Monday, August 31, 2020

The Islamic State Terrorists Expand a New Front in Africa

Well, perhaps there should be quotes around "new" because this has been going on - in fits and starts - for over 1,300 years. All that being said, The Long War isn't going anywhere. The question remains where it is flaring up and who is fighting it. 

The "Islamic State's" franchises will continue to pop up all across the bleeding edge of Dar al-Islam. This won't end in any time soon. 

Africa continues to bubble up in any regular scan of trouble caused by Islamic extremism. This violence further handicaps a continent whose demographics and economic development are already setting the condition to create more conflict than can be consumed locally. That is why anyone concerned with global stability needs to keep an eye on Africa. 

Latest example, in a quasi-new front - Mozambique. From two weeks ago;
Militants linked to the Islamic State group have seized a heavily-defended port in Mozambique after days of fighting, according to reports. Local media say government forces that were in the far northern town of Mocimboa da Praia fled, many by boat, after Islamists stormed the port.
The town is near the site of natural gas projects worth $60bn (£46bn).
Where does the situation stand today?
Heavily armed insurgents who seized the strategic port city of Mocimboa da Praia, about 90km away from the commercial gas projects in the Palma district, remain entrenched in the northern Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique. Since the first attack on the area by the Islamic insurgents in late 2017, an estimated 1,500 people have died and about 250,000 have been displaced after numerous attacks and clashes between them and security forces. ...
According to the Bishop of Pemba, Luiz Fernando Lisboa, people displaced from villages attacked by the insurgents do not have humanitarian support. “The entire province of Cabo Delgado — in districts where there are no armed conflicts, is full of displaced people. The most important [need] is food. But it's not just food, there are many types of help that these people need,” said Lisboa. 
A source from a humanitarian aid organisation, said they could not travel to affected areas without the risk of being shot or beheaded. “We are neutral, we cannot be part of the military columns or enter it alone. 
On the one hand it may seem as if we are with the government and on the other hand with the terrorists. There may be this perception. Our aim is simply to support these people in need in various ways.” 
The Citizen Observatory for Health (OCS), a Mozambican NGO, earlier told the media that the closure of 37 health units in districts affected by armed violence in Cabo Delgado had left people there vulnerable.
In the Sahel, France and other European nations are doing what they can there ... but who will help Mozambique if they can't help themselves?

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Space Force – Culture, Ranks and Making the Future with Matt Hipple and Jack McCain, on Midrats

Culture is upstream from performance. 

Behind a sometimes playful, sometimes serious, argument about what rank structure the new Space Force should use is the very serious matter of culture. Culture for any organization is the foundation future success or failure, and is a based on words, and titles. These mean things – especially when they are related to the actual work you do. 

Using their recent article, Parochialism, not Congress or naval history, will kill the Space Force, returning Midrats alumni Matt Hipple and Jack McCain will be with us for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern in a broad ranging discussion on building the right foundation and culture for Space Force … and maybe a few minutes about the upcoming Dune remake too. 
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, August 28, 2020

Fullbore Friday

I've been thinking about the Falkland Islands War a bit this week and thought I've bring back a 4-yr old FbF for the new readers ... or for the regulars who would enjoy reading about a great operation that has about everything you'd want; special forces and naval gunfire. 

A great story via our friends at ThinkDefence about an exceptional side-show to The Falkland Island war.
Pebble Island lies to the north of West Falkland and in 1982, its 25 inhabitants were mainly involved with tending 25,000 sheep. Its small airstrip was subject to a daring raid by the SAS.

It did have an airstrip, though, or more accurately, four, three of grass, and the other on the beach. On the 24th of April, Naval Air Station Calderon (as it was called) was established there.
HMS Hermes was detached along with HMS Glamorgan and HMS Broadsword. The SAS and personnel from 148 (Meiktila) Commando Forward Observation Battery made for a raiding force totalling 45 and were loaded aboard four 846 NAS Sea Kings for the flight into the assembly point at Phillips Cove.

HMS Glamorgan fired on the western edge of the runway to provide a diversion and draw in Argentine forces. Shortly after, the main attack commenced;
Then our own mortar opened up, lighting the whole place up like it was a bright daylight. The mortar man was having a lot of trouble. Every time he fired the bloody thing, the whack kicking the base plate further into the ground. There was virtually no enemy fire on us, so the boys got stuck into the planes. They split into seven two-man teams. It was a bloody big trip and they had a lot of ground to cover. It’s not as if the planes were all parked in a neat row. They were all over the strip. And all the time the boys were running against the clock. Five planes were destroyed using the explosive charges that they had with them. The Pucara was the tallest of the aircraft. As they approached each plane, one bloke would give the other a leg up on to the wing. Once up, he then leaned down and hauled the other one up to join him. The Skyvan was not a problem. The Mentors were very small, and with one great leap, the guys got themselves on the wings. (Ramsey, SAS: The Soldier’s Story)
Aircraft had cables ripped out and fuel tanks punctured with small arms fire and grenades. It was all over by 03:35 and the SAS teams withdrew to their waiting helicopters, the job well done.

Six Pucara, four T-34C and one Skyvan were damaged or destroyed.
That, my friends, is a nice, efficient OP.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Diversity Thursday

Some time, we see progress ... but in the last few years in the face of the Red Guards of Wokism on the march, it has been disheartening to watch more people threatened, cowed, and otherwise make to kowtow to the Diversity Commissariat. 

Perhaps I've been too pessimistic. 

As the Diversity Bullies feel the wind at their back, they are getting more and more bold ... but they and their useful idiots in the bureaucratic nomenklatura do find themselves over their skis more and more ... especially when they are in front of smart people

 Case in point;
Last year, Sandia National Laboratories—which designs America’s nuclear weapons—hosted a 3-day reeducation camp for “white males,” with the goal of exposing their “white privilege” and deconstructing “white male culture.”
I’ve obtained exclusive whistleblower documents revealing that last year, the national laboratory sent its white male executives to the La Posada luxury resort to undergo a mandatory training called “White Men’s Caucus on Eliminating Racism, Sexism, and Homophobia in Organizations.”
In the opening thought-work session, the trainers demand that the men make a list of associations about white male culture. The trainers write “white supremacists,” “KKK,” “Aryan Nation,” “MAGA hat,” “privileged,” and “mass killings.” 
The trainers insist that white males must “work hard to understand” their “white privilege,” “male privilege,” and “heterosexual privilege.” They claim that white men benefit from positive stereotypes that “far outweigh the Tim McVeighs and Ted Kaczynskis of white maleness.” 
Next, the white male employees must expose the “roots of white male culture,” which consists of “rugged individualism,” “a can-do attitude,” “hard work,” and “striving towards success”—which sound good, but are in fact “devastating” to women and POCs. 
In fact, the trainers claim that “white male culture” leads to “lowered quality of life at work and home, reduced life expectancy, unproductive relationships, and high stress.” It also forces this “white male standard” on women and minorities. 
In a subsequent session, the white males must publicly recite a series of “white privilege statements” and “male privilege statements.” They must accept their complicity in the white male system and their role in creating oppressions. 
Finally, as the reeducation camp concludes, the white males must write letters “directed to white women, people of color, and other groups regarding the meaning of this Caucus experience.” They apologize for their “privilege” and pledge to become “better [allies].” Who is leading the struggle session? A company called “White Men As Full Diversity Partners.” 
This is no joke—their company is literally called White Men As Full Diversity Partners and they specialize in confronting those who “typically hold all the power”: namely, “white males.” 
It’s time to expose this taxpayer-funded pseudoscience and rally the White House and legislators to stop these deeply divisive training sessions. 
My goal is simple: we must pass legislation to “abolish critical race theory” in the federal government. Let’s push as far as we can.
Check out the full thread from Christopher F. Rufo. Great credit on Rufo who made the decision to make a frontal attack. 

From his thread I found the below video by dissident Sandia electrical engineer Casey Peterson who brought receipts;

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Deterring War, Conducting War, Ending War: What Seapower Does

Arguments create policy. Policies drive budgets. In the various argument about seapower, too many default to their comfort areas; platforms and warfighting. As one prepares for a war, what about deterrence and war termination? How do those drive requirements

In today's guest post by Bryan McGrath, he sets out the playing board. 

Over to you Bryan.
In the last week, I happened across two essays that together have made important impressions on me. After reading them, I am even more energized in my avocation of proselytizing for American Seapower. Whereas I previously have talked about two broad functions of Seapower—deterrence and warfighting (with the protection and sustainment of our prosperity a function of deterrence)—I now point to three: deterrence, warfighting, and war-termination. For the purposes of this essay, I concentrate on deterrence and war-termination, although warfighting remains a critical function. Additionally, deterrence in this post is almost exclusively meant to denote conventional deterrence, but there will be obvious and important references to strategic deterrence to come. 

The first essay of note is by former Obama-era Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy at Foreign Affairs and is titled “How to Prevent a War in Asia.” The piece is important for two reasons. The first is that Flournoy is likely to be nominated for high office in a potential Biden Administration, and so any insight into her thinking opens a window on potential national security objectives a new administration might pursue. 

Of even greater interest to me though, is a specific passage in her piece, and I quote it here for emphasis: “For example, if the U.S. military had the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours, Chinese leaders might think twice before, say, launching a blockade or invasion of Taiwan; they would have to wonder whether it was worth putting their entire fleet at risk.” Flournoy’s essay eloquently conveys her view of a decline in American conventional deterrence effectiveness in the Western Pacific and the need to re-establish deterrence with alacrity. 

The beauty of Flournoy’s example is that it can be planned against. The South China Sea is a known body of water with known “boundaries,” known border states, known weather and oceanography, known air and surface traffic densities and routes, known Chinese naval bases, force structure, and operating patterns, known Chinese surveillance capabilities, and known Chinese offensive and defensive military capabilities. If a Secretary of Defense Flournoy were to tell the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs that this requirement was to be pursued, the Joint Staff would transmit it to the Indo-Pacific Commander whose staff would begin the process of determining the degree to which it could be accomplished today with today’s Joint force providing the ships, airplanes, submarines, missiles, and space assets arrayed in today’s posture. The Math Majors at Indo-PACOM and in the Pentagon would do their magic. They would create realistic reference scenarios, they would assess the degree to which the intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and targeting (ISRT) available achieves the desired end, they would assess the degree to which the weapons in theater sufficed to neutralize (or whatever term they choose to describe damage in this scenario) Chinese military vessels, submarines, and merchant ships in the South China Sea. They would evaluate the effectiveness of ISRT networks to include their extensibility and durability. 

Were this effort undertaken by Flournoy or any other Secretary of Defense, it would likely reveal considerable gaps in virtually all aspects of the force posture arrayed in the Western Pacific. More importantly, it would suggest by inference, an architecture that would be capable of meeting the requirement. This “to be” architecture is compared with the “as is” architecture, and the differences would comprise a set of detailed operational requirements for Service acquisition organizations to pursue. Flournoy’s challenge then, is a good one, because it provides the military establishment with specific commander’s intent and specific operational objectives. 

Flournoy’s idea is important not only as a useful force structure and planning goal, but also as a thoughtful contribution to the concept of conventional deterrence. And while she couches it in the language of “deterrence by denial” (as in, an adversary is deterred from aggression because of doubt that military objectives would be achieved, rather than through a fear of future punishment afterward, our national approach to conventional deterrence since the initial Trump National Security Strategy) it also suggests conventional deterrence by punishment. Irrespective of the brand of conventional deterrence, what Flournoy is suggesting is the creation of the same level of certainty in the minds of Chinese Navy and merchant captains that they are constantly targeted, as currently exists in the minds of U.S. Navy surface ship commanding officers transiting the South China Sea. While Flournoy is far too politically deft to term it this way, it suggests the creation of a modern conventional deterrence “balance of terror”, in which all sides know where the other side’s assets are (or mostly know) and have them constantly targeted with actual weapons assigned and tracked against each known target. This is important to grasp, because left unsaid in her piece is the degree to which the current local balance (or imbalance, more to the point) is strategically destabilizing. 

And though her words speak ecumenically to the Joint Force, it seems likely that the posture necessary to support her requirement would fall principally to naval and aerospace forces but not exclusively. 

It is tempting to read too much into Flournoy’s piece, in that what she is suggesting is a peacetime posture consideration and not a war fighting or winning approach. Some may read her words and believe that she has fallen victim to the “short, sharp, war” fallacy. I am sensitive to these charges, but I do not find evidence in her words to support them. Maintaining the forward presence posture necessary to support “round-the-clock” surveillance and targeting in the South China Sea must be matched by the capacity to follow up to this initial, violent, 72 hours with a long-term effort to end the conflict. And by long term, I mean years. This too is a force structure and force planning construct, that while somewhat more difficult to pin down than the one she has articulated, is nevertheless critical to plan to. And this is where the second article of my eye-opening week comes into play. 

It hails from a chapter in a 1987 book edited by Stephen Cimbala and Keith Dunn called “Conflict Termination and Military Strategy: Coercion, Persuasion, and War.” The chapter in question is contributed by Linton Brooks and is entitled “Conflict Termination Through Maritime Leverage.” In it, Brooks provides supporting fires for the then-raging debates over how to deal with the Soviet threat. The Navy had recently put forward its now famous “Maritime Strategy,” and Brooks sets out to think through what war with the Soviets would look like, and more importantly, how it would end. Critical to his thinking was the debatable proposition that war with the Soviets could be fought on a “limited” level, as in neither side would resort to massive, strategic nuclear strikes, and that therefore strategy must account for other ways in which such a war can terminate. In Brooks’ estimation, powerful, globally arrayed naval forces provide tailor-made means for just this kind of strategy, in that over time, Soviet interests around the world could be threatened in order to achieve a level of discontent within the Politburo leading to an achievable war aim of returning to the status quo ante

This article hit me like a ton of bricks. I have been working my ass off for fourteen years either actively making naval strategy or suggesting how it is made, and I have professional relationships and deep friendships with virtually everyone else who does this stuff. And in that time, I have never—not once—had a conversation about the degree to which naval forces are critical to war termination, especially a war with a powerful, nuclear-armed opponent. This is obviously my failure, but having had my eyes opened, it strikes me as axiomatic that whenever navalists, naval strategists, or Navy/Marine Corps leadership talk about Integrated American Seapower, they MUST begin to cite the obvious benefits a naval force can confer in viable war-termination. This includes conversations within the upper levels of the national security establishment as we think about what a war with China looks like. 

What exactly does “winning” look like when the opponent is China? Unconditional surrender? This seems unlikely, and any strategy that sought this would raise the likelihood of strategic nuclear exchange. No, it seems to me that the objective U.S. and allies would aim at in a war with China is a return to the status quo ante, not unlike the way many thought about a war with the Soviet Union. This is unsatisfying to the American ear, what with our unease with anything but clear-cut victory, but it represents a reasonable and achievable war aim that offers the hope of escalation off-ramps. Given the geography of the Western Pacific, our network of friends and allies in the region, and the vulnerability of Chinese supply lines at sea and on land, naval forces (and grist for a whole other exploration, cyber forces) would have an immense responsibility in bringing about conditions that incentivize the CCP to negotiate war termination on terms the U.S. and its allies can support. 

And where all of this—Flournoy’s deterrence and Brooks’ termination—leads me, is that naval forces should have an outsized role in how this country plans for the possibility of conflict with China. Moreover, planners need to understand the unique military requirements of both deterrence and termination and understand that both functions place claims upon a naval force that are not necessarily perfectly aligned with the war-fighting function of naval forces. Put another way, the Navy you deter with, the Navy you fight with, and the Navy you win with—are not necessarily the same navies. All things being equal, a deterrence Navy could privilege ISRT, networking, and missiles, a war-fighting Navy could privilege undersea dominance, and a Navy to “win” with could privilege the netted distribution of more numerous platforms. Winter is coming. It is time to get serious, and this week’s reading provides for some interesting thinking that needs to be done. 

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a defense and national security consultancy. The U.S. Navy is a client. All views here are his own.

Space Force: There is no "Colonel" of a Ship

A lot of navalists and other right thinking individuals - including Congress critters - have weighed in on what kind of rank structure Space Force needs to use.

I would say more, but Bill Shatner has spoken on the topic. I'm not sure I can do any better.

Head on over to USNIBlog for a few more of my comments and the full linkage

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

The Fight for Baghdad

BZ to the Army University Press for putting this our earlier this month. Simply superb.

Yes, this has a lot of references to official doctrine (which isn't bad) and is not Hollywood production value heavy (which is good), but this is how we create an environment where people can learn from the past to prepare for the future.

It you want to understand better the ground battle for Baghdad in 2003, independent of the POLMIL or bothering about if it were a good idea in the first place, take the 50-min to watch this.

Even you navalists out there ... you can get some ideas and concepts to use ... but even then, it is worth it to better understand the ground side of the war.

There are a lot of lessons from this invasion at the Tactical and Operational Level that we will need to keep in our collective mind, as we will need to understand them for the next war - a war that is coming - and we shouldn't need to relearn what we intentionally forgot.

Hat tip John Spencer.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Russian Shipbuilding "Suitcases Without Handles" - Sounds Familiar

For reference, Project 20280 is the Steregushchiy Class Corvettes. From a distance and looking at her lines and weapons capability, she seems at sexy, teethy beast ... and she is. 

As we have been our own worst enemy in surface ships this century, it is easy to despair as we see what other people are building ... but we should take some comfort in this; they are having troubles too. 

Take some time to dig through the google translation of an article from a on the challenge the Russians have had with where they were and want to be with their near shore surface fleet. 

Old Cold Warriors like myself still twitch at the thought of Russian/Soviet submarines prowling the northern latitudes ... but that threat is but a shadow of itself. What we can forget is that from the Russian point of view ... the threat from Western submarines never left. 

Walk a bit in the Russians' moccasins;
2016 was a landmark year in the Navy's approach to anti-submarine defense. This year, the last diesel corvettes 20380 and the lead corvettes 20386 were laid down. Since then, no other BMZ ANTI-WATER SHIP has been laid down in Russia. Four years later, in Russia, three (!) Corvette vital for the fleet remained in the construction, except for 20386, namely "Strict" project 20380, "Agile" project 20385 at the "Severnaya Verf" and "Sharp" project 20380 at the ASZ. And that's it! And this is in a country whose potential adversary's power is based on nuclear submarines of outstanding combat qualities. It's just unthinkable. 6 units of 20380 were delivered to the fleet, two more corvettes of project 20380 are being prepared for mooring (“Zealous” at “Severnaya Verf” and “Aldar Tsydenzhapov” in the Pacific Ocean). At the same time, the money for shipbuilding was quite allocated. "Monument of project 20386" has already spent huge amounts of money on itself, and, perhaps, "will ask for more." At the same time, the time of the ship's readiness is unknown and cannot be predicted, but the budgets for it have been mastered. A series of "suitcases without handles" is under construction - patrol ships of Project 22160. They are under construction with very limited combat capabilities of MRK. In general, these three undertakings were very expensive for the country: they could completely upgrade the surface fleet at BMZ with multipurpose ships. These expenses cannot be called rational. But the fleet developed without any intelligible strategy, and what happened was happening. The anti-submarine defense was weak before our eyes, but there was a feeling that this did not bother anyone.
"Suitcases without handles." I couldn't help but laugh at this problem we share with our Russians in trying to successfully run shipbuilding programs in the 21st Century ... and I can feel their frustration. We built Little Crappy Ships that seem to go few places and when they get there can do so little ... about as helpful as "suitcases without handles." Yes, I shall use that nice Russian phrase. 

I also can feel this sense of relief that - like our upcoming FREMM-based FFG(X), there may be relief on the way;
Corvette project 20380 in any of its options is not at all ideal. He has a lot of shortcomings. But today we have a choice between "nothing" and 20380. In such conditions, the renewal of the 20380 series is absolutely correct and uncontested. However, the question of what the corvette should actually be for the forces of the near sea zone, what weapons and capabilities it should have, has not lost its importance. And in the near future, an analysis of the possibilities of building such ships in the form in which they are needed will be done. In the meantime, let us congratulate the Navy on returning to the right path. Let's hope that this victory of common sense will be far from the only one.
Anyway, give the whole thing a read and give a nod to our Russian friends. At least we don't have their problems.

H/t SJS.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Fullbore Friday

First posted this over a decade ago ... but there is so much to learn from this little known (at least to Americans) battle, I wanted to post it again.

Before we start, I want you to consider the importance of agriculture. In a time of war, what if a nation cannot feed itself?

What if it does not have a merchant fleet?

What must it do to protect its merchants against a hostile power?

It's all here and ... any excuse for a Tallships FbF.
This battle is known more by the name than the place, as it was fought over 400 miles from Ushant, near Brest. [Some sources give the distance as 700 miles, which may be where the pursuit began.] There have been four battles by this name, with the last in 1944.

A British fleet under Admiral Lord Howe was escorting merchantmen to North America at about the same time as a French fleet under Rear Admiral Louis Villaret de Joyeuse was escorting 130 merchantmen loaded with grain from America to France. Admiral Howe had dropped off his charges when on May 28, 1794 the two fleets sighted each other. Because of fog, only light fighting took place between the British (24 ships) and the French (26 ships). During this time, the French managed to successfully feint and draw the British away from the merchantmen, which made it home intact.

Nonetheless, the battle cost the French 6 captured and one sunk, against no loss for the English. Eleven English and 12 French ships were dismasted. Ushant III is also famous for a savage duel between HMS Brunswick and the French Venger, which lasted four hours – a very long time for these actions. These were typically fought at point-blank range; each broadside that connected caused terrible havoc, particularly on the open decks. Captain Harvey Brunswick commanded HMS Brunswick. Wounded three times in a battle that saw 44 of his crew killed and 14 wounded, he did not survive the battle.

Overall casualties were 1500 French killed, 2000 wounded and 3000 POWs; 287 English killed and 811 wounded.

The British were too exhausted to pursue. The French claim Ushant III as their victory because the grain fleet made harbor safely.
I like this little hmmmmm as well.
.... this battle took place at the height of the Revolutionary Terror in France, with over 380 people a month executed. The French Government had a policy of executing failed commanders. Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse escaped the guillotine undoubtedly because the grain fleet came in safe. feels that many French captains continued fighting after their situation became hopeless because of the “zero-tolerance-for-failure” policy.
The wiki page here has the full fleet line up.

Not a complete Navy story though, as The Queen’s (Second) Royal Regiment of Foot was involved and so was a wee Sailor.
The third battle of Ushant, where British Admiral Lord Howe fell upon the French fleet of Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse after several days of fierce fighting and won a tactical victory, though he did not intercept a food convoy from the new world.

Aboard the HMS Tremendous, one pregnant passenger gave birth to a boy. People thought this happy event was tremendous, so the kid got the nickname "Tremendous" and a Naval General Service medal in recognition of his presence at the action (with a rating of "baby").
... and you thought ours was the first fighting navy to push them out at war? Silly goose.

On a serious note - a tactical victory for the British; but a mission success for the French. The grain got there - call it a draw.

Hat tip ADB.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Diversity Thursday

Yes, I know.

This is a toxic tome to be doing DivThu, but sometimes you read something from a person whose intellect you respect that makes you pause with a sigh; you have to comment.

If not me, who? If not here, where?

For new readers, and to make things clear in this heated environment; let's reset the baseline for DivThu.

We do not address issues around race and ethnicity by hoping for a spoils system based on race and ethnicity. I'll repeat myself later; but that is a recipe for division and conflict.

To echo a great man; a just society focuses on the content of a person's character - not something as superficial as race, creed, color, or national origin. 

We are individuals with dignity and deserve to be treated as just that - not some widget to be sorted with other similar widgets defined by arbitrary characteristics.

Define objective standards and let the chips fall where they may. A perfect system, no - but less imperfect than a system that asks first - and places the most importance on - what you self-identify as your race and ethnicity.

Part of the problem with trying to discuss "diversity" in the military is the complete lack of critical thinking about where we are. No, not the "critical" as in "critical race theory," but critical as in the classic definition of such;
Critical thinking is the analysis of facts to form a judgment. The subject is complex, and several different definitions exist, which generally include the rational, skeptical, unbiased analysis, or evaluation of factual evidence.
In today's environment, it is a toxic topic where any slight lack of enthusiasm to approved dogma brings crowds with torches and pitchforks who don't want to discuss ideas - they just want to destroy anything and anyone not fully inline with their tribal emotions. 

That said; time for another Diversity Thursday. 

The opposite of critical thinking is emotional reaction. I don't think anyone who has paid attention to the topic of "diversity" would think that the US military does not think/worry/act on the topic. For decades it has been a top priority, tens of millions of dollars - perhaps hundreds of millions if you include all the paid cadre and collateral duty time - are spent each year specifically on this. From recruiting to officer training  it is always a top subject of concern.

We overthink it to the point we have even tried to cover what we mean by diversity as we all know what it is; race, self-described ethnicity, sex, and increasingly sexual orientation; that is what is measured. That is all the PPT cares about. It has nothing to do with "new ideas" or "different ways of thinking about things" or any of that. No, that is just camouflage because those pushing diversity-uber-alles are too embarrassed to say what they mean. 

There is nothing more racist than to assume that people think differently than others simply because of their DNA ... but that is what is being said. To be charitable, there are well meaning people who desire exactly what I desire; a society where we are all judged by the content of our character - not something so useless as the color of our skin or which part or sub-section of the globe our DNA or last name came from - they are just promoting tools that create the same effects they are trying to oppose. 

Dividing people like that is based on the most primitive and destructive secratian instincts. It also leads to conflict and division. However, a large portion of the human population is run on emotion. Even otherwise intelligent, well meaning people are ruled by emotion. There are also bad actors who like to use division and primitive-brain tribal instincts as a way to build a power base. Even worse actors actively strive to avoid constructive and open dialog in order to keep conflict going to ensure a secure job. 

We've all covered it through the years here. In line with the above, I was saddened to read this AM an article from a former Midrats guest writing over at Wired about his experience working in The Pentagon.
The Pentagon’s lack of diversity is jarring. Right now, in the Department of the Navy, the secretary, undersecretary, all three assistant secretaries, the chief and vice chief of Naval Operations, the commandant and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, the sergeant major of the Marine Corps, the master chief petty officer of the Navy, the chief information officer, and the chief management officer are all white, and all but two of them are male. In my senior-level meetings, roughly 95 percent of the participants were white, 90 percent men. If you believe diversity of experience and perspective improves decision making, this should worry you. ... Finally, the Pentagon must make diversity and inclusion a priority. Right now, persons of color represent 43 percent of our military force, but only a tiny fraction of senior leadership. Of the 41 four-star generals and admirals, for example, only three are persons of color; only one is a woman. In the Navy, African Americans comprise 17 percent of the enlisted force but only 5 percent of admirals. The secretary of defense needs to revolutionize recruiting, mentoring, and promotion so we have an officer corps and civilian executive pool that looks like America.
"...revolutionize ... promotion..." - Define that. If that leads to quotas ... we need to have a serious stand-down.

With his education and intelligence, I would have hoped for even a moment of mentioning that the US military's intake is the nation's outtake. John means well, but he's missing the larger story. 

With the entering disparities among racial and ethnic groups when it comes to education, crime, predilection to serve, and career path preference - you start out with a dataset out of line with a full population demographic summary. 

All these things impact what our force looks like, especially among officers. All this is well known. As outlined above, our Navy has and continues to do all it can to make sure all doors are open. I think it has made some mistakes, but on balance you cannot say an effort and focus is not there. For those who want more done, then focus on the nation's outtake. What are you doing to improve underperforming public schools? What are you doing to eliminate environments that enable a criminal enterprise as an attractive option for young people? What are you doing to have a military presence distributed as widely as possible, vice concentrated in just a few megabases? 

In 2020, that is what we can do to help diversity in the military. Even better will be the general impact on the nation as a whole. We do not need to go the direction of Yale and others who decide in order to "make the numbers work" and feel good about themselves, that we start practicing in a racist manner in order to "make the numbers work." The Navy does not need in a few years a lawsuit to bring out all our dirty laundry.

We need leaders who are willing to stand up for our service's record, focus and culture when it comes to creating the most equitable structure possible for individuals to invest their hard work and intelligence towards their and their nations improvement.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Army is Doing the Navy's Job ... Kind of

One of the most obvious, and easiest things that would gain our Navy a tremendous bang for a buck this decade would have been to do something navies have done for centuries; send some of your best officers to a conflict overseas as observers. Sure, those you are with may gain a little ... but the observing nation learns a lot. 

While the Army has been doing this on a small scale - and not to the degree I would like - during the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the maritime services have not. 

We are told over and over how Russia is such a threat to the USA and her allies, yet why have we continued to give a pass for an opportunity to watch the challenge up close. While most of the conflict is ashore - there is still a tremendous challenge in Ukraine's Black and Sea of Azov coastlines. 

I'm pondering the topic in more depth over at USNIBlog. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

LUSV is Looking Like a Mating of Jeffboats and Auxillary Cruisers

Our friend David Larter may have to report this straight, but I am under no such requirement. 

Get the waffle-paddle out - time to take the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel (LUSV) to task.

Unchallenged dreams, accountants, and yes men - these are what get us, to be blunt, shitty programs. Throw in a bit of careerism and greed with a few other human weaknesses ... and you get a fleet - just not one worth a damn in war.
As the U.S. Navy pushes forward with developing its large unmanned surface vessel, envisioned as a kind of external missile magazine that will tag along with larger manned surface combatants, a growing consensus is forming that the service needs to get its requirements and systems right before making a big investment.
In other words, sober minds have reached the point they can't dismiss the neo-transformationalist money pit otherwise smart people are pushing. Good.
“The approach has to be deliberate,” Gilday said. “We have to make sure that the systems that are on those unmanned systems with respect to the [hull, mechanical and electrical system], that they are designed to requirement, and perform to requirement. And most importantly, are those requirements sound?
That is the polite way for the CNO to say, "You know that fiasco that was LCS and DDG-1000? We need to at least pretend that we learned something from that living nightmare."
“What I’ve found is that we didn’t necessarily have the rigor that’s required across a number of programs that would bring those together in a way that’s driven toward objectives with milestones,” Gilday told Defense News.
AKA, people were believing the PPT and industry/consultant spin and fever dreams.
“The Navy wants LUSVs to be low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships based on commercial ship designs, with ample capacity for carrying various modular payloads — particularly anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and strike payloads, meaning principally anti-ship and land-attack missiles,” the report read.
The Navy also wants a pony for its birthday.
“One of the biggest challenges people are realizing now is the machinery systems and keeping the systems operational for six months [over a deployment],” Collette said. “If you think about a ship today, there are daily machinery rounds and constant preventative maintenance. The Navy has its casualty reporting system, and the commercial world has something very similar. And over six months, that’s a lot of work that’s not getting done on the autonomous ship.
This challenge, the merchant one, is actually the easiest to overcome. For the military, you have legal, piracy, connectivity, damage control and AI maturity that are the harder nuts to crack.
“But the other approach is to try and monitor it and put in a lot of redundancy and figure out how we get this system reimagined so it can do a six-month deployment. And I can’t really assess where we are with that at this point, I just don’t have enough insight to know if that’s six months away. Is it six years? Is it never reachable?”
Another polite way of saying, "Calm down people. This is about as ready for prime time as a 1950s Popular Mechanics article on the future military."
...jumping toward something like large unmanned surface vessel, is a big, big step with a lot of risk.”
This last quote gives me hope. I think we have in some quarters at least, hoisted aboard the hard lessons of the Age of Transformationalism. We need to maintain a humble view of what we can accomplish, re-embrace the "build a little, test a little, learn a lot" approach to weapons development and to keep a weather eye out for squishy salesmen pushing snake oil dripping PPT programs.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Communism Kills; Estonia Remembers

Few things disgust me more than American liberals' popular front with the hard left. There can be no justification, no excuse, no desire for power great enough to allow those who outright supported or made common cause with communists. The only former communists who should be allowed in proper company are those who have publicly renounced their former associations and are actively - in word and deed - opposing them.

Communists are in the same fetid bucket as Nazis and should be treated with equal contempt. History is the collective memory. This is especially true for those who know what socialism with communist members leads to. My small but plucky friends the Estonians are some of the best at this.   

BZ to the Estonians;
The Estonian Institute of Historical Memory has launched a portal that provides information on the history of communist regimes and their crimes; the portal is published in Estonian, English and Russian. The aim of the portal, called Communist Crimes, is to deepen the understanding of the history of communist regimes on an international level and to hinder the activities of “red terror” deniers, the institute said in a statement. “The portal is unique as it consolidates the communist experience of 45 modern countries into a single database. The portal is continually updated with fresh material,” the institute said. Giving a voice to millions of victims and their loved ones “According to various estimates, approximately 90 million people around the world have perished due to communist experiments in the 20th century,” Sergei Metlev, the institute’s spokesperson, said. 
“Throughout history, the disciples of this ideology have adorned themselves with pleasant-sounding slogans about a happy future, while destroying entire nations and social groups as well as depriving their citizens of basic human rights in order to reach the leaders’ communist utopia.”
Is that clear enough? If you ever find yourself in wonderful Estonia, Please give yourself at least two days in Tallinn. Just a beautiful city with great people. Make sure while you visit Vabamu Museum of Occupations and Freedom. I took the long tour with the wife and kids a decade ago. Our guide was deported twice; once as a young kid after WWII and again in the late 1980s.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Summer of Our Discontent Midrats Melee

In our COVID-19 summer doldrums, what could be better than kicking back with a nice cold drink with the kings of natsec social distancing, Sal & EagleOne for a live Midrats free-for-all? 

Come join us this Sunday from 5-6pm as we cover the waterfront from Sand Diego to DC; the Taiwan Strait to Cypriot gas fields. 

No guests this week, and no specific topics - so this is your time to drive the discussion if you are so inclined.

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, August 14, 2020

Fullbore Friday


So, what did you do after high school? How long have you had to wait for your full story to be understood? I offer to you Teddy Sheean;
On December 1, 1942, Sheean was a gunner's mate on the corvette HMAS Armidale, when it came under attack during an operation near Japanese-occupied Timor, now the country of Timor-Leste across the Timor Sea from the Australian city of Darwin. ... ...Japanese warplanes swooped in on the Armidale. The Australian corvette was hit by two torpedoes launched by the Japanese planes and quickly began to sink, according to the AWM. An order was given to abandon ship. "Sheean was wounded and, rather than abandon ship, he strapped himself to his Oerlikon (anti-aircraft gun) and began to engage the attacking aircraft even as the ship sunk beneath him. He shot down two planes, and crewmates recall seeing tracer rising from beneath the surface as Sheean was dragged under the water, firing until the end," the AWM says. There were 149 sailors aboard the Australian ship. Forty-nine survived and were plucked from the Timor Sea a week after the sinking. Each likely owed his life to the 18-year-old gunner's mate, according to an expert panel established in June of this year to adjudge Sheean's case.
Eventually, all gets settled.
...on Wednesday, almost 78 years after the then 18-year-old sailor provided cover for his comrades to escape the Japanese planes overhead, Sheean was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross, the British Commonwealth's highest honor for military valor.
The distance they fought from Darwin is about the same distance as from Norfolk, VA to Boston, MA. 

Of note, Teddy's ship, HMAS Armidale, was commissioned a little under 6-months when she went down. 

Total war at sea demands and consumes at rates our modern minds have trouble grasping.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

France Returns Contra Ottoman Aggression ... I mean Turkish

As I've been saying a lot recently, history is sticky.

France has beean on an off - mostly on - power in the Levant for a thousand years when the Crusades first started the push-back against Islamic imperialism. The Ottomans and Persians even referred to the Crusaders not as Crusaders, but as "Franks," and the Christian West as "Land of the Franks" ... or Frangistan. 

That may help those new to the topic why the French President Macron was received so warmly in Beirut after the bombing. Many in the Levant - especially the Christian minority - look to the former modern colonial power France vs. The Ottomans as modern Estonians think of Sweden vs. Russia. Part of an empire, yes, but a stable and relatively humane empire.

As a cornerstone of this blog is that the USA should not be the primary power everywhere especially where issues are clearly in an ally's sphere of influence, we greatly welcome France pushing forward, and we should support her efforts.

I especially believe we should with the latest French presence operations in the Eastern Mediterranean - standing next to the Greeks/Cypriots vs. the Ottomans ... I mean Turks

France has deployed two Rafale fighter jets to Greek-Cyprus and a frigate to nearby waters. President Emmanuel Macron's intent is to deter Turkey from starting a conflict with Greece. It hasn't garnered much attention in the United States, but the risk of a Greece-Turkey conflict is growing rapidly.

The heart of the problem is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's deployment of an energy survey vessel and naval escorts into Greece's exclusive economic zone. In response, Greece has deployed its own navy to the area. Tensions are high and rising quickly. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Turkey has started flying armed drones over the Greek island of Rhodes and that a Turkish naval vessel may have damaged a Greek vessel during a collision on Thursday. Apparently referencing that collision, Erdogan proclaimed, "We said that if you attack our [survey vessel], you will pay a high price, and [the Greeks] got their first answer today."


I hope other European nations should support the French play, and in a very background role, us as well.

I would like to end today's post with a repeat of my regular call; USA nukes out of Turkey; Turkey out of NATO. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

The Millington Diktat is Immortal

I don't like the rigid and stifling officer career paths the Big Navy forces on everyone ... but it is a big organization with big responsibilities and like it or not ... people are numbers.

An interesting RAND report came out that review what many of you already know - but it is interesting to see someone has done the math.

Just close your eyes and think of England, as the phrase goes. 

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Michèle Flournoy's Neo-Rumsfeldism

For most of the last decade, I have heard nothing but good things about Michèle Flournoy. Indeed, she's been making appearances on this blog since 2008. 

The fact she's been soaking in national security issues for decades and is highly respected is a given - but this article by Aarn Mehta gives me great pause

As I read this, I was reminded that it was twenty years ago that the greatest advocate for Transformationalism came in to power and drove it through the Navy and other services; Donald Rumsfeld. He meant well (and for the record I am a fan of a man as imperfect as I am), but the ideas he proposed - well known to readers here - threw away decades of evolutionary progress in weapons development, assumed risk away, and acted that just by saying it - things would happen. Transformationalism is attractive; an almost religious belief in the power of technology; an amost mystical attraction to the syren song of the well briefed "cusp of being operational" PPT brief; an impatience with the plodding, slow, and tedious work of building billion dollar systems in an effective manner.  

Let's review why I'm concerned; we've seen this movie before:
The next U.S. defense secretary must be prepared to invest heavily in game-changing technology, even if it comes at the cost of existing capabilities
Why are we not a learning institution?
“I think there’s, sort of, two parallel efforts that have to happen. One is investments that may take a decade to be fully realized and integrated into the force. Another is the question of, what can we do in the next five years with what we have, but use it differently,” she explained.
This is true, but has always been true. If Flournoy just stayed here ... she'd be a world winner ... but no:
“Defense budgets are probably going to flatten in the coming years, no matter who wins the election,” Flournoy said. “That means you have to make trade-offs and you have to make hard decisions, which means you probably need to buy fewer legacy forces in order to invest in the technologies that will actually make the force that you keep more relevant, more survivable, more combat effective, and better able to underwrite deterrence.”
What a cancerous idea to keep injecting in to our veins. This is exactly what had us sinking SPRUANCE Class destroyers and PERRY Class frigates with years to a decade of usable service ahead of them for the promise of LCS that still has not been fulfilled. It is what had us clunkingly restart DDG-51 production when we no longer could lie our way out of DDG-1000's failure anymore. What has our TICONDEROGA CG limping in to their dotage without effective replacement.
...there is a “whole laundry list” of future technologies on which to make big bets, Flournoy highlighted two she considers particularly important. The first is a “network of networks” for secure communications as well as command and control that can survive an attack from any domain — space, air, naval, land and cyberspace — that China could seek to use.
If we hedge everything to "Network Centric Warfare" we will first be made blind and mute. Then we will find ourselves lost and impotent. Then we will be killed.

In a peer war, we will not have unobstructed access to the electromagnetic spectrum and satellite vox/data. If everything rides on the assumption we do, we will lose. 
“We need a command-and-control system that is powered by artificial intelligence to enable that kind of resilience in a much more contested environment,” Flournoy explained.
Oh, hell no!

Who briefed her on this?  Does she have a handle on the very real problem with AI as it stands right now? How about the intersection of the ethical and legal issues with "AI" making C2 decisions? 

Next ... well ... I can't be the only one who sees this?
“China has created a set of threat rings that are very, very lethal places for U.S. forces to go,”
Yes, yes China has ... and how has she done this? With a steady building in number and quality an evolutionary force based on proven "legacy" systems that - while we were dreaming of Tomorrowland - made the American Lake that was WESTPAC in to a prickly and poisonous place. 

With the fruits of the previous Age of Transformationalism fading in to the mist to nothing - we are stuck with under-resourced and maintained Cold War systems and units that check a number box but are combat ineffective in almost peer conflict scenario.

Yes, we need make trade offs, but for at least the next half decade they need to be made in favor of repairing and reconditioning that which we neglected for the last two decades, starting with maintenance, manpower, and training. 
 “Sometimes when the department is trying to make those trade-offs to move money from one program to another, if they don’t do a good job explaining that to Congress they sort of get the hand from Congress,” Flournoy said.
If I were in Congress and someone brought that patronizing shinola to my committee room, it would be a nasty, brutish, and short hearing. 

No, when you over-promise, under-deliver and tell clear falsehoods year after year, an institution loses its institutional credibility and had no institutional capital left to demand anything from Congress but its guidance. 

Here is the baseline;

We are still suffering from the (to some) expected backwash from the Age of Transformationalism; the lost opportunity cost for things we can use now spent on futuristic promises that never came in to being; a denuded depot level maintenance infrastructure; a force equipped with sub-optimal equipment no one can use, upgrade, or can ergonomically work in the operational environment; a manning CONOP that looks at people as a problem, not an asset - something that can be burned out in perfect synchronicity with an exquisitely crafted schedule from the banks of the Potomac. You know the drill. 

We do not need a Rumsfeld II: Electric Boogaloo. We need a humble, hard working, clear eyed leader with an eye on the future, but ensuring they have the forces they need to fight 1QFY21, not just FY35. We need someone who is brutally honest with The Pentagon and the larger Military Industrial Complex about how they have fooled, hoodwinked, and bamboozled other appointees - but not this one. 

We need a SECDEF Lombardi, a Secretary No, someone who will not have us waste another generation's billions of dollars on things that fluff up balance sheets, but fail to make a shadow on the ramp, displace water, or give the infantry an extra hour of fight. 

Whoever wins in November, whoever is the next SECDEF ... may none of them take us back to the 00s. No more failed wars; no more failed transformations.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Zugzwang Naval Advocacy

How is the game being played and who are the pieces?

In a pseudonymous guest post by a friend of the blog known to me, the author pulls together the challenge all navalists are having as we try to advance the proposition of a stronger and better navy.

Over to you.

Great power competition can be likened to many games, including chess, especially when discussing naval competition. Space on the board, like the size of the oceans, is finite. It is known. Players, like platforms, have various capabilities. Some are limited by the number of moves they can make, or the speed at which the platforms or projectiles can be propelled. In light of recent posts here on CDR Salamander’s blog on advocacy and messaging for the navy, let’s consider a few of those chess pieces and what they mean in light of two recent posts.

The White Bishop – CDR Salamander. The bishop is a loyalist to the cause, close in proximity to the mission of the powers of the Queen and King but is willing to sacrifice itself on the altar of truth. The bishop is the prophetic preacher, sermonizing on the woes and ills of the navy for more than a decade. But how many worshipers are there to hear readings from the Book of Sims or the Gospel of Mahan? More pews are empty from those having left the naval church; those remaining to be seen in the front rows are either the true believers, or those nodding in agreement to be seen as believers but within two hours of service will spend their time at a bar or brothel.

In addition to more than a decade warning of the challenges of the Littoral Combat Ship, the ZUMWALT-class destroyers, and the pending budget (specifically SCN) crisis of the 2020s, and other issues, CDR Salamander has recognized the importance of proper messaging and the underlying problems as leaders whistle past the proverbial graveyard of ships:
Each generation of civilian and uniformed leaders must execute superior stewardship of their inheritance, improve on it, and give the next generation a better baseline than the previous generation received. This is the only way a civilization continues to prosper, and we are failing.

Over the last two decades, our relative power has decreased. This relative decay accelerated by distracted leadership and clumsy program management. One aggregate cohort failure layered on top of another.
The White Knight. The knight is unique in the game of chess. Its moves are unlike any other. In a way, they are the thinking-player’s piece, something that advance or parry in a variety of ways. Unlike other pieces which move in a linear direction, knights can jump over other pieces to get to their destination. They require complexity of thought in overall strategy. In terms of the last few weeks, the navy has again seen the White Knight played. The United States Navy community would be hard-pressed to find a stronger, more articulate, and greater advocate for American sea power than Commander Bryan McGrath. But he recognizes one voice alone does not comprise a gospel choir as he recently wrote and also discussed on the Midrats podcast:
The problem, simply stated, is that at the very moment that the need for American Seapower advocacy is most critical, it is nowhere to be found. Ok. That is probably an overstatement. There is advocacy. It is, however, insufficient, ineffective, untargeted, uncoordinated, poorly resourced, diluted, and inadequately championed.
McGrath is not wrong. As anyone who has listened to him speak or read his works will know, he makes his cases forcefully, logically, and from a principled stance of a true believer. He rarely errs in selecting his words and his arguments are largely irrefutable. He doesn’t state what he doesn’t believe and what he believes he bases on facts, analysis, and experience. But in chess a player can make no mistakes and still lose the game.
His latest bold proposal is rectifying the current situation:

a new organization should be formed, and that this organization would have four broad lines of operation: research into the nexus between national strength and seapower, the development of seapower related policy, active advocacy for seapower in both the Executive Branch and the Congress, and dedicated outreach to civic minded Americans through targeted media and events.
McGrath’s piece is predicated on several hoped-for conditions. He rightly compares this new advocacy organization for American Seapower to successful models like Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association in terms of scope and impact. McGrath is absolutely correct that advocacy for American Seapower has as much, if not more, of a primogeniture quality from a Constitutional standpoint since Article I, Section 8 (…to provide and maintain a navy) preceded the Bill of Rights. In addition, the only maritime security threat mentioned in the Constitution is that of piracy.

The U.S. Navy had a long history of protecting American trade and merchant ships. After paying tribute to Tripoli, the nation eventually sent squadrons to the Mediterranean. Pirates were fought in the Caribbean, off Sumatra, Hong Kong, and elsewhere. But by the twenty-first century the American merchant fleet was a shadow of its former 19th and 20th centuries’ self. As Somali piracy rose, threatening legitimate commerce, one U.S. Navy admiral that they should arm themselves because the U.S. did not have the ships and it had other support missions for Iraq and Afghanistan. Several months later, a U.S. merchant ship was seized, thus demanding a more public call to action even though international merchant ships had been seized for several years. It’s tougher to sell commerce protection when there are few U.S. merchant ships or crews plying the seas.

McGrath faces a challenge in his worthy proposal and it may be the first insurmountable hill – those organizations have been built on passion and fear, a far greater because it more personal than the impassioned response to the Maersk Alabama incident. The American public, whether it’s the voting public or those more active in civic advocacy, will not be driven by the logic McGrath offers. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper 55, “passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason.” Just as there was no reasoning with the recent rioters across the nation, nor with their enablers, there can be no reasoning for good policy-making based on those same facts and analyses. More to the point from a popular culture perspective as explained in one film: “Rome is the mob…the beating heart of Rome isn’t the marble of the Senate, it’s the sand of the Coliseum.” While the NRA often relies on the Second Amendment as its founding purpose, the methods it – and Planned Parenthood – use in campaigns is fear of loss of a right and not the Constitution as a document most Americans have never read.

Enter the White Pawns – the most numerous pieces on the chess board and the most underrated. Together they can form an incredible marching force across the board and threaten even the most power Black pieces. These can be likened to the civic- and like-minded community leaders McGrath mentions who deeply care about their communities and the country, and, therefore, could be persuaded to join the cause. The nation and communities might have been able to appeal to local and national organizations in participating in this seapower advocacy forty years ago, but it is far more difficult in 2020. The reason is simple demographics Far fewer people today are involved in community organizations.
- Lions Club is about half of its 550,000 members in the 1980s
- Shriners International has a quarter of its one million members in 1978
- The Order of Elks is down about half of what it was in 1981
- Kiwanis has declined by a quarter of its peak in 1992-93
- The Masons have about 1.25 million members, one quarter that than in 1959
Those rolls are also aging with few younger people to replace them. The seapower harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.

Assuming a seapower advocacy organization can reach critical mass, it will need an Executive and Legislative branch interested a larger navy. It is particularly important for the Hill which has the power of the purse. It needs, as McGrath points out, supporters from both parties to make that happen and, while one party has mentioned a 355-ship navy, there is little to suggest that can be achieved. A few advocates and visionaries are there but not in positions of seniority or leadership. Absent those key influencers, navalists must turn to those to whom it has always relied since the “Six Frigates” and that is members from shipbuilding districts. As the late Speaker Tip O’Neill famously quipped, “all politics is local."

This is not the 1980s when approximately 75 percent of Senators and 50 percent of House members were veterans of major wars and understood their need which former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman to appeal to. The rising generation in Congress has other legislative funding priorities. Advocates of the navy and its industry are fewer than they were. Take the case of the one shipbuilding state, Maine, which builds . Enter onto the chess board the White Queen, the most powerful piece on the board. Actually, remove that piece before the game is played. Current polls have Senator Susan Collins trailing her challenger. If she loses, there are likely to be consequences to the navy in building surface ships.

Collins was first elected to the Senate in 1996. With Senators Shelby and Alexander retiring after this term and with Senator McConnell unable to assume a committee leadership due to his floor leadership, Collins is next in line to assume the Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee if the Republicans hold the Senate, or Vice-Chair if they lose. Maine has not held the Chair of Appropriations in nearly a century and is unlikely to for several decades. What would a Collins loss mean for work at BIW in a few years? Likely, given Maine’s current political climate, that waterfront will be repurposed into waterfront condos, art galleries, and a Starbucks. The shipyard at Kittery would not be far behind without the clout of seniority (Maine’s other Senator, Angus King, will be 80 years old at his next election in 2024 and, although he sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has no realistic opportunity to serving as Chair or Ranking Member given that six members of his party hold seniority.)

Finally, we turn to not another chess piece nor the board, but of the designer of the game. Alfred Thayer Mahan outlined six key elements comprising sea power: geographical position, physical conformation, extent of territory, size of the population, character of the people, and the character of government. The first four elements have remained largely constant (or in the case of population size comparably similar) while the last two are the greatest challenge for McGrath’s proposal.

The nation has changed and is changing at a more rapid pace. Advocacy may work with more experienced individuals who are civic-minded, business-oriented, and understand America’s role in the world. But that national character will not convey to the next generation which is lurching far left in terms of policies and funding due in no small part as a reaction to Trump’s behavior, statements, and failures. The political pendulum is swinging and it is swinging hard. By any measure, best discussed beyond this naval blog, the traits that defined the nation regardless of political affiliation or administrations are dramatically changing.

Advocacy for large navies has often been predicated on the traits that contributed to national pride – again, an appeal to public emotion over logic and reason gain support. Why are there large events for a ship’s commissioning? Is it to explain the nuances of international relations, of sea control, of power projection? More often it turns to pride in the ship and the sailors, a fundamental emotion that can be understood, or rather felt. But how do you advocate for a navy when an emerging public arguably has no pride in the nation? How do you advocate for a navy that represents to them another military tool of imperialism? Will they view the navy as simply an international version of the police stations and cars they want to destroy? How can they accept a navy that guarantees commerce if they don’t believe in the capitalistic and market economies that need that protection on the ocean?

Put simply, they don’t care about the navy or what it does or what it represents. That is not a judgment call on whether their outlook is right or wrong but what is.

The pillars of political support, budgetary investments, civic-mindedness, and a national maritime orientation are fading – quickly. Navalists are attempting to appeal to the expand the Chief of Naval Operations’ 53,000 Twitter followers when 66 million are more inclined to follow Kim Kardhasian. Those are the conditions that McGrath’s plan faces today and tomorrow. Commander McGrath is absolutely right on why that organization is needed. The challenge will be is if is something the country wants.