Friday, August 30, 2019

Fullbore Friday

The United Kingdom and her Empire were fighting WWII for over two years before we entered the war. Her Navy was fighting Germans from the North Cape to the South Atlantic, from the Grand Banks to eastern Indian Ocean while we sent a cruiser to South Africa to load up on her gold to buy weapons.

80 years and a day ago in 1939 the Admiralty ordered the mobilization of Royal Navy. Just five days later, she would be at war with Germany.

She started the war with a fleet 332 strong. Before the end of the war, she would have 885 ships serve under her flag. She lost 278 of them.

At the start of the war, the United Kingdom herself had a population of 47,550,000. Between her navy and merchant marine, by war's end she would suffer 81,006 dead.

To put that in perspective, in 1939 the USA had a population of 130,900,000. Our navy and merchant marine suffered deaths of 68,276. To understand fully the British losses at sea, if you adjust by population size, for the USA to have as many killed at sea, our number would be 261,800 souls.


Hat tip @OnthisdayRN, photo credit burritojustice.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

A Breach of Faith: The Navy Must Fix the Way it Pays Mobilizing Reservists

When I arrived in Kabul for my last deployment, one of the first things I noticed was a shockingly high percentage of the USN cadre there was USNR. The months that followed was the first time in two decades on active duty that I started to fully appreciate the unnecessarily Byzantine bureaucracy they had to exist in – almost designed to make people not want to be in the USNR.

Today’s guest post outlines to those outside the USNR lifelines a few of the unnecessary processes our reserve component has to deal with. Many of these exist for one reason only; we allow them to.

Blake, over to you.

The US Navy Reserve is failing its deploying Sailors by sending them forward into harm’s way with administrative burdens that damage financial standing, negatively impact their families at home, and detract from readiness. These problems begin at the outset of reserve mobilization and continue through to the day upon which reservists are demobilized and sent home and, in some cases, beyond. Intervention is required if the Navy Reserve is to execute its stated vision of providing transparent and seamless administrative systems in support of its deployed force.

Most US Navy Reserve Sailors are familiar with a certain degree of extra administrative burden that is not felt as strongly by active duty Sailors. Reservists must learn the administrative system intimately and be prepared to shoulder responsibility for requirements that would be handled by personnel and pay departments in the fleet. It is a common joke that serving as a Selected Reservist (SELRES, or drilling reservist) is like having a second full time job for which you are paid one weekend a month. Reservists, in my experience, accept that responsibility with good humor and understanding in most situations.

When a reserve member is mobilized, however, the issues commonly snowball to an unacceptable level beginning on the day they report to the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center in Norfolk, Virginia. During the first morning, reservists are told that “due to 1’s and 0’s issues” their allowance for lodging is not the US Navy’s official rate for their geographic location. Instead it is a lower total, set as part of the Integrated Lodging Program Pilot (ILPP). Most reservists will have made their lodging reservations months in advance and, due to Norfolk being a fleet concentration area, many will have been forced to obtain Certificates of Non-Availability (an official document certifying that DoD lodging was unavailable and authorizing the sailor to make arrangements elsewhere) and make reservations in non-DoD lodging, oftentimes at a higher rate than otherwise allowable. The gathered Sailors are informed that their CNA’s will not be honored due to incompatibility between the Navy’s travel management system and the new program. In layman’s terms, this means any sailor in lodging above the ILPP limit, even if unable to obtain any other DoD-approved lodging, will personally bear the cost of any overage and will not be reimbursed during the travel claim process. A large number of deployers leave at lunch on the first day to find new lodging. Those that are unsuccessful in finding lodging within a reasonable distance are left with the bill, regardless of their rank.

In the same morning, Sailors are informed that their travel claims (the document detailing all costs incurred by the sailor from the time they leave home until they reach their gaining deployed command) will not be reconciled within the Congressionally-mandated timeline of 30 days. These travel claims include air travel (procured at inordinately high rates via the DoD’s contracted travel service), weeks of lodging, and per diem allowances totaling several thousands of dollars. Most of these costs are incurred on each sailor’s Government Travel Credit Card (GTCC). For those unfamiliar, every member is required to apply for and employ a GTCC for any travel expenses incurred during duty status, and those cards are linked to each member’s personal credit rating. Members are advised that travel claims may take three to six months to be serviced but that the issue is “receiving flag-level attention.” Many members, to avoid late penalties and damage to personal credit, use their personal savings to settle the government’s bill or place the mobilization-related bills on personal credit cards – a direct violation of DoD policy and putting members at risk of disciplinary action. The issue, at best, depletes members’ savings or, at worst, negatively impacts members’ credit ratings, as the navy fails to reimburse Sailors for costs it has directed them to incur without an effective method of repayment. As a currently-deployed reservist, my detachment recently relieved a group of Sailors that had at least one sailor de-mobilizing (going home) after 270 days deployed whose travel claim still had not been reconciled. With three weeks to go until re-entering the civilian sphere, that sailor was still bearing a burden of thousands of dollars without any sign of resolution.

Pay issues, a problem not unfamiliar to both active duty and reserve Sailors, becomes a nightmare for mobilizing reservists. When Sailors are mobilized, they pass through multiple commands via intermediate stops (I-stops) delineated in their mobilization orders. Their Navy Operational Support Centers (NOSC’s) at home release them administratively and the fleet picks them up in a process that begins at ECRC. The administrative personnel at ECRC work hard, but are faced with processing dozens, sometimes over 100, Sailors each week. Each sailor is warned during their first week of mobilization that they will likely experience pay issues. While it is appropriate to warn deployers of this, it’s simply unacceptable and the warning of “pay issues” does not remotely approach an accurate description. More apt would be a warning that Sailors cannot rely on their employer, the US Navy, to compensate them sufficiently to pay their bills for a period of time that may be counted in months.

This practice of allowing known pay issues to languish would result in immediate dismissal for the parties responsible in any enterprise outside the DoD. For those that would rebut this allegation with the fact that the US Navy will eventually make those Sailors whole via backpay, that point is acknowledged but who pays Sailors’ bills in the interim? I have rented lodging my entire adult life and have yet to encounter the landlord that accepts IOU’s for months on end, nor the utility company that provides power on the promise of reimbursement, nor the grocery store that offers food on credit. Approaching our fifth month of deployment, my small detachment of five has one sailor being paid correctly. In the last pay period, I received $0.30 as my housing allowance for a month. My rent, for an average apartment - admittedly in one of the most expensive cities in the world, is over $3,000 (well-within the allowable limit for the locale). My Sailors come to me with concerns that they will be unable to support their wives at home or pay their mortgages. We’ve been told that the Personnel Support Detachment responsible for our unit is below 50% manning but they’re hiring and training the required staff to get our issues sorted out. If the DoN is paying those employees half of what they agreed to in their contracts, it is no wonder that they lack the necessary manpower to execute the required tasks. The one thing PSD has definitely accounted for are debts, any overages or incorrect allowances have been withdrawn within one pay period. These are not isolated incidents. Other reservists report their final paychecks were held by the Defense Finance and Accounting Service for 100 days beyond their re-deployment dates, exponentially multiplying the stress of re-integration at home. It is not only egregiously wrong, it degrades personal and unit readiness. Members are being plucked from their homes and workplaces and placed into a position of financial instability, draining personal savings and causing insecurity in families. Sailors’ minds are understandably divided between their deployed duties abroad and ensuring their loved ones are not put out into the street at home.
What if I can't pay my bill because I haven't received my reimbursement? 
- Cardholders are responsible for paying their monthly billing statement in-full, excluding any disputed transactions, by the due date indicated on the statement. Unpaid accounts are considered past due at 30 days beyond the billing date, and delinquent at 60 days beyond the billing date. Cardholders are responsible for payment regardless of the status of their travel reimbursements. If your due date is approaching and you’ve yet to receive reimbursement, please contact your travel approving official immediately.
- Defense Travel Management Office GTCC Frequently Asked Questions
As a starting-out proposition, reserve mobilization should be entirely funded via centrally-billed account (CBA) aligned to the Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center. It is inappropriate to force members to incur expenses via GTCC without a timely expectation of repayment. This issue is not anecdotal, nor confined to one small detachment. It is endemic and at this point has been reduced from a crisis to a planning consideration.

With regards to travel claims, I propose a mobilization stand-down until the timeline for reimbursement can be brought back within the 30 day requirement set forth by Congress. During the stand-down, an impartial third party should be engaged to conduct a thorough review of policies and business rules that allowed this vast backlog of debts to Sailors. While this is an extreme response, perhaps that extremity might offer motivation to self-assess rapidly and institute solutions, rather than simply briefing our deployers that they might not be repaid until after their 9-12 month deployments conclude.

In terms of fixing the pay system, it is past time to modernize. I know all Sailors reading this will be familiar with handwriting checking account information into a poorly-copied, off-center reproduction of the Navy’s electronic funds transfer form. I am also confident that most Sailors reading this have faced the issue of incorrect pay and fixes that take months to effect. Looking at Navy pay programs and websites is akin to taking a guided tour of the internet of the 1990’s. There are effective, modern solutions to paying personnel. Navy leadership need to choose one and implement it, preferably before the private sector jumps forward another generation in technology and leaves us even further behind.

If the language in this article seems impassioned, or perhaps accusatory, I suppose that is the case. The DoD owes better to its Sailors, and especially those it deploys into harm’s way. It is not enough to tell them that flag level officers are aware of their problems when those problems are damaging their personal credit, depleting their savings, and distressing their families. When we talk about personal sacrifice, are we acknowledging that in addition to leaving spouses and children, missing births and first days of school, and doing dangerous jobs in dangerous places, we’re asking Sailors to do those things without being adequately paid? As Claude Berube detailed for War on the Rocks earlier this year, the USNR has been plugging gaps in our force with reservists for the duration of the Global War on Terror, nearly two decades, but we’re still incapable of getting the right paycheck to those Sailors?

The Navy Reserve’s website proudly proclaims “Our Strength is our People...Every Sailor Matters.” The Expeditionary Combat Readiness Center’s motto is “Nauta Primoris...Sailors First.” It is hard to reconcile those proclamations with the accepted standard. I have no doubt that the staff of the ECRC are dedicated to their mission and doing their best, but they are hamstrung by a system that is not optimized to support a deployed reserve force. As a service, we must do right by our reservist deployers. Assume responsibility for the financial outlay of deploying Sailors, stand down mobilizations until Sailors are being reimbursed within the required timeline, and modernize our pay system to let Sailors focus on the jobs they are deployed to execute. To continue to fail in addressing this known issue is not just a readiness issue, but a breach of faith.

Lieutenant Blake Herzinger is an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, deployed to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, whose landlord won't accept flag level attention in lieu of rent. The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not represent those of his civilian employer, the U.S. Navy, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Moran Defenestration IG Report is Out

No, there is nothing here to make you feel better.

There is nothing here that will make you feel better about your Navy.

IMAO, a great wrong has been done, and done for the most useless of reasons.

Bask in it over at USNIBlog. I'm going to get a beer.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

NNN - a New Acronym the Navy Does Not Need

Before we get to substance, I want to ride one of my hobby horses first; style.

We cannot expect to be able to effectively tell our Navy's story - and build public support for our Navy - if we cannot communicate in clear, understandable, and consistent terms.

Both inside our lifelines, and especially outside our lifelines, one of the most significant self-generated barriers we have to effective communications is the self-parody level of acronym use. It seems that we feel the need to create new rafts of idea-choking acronyms every FITREP cycle.

It seems we're doing it again. In an critical document we would want a broad spectrum of people to read, quote, and discuss, Report to Congress on the Long-Range Plan for Maintenance and Modernization of Naval Vessels for Fiscal Year 2020, we auto-chaff our message with this unnecessary cloud;
The National Defense Strategy provides the overarching guidance and high-level requirements for sustaining the Navy the Nation Needs (NNN).
It appears that someone spawned this about 18-months ago, and I really wish we would stop trying to make NNN happen. I know it has become shorthand for 355, but stop. What do we do next in this farcical dance, abbreviate it to "3N?"

Someone at NAVSEA needs to be put in the time-out chair.

I think we are moving away from 355 anyway, so we'll see what the report for 2021 says - ringing in the Terrible 20s.

I stand that we will never see 355 outside Chinese expansion east, but here is the vision:

Now let's look to the substance of the report. As we discussed before, it is fun to talk about ship numbers and programs etc ... but that isn't where the greatest challenge is. You can buy all the fancy new things you want, but if you can't maintain them properly, they become tied to the pier and combat ineffective.

We have a significant issue right now.
Sustaining the 355-ship fleet will require changes to both public and private industrial capability and capacity. Current infrastructure will require update and refurbishment to support modern classes of ships and repair. Likewise, additional dry docks will be needed to address the growing fleet size. Navy and industry partners must create work environments where talented Americans will want to work and contribute to the national defense. This includes investments in updating facilities and capital equipment, and as well as providing that workforce training that is both modern and relevant and compensation commensurate with the skill required to repair Navy ships. Finally, we must avoid feast and famine cycles that erode both the repair industrial base and the underlying vendor supply base. Consistent funding matched to steady demand for work will enable the repair base, public and private, to grow to meet the needs of the 355-ship Navy.
Read the whole report with the commentary to the numbers ... but this just screamed out to me as the above the fold issue. We can't service what we already have in the fleet. 

Yes, I'm a spreadsheet guy - I think the numbers speak just fine for themselves;

If I were in Congress - and thank you Buddha I am not - this would get first billing.

It is the adult thing to do. It is the long-term thing to do ... and you know what - there are A LOT of very good jobs that come with shipyards and maintenance. 

A lot.

Oh, and for (R) and (D) politicians who mean well and the best for their Navy; it is the right thing to do.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Nuclear Nations at Total War with Each Other - but Don't Use Nukes?

Of all the bloodshed and slaughter of WWII - though all sides had chemical weapons - they were not used at all. Not even at the very end.

What about nuclear armed nations today? If two nuclear powers go to war, is going nuclear inevitable? Does having nukes help you avoid war?

Maybe not. An interesting theory is that MAD is something that works until it doesn't.

Over at Small Wars Journal, Mangesh Sawant has a few observations about one flash-point many think has the greatest odds of going nuclear; India and Pakistan.

What if conventional wisdom, as it often can be, is wrong?
MAD is ineffectual in the sub-continent. Deterrence worked during the cold war as both the adversaries were armed in terms of nuclear weapons and delivery platforms. Soviet Union and the US had advanced military capability to destroy each other in a nuclear conflict. The arms buildup between the Soviet Union and the US led to the realization of nuclear annihilation having ramifications across the world. This threat led to both the nations signing the START and SALT agreements.

Nuclear deterrence theory and MAD will not work in South Asia due to the following:
The quality of weapons delivery platforms is important for the delivery of nuclear weapons. Technologically Pakistan’s weapons are antiquated and inferior. Most of its weapons systems are imported from China which reverse engineers them from Russian weapon systems.[iv] The Chinese weapons systems are not tested in any battles or wars. In an era of 4th and 5th generation warfare Pakistan still operates the 1st and the 2nd generation of combat aircrafts, naval ships and army weapons systems. India has inducted state of the art 4th generation weapons systems like SU 30 MK1, T 90 tanks, Vikramaditya aircraft carrier, nuclear attack submarine INS Arihant and ICBMs. Technologically advanced weapons will be used by India in conventional warfare to wipe out Pakistan’s military establishments and nuclear facilities in a preemptive strike. The quantity and lethality of conventional weapons in the arsenal is crucial to project the destructive capabilities on the adversary. Pakistan lacks in this aspect as its weapon systems are antiquated and this is the reason it has resorted to the strategy of unconventional warfare through terrorism. Therefore, in South Asia the conventional superiority of India outweighs the nuclear weapons systems capability and empty threats of Pakistan.
MAD is only possible if there is parity in nuclear bombs and weapon systems. MAD is not possible in South Asia due to the overwhelming Indian nuclear second-strike capability and superior conventional weapon systems.
So, like in WWII with chemical weapons - does it become a conventional slugfest?
Small nuclear powers like Pakistan and North Korea resort to belligerent posturing and blackmailing the international community by threatening to use nuclear weapons under the doctrine of first nuclear strike. But there is a tacit understanding between the politicians and the military in both countries about the power of conventional war, preemptive strikes and total nuclear annihilation by India and the US. It’s the age of unrestricted warfare for technologically advanced militaries in conventional warfare environment with nuclear armed adversaries. This is the new normal.
A final note. The author really should have saved this for another article - but I find this something worth a long night's drinking and arguing over. Indian vs. Pakistan would be Clausewitz vs. Sun Tsu?
Classical warfare strategies have been followed by nearly every country. The differentiating factor remains the type of governing systems. Democracies have been practicing Clausewitz while dictatorships and one-party systems have been practicing Sun Tzu. Pakistan has been following Sun Tzu’s art of warfare which is exemplified by concealment, unconventional warfare, unrestricted warfare, deception and manipulation. 
India has been following the Clausewitz strategy which is characterized by restricted and classical conventional warfare. Today Pakistan is the only country in the world which has fused the unconventional and hybrid warfare strategy with a nuclear deterrence doctrine of first strike. Pakistan has been sponsoring and fomenting terrorism in India since the last 3 decades. India has not penalized Pakistan due to the threat of nuclear retaliation to an Indian conventional attack.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Missile Defense at Sea and Ashore with Tom Karako, on Midrats

Not since the last decade of the Cold War have ballistic missile defense, land based cruise missiles, as well as short, intermediate, and medium range ballistic missiles received this much attention outside the compartmentalized and esoteric warfare specialities they belong in.

With the realities of our century bidding farewell to the previous century's INF limitations, you shouldn't expect the topic to fade away anytime soon.

Shipboard and land based missile defense are rising to meet the threat - using both established capabilities and new ones emerging from the lab.

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm to discuss these and related topics, our guest will be Dr. Thomas Karako.

Tom is a senior fellow with the International Security Program and the director of the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where he arrived in 2014. His research focuses on national security, missile defense, nuclear deterrence, and public law. For 2010–2011, he was an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, working with the professional staff of the House Armed Services Committee and the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on U.S. strategic forces policy, nonproliferation, and NATO.

He is also currently an adjunct professor in the Strategic Studies Program in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and a fellow with the Institute for Politics and Strategy of Carnegie Mellon University. He received his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University and his B.A. from the University of Dallas.

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.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

The Enemy Within

One of the worst kept secrets in academia is that China isn't just using our colleges to train their elite to compete against us, but they are also using them to steal intellectual property and national security secrets - all for a few more pieces of silver.

Paul Bedard over at the Washington Examiner outlines the problem well;
Several foreign nations, notably China, push students flooded into U.S. colleges and universities to steal trade and defense secrets “whenever the opportunity presents itself,” according to a new report that highlights the threat to national security posed by foreign students.
It said that the explosion of student visas to STEM schools takes positions that U.S. students can use and puts potential spies inside institutions that have key national security ties to the U.S. government.

The report said that nearly 70,000 foreign students overstayed their visas in 2017. Chinese students were first, with 18,075.
Only a small portion are a threat - indeed my kids have talked to many who have fallen in love with the USA and do not want to go back to China - but we need to better control who is and is not here.

Not just for national security reasons either; we need to educate our own. When major research institutions have more foreign students than out of state students - we're doing things wrong.

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

We Need More Unsexy

USNS, Auxiliaries, dry docks, depot level maintenance ...

Are you asleep yet, or is your blood pressure up?

Either way, I'm beating the drum over at USNIBlog.

Come on by!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Salamander Bill Must Advance

Time again to bring up a Bill I would dearly love to see in Congress. 

Let me set the table first.

- In my lifetime, I've seen when the military was not held in high regard professionally. In the 80s, I caught the tail end of the "be careful when wearing your NROTC uniform around campus" phase. 

We should nurture today's climate.

- In popular culture, there is a disconnect between some of the cartoon character senior officers - corrupt, grasping, ego-maniacal, etc - and what people see day to day in their work; good people in hard jobs doing the best they can.

We need to police our bad actors who play in to that stereotype. 

- The US military spends an ungodly amount of treasure in men and material. When you have all that money sloshing around in often esoteric areas, the usual rent-seekers, thieves, and other parasitic characters will always be there looking to dip their beaks.

Thick and robust firewalls need to be in place.

- The uniformed military leadership should always see itself as the customer of the defense industry - not part of that. We imperfectly play that role.

Prevent perverse incentives by our weaker characters.

- Retired General Officers and Flag Officers (GOFO) are provided with an amazing retirement package - almost unequaled in security and amount by their peers. Look it up.

No retired GOFO can plead poverty.

- When the government makes the decision to spend tens to hundreds of billions of dollars on defense, the taxpayer should have confidence that the best decision was made for the best reasons. Anything that could throw a shadow on that needs to be carefully addressed.


- The revolving door between the civilian sector and industry - especially journalism and financial services - is well known ... and is a growing problem with retired military members.

Do not accept the unacceptable as inevitable.

We need to act in line with what we like to tell others we are. 

Why does the military sector employ so many retired GOFO? Simple; their connections and their perceived integrity ... but mostly their connections. They are also used as a shield against criticism.

I know a lot of retired GOFO who followed a long American tradition of going in to public service or the civilian sector outside the areas they worked on while in the military.

...and then there are the others.

For them, I have long supported the SALAMANDER BILL;
For a period of no less than five years from their effective date of retirement, General Officers and Flag Officers shall not be employed by, be a independent or subcontractor to, an officer of, or a member of a board of directors - compensated or not - with any publicly of privately held company that does business with the Department of Defense.
That's the rough draft - Hill staffers can gussy it up as needed.

Why? If for no reason than to buttress the public trust of the military from situations outlined by Mandy Smithberger at the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) - yes, POGO;
This year’s Department of Defense budget request included six fewer F-35 Joint Strike Fighters than planned, setting off a firestorm of protests from the program’s boosters. Part of that pushback, organized by the Congressional F-35 Caucus, was a letter in support of the program signed by 128 retired senior military officers. The letter failed to disclose that 50 of the signatories stand to benefit if Congress authorizes more F-35 purchases because of their actual or potential personal or financial ties to the program.
Some of the signatories to the letter are in the Project On Government Oversight’s Pentagon Revolving Door Database, and others would likely appear in the Defense Department’s own ethics database—though we have no way of knowing, because that database has not been made available to the public. Information about all of these former officials’ connections to defense contractors should be publicly available: taxpayers and lawmakers need to know who’s influencing spending decisions and what interests they’re representing.
While the disclosure should absolutely be public - and shame on us for allowing it not to be - I stand it is not enough.

Also worth your time is Mandy's NOV18 article on the revolving door at The Pentagon.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Large Unmanned Surface Vessel: Relax, We're Just Testing a Little

So, we're taking the next step to see what we can do with unmanned surface vessels;
“We’re at the point where we really have to get them out there to start understanding how tough are these things, how robust, and how are they going to integrate with the fleet, what kind of policies are going to surround these systems when you start talking about potentially separating weapons from humans,” Vice Adm. Bill Merz, then deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems (OPNAV N9), told USNI News in April. 
“So we’re cautious on that side, but we’re very aggressive in getting it out there, so we’re trying to run these parallel paths and illuminate these challenges and start resolving them in parallel.”
You can see the draft request in full here.

It has been curious to watch so many get so overexcited about this - a bit too much science fiction reading, I guess. Perfect example is from the UK. I know it is a tabloid, but a good representation of the heavy breathing in some places about this project. Everyone should slow down their expectations a bit. 1968's view of 2001 was a bit optimistic, as was 1975's view of 1999.

A lot needs to be worked out. My top-3:

1. Operations in a non-permissive EW & SATCOM/NAV environment.
2. Collision avoidance & accountability.
3. Force protection & hijacking prevention.

Big Navy, to my relief, is not overselling this concept. We're investing some significant cheese in the concept - but in a good way. Take some time to review last month's Congressional Research Service report as well.

Build a little, test a little, learn a lot.

It works.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Fullbore Friday

In war, it often is not what you were designed to do. It is not what in theory what you were primarily trained, manned, and equipped to do. No. More often than not it is what you must do. What you are needed to do. What you may be the only unit in place to do.

There is also, like we saw in the below - what must be done now with what is at hand. With the right leadership, a lot is possible. The dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered - things that are often rewarded in peace - are not what gets the job done in war. One hopes that in peace we accept the above truth and only have our minds dogmatic, rigid, and blinkered. Hopefully we have enough intellectual and material flexibility to be able to do what is needed and must be done. To improvise, adapt and overcome.

A bit of a encore FbF, but as the original video links don't work from 2010, and I like to emphasize the important fundamentals, I would like to bring back the Battle of Beersheba; almost 97 years ago.
The Turkish defences of Beersheba were strongest towards the south and west. There they had a line of trenches, protected by barbed wire, supported by strong redoubts, all constructed along a ridge. To the north and east the defences were much weaker, and crucially lacked any wire. No serious attack was expected from the area of rocky hills east of the town. Beersheba had just been designated as the headquarters of a new Turkish Seventh Army, but on 31 October that army had not yet come into being. The town was defended by 3,500-4,000 infantry, 1,000 cavalry with four batteries of artillery and fifty machine guns.

Allenby allocated a very powerful force to the attack on Beersheba. Three infantry and two cavalry divisions would take part in the attack. Two of the infantry divisions were to attack against the main Turkish defences, to the south west of the town, to tie down the Turkish garrison. The third division was to protect against any Turkish reinforcements arriving from the north-west. Meanwhile, the two divisions of the Desert Mounted Corps (Anzac Division and Australian Division) were sent around the town to the east, with orders to sweep into the town through the weaker eastern defences.

The infantry attack proceeded entirely according to plan. The bombardment began at 5.55am, and lasted, with one gap, until 8.30. Over the course of the day the Turks were slowly forced out of their strong defensive positions, the last of which fell at around 7 p.m. The attacking infantry suffered 1,200 casualties during the battle.

At 9.00 am the Desert Mounted Corps was ready to attack the eastern defences of Beersheba. The New Zealand Brigade of the Anzac Division soon ran into a problem. The Turks had a strong defensive position at Tel es Saba, a steep sided flat topped hill three miles east of the town. The battle to capture the Tel took up all of the morning and much of the afternoon, and did not end until 3 p.m.

General Chauvel then decided to take something of a gamble. The delay at Tel es Saba threatened to prevent the capture of Beersheba before dark. Rather than continue with the methodical plan of attack, Chauvel ordered one of his reserve brigades, the 4th Australian Light Horse, to mount a direct assault on Beersheba. They had the ideal terrain for a cavalry charge – a long gentle slope running down into Beersheba. It was defended by two lines of trenches, but crucially not by barbed wire.

The attack soon developed into a classic cavalry charge. The 4th A.L.H. simply galloped over two lines of Turkish trenches. Part of the brigade then dismounted to attack the trenches, while the rest galloped on into Beersheba. There they found a Turkish column preparing to retreat. The sudden appearance of the Australian cavalry caused panic. Most of the 1,500 prisoners captured by the Desert Mounted Corps on 31 October were taken during the charge of the 4th A.L.H. The Australians suffered very light casualties during the charge of 32 killed and 32 wounded, most of them in the attack on the trenches east of Beersheba.
The whole movie The Lighthorsemen is available - but I would like you to go ahead to the 1:20 mark for the charge (the German officer's assumptions at 1:34 is critical). One of the best filmed scenes in the genre - if it doesn't raise your heart rate, pressure nothing will.

First posted OCT 2014.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Race is not a Social Construct - it is Targetable

Yesterday's post reminded me that we are well past that point where it is impossible to think that there are entities out there that would, if they had the ability, plan for the murder of hundreds of millions of souls.

In the Cold War, the USA & USSR did - with an after thought by a few others - with nukes, chemical, and biological weapons.

The last one was mostly, but not exclusively, looked at in detail by the Soviets ... but they learned that there is a big problem with biological weapons as a strategic weapon - blow back.

A human is a human, and odds are any weaponized biological infection would cross in to the nation who deployed it first.

Science marches on. Designer babies, custom DNA based treatment programs, chimera, and that interesting CRISPR technology, had to lead to a dark place where we know people reside.

It tickles the tribal brain; kill the other tribe.

Scale up tribe in to ethnicity ... and ... well ... we know more than one group who would like to eliminate certain groups - humans have been doing this to other humans for over a hundred thousand years.

Biological weapons could be built which target individuals in a specific ethnic group based on their DNA, a report by the University of Cambridge has warned.

Researchers from Cambridge’s Centre for the Study of Existential Risk (CSER) said the government was failing to prepare for ‘human-driven catastrophic risks’ that could lead to mass harm and societal collapse

This has been a topic for futurists of long standing. As Derb pointed out, Irwin Shaw in 1967 wrote about it in, "The Mannichon Solution."

Each year it gets closer.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

We Can't Leave the Long War - it Can't Quit Us

A sober reminder over at USNIBlog that regardless of how long we sit at tables with the Taliban and think of ways to leave the former lands of the Islamic State - our enemies may not let us.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

3 COAs; Blue Most Likely; Blue Most Dangerous; Blue Most Unpossible

I don't know the politics of Maj. George Fust, USA, the author of an article over at RCD, but this just makes my head hurt.
Imagine a situation whereby the President accuses a U.S.-based news organization of being part of an adversaries' information operation. In accordance with MDO doctrine, the military can and should be leveraged to counter this threat. The Army's operating concept suggests "rapid and continuous integration of capabilities in all domains…to overmatch the enemy." Information operations include "social media, false narratives, [and] cyber attacks." Thus, the commander-in-chief can leverage his military to "defeat" the news organization or at least run counter information messaging. This is problematic. What prevents the President from abusing this control and offensive capability for his own political gain? The President could become a tyrant without a free press to serve as watchdog. The citizenry would subsequently view the military as a political arm to the administration. More than that, they may be viewed as a threat to liberty itself.

This is no random dude.
MAJ George Fust is a Military Intelligence Officer who currently teaches American Politics and Civil-Military Relations in the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He holds a master's degree in Political Science from Duke University.
This whole idea runs contrary not just to USA tradition and law - but to the nature of the US military as a whole.

I'm sorry - but maybe this is an Army thing - but I've worked closely with US Army types and no way they would wholesale be involved with this domestic activity.

I have less experience with the USAF, but the USN and USMC ... oh, hell no sister. We would not play. We would slow roll. We would launch every ready-JAG on alert ... just no. Our reservists in Congress would get read in ... no.

To really see this as a possibility, I would offer that George doesn't seem know his military well outside his bubble - I don't think he is all that well traveled in the nation he serves.

I'm not saying that George suffers from TDS ... but - dude. Maybe dry out from politics for awhile. 

Let's not personalize this too much - well meaning people are allowed to be highly wrong; even your humble blogger has on occasion - but instead let's focus on some professional shortfalls.

It seems the good Major lacks a good understanding of the lines between INFO OPS, PSYOPS, and Public Affairs - and how they are executed domestically vs. outside our borders. To get another view of this delicate area, I think he should do an exchange-semester with an institution I had the pleasure of giving a lecture to a decade ago; Führungsakademie der Bundeswehr in Hamburg.

Of the many great things I gained from my years with NATO was serving with Germans. As anyone with some time on staff with German Army officers will tell you, they will not put up with sloppy doctrinal understanding or conflating one concept with another. They not only had a good and well understood doctrine, they were fairly good at practical application (national caveats always held the Germans back in the field. Shame.).

I served with one German Army major who wore the lemon-yellow Signal Corp Waffenfarbe, and this was his speciality. You could see his eyes light up when someone - usually an American - got his INFO OPS, PSYOPS, and PA confused. I don't know if all their Signals guys were the experts on INFO OPS, PSYOPS and PA - but he was.

He would have made a mess of George's overwrought article. German law is a bit different than USA law, but the differences are manageable. 

I don't know if George is up for a NATO tour or the above exchange tour, but in the interim - in addition to understanding his own military's self-regulated firewalls against domestic use as he describes - he should take some time studying some NATO verbiage on the topic.

Trust me - this is mostly written by Germans. It's good.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Some Unsolicited Advice for a New CNO

We're kicking off the week again with a guest post by Brian McGrath with some sound, succinct, and digestible recommendations for our next CNO.

Bryan, over to you!

In April of 2019, I sent an email to the then Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Bill Moran titled “Totally Unsolicited Input”, input destined for next Chief of Naval Operations, as Moran had recently been nominated for that position. The Secretary of the Navy subsequently withdrew Admiral Moran’s nomination for the position, reportedly for Moran’s continuing a friendship/mentoring relationship with a retired officer who left the Navy under a cloud created by his personal conduct. I too enjoy a long-standing friendship/mentoring relationship with Admiral Moran, which is why I submitted the input in the first place. Newly confirmed CNO designee Vice Admiral Mike Gilday and I do not enjoy the same level of familiarity, but in late 2000, he did me a solid when he was my detailer. With sincere gratitude, I submit this unsolicited advice to him patterned after the previously mentioned email.

Embrace Naval Integration. The new Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Berger recently released his “Commandant’s Planning Guidance”, a truly remarkable document that has justly received high praise (see here and here). Berger created a field of slain Marine Corps sacred cows with his vision of truly integrated American Seapower, a force capable of fulfilling the mandate of the National Security Strategy for a shift to conventional deterrence by denial (rather than punishment), and the requirements of the National Defense Strategy for increased lethality in the contact and blunt layers. Berger’s vision rightly understands that the kind of integration required to meet these obligations does not begin on the waterfront, but springs from a holistic approach that includes integrated planning and budgeting at the Pentagon. I would urge the new CNO to team with Berger and make the case for Integrated American Seapower as our nation’s primary conventional deterrent, uniquely positioned where the nation’s interests are and capable of denying and/or delaying opportunistic great power aggression.

Operationalize a New Fleet Architecture. Consistent with the NSS and NDS emphases on great power competition and conventional deterrence, ADM Gilday should move to implement major portions of the CSBA Fleet Architecture Study of 2017 that bifurcated operational forces into a Deterrence Force providing regionally-tailored forces optimized for presence, deterrence, and transition to war—and a Maneuver Force comprised of large, CVN-based formations of war fighting power largely devoted to preparing for high-end/great power war. Essential to this architecture is the evolution of amphibious aviation assault ships (LHA, LHD) into multi-dimensional, multi-domain combat platforms. Integration of the F-35B is the first step, but it must be followed by the provision of adequate organic intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISR/T) capability into the Deterrence Force through a ship-based Medium Altitude Long Endurance UAV such as that envisioned by the Marine Corps MUX initiative. The lethality contained in contact and blunt layer force surface and land-strike missiles requires persistent and accurate ISR/T across large portions of seascape, and land-based platforms will be insufficiently numerous to be responsive to dynamic, tactical requirements. The Marines are thinking clearly about this, and the Navy could benefit by jumping onboard.

The Fleet Fights as a System; We Need a Fleet Combat System to Enable It. The Navy’s more talked about than understood concept of Distributed Maritime Operations sinks or swims on the back of its ability to get information where it needs to go in order to be acted upon.  The Navy requires a Fleet Integrated Combat System, and by this, I mean not just the piece that the OPNAV Directorate of Surface Warfare (N96) is working on (though it is an important and enabling piece of the total). It is more of what DMO suggests in its Fleet Tactical Grid or Naval Fleet Architecture discussions, in which common algorithms reason about a common data set to reach consistent conclusions in a distributed manner. This requires adequate and resilient networking and truly “open” system architectures, so that (for instance) the track management algorithms in a surface combatant and the track management algorithms in a UAV are derived of the same code. But—and this is a big but--realizing a Fleet Integrated Combat System will take considerable organizational change --and that kind of change can only come from the very top. Even if the Navy had a perfect understanding of what an FICS is and what it wanted the system to do, it does not have an organization that can system engineer it and it does not have an organization that could acquire it. The Army's experience with Future Combat System (FCS) is insightful here, although they had the dual problems of organization AND immature technology to achieve their ends. The tech for what the Navy needs in FICS is here or almost here, although the means to achieve it are far less clear.

Scrap the 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan. I know, this is a Congressional requirement, but the document is without meaning, at least most of it is. First, although it is the best method of quantifying naval power in current practice (that’s what is known as “faint praise”), it is essentially a work of fiction outside of the first ten years, it fails to count platforms that have (or will have) outsized contributions to naval power (see: LUSV, MUSV, potential corvettes being created in Jerry Hendrix’ garage) in the conventional deterrence mission, and it has little or no influence on future administrations or congresses. The CNO should work to bring SECNAV and the Commandant—along with appropriate DoD, NSC, and congressional leaders—into a compromise “counting” system that more appropriately accounts for both capacity and capability (both being essential to seapower, contrary to the fever dreams of some), while creating a document that industry CEO’s might actually consider as they seek internal investment dollars from rightfully skeptical boards and shareholders. Any suggestion that the current 30-year plan aids in this process is misplaced.

De-Mystify Unmanned Systems. Related to the previous point, Congress has legitimate and important oversight responsibilities over the Navy’s budget and plans, and as the Navy moves to more unmanned capability, it needs to be a better job communicating its plans and intent to the Hill. There are important questions across all domains of unmanned systems, questions of concepts of operation, command and control, cyber-protection, and autonomy. The Navy needs these systems to enable the Fleet Architecture, and so it must explain why more effectively. I believe Congress wants to help but may need more granularity before it provides the resources the Navy seeks. This advice applies mainly to surface and air unmanned vehicles, as it appears the undersea applications are more well-understood.

Become the Nation’s Seapower Advocate. Never miss an opportunity to point out why Seapower is different, how Seapower enables both security AND prosperity, and the wisdom of the Constitution’s framers as our country’s first geo-strategists. This isn’t Service rivalry, it is grand strategy, and the new CNO should be front and center as matters of grand strategy are discussed.
A thousand words into a post devoted to advice to a new CNO and I haven’t obsessed about the size of the Fleet. This isn’t because the size of the Fleet isn’t important, and it isn’t because the size of the Fleet is sufficient. It is because the size of the Fleet is a means to an end, and that end is the provision of security and prosperity through Integrated American Seapower. Get integration with the Marine Corps right, get the Fleet Architecture right, get the Combat System right—because these inputs have a great deal to do with getting to the “right” number, and when arrived at, that number will be more effectively defended.

Good luck, ADM Gilday.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC where his clients include the Navy and industry. He is also Deputy Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. All opinions under his name are his.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Fullbore Friday

In case anyone missed this at USNIBlog a years ago;

Can you lose but win?

Of course you can. The key is to understand that the Tactical, Operational, and Strategic are linked - but they are not perfectly linked and in alignment.

Let's look at the Tactical.

In the battle, a US warship force of five cruisers and four destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Carleton H. Wright attempted to surprise and destroy a Japanese warship force of eight destroyers under the command of Rear Admiral Raizo Tanaka. Tanaka's warships were attempting to deliver food supplies to Japanese forces on Guadalcanal.

Using radar, the US warships opened fire and sank one of the Japanese destroyers. Tanaka and the rest of his ships, however, reacted quickly and launched numerous torpedoes at the US warships. The Japanese torpedoes hit and sank one US cruiser and heavily damaged three others, enabling the rest of Tanaka's force to escape without significant additional damage but also without completing the mission of delivering the food supplies.
All you need to know about Operational and Strategic is right there, but let's stick with the Tactical for a bit.

Do Commanders feel today that they are too limited in their ability to exercise their best judgement in combat? Well, consider it a Navy tradition.

At 23:14, operators on Fletcher established firm radar contact with Takanami and the lead group of four drum-carrying destroyers. At 23:15, with the range 7,000 yards (6,400 m), Commander William M. Cole, commander of Wright's destroyer group and captain of Fletcher, radioed Wright for permission to fire torpedoes. Wright waited two minutes and then responded with, "Range on bogies [Tanaka's ships on radar] excessive at present."[20] Cole responded that the range was fine. Another two minutes passed before Wright responded with permission to fire. In the meantime, the US destroyer's targets escaped from an optimum firing setup ahead to a marginal position passing abeam, giving the American torpedoes a long overtaking run near the limit of their range. At 23:20, Fletcher, Perkins, and Drayton fired a total of 20 Mark 15 torpedoes towards Tanaka's ships. Maury, lacking SG radar and thus having no contacts, withheld fire.
Amazing even in hindsight. Recall - the action from initial radar contact by FLETCHER at 2306 Tanaka's withdraw at 23:44 was only 38 minutes .... roughly 13% of the battle was spent waiting to be micromanaged. Recall that the Japanese did not have radar.

There is a point here that one should keep in mind. As opposed to the leisurely combat the USN has engaged in since WWII - mostly keeping station, supporting TACAIR operations or leisurely TLAM missions - this was as it is - quick, deadly, and devastating combat. Luck, speed, training, and finally your weapons determines success.

Knowing your enemy, and acknowledging that you may not fully know him, is also critical.

The results of the battle led to further discussion in the US Pacific Fleet about changes in tactical doctrine and the need for technical improvements, such as flashless gunpowder and improved torpedoes. The Americans were still unaware of the range and power of Japanese torpedoes and the effectiveness of Japanese night battle tactics. In fact, Wright claimed that his ships must have been fired on by submarines since the observed position of Tanaka's ships "make it improbable that torpedoes with speed-distance characteristics similar to our own" could have caused such damage. The Americans would not recognize the true capabilities of their Pacific adversary's torpedoes and night tactics until well into 1943.
Due to a combination of the threat from CAF aircraft, US Navy PT boats stationed at Tulagi, and a cycle of bright moonlight, the Japanese had switched to using submarines to deliver provisions to their forces on Guadalcanal. Beginning on November 16, 1942, and continuing for the next three weeks, 16 submarines made nocturnal deliveries of foodstuffs to the island, with one submarine making the trip each night. Each submarine could deliver 20 to 30 tons of supplies, about one day's worth of food, for the 17th Army, but the difficult task of transporting the supplies by hand through the jungle to the frontline units limited their value to sustain the Japanese troops on Guadalcanal. At the same time, the Japanese tried to establish a chain of three bases in the central Solomons to allow small boats to use them as staging sites for making supply deliveries to Guadalcanal, but damaging Allied airstrikes on the bases forced the abandonment of this plan.[9]

On November 26, the 17th Army notified Imamura that it faced a critical food crisis. Some front-line units had not been resupplied for six days and even the rear-area troops were on one-third rations. The situation forced the Japanese to return to using destroyers to deliver the necessary supplies.
And that is where we get the success of the battle. If all you do is count ships sunk and damages, then sure The Battle of Tassafaronga was a loss for the USA. Cole and Wright sure saw it that way - as do many. But was it really?

What were the Japanese trying to do? What was their Operational Center of Gravity (CoG)? Of course, it was keeping their land forces supplied ashore. By preventing their resupply, you attack and weaken the Japanese CoG .... therefor, at the Operational (and arguably Strategic as well) you actually won.

Not too different from the American experience with Tet. The USA and South Vietnamese forces destroyed the Viet Cong during Tet - effectively removing them from being a threat to the existence of the South Vietnam government. That wasn't the point .... as that wasn't the war's Strategic CoG.

Thanks to a superior INFO OPS and PSYOPS campaign by the North Vietnamese along with their allies and useful assistance by the likes of Walter Cronkite, Tet was an exceptional victory by the Communists as it significantly undermined the Strategic CoG of the Americans - the support of the American people.

There are two examples of why one should be very careful when declaring a victory or defeat. Perspective and a clear understanding of the larger issue is key.

Finally, here is a nice lesson on how Senior Leadership should not act ... and how it should. CYA, wagon circling, and blaming subordinates for your own failure is nothing new.

In spite of his defeat in the battle, Wright was awarded the Navy Cross, one of the highest American military decorations for bravery, for his actions during the engagement. ... Halsey, in his comments on Wright's report, placed much of the blame for the defeat on Cole, saying that the destroyer squadron commander fired his torpedoes from too great a distance to be effective and should have "helped" the cruisers instead of circling around Savo Island.
I think history has done some justice to Cole - and it sure doesn't put a great deal of glory on Wright.

In contrast, look at what Tanaka said. This is a good way to end the post - Leadership 101.

After the war, Tanaka said of his victory at Tassafaronga, "I have heard that US naval experts praised my command in that action. I am not deserving of such honors. It was the superb proficiency and devotion of the men who served me that produced the tactical victory for us."
That and some great Japanese engineering in the Long Lance.

First posted OCT 2009.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

The Bad Vacation Top-10 from ALCED

Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED)'s mid-year Top-10 conflicts to keep an eye on update is out.

Check out their #1, The Sehel.

The French and the USA is there along with a few other European nations in small numbers.

That graph is impressive.

Head on over to ACLED for the rest of their Top-10. More info there.

The Sahel: Most likely to be the geopolitical dilemma of 2019

Yemen: Most likely to induce 2019’s worst humanitarian crisis

Afghanistan: Most likely to suffer from international geopolitics

Iraq: Most at risk of returning to civil war

Myanmar: Most likely to see expanding ethnic armed conflict

South Sudan: Most likely to see second-order conflict problems

Philippines: Most likely to see an increase in authoritarianism

Syria: Most likely to see a shift to mass repression

Libya: Most likely to see non-state armed group fragmentation and alliances

Sudan: Most at risk of government collapse
Can you spot the common thread?

Come on ... you can do it.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

NTSB Speaks on the MCCAIN Collision

Take some time to read as much of the just released report from the NTSB on the MCCAIN collision from two years ago.

It came out earlier this week.

All links and a bit more commentary over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

We Need a Material Condition Standdown


What in hell are we doing?

Via, look at all the pictures of the USS FORT MCHENRY (LSD 43) as she enters Kiel, Germany as part of BALTOPS.

BALTOPS - you know the event that is 51% about photops in the BALTIC.

Our Navy is at peace.

As such, one of the USN's most important missions is showing the flag (AKA presence) and getting ready for war.

What message does sending such a ship forward to be seen by friends, competitors and those we hope to impress?

This just speaks to a nation and a navy that is tired, complacent, entitled, unfocused, and unconcerned. Such nations and navy invite a challenge. It signals weakness and vulnerability.

I don't know what we're doing, but we're not doing it right.

When your fundamentals are so transparently being ignored, you have a larger problem at hand.

UPDATE: No love for 'ole Sal ... but we'll take the "W." The background story must be grand.

Hat tip Cavas.