Tuesday, June 30, 2020

No Shipmate, You Can't Go To Church/Synagogue/Mosque/Oak Tree

When you join the military you give up a lot. Your freedom is curtailed in ways that are almost unimaginable to the civilian. We know that, we accept it.

Can there be occasions where this steps over the line? In any large organization’s response to emerging crisis, well meaning leaders can overreach or make decisions that are in a grey area between can/should/maybe/shouldn’t.

For those with access to message traffic, I will refer you to the FRAGO as outlined in DTG R 232340Z JUN 20, SUBJ/CUSFF/NAVNORTH FRAGORD 20-024.013 IN RESPONSE TO CORONAVIRUS DISEASE 2019 (COVID19).

Here is just one of many copies of Page 13s that I’ve had Sailors, officer and enlisted, send to me over the weekend that has them concerned. Read it over.

Did you catch that? Here is the meat from para 1.a.vi;
Specific Prohibited activities: Service members shall not visit/engage in the following off-installation facilities/activities: …. Include(ing) indoor religious services
Anyone who served for any length of time knows that for many of our Shipmates who adhere to their confession of choice, one of the best things for them when they are home is that they can attend proper services that – try as they can – their Navy Chaplain simply cannot meet.

As such, a plan that bans off base religious activities justified by hopes they can be handled by base chapel services simply is non-executable.

What about those who live off base, 30-45 minutes or even an hour+ from base? What if, as is happening nationwide, their house of worship follows COVID-19 safety protocols of masks and social distancing? Why is attending there prohibited?

More importantly, why are we unnecessarily forcing our Sailors to choose between the free exercise of religion and the UCMJ.

“Support and defend the Constitution…” includes;
…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
I am not a Constitutional lawyer, and in any event, this isn’t Congress doing the prohibition. This is the Executive Branch.

Give me two lawyers and I’ll get four answers, but when you boil it down what we have is the head of the Executive Branch, the Commander in Chief, through the US Navy he leads, is telling people they cannot attend religious services off base – regardless of where they or their family reside.

So even if Sailors may not go, but in religious households, their spouse and children will go. They will then return home after services to live, eat, sleep, and socialize with that servicemember. As such, does this really decrease the COVID-19 vectors Sailors are exposed to?

No, it doesn’t. As such, what is the cost/benefit lay out for this prohibition?

In the end, I’ll tell you exactly what will happen. A non-zero percentage of Sailors will chose their relationship with their God on their own time over the Navy’s UCMJ. They will intentionally violate the P. 13 they signed. There is the damage. This policy degrades the Sailor, the Navy, and their respect for the UCMJ.

Many will follow the thinking of Algernon Sydney as outlined in his 1698 Discourses Concerning Government,
'That which is not just, is not Law; and that which is not Law, ought not to be obeyed.'
That is the cost.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Want Better Communication Coming From Our Navy? There are Solutions.

One of my great frustrations I've shared with readers here and over at Midrats is the decade-long+ retreat from the public conversation by our Navy. 

I'm not sure where it started, but it was in the last few years of the previous decade where we saw less engagement and unscripted conversations with our Sailors, the public, press, and even Congress. 

It isn't just that the military of a free republic should communicate more and be more accountable to the people, it is we need to be in the marketplace of ideas. Most citizens do not appreciate the fact we are a maritime nation and what that means. It's not their fault on balance, our educational system has been off the rails for at least two generations. Most people are mal-educated on both their nation's history and its geography.

Our Navy has a great story to tell about it's critical role in maintaining a national and global order that enables its citizens to enjoy a standard of living unknown in human history. In order to maintain that security, the citizens need to let their elected representatives know they need to make it a priority. They won't do that if they don't know what their Navy actually does.

Our senior leaders have abandoned the conversation. Is being out there unscripted risky? Sure. Is it hard? Sure. Can everyone do it well? No ... but it can be taught or those who are good at it put to the front. Anything of value has some risk, but the risks are small and the gains are essential.

Instead of engaging, we largely retreated from the public conversation and with few exceptions, been satisfied with boilerplate talking points and reactionary damage control when things go south.

How can we expect our nation to support something it does not understand or respect something it only sees while protecting itself?

It doesn't have to be this way.

A lot of people see this problem and have solutions. One of them is our friend Bryan McGrath. Bryan had an opportunity to put a solution on the tee; all Navy had to do was give a swing at it, but the fates had other ideas.

I'll let Bryan give you the details in his guest post below.

Bryan; over to you.

I have watched for a number of years the Navy act as a poor strategic communicator. Part of it is bandwidth for senior leaders, part of it is familiarity with messaging and strategy, part of it is a fear of higher headquarters, and part of it is institutional laziness. The past three years have brought the Navy’s strategic communication deficits into sharp relief, although they were there before the destroyer collisions of 2017. In early 2019, I suggested to a senior Navy official the creation of the following position, and he asked me to write him a memo about it. I still think it is a good idea. I did not arrive at this idea because of the recent spate of bad press the Navy has had. I have written and spoken on the need for effective strategic communication from the Navy for years.

Director, OPNAV Office of Strategic Alignment

The Director, OPNAV Office of Strategic Alignment (DIROSA), is an Executive Schedule, Highly Qualified Expert (HQE) who reports to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).

DIROSA is the CNO’s primary assistant for the alignment of strategic communications and messaging. DIROSA will:

-- Monitor, coordinate, and align the activities of the OPNAV Staff, SYSCOMS, CHINFO, OLA, FMB, the Fleets to ensure message discipline, commonality, and coherence.

-- Devise, promote, and aid in the transmission of communications products to inform the American public and its representatives as to the role of seapower in U.S. national security.

-- Coordinate and engage with Navy Secretariat, Joint Staff, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense to ensure CNO and Navy strategic communications are aligned with leadership.

-- Coordinate and engage with cognizant U.S. Marine Corps organizations to promote Integrated American Naval Power narratives, message alignment and integration.

-- Devise and institute processes to promote strategic communications alignment in the Navy, to include closer linkages among programmatics, fleet operations and exercises, and research and development.

-- Assist CNO and CHINFO with crisis response themes and activities.

-- Assist CNO and OLA with Hill strategies targeted to Navy objectives.

The points above are the kinds of things that could eventually find their way into a formal position description. Here is a more informal description of what DIROSA does:

Currently, all the strategic communications alignment in the Navy happens in the mind of the CNO, where it competes with myriad other responsibilities. DIROSA takes custody of this responsibility and manages it for the CNO. DIROSA works side-by-side with SYSCOMS/CHINFO/OLA/OPNAV 3-Stars/Fleets/USMC to monitor, manage, persuade, cajole, influence, and shape messaging and alignment.

DIROSA and staff (1 or 2 others—TBD) are like the BASF Corporation motto—“We don’t make a lot of the products you buy, we make those products better”. For DIROSA to be effective, the organization must not only provide value to the CNO…it must do so for those who could potentially see it as bureaucratically threatening. DIROSA cannot be seen as grabbing “market share” from existing organizations. There will be very little “original work” coming out of DIROSA, as doing so would almost certainly “poach” someone else in the bureaucracy’s territory, no matter how skillfully they are currently executing the function. Where DIROSA comes in is in “checking the work” to ensure that CNO approved communication themes and messages are making their way into subordinate products, and that those messages are within themselves, consistent.

Current CNO special assistants (Speechwriter, OOZ) would remain as they are and continue to do their job. There would be a significant coordination nexus among DIROSA and these functions.

Some of the things I would expect DIROSA to manage for the CNO:

  • The creation of annual communications campaigns that identify key themes and messages, assign responsibilities, and monitor outcomes.
  • The re-invigoration of the “CHINFO Speaker’s Series” wherein Flags are provided with source material and encouraged to seek out opportunities for general interest speeches. Speeches would be tracked (and potentially assigned) centrally, with Flags required to provide feedback to CNO on how the message was received and the kinds of things in which members of the public seemed interested.
  • The creation and management of an experimentation and demonstration campaign as part of the larger campaign. In this, SYSCOMs, and fleet experimentation schedules would be reviewed in advance to find opportunities to message emerging capabilities and concepts, or to make affirmative decisions NOT to message. There is currently no process in which these decisions are made in the context of a larger communications scheme.
  • Unless the Director of the Navy Staff already serves this function, DIROSA would monitor crisis management for the CNO. CHINFO and OLA would continue to do what they do, but DIROSA would ensure that we are telling the public what we want, telling the Hill what we want, and telling the 3rd Deck what we want—and that all of those messages are as consistent as we desire.
  • DIROSA would maintain a close relationship with three and four star “CAGS” throughout the fleet, reviewing material as desired and helping to provide centralized thematic inputs consistent with desired messaging goals.
  • DIROSA would provide alignment and counsel to OPNAV organizations and Fleet organizations sponsoring/overseeing trade shows and forums.
  • DIROSA would work closely with N3N5 to ensure Navy equities are represented to the “thinktank” community in DC, and that the CNO’s messages are central to those interactions.

DIROSA would—in conjunction with other CNO Special Assistants—represent the CNO in the creation/staffing of important recurring documents that come to be identified with CNO intent, such as CNOG, strategy documents, and congressional testimony.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC. He counts the Navy among his clients.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

China in the Post-COVID-19 World with Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro - on Midrats

From the alpine lakes on the Indo-Tibetan frontier to the sweltering tropics of the South China Sea, China is on the offensive in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Aggressive and persistent in her pursuit of expanding her control and influence in her near-abroad and globally, she is challenging the distracted and slothish West to keep up with her.

What are the latest moves on the global chess board?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern covering the full range of China related challenges will be Dr. Oriana Skylar Mastro.

Oriana is an assistant professor of security studies at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. In August, she will join the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford University as a Center Fellow where she will continue her research on Chinese military and security policy, Asia-Pacific security issues, war termination, and coercive diplomacy. She is also a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and an inaugural Wilson Center China Fellow. Additionally she serves in the United States Air Force Reserve as a Senior China Analyst at the Pentagon. She holds a B.A. in East Asian Studies from Stanford University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics from Princeton University.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Fullbore Friday

Do you know who Bill Slim is? You should. Maybe this will help.
Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, KCB, CB, DSO, MC ("Bill") is 53, burly, grey and going a bit bald. His mug is large and weatherbeaten, with a broad nose, jutting jaw, and twinkling hazel eyes. He looks like a well-to-do West Country farmer, and could be one: For he has energy and patience and, above all, the man has common sense. However, so far Slim has not farmed. He started life as a junior clerk, once he was a school teacher, and then he became the foreman of a testing gang in a Midland engineering works. For the next 30 years Slim was a soldier.
A reader sent along a recommendation of Slim's book, Defeat Into Victory: Battling Japan in Burma and India, 1942-1945, and reading up on the man - someone who I only read about in passing - all I could think of is, "More Slim."

Talk about a Vince Lombardi of leadership. I could do a years worth of FbF on the guy - so I'm not going to get in to any specifics. Let me just give you a few things to ponder in order to have you do some of your own research.
He began at the bottom of the ladder as a Territorial private. August 4, 1914, found him at summer camp with his regiment. The Territorials were at once embodied in the Regular Army, and Slim got his first stripe as lance-corporal. A few weeks later he was a private again; the only demotion that this Lieutenant-General has suffered.
Field Marshall Viscount Slim was referred to by Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten, who was Supreme Allied Commander of Southeast Asia, as "the finest general World War II produced". After the war he was head of the Imperial General Staff, Britain’s top military post, from 1948 to 1952, and was governor general of Australia from 1952 to 1960. This article is reprinted from a 1945 issue of Phoenix, the South East Asia Command magazine.
Again - not just he accomplishments on the field of battle - but his thoughts on leadership demand thought. Nothing radical or new - but they need repeating and if you want to know what makes successful people successful, listen to what got them there.

Want to be successful? Start by benchmarking the best.
Officers are there to lead

Then Slim relates at one critical point in the retreat in a jungle clearing he came across a unit which was in a bad way. "I took one look at them and thought ‘My God, they’re worse than I supposed.’ Then I saw why. I walked round the corner of that clearing and I saw officers making themselves a bivouac. They were just as exhausted as their men, but that isn’t my point. Officers are there to lead. I tell you, therefore, as officers, that you will neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, nor smoke, nor even sit down until you have personally seen that your men have done those things. If you will do this for them, they will follow you to the end of the world. And, if you do not, I will break you."

The General stepped down from the ammunition box and replaced his hat. The division rose as one man, and cheered him. A few weeks later, these troops were to cross the frontier river at the point Slim had led his indomitable, ragged rearguard three years before. They dug up the tank guns which the old army had buried there when they abandoned their tanks, and they used those guns to blast open the road to Mandalay.

The spirit which Slim breathed into that division, on that blue, sunny morning in Palel inspires the whole of the 14th Army. His victorious host has now marched back a thousand miles, planted its battle flags on the citadel of Mandalay and above the capitol city of Rangoon, killing 100,000 Japanese on the way. Their achievement must be attributed in large degree to the character of their Commander. Slim does not court popularity, and he hates publicity. But he inspires trust. The man cares deeply for his troops, and they are well aware that their well-being is his permanent priority. The 14th Army has never been out of his mind since that day nearly two years ago when Mountbatten appointed him to the command. Of the Mountbatten-Slim partnership history will record that it was one of the rock foundations of our Jungle Victory.

Slim talks little and swears less, but one day at Army Headquarters the roof lifted when he received a demand that mules should be installed in concrete floor stables in a training camp, well in the rear. "My men are sleeping on earth, and often on something worse. What’s good enough for British soldiers is good enough for mules of any nationality." Slim set his Army hard tasks, but none have been beyond their power. After the great battles of Imphal and Kohima, where five Japanese divisions were destroyed, Slim called on his exhausted soldiers to carry on relentless, final pursuit. "So great were the dividends that could accrue," he confesses, "that I asked for the impossible - and got it!

Slim affirms "that the fighting capacity of every unit is based upon the faith of soldiers in their leaders; that discipline begins with the officer and spreads downward from him to the soldier; that genuine comradeship in arms is achieved when all ranks do more than is required of them. ’There are no bad soldiers, only bad officers,’ is what Napoleon said, and though that great man uttered some foolish phrases, this is not one."

What has a soldier got, asks Slim, and answers it himself. "He has got his country, but that is far away. In battle, the soldier has only his sense of duty, and his sense of shame. These are the things which make men go on fighting even though terror grips their heart. Every soldier, therefore, must be instilled with pride in his unit and in himself, and to do this he must be treated with justice and respect."

Slim says that when he was in civvie street he saw men who were fathers of families cringing before a deputy-assistant-under-manager who had the power to throw them out of their jobs without any other reason than their own ill-temper or personal dislike. "That, at any rate, can’t happen in the Army," he declares. "You don’t have to cringe in the Army, though it’s true some incorrigible cringers do. In the Army you don’t have to go out to dinner with a man if you can’t stand the sight of him."
People like to make fun, Monty Python like, of British General Officers, shame though - almost all I read about are more like Slim.
From January to August 1944 a series of decisive battles was fought along the India-Burma border which resulted in the turning point for that theater of war. After two years of failure the Allies wrested the initiative from Japan and destroyed the myth of Japanese invincibility.

The Allies were successful despite a number of challenges, many self inflicted. The first challenge was to organize and resource defenses of the India-Burma border. The second challenge was to train the soldiers to fight in the jungle clad mountains that typified the area of operations. Inextricably tied to this was the challenge of moving and supplying forces in the rugged environment. Developing a feasible and acceptable plan despite the absence of a coherent theater strategy was the next challenge. This challenge was made more difficult by the complex and dysfunctional command relationships. Finally, there was the challenge of defeating an aggressive and fanatical enemy who had an unblemished record of success in the India-Burma Theater.

Fortunately, the Allies had an answer to these challenges in Lieutenant General William Slim. It was Slim who established the training program that taught the soldiers to fight in the jungle, developed the tactics and techniques to move and sustain forces in the arduous terrain, provided the leadership to overcome the dysfunctional command relationships, and unified the theater strategy. Finally, and most importantly, it was Slim who developed and executed the plan that drew in and defeated the Japanese 15th Army thereby setting the conditions for the successful re-conquest of Burma in 1945.

First published FEB 2012.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Post COVID-19 China is the Old China

Since the New Year, China has provided the world a great service; she is showing herself as she is and providing a preview of what she plans to be once she is the world's premier power.

She sees herself as the hegemon. Smaller nations must show deference or there will be consequences.

Via Globe and Mail;
The Chinese government says that if Canada sets Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou free it could affect the fate of two Canadians jailed and charged with espionage by Beijing.

China has repeatedly rejected suggestions there is any connection between its detention of former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig and entrepreneur Michael Spavor and Canada’s arrest of Ms. Meng in December, 2018, on an extradition request from the United States.

On Wednesday, however, a top spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs linked the two matters.

Zhao Lijian was commenting on reports in the Canadian media, including The Globe and Mail, of a legal opinion that says Ottawa has the authority to intervene in Ms. Meng’s extradition case and set her free immediately.

“Such options are within the rule of law and could open up space for resolution to the situation of the two Canadians,” Mr. Zhao said, according to the official English translation of his remarks published by China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, however, has repeatedly said he cannot, and will not, intervene in the Meng case. “We’re not considering that. Canada has a strong and an independent justice system. ... Anyone who is considering weakening our values or weakening the independence of our justice system doesn’t understand the importance of standing strong on our principles and our values,” he said Monday.
“Caving into this hostage diplomacy, I don’t think we should do that,” he said. “The credibility of Canada is on the line after we have sought support from other countries to help us out.”

The Trudeau government must continue to rally other countries to stand with Canada so “that the Chinese will stop using these bullying tactics,” he said.

Mr. Saint-Jacques said it is well known that the Minister of Justice can intervene in extradition cases but he said it is too late for that to happen now. Ottawa has to let the judicial process unfold and “of course this is very sad for the families.”
The Chinese will not stop. They have only started.

I hope all free nations will stand with Canada. With a long view, we will all find ourselves in the barrel in the future, so we might as well start the habit now of sticking together against the Bully of the East.

When The Great Pacific War that is coming concludes, we should look again at the map of "China" prior to WW1. Modify it slightly, like take what is left from "Indo-China" once you leave out Vietnam and Cambodia and call it "Canton" or somesuch ... but this might be a good idea for both the Chinese people(s) and the globe.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shipyard Defense in Depth

There are structural shortcomings the Chinese simply cannot overcome in a long war at sea.

It all has to do with her geography and where you can build ships.

Thoughts and a little pushback against the Commandant of the Marine Corps over at USNIBlog.

Come by and ponder the long, hard slog.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

When Treaties Die

Treaties are only good if all sides abide by them. Bad actors on the world stage see treaties as something else - an opportunity to take advantage of gullible nations who are too scared to do anything.

Russia has made a habit of ignoring or abusing treaties, such as the The Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty and Open Skies treaty, simply daring anyone to do anything about it. Well, the USA called their non-bluff and left.

Russia really does not seem to care.

Another case;
A Russian submarine passed through Turkey on Tuesday, in an apparent breach of the longstanding Montreux Convention. The treaty prohibits submarines from moving between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. The Russian Navy has made similar moves before, using a clause in the terms to conduct combat operations in the Mediterranean. It is becoming a pattern. If these moves go unchecked it could change the balance of power in the region, making Russia more powerful in the Mediterranean.

The submarine was photographed by Yörük Işık, a highly respected ship spotter who lives in Istanbul.
For Russia there is no disadvantage to breaking treaties because there is no downside from their point of view.

Plan accordingly.

Monday, June 22, 2020

With Carriers: Go Smaller to get Bigger?

In what will hopefully jumpstart another chapter in The Carrier Wars, our friend Jerry Hendrix has an article in National Review, “The Aircraft Carrier We Need” where he doesn’t argue that we don’t need carriers, just that we don’t need – or want – the one we’re building.

I’m in alignment with some his points, only slightly in others, and have a few points of my own that I think need to be part of the conversation.

As always, read it all, but here are a few pull quotes to get you interested.
… the Ford’s most glaring problems: It has the wrong design and is built around the wrong type and size of air wing, and it is not optimized for implementing the current National Defense Strategy, which focuses on great-power competition with Communist China and, to a lesser extent, a Putin-led Russia.
We really do not have a coherent National Defense Strategy and being that a CVN has a life of a half century, what it is “designed for” now will not exist in 20-50 years while it is still a capital ship.

This has always been the worst argument against specific platforms and it represents a line of thinking that can have bad results because you try too hard to specifically tailor a ship to your snapshot view of what is “optimized” for the challenge at hand in any specific POM cycle. That is how you get LCS and DDG-1000.

Instead, what we need are broadly flexible platforms built to be scalable if needed, fitted with a variety of known and unknown systems as the future tells us are needed at that time the need reveals itself. Flexibility and a design based on the ability to modify later are what is needed. That way, when the actual future – not the future we imagine – reveals itself, we’ll be able to adjust to it.
The Ford’s eventual design was predicated upon an assumption that the ship would operate in similar semi-permissive, low-threat environments, such as the Adriatic Sea or Arabian Gulf, staying close to enemy shores to optimize the efficacy of the carrier’s short-range (500 nautical miles) light-attack air wing, which was then dominated by the FA-18 Hornet. 

…the air wing should be designed to implement the nation’s defense strategy.
This is the real weakness. We have discussed here over the years the utter professional malpractice from short-sighted thinking that begat the 2020 airwing. People excused away the long range capability brought by organic tanking, heavy fighters, and strike aircraft. Instead, we think in terms of incredibly efficient decks of strike-fighters and their support aircraft. Much of the vulnerability of the carrier – and remember carriers have always been vulnerable because everyone is trying to kill them because they are so effective – derive from the pyrrhic victory of the Light Attack mafia against the Fighter and Attack mafia in the 1990s.

The next pull quote is a regular area of friction between Jerry and me. While we agree that unmanned aircraft will be part of the future airwing, we are at opposite ends of the UAS Overton Window. I believe we are about 1 decade away from knowing what we can actually “do” with unmanned systems so we can line up the next generation and will have a better idea of their use in 20, but Jerry thinks we know enough to make grander assumptions now. I think he is just too optimistic on the program risk, the technology risk, and the ability to do what he wants in a non-permissive EW environment.
As part of this shift, the core of the carrier’s new air wing would be 30 stealthy, heavily armed unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs), organized into three squadrons. Individual UCAVs should be capable of carrying 4,000 pounds of ordnance internally to a combat radius of at least 1,500 nautical miles without refueling. They should also feature broadband, all-aspect stealth design with a much-reduced radar cross-section (RCS). The design should also integrate an infrared-signature-reduction capability and an advanced passive sensor suite. These 30 aircraft — each armed with two 2,000-pound-class direct-attack weapons (GBU-31 JDAM) or stand-off weapons (e.g., JASSM or LRASM), four 1,000-pound-class direct-attack weapons (GBU-33 JDAMs), or up to 16 GBU-39 Small Diameter Bombs
More important than UCAV right now is the replacement for the F/A-18 series of aircraft. Not only does it need to be manned, it needs the option to have a 2-seat version for strike and electronic warfare. I know I jinx it by saying it needs to lean in the direction of a heavy strike-fighter, but it needs to lean in the direction of a heavy strike-fighter.

As for the size of Jerry’s carrier – it sounds familiar for a reason;
In addition, the carrier should have at least two long-stroke, heavy catapults in the bow and one in the waist (centered on the carrier’s angled deck) in order to maintain redundancy in battle, two arresting-gear wires, and three deck-edge heavy elevators to move aircraft to and from the hangar bay. The new carrier should have the storage capacity to accommodate 1,500 tons of aviation ordnance and 1.5 million gallons of aviation fuel. Lastly, to power all this, in terms of both speed through the water and electrical-power generation, the carrier will likely need two nuclear reactors (for combat redundancy) capable of generating 240,000 shaft horsepower. The United States no longer has the capacity to build large conventional maritime steam turbines, but if it ever does, this option should be considered. Such a carrier should cost no more than $5.5 billion, about a third of the cost of the current Ford-class carrier. This effort would take, at a minimum, ten years to design and build.

Before arguing that this proposed carrier is too small, its catapults and arresting gear are too few, and its aviation-ordnance and fuel capacities are too slight, critics should pause and consider that the carrier parameters described above, with the exception of the two nuclear reactors, lie directly between those of the Midway-class carriers built during World War II and the Forrestal-class carriers built during the 1950s. Both served in the Navy until the mid 1990s and operated heavy, long-range, penetrating-strike air wings.
This is a strong selling point to me for this reason alone; one of my greatest concerns about our present fleet design is that the cult of efficiency has led us to build a lot of very big platforms that cost a lot of money because the spreadsheet tells us that is the right thing to do. At war, what this does is make any loss unacceptable as it is one thing to lose 1 of 5 of your ships in an engagement, it is another thing to lose 1 of 3. One is a bad day at sea, the other means defeat; at tactical defeat that undermines your operational plans and puts your nation at strategic risk – all to make the peacetime spreadsheet optimized.

Can we trade 3 FORD’s for 5 HENDRIX’s? Would that be the right move … not on the spreadsheet, but for where it matters … at war?

An extended war? A war of attrition? The kind of war I’ll write about later this week?

Friday, June 19, 2020

SECNAV & CNO on TR and Captain Crozier

In place of FbF today - a rare occurrence - I offer to you the below, the best link I can find to the statement and press conference today. Worth your time and pondering.

I would ask this; watch thing not from an internal USA point of view, but from an external point of view. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Civ-Mil Crisis? If so, it’s on the Civ

Maybe I need to review a few things here. I’m a guy in his mid-50s who spent a little over two decades of that time on active duty. I’ve been a civilian again for over a decade. In that role, I am in an almost pure civilian occupation as one can be. 

I don’t live within commuting distance of DC. I’ve never lived in base housing. I don’t come from a military family. The closest I get is that both of my grandfathers were enlisted Sailors in WWI. My family did fight in every major American conflict back to the Indian wars in colonial Virginia and North Carolina back to the late 1600s … but that is about it. None of my siblings served. None of my children serve. My spouse does not serve. Heck, I was commissioned as a contract NROTC guy even. 

To this day I argue that much of our active duty ground forces need to be demobilized and moved back to the National Guard where they rightfully belong … so I’m no militarist. You regular readers on the front porch know this, but new readers show up every day … and the title alone will be a lighting rod.

All that being said up front, let me make my argument.

Our military comes from the great and glorious civilian diversity of our nation and a sprinkling of immigrants and foreign nationals. They serve, some for just a few short years, and then the vast majority return to the civilian world.

Though some easily excitable individuals may say otherwise, we don’t have a “military caste.” Yes, there a few multi-generational families who serve, but only a very small sub-set of that group are multi-generational career types. As is a great Southern tradition, most serve a few years on active duty and then go home – having performed their honor’s requirement. These people are actually civilians – just with a little military flavor in their CV. 

Perhaps for those civilians long in DC who are mostly exposed to the General/Flag Officer community who have been in for 30-40 years with most of the last few decades in DC have a skewed opinion because of that exposure. If so, I hope they realize that those people are not “normal” military people. That can skew anyone’s opinion. However, if that is the benchmark – that minute % of military people – that the most complaining civilians have, again, that is on them not the body of military people – but the civilians who can’t see the rarefied terrarium they exist in.

Even career military people live mostly on the civilian economy. Not all were like me and intentionally made that a priority, but most do. They raise their families in the civilian world. Their spouses and loved ones are mostly civilians.

Usually the same people who get breathless about a mythical “military caste” will also bring up the fact that the military is “too Southern, too Midwestern, too Western” or some other thinly veiled snobbish comment. My take is, “So what?” 

We are, or are supposed to be, a nation of free people who have free will. A people who when their nation is not under existential threat, do not enforce a tyrannical servitude to the state through forced labor. As such, we have a volunteer military. Different regions and cultures in our vast nation have more of a martial tradition than others – as is true in all large nations through history – as such there will not be pure balance.

Heck, as I have stated here since 2004, I wish more of “my class” (in economic/educational sense) served, but they don’t. If those in the North East or Left Coast don’t see enough of their neighbors wearing the uniform, then fix your problem – don’t assume the problem is elsewhere.

There is the critique. Those who claim a civ-mil divide reflexively imply that the problem is on the military side. Why is that? I can speak from my experience and of those I served with that I talked with about this subject for years – we get the civilian side because we live with it every day. We try to bridge that divide every time we go to a party, drive down the road, go to a parent-teacher conference; we get it.

What about the civilian side? They are the majority, those in uniform are the minority. If the minority is doing all it can to live with and in the majority culture, and in spite of their best efforts the majority still see the minority as “the other,” then the responsibility for bridging the remaining gap lies with the majority. They have the power, they have the mass, they have the ability to make the bridge complete.

Why isn’t the civilian side taking the primary responsibility here? There are a variety of reasons.

1. It is always easier to blame, “The Other.” As I’ve tried to remind uniformed people before, especially inside the rarefied air of the DC Beltway, you are dealing with long-dwell residents in the political, natsec, and think tank world who are among the most isolated, echo-chamber, and self-referential people you will ever meet. A significant portion of them, outside of college – perhaps – have never lived anywhere outside the Acela Corridor. When they have “traveled” outside the coastal states, it was visits to exotic locals such as Chicago, IL or Austin, TX … or perhaps a conference in London or Munich. On the other hand, you have lived in a half dozen states for years on end. Perhaps you even lived for years in foreign nations. You went to schools that none of their friends went to. You hold opinions on certain topics they’ve never seen a real person hold before – they’ve only read about them in books or dunked on them on twitter … and yet there you are. You see, it is you who is a strange, out of touch oddity with your worldly travels and first hand experience working for foreign governments and people for decades … not them who have spent 90% of their adult life within a 1-hr commute of Georgetown.

2. Contempt. They’ve seen the movies, they know what people with short hair, uniforms, and all that politeness with “ma’am” and “sir” are like. You don’t have them fooled.

3. Insecurity. Why should the military person get a preference in hiring for anything? They didn’t go to better schools. They didn’t do all the right internships. They haven’t done the hard work for little pay on Congressional staffs or low-rent think tanks. They talk funny, have too many kids, and have all these icky weekend habits that, and let’s be real here, are just primitive. They just show up here and jump the line in from of all of us who have been toiling for years waiting for a nice GS gig or appointment. Did they do four months with a NGO in Burkina Faso? I didn’t think so.

Of course, there are other critiques, but that’s the top-3 I’ve seen.

Can the military do more? Sure, but what, I’m not sure for the reasons outlined above. In some ways, there will always be a civ-mil divide. I’ve been out for over a decade and I still see it. Pre-COVID-19, when I found myself at large gatherings, more often than not I would find myself drifting to groups that were largely of people who had a connection to prior service. It’s kind of strange, but it’s a something that has become a running joke between Mrs. Salamander and myself. There is something about being in the military, police, fire and other such organizations that gives you a common reference point. It is hard to describe, but it is there. It isn’t a negative thing. We could stop plastering our cars with bumperstickers and wearing t-shirts that try to make us better than our non-serving neighbors – though I think most of those people are poseurs. Not all of them. You know the ones I’m talking about. That could be helpful.

For my civilian friends, maybe we can start by stopping the mantra, “Thank you for your service” every time I just want to buy a bunch of AAA batteries and an extension cord. Maybe we can get 5-minutes in to a conversation without you making some comment about PTSD issues you read about online.

Maybe start there. That would be good for me.

Finally, do we want to eliminate that gap? Perhaps no. As we have been reminded in the last month, that line between the military and the civilian world can get a bit frightening when it gets blurred. Maybe the gap, as long as it is a net positive, is something we should – if not cherish – then at least recognize as being part of the environment.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Disintegrative Phase II is Nigh

This is going to be a hell of a decade or two.

If you are in a big city, get out.

If you are in a lot of debt, get out.

If you find yourself in a large crowd, get out.

If you are in a career that is in decline, get out.

If you have your kids in bad public schools, get out.

Get ready. 

If we're wrong, you'll be fine. If we're right, you'll be in a place to help yourself and others.

More good news over at USNIBlog.

Come on over; clothes to rend and teeth to gnash not included.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

2020 Would Like to Draw Your Attention to the Koreans

As we spend our days time travelling to gibbet our ancestors for ... well ... existing in a different century mal-aligned with 2020's struggle sessions, the rest of the world continues its march forward.

We need to remember that many of the world's events will unfold on their own timeline independent of our picayune obsessions.
North Korea has blown up a joint liaison office with the South near the North's border town of Kaesong.

The move comes just hours after the North renewed threats of military action at the Korean border.

The site was opened in 2018 to help the Koreas - officially in a state of war - to communicate. It had been empty since January due to Covid-19 restrictions.

In a statement, South Korea warned it would "respond strongly" if the North "continues to worsen the situation".

The destruction of the office, it said, "abandons the hopes of everyone who wanted the development of inter-Korean relations and peace settlement in the Korean Peninsula".
North Korea is such a hermit state whose national character has been developing in isolation for so long, no one really knows what they are thinking - but this cannot be good.

At best, they are signaling ... or trying to get attention ... internal or external, who knows.

Pyongyang is also angry at Seoul for not challenging Washington's insistence that strict sanctions should remain in place and for not pursuing inter-Korean projects which would have breached both UN and US sanctions.

It feels as if North Korea could be punishing the South and with the aim of using the tension as leverage in future talks.

Whatever the reason, this is a real slap in the face for a South Korean administration that pushed so hard for engagement.
How do you try to move forward when every step you take in a positive direction, the other party kicks you in the chest back two?

Pray for peace ... or better yet ... we get lucky.

The only people who dislike this instability more than the South Koreans & Americans are the Chinese.

It is in both our interests that this relic of the Cold War, North Korea, drifts in to history.

If I could offer something - if a window opened - it would be to work with the People's Republic of China to wind this down.

If they would agree to allow the unification of Korea, then the USA would remove all American ground forces from the peninsula withing 18-months of unification. Drawing down 50% withing 12-months.

No USA ground forces will return to the peninsula except for training or exercises and never more than battalion strength.  PRC observers will be allowed to witness for a period of 15 years.

We can negotiate from there.

I work cheap; DM me.

Monday, June 15, 2020

China, India & Ladakh: the Long Memory of Frozen Conflicts

If you can get your mind past the protests, riots, SCOTUS, and COVID-19 news flooding the zone, there is a good chance you've noticed things heating up on the Indian-Chinese frontier.

While it is a point of concern, many rightfully note that this is just a frozen conflict from 1962. 

Actually, it has a longer pedigree that that.

174 years old.
Since 1846, when the British took over J&K post the first Anglo-Sikh War, an attempt was made to have a boundary and was quickly followed up in 1847. In all, the British proposed boundaries — five separate ones in 1846-47, 1865, 1873, 1899 and 1914, China rejected each of them. Britain got China to send in troops during World War I and II, but the boundary remained undecided.

Major Alexandar Cunnigham, who led the British attempt in 1847 to demarcate the boundary, details this in his 1854 book “Ladakh Physical, Statistical and Geographical”. He narrates “The settlement of this boundary (between Ladakh and Tibet) was of some importance”.

In 1834, the Dogra Army, led by General Zorawar Singh, captured Ladakh. During the Sino-Sikh War (1841–42), the Qing Empire invaded Ladakh, but the Sino-Tibetan army was defeated and “a letter of agreement” was signed in 1842.
Sequence of events post Independence

1947: Chinese army enters Tibet
1950: India unilaterally declares McMahon Line in Arunachal as its boundary
1954: India claims Aksai Chin as part of its northern border
1958: India discovers China has built a road over the plateau of Aksai Chin
1959: PM Nehru rejects Chou En-lai’s letter accusing Indians of overstepping McMahon Line
1960: China bizarrely expands its claim on another 5,100 sq km of the territory in eastern Ladakh
1960: China wants status quo — India keeps NEFA (now Arunachal), while China keeps Aksai Chin — northeast edge of J&K
1961: In November, India launches forward policy to retain control over territory
1962: In Oct-Nov, India-China go to war
1993: Pact is inked on maintenance of peace along LAC
2014: PM Modi suggests demarcation of LAC, China says let representatives resolve it
Yes, watch --- but don't think this is a bolt out of the blue problem.

It is an old problem between two of the oldest cultures on the planet. 

We may get a break.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

June Maritime Melee - on Midrats!

Long deployments, new SECNAV, civ/mil stew bubbling, and everyone who left the USN to the USNR because they couldn't stand being in the yards, are being activated to spend a year ... in the yards.

These are just a few of the topics that we'll be covering in this month's LIVE Melee.

No guests this week, just us and you.

As with all melees, we'll take questions in the chat room or on the phone.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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

Friday, June 12, 2020

Fullbore Friday

How tough are you?
In times of war, it is almost a given that men will push themselves far beyond their former limits to commit feats of extraordinary courage and valor. Those who perform such exploits are usually honored and commemorated.

However, often war necessitates the testing and breaking of other kinds of limits too, requiring a man to go far beyond what most can imagine or endure. A perfect example of this was the case of George Ray Tweed, a radioman first class of the United States Navy.
Where did he find himself?
All the family members of US military personnel had been evacuated from Guam in October 1941, so when the Japanese Army began their attack on the island on the 8th December, the only Americans on Guam were US Navy and US Marine personnel, and some nurses.

The numerically superior Japanese forces quickly swamped any resistance on the part of the Americans, and the American garrison surrendered on the 10th of December.

However, six American Navy men decided not to surrender. Instead of resigning themselves to spending the rest of the war in a Japanese prison camp, they chose to flee. One of these six was Tweed.

As soon as Tweed and another man, Radioman First Class Albert Tyson, heard the news about the American surrender, they took off. On the way out of town, Tweed stopped at his place and filled a pillowcase with essentials, as did Tyson.
Some things don't fit in a pillowcase.
Unfortunately, in their haste, they forgot to take one of the most crucial items for survival: water. This was a dangerous oversight, as Guam suffered from a dearth of fresh water.

After moving through the bush and getting cut up by the island’s lemonchina plants (spiky, chest high plants covered with ½-inch thorns) they managed to get some rest, They were spotted, but the person who discovered them was a native Chamorro, an old man named Francisco. He took them to his house and gave them food and water.

They didn’t have much chance to rest, though, as the Japanese were already looking for the escaped Americans. Francisco helped Tweed and Tyson find a safe place in the bush where they could hide overnight. He also fed them again the next morning.

The fact that the local Chamorro people were so willing to help the Americans proved to be a crucial factor in terms of Tweed’s long period of evasion of the Japanese. Without their assistance, he probably would have been captured.
They were known to the enemy;
The Japanese initially tried to get the native islanders to assist with their efforts to capture the Americans by offering a monetary reward to the Chamorro for information. This started out as 10 yen for each American, and 50 for Tweed, because of his skill in repairing radios.
For the rest of the story - and to increase the Chamorro people in your mind, head on over to War History Online.

It has a happy ending ... and a Chevy.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

What Rates a 9-month Deployment?

I don't think we are a learning institution.

I don't think we have an eye ready for a fleet ready to surge.

I think we continue to shoot up the horse.

I don't think we care.

I'm having a bad day over at USNIBlog about 9-month deployments with a shrug.

Tuesday, June 09, 2020

Biden's Natsec Record is Fair Game

For months, the news cycle has been dominated by COVID-19, China, and now riots – which is understandable – but this is an election year in the USA and there has been a dangerously small amount of coverage about what the policy background is of the person who has a solid chance of replacing Donald Trump.

Those who have followed me for any length of time know my position on Trump since 2015. It has not changed. Some here are big Trump supporters, some #NeverTrump, and even some of you brave souls are pro-Biden.

All are welcome here, but one thing I will not cotton to is the idea that to say anything contra-Biden, then you must love Trump.

No. Adults must be able to talk to each other, and one of my favorite adults, Kori Schake, has put out a marker over at The Atlantic saying what all knowledgeable people cannot deny; Joe Biden is a highly problematic person in the areas of foreign and defense policy.

Read the whole thing, but here’s some pull quotes;
Joe Biden has been wrong a lot on foreign and defense policy. A lot. This year’s presumptive Democratic presidential nominee voted against the 1991 Gulf War, in which the United States and a broad multinational coalition quickly achieved their goals, and in favor of the 2003 Iraq War, and regretted both votes. Years into hostilities, he opposed the troop surges that brought some stability to both Iraq and Afghanistan and even insisted that “the Taliban per se is not our enemy.” He argued for carving Iraq into sectarian statelets even as Iraqis voted for cross-sectarian political lists. And he opposed the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. These stances suggest not only that he lacks a philosophy of how to use military force effectively, but also that his instincts on when to use it are often faulty.

Robert Gates, who served as the secretary of defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, wrote in his 2014 memoir that Biden “has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.” Last year, Gates reiterated his concerns. “I think that the vice president had some issues with the military,” he declared on CBS’s Face the Nation.

…Trump’s and Biden’s positions on Afghanistan are indistinguishable: Both vow to “end the forever wars” by withdrawing American troops, but neither has a plan for what happens after that. Biden said last year that Trump’s withdrawal from Syria was “a complete failure,” yet he advocates the same policy for other places. When talking about Syria, Biden rightly asks, “Who will stand with us if the United States is reduced to an unreliable partner?” But he neglects to apply that standard to abandoning Afghanistan, where 60 allies have fought alongside the U.S.

As for defense policy, neither Trump nor Biden appears to have a view about what the size and sticker price for U.S. forces ought to be. Biden seems to think America has spent too much on “traditional warfare” while also believing we need to retain military superiority. He merely waves his hands and vaguely supports more emphasis on America’s space and cyberdefense capabilities.
Finally, Kori puts out a challenge to fair-minded people in the natsec arena to explore;
But Biden’s continued advocacy of muddled and mistaken foreign policies shouldn’t be overlooked, and he can best help his cause by quietly rebooting them.

Monday, June 08, 2020

The Danes Hear the Distant Cyber Drums

I have never been all that aligned with calling cyber another domain of war, but for the sake of discussion I'm willing to entertain it from others who have a good argument to make.

Why? Today's economy is as reliant on the free flow of digital information as it is the free flow of oil and other raw materials.

When it comes to the 5G networks and China - a challenge almost lost before COVID-19 clarified how China is positioning herself for advantage - the Critical Vulnerability is clear.

Though - mostly for monetary reasons - there was some pushback against American warnings about China's Communist Party controlled communications companies getting a back door in to the West's IT infrastructure, with time and I am sure a few briefings at the highest levels, the drive to keep the CCP out is firming up.

A good example is the latest from Denmark. For a nation of only 5-million+ souls, Denmark is a serious player in national security. She doesn't just talk the talk, from AFG to cyber, she is leading. (NB: she only spends 1.35% GDP, but we get a lot of bang for that wee buck)
Denmark wants to be able to exclude 5G technology suppliers from providing critical infrastructure in Denmark if they are not from countries considered security allies, online technology news outlet ITWatch reported on Monday.

“In order to protect Denmark and the Danes, we want to collaborate with someone with whom we already have alliances,” Minister of Defence Trine Bramsen told ITWatch.

It also will send money to our allies' and friends' economies. Of course, I'd love for them to be American, but every day and Sunday I'll happily send money to Germany, the United Kingdom, Finland, France, etc than to China.

More of this.

Sunday, June 07, 2020

“Dunkirk and the Little Ships" with Dr. Phil Weir - on Midrats

Most people think they know about the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940 … or at least they do … but it is an incredibly complicated and enthralling story that was just one part of an almost unimaginable year that was 1940.

Our guest Dr. Phil Weir here to discuss his upcoming book on the topic, “Dunkirk and the Little Ships."

Phil is a naval historian specializing in the Royal Navy in the first half of the twentieth Century. He gained a PhD from the University of Exeter in 2007 looking at the development of naval aviation in the Royal Navy between the two World Wars, and is now an author and sometime broadcaster. 

You can preorder his book, here.

You can listen to the show at this link or below, but remember, if you don't already, subscribe to the podcast at Spreaker or any of the other podcast aggregators.

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

Friday, June 05, 2020

Fullbore Friday

A life well lived Admiral.

A life well lived.
“One day an airplane landed at the airport and a guy walked into the hangar wearing Navy whites, and a yellow convertible comes screeching around the hangar and a blonde jumps out and gives him a big smooch, and off they went.”

The young men’s flight instructor, seeing how captivated they were, suggested that they check out a Navy air training center in Michigan.

“We went up there and found out what the Navy stuff was all about and they said, ‘Hey, we’ll take you this afternoon,’” Admiral Feightner said. “So we signed up.”

He entered active duty after graduating from Findlay in 1941, received his wings in April 1942 and was assigned to a squadron based in Hawaii and commanded by the fighter pilot Butch O’Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient and one of America’s early war heroes. Lieutenant Commander O’Hare nicknamed him Whitey as a little joke, since he turned deep red instead of tanning in the Hawaiian sun. He was known as Whitey Feightner thereafter.
Admiral Feightner was credited with his first “kill” when he shot down a Japanese dive bomber off the Santa Cruz Islands in October 1942. He downed three torpedo bombers off Rennell Island on Jan. 30, 1943, and became an ace (a pilot with at least five kills) when he shot down a Zero fighter off the Palau island chain in March 1944.

He shot down another Zero off Truk in April 1944 and downed three Zeros off Formosa (now Taiwan) on Oct. 12, 1944.
He was promoted to rear admiral in 1970 and retired four years later, becoming a corporate consultant to the Navy.
“If you can’t stay calm and focused in a crisis, you have no business being a fighter pilot,” Admiral Feightner told Investor’s Business Daily in 2015. “It’s a matter of life and death, not only for you but those you’re defending.”
Admiral Feightner passed away in early April, his passing lost in much of the COVID-19 madness.