.

  • As soon as we start to moralize an issue, we stop thinking about it in terms of costs and benefits, dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the “victims.”

Stop alienating conservatives.

  • Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.
  • In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.
  • Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is require for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.

Confront Google’s biases.

  • I’ve mostly concentrated on how our biases cloud our thinking about diversity and inclusion, but our moral biases are farther reaching than that.
  • I would start by breaking down Googlegeist scores by political orientation and personality to give a fuller picture into how our biases are affecting our culture.

Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races.

  • These discriminatory practices are both unfair and divisive. Instead focus on some of the non-discriminatory practices I outlined.

Have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs.

  • Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.
  • There’s currently very little transparency into the extend of our diversity programs which keeps it immune to criticism from those outside its ideological echo chamber.
  • These programs are highly politicized which further alienates non-progressives.
  • I realize that some of our programs may be precautions against government accusations of discrimination, but that can easily backfire since they incentivize illegal discrimination.

Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity.

  • We should focus on psychological safety, which has shown positive effects and should (hopefully) not lead to unfair discrimination.
  • We need psychological safety and shared values to gain the benefits of diversity
  • Having representative viewpoints is important for those designing and testing our products, but the benefits are less clear for those more removed from UX.

De-emphasize empathy.

  • I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

Prioritize intention.

  • Our focus on microaggressions and other unintentional transgressions increases our sensitivity, which is not universally positive: sensitivity increases both our tendency to take offense and our self censorship, leading to authoritarian policies. Speaking up without the fear of being harshly judged is central to psychological safety, but these practices can remove that safety by judging unintentional transgressions.
  • Microaggression training incorrectly and dangerously equates speech with violence and isn’t backed by evidence.

Be open about the science of human nature.

  • Once we acknowledge that not all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination, we open our eyes to a more accurate view of the human condition which is necessary if we actually want to solve problems.

Reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees.

  • We haven’t been able to measure any effect of our Unconscious Bias training and it has the potential for overcorrecting or backlash, especially if made mandatory.
  • Some of the suggested methods of the current training (v2.3) are likely useful, but the political bias of the presentation is clear from the factual inaccuracies and the examples shown.
  • Spend more time on the many other types of biases besides stereotypes. Stereotypes are much more accurate and responsive to new information than the training suggests (I’m not advocating for using stereotypes, I [sic] just pointing out the factual inaccuracy of what’s said in the training).
[1] This document is mostly written from the perspective of Google’s Mountain View campus, I can’t speak about other offices or countries.
[2] Of course, I may be biased and only see evidence that supports my viewpoint. In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason. I’d be very happy to discuss any of the document further and provide more citations.
[3] Throughout the document, by “tech”, I mostly mean software engineering.
[4] For heterosexual romantic relationships, men are more strongly judged by status and women by beauty. Again, this has biological origins and is culturally universal.
[5] Stretch, BOLD, CSSI, Engineering Practicum (to an extent), and several other Google funded internal and external programs are for people with a certain gender or race.
[6] Instead set Googlegeist OKRs, potentially for certain demographics. We can increase representation at an org level by either making it a better environment for certain groups (which would be seen in survey scores) or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal and I’ve seen it done). Increased representation OKRs can incentivize the latter and create zero-sum struggles between orgs.
[7] Communism promised to be both morally and economically superior to capitalism, but every attempt became morally corrupt and an economic failure. As it became clear that the working class of the liberal democracies wasn’t going to overthrow their “capitalist oppressors,” the Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics. The core oppressor-oppressed dynamics remained, but now the oppressor is the “white, straight, cis-gendered patriarchy.”
[8] Ironically, IQ tests were initially championed by the Left when meritocracy meant helping the victims of the aristocracy.
[9] Yes, in a national aggregate, women have lower salaries than men for a variety of reasons. For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men. Considering women spend more money than men and that salary represents how much the employees sacrifices (e.g. more hours, stress, and danger), we really need to rethink our stereotypes around power.
[10] “The traditionalist system of gender does not deal well with the idea of men needing support. Men are expected to be strong, to not complain, and to deal with problems on their own. Men’s problems are more often seen as personal failings rather than victimhood,, due to our gendered idea of agency. This discourages men from bringing attention to their issues (whether individual or group-wide issues), for fear of being seen as whiners, complainers, or weak.”
[11] Political correctness is defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which makes it clear why it’s a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.