Wednesday, July 31, 2019

ISAFication of the Strait of Hormuz

So, you think you have friends?

If you say "1,000 Ship Navy" - what does that actually mean?

Which nations do you expect to punt, and which will stand?

So much clarity in the latest Strait of Hormuz crisis.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come on by.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXIII

China has a plan.

It isn't a secret. She isn't hiding anything.

She is persistent, steady, focused, and driven. Like a slow rising tide, she is moving on to the global stage more and more and more.

In just Africa, you can see it. All clear. All for you to see.

Take time to read the superb report from CSIS - but the graphics should be enough to get your attention.

Monday, July 29, 2019

How Things Can Get Real Stupid Real Fast

It is helpful to keep in mind that as difficult as it is to understand why your neighbors and family members make the decisions they do in the course of their lives, realize it can be equally opaque to understand why nations do the things they do.

History is, on balance, not just a story of struggle and progress – it is also the story of nations and leaders making decisions that both at the time and in hindsight, are reckless. With too much hope and too little appreciation of risk, nations can start down paths that lead places no one wants to go.

The ‘ole planner in me can’t help but take strange little articles in open source and play them out four more turns – about three different ways, flipping one or the other assumption/variable to see where they can lead. From Most Likely COA to most Dangerous COA – the exercise can be … a bit maddening.

The Austro-Hungarians could have used a better run of this exercise  early last century – and we sure didn’t do all that great of a job of it in 2003.

Along those lines, last night I simply could not get this little bit out of my head;
Iran has reportedly asked China for its support in the Gulf, as Royal Navy Type 45 Destroyer HMS Duncan arrived in the region.

Rezaei made the remarks on Sunday in a meeting with head of the International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), Song Tao, who who arrived in Tehran on Sunday, reports Iranian news agency Mehr news.

"We live in the energy region of the world. Any kind of insecurity and conflict in this region would carry harm to global peace and security,” Rezaei is quoted as telling Song Tao.
I don’t think the time is quite ripe for China to make its military statement on the global stage, but there is a non-zero chance that smart Chinese planners are doing the math right now on what a tottering former empire a bit over extended and with few friends might provide to a nation looking to make a point.

Weakness is not a good play for Britain right now. I really hope her European friends start to back her play, but I have my doubts.

When that fails, I’m sure C5F has the plans in place to backfill and form up with the Royal Navy.

That is something I hope the Chinese will see. Not only is the time not ripe for them to take the stage, we will not let the Royal Navy stand alone against anyone.

China should smile and say polite things to Iran, and then do nothing. They have that luxury, for now, they should continue to enjoy it.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

No Summer Break for NATO with Jorge Benitez - on Midrats

From Baltic air policing, through the Russian border areas, to Afghanistan and curling back to the Strait of Hormuz, NATO alliance members are being tested not just by external powers, but by domestic politics and the slow churn of history.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO members continue to grapple with their larger mission - and what alliance members mean and owe to each other.

From purpose to public support, returning to Midrats for a thorough review Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern of NATO near the end of the 2nd decade of the 21st Century will be our guest Dr. Jorge Benitez.

Jorge is Assistant Professor of International Relations at the Marine Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia. He is also a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council. He specializes in NATO and transatlantic relations, European politics, and US national security. He previousy served as assistant for Alliance issues to the Director of NATO Affairs in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He has also served as a specialist in international security for the Department of State and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.

Dr. Benitez received his BA from the University of Florida, his MPP from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and his PhD from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

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, July 26, 2019

Fullbore Friday

As this topic came up this week again on twitter, I thought I would repost this FbF from 2013.

As those who follow what I am reading on the right side of the page, I am a catching up on someone I have considered a hero for most of my adult life once I found out who he was in my early 20s; Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

I cannot recommend more highly to those interested in the Germans who tried to get rid of Hitler, the book Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

In the course of my reading of the plots to kill Hitler, I heard of Bonheoffer in the context of those in the background supporting the uniformed Germans in the plot; he was so much more. I wish I had read about Bonheoffer earlier, and I intend to get the English translations of his theological work later this year.

One of the reason I found the plot so interesting as the more I learned of it, the more I found more of the lies that I was told growing up about all the brave "anti-fascists" of the Left and that, natuurlijk, the fasists were a bunch of right-wing Christian conservatives. What a load of BS I used to believe.

The Nazis were not "right wing" in our political context - fascism was all an outgrowth of socialism. The Left did nothing serious inside Germany to resist or eliminate Hitler, they either joined him, ran to the communists, or surrendered.

No, the only serious effort against Hitler was what in our political context would be considered the "right" side of the spectrum; the landed aristocracy, classical liberals, and relatively fundamentalist Christians both Protestant like Bonheoffer and Catholics.

Well, one of the last of them has now passed - a man I read about a few times. He served his nation well his entire life. He showed more bravery as a young man than legions do collectively their entire life. Like many of the plotters and patriots, he was a Prussian from Pomerania ... in lands that are now Polish. A life in many ways, all lost.

Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist; congrats on a life well lived. Via The Economist;
NO ONE could doubt that, from head to toe, Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist was a military man. Generations of training, from the 12th century, had given him that straight Prussian spine and that cool, unswerving look. His ancestors, on the cold, undulating family estates on the Gulf of Riga and in Pomerania, had been Rittmeister, masters of cavalry. The good old days, it seemed to him, were when German men had been proud to wear their uniforms in the street. In person he was rarely off the defensive, civil but unexpansive, returning questions with a simple “You know the answer to that.”

In 1940, at 18, he abandoned his architectural studies and joined the Wehrmacht.
Amid the Russian snows as a very young company commander, Ewald-Heinrich found that he never got used to the deaths of his men. Increasingly, he wondered what they were dying for, in a war that was “pointless” and “wrong”. He was a proud German, devoted to the Fatherland, perhaps the more so because his family lands were so close to the edge that they were swallowed into post-war Latvia and Poland. But the words dulce et decorum est pro patria mori meant nothing to him now, when the state itself was murderous.

The one thing that seemed worth dying for was the erasing of Hitler from the scene. When Claus von Stauffenberg, leader of the anti-Nazi plotters, asked him to become a suicide-bomber early in 1944, he still hesitated, hoping that his father would object and save him. But his father paused for only a moment before he told him he must do it: “A man who doesn’t take such a chance will never again be happy in life.”

The path not taken

In the event, he never quite put his courage to the test. He agreed to wear two hand grenades under his uniform and to detonate them as he stood to attention before Hitler, but the Führer cancelled their meeting. Similarly, in the plot of July 20th 1944 to kill Hitler in the “Wolf’s Lair” in east Prussia, he agreed to carry the suitcase of explosives into the conference room but, in the end, was told to stay in Berlin. For a few hours, feeling history “bend on the edge of a knife”, he believed Hitler had been killed. In fact, he had survived. Five thousand were killed to avenge him; but Mr von Kleist, after brief imprisonment, was dismissed as a callow, apolitical soldier and sent to the front again. He was the last of the plotters to die, their youngest recruit.
He served his nation exceptionally well.
After the war he was left homeless when most of Pomerania was transferred to Poland and all Germans expelled. Kleist went into the publishing business, founding his own publishing house, the Ewald-von-Kleist-Verlag. He joined the Protestant Order of Saint John (Bailiwick of Brandenburg), to which his executed father had belonged, admitted as a Knight of Honour in 1957 and promoted to Knight of Justice in 1975.[6] In 1962, Kleist founded the Wehrkundetagung in Munich, later called, in English, the Munich Conference on Security Policy; he moderated it until 1998.
Of note, his father was also part of the plot and was executed one month prior to the end of the war.

That whole family is Fullbore.

Go to the 9-minute mark. It is a good and great thing that such a German patriot lived to see this scene on a day such as this.  Germany as he wished it was as a young man, that he now sees as he helped build.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Gods of Economics, Demographics, and Politics are Astride Their Chargers

History likes to laugh at our plans.

What if we are so focused on present assumptions for a path to 355 ships that we are ignoring a few uncomfortable terrain issues?

Do you like the idea of facing China with 6 CVN and 44 total submarines?


Head on over to USNIBlog and check my math for me.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Professor Fleming Returns to Annapolis

Regular readers here are familiar with Professor Bruce Fleming from USNA.

He's had a rough run of things the last couple of years, but the wheels of justice have finished grinding ... and he's emerged on top.

Via Lauren Lumpkin at the Baltimore Sun;
A controversial Naval Academy professor, who Navy officials said emailed partially clothed photos of himself to students and used “demeaning” language in the classroom, will be reinstated by the end of the summer, according to a ruling issued Wednesday by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Bruce Fleming was removed from the Annapolis institution in August after a seven-month long-investigation into his conduct. A tenured civilian professor, Fleming appealed his removal and made the case for reinstatement in front of an administrative judge in May.

The Merit Systems Protection Board, which adjudicates personnel actions for federal employees, reversed Fleming’s removal and ordered back pay. Fleming is one of the Naval Academy’s most senior professors and earned $130,000 a year.

Fleming called the ruling “a moment of triumph."
Read the full article if you wish, but I wanted to share with you some primary source documentation as well.

Here is the decision dated 24 July 2019 from the Merit Systems Protection Board. If you really want to see what was going on at Annapolis and want to decide for yourself, read it.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

South Korea Joins the Carrier Club

If carriers were yesterday's news - I don't think more and more people would be joining the club.

First, here is the more recent South Korean flattop, the LPH MARADO, with just a hint of an angled deck.

You can take that and double it.

Via Jeff Joeng at DefenseNews;
South Korea is to launch a new version of a large-deck landing ship from which short-takeoff-and-vertical-landing aircraft can operate by the late 2020s, amid naval buildups in China and Japan.

The decision was made during a July 12 meeting of top brass presided over by Gen. Park Han-ki, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Anti-Japanese sentiment in South Korea is gaining traction over Tokyo’s export restrictions on high-tech materials to South Korea.

“The plan of building the LPH-II ship has been included in a long-term force buildup plan,” said a spokesman for the Joint Chiefs, speaking on condition of anonymity and using an acronym for “landing platform helicopter.”

“Once a preliminary research is completed within a couple of years, the shipbuilding plan is expected to be included in the midterm acquisition list,” the spokesman added.

The new LPH is to be refit to displace 30,000 tons, double the capacity of the previous two LPHs — Dokdo and Marado — with 14,500 tons of displacement. The carrier-type vessel is also bigger than the 27,000 tons associated with Japan’s Izumo-class helicopter destroyers.
The iterative vice transformational approach to naval shipbuilding is still being practiced ... and is working.

I look forward to the F-35B orders to join their F-35A buys.

Monday, July 22, 2019

The Commandant of the Marine Corps Just Changed the Game

Ready to start your week off right? No better way than a Monday guest post by Bryan McGrath.

If you have not read the 38th Commandant's Planning Guidance yet, after reading Brian's post below, you can find it at the bottom of the post.

Here and on Midrats we've spoken often about the need to have more thinking at a higher, structural level. It looks like General David Berger, USMC has done doing exactly that.

Brian, over to you.

When one’s life is spent thinking about American Seapower—specifically, its importance to the security and prosperity of the nation and how best to provide more of it more effectively—a great number of articles, papers, speeches, doctrines, concepts, and statements must be digested and sometimes produced. The overwhelming number of these efforts are pedestrian, self-evident, banal, controversial for the sake of being so, and or repetitive. And while the cause of American Seapower is advanced by some of them, the gains made are glacial and incremental. Until now.

The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, recently issued the single most consequential bit of thinking to guide American Seapower since the series of articles and briefings that accompanied the Maritime Strategy of the 1980’s. Known as the Commandant’s Planning Guidance, the document is by definition, Berger’s statement of intent for the next four years, and the kind of thing new service chiefs promulgate in order to align their services behind their vision. If that were all this document is, it would be worth reading, if for no other reason than as is customary with the Marine Corps, 180,000 plus Marines and their enablers will read it and cite it as gospel. But that is not all it is. This guidance is a roadmap for the embrace of Integrated American Seapower, considerable Department of the Navy reform, tectonic shifts in the Marine Corps narrative, and innovative capability evolution. As soon as the new CNO (VADM Mike Gilday) is in office, he, Berger, and Secretary Spencer should head off to some secluded hideaway for ten days and figure out how to expand this guidance into authoritative vision for the entire Department. It is that good, it is that insightful.

There is a good bit on the back end of the document that I won’t cover here, not because it is unimportant but because it is less important to the purposes I have. Fitness reports, parental leave, training, recruitment, talent management, etc., fall into this category. I am concerned with the Marine Corps’ sense of self, its warfighting ethos and concepts, its force design, and its command and control. These subjects are front and center and form the most interesting portion of the document.

First, and this cannot be understated, General Berger has clearly articulated the Marine Corps’ role as a naval weapon system, a component of integrated American Seapower that influences from the sea to the land and the land to the sea. He has tied the Corps’ operational command and control to a unified joint functional commander (citing the Joint Forces Maritime Component Commander—more on this here) with control of all elements of the maritime force, and has settled (forever, if USMC history is to be cited) the place of tactical level USMC forces within the Navy’s Combined Warfare Commander (CWC) concept. While USMC leaders have for a decade now, talked about “returning to our naval roots” after years operating as a second land army, Berger has cast his lot with the Navy in a warfighting partnership that offers considerable effectiveness and lethality to the nation’s defense strategy at the expense of what many will perceive as Marine Corps autonomy. Those who reach this conclusion are in error; what Berger is advocating places the Marine Corps advantageously within the naval force and will provide it with more influence as to how that force will be planned, composed, developed, acquired, exercised, postured, and employed.

To that end, Berger has walked away from the “requirement” for 38 amphibious ships and 2.0 MEBs worth of lift as the two most important statements out of any Marine’s mouth when talking about force structure. Ghosts of Commandants past are rolling in their graves as easily understood planning factors are eschewed in favor of a more complex understanding of force packaging and capability flexibility. This alone is perhaps the riskiest part of Berger’s vision, as it substitutes well-understood and easily understandable concepts for more fluid and situational modalities, and I do not envy USMC force planners the job of attempting to define and aggregate these ideas into service programs. That should not stop them from doing it.

As for service programming, Berger identifies a problem within Department of the Navy planning and programming, one that I have written about in the past, and that is the degree to which the two services build their Program Objective Memoranda (POM) in silos. Here is Berger (p.2): “In addition to the recent focus on operational integration, I intend to seek greater integration between the Navy and Marine Corps in our Program Objective Memorandum (POM) development process. We share a common understanding of the NDS, the pacing threat, the future operating environment, and of those capabilities that provide the greatest overmatch for our Navy. We must strive to create capabilities that support fleet operations and naval campaigns. We will integrate our POM wargaming efforts with the Navy’s, thereby, ensuring a common understanding and common baseline from which each Service can communicate their needs to the Secretary of the Navy, and ultimately, the Secretary of Defense.” Moving toward a common POM for Integrated American Seapower will likely require DoN, USMC, and USN re-organization, but this is something SecNav and his service chiefs can iron out at their aforementioned offsite.

The paragraph that knocked me back in my chair—for its bravery, its integrity, and its common-sense, is this one (p.2): “In 1933, the establishment of the FMF under the operational control of the Fleet Commander generated great unity of effort, operational flexibility, and the integrated application of Navy and Marine capabilities throughout the maritime domain. The 1986 Goldwater Nichols Act, however, removed the preponderance of the FMF from fleet operational control and disrupted the long-standing Navy-Marine Corps relationship by creating separate Navy and Marine Corps components within joint forces. Furthermore, Navy and Marine Corps officers developed a tendency to view their operational responsibilities as separate and distinct, rather than intertwined. With the rise of both land and sea-based threats to the global commons, there is a need to reestablish a more integrated approach to operations in the maritime domain. Reinvigorating the FMF can be accomplished by assigning more Marine Corps forces to the Fleet, putting Marine Corps experts in the fleet Maritime Operations Centers, and also by shifting emphasis in our training, education, and supporting establishment activities.”

How often in today’s world does a leader come forward and state that what enshrined his organization’s autonomy and full-partnership—went too far and diminished overall effectiveness? This is the statement of a man with the confidence provided by having a good story and the right set of answers and questions. Berger gets that future fights require a different Marine Corps. Berger gets that those fights require a stronger brand of Integrated American Seapower. Berger gets that the USMC may have to shed what have become traditional and much-loved capabilities—not only because they are less related to maritime functions, but because others can do them better—in order to achieve new and critical naval capabilities, and Berger gets that the USMC is now—33 years after Goldwater Nichols—a strong enough bureaucratic force to advocate for these changes without any diminishment of its service culture or role.

If it sounds like I am excited about this guidance, I am. For its goodness to be realized, CNO Gilday will have to meet Berger in the middle, and the Secretary of the Navy is going to have to be there with them. This “Maritime Holy Trinity” can – if aligned—accomplish great things for this country. If Berger isn’t met, antibodies will appear in the form of USMC traditionalists, jealous Navy interests, and confused politicians, and Berger’s visionary stance will become just another howl at the moon destroyed by the smallness of Washington DC. I urge all involved not to let that happen.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group where he provides consulting services to the Navy. He is also the Deputy Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. The views expressed here—and everywhere else for that matter—are his.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Midrats Mid July Free For All

Beat the heat by joining us today from 5-6pm Eastern Sunday for a mid-July maritime free for all.

We're going to cover the chart from Iran seizing Brit owned tankers, to the future impact of growing naval powers like India and Japan, to the new-new CNO to be, and anything else that seems to be breaking above the natsec ambient noise.

Jump in the chat room with your own question, or you can even call in.

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, July 19, 2019

Fullbore Friday

As interest in our 24-min newscycle for the ongoing, now almost generational-length, conflicts against Islamic-inspired extremism in Central Asia and the Middle East approaches another decade of conflict, a lot of exceptional heroism is almost going unnoticed by everyone - even the natsec community.

Today, let's take a moment to recognize one who represents well all those great American servicemembers who came before him; Tech. Sgt. Michael Perolio, USAF.

Via Oriana Pawlyk at Military Times;
On Jan. 11, 2018, Perolio was operating alongside Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha 0221, partnered with the Afghan 8th Special Operations Kandak Commandos as part of Operation Freedom's Sentinel. He was assigned to Strike Team 3, 22 Special Tactics Squadron...

On the day of the attack, the five men were sent out in an all-terrain vehicle to conduct "a key leader engagement" with local militia as part of a larger mission to clear Islamic State Khorasan, or ISIS-K, fighters in the valley.

After the meeting, their unarmored truck was struck by bullets.

"Ripping through the vehicle, the initial volley of fire critically injured three members of the element, including the ground force commander," according to Perolio's award citation.

"Faced with intense enemy fire, Sergeant Perolio immediately took charge of the element by rendering aid, arming his wounded comrades, and establishing fields of fire," it states.

Perolio stepped out from cover in an attempt to find a way out, especially for the wounded, the citation continues. A barrage of bullets streamed past just 50 meters away from where the team was hunkered down.

He then made contact for backup, including aerial cover.

"Making contact with the responding Quick Reaction Force, Sergeant Perolio directed a series of precise airstrikes, killing 12 enemy combatants and destroying the machine-gun emplacement," the citation states.
You never know when the call to greatness will come, if ever. When it does call, it isn't patient.


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Yemen - a Long Way to Go

ACLED continues to be an exceptional source for data-nuts when it comes to areas of conflict in the world.

Their recent Yemen numbers - combined with the ongoing talk about what is very much a nasty civil war - needs to be put in some context.

Civil Wars are a nasty bit of business and I don't want to diminish 90,000 lost souls, but there needs to be a note of caution for those who think - or hope - that this is close to burning itself out.

In 2016, Yemen had a population of ~28 million. 90,000 is 0.3% of the population.

In 1860, the USA had a population of 31.4 million. 0.3% would be 94,200.

Estimates vary, but sources say between 600,000 and 1-million total deaths North and South in the war. Let's use a nice round compromise of 750,000 dead.

750,000 would be 2.4%.

For Yemen to exhaust itself to the same degree as the USA did in its civil war, 672,000 will need to die.

No, odds are, the killing is a long way from being over.

Another datapoint. By 2016, the UN estimated that 400,000 were killed in the Syrian Civil War. That is about 1.7% of the 2012 population of 22,500,000.

As I said - in Yemen, there is a lot more killing to be done.

Monday, July 15, 2019

What Use is a Frigate?

Practical experience is a tough teacher.

For well over two decades, we have been told that escorting merchants was "old think" - that it simply is no longer needed.

We have been told that general use frigates were jack of all trades, master of none. Not a useful tool.

We have been told that the tanker wars and the confines of the Persian/Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman told us that we needed a LCS type ship. Everyone will need a LCS type ship.

Behold what reality lay-bare in the last week! Behold the experience that puts the lie to all the pet theories of the Potomac Flotilla and their cadre of rent seekers!
A Royal Navy frigate trained its guns on three Iranian boats seeking to force an oil tanker off its route through the Strait of Hormuz, it emerged today.

The military clash took place late evening, local time, yesterday when three Iranian vessels, believed to be manned by forces from Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard Corps, were spotted speeding towards the BP-operated British Heritage tanker.

They are reported to have ordered it to change course to make it stray out of international waters near the island of Abu Musa as it was heading out of The Gulf....
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: “Contrary to international law, three Iranian vessels attempted to impede the passage of a commercial vessel, British Heritage, through the Strait of Hormuz.

HMS Montrose was forced to position herself between the Iranian vessels and British Heritage and issue verbal warnings to the Iranian vessels, which then turned away.

“We are concerned by this action and continue to urge the Iranian authorities to deescalate the situation in the region.”
As we've discussed on Midrats, though the USN has foolishly abandoned merchant escort as a duty, it will and must be done. Not just in soft-posturing quasi-confrontations like this, but in a peer fight as well.

Though I don't want to turn this in to a LCS bash, the facts bash LCS just fine themselves, I note that LCS cannot do this mission as well as a frigate, she wasn't designed for it, and would be sub-optimal if asked. Better than nothing, but still. Ironic, being that this is the body of water that helped promote the entire LCS concept at the start, whatever frankenship it later became.

Enough of rehashing that failure of vision, but instead we should ponder which of the FFG(X) fills this requirement.

A quick note about the Type-23 frigate. It is a solid design greatly influenced by the Royal Navy's experience in the Falkland Islands War. HMS MONTROSE (F236) is the 7th of her class of 16. Though only 4,900 tons and a compliment of 185, she is not playing around.
Anti-air missiles:
- 1 × 32-cell Sea Wolf GWS.26 VLS canisters for 32: Sea Wolf (range 1–10 km) or Sea Ceptor missiles (1-25+ km)

Anti-ship missiles:
- 2 × quad Harpoon launchers

Anti-submarine torpedoes:
- 2 × twin 12.75 in (324 mm) Sting Ray torpedo tubes

- 1 × BAE 4.5 inch Mk 8 naval gun
- 2 × 30 mm DS30M Mk2 guns, or, 2 × 30 mm DS30B guns
- 2 × Miniguns
- 4 × General-purpose machine guns
Her big sister is coming over to help out - the RN is a bit thin on numbers (numbers matter) as the international community (read USA) tries to cobble together an international solution to the escort challenge.

UPDATE: Bringing up to the post a great video from the comments section.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Once, Past, and Future Strait of Hormuz & Gulf of Oman - on Midrats

From limpet mines on tankers, drone shootdowns, and the HMS Montrose just short of loading grape - the decades long story of Iranian posturing in their near seas continues.

A lot sounds familiar, but the economic and security environment has changed a lot in the four decades.

What is a constant, what has changed, and what should we expect to evolved in one of the most globally important areas of water?

Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and more will be returning guest John Keuhn.

Dr. John T. Kuehn is the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

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, July 12, 2019

Fullbore Friday

This week, a guest post FbF. With permission of the author, I've modified a bit to protect his identity.

A little reminder that legends walk amongst us. No battle is small to those who fight it - and in forgotten places in nearly forgotten times, people give their youth, their life, and their friends so we can live the life we have today.

The least we can do is remember their deeds, and speak their names..

On a small island called Sasevale off New Georgia close to the port and airfield of Munda, the tribal chief informed me there was a US monument on the rather tiny island. I was led to a massive anchor next to a flagpole and plaque (pictured below).

Unfortunately, jungle had overgrown the monument, so it was rather unimpressive, but I was happy to note that its patron, Joe Gunterman was from Waterbury, CT, within driving distance where I lived stateside. Small world indeed.

Upon my return, I googled Joe and found he was still alive and kicking. One cold call later and I had an invitation to his house. As I pulled up, I found him at 93 bounding up the stairs to meet a shipmate and filled with unbridled excitement to describe his ship's small role in the glorious Battle of Munda.

Joe had made a lifelong pursuit of finding the anchor he had ceremoniously set on Sasevale and was well prepared for me, and my wife who joined me for the visit, with maps, charts, ship's logs, books and photographs. I had brought, with a minimum of foresight, a digital tape recorder and my attention...also my wife who was understandably a bigger hit than I.

The USS ZANE (DMS 14), was serving as a destroyer minesweep during the war and in the prelude to Munda had received orders to drop an Army company on Sasavele. The orders were delivered by a young officer named John F Kennedy to a ship who named Herman Wouk amongst its wardroom. I was blown away by the fact that these two towering figures could have possibly passed so close. Joe, of course, showed me the ships log entry noting JFKs role in delivering the ZANE's secret orders. After delivering the orders, JFK and PT109 departed to destiny while the ZANE concentrated upon her covert mission.

The ZANE moved out, pulling in close to Sasevalle during the dead of night, unsupported and as covert as possible. As they dropped the fires company ashore, they hit reef and ran aground. Luckily, the ZANE remained undetected and as the company moved ashore, they hatched a plan to get off the reef. First, the ZANE jettisoned her depth charges and they were able to reverse off the reef only to hit the aft end on yet more reef less than 100 meters aft of their position and uncharted. Finally, they dropped the anchor I would see years later to escape the reef and remove themselves to a safer position. This maneuver was captured brilliantly by a local islander in the 70s based upon only his knowledge of the island and the prevailing winds. I, and Joe, found it to be quite accurate. I still have the drawing.

Joe and the ZANE remained on station for the duration of the Battle of Munda, which was so extraordinary that multiple men won the Medal of Honor. It was my pleasure to allow Joe one last chance to relive the experience with me. A true hero. I had arrived arrogant of my own role in our recent war and left humbled by a greater man.

Joe passed away a little over a year later:
WATERBURY - Joseph E. Gunterman, 91, of Waterbury, died Thursday, November 27, 2014 at the Vitas Inpatient Unit at St. Mary's Hospital. He was the husband of the late Joyce (Becker) Gunterman to whom he was married to from 1947 until her death in 2009. 
Mr. Gunterman was born in Waterbury May 11, 1923 and was a U.S. Navy Veteran having serving in the South Pacific during World War II. He was stationed on the USS Zane, which was the model for the stories of the novel The Caine Mutiny.

After his military service Mr. Gunterman worked for SNET for forty years. He was also a builder and general contractor building many homes and condominiums in the area. He stayed active buying and selling properties up until his last illness.
Mr. Gunterman is survived by his daughter, Nancy Manoni and her husband Lee of Southington, a granddaughter, Julie Modeen and her husband Andrew of Middlebury, a great grandson, Benjamin, and a sister, Barbara Capozzi of NJ.
Friends are welcome at the Murphy Funeral Home, 115 Willow St. on Monday December 1, 2014 from 10:00 a.m. until 11 a.m. Entombment will follow in Calvary Queen of Peace Mausoleum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

NATO in Three Graphs

For those like me who deeply care about the NATO alliance, take some time to read last July's Pew Report if you have not already.

There are three graphs from their data that illustrate well some of the common points we've discussed here through the years.

If you want a good idea who would likely step if the call came, this is a good benchmark. 

This next graph is a good measure of entitlement and inherent free-ridership.

Poland and my people in The Netherlands are both outliers here. Good for them.

...and here is the "put your money where your mouth is" graph. Sadly, the Dutch are failing to do so - but look at Poland.

Poland deserves more of our support and encouragement. 

Much more.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

FREMM Bulks Up

If it means they have to paint the FREMM pink and call the first in class the USS BARACK OBAMA (FFG 62), then so be it.

No shock for the Front Porch here that I've been TEAM FREMM from the start. It is, really, the best choice.

Do what needs to be done. I've already accepted the sub-optimal 57mm main gun in the hope that there will be a Flight II that will put a proper 5" up front - but one step at a time.

Let's do this sooner more than later.
To meet the U.S. Navy’s famously high survivability standards, the FREMM frigate design has had to hit the gym and pack on hundreds of thousands of pounds of muscle in pursuit of wining the Navy’s FFG(X) competition.

U.S. Navy ships are built like linebackers: able to take hit upon hit and stay in the game. But that comes at the cost of extra steel. And in the case of Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri’s FREMM, it meant adding hundreds of tons of steel,
“[The extra steel is] going into scantling, ballistic and frag protection, the way the spaces are laid out: We’re as compliant as a DDG. That’s a lot of steel. The compartmentation, the toughness of the ship, the U.S. requirements that are different from the European ships — we moved around some of that extra space; it gets classified very quickly.”

What hasn’t been compromised has been the modularity of the ship that creates routes for major equipment to be brought in and out of the hull so that replacing, for example, major engine or computer components doesn’t require cutting a hole in the ship, Hunt said.

The berthing compartments are also the same: four- to six-person staterooms with private showers for each room.
The last part there? That should seal the deal for everyone.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Moran’s Defenestration

Back in May, in a rare set up for a smooth transition in an administration characterized by “acting” officials, gapped billets, backlogged confirmations, and general staffing disarray, Admiral Moran was confirmed by the Senate to be the next CNO once Admiral Richardson’s term ended.

And then last night, news broke that he is resigning after 38-years of service.

That is the “what” but not the “so what.” Here’s the “so what.”

What happened has laid bare a deep, structural rot in our Navy that I am not sure … no, I am sure … cannot and will not be fixed with the present civilian leadership we have. As a matter of fact, they are encouraging the rot they were – as part of the present administration’s charter – sent to repair.

Let’s dive in and review the wave tops. I’ve gone through a few drafts over the last 12-hrs after some raging over on twitter, but have waited for more information to come out this AM. The core issues remain the same, so let’s run with them.

First, ignore the conjecture. Ignore the conspiracies (though there is a non-zero chance of all too normal undermining at the 4-star level). Ignore the usual suspects who are pounding on the same little tin-drum agenda they always pound on. This is very simple.

What has happened is another scalp has been handed by those who hold power to the unaccountable Star Chamber and their unsurvivable witch hunts. We have at the highest levels, non-resilient power with clay feet where titanium moral courage is needed.

The signal it sends to our Navy is cancerous and destructive to the very foundations of our service culture – or what is left of it.

Let’s go to the facts with the following assumption; words mean things. Another assumption; SECNAV Spencer and Admiral Moran are saying exactly what happened. If not, there are larger issues. I will give them the benefit of the doubt as on whole they are both good and honorable men.

First, as reported by Sam LaGrone, SECNAV Spencer;
Adm. Bill Moran recently brought to my attention that over the past two years he maintained a professional relationship with an individual who was held accountable and counseled for failing to meet the values and standards of the Naval profession. While I admire his faithful service and commitment to the Navy, this decision on his part to maintain that relationship has caused me to call his judgment into question. Therefore, today I accepted Adm. Moran’s request to retire.

The current Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, will remain the CNO. I will make my recommendation for a new CNO candidate to the Acting Secretary of Defense.

I have a strong vision for the Department of the Navy — one that includes trust among Sailors, Marines, and Civilians and an urgent resolve by all to live up to the nation’s high standards for our Navy and Marine Corps. Department leadership must reflect that vision, and there must be no doubt we are wholly committed to ensuring a culture and work environment where every person is treated with dignity and respect and free from hostile behavior of any kind.

Adm. Bill Moran has served this country honorably for decades. I am grateful for the years of dedicated service by him and his family.
Now Admiral Moran:
I informed the Secretary of the Navy today that I have decided to decline my appointment as the next Chief of Naval Operations. He has expressed his support.

I made this difficult decision based on an open investigation into the nature of some of my personal email correspondence over the past couple of years and for continuing to maintain a professional relationship with a former staff officer, now retired, who had while in uniform been investigated and held accountable over allegations of inappropriate behavior.

To be clear, my decision to maintain this relationship was in no way an endorsement or tacit approval of this kind of conduct. I understand how toxic it can be to any team when inappropriate behavior goes unrecognized and unchecked. Every Sailor is entitled to serve in an environment free of harassment or intimidation.

As painful as it is to submit my request to retire, I will not be an impediment whatsoever to the important service that you and your families continue to render the nation every day.

I believe in the institution. And I believe I am doing right by it.

Serving in the United States Navy has been a high honor and privilege. For over 38 years, I have drawn so much satisfaction from that service and nothing has made me more proud than to have been a United States Sailor.

I thank President Trump and Secretary Spencer for the opportunity they gave me, and I deeply regret any inconvenience my decision causes them.
So, the core issue here goes back to Chris Servello. If you don’t know the background of the “Naughty Santa” kerfuffle, I’ll let you google it. No CM, not even NJP, just another IG Star Chamber exercise of professional destruction.

This is now the go-nogo point for CNO? Really?

What did Moran do? He worked with a subordinate on and off for over a decade. They had a mentor/mentoree relationship as our Navy has encouraged people to do for decades. As with all long term mentoring relationships, you get to be at least close acquaintances, if not friends. That is how normal humans work.

Mentoring relationships can only properly function if there is a high degree of trust and a feeling of two-way loyalty. Again, this is how normal, healthy relationships work. Part of being a mentor is being there to provide advice and counsel through the good times and the bad. To work through rough patches and plan for a successful path through milestones and obstacles that life will always put in your personal and professional life.

You also need steadfastness. Steadfastness should come naturally to normal, healthy relationships, but it can be difficult for some as life brings enough challenges on its own – to bring the problems of those you mentor just adds to the load you are carrying. It takes men and women of character, and dare I say virtue, to be steadfast with those they mentor when they run in to tough times.

On the other side, there is a not well hidden sickness in our Navy that may be worse than in the general population due to how close you can get to people in the pressure cooker 24/7/365 that is the military; abandonment.

You will never find out faster the character of those you call acquaintances and friends than when you find yourself in any kind of scandal. At the first gust of crisis, the thin, hollow, and poorly anchored are the first to disappear. As the gale increases, more and more break away until sometimes you are alone. Being alone as the world around you swirls out of control is a nightmarish place. If you are the cause of the chaos, it is easy to fall in to self-pity at best, life-threatening depression at worse.

If when you are at your lowest, there are those who are standing there ready to help you recover, then you are a blessed person. They will be the supports that help you and those who count on you to recover and move on. They are the ones that have demonstrated character and are an example of the best personal loyalty has to offer.
By standing with you to help, they do not necessarily ignore or condone what you may have done – what they do is recognize your humanity and the fact that, like them, you are an imperfect being in a fallen world.

They know no one is perfect and life is short. What matters most is what we do for those who need us – especially those who feel they can rely on us in times of trouble.

To abandon those who you led to think could rely on you is a deeply unethical, immoral, and sociopathic act. It goes beyond seeing people as just objects to be used, it places “you” at the center of the universe and your personal comfort and ambition at the center of all you do.

Is that what we want to reward as a Navy? Is that what we want to promote in our leaders? If so, then if the present justifications stand, that is exactly what we are doing.

All Moran did here was to keep in touch with a mentoree who had a very human moment of weakness around the wrong people at the wrong time. That empathy and, yes, loyalty, is what we want in our leaders. If not, we will quickly distill nothing but a leadership that is a carnival of grotesques thoroughly populated with sociopaths, high-functioning autists, and the slippery, calculating types whose drive to power will be littered with destroyed careers, cratering retention, and an abundance of leaks when advantageous to themselves or the agendas they approve of.

For officers of character like Moran, what does it signal? I think Moran tells us; leave. This is an organization that does not desire men and women of character who see their Sailors as people, not objects; who see people has imperfect being of value, not useful block in building temples to their own ambition; who see service to nation as a driver, not using the nation to serve their rapacious egos and feed deep insecurities.

At this moment in time, what has our Navy lost? We have lost one of the most anticipated leaders rising to CNO I have seen in my adult life.

Moran was the right man at the right time for CNO. Full stop.

As we go in to the Terrible 20s where budgetary knowledge will by key in getting the most of every dime after two lost decades of acquisition malpractice, the Flag Officer who knows the budget process better than any is gone. A 38-years investment in leadership development, gone. A good man who cares about Sailors and the long term health of our Navy, gone.

Worse, a message to our fleet is clear and bright; we want sociopaths. Mentoring is only transactional.

We have punished virtue and will reap a bitter harvest.

Lastly, I have to say the advice I took myself and told anyone who would listen after Tailhook holds true.
1. Never live on base.
2. There is no such thing as a Navy social event, they are work events.
3. Never have more than 1-drink per hour at a Navy social event. Better yet, only have one drink, none if you can.
4. Show up on time and leave early.
5. When deployed, be exceptionally careful who is on your liberty crew. The smaller the better, and if possible, if you are a male do not include a female who has a DOD ID. If you have a female on your liberty crew, see #2-4 above and perform a filtering iteration of this bullet. Spin off a single sex sub-group NLT 2100 or two drinks, whichever comes first.

As for mentoring? Do the right thing, and if things go sideways - let others publish and be damned.

Who knows, perhaps you will work for someone who is willing to look the harpy commissariat in the face and tell them to pack sand. Perhaps when it is your time in the barrel, you will have the support by your superiors that you would give to your subordinates. It is a gamble, but one at the end of the day you can look yourself in the mirror and be content with.

I am willing to make this bet; Admiral Moran will have no problem looking himself in the mirror in the AM. He did the right thing. Chris should not feel bad, he’s gone through enough and this isn’t on him in the slightest.

There are a lot of people who should be haunted by shame, and if they are not, then those who know them need to be aware of the type of person they are working with and act accordingly.

What a waste. What a huge loss for our Navy. What a huge loss for our nation.

Pray for peace, as I don’t see this type of institutional character having what is needed for war.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

Words Have Meaning

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

New Hampshire:
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton

John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

Rhode Island:
Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery

Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York:
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey:
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark

Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas McKean

Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carroll of Carrollton

George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton

North Carolina:
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina:
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Thomas Lynch, Jr., Arthur Middleton

Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton