Sunday, July 15, 2018

How Small Ships Can Make a Big Navy Better, on Midrats

Building off our discussions from last week's Midrats, our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Lieutenant Joshua M. Roaf, USN to discuss part of the solution to improving the professional performance of our Surface Warfare Officers in what should be the core of their skillset; seamanship.

Using many of the issues he raised in a recent article co-authored with LT Adam Biggs, USN, Bring Back the Patrol Craft, we will explore the various advantages of returning balance to the fleet with an expansion of truly small surface combatants.

A native of Bennington, Vermont, LT Roaf graduated from Ithaca College, Ithaca NY in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry and earned his commission from Officer Candidate School in 2010.

Afloat, Lieutenant Roaf completed his division officer tours aboard USS REUBEN JAMES (FFG57) where he served as the Main Propulsion Officer and Electrical Officer and then aboard USS ANZIO (CG-68) as the Navigator and Executive Department Head. During his sea tours, he participated in numerous Multi-National exercises (RIMPAC 2011/12, CANADIAN TGEX, BOLD ALLIGATOR, JOINT WARRIOR) and completed two Western Pacific deployments.

Ashore, Lieutenant Roaf taught navigation, naval operations and leadership development through the North Carolina Piedmont Region Consortium (NCPR) Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC). Additionally, he earned his Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Toxicology degree from the UNC. In support of this degree, Lieutenant Roaf completed a joint internship at the Wright Paterson Air Force base in Dayton Ohio working with the Navy Medical Research Unit.

He is currently stationed at Surface Warfare Officer School in Newport RI, training to become a Department Head afloat.

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 13, 2018

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 JUL2011.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Hey ... about the German "Navy" ...

What happens when you just don't give a damn about your own defense and your alliance's defense?

Well, let's see what the last few years have done to the German Navy.
Germany's parliamentary commissioner for the armed forces has urged the navy to stop deploying frigates to NATO, EU and UN missions. Hans-Peter Bartels says the military simply doesn't have enough ships.
Didn't Admiral Mullen and others say that if we need extra ships, especially frigates, we can always get our allies to pitch in? About that "1,000 Ship Navy" ... 
In an interview published in the Sunday tabloid Bild am Sonntag, Bartels blamed bureaucracy and mismanagement for a lack of available frigates.

"The navy will soon run out of operational ships," the Social Democrat (SPD) politician told the paper.
Yes, I know, that hits a bit close to home, but ...
"There are too many administrative responsibilities, a lack of staff, and sometimes [ship repair] companies like to cling as long as possible to a given order," he warned.
Maybe they picked up some of our bad habits. I call this the SPRUANCE-PERRY Syndrome.
Bartels said the "retirement" of old German navy frigates was going according to plan, but was being hampered by delays in rolling out their replacements.

"Six out of 15 old frigates have been retired from service, but none of the new F125 frigates has been released to the navy," he said.
Good news is that if Germany does inject money in to its defense as a result of this week's NATO summit, then they hopefully will push much of that in to parts and maintenance to get their availability rates up, then build additional units.

We'll see ... but what a mess.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Alliances are Partnerships, not Quasi-Imperial Legions with Auxiliaries

Over on twitter, my timeline yesterday was filled with people collectively hugging each other over Claire Berlinski's Ode to Empire over at DailyBeast.

I encourage everyone to read it then come back.

OK, if your hot-take is, "yes, oh, yes, she is so right," take a deep breath. Walk around a bit. Take another deep breath, then come back. If you raised an eyebrow a few times or rolled your eyes, you're OK.

Now that everyone is back, let's jump in to it.

At first read, I found myself sympathizing with the emotion that Claire brought to her article, but then I started to see a few things that caused my head to tilt a bit and made a note to read it a second time. I'm a NATO guy - I have a great affection for what it has done and hopefully will do. But like anything else you love, you have to love it enough to point out and help it fix its shortcomings.

The second time through the soft-light filter drifted away and the gaps in many of her points broke out in sharp contrast. Here are the ones that had me saying under my breath, "Oh, come on Claire, aren't you being a little overwrought?"

I'm tempted to give the article a full-Fisking, but the paying gig calls and I like Claire too much to do that.
Modern Europe—liberal, democratic Europe—is a creation of the United States.
This global order is in many respects an empire—a Pax Americana—but it is far more humane (in Europe, at least) than the European empires that preceded it.
Wait ... Pax Americana outside Europe may not be as humane as the European empires in the New World, Africa, and Asia? Come on, that is a moral-relativistic cheap shot if I've ever seen one, and Eurocentric to a selfish degree at that.
Power is the only coin that matters.
Of course, but let's go back to POLMIL101. The levers of national power are Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic. We are talking about a military alliance, so it is good to focus on the "M" - but American global power and influence is a lot more than military. Having those on our side, our allies, increase their contribution to "M" does not diminish our power at all. If they do that, then we have more leverage in "D," "I," and "E." If they refuse to pull their fair share of "M" - then the support of the American people will further erode when it comes to us filling in the gap they created. When we shrug that burden off, then all D.I.M.E. will collapse for everyone.

The solution isn't for America to shut up and take it like a soyboi, but for people to do their fair share, as good friends and neighbors do.

The mindset is not all that different than the 25-yr old man still living at home because it is cheaper, easier, and lets him spend his money on wine, women, and song as opposed to being a responsible adult and fully contributing member of society.
The collapse of liberal democracy in Europe would represent the failure of our own ideals. The collapse of European security would mean the end of liberal democracy.
If the only thing holding together liberal democracy in Europe are an occupying American Army forever, then frankly the Europeans don't deserve it. If they lack agency of their own to the point they are content to be vassal states of the USA, then fine - they can send their gold reserves and 10% of all their tax revenue to:

COL Patrick N. Kaune, USA
c/o U.S. Army Garrison Fort Knox
125 Sixth Avenue
Bldg. 1110B room 226
Fort Knox, Kentucky 40121

Pat will make sure it is stored appropriately.

If not, then act like a full partner.
Today, neither Europe nor the United States are wealthy or powerful enough, alone, to sustain and expand liberal democracy in a world increasingly dominated by China, Russia, and anarchy. No European country alone, nor any of the American states alone, can maintain the liberal global order. A United Europe, however, and the United States, are together strong enough to sustain and expand the liberal tradition and democratic values. This is precisely why the enemies of liberal democracy are determined to drive a stake through our alliance.
This is correct and good. We are an alliance, kind of a Defenders of The Enlightenment Superfriends. As friends, who are super, one thing we should understand as a baseline requirement; everyone will carry their fair share of the burden. We will all, inside our national ways and means, contribute as individuals and collectively, to support the advancement of civilization though Diplomatic, Informational, Military and Economic means. As good friends do, if someone is not doing their fair share, then others should point that out and motivate that friend to lean in. If that friend refuses, then the rest of the Superfriends are well within their rights to ask if that friend is a friend after all.

The next bit was just sad to read. In addition to being wildly Eurocentric in its understanding of the human record of conflict (Mongolians, Persians, Chinese, Arabs, assorted Inca and Aztec descendants, not to mention modern era Rwandans, Japanese and Cambodians are looking at each other in amazement), it is just dripping with European self-loathing that helps no one.
The wars that broke out in 1939 and 1914 were iterations of the wars fought by Bismarck, Napoleon and Louis XIV—Sedan, 1870; Leipzig, 1813; Jena, 1806; Austerlitz, 1805; Valmy, 1792; Turckheim, 1675. The 20th centuries’ wars were bloodier for only one reason: a massive improvement in killing capability. What would the next iteration of this war look like considering the technology we’ve got now?

Postwar, Europe ceased to be the world’s leading exporter of violence because it was stripped of full sovereignty and subordinated to outside hegemons—first the U.S. and the USSR, then the U.S. alone.
Yes, all true ... but the world cannot and should not be set in aspic and stuck in the 'fridge.

This next bit is a bit over the top;
The benefits of this—to the U.S., Europe, and the world—are not just economic, although those benefits are immense. The benefits are in wars not fought, lives not squandered.

European free-riding isn’t an anomaly or a trick, as many Americans now seem to believe—it’s the central feature of our postwar security strategy. How is it, then, that suddenly, we’ve become consumed with rage that Europe is “taking advantage” of us? How have we forgotten that this is the point of the system? We designed it this way, and did so for overwhelmingly obvious historic reasons learned at incalculable cost.
Just no. At the height of the Cold War, Belgium spent ~3.25% GDP on defense, but was last over the 2% mark in 1992. She is now under 1%. In the same time period, the USA went from 6.3% to 3.1%.

Even today, EST, GRC, and by some measures GBR are all over 2%. Many other nations will be soon. Again, this is not too much to expect for an alliance that shares not just security guarantees, but also responsibilities. To have one, you must shoulder your fair share of the other. No one is asking anyone to spend 3.1%. Just 2/3 of that at a minimum.
The United States underwrites European security through forward engagement and guarantees based on deterrence. In return, its allies accept the United States’ dominant role in the international system. They contribute—significantly, in both money and blood—toward meeting common challenges. Until now, our statesmen have had the good sense to allow all concerned to save face and to describe our relationship as a partnership, with each contributing according to ability. Unfortunately, it seems everyone who understood what this actually meant—European subordination to U.S. hegemony—is dead.
This is an insult to the Europeans. Just by size, we're the big kid in the alliance, but no one is forcing anyone in to this alliance. A demand for fairness is not killing the alliance, it is only asking for a respectful relationship to strengthen the alliance.

Also, I know Trump derangement syndrome is blinding people, but Trump did not invent this concern. I've been on this for two decades, but I'm just a gnat on the natsec rump, listen to General Craddock in 2009, and SECDEF Gates in 2011.

This is not new - we just have a President who is willing to lead with it in the open.

If our slacking NATO partners will simply do the minimum - which isn't too much - then our alliance will be better, stronger, and better able to promote liberal democracy. 

Claire is 180 degrees out from what is going on.
They were wrong. We’re now cheerfully pissing away the greatest achievement of American history, the work of generations, achieved at incalculable cost in life and treasure: a free, united, secure, and prosperous Western world. The 20th century has been forgotten. No one learned a thing from it.
The present state of events is not good for NATO, The West, or any of its alliance partners.

Regular readers here know I get a kick out of the Norwegian series Occupied because it took the warning I gave to my NATO colleagues the first decade of this century, "We are one election away from the USA seriously looking at leaving NATO if you guys don't start spending more on your own defense." and made a series out of it. They refused to understand that there is a strong tradition in the American culture that started with the first English speaking colonies in North America, "He who does not work, does not eat." We will only take slackers for so long - especially entitled slackers.

The nation that needs to get itself in order first is Germany. Regardless of some people's view of Germany, this is 2018. She is a critical and important leader in the family of liberal democracies. Her economy is a powerhouse and her under-investment in her defense undermines deterrence and the ability of NATO to decisively act.

If you care for Germany and NATO, then you need to be as clear and direct as a Dutchman about it. Case in point, Rich Lowry over at NR;
Germany’s defense spending, or lack thereof, is a disgrace. One would think the country would have been embarrassed into following a different trajectory after German troops — Panzergrenadierbataillon 371, to be exact — had to use broomsticks instead of guns in a NATO exercise in 2014. But Germany evidently doesn’t embarrass easily.

NATO countries, after a long vacation from history after the end of the Cold War, agreed at a summit in Wales in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense annually within ten years.

The Baltic states, and anyone in the direct line of fire of Vladimir Putin’s Russia, are scared and spending, although no one will mistake these countries for behemoths. England is above 2 percent, at least in theory (one think tank says that it’s actually 1.6 percent). France is steadily increasing toward the 2 percent target.

It is the biggest economy in Europe and fourth-largest in the world that is the serious laggard. Germany spends all of 1.2 percent of GDP on defense. As Elisabeth Braw points out in Foreign Policy magazine, its military is short on tents and winter clothes. Its aircraft suffer from missing spare parts, and most of its tanks aren’t battle-ready. It has a shortfall of about 20,000 officers and noncommissioned officers. It is promising to get to 1.5 percent GDP . . . by 2025 ...
It’s not clear how seriously Germany takes the Russian threat (although it sent some troops to Lithuania last year). Germany has been supportive of the proposed Russian pipeline, Nord Stream 2, that would make Europe more dependent on Russian natural gas and bypass Ukraine. It’s Trump, the alleged tool of Putin, who has been complaining bitterly about the project.

With Putin looming to the East, NATO remains a vital tool of Western power. It’s not an imposition to ask that Germany act like it.
Germany needs to get its act together. It is long overdue.

All is not lost. There is good news about NATO when you want to find it. If you push Germany to the side, you can see that many in the alliance get it.

Today NATO issued its latest report of defense spending. Read it all, but these two graphs tell much of the story about who wants to be an adult, and who is content to live in mom's basement.

Note the nations who are just as the cusp of reaching the 2% mark. BZ to them all. Also note the cluster of shame in the bottom left-hand corner. Those are your free-riders - with Germany right in the center of them. Such lost potential.

As you can see, Latvia, Poland, Lithuania, Romania all are making the stretch. They get it. Other nations showing merit, Bulgaria, Canada, Slovakia, and The Netherlands. More work to do, but they are heading in the right direction.

UK, France, Croatia, Albania, and Belgium.  My dudes. Are you reading any of your intel reports?

Name 'em and shame 'em. A few decades of begging isn't helping - and liberal democracy isn't quite flourishing to the East.

Monday, July 09, 2018

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXV

We have been doing the "Long Game" series for what, a dozen years?

Well, we are pretty damn close to the event horizon where this is becoming a short game.

It is still gobsmacking that we have yet to design a surface combatant of any utility since the passage of Goldwater-Nichols at the height of the Cold War.

It is a clear case of systemic institutional failure that we blew up CG(X) because we had zero ability to control our worst tendencies, and that we seem happy to slug along with our glorious but crotchety stretch-SPRUANCE CG's as the guardians of our CVNs.

DDG(X) is still vapor ware. If FFG(X) winds up just being a stretched LCS, then we just need to fire everyone and nuke the accretion-saddled acquisition system from orbit. Just have the Australians design our fleet architecture for a decade until we can train up a new generation. They seem to get it.

Besides our friends Down Under, you want to see a serious surface force who is serious about building a fleet and getting ready to go to war at sea?

Three Type-52C (a very adequate 7,000 ton displacement DDG) and two Type-55 CG (it ain't a DDG at a displacement of 12,500 and 112 VLS on FLT-I). All right off the production line. I can smell the fresh paint from here.

Look at that picture in detail. The Chinese are dead serious about dominating their half of the Pacific and as much of the Indian Ocean as they can.

Meanwhile, we are still struggling to figure out how to train our officers in basic seamanship.

If this does not make you angry and motivated, then for the sake of our Navy and the nation is serves, go away. Retire. Go home. Find a hobby. Let others step in to the breach who actually give a damn.

H/t TS.

Sunday, July 08, 2018

The Slow March to FITZGERALD & MCCAIN, with J. C. Harvey Jr., on Midrats

The conditions that brought us to the series of events in WESTPAC in 2017 did not happen over night. They did not happen in one PCS cycle, or under one command climate. Layer by layer from many sources, it took time to get to where we found it.

Our guest for the full hour Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern
to discuss his views of the latent causes of what is now generally accepted as a systemic failure of a "new normal" will be J.C. Harvey, Jr., Admiral USN (Ret.).

Admiral Harvey retired from the Navy in November, 2012 after serving as the Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, in Norfolk, Virginia.

In his 39 year Navy career, he specialized in naval nuclear propulsion, surface ship & Carrier strike-group operations & Navy-wide manpower management/personnel policy development. He served in a variety of operational command positions at sea, as the Navy’s Chief of Naval Personnel (the senior uniformed human resources official in the Navy) & as the Director, Navy Staff immediately prior to commanding U.S. Fleet Forces.

Since his retirement, Admiral Harvey has joined the Board of Directors of the Navy Memorial Foundation, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board, & serves as an Outside Director of AT Kearney, PSDS.

On 12 January, 2014, he was sworn in as a member of Governor McAuliffe’s cabinet where he served as the Commonwealth’s Secretary of Veteran & Defense Affairs until 31 August, 2017.

A few months later, he joined the Institute of Defense Analyses as the Director, Strategy, Forces & Resources Division.

Born and raised in Baltimore, MD, Admiral Harvey is a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy, the US Naval Academy & the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.

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

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

Friday, July 06, 2018

Fullbore Friday

As we celebrate a bit of our own martial flintyness this week, it is a good time to remember the history of other independent minded folk. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First posted March 2014.

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

So, how did we find ourselves in this pickle?

How is that record from the defense industry been over the last quarter century when it comes to delivering product?

Well, one way or another, it started with a dinner.

Come on over to USNIBlog and give it a read.

...and a Good 4th to You

Remember, we are a republic of idea - ideas put together in a unique way that has lasted longer than any other existing republic.

Remember that, honor that - and ponder the words that got the whole thing moving forward.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

They Syrian End Game

And so, we reach the last couple of chapters in the bloody Syrian Civil War - that place where Game of Thrones intersects on the ground with a Monty Python sketch on the diplomatic scene.

The more interesting, and potentially most deadly, part of this chapter is in the tri-border region where Israel, Jordan, and Syria come together. Not to diminish the impacted sh1t-show the Turks created in the northwest or the throbbing presence of the Kurdish held east ... but you have the hammer of the Syrian coalition against the Israeli anvil and the weak spot at the Jordanian border.

A bit more than a year ago, I issued the D&G for Rev. 1 to PLAN SALAMANDER, and so far it appears the commanders on the ground are successfully executing the plan. Once again, here it is bulletized for ease of reading.
1. Let the Iranians and Russians kill Sunni Arab Islamists in the west of Syria while we kill them in the east. (no change)

2. We'll kill them east of the Euphrates to include those portions west of the Euphrates in the Raqqa Governorate. and south of road from Nassib in the southwest, through Damascus to Deir ez-Zur on the Euphrates.

3. The Russians, Syrians, and Iranian proxies can kill them in the rest. (no change)

4. We will continue to support Kurdish and allied forces inside the area defined in #2 using airpower and advisory liaison forces as needed. Once they are done in the north and west, we can just do CAS for the Kurds on the front lines of their frontier as we all push IS forces in to the Iraqi desert.
As always, SyriaCivilWarMap gives you much of what you need to know.

This is what you need to watch; many of the non-ISIS rebels may be able to negotiate their way in to some kind of end. ISIS though, no. No chance. They will either be killed in place or will have to find a way to drift in to Jordan. Are the Jordanians ready to keep them out? Can they keep them out?

This is all very interesting to watch. 

Once that pocket it taken care of, forces can move to get rid of that pocket in on the Iraqi border. After that, Iblid next. 

The Kurds will continue to nibble away at the other ISIS remnants. 

Here is when things will get fuzzy. How will the Syrians deal with the Kurds? What about the Turkish enclave west of Manbij?

With all these known-unknowns, there we have American and Russian forces, keeping an eye on each other when they're not giving the Turks side-eye and the finger to the Iranians.

So much that must be done right, so many places for things to go wrong.

Monday, July 02, 2018

A Fleet in a Parallel Universe

The fleet a nation builds is not predestined; it develops over time based on the perceived security needs of a nation, its economic carrying capacity, combined with the will and vision of its leaders.

After those basic ingredients are set, then you have to have the right people with the right ideas to implement it. The fleet that results is not the result of a simple 1+1+1=3. Like three different chefs can come up with three very different dishes from the same basic ingredients, so too can different leaders build very different fleets to meet what they perceived best meets a nation’s requirements.

If you had different leaders at a point in time, you would have a very different fleet.

We have the fleet we have because of those in positions of power, uniformed and civilian, at important decision points.

There were alternatives to today’s present. There are alternative futures. The “what if” matrix is as complex as the personalities and philosophies that chose one path over another; one platform over another.

Navalists know most of the more recent decision points that led to the fleet we have today. We know those who led one school of thought or another – who won the argument, and who did not. Who got 80% of what they saw the future needed, who got 20%.

When you look at people with alternative designs from what we have today, one of the first people who comes to mind is Wayne Hughes, CAPT USN (Ret.). In June’s issue of Proceedings, he has an article, “Build a Green Water Fleet” that again raises the issue of what fleet we need as an alternative to the one we continue to build.

The article builds off the concepts I wrote about in JAN 2010 embedded in the decade old “New Navy Fighting Machine". It may be a decade old, but it is still fresh.

In my 2010 post, Reforming the Confederate Navy, I outlined the issue as I saw it,
The Confederate Navy … she threw her lot in with transformationalism. VIRGINIA and HUNLEY were wonderful ground breaking designs and concepts - built against tremendous odds - but in the end they were like the nation they served - beautiful losers destroyed by their own fatal conceits.

What was their conceit? They thought that a few high technological breakthroughs thrown into a few hulls and applied with a bit of tactical verve could triumph over the many primarily pushing sound fundamentals.
Yep, the South did win - it won the post Goldwater-Nichols Navy.

Let’s get back to Hughes’s latest;
The New Navy Fighting Machine Study described an affordable yet more numerous and complete U. S. fleet for the 21st century. By distinguishing smaller, single-purpose, green-water (coastal and littoral) combatants from the large, multipurpose, expensive, heavily manned blue-water (open-ocean) fleet, the study was able to restore a Navy of more than 600 vessels that could be sustained with an annual Ship Construction New (SCN) budget of $15 billion. [3] The fleet’s composition was tested by war games and studies conducted by faculty and students. Their efforts explored the value and limitations of the NNFM force against two first-class enemies, irregular warfare opponents, and for peacetime engagement with friendly states.
What kind of fleet for Green Water ops would he like?
The Navy needs small, lethal, fast, green-water ships and submarines to take the fight to the enemy in the littorals. The Mark VI patrol boat (top) and this HOSS X-1 concept submarine (designed by and copyright J. Scott Shipman of B.B. Hoss, Inc.) are examples of vessels recommended by the New Navy Fighting Machine Study.
…“Minuteman” class of missile combatants to comply with surface navy specifications that included eight antiship cruise missiles, a gun, a combat crew of 12, bunks for 30, and a cruising radius of 3,000 nm.
To get it, he is willing to trade some Blue Water capital;
… the existing 280-ship fleet its 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (CVNs) took 46 percent of sea-going billets. By reducing the number of CVNs to six or seven and distributing the sea-based air capability more widely, the NNFM freed enough people to operate the new fighting fleet.
There are some who are questioning the math here, but even if you adjust 25%, the argument should not be dismissed out of hand.
…a light aircraft carrier (CVL), displacing 28,000 tons, that could carry 20 F-35B aircraft plus assorted helicopters and unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) for scouting and auxiliary functions. Weisser showed that in most scenarios two or three CVLs working together, or one operating in concert with a CVN, would be more adaptable and could deliver firepower more efficiently than sea-based air power operating from CVNs alone.
…16 non-nuclear submarines because littoral waters are where they will be most effective.
Of course, this does not fully address the Blue Water changes, but as the author mentioned, that can be addressed SEPCOR.

One final note from me, for any meaningful change to take place, we need to pull up Goldwater-Nichols root and branch and replace with a new construct. We need a wholesale, highly disruptive change in the bureaucratic structure and the accretions build up around it in the last 3+ decades. Better now in peace by choice, than at war when the decks are slick with blood and we are grasping for something more effective.

It is not a coincidence that we have not been able to field a successful surface combatant since Goldwater-Nichols. Remember, the money to cut steel on DDG-51 Hull-1 was in 1985, a year prior to Goldwater-Nichols.

Since then, we have put forward LCS & DDG-1000, aborted CG(X), cannot stop picking our belly button with DDG(X), and have a fairly good chance of having FFG(X) just be a reconfigured (spit) LCS.

When will the last Arleigh Burke DDG be commissioned, 2030? 2035? Heck, 2040? There is a pretty good chance that a DDG envisioned and first built at the height of the Cold War will almost see service in to the 22nd Century. 2085 at a minimum.

100 years. Almost like we were about to decommission the last of our TENNESSEE Class BB, designed and built after and during WWI.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Marines in the Offensive Against ISIS with Col. Seth Folsom, on Midrats

In the last few months a lot has been written about learning how to fight a conventional land battle again after years of a focus on counterinsurgency. Fighting against an enemy who is holding territory, has a capital, armor, artillery and a proven record in the battlefield.

While some are writing it, others have been living it, fighting side by side with traditional allies and new ones in a complicated joint and combined environment that is the latest chapter in the Long War; the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern is returning to Midrats after just returning from leading Marines in the fight, Colonel Seth Folsom, USMC.

Colonel Folsom is a Marine Corps infantry officer with 24 years of commissioned service. He currently works on the staff of I Marine Expeditionary Force, and he has commanded Marines in Iraq and Afghanistan at the company, battalion, and task force level. He is a graduate of the University of Virginia, the Naval Postgraduate School, and the Marine Corps War College, and he is the author of three books about his Marines fighting The Long War. He and his family live in Oceanside, California.

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, June 29, 2018

Fullbore Friday

Some days, you miss the passing of a giant. Not in size, but in deed.

These men make you stop and wonder, are you ready to endure what they endured?
Navy Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn, who spent five and a half years in a Communist Chinese prison during the Vietnam War...
Read that again.

Then-Lieutenant Flynn, a bombardier-navigator, was taking part in a raid on Aug. 21, 1967, targeting rail yards near Hanoi, the North Vietnamese capital, about 75 miles from the Chinese border, when his two-man A-6 Intruder came under attack. The Pentagon later said his plane and another Intruder on that raid had been downed after straying over southern China while seeking to escape North Vietnamese jets.

Lieutenant Flynn and his pilot, Lt. Cmdr. Jimmy Lee Buckley, ejected from their craft. Lieutenant Flynn, suffering severe spinal injuries, found the pilot’s body near the spot where he had come down, and he was soon captured. The Chinese news agency Xinhua reported six days later that one of four American airmen whom China had just downed had been paraded before peasants and Red Guards at an anti-America rally. It did not identify that airman, but Lieutenant Flynn was the only survivor from the two Intruders.

Mrs. Flynn said in an interview on Wednesday: “I saw on TV he was being beaten, and the streets were lined with people. That’s how I knew he was alive.”
His experience, almost unknown to his countrymen, is hard to grasp.
For the remainder of the Vietnam War, he spent virtually all his prison time in a small cell in Beijing
“The most terrible part was the solitude, the solitude, the solitude,” Commander Flynn told The Pensacola News Journal in 2008. “What do you do with all that time? All those hours? All those days and years?”
To be so alone for so long, but not alone.
Freedom finally came on March 15, 1973, when he was taken across a covered bridge into Hong Kong, wearing a blue Chinese cap. He was released to the American authorities there together with Maj. Philip E. Smith of the Air Force, who had been imprisoned by the Chinese since his plane was downed over their airspace in September 1965.

Two C.I.A. agents, John Downey and Richard Fecteau, who had been captured in China in 1952 during the Korean War, were also at the prison where Lieutenant Flynn and Major Smith were held. Mr. Fecteau was freed in December 1971, and Mr. Downey in March 1973.
He served until 1985, retiring as a Commander.
“I wouldn’t want to do it again,” he told The News Journal in recalling his captivity. “But it was part of the experience of my life. Life is sort of an adventure. Sometimes, the adventure gets out of hand.”
Cmdr. Robert J. Flynn ... died on May 15 in Pensacola, Fla. Commander Flynn ... was 76.

The cause was a heart attack, said his wife, Kathy.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Diversity Thursday

It seems like it was only yesterday when throughout DOD, warfighting was out, Lean-In Circles were all the rage, and every single month it seemed that we were more concerned with the self-identified color of one's skin than the content of one's character. The later problem is still with us - hiding in the shadows but still exuding its bile about - but perhaps there is still hope.

For so long, our leaders dared not speak in open about "administrative burden" or the amount of manhours and TAD funds were expended supporting the grievance of the month club or the Society of Emoting Navelgazers ... oh no. 
Suck it up and embrace the vibrancy; ships drive themselves anyway - but you won't fix your latent homophobia, CIS-gendered bigotry, and implicit bias laden hatred on your own, you privileged oppressor. Hate yourself as much as I do.
I think I got the zeitgeist right there...anyway.

Where is that hope I mentioned in para.1? Over to the Army via Carlo Muñoz at WashTimes;
In a series of servicewide memorandums approved by Army Secretary Mark Esper and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and obtained by The Washington Times, service leaders are making optional previously mandatory training on issues such as transgender transition and drug abuse. The move, Army leaders argue, is designed to relieve stress on the overburdened troop training regimen and refocus on soldiers’ ability to fight in combat.
Those mandated training requirements “served as barriers to maximizing time … to build readiness and lethality” within combat units, he said in an interview. Aside from ending mandatory training programs on transgender troops and drug abuse, courses on media awareness and human trafficking have been eliminated from the mandatory curriculum, the service memorandums state.

Army officials are codifying the new marching orders into servicewide training guidelines and doctrine, which will bring the Army more in line with the Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy, Col. O’Grady said.
All hail SECDEF Mattis!

Now, about our fetid little nest of Diversity Bullies ...

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Lies, Damn Lies, and Ship Maintenance

Now and then I read things that tell me that institutionally we are trying to forget the hard lessons of 2017.

Were 17 deaths enough to break our cycles of sweet little lies? 

Over at USNIBlog, I discuss a few things that make me think we are backsliding.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Development Aid, with Chinese Characteristics

I am sympathetic to the theory that the worry that China will become the next global hegemon is overblown. Different schools of this belief have different totems; some demographics of a rapidly aging nation, others the exceptional economic fragility that makes China ripe for a sharp recession leading to internal conflict - but while I can see these are factors, I am starting to subscribe to another confession; China is her own worst enemy.

As a dime-store therapist might say, China has "a lot of baggage." She holds other ethnicities and nations in contempt. She does not have an open culture or one that is flexible enough to be nuanced. She also has a stubborn record of corruption, pride, and cold-hearted mercantilism that would put the East India Company to shame.

She also has a huge chip on her shoulder. She remembers the Opium Wars. She knows how the British and the Portuguese got Hong Kong and Macau. They know how Russia got their far east.

They remember as if it were yesterday. In their 3-4,000 cultural history, it is. Don't discount payback and catch-up going on.

In her desire to secure her economic GLOC and SLOC (Belt & Road), she is using any tool she can to get what she wants. As word gets out as to what happened to others, eventually other nations will demur ... if those nations can find a way to place uncorruptible and competent people in decision making positions.

NYT has a perfect example this week in a story about how China managed to get their foothold right off India in Sri Lanka.

Reading this, it became clear that Goodfellas and The Godfather movies are not all that popular in Sri Lanka. If so, they might have avoided their fate;
Every time Sri Lanka’s president, Mahinda Rajapaksa, turned to his Chinese allies for loans and assistance with an ambitious port project, the answer was yes.
Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.
Few things are more dual use than a good port. This is how, if you're playing a long game, you get a naval base.
The case is one of the most vivid examples of China’s ambitious use of loans and aid to gain influence around the world — and of its willingness to play hardball to collect.
From a mercantilism POV, will this be a net economic gain for China? That is a tough sell. From an imperialist POV though, who cares? What a great base if you need one.

Got to get trinkets to the right natives though.
• During the 2015 Sri Lankan elections, large payments from the Chinese port construction fund flowed directly to campaign aides and activities for Mr. Rajapaksa, who had agreed to Chinese terms at every turn and was seen as an important ally in China’s efforts to tilt influence away from India in South Asia. The payments were confirmed by documents and cash checks detailed in a government investigation seen by The New York Times.

• Though Chinese officials and analysts have insisted that China’s interest in the Hambantota port is purely commercial, Sri Lankan officials said that from the start, the intelligence and strategic possibilities of the port’s location were part of the negotiations.
• Though the deal erased roughly $1 billion in debt for the port project, Sri Lanka is now in more debt to China than ever, as other loans have continued and rates remain much higher than from other international lenders.
Is debt really that much of a weapon? It has been used as such for thousands of years, no reason to see that change now.
“John Adams said infamously that a way to subjugate a country is through either the sword or debt. China has chosen the latter,” said Brahma Chellaney, an analyst who often advises the Indian government and is affiliated with the Center for Policy Research, a think tank in New Delhi.
Just don't look at who owns American debt.
“The only way to justify the investment in Hambantota is from a national security standpoint — that they will bring the People’s Liberation Army in,” said Shivshankar Menon, who served as India’s foreign secretary and then its national security adviser as the Hambantota port was being built.
That is exactly how you should look at it.

You need to read the full article so you can see the template they will use where there are democratic systems in place. The 2015 election will do.

It appears that inside China there is not full alignment with how best to gather the access they want. Do they keep the established template, or something less likely to scare away other nations?
Some Chinese officials have become concerned that the nearly institutional graft surrounding such projects represents a liability for China, and raises the bar needed for profitability. President Xi acknowledged the worry in a speech last year, saying, “We will also strengthen international cooperation on anticorruption in order to build the Belt and Road Initiative with integrity.”
Time will tell, but man ... you almost need a 2-meter whiteboard to track this;
The deal left some appearance of Sri Lankan ownership: Among other things, it created a joint company to manage the port’s operations and collect revenue, with 85 percent owned by China Merchants Port and the remaining 15 percent controlled by Sri Lanka’s government.

But lawyers specializing in port acquisitions said Sri Lanka’s small stake meant little, given the leverage that China Merchants Port retained over board personnel and operating decisions. And the government holds no sovereignty over the port’s land.

When the agreement was initially negotiated, it left open whether the port and surrounding land could be used by the Chinese military, which Indian officials asked the Sri Lankan government to explicitly forbid. The final agreement bars foreign countries from using the port for military purposes unless granted permission by the government in Colombo.

That clause is there because Chinese Navy submarines had already come calling to Sri Lanka.

Strategic Concerns
China had a stake in Sri Lanka’s main port as well: China Harbor was building a new terminal there, known at the time as Colombo Port City. Along with that deal came roughly 50 acres of land, solely held by the Chinese company, that Sri Lanka had no sovereignty on.
This story will not be going anywhere;
Now, the handover of Hambantota to the Chinese has kept alive concerns about possible military use — particularly as China has continued to militarize island holdings around the South China Sea despite earlier pledges not to.

Sri Lankan officials are quick to point out that the agreement explicitly rules out China’s military use of the site. But others also note that Sri Lanka’s government, still heavily indebted to China, could be pressured to allow it.

And, as Mr. de Silva, the state minister for national policies and economic affairs, put it, “Governments can change.”
Remember, there are so many lessons from The Lost Boys. The most important one - a vampire can only hurt you if you invite them in to your house.

Monday, June 25, 2018

The Future is Distributed

Technology is reaching the point of affordability and capability that even medium powers are on the cusp of having a conventional, precision global strike capability. If you're willing to scope that down, we are already at the point of regional long range strike for anyone who wants it.

Right now, a rag-tag group of rebels from Yemen is launching ballistic missiles at the capital of Saudi Arabia on a regular basis. Sure, they are not having much success, but that is because they are using half-century+ old weapons technology in limited numbers against a well integrated 21st Century ABM system. Just wargame out a bit more capability with a bit more targeting and then a diversity of better weapons with similar range and you have ... a tough nut.

The vulnerability of large airfields has been a "known-known" for over 75 years and from Pearl Harbor to Egypt to Iraq, what happens when your enemy is many and your airfields are few is clear.

Because since about 1943 we have been on the giving side of this fact vice the receiving, we've forgotten this more than we should. We need to continue to think hard about those things that are efficient in peace that may be be the most effective at war. Airbases are one of them.

In an interesting article, Robbin Laird brings up a case in point;
“From a USAF standpoint, we are organized for efficiency, and in the high intensity conflict that we might find ourselves in, in the Pacific, that efficiency might be actually our Achilles heel, because it requires us to put massive amounts of equipment on a few bases. Those bases, as we most know, are within the weapons engagement zone of potential adversaries,” Wilsbach said.
“We’re at the very preliminary stages of being able to do this but the organization is part of the problem for us, because we are very used to, over the last several decades, of being in very large bases, very large organizations, and we stovepipe the various career fields, and one commander is not in charge of the force that you need to disperse. We’re taking a look at this, of how we might reorganize, to be able to employ this concept in the Pacific, and other places.”

In February, I talked with his predecessor, Lt. Gen. Kim Jäämeri, who is now deputy Chief of Staff for strategy for the Finnish Defence Forces. He highlighted the distributed operations aspect of the Finnish approach.

“It is becoming clear to our partners that you cannot run air operations in a legacy manner under the threat of missile barrages of long range weapons. The legacy approach to operating from air bases just won’t work in these conditions. For many of our partners, this is a revelation; for us it has been a fact of life for a long time, and we have operated with this threat in the forefront of operations for a long time,” Jäämeri said.
One could also bring this line of discussion in to the carrier debates.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

It's a Midrats Mid-Summer Free for All

We know you've been waiting for it ... but it is time for our post Summer Solstice Free for All!

We're back live Sunday from 5-6pm to catch up on all your maritime and natsec issues bubbling to the surface this summer. From the Space Force, migrant crisis in the Med, Russians in the high north, to the infrastructure crunch in the Pacific - we'll cover it all.

This is also your time to have us address the topics you find of interest. We're taking calls and questions in the chat room. It's a live show ... so now's your chance.

Open phone, open topic, all you need to bring is an open mind.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Fullbore Friday

BJ's article this week had me thinking of the War of 1812 a bit on an off.

In that strange way things in life mash themselves up with unrelated items, I was having a moment with one of Mrs. Salamander's cousins who is all of 27 yrs old and is acting out like a spoiled 16-yr old from a John Hughes movie.

A man of that age is, well, a man, and should act as one. Our history is full of such examples and benchmarks that should set the bar, but alas, we don't teach that history for some reason. At least it wasn't ever taught to him.

One of those benchmarks was crisply outlined by Rick Brookhiser a half decade ago. Look up the battle in detail yourself, but here is the standard every man in his late 20s should measure himself by.

We live in a gilded time with all the advantages providence could bless a person. Stop complaining, blaming others, and think you are entitled to anything.

You've been an emancipated adult for a decade. Shut up and lean on your oar.
... the Battle of Lake Erie ... The American commander, 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry, left his burning flagship, the USS Lawrence, and was rowed half a mile under enemy fire to his second ship, the USS Niagara; returning to the attack, he forced the enemy to surrender.

His terse description of the battle – “We have met the enemy and they are ours” — went straight to the log books of immortality.

The battle had two important results. It cleared William Henry Harrison’s flank, allowing him to march into Upper Canada (modern Ontario) and win a rare American victory at the Battle of the Thames (notable for the death of Tecumseh, the only Indian leader with the strategic and political savvy which might have enabled him to stop westward expansion).

America’s control of Lake Erie would also be a key factor the following year when the ministry asked the Duke of Wellington to go to America himself and wrap up the war for Britain. The Duke looked at the map and the lakes and said, no. Peace soon followed.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

ASW: Making your brain hurt for 104 years

If you want to make 'ole Sal's eye twitch, write something about how ASW is going to get easy with this PPT technology.

Better yet, try to tout something as new and exciting that was around when he was a MIDN.

Go ahead ... read what I link to at USNIBlog.