Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Venezuela Goes Hot

Will the people of Venezuela fight for their freedom?

We will find out soon; the opposition has crossed the Rubicon;
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó took to the streets with activist Leopoldo Lopez and a small contingent of heavily armed troops early Tuesday in a bold and risky call for the military to rise up and oust socialist leader Nicolas Maduro.

“I want to tell the Venezuelan people: This is the moment to take to the streets and accompany these patriotic soldiers,” said Lopez, who had been detained since 2014 for leading anti-government protests. “Everyone should come to the streets, in peace.”

Lopez said he has been freed from house arrest by members of the security forces responding to an order by Guaidó, whom the U.S. and dozens of other governments recognize as Venezuela’s rightful leader.
The next 24-hrs will be telling.

Without strong support from the military, urban uprisings have a spotty track record. Maduro over the last decade has listened to the wise advice of Roman emperors; he made sure the army got paid.

Guaidó is taking the only logical step - but I'm not sure his timing is optimal. I'm not sure if the fruit for rebellion is ever ripe, but facts can push your decisions and he's closer to the fight - so I'll have to defer to him.

I am not even cautiously optimistic about their success though. Here are some structural issues in his way.

1. The officer corp of most of the Venezuelan army is bought and paid for. Highly corrupt. With very few exceptions, he cannot trust anyone above Major.

2. The critical mass - intellectually, financially, and personality - of the people needed to lead and populate an urban uprising have already left the country. Millions who could not live under Maduro's boot have left. They can't join the rebellion in the streets, they are in Orlando, Miami, Colombia, and Brazil.

3. Passive neighbors. Hopefully, there is a lot of covert support from Colombia and Brazil for Guaidó. There is a lot to gain for those nations if Venezuela gets to a more stable place. If their military will not move, hopefully their security services will.

4. Yankee is staying home. There is no positive long-term result if USA forces have any role in removing Maduro from power. This is a South American problem that will require South American solutions. We should support the opposition morally, with humanitarianism, and financially indirectly where needed, but that is about it.

Yes, yes, yes ... I know China and Russia have thrown in with Maduro. That is good. If Guaidó, who is a man of the left BTW, gains power - he will have a bone to pick with those two actors and their Cuban auxiliaries. There are plenty of lamp posts in the country to deal with those once the pivot point it reached.

Keep watching this important evolving event.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Orion's Long Farewell

I think history will show that there is a certain class of aircraft whose design, maintenance, fit-for-purpose and operational success make them exceptional.

On the American side post-WWII, you have to put the C-130, F-4, A-4, F-16 & F-15 in that exalted group. A strong argument can be made that the P-3 Orion belongs there as well.

She's left for her last deployment in American livery, but as so many other nations fly her, she'll be with us for a few more years yet. 

Not bad for a converted 1950s era airliner.
The last of the U.S. Navy’s active duty P-3C Orion patrol planes are on their final overseas deployments, split between bases in Bahrain and Japan. The six-month rotations in the Middle East and Pacific regions come as the service prepares to retire all of its Orions in active duty units and replace them completely with the new P-8A Poseidon.

The Whidbey News-Times was the first to report that P-3Cs from Patrol Squadron Four Zero (VP-40), the “Fighting Marlins,” left their main base at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island in Washington state at the end of March 2019 for their sundown deployments to Sheik Isa Air Base in Bahrain and Kadena Air Base in Japan. These Orions replaced their counterparts from Patrol Squadron Four Six (VP-46), the “Grey Knights,” at those locations. VP-46’s planes returned to Whidbey Island earlier in April 2019.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Waiting on a National Strategy with Dr. David Gioe - on Midrats

Do we have the means, capabilities, national will - and more important - the support of the American people to meet the demands from the global entanglements we are obligated by?

What is the grand strategy?

To discuss these and related questions this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be Dr. David Gioe. We will use his recent article in The National Interest, Make America Strategic Again, as the starting point for our talk.

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

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.


Dr. David Gioe is Assistant Professor of History at the US Military Academy at West Point, where he also serves as History Fellow for the Army Cyber Institute. He earned a BA in History and Social Science from Wheaton College, an MA from the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service, and a PhD in Politics and International Studies from the University of Cambridge.

He retains his commission as a senior officer in the Navy Reserve and is assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Defense Attaché Service.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Fullbore Friday

Every few years I re-post this. It is time again. In honor of a friend that I served with who was on this crew ... a encore FbF from four years ago.


An under-told story from an under-studied (at least in the last decade) war.

The story of Vulcan 607.
"We're short of fuel, but we've come this far," he told them. "I'm not turning back now." At 290 miles away from the target, 607 began a shallow descent towards Port Stanley.

Even now they could not be certain where they were. The inflight navigation system gave two different compass readings.

The Radar Officer, Bob Wright, and the Navigator, Gordon Graham, had split the difference. If they were on course, the computer would respond with the information needed for Wright to get the bombs on target but only when the radar was switched on again - seconds before the planned drop.

Simon Baldwin in Waddington had worked out that the bomber should approach low to minimise its 'footprint' and then climb upwards to 8000 or 10,000 feet to try to stay clear of the "kill zone" of the Argentinian defences before unleashing its weaponry.

As Vulcan 607 streaked towards her target, Graham called the mileage before the rapid climb, and Hugh Prior, the electronics officer, made sure that the chaff and decoy flares, which would be fired to draw enemy fire, and the American Dash 10 detection jammer were operational.

A radar contact appeared: 607 was dead on target. It was 4.30 in the morning, local time, when the Vulcan roared upwards, straight into view of the Argentine search radars. But the young radar operators were unperturbed. The bomber could only be one of theirs - this had not been a shooting war so far.

During the few minutes it took the Argentinians to wake up to the fact that this was in fact an enemy aircraft, the Vulcan had soared to its 10,000ft altitude and levelled off for the bomb run.

Its speed was 400 mph. From this moment the aircraft could not deviate, even if enemy radar was locked on them. At this height the runway would have been the size of a scratch of a fingernail on the map and the bomb run had to be precise to a few yards.

Two miles from the runway the first of the thousand-pounders fell away from the Vulcan's cavernous belly. When all 21 were away, Withers turned the Vulcan in a steep curve, in time for the crew to see a blossom of fire as the first bomb bored deep into the centre of the runway and detonated. Other blasts hit the airfield, gouging out massive chunks of its surface.

Vulcan 607 did, in fact, have enough fuel to make the rendezvous. It returned to Ascension Island and a heroes' welcome. The most ambitious sortie since World War II, had by the skin of its teeth been successful.

The damage destroyed any remaining hopes Argentine forces had of using the runway for their fast jets. Their entire Mirage fighter force had to be moved promptly back to the north of Argentina, and any jet cover during the coming British invasion would have to come from the mainland.

It shook Argentine morale to the core and provoked Galtieri's decision to order a naval offensive against the British Task Force, which had disastrous consequences for the Argentine Navy.

The V-bomber had been designed decades before to reach into the snowy wastes of Soviet Russia, but had never been used in anger. Their last outing, to a part of the world no one had dreamed they would visit, had finally justified these beautiful aircraft.

The Falklands War lasted just 74 days. Though taken by surprise, Britain launched a task force to retake the islands and after conflict costing 255 British and 649 Argentinian deaths, the Union Jack was hoisted in Port Stanley on June 14.
Mission.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Russia Smartly Lets the Soviets Go

As we discussed here often, some of the new Russian frigates and corvettes bring a lot of bang for the buck. Not a global fleet, but strong regional naval potential.

Some of the former Soviet Navy units they still have are not just dated, but expensive to repair and tactically out of date. 

The Russians had a few fever dreams of throwing a lot of money in to upgrading some of the former large surface combatants that, on paper at least, look incredibly impressive.

If you think about what it would take to bring them in to modern fighting shape ... not to mention deferred maintenance ... the numbers do not look all that smart. Those limited resources probably best invested in modern kit.

Well, it looks like smarter minds prevailed.
The Russian Navy with state-owned nuclear power company Rosatom decided canceling planned service-life extensions and modernization on its two legendary nuclear-powered Kirov-class battlecruisers or heavy missile cruisers, according to Izvestiya newspaper.

According to media reports in recent weeks, the Russian Navy has decided to recycled two heavy nuclear battlecruisers of Kirov-class – the Admiral Ushakov and the Admiral Lazarev owing to funding shortfalls.

In 2021, it is planned to scrap of the heavy missile cruisers Admiral Ushakov (factory number 800) of the project 1144 and Admiral Lazarev (factory number 801) of the project 11442 for a long time already withdrawn from the Russian Navy.
In their prime, they were beautiful, dangerous, and inspiring.

Their time has passed.

Let's take a moment to look back.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

We Have to Sell a Larger Navy

No one is going to magically grant us a larger Navy.

Our Goldwater-Nichols hobbled Potomac Flotilla has very little pixie dust.

Are we really telling our story?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come by and ponder with me.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

More Breakers, Now, & Keep Them Coming

Years late, but this is simply well needed news from our friend Sam LaGrone at USNINews;
VT Halter Marine Inc. has been awarded a $745M detailed design and construction contract for the Coast Guard’s next-generation heavy icebreaker, according to a Tuesday Pentagon contract announcement.

According to the announcement, the first-in-class ship will be built at the company’s Pascagoula, Miss. shipyard and is scheduled to deliver in 2024.

“The initial award is valued at $745.9 million and supports non-recurring engineering and detail design of the PSC class as well as procurement of long lead-time materials and construction of the first ship,” read a statement from the Coast Guard and Naval Sea Systems Command. “The contract also includes options for the construction of two additional PSCs. If all options are exercised, the total contract value is $1.9 billion.”
We need a couple more as well.

Monday, April 22, 2019

The Hope in Ukraine

Over a period of time 600 to 400 years ago, Jews throughout Central Europe fled east escaping wave after wave of expulsions and persecutions. In what was then mostly the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they settled from the Baltic to the Black Sea. Even there they faced wave after wave of pogroms and persecutions at various times from the resident populations.

A significant cohort of American Jews emigrated to the USA in the late 19th Century from “Russia” in what today are are the Baltic Republics, Poland, Ukraine, Belorussian and Russia proper. They escaped everything from Cossack raiders to simple government persecution. Their families still hold those stories, generations later.

In the 20th Century the persecutions continued, from Stalin’s quasi-traditional Russian persecutions, to the genocide led by Nazi Germany and assisted by local Poles, Ukrainians and others.

After WWII, more waves of emigration followed, mostly to Israel and the USA.

In such a soil with centuries of hate, hostility and division against Jews – what in our century do we find in Ukraine?
With nearly all the votes counted in Ukraine, TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy is projected to win the country’s presidential runoff vote in a landslide.

The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 96% of the ballots counted.

Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine’s west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized. One of the campaign slogans of the popular television comedian who has no previous political experience was to unify Ukraine, which has been torn by bitter debates over its identity as well as the separatist conflict in the east that is fueled by neighboring Russia.
There is a certain detail about Zelenskiy,
Following the victory of Volodymyr Zelensky in Ukraine’s presidential elections, the country will become the only one in the world besides Israel whose president and prime minister are both Jewish.

When Zelensky is sworn in as president, his prime minister — at least for a while and possibly until the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place sometime later this year — will be Volodymyr Groysman, a Jewish politician who was the mayor of the city of Vinnytsia.
Let’s stop a bit and ponder that.

When Ukraine threw off its Russian puppet government, there was a lot of talk about “fascists in the street.” Since then, there has been a steady drumbeat about “fascists” influencing Ukrainian governmental structures. Part of this is from, to be blunt, a few people who are of the far-right and who used WWII Nazi and Ukrainian Waffen SS symbols. They were visible, but the numbers of true believers are small and their influence less. I'll give them a pass because I understand the complicated history of those units and their place in the minds of many Ukrainian people. For many patriotic Ukrainians who are of a strong anti-Russian bent, that was the easiest reference point they could reach towards in living memory to standing up to the Russians.

There were some who took those on the fringe and tried to use their presence to taint patriotic Ukrainian efforts to find their way outside of Russian influence, and that was a shame. Most who recoiled in disgust meant well, and those I know well (and had some nasty exchanges in twitter years ago on the topic) are in that group who simply could not get past the visuals of a small minority. Others were drawn in by Russian agiprop, and that is unfortunate.

Ukraine has such great potential, but geography and history are not her friends. Yes, she has corruption problems. Yes, she has festering low-intensity conflicts in the east and frozen territorial conflicts. Yes, she is poor and has a slippery grip on the rule of law … but these things take time.

As a nation, Ukraine is striving. She falls back a step now and then … but then pushes herself forward two.

What Ukrainian people as a whole are not are fascists, Nazis, or any of the smears coming from Russia. Fascists or neo-Nazi leaning nations do not elect someone,
“… a pure-blooded Jew with the appearance of a Sholom Aleichem protagonist wins by a landslide in a country where the glorification of Nazi criminals is enacted into law,” wrote Avigdor Eskin, a Russian-Israeli columnist, in an analysis published earlier this month by the Regnum news agency.


The French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy also referenced Ukrainian Jew’s bloody history in an interview with Zelensky, the 41-year-old son of scientists who lived near major Soviet army bases in Ukraine, that he published earlier this month in the Le Point weekly.

“His Judaism. It’s extraordinary that the possible future president of the country of the Shoah by Bullets and Babi Yar is a self-affirmed Jew from a family of survivors from Kryvy Rih near Dnipro – the land of pogrom if ever there was one,” Levy wrote. “This postmodern kid, is he new proof that the virus of anti-Semitism has been contained” after the revolution, Levy added.

Not denying his Jewish ancestry, Zelensky declined to explore it at length in the interview, Levy wrote. On this subject, he replied with typical self-deprecating humor, telling Levy: “The fact that I am Jewish barely makes 20 in my long list of faults.”
It appears that it barely make the top-20 by the Ukrainian people either.

Of course, he will face echoes of the well-ingrained Jew hatred in Eastern Europe. Heck, Jews in the USA face it here as well … but it is comes in a small group of marginal individuals – not institutional and widespread.

Everyone should take this moment – while it is here – and reflect on how things can change in just a few generations. There is no guarantee that history will always advance the human condition – many times it goes backwards – but in this case it has, and it has in what would at first glance would be the most unlikely of places.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Fullbore Friday

An encore FbF from '07.

USS Utah (BB-31). Most people think of her from her days as a target for the Pacific Fleet, and then the Japanese. Well, like the Arizona, she lies in Pearl Harbor.....and has a great history of being one of the Big Boys. 

The girl in her prime.


And the mother of REAL Naval Infantry...


High res of the above pictures here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

A World Awash in Pirates

The only thing better than a good chart, is an interactive chart.

Here's a screenshot from The Visual Capitalist with the last 40-years of piracy related events in port or the high seas.


Even better, go here for the interactive chart where you can get all the details.

There goes your AM.


H/t ZeroHedge.

Monday, April 15, 2019

We Need to Talk About Wargames

If someone comes to you to sell a certain CONOPS, strategy, or program and they open with, “We’ve wargamed this, and … “ – then immediately take everything that follows with a grain of salt. You are being either played by crafty people who think you a fool, or you are being bluffed by someone who really does not know what they are doing.

One of the most important things you can do in peace, or prior to any operation, is wargame, but it is a supporting activity, not a lead.

Wargaming is hard, takes time, and can create additional staffwork … which is why they can be unpopular, and sadly often not done or done improperly. That isn’t the problem with wargames – the problem with wargames is that they are not understood for what they are; games.

There are too many people who think that wargames are some kind of crystal ball, that they can tell you what the future holds. That is one of the most dangerous misconceptions out there.

Wargames are just a planning tool. They test out assumptions. They also allow, if you are lucky, for a creative Red Team to find your weaknesses and oversights.

Wargames are also a tool people with agendas use against the uninitiated and unassuming. You tell me the results you want, and I can create a set of wargames to will give you the results. Ask me to get the opposite result, and I can do that as well; with the same Blue Team, Red Team, White Team, and Green team – whatever rainbow of complications we start with.

Here’s how.

At their core, a wargame is about assumptions and the action/reaction to them. How much of this or that; how effective is this or that; what can or cannot be done from where; what you start with – what the opponent starts with. You can get vastly different results from tweaking any of those variables. (See Millennium Challenge 2002)

What wargames are not good at are measuring political will, morale, intent, and to a lesser extent (depending on the quality of the wargame), readiness.

It also cannot – often due to the compartmentalization of various capabilities – fully account for the role of intelligence, underappreciated capabilities, and of course, blind stinking luck.

In the last week, I’ve had some very smart people use the, “I was briefed by Admirals X,Y, & Z that they’ve wargamed _____, and it tells us that we need to get rid of _____ and expand _____.”

That set me off a bit, roughly in line with the above. Then today, we had this;
A Russian invasion would depend on rapidly seizing the Baltics in less than a hundred hours, presenting a fait-accompli before NATO can effectively respond. In 2016, wargames by the RAND think tank found that Russian forces could seize the capitals of Estonia and Latvia in between thirty-six to sixty hours—though the study may have been based on debatable assumptions.

Meanwhile, Russia’s cyber propaganda and disinformation campaigns would seek to turn international opinion against NATO “starting” a war against Russia’s “humanitarian intervention.” Moscow would essentially be gambling that Western European countries would be unwilling to risk nuclear war to liberate already-conquered Baltic states.
Exactly!

“Debatable assumptions.”

Any wargame of value has “debatable assumptions.” If done correctly, it will be followed by another wargame with equally “debatable assumptions.” THAT. IS. HOW. THEY. ARE. DONE.

If anyone tries to make a point with you by throwing wargame results in your face – without leading with a discussion about the “debatable assumptions” that went in to them – kick them out of your office. They are either trying to con you or don’t know what they are doing.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Fullbore Friday

How do you protest draconian defense cuts?

Well, this is one way.
Alan loved the RAF and felt its 50th anniversary should be celebrated with a flypast over London. There had been an official dinner and a few parades — but no flypast. This, he felt, was a terrible slight.

‘One thing that was in the Air Force’s blood was that you celebrated in the air, not on the ground,’ Alan, now 82, says at his home in Surrey.

He was serving at the time in No. 1 Squadron. This is the RAF’s oldest unit and as such he believed it had a responsibility to take the lead in ensuring the half-centenary was celebrated properly.

Alan decided to take matters into his own hands by staging a flypast of his own.

On April 4, Alan and three other Hunter pilots from his squadron had flown from their base at West Raynham in Norfolk to RAF Tangmere in Sussex, the former home of No. 1 Squadron, where they were helping to celebrate the base being given the freedom of the city of Chichester. He decided that the following day, on their way back, he would make a detour over the capital.

‘It was worth flying over London, even if I was going to get court-martialled,’ Alan says. At the very least, a trial would give him a chance to have his say on the problems facing the Air Force.
Read the whole thing from last year ... and watch the video.



On a personal note - I love the Hunter. I see them fly on a not infrequent basis, as some are owned by a civilian "Red Air" company that visits my airspace now and then.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Justice Delayed & Then Thrown Away ... and a New CNO

In almost half the time it took to fight and win WWII, the families of those Sailors killed in the FITZGERALD collision in WESTPAC have waited for justice; for some accountability - some understanding - as to why their loved ones died in their rack.

Well, we have this;
The Navy is expected Thursday to drop criminal charges against the commanding officer of the warship Fitzgerald and another officer who were facing court-martial trials tied to the fatal 2017 collision with a merchant vessel, according to Navy officials and the family of one of the fallen sailors.

Navy Times obtained a letter to the family of one of the sailors drowned in the disaster and it indicated that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson was dropping charges against the Fitz’s skipper at the time of the collision, Cmdr. Bryce Benson, and the tactical action officer, Lt. Natalie Combs.

“The cases are being dismissed for legal reasons that impede the continued prosecution of either officer,” the message states.

Instead, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer will issue letters of censure to both officers, the message stated.
If there was ever a case that needed Court Martial, it was this.

How will CDR Benson and LT Combs ever have their day in court to either be held accountable for their professional conduct - or let the evidence prove that they are not to blame?

Where is the justice for them ... and for the dead ... and for the families ... and for our nation and its Navy.

We deserved to know more about why the charges are dropped. Congress needs to perform its oversight of the Navy on this issue. The deaths, the hundreds of millions of dollars of damage, the strategic damage done to our reputation in a part of the world where "face" matters.

This is UNSAT, needs to be treated as UNSAT, and I hope it all breaks in to the open.

This story, in a just world, should be far from over.

Sadly, this is a shadow over what should be good news. I hope that wasn't the plan - to sweep away the old-CNO errata prior to the new, or to make smoke - but here you go;
The man President Donald J. Trump has nominated to replace Adm. John Richardson as the Navy’s 32nd chief of naval operations is a Cold War aviator who helped reinvent the sea service as its top personnel officer.

If confirmed by the Senate, Adm. William Francis “Bill” Moran will fleet up from his position as the vice chief of naval operations to take the helm of a Navy in flux, pursuing a fleet of 355 warships during an era of increasing competition from Russia, China and other rising powers.

In a prepared statement emailed to Navy Times, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer welcomed the White House on the nomination of Moran, calling him “a stalwart partner and adviser."
Admiral Bill Moran, USN is the real deal. What you see is what you get. At least from this chair, he has a large account of professional and personal capital to draw on. This is a great leader and as such, a great opportunity for our Navy.

As a side note, he joined us twice on Midrats, give it a listen if you have not yet.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

All Your Data Are Belong to Us

Nice Data Lines of Communication you have there.

Shame if something happened to them.

Pondering over at USNIBlog. Come on by.


Tuesday, April 09, 2019

SSBN Re-Capitalization Footsteps

We are planning for 12, but I will stick by to what I said almost exactly nine-years ago; we'll be lucky to get 10. (NB: that is in spite of the fact that Obama did not retreat and cut and the (R) unexpectedly took the House for the 8-following years - so the budget got larger. Hey, I'm not Nostradamus.)

The COLUMBIA Class is going to be the hungry-hungry hippo of defense money.

Can you hear it?
The Navy's $115 billion procurement cost estimate is not reliable partly because it is based on overly optimistic assumptions about the labor hours needed to construct the submarines. While the Navy analyzed cost risks, it did not include margin in its estimate for likely cost overruns. The Navy told us it will continue to update its lead submarine cost estimate, but an independent assessment of the estimate may not be complete in time to inform the Navy's 2021 budget request to Congress to purchase the lead submarine. Without these reviews, the cost estimate—and, consequently, the budget—may be unrealistic. A reliable cost estimate is especially important for a program of this size and complexity to help ensure that its budget is sufficient to execute the program as planned.

The Navy is using the congressionally-authorized National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund to construct the Columbia class. The Fund allows the Navy to purchase material and start construction early on multiple submarines prior to receiving congressional authorization and funding for submarine construction. The Navy anticipates achieving savings through use of the Fund, such as buying certain components early and in bulk, but did not include the savings in its cost estimate. The Navy may have overestimated its savings as higher than those historically achieved by other such programs. Without an updated cost estimate and cost risk analysis, including a realistic estimate of savings, the fiscal year 2021 budget request may not reflect funding needed to construct the submarine.
You can get links to the full report and the highlights here.

Part of me would rather see 8 SSBN and 2-4 SSGN from the design, but that is just me. Those SSGN bring a lot of punch forward when needed ... and flexibility.

The world in nine years further down the road will be different than we think it will be. Always keep that in mind.

Hat tip Phil.

Monday, April 08, 2019

A Quarter Century Waiting for the Salamander Strategic Reset

Now and then I go on a twitter thread that I feel I need to bring over here.

I know not everyone on the Front Porch are on twitter, and I value your opinion more than most. As such. I feel that I should do what I can to keep you up to speed on where I stand on important issues. Hopefully, that will help you understand why I post what I do here.

The below will not be news to long-term readers, but we have plenty of new ones - so I guess it is time.

Well, at the end of last week, David Larter posted something that prompted me to remind everyone of what has been my foundational stand on what our national strategy SHOULD be, but isn't.

We continue to read confusion, frustration, and general discontent with "strategy" attempts coming out of DC. If you look at it from a distance, it really makes sense that none of it makes sense or fits.

Part of this is institutional inertia, the other part is simple pocketbook issues. At lot of “that town” owes their paychecks, sponsorship, underwriting, ego, PhD, and designated parking spaces to maintaining the American quasi-empire.

I guess this is another opportunity to bring up the 25-yr old “Salamander Strategic Reset” pondered out by LT Salamander a couple of years after the end of the Cold War and slightly revised through the years.

1. First, know the challenge: The Soviet Union was a rather unique global challenge that lasted decades and as such warped our perception of ourselves. The Soviet Union died by its own hand, and still high off the false mirage of the DESERT STORM easy victory that immediately preceded it, we became infatuated with our sudden dominance astride the world - “peace dividend” or not.

Through the 90's GBR, CAN, BEL, FRA, NLD and other armies decamped from Germany after the fall of the Soviet Union, but we did not. Why? We became addicted to being what we are not designed to be; a quasi-empire.

2. Know yourself: we are by design a mercantile republic, not an empire, yet to keep the Soviets at bay for over four decades, we adopted the mantle of one. It is not a natural state. We are blessed with good neighbors, two oceans, and for the moment the best global economy. Our responsibility to the world is an example of solid economics and good government - not enforcer of order.

3. Know the state of man: there will always be tyrants. To live under tyranny is the basic state of man. A higher state of man with liberty and free discourse must be desired and fought for by the people it will impact - it cannot be imposed by an external power and then left to the imposed to implement in the long term. It will be seen as foreign to the people it is being imposed on, and the people will become an antibody to it. A nation will bleed itself white of blood, treasure, and legitimacy wandering the planet looking for monsters to slay. There will always be monsters. If you set on that quest, it will never end.

4. Bring them home: We should not be garrisoning the world as we approach the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. Our allies are strong and well populated enough to be their own 1st line of defense and we do not need to be on their ramparts so that they can work on other projects. We should have no maneuver forces based on the land of our allies. Zero. We should not have any of our naval forces based in the ports of foreign nations on a permanent basis. With our allies, can we have combined training, HQ and logistics bases? Absolutely. Should we on a regular basis have large scale exercises where we surge forces from the USA and back? Absolutely. That is our natural state.

5. Play to our comparative advantage: Again, we have friendly land borders and two large oceans. We are a maritime and aerospace power, not a land empire. We are blessed with resources, talent, stable government and rule of law unprecedented in the history of mankind. That is what we are undermining by trying for force the unnatural fit of empire. The secondary effects here and globally are clear for all to see if they wish to.

6. Land reserve: we have no standing need for large standing ground forces. None. Outside short notice aggressive war on our part, there is no reason we need the active duty ground forces we have. Our design and national character has the answer for us; the vast majority of our ground force capability in peace should be in a robust and diverse National Guard system. We can activate and bring up to full readiness as needed. As doing so would be a significant disruption to economies and families throughout every community in the USA, it will stand as a check on those who have a desire to try out their dreams of global empire. The nation will have to be behind it, not a klatch of think-tanks, politicians, media types, militarists, or excitable residents of Blobistan. Well equipped, distributed, and fully part of every part of the USA. Let the vast majority of our Army (and mobilization enablers in USAF/USN) be of and from the citizenry.

7. An expeditionary mindset: We should have a reasonable active army and USMC, but they should be expeditionary by design and scalable w/integrated reserve and National Guard components that will flesh them out. There are a variety of ways to design this active force, but it will only be a much smaller % of today's. Active component+reserves+National Guard units - actual numbers may be more. We will need more logistics, air and sea, in reserve/National Guard status - and that should be just fine.

So, that is the Executive Summary. You really want to “break the wheel” of strategic stumbling, drift and inertial? This is a way to do it.

You will make lots of enemies doing it - but in your heart you know it is the right thing to do.

I offer this final point: wonder why our efforts to find/write/create a strategy that people understand simply has not worked the last decade+? I’ll tell you why, because they really do not fit with our natural character or the global reality.

Return from empire. It will be OK.

Sunday, April 07, 2019

What about the USN Reserve - on Midrats

Almost everyone who follows military issues can clearly point to what the Army Reserve, National Guard, USAFR, ANG, and USMC Reserves do – their individual and unit deployments have been highly visible so far in the Long War … but what about the Naval Reserve?

What are they doing? Are they being best utilized to purpose? As we re-look at the challenge of a maritime power facing emerging powers on the high seas, do we need to reassess the last few decades of policy, practice, and procedures in utilizing the available manpower and expertise that is and could reside in the US Navy Reserve?

Our guests this Sunday, April 7th from 5-6pm Eastern will be Chris Rawley, CAPT USNR and Claude Berube, LCDR USNR.

We will use Claude's recent article, All Sane Men Believe in Reserves, as a starting off point for our talk.

Chris Rawley is the CEO of Harvest Returns, a platform for investing in agriculture, and is Reserve Chief of Staff for Commander, Naval Surface Forces, helping to oversee 3,800 reserve sailors supporting fleet units around the world. During his 26 year military career, Rawley has filled a variety of leadership positions in naval, expeditionary, and joint special operations units afloat and ashore. He has deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, throughout Africa, the Persian Gulf, and Western Pacific. Rawley has a degree from Texas A&M University, earned an MBA at George Washington University, and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and Joint Forces Staff College.

Dr. Claude Berube teaches at the US Naval Academy and has published several books. He recently returned from his third deployment as an officer in the USNR. He has worked as a defense contractor, as a civilian with the Office of Naval Intelligence, and a staffer to two US Senators.

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

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, April 05, 2019

Fullbore Friday

When listening to Jon Meacham's Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, and I came across a story that just captivated me.

Why there isn't a cross country horse race each year to celebrate this ride, I have no idea (probably has to so with lawyers) - and why I wasn't taught this in school, well, just drives me nuts. 8-yr old Sal would have eaten this story up.

This has nothing to do with anything nautical - but it has everything to do with the kind of thinking all in the profession of arms should have; bravery, quick of mind, thinking three steps ahead, and more than anything else - a bias towards action.

If you do not know of him yet, let me have the pleasure of introducing to you Captain Jack Jouett, Virginia Militia and the ride to save the Republic that was yet to be.
LATE IN THE EVENING, Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton and 250 mounted British soldiers reined up near Cuckoo Tavern. The troopers were hard, dusty hours in the saddle. They had mounted before dawn at a Hanover County camp and pushed themselves more than twenty leagues across the Virginia Piedmont to this Louisa County way station. But the riding of that day—June 3, 1781—was not over. Before it was done, a tavern patron, putting down his drink, would gallop into the night and the history of the American Revolution, and dismount, to be remembered as Virginia's Paul Revere. That man was Captain Jack Jouett of the Virginia militia, a fierce and astute patriot who understood why Tarleton was there.
...
Operating north of Richmond, chasing Lafayette, Cornwallis received an intercepted American dispatch reporting the presence of Jefferson and members of the legislature in Charlottesville. To his mind, they were legitimate military targets, and he ordered Tarleton to capture them.

Tarleton faced a seventy-mile ride, but he believed that he could reach Charlottesville before American spies noticed his absence. The raiders rested about noon and hurried toward Cuckoo Tavern. Jouett saw them there about 9:30 p.m.

He and his father had signed the Albemarle Declaration, a renunciation of loyalty to King George III. His father and brother Matthew were also captains in the Virginia Militia, as was brother Robert in the Continental Army. Jack Jouett was twenty-six years old, 200 pounds, and six-feet-four. Contemporaries described him as handsome, a superb marksman, and an accomplished horseman.

He stole away as Tarleton, dismounting at a nearby plantation, gave his men three hours rest beginning at roughly 10 p.m. Jouett pounded through the night. He reached Monticello near daybreak, warned Jefferson, and headed to Charlottesville to raise the alarm.
Read it all.


First posted January, 2014.

Thursday, April 04, 2019

If we won't re-open the Bronco line ...

The OV-10 - especially the modernized version - was always seen as the best solution for an identified requirement.

The forces that be and bureaucratic leadership only an Ottoman would appreciate slow rolled the light-CAS aircraft.

While we pass, it looks like others will try to make a go at it ... from Brazil.

The OV-10 ... reimagined.
Akaer of Brazil is presenting a conceptual twin-engine multi-role aircraft called the Mosquito at the 2019 LAAD Defence & Security exposition that, if developed, would be the company's first aircraft.

The Mosquito would conceptually perform missions such as close air support (CAS); intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); armed ISR; and aerial refuelling. It could also perform combat search and rescue (CSAR); communications intelligence; air defence; airborne command and control (C2); and battlefield interdiction.

Fernando Ferraz, Akaer chief operations officer, told Jane's on 3 April that Mosquito is the result of a two-to-three-year effort to identify needs and trends in the light attack aircraft market. The company, he said, also went through 10 different designs before settling on this model while trying to blend many requirements from around the world.
Logic continues to bring you back to this design.
The Mosquito would differentiate itself from competing light attack aircraft such as the Embraer A-29 Super Tucano or the Textron AT-6 Wolverine by providing better visibility. Ferraz said Akaer conceptually designed the Mosquito with raised wings on the fuselage. Both the Super Tucano and the Wolverine have wings much lower on the aircraft fuselage.
I'd like 8 squadrons please, of 8-aircraft each. Six AD, two reserves.

Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXII

What if those who see China's growth to top global power are overplaying their hand?

What is another point of view of where China's power will peak?

While I remain a China hawk, I also believe in the "China will grow old before it grows rich" line of thinking, and keep all my ideas soaked in an understanding that in modern history no nation has seen the challenge of trying to modernize in the face of collapsing demographics.

China is also China ... so I try to keep an open mind.

So, let's check in with Gordon Chang take in line with the above;
Kaplan, in his piece titled “China: A World Power Again,” maintained that the period of Chinese weakness was an aberration, merely an interlude between natural eras of tianchao—Celestial Kingdom—grandeur.

There are many contemporary reasons—contracting economy, collapsing demography, crumbling politics—why Kaplan is wrong and why Beijing’s challenge to America and the international system will almost surely fall short, but history also suggests China’s path to glory is impassable. How so? The current ruler, the bold Xi Jinping, is adopting imperial-era notions that will cut short the rise of the Chinese nation.
He's built on a record of those before him;
Many would argue that China has also enjoyed a fourth golden era, that begun by Deng. During this time, the Communist Party abandoned its tianxia-like goals of reordering the world, embraced the existing Westphalian international order, and thrived while absorbing technology and capital from others.

Deng may have shared Mao’s goal for world domination. After all, in 1989 and 1990 he famously issued instructions to Chinese officials to, among other things, “hide our capabilities” and “bide our time.” Yet, whatever were his ultimate goals for China, he ruled with much less ambition and far more caution than Mao, as did Deng’s chosen successor, Jiang Zemin.

Hu Jintao, who followed Jiang, set his sights slightly higher, invoking tianxia by incessantly talking about “harmony.” Foreigners, like Kissinger, perceived the emphasis on the word to be a sign that Chinese leaders accepted the world as it was. Yet during Hu’s rule, generally coinciding with the first decade of this century, “harmonized” took on sinister overtones, especially inside China, where the tianxia-era term came to mean “coerced” and “silenced.”

Xi Jinping, Hu’s successor, has not been that subtle. He has thrown caution to the wind, making it clear he believes, as did Chinese emperors, that he is the world’s only legitimate ruler. Echoes of the worldwide tianxia concept are embedded in the slogan for the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing, “One World, One Dream.” Xi was the Politburo Standing Committee member responsible for the Games.
China, especially in the decade since the Games has a lot of people spooked. In a large part, here's why;
Xi’s recent comments warn us that he has no intention of living within the current Westphalian system or even adjusting it. His words in this context, therefore, are revolutionary.

It is not a revolution that promises to benefit China, however. Apart from driving away friends—who wants to be Beijing’s subject?—the system Xi contemplates has been tried before with disastrous results. That system, Fei-Ling Wang writes, “has a record of suboptimal performance that features despotic governance, long stagnation of economy, suffocation of science and technology, retardation of spiritual pursuits, irrational allocation of resources, great depreciation of human dignity and life, low and declining living standards for the masses, and mass death and destruction periodically and frequently.”
All that being said, here is the anti-Kaplan counterpoint;
Xi’s top-down system is already driving the country in wrong directions. For instance, the motor of China’s rise, the economy, is stumbling in large part because Xi, as Nicholas Lardy of the Peterson Institute for International Economics observes, has placed a greater emphasis on Party control than growth. There are even indications that, due to his policies, the economy is now contracting.
...
Xi has essentially put the entire country in a big red time machine and set the dial to 1950, perhaps 1650. State media may talk about “New China,” but he is busy recreating a Chinese system that history demonstrates did not work well.

So Robert Kaplan may see a China restoring itself to grandeur, but that view is not only a gross misreading of history but also an example of particularly bad forecasting.
Worth a ponder.

Read it all.

Monday, April 01, 2019

Hey Captain....Got a Minute?

The events of 2017 with our Surface force in WESTPAC continue to be a focus of navalists. An ongoing subject related to these events has been the nature of command.

Today we have a guest post on that exact topic from Bryan McGrath directed towards the new generation setting up to take command. What he has to say is important to everyone.

Over to you Bryan.

Excuse me, U.S. Navy surface ship Commanding Officers…could I beg a moment of your time? I realize you are busy, but it has ever been thus, right?

I’d like to talk with you, Old Guy to Old Guy/Gal. I realize that I’m really a “much Older Guy” (53), but I am the same age as the folks who are running the Navy these days, and I came from the same gene pool.

But before I start, let’s get the ugly stuff out of the way first. I am a defense consultant. People pay me for the way I think. These people include senior officers in the Surface Force. This is no secret, but it is often used as a “gotchya” to demonstrate that whatever I say or write publicly is really just because I am a sock puppet for Admirals. Nothing could be more distant from the truth. What IS true is that they HIRE and RETAIN me because I have a set of skills, ideas, and principles that they value. I am from their generation, and I think and write about Seapower and the Surface Navy in a manner with which they are comfortable.

You on the other hand, are not of my/our generation. You are my division officers, all grown up and in command. I couldn’t be more proud of you. But there is a gap between us that I first saw as a Department Head, the kind of generational gap that is accelerated by technology. In our case, the technology was video games. I cannot tell you how uninterested I and my fellow DH’s were with your obsession for Madden football or any of the other games of the mid-90’s that caused you to hoot and holler from your staterooms rather than join in the wardroom to watch a movie. I still don’t get video games. But I am the aging dinosaur and video games are a multi-billion-dollar business.

I want to alert you to a gap I see developing between you and YOUR junior officers, department heads and division officers alike. It is a gap that is also accelerated by technology, in this case, the internet and social media. But the gap is more than just intergenerational sniping (which is of course, our national past-time). It is a trust gap. A generation of young officers is discussing amongst themselves – in their chosen forums with which you are largely unfamiliar, generally dismissive, or passively lurking—a sense of alienation and mistrust from the larger “system” of producing surface naval power. As the first line of authority in that “system”, you have a unique and solemn responsibility to listen to them, to engage with them, to translate concepts that may or may not be familiar to them, and to lead them.

And now, for a story.

In February 1992, I walked off the USS THOMAS S. GATES (CG 51) after a killer port visit in Fort Lauderdale, on my way to my first shore job. I had earned every qualification possible except command at sea, because I was ineligible by virtue of only being a division officer. I remember—clearly—thinking as I walked away that if the Navy had asked—I could have commanded that ship. Then and there. I was unassailably confident in my technical warfighting ability, leadership acumen, and professional mariner skills. For those who know me, unassailable confidence will not be surprising. Trust me, it was worse when I was 26.

I relate this to you, because THAT GUY/GAL is in your wardroom right now. He or she is a white-hot runner enabled by more information in the palm of their hand than I had in that ship’s combat system. They are globally connected, and they are able to share experiences with others in their position in real time across the fleet. Whereas I held court on the after missile deck dispensing my wisdom to a half dozen other JO’s, they are sharing their wisdom with the world. And in many cases, like me at the time, they simply aren’t that wise.

In its wisdom, the Navy held off for an additional 12 years before giving me command of a ship. On the morning I took command, I remembered that 26-year-old, and how ridiculously cocky he was. I thought about how much I had learned in follow on sea and shore tours, the people I’d met, the mentors I’d gained, the stories I’d listened to. The intervening 12 years was a graduate program in leadership, warfighting, and professionalism, which included 27 months working directly for the CNO where I was able to see just how hard it is to run a Navy, how all of the easy decisions are made elsewhere.

Those 12 years ALSO happened to coincide with a gigantic drawdown in the Navy, where we went from “great power competition” on the blue water to a hyper-power who could impose its will from a few miles off the beach. I assure you, there were considerable challenges at the shipboard level that were directly associated with the drawdown, with “winning” the Cold War, and with harvesting the “peace dividend”. At the time, I envied the old salts who were part of the Reagan buildup, believing that they must have had it so easy, awash in money as I assumed the Navy was. I truly believed (then), that I was part of a generation of officers who were facing unique challenges. But that is because I had nothing to compare it to.

I know, I know—get to the point, McGrath. I hear that a lot. Mostly at home.

The point is, YOU are where you are because YOU have presumably gained some of that same wisdom. You have had tours on major staffs and in Washington. You know damn well that there are people working their asses off every day to do the right thing, to provide you and your crew with the tools you need to succeed, to push the envelope on technology even as you squeeze life out of aging systems.

You are deeply aware of the processes that govern budgeting and resource allocation, and you know that it is exceedingly difficult to make substantial changes in a Navy overnight, no matter how desirable those changes may be. You know that there is a complex set of inputs that determine “Seapower”, and that turning the knob on one of them impacts the locked train that relates the others.

You were around for much of the drawdown I described, and you now command in an atmosphere in which readiness dollars—parts, fuel, maintenance—have increased for three straight years. You remember what it was like to be told that your CASREP on one of three generators would be fixed when you got back from VACAPES ops, because you had two others and they wouldn’t authorize overtime on the weekend before getting underway. You also know that this is no longer the approach the fleet takes. I urge you to make sure your junior officers know this. You were around when there WERE commodores and flag officers who would hold the number of CASREPS against a ship. You also know that this is no longer the case. Quite the contrary, the Navy leaders I work with reinforce to you at every opportunity that they expect you to document the material discrepancies on your ships and are driving their staffs to rectify them. Share this knowledge with your junior officers.

More importantly though, you KNOW that you are in a special position. The CO of a ship is a different animal than any other level of command in any other armed service. To your JO’s, you ARE the Navy. You aren’t just their CO, you are a “made man/woman”, and you are part of the hierarchy, whereas they are subject to it.

It is time to take this responsibility seriously, to engage with your JO’s and try to describe what is going on outside the skin of your ship. It is time to educate yourself on the myriad initiatives underway that address professional shortcomings identified in the force after the 2017 collisions and the changes in the career path – including regular professional assessments – designed to increase professional competence. After educating yourself, talk with your officers. Make sure they know what you know.

I urge these things because I am a little more social-media savvy than the average old guy, and I pay attention to the things I read from your JO’s. They have access to a huge amount of information some of which is factual and some of which is fantastic. Without context, it all reads the same. You have to be that context. And while there are only a few, their resonance with their peers is noteworthy. Some of them think that you discourage properly reporting casualties. Some of them think that nothing has changed in Surface Warfare since the summer of 2017. Some of them think you have little interest in mentoring them. Some of them think that you aren’t listening. Some think “Big Navy” isn’t listening.

Prove them wrong.

We—the American people—put an obscene amount of trust in you. So do your JO’s. Make sure you are worthy of that trust. Do what is right and tell the truth—to them, to your bosses, to whomever. You are occupying what many of us old guys believe is the best job in the world. If you are just marking time, hanging on, and grinding your teeth through your command tour, you need to re-assess your approach, because your JO’s are watching every move you make and are assessing their work environment—and their view of the Navy-- to a large degree on your influence.

Someday, you’ll be in my spot, cheering them on from the shoreline. Make sure you leave them with the indelible memory of you having commanded well…of you having fun in command…of you being a person of integrity…off you being a nearly bottomless source of positive energy…of you communicating with them meaningfully and interpreting the mysterious world of “Big Navy” for them…of you having groomed them to take your spot, as I pray that I did for you.

I assure you, it is worth the effort.

Bryan is a retired Naval Officer with over 25 years of experience. He was the lead strategist and primary author of the US Navy's 2007 Maritime Strategy and is an acknowledged expert in the fields of strategy formulation, strategic planning, and strategic communication.