Monday, July 26, 2021

We're Designing Ourselves to Lose

 

Of course we lost you nitwits. We've designed a palace of glass as our our fortress;

In a fake battle for Taiwan, U.S. forces lost network access almost immediately. Hyten has issued four directives to help change that.

An aggressive red team that had been studying the United States for the last 20 years just ran rings around us. They knew exactly what we're going to do before we did it,” Hyten told an audience Monday at the launch of the Emerging Technologies Institute, an effort by the National Defense Industrial Association industry group to speed military modernization.   

The Pentagon would not provide the name of the wargame, which was classified, but a defense official said one of the scenarios revolved around a battle for Taiwan. One key lesson: gathering ships, aircraft, and other forces to concentrate and reinforce each other’s combat power also made them sitting ducks. 

“We always aggregate to fight, and aggregate to survive. But in today’s world, with hypersonic missiles, with significant long-range fires coming at us from all domains, if you're aggregated and everybody knows where you are, you're vulnerable,” Hyten said.  

I'm sorry, but in spite of all the warnings provided about building an exquisite Tiffany force and shoveling billions in to critical peacetime capabilities that in war immediately are converted in to critical vulnerabilities with zero benefit and uncounted risk ... we are shocked?

Study for 20 years? Bullshit, you can see our vulnerabilities in open source in 20 minutes. 

If we had a culture that allowed aggressive critique as opposed to obsequious agreement, we wouldn't be here. We let the military industrial complex sell of a bill of peacetime-only concepts about networks, real time video, invulnerable satellites, the whole transformational offsetting grabassery that no intelligent person expected to survive any near peer adversary.

No one here at least.

Again; if your entire warfighting CONOPS rests on the chalk-brittle supports of networks, GPS and satellite VOX/DATA, then at war I will blind you, confuse you, target you and kill you. We've been pointing this out here for a decade and a half, as have a legion of others.

We willfully ignored all the hard lessons of a challenged electro-magnetic spectrum. We've raised generations of "thought leaders" who decided it was not profitable to remember that if you leak you die ... instead we flood the air with proof of our location, and cannot fight without giving the enemy all they need to destroy us.

We need new elites. We need new processes. We need a new culture.

The fact that this is actually news, and people are acting as if this is a surprise - that alone should tell you how deeply corrupt and incompetent we have allowed our military to become.

Yes, I'm blogging tired and pissed off. You should be tired and pissed off too. Tired of being lied to, and pissed off at what has been done to the greatest military power by a generation of ill-focused, poorly selected, perversely incentivized leaders. Then when they can't hide it anymore, they expect you to give the system a pass.

Bullshit.

Just look at the state of it all; we have a CONOPS that two fundamentals of warfare teamed with two laughably intellectually prolapsed pipe dreams.

Earlier this month, Hyten released four directives to the services: one each for contested logistics; joint fires; Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2; and information advantage. On Monday, he revealed new details about these “functional battles.”

This is just painful. 

Contested logistics. Creating new ways to deliver fuel and supplies to front lines. U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Force are working on using rockets and a space trajectory to get large cargo spaceships into and out of battlefields. 

First of all, logistics in warfare has always been contested. Also - how about we invest in airlift, sea lift and land transport what can support and sustain a long war with attrition west of Wake by mid-decade first ... then ... for the love of Pete ... who lets this get proposed .... just look at it again.

...large cargo spaceships into and out of battlefields...

I'm sorry, but go fire yourself. That is along the lines of the worst ideas of the post-Korean War nuclear Army.

Joint fires: “You have to aggregate to mass fires, but it doesn't have to be a physical aggregation,” Hyten said. “It could be a virtual aggregation for multiple domains; acting at the same time under a single command structure allows the fires to come in on anybody. It allows you to disaggregate to survive.” Hyten said the joint fires concept “is aspirational. It is unbelievably difficult to do.” And the military will have to figure out what part will be affordable and practical, he said. 

I'm sorry, but go fire yourself again. We proved over the last two decades we cannot make a simple imperial brushfire work, how we are going to fight and win with this fragile construct? I'll save everyone the trouble - you can't.

In the Terrible 20s budgetary environment with so many pressing needs for things to get ready for the fight, this is almost criminal. This is doubling down on the mistakes that made you lose your stupid wargame to begin with.

JADC2: The Pentagon’s push to connect everything demands always-on, hackerproof networks, Hyten said. “The goal is to be fully connected to a combat cloud that has all information that you can access at any time, anyplace,” so that, like with joint fires, the data doesn’t get exposed or hacked because it’s housed in one centralized location, he said. 

This is what happens when people get high off their own supply. This will never happen. If it does, and you rely on it, you will not be able to fight without it ... as such, you lose.

Information advantage: This element is the sum of the first three, Hyten said: “If we can do the things I just described, the United States and our allies will have an information advantage over anybody that we could possibly face.”

Strategic over-promise and under-deliver. This is strategic Sea Monkeyism. We had a huge information advantage over the Taliban and how did that work out for us. We learn nothing.

The new operating concept comes as the U.S. military reshapes its footprint in the Middle East to better prepare for a fight with China. On Monday, President Joe Biden announced U.S. troops will end their combat role in Iraq by the end of the year; the announcement comes just two months after Biden announced a full withdrawal from Afghanistan.   

If we think the above is what will defeat China, we've already lost the war.

Next slide.

As a military, we have learned absolutely nothing.

Sea Monkey marketing is an unattractive look for a superpower.



Sunday, July 25, 2021

It's a Midrats Summer Melee


Tired of hearing "DELTA" related to COVID, when in a good and just world when you heard that word it would be used to talk about old Russian Soviet Era SSBN or 2-seater all weather F-18s?

Well, we're not sure we'll cover either of those topics on today's episode or that we'll totally ignore COVID's impact in the natsec arena, but it's a melee - so you never know what will come up in the maritime national security conversation.

We do have a few topics to get the conversation started; giving Deming a second look, the CNO admits what everyone knew about FORD for over a decade, China rattles the nuclear saber at Japan, and our friends return to the Pacific.

Remember, with the melee format, if you have a chance to catch the you can join in the chat room or call in with the topic of your choice and make the show your own.

Join us live if you can and roll in with your preferred topic in the chat room or call the switchboard number right here on the showpage.

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






Friday, July 23, 2021

Fullbore Friday


If not you, who?

Duty.

Duty to your crew.

The nature of a man is often revealed in crisis when he has to run on instinct.

Meet then Staff Sergeant Henry R. Erwin, USAAC, just a good 'ole boy from Alabama.

On April 12, 1945, Erwin's B-29, called the "City of Los Angeles," was the lead bomber in a group attack on a chemical plant in Koriyama, about 125 miles north of Tokyo. Aside from operating the radio, Erwin was also in charge of launching phosphorescent smoke bombs to help assemble the bombers before they proceeded to their target. 

Erwin was positioned behind the forward gun turret toward the front of the plane. Once he got the order to light the bombs, he dropped them down a chute that launched them out of the aircraft before they exploded. 

But something went wrong with one of them. It didn't leave the chute, instead bouncing back into the aircraft, striking a kneeling Erwin in the face. The intensely burning bomb obliterated his nose and completely blinded him. To make matters worse, smoke quickly filled the front part of the plane, obscuring the pilot’s vision. 

Despite his wounds, Erwin knew the plane and crew would not survive if he didn't get the bomb outside. So, despite the fact that he was physically on fire and his skin was burning off, he picked up the incendiary at his feet and, feeling his way instinctively through the plane, crawled toward the cockpit. 

His path was blocked by the navigator's table, which he had to unlock and raise to get around. To do that, he had to clench the burning bomb against his body. Erwin then struggled through the narrow passage and stumbled forward into the pilot’s den. He groped around until he found a window and threw the bomb out.

Completely on fire, Erwin collapsed between the pilots. He had journeyed only 13 feet, but later he said it "seemed like miles when you are burning."

The plane had been on autopilot during the crisis, but to keep it from stalling out, the pilot had to drop altitude. When the smoke finally cleared, he realized they were only 300 feet from hitting water. The pilot managed to pull the plane out of its dive, abort the mission and head for Iwo Jima, the closest place for medical aid. 

During that time, the crew sprayed Erwin with a fire extinguisher to put the flames out, and they gave him morphine for the pain. Somehow, Erwin stayed conscious during the flight and even asked about the crew's safety. 

Once at Iwo Jima, doctors labored for hours to remove the white phosphorus that had embedded in his eyes. Since it combusts when it's exposed to oxygen, each fleck that was removed burst into flames – small bits of torture for the already struggling airman.

No one thought Irwin would survive, but his entire crew knew he deserved the Medal of Honor for his actions. So, while he was getting treatment the night of their botched mission, the officers in his unit were preparing a Medal of Honor citation. The next morning, they presented it to Maj. Gen. Curtis LeMay, commander of the 21st Bomber Command, so he could sign it. LeMay managed to get it approved in an unprecedented amount of time. They were all hoping to give it to Erwin before he died. 

Three days after the incident, a still-living Erwin was flown to a Navy hospital on Guam. For days afterward, doctors performed blood transfusions, did surgery and gave him antibiotics to fight infection. 

On April 19, 1945 — one week after the incident — officials pinned the Medal of Honor on a heavily bandaged Erwin as he lay in a hospital bed. The medal itself was from a display case at U.S. Army Headquarters in Honolulu. It was the only available one in the entire Pacific Theater. 

Read it all

Henry live a full life of 80 years. 

Fullbore.



Thursday, July 22, 2021

Diversity Thursday


The long march through the institutions by the diversity commissariat may be shocking for those who just look at DOD, but if you really want a peek in to how bad it is, look around.

Today, I would offer to you the foreign service sector.

Think about all critical challenges facing our foreign service from Central Asia, to Europe, to the western Pacific, to Africa, to the Middle East ... and then look what they are spending their time on.

Check out the July/August edition of The Foreign Service Journal.  You can get the PDF here, but here are the critical issues our diplomats must focus on;

- Asian Americans Can No Longer Be Silent, and Neither Should You: Generations of citizenship and sacrifices for and contributions to America notwithstanding, Asian Americans face the need to prove their loyalty over and over.

- The Power of Vulnerability: A Black former consular fellow, whose report of her ordeal at the hands of U.S. officials at the border with Mexico shook up the State Department, shares her thoughts today.

- Three Myths That Sustain Structural Racism at State: Countering bias and recognizing overt racism are important, but it’s time to go beyond this work and take a hard look at institutional racism in the department.

- Rooting Out Microaggressions: What does exclusion look like? An FSO explores the concept of microaggressions—and suggests how shining a light on them can help foster a culture of inclusion.

When you have hard problems that have clear metrics with regards to progress you can track, weakly led organizations will focus on other things.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

It doesn't have to be painted grey, you know


Are we really using the right numbers when it comes to the PLAN"s amphibious capabilities?

Are we paying attention to not-so-subtle capabilities?

I'm pondering the topic over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and join me.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Q: "So Sal, How is the Navy Handling Vaccinations and Mask Compliance?"

Redacted to protect the ... well ... you know.

The answer appears to be, "In the finest traditions of the Naval service."


Side note: you can add this to your file that, yes, what the Admiral is interested in, the Fleet will be interested in. 

It matters. 

That is why, in the end, if you are happy or unhappy with our Navy ... that is where you start to look for answers to the question, "why?"


UPDATE: Is NAVADMIN 095/21 no longer in effect, specifically para 3?

3.  Commanders and supervisors should not ask about an employee's vaccination status.

Monday, July 19, 2021

France's Stand in the Pacific Contra China

Most people do not realize that one of the largest Pacific nation, if you measure by territorial seas, is France.

She has a lot to lose in a world where fleets of hundreds of Chinese fishing boats in fleet movements go from place to place, strip mining already stressed fishing resources.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday France and South Pacific nations would launch a South Pacific coastguard network to counter "predatory" behaviour, which an adviser said was aimed at illegal fishing, as China expands its maritime reach.

The United States and allies including France, Japan, Australia and New Zealand, are actively expanding their activity in the Pacific to counter China's influence.

Though tiny in land mass, Pacific islands control vast swaths of resource-rich ocean called Exclusive Economic Zones, forming a formidable boundary between the Americas and Asia.

"To better cope with the predatory logic we are all victims of, I want to boost our maritime cooperation in the South Pacific," Macron said after a video conference with the leaders of Australia, the Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea and representatives of New Zealand and other Pacific nations.
When France is good, she is very good.

This is a "growth area" in the maritime security arena. You can hear it in Macron's statement, and you can see it in the growing fleets of Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPV) that are a good compromise design for the mission at hand.

Those over 50 remember the last time a nation with a less than enlightened view of the rule of law and responsible stewardship of the world's oceans had the capability and will to do real damage, the Soviet Union.

For the better part of three decades, the world has become comfortable and secure - with isolated exceptions - of the fruits of Pax Americana on the high seas. Those days are over. With pressures and stress, more nations will need to turn their attentions to those things they thought they were naturally granted, responding to gaps in what I modestly call, "Salamander's Hierarchy of Maritime Power™" (apologies to Maslow).


All the higher requirements can only successfully be attained when the ones below it are properly secured, funded, and maintained. Where a power gets itself in to trouble is when it neglects "lower echelon" requirements - through ill-understanding or immature priorities - and instead get's top heavy.

Smart move by France in bolstering the base of its maritime power. With this secure, it will have better standing in higher echelon functions.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Ukraine & the Eastern Black Sea with CAPT Chris Rawley, USNR - on Midrats

If it is early summer in the Black Sea, it is time for the annual Ukrainian hosted international exercise Sea Breeze.

Why is this exercise important, who came along, and what does it tell us about the state of the Ukrainian Navy, maritime security in the contested eastern Black Sea, and some interesting responses from the Russians?

Recently returning from the exercise and joining us for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be returning guest, Captain Chris Rawley, USNR

CAPT Rawley is the Reserve Chief of Staff for US. Naval Forces Europe and Africa. Over his 29 year career, he has deployed to the Persian Gulf, Western Pacific, Iraq, Afghanistan, and across Africa.

In his civilian career, Chris is the founder and CEO of Harvest Returns, a platform for investing in agriculture.

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. You can find us on almost all your most popular podcast aggregators as well.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Fullbore Friday


Five years ago, an exceptional American Army NCO from WWII passed away, Technician 5th grade (E4) from the 103rd Infantry Division, awarded the Bronze Star by the USA and Légion d'honneur from France.

He lived 102 years, and with him passed the last war chief of the Crow Tribe.

A great American, Joe Medicine Crow;

According to Crow tradition, a man must fulfill certain requirements to become chief of the tribe: command a war party successfully, enter an enemy camp at night and steal a horse, wrestle a weapon away from his enemy and touch the first enemy fallen, without killing him.

Joe Medicine Crow was the last person to meet that code, though far from the windswept plains where his ancestors conceived it. During World War II, when he was a scout for the 103rd Infantry in Europe, he strode into battle wearing war paint beneath his uniform and a yellow eagle feather inside his helmet. So armed, he led a mission through German lines to procure ammunition. He helped capture a German village and disarmed — but didn’t kill — an enemy soldier. And, in the minutes before a planned attack, he set off a stampede of 50 horses from a Nazi stable, singing a traditional Crow honor song as he rode away.

“I never got a scratch,” he recalled to the Billings Gazette decades later.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Can you hug out 20 years?


On the tarmac at Andrews.

I just don't know.

A few more comments at USNIBlog, but not that many more.

Come for the pic, stay for the ponder.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Culture is Upstream of Everything

Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) along with Congressmen Jim Banks (R-IN), Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), and Mike Gallagher (R-WI) commissioned a study by Lieutenant General Robert E. Schmidle, USMC, Ret. and Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery, USN, Ret. on a series of issues familiar to regulars here and on Midrats

It was released on Monday and at only 22 pages is an easy read. The aptly titled, "A Report on the Culture of the United States Navy Surface Fleet" is a compact summary you should take time to read in full.

What does it use as the basis for its review?

77 unique and formal interviews were conducted with Navy personnel via an extensive hour-long process to establish a common controlled approach to the questions at hand. ... 

Instead of chasing the laser dot across the floor, they are focused on, 

...underlying systemic problems... larger institutional issues...

They are taking a non-traditional approach and, thankfully, their own authority; 

...by conducting the interviews from outside the chain of command via the exercise of the Congress’s Title I oversight authority, and by pledging anonymity to participants, interviewers enjoyed a significant level of candor in these conversations. Ultimately the process was able to identify trends that, by the admission of those interviewed, would not normally be shared with their own chain of command. 

 What did they find?

The results of this project are unambiguous. There was a broad consensus across interviewees on numerous cultural and structural issues that impact the morale and readiness of the Navy’s surface force. These include: an insufficient focus on warfighting skills, the perception of a zero defect mentality accompanied by a culture of micromanagement, and over-sensitivity and responsiveness to modern media culture. Structural issues identified include lack of resources and consistency in surface warfare training programs, and the Navy’s underwhelming commitment to surface ship maintenance—a problem that spans decades. 

Though all the Representatives and the Senator here are Republicans, they correctly identify this as a multi-decade, bi-partisan problem. Not (R), not (D).  No, this is all (N); this is a Navy problem.


They found six major issues:

1. Insufficient leadership focus on warfighting.

2. A dominant and paralyzing zero-defect mentality.

3. Corrosive over-responsiveness to media culture. 

4. Under-investment in surface warfare officer training. 

5. Poorly resourced and executed surface ship maintenance programs.

6. Expanding culture of micromanagement.

Let's dive in to the sections above and see what we find.

Insufficient leadership focus on warfighting:

... many sailors found their leadership distracted, captive to bureaucratic excess, and rewarded for the successful execution of administrative functions rather than their skills as a warfighter. 

This is a recurring theme through all the sections; distraction. All humans only have 24-hrs in a day. You can only do so much, and less well. When the important is crowded out by the unimportant, you become inefficient, ineffective, and live in the moment just to survive to the next Outlook refresh.

... “the very difficult problem for an O-5 CO (Commanding Officer) is that he’s got 1,000 requirements pushed on him, many of which are administrative or operational…and so his real job is figuring out which requirements he’s just going to blow off…whether it be fixing a material issue or training or warfighting readiness.

The rewards and incentives that an organization signals will drive what is on top and what is on the bottom of a rack-and-stack prioritization.

There was considerable apprehension that the surface warfare community in particular lost a component of its fighting edge...

How much time in the last quarter century ... and how many funded programs ... were spent on the ability of our navy to do what is the foundational purpose of navies throughout time - sink opponents ships and deny them access to the seas ... at range?

One recent destroyer captain lamented that, “where someone puts their time shows what their priorities are. And we've got so many messages about X, Y, Z appreciation month, or sexual assault prevention, or you name it. We don't even have close to that same level of emphasis on actual warfighting.”

From the US Navy's official YouTube page, look at the topics of the videos the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gilday, USN, has put out in the last year.

He sets the tone. He sets the priorities. Check them out yourself. I don't need to say more.

Frustration with nonessential training was found to be overwhelming and not limited to the surface warfare community. Navy leaders have contributed to morass of requirements, but so have senior civilian defense leadership and Congress. While programs to encourage diversity, human sex trafficking prevention, suicide prevention, sexual assault prevention, and others are appropriate, they come with a cost. The non-combat curricula consume Navy resources, clog inboxes, create administrative quagmires, and monopolize precious training time. By weighing down sailors with non-combat related training and administrative burdens, both Congress and Navy leaders risk sending them into battle less prepared and less focused than their opponents.

This is part of the administrative burden. You only have finite training time. Priorities derived from incentives and disincentives will drive decisions throughout the chain of command. 

“Sometimes I think we care more about whether we have enough diversity officers than if we’ll survive a fight with the Chinese navy,” lamented one lieutenant currently on active duty. “It’s criminal. They think my only value is as a black woman. But you cut our ship open with a missile and we’ll all bleed the same color.”

We need more of that LT, and less of others.

One interesting note, and credit to him and the authors, is the one person named - and insisted on being named - is our friend Bryan McGrath;

“[The ships] are very busy,” he said. “I think there are too few of them for what is being asked…The operational requirements squeeze out maintenance, they squeeze out some training.”

This brings back to a call here for years; where is "Admiral No?" The problem Bryan outlines is a manifestation of our priorities driven by the "now." In what few hours you have in the day, what do you need to do to not get in trouble, not to get a phone call, not to get a message that will create trouble? You get in survival mode. The job of leaders is to create an environment for your subordinate leaders to get their heads up and out of survival mode.

A recently retired senior enlisted leader suggested that this dynamic was more a lack of proper prioritization. “I guarantee you every unit in the Navy is up to speed on their diversity training. I’m sorry that I can’t say the same of their ship handling training.”

What metrics are being tracked by who and why?


A dominant and paralyzing zero-defect mentality:

Former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman has framed this in an historical context, suggesting that none of the four key Admirals who led victorious fleets in World War II would have made it to the rank of Captain in today’s Navy. “Nimitz put his first command on the rocks,” Lehman said. “And Halsey was constantly getting into trouble for bending the rules or drinking too much…Ernie King was a womanizer and a heavy drinker. And Admiral Leahy may be the only one that might have made it through, but he had quite a few blots on his record as well.”

A few questions come to mind:
  1. Why were previous generations more flexible?
  2. What did they do to make a 2nd chance institutionally worth forgiveness?
  3. Is there an assumption of expendability when it comes to our people? If so, to whose benefit? Why?
I think in the next pull quote, we may have a partial answer:
“But in each case, there was a critical mass of leadership in the Navy that recognized that these were very, very promising junior officers. And so, while they were punished for mistakes, they were kept in a career path. That’s not the case today. It’s just not done because it’s too dangerous for anybody that tries to help someone who has made a mistake.”
That last part is underappreciated. "The system" doesn't just go after the individual in the barrel, but anyone who associates with or shows sympathy to that individual. It is absolutely heartbreaking to talk to people who all of a sudden find themselves at a meeting where on one will sit within two seats of them. Calls and emails are not returned. Social events are cancelled. Wives and children are ostracized. Just heartbreaking what we can do to each other out of fear.

Fear. 

That is a common thread in our culture; fear. We will face death and will calmly give orders that results in the deaths of hundreds, but we are terrified of a mention in an article, an angry phone call, or worst ... being called a nasty name. Great warriors become quivering piles of goo.

However, isolated infractions such as an alcohol-related indiscretion, a poor choice of words with no malice or offense intended, a ship-board accident with no damage or injuries and no demonstrated neglect, and similar offenses are supposed career-ending faults that could instead be weighed in the context of an overall service record and provided with an opportunity for redemption. One officer noted the example of Captain Robert J. Kelly, a combat-tested aviator who ran the USS Enterprise aground in San Francisco Bay several decades ago but went on to earn 4 stars and command of the Pacific Fleet. It was a rare mercy in the early 1980s and unheard of today.

The "how and why" of the change over four decades would be an interesting study in the mentality and motivations of the chain of command and selection boards. The media have always been with us, they are not new. Is it generational? A byproduct of training, accessions, competition? There's a PhD to be earned out there on this topic ... if an academic institution would allow an open investigation of such.

“Goldman Sachs, Amazon, Apple, Google, whatever. All of these institutions of high performance and high excellence do circus flips trying to figure out how to cultivate and retain talent,” said one former naval officer who is now a senior leader at a major hedge fund’s philanthropic arm. “The Navy all but chases it out the door.”

Career path rigidity is a disincentive to innovative and restless intellects. That is a large part why so many quality people leave at first chance. We are not good here.

... interviewers found no credible defense of the one-mistake Navy and its influence on officer careers in particular. The practice creates fear and apprehension in the fleet. It degrades lethality, atrophies talent, inhibits reenlistments, encourages careerism, and advances those that avoid risks and challenges up the ranks.

Fear. There it is again. A military shaped by fear.


Corrosive over-responsiveness to media culture:

The “one-mistake” culture appears to be somewhat recent phenomena in Navy history and some suggested that today’s unyielding news environment could bear some of the blame for its rise. 

Much of this comes from senior leadership lacking sufficient training or ability to have confidence in themselves to respond appropriately.

Back to point; 

There is an undercurrent of fear in the surface fleet.

We need to keep pulling that string on "fear."

The first is a loss of faith in the chain of command. In the wake of a damaging story, the senior ranks are perceived as quick to sacrifice junior personnel to preserve the credibility of the unit or the career of the senior leader in charge.

A byproduct of concern that the chain of command is driven by fear. It isn't bad news that people are worried about, it is how their boss will react to bad news. Junior personnel lack confidence in the intestinal fortitude of their superiors. That peacetime suspicion bleeds over to the operational side as well. That simply is not healthy.

“COs would be quite risk-adverse,” one officer recalled, “they would have their senior department heads manning a lot of watches, especially on the bridge and things like that to make sure that nothing went wrong, because nobody wanted to end up in the media, and nobody wanted to end up on the cover of Navy Times.” He finished his statement with a telling observation that, in this day and age, this reaction was “totally understandable.”

The press isn't the problem; it is the fear of the press that is the problem. It is also an archaic, ham-fisted understanding of the news cycle exasperated by the culture of the now;

Commanders do not appear to understand that stories come in a flash and disappear just as quickly

Like a summer squall on a lake, you don't abandon ship, you just secure things and wait it out. It passes faster than you think and then the press is on to other click-bait.

The Navy has forgotten how to differentiate between stories that are ignorable and stories that demand corrective measures.

We could help commanders by having better Public Affairs (PA) and Human Resources (HR) professionals. I have seen a lot of solid leaders needlessly spooked by excitable PA and HR "professionals." Then again, it is a commander's responsibility to ensure he has a good staff, and knows who on his staff he is free to ignore.

...a 30-year veteran of the Navy, who would have been an invaluable asset in a conflict at sea, resigned. In what would have normally been discipline via stern conversation from a higher officer, three decades of honorable service were instead ignobly ended. 

What a great example of how corporate Navy values service. People remember this and other similar acts of callousness. Memories of such events are long lasting. Just ask anyone who was a JO during the post-Tailhook '91 era.

The trend has not gone unnoticed. It creates the impression in the lower ranks that Navy leaders are easily cowed by the press and will throw sailors to the wolves should their name appear in print.

Ground truth ... and when done by senior leadership, this trickles down to lower echelons. 


Under-investment in surface warfare officer training:

The surface warfare officer community has frequently been under pressure to look for efficiencies, both in resource allocation and time spent before entry to the Fleet. The aviation and submarine communities had no such pressures.  

That lies firmly at the feet of the surface warfare community. Why? They will have to answer that.

In 2003, the Navy surface warfare community, in its effort to become more efficient, eliminated the initial SWOSDOC training at Newport as well as many of the unit specific combat and engineering systems schools. 

This cohort are commanding our ships today. We've corrected this error and a lot of good work has been done in recent years to improve SWO training ... but this horrible child of the Age of Transformationalism - that same group that begat LCS and DDG-1000 - will continue to impact our Navy for another decade at least.

Read page 13-14 for the second and third order effects for that cohort that only ended in the last decade. This was all predicted. 

There is one area we did continue to do right, and I was glad to see the authors mention it. This is another thread I would like pulled ... the why and how we did, and continued to, get this right.

Nearly every respondent, both in the pre-2003 and post-2003 eras attested to the fact that initial basic firefighting and damage control training as well as frequent refresher training in these essential skills was both prioritized and accomplished as required. Many respondents offered sentiments similar to one officer who stated that the Navy was “very intent on damage control and fire-fighting training [that was] crucial to day-to-day operations.” One important insight was that fire-fighting and damage control simulators had continuously evolved over the past generation to “become very advanced. We developed the use of ones that you could set off fires and contain the smoke and clean the air.” The degree to which the crews of both the USS McCain and the USS Fitzgerald were able to stabilize and counter the serious flooding that occurred following their separate collisions suggest that this is true. While Congress still waits for the full account of the origins of the USS Bonhomme Richard fire, the Navy’s focus on damage control can largely be praised as an example of how proper prioritization of essential training can yield effective results.
 

Poorly resourced and executed surface ship maintenance programs:

The opening is heartbreaking because if we had only followed a report we've had over a decade ago, so much of what we are trying to fix would be better;

The 2010 VADM Philip Balisle Report on Surface Force Readiness highlighted a number of manpower, maintenance, training, and readiness issues plaguing the surface warfare enterprise. 

You get what you inspect. You get what you reward. Organizations follow leadership priorities. This is basic stuff.
Surface ship maintenance packages are perceived as “bare bones” and unable to absorb growth. The cumulative effect of this underfunding and poor execution has left the surface warships less modernized and less ready for combat operations.
Also basic is an understanding of where the path of deferred maintenance leads to. This was a choice, not an accident.
“If you have budget X and you only do whatever maintenance that is required that you can do under budget X, then you have all the rest of the stuff that you had to descope because you're limited by the budget. And then that just creates a bow wave because what's the second and third order effects to deferring that maintenance? You end up with, for instance, on a cruiser where…we knew that the fuel tank tops in one of the machinery spaces, that if we did the ultrasonic testing (UT) on that space, that then the safety requirements would require us to replace the tank tops. We didn't have the budgets to do the tank tops, so we didn't do the UT. And then it wasn't until we went into the shipyard and we were doing the required cleaning of the tanks, which that was a requirement under the package, then all of a sudden, one of the shipyard workers goes up and goes, ‘Oh, I see sunlight through this tank top.’ Well, now you're forced to do the UT. So now you're forced to re-scope the work. So now you're forced to cram more work into a yard package that you should have had planned in the first place.”


Expanding culture of micromanagement:

As you read the report, are you seeing another common theme?

We are “holding back more of that autonomy and probably accelerating those cultural tendencies that are creating officers that are less confident and less competent and less comfortable exercising command,” he said.

Again, you get what you reward. You promote what answers the bell. That is why who you select for senior leadership is so important; they establish rewards and promotion standards.
“Ducks pick ducks,” said another, recently retired, career surface warfare officer. “So now those admirals that we have and that were in charge were successful being micromanaged. And so now they view [micromanagement] as success.” ... “And so, this level of micromanagement just flows up. And, again, it's evolved for a reason. You want to have metrics. You want to track things. And so, the command autonomy that people aspire to is no longer one that is what it might have been in the past.” ... “there’s always this underlying administrative concern that’s looming over the fleet, and I don’t think it’s because people don’t think tactics are important. I just think that’s not the thing that we spend our days being told is important.”

 Back to time being finite; words and the dedication of time by senior leadership signals priorities. Priorities get action.


Recommendations and Conclusions:

As some of these are repetitive to comments above and others discussed here for years, I'll let you read them for yourself. There are a few things that are clear - and here are my points to them;

  • Congress will need to force any change if we desire change this decade. At some point, we will need civilian leadership who will defund the billets driving fear, especially in the expanding political and sociological games being played by our Navy (see recommendation #6). 
  • Admirative burdens must be cut dramatically. The lowest hanging fruit here would be something as simple as awards and repetitive "required training" on issues that are only there from fear of the media; "We conducted training...not my fault." (see recommendation #8).
  • Find out what is creating "fear" and go after it with a blow torch and a pair of plyers.

They end the report with a solid quote:

Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in testimony that “the United States does not have a preordained right to victory on the battlefield.” Unless changes are made, the Navy risks losing the next major conflict.

I'll just end to repeat my previous comment for emphasis: the present Navy's uniformed senior leadership under the expected civilian leadership for the near future is not structured, inclined, or positioned to make these changes. We are well past the luxury of waiting for better luck, we are out of time. 

Congress must act. Now.

You can read the full report here, or view the embed below.


Monday, July 12, 2021

The Hard Truth in an Inactivation Schedule


Ship inactivation, are, in a way, sad things to see.

Especially for those who served on them, these ships represent untold hours of dedication, hard work, love, sacrifice, and memories of long, boring watches and flashing rushes of adrenaline.

Each story is unique, but in aggregate they tell other, perhaps more meaningful stories about the naval service they represent, and the nation they serve.

For those focused on capability, the question should always be twofold; 1) Are we commissioning more or less of what are are decommissioning?; 2) Are we going to have more capabilities tomorrow than we have today?

For those focused on the Navy's stewardship of the taxpayer's investment in their working capital, an entering argument might be, "Are we getting as much as we can out of what we buy?"

There are a broad measure you can use as quick-look measures of both the utility of a ship, the value the Navy puts on it, and the degree of care the Navy took in its ownership.

1. Are ships lasting as long as their designed service life?

Released, naturally, the Friday before a three day weekend, go ahead and review the below for the details, but here is the quicklook from here, based on Class.

- Patrol Craft: Average age of ship, 27 years. We plan to send them to foreign military sales. They have more life left, yet we are letting them go without a direct replacement. Before you respond with, "Muh LCS..." read the whole message.
- Cruisers: Average age of ship, 30 years. This is their design life ... and considering what we did to their SPRUANCE sisters, not bad. This does leave a gaping hold in capabilities ... but this is what happens when your procurement program fails on CG(X), and slow rolls the horribly named Large Surface Combatant (LSC). Incompetency flavored with a lack of accountability bears a bitter fruit. We will simply have to work around it.
- LCS: Six years. Six frack’n years. I don’t think I need to say more.
- Amphibs: Always get your money's worth. 36 years.
- Subs: Well run programs get better than average results. 35 years.
- USNS: 38 years. Man, that's an old ship. Heck, one, T-AK 3016 was originally a Soviet ship.

UNCLASSIFIED// ROUTINE R 021303Z JUL 21 FM CNO WASHINGTON DC TO NAVADMIN INFO CNO WASHINGTON DC BT UNCLAS   NAVADMIN 145/21   PASS TO OFFICE CODES: FM CNO WASHINGTON DC//DNS// INFO CNO WASHINGTON DC//DNS// MSGID/GENADMIN/CNO WASHINGTON DC/DNS/XXX/JUL//   SUBJ/FY22 PROJECTED SHIP INACTIVATION SCHEDULE//   REF/A/DOC/OPNAVINST 4770.5J/20200904// REF/B/DOC/OPNAVINST 5400.44A/20111013//   NARR/REF A IS GENERAL POLICY FOR THE INACTIVATION, RETIREMENT, AND DISPOSITION OF U.S. NAVAL VESSELS. REF B IS NAVY ORGANIZATION CHANGE MANUAL (NOCM) FOR SUBMITTING ORGANIZATIONAL CHANGE REQUESTS (OCR) TO INCLUDE SHIP DECOMMISSIONINGS OR INACTIVATIONS.// POC/CDR JIM [redacted]/MIL/N9IS/LOC: Washington DC/TEL: 703-693-[redacted]/EMAIL: [redacted](at)us.navy.mil//   RMKS/1.  This message shall be read in its entirety to ensure all stakeholders in the ship inactivation process are aware of the projected retirement schedule for the upcoming fiscal year 2022 (FY22), respective responsibilities and necessary follow-up actions.  Ship retirement decisions reflected in paragraph 2 below align with the President’s Budget for 2022. This plan will be adjusted if necessary based on subsequent execution year decisions made by leadership or as required by Congressional action.   2.  To facilitate fleet planning efforts to conduct decommissioning continuous maintenance availability (CMAV) or inactivation availability (INAC), the projected schedule for inactivating U.S. battle force and non-battle force naval vessels in FY22 is promulgated as follows:   Ship Name                     Proj Inactive Date     Post Inactive Status USS TEMPEST PC 2              29 MAR                 FMS USS TYPHOON PC 5              14 MAR 22              FMS USS SQUALL PC 7               10 APR 22              FMS USS FIREBOLT PC 10            01 MAR 22              FMS USS WHIRLWIND PC 1            24 APR 22              FMS USS SAN JACINTO CG 56         30 SEP 22              OCIR USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN CG 57      31 MAR 22              OCIR USS MONTEREY CG 61            22 FEB 22              OCIR USS HUE CITY CG 66            31 MAR 22              OCIR USS ANZIO CG 68              31 MAR 22              OCIR USS VELLA GULF CG 72          18 FEB 22              OCIR USS PORT ROYAL CG 73          31 MAR 22              OCIR USS FORT WORTH LCS 3          31 MAR 22              OCIR USS CORONADO LCS 4            31 MAR 22              OCIR USS DETROIT LCS 7             31 MAR 22              OCIR USS LITTLE ROCK LCS 9         31 MAR 22     OCIR USS WHIDBEY ISLAND LSD 41     30 APR 22     OCIR USS PROVIDENCE SSN 719        02 DEC 21     RECYCLE USS OKLAHOMA CITY SSN 723     21 JUN 22     RECYCLE USNS APACHE T-ATF 172         30 JUN 22     DISPOSAL USNS 1ST LT HARRY L MARTIN T-AK 2015       30 DEC 21     DISPOSAL USNS LCPL ROY M WHEAT T-AK 3016               31 DEC 21      DISPOSAL   3.  Per reference (b), Fleet Commanders shall submit an Organizational Change Request for commissioned U.S. ships to formally notify the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) of a ships decommissioning, inactivation, or end of service.  Submit revisions due to operational schedule changes per references (a) and (b).  It is the responsibility of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet in coordination with their respective TYCOM to ensure the appropriate lower echelon commands are notified of any changes in the ship inactivation schedules, as well as Integrated Warfare (OPNAV N9I) and OPNAV resource sponsor.   4.  Adjustments to paragraph 2 ship inactivation's that cross the current fiscal year must be coordinated with OPNAV N9I due to Congressional requirements for execution year force structure changes that differ from what Congress authorized/appropriated and signed into law by the President. OPNAV shall promulgate changes to the inactivation fiscal year as required.   5.  The ships commanding officer, masters, or Immediate Superior In Command, shall submit a final naval message (normally transmitted in conjunction with the decommissioning ceremony) announcing the ships official retirement date and include a brief history of the significant events in the life of the ship per reference (a).  The Naval History and Heritage Command (NAVHISTHERITAGE WASHINGTON DC) and Naval Vessel Register Custodian (NVR NORFOLK VA), shall be included as INFO addresses.   6.  Released by Mr. Andrew S. Haeuptle, Director, Navy Staff.//   BT #0001 NNNN UNCLASSIFIED//

A final note ... let me strap on my old Flag Sec loopy-thingy; a CNO message should NEVER have a typo, much less two.

On the copy of this message I received, I have two. 1) It identifies WHIRLWIND as "PC-1." It is PC-11. 2) It 1ST LT HARRY L MARTIN as "T-AK 2015." It is "T-AK 3015."

I know, I know, I am a typo machine ... but I am just a blogg'r pumping stuff out over b-fast and conference call.
UPDATE: Check out the comment section, the Front Porch found some more typos. Now I'm mad I didn't catch 'em on the 1st read.

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Midrats Pre-July 4th Melee!!


Sal and EagleOne are back after July 4th with a full plate of catching up to do on the waterfront from ghosting Afghanistan, Japan & Taiwan's awkward natsec flirting, the INDOPACCOM J2 isn't all that happy with what he's discovered west of Wake, and the ever popular question, how many years is a 30-yr CG good for.

Join us live if you can and roll in with your preferred topic in the chat room or call the switchboard number right here on the showpage.

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


Friday, July 09, 2021

Fullbore Friday

 As the D-Day invasion was ongoing, the German Navy sortied what they could to try to drive the allies back across the channel. The most feared were the French based U-boats.

Please read the whole thing, but here is a nice summary of one of the under-told stories of WWII, Coastal Command.

On night. One crew. Two U-boats.

Fullbore.

“G-George” droned on through the night. Men drank coffee from thermos flasks, kept the chatter to a minimum, scanned the endless sea and began to feel the numbing weariness set in that came with these long over-water patrols. But adrenalin shot through their bloodstreams like amphetamine just after 2 a.m. when Foster announced on the intercom that he had a solid return on his radar 12 miles dead ahead in the vicinity of Ushant Island (Ouessant). It was too early to tell whether it was a French fishing smack or the conning tower of a U-boat. Moore corrected his course slightly to port to put the target in the path of the moon reflecting on the water. Three miles out the conning tower of a submarine was made out in the moonlight.

Coastal Command anti-submarine crews were trained to attack the moment a U-boat was detected and without deliberation. An undamaged Type VIIC U-boat, with a well-trained crew could crash dive beneath the surface in 30 seconds. Time was of the essence, as was complete surprise.

Immediately, Moore instructed Foster to switch off the radar in case the submarine had detection equipment, and then began to drop lower and lower, adjusting his course to keep the enemy up-moon until he was at 50 feet above the calm surface. McDowall, the navigator, took his position at the bomb sight. Moore ordered the four big bomb doors opened and as they slid upwards and outboard on their rollers, he could hear the hydraulic pumps working and sense the difference in the airflow note down the sides of his warhorse. Approaching the U-boat, which they calculated was making 10–12 knots in a westerly direction, they selected 6 depth charges from their quiver, attacking due south and 90 degrees to the path of the U-boat on her starboard side. Moore chose to leave the powerful 22 million-candela Leigh Light off to further keep their whereabouts secret. As they screamed in for the attack, the spare navigator, Pilot Officer Alec Gibb, DFC sprayed the conning tower with heavy machine gun fire (some 150 rounds according to the after action report) from his position in the nose. Moore and Gibb later stated they could see as many as 8 submariners scrambling from the tower to get to the deck guns. There was some anti-aircraft return fire, but it was too little and too late. They had caught them completely by surprise.

As they roared over the submarine at 190 mph, six depth charges, set 55 feet apart, were falling from “G-George’s” bomb bay, having been released by McDowall whose accuracy this night would be perfect. Three fell on either side of the submarine in a textbook straddling attack just ahead of the conning tower. A flame-float, designed to ignite when it hit the water was also dropped to identify the position of the submarine at the moment of attack. The rear gunner Flight Sergeant I. Webb watched in fascination as the detonations exploded white in the moonlight and appeared to lift the 700-ton submarine out of the water.

By the time they had climbed, swung around and were homing on the beacon of the flame float at the position of the attack, there was nothing left of the U-boat save for some floating wreckage and the oily slick of diesel fuel. A Type VIIC U-boat had disappeared and ceased to exist in a matter of seconds, the depth charges having done their job breaching the pressure hull and sending one of Karl Dönitz’ hunters to the bottom with all hands. One can only imagine the last minutes of terror for the more than 50 men aboard.

Sadly, when this submarine sank, there was no one who could identify which U-boat it was. Postwar accounting pointed to U-629, commanded by Oberleutnant zur See Hans–Helmut Bugs on its 11th war patrol. She had just slipped out of her pen at Brest the day before. Still, other researchers disclaim the U-629 identification, pointing instead to U-441, commanded by Kapitänleutnant Klaus Hartmann on its ninth and final war patrol. It is not my goal to be definitive as to the identity of the fifty or so men killed that night, that best being left to experts in the field. Knowing would bring the story to a satisfying close, but it will not lessen the tragedy or the courage of the U-boat men who died that night.

Moore settled his crew down after the last pass over the wreckage, and ordered a course correction to take them back on their patrol. At 0231, just twenty minutes after the first radar contact was made, “G-George” sent a message to command that they had sunk a U-boat. The men were charged with electricity, but they had a job to do and hours before they could return home to St Eval.

Just a few minutes later at 0240 hrs, as they settled down at 700 feet ASL, Foster reported another radar contact 10 degrees off the starboard nose, this time just 6 miles ahead. Moore, with information from Foster, began to home in on the target, and at 2.5 miles range and 75 degrees to starboard, they sighted the conning tower of another U-boat on a northwesterly course running at an estimated eight knots on the surface. This time Moore needed to circle to port and come in on a course that would allow them to attack up the moon path.

Bringing the big Liberator down to 50 feet once again, Moore approached the U-boat at 110 degrees to its starboard side with plenty of time to set up another perfect attack at 190 mph. The remaining six Torpex depth charges were released at 55-foot intervals as well as a flame float. Again, Gibb, the spare navigator in the nose, was firing his machine gun at the conning tower, which answered this time with flak and tracer fire. As they roared overhead, the rear gunner Webb saw four depth charges strike the water to the starboard side of the U-boat and two on the her port side—another textbook straddling attack. Massive flumes of exploding water were seen rising on either side of the submarine, ten feet aft of the conning tower and totally obscuring the target.

Returning to the position of the flame float, Moore, Gibb and Ketcheson saw the U-boat in the bright moonlight, with a heavy list to starboard. As they approached, the bow rose steeply out of the water to an angle of about 80 degrees. The boat slid back into the sea “amid a large amount of confused water” according to the 224 Squadron ORB.

Moore circled in fascination and, coming around again, he turned on the powerful Leigh Light slung beneath his starboard wing outboard of engine No. 4. The blinding blue-white beam illuminated three yellow dinghies crowded with men floating on an oily surface strewn with bits of wreckage. One can imagine how exposed the survivors must have felt caught in the white light of the Leigh with a heavily armed Liberator thundering down its beam toward them. They passed overhead without further molesting the surviving crew, switched off the Leigh Light and left the German sailors floating in the moonlight.

The submarine was U-373, another Type VIIC boat commanded by Kapitänleutnant Detlef von Lehsten on its 11th war patrol. It had just slipped out of Brest after a six-month repair following a similar attack by a Coastal Command Wellington and Liberator in January. We know for certain that this was U-373 because all but four members of the crew survived to be picked up the next day by French fishing vessels and returned to Brest. Von Lehsten was one of the survivors.


Hat tip Al. First posted Sept. 2017.

Thursday, July 08, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Remember, as they are mostly a military contractor, indirectly you are paying for this.

From the irreplaceable Christopher Rufo;
Beginning last summer, Raytheon launched a critical race theory-inspired training program called Stronger Together, encouraging employees to “becom[e] an anti-racist today.” Raytheon CEO Greg Hayes supported the campaign by signing an Action for Diversity & Inclusion statement, promising to “promote diversity” and “cultivate meaningful change for our society,” then asking all Raytheon employees to sign the pledge and “check [their] own biases.”
...
Raytheon asks white employees to deconstruct their identities and “identify [their] privilege.” The company argues that white, straight, Christian, able-bodied, English-speaking men are at the top of the intersectional hierarchy—and must work on “recognizing [their] privilege” and “step aside” in favor of other identity groups. Whites, according to outside diversity consultant Michelle Saahene, “have the privilege of individuality,” while minorities “don’t have that privilege.”
This all comes from the train of thought the CNO loves so much. Remember that.

...and yes, this is racist, red in tooth and claw;
Employees should “identify everyone’s race” during conversations, “including those who are White.” According to the document, white employees must “listen to the experiences” of “marginalized identities,” and should “give them the floor in meetings or on calls, even if it means silencing yourself to do so.” This process of voluntary racial silence is a “win-win,” because “you learn more when you listen than when you speak.”

Next, in a chart titled “What Not to Say to Your Black Colleagues Right Now,” Raytheon instructs white employees to never say that they “pray things change soon” or hope that social tensions “calm down,” which “says [their] comfort is more important than the message of anti-racism.” Whites should acknowledge that their own discomfort is only “a fraction” of the emotional distress of black employees, who are “exhausted, mentally drained, frustrated, stressed, barely sleeping, scared and overwhelmed.”

In order to further operationalize intersectionality theory within the company, Raytheon executives have created race- and identity-segregated groups, called Employee Resource Groups (ERGs), for Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, LGBTQ, and other groups. Ostensibly, the goal is to “advance an inclusive culture,” but in practice, so-called “affinity groups” often serve to create division and suspicion in the workplace.
Yes, "affinity groups." You know, the concept championed by the Navy since the start of this blog that I have been warning you about for a decade and a half. You can read it all at the previous link, or heck .. look at this post from 2007.

This is not a new thing ... at least not for regulars here - it is just finally breaking out from the background noise.

That is good and bad. Good in that now it is in the open and more people can see it. Bad in that it is more powerful. Even the bad is good in a way - now more people have seen the threat of this drive towards sectarianism and division. I'll take it.

Rufo has the full training document (hint hint) and I encourage you to read the whole thing.

Here are a couple of screen caps to motivate you to read deeper.

First, remember, when the CNO says "equity" he does not mean "equality." He does not mean equal opportunity. 


Who does Raytheon not value?

Is this where you want to go? Will this work environment be where you'd want to stay?


Once again, we need legislation stating clearly that no DOD funds can go to any organization that treats American citizens - by either providing or not providing resources - differently based on race, creed, color, or national origin. 

Also, the CEO of Raytheon needs to take his own advice and, "step aside."

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

Are You Ready to Listen to me Now?

Over the July 4th weekend, we slipped out of the American fortress in Bagram. The way we left tells you all you need to know about Afghanistan – the conflict we lost in December 2009 when the Taliban were given the last indication they needed that we were not going to press the issue on our time and change Afghanistan our way, but we would let them win on their time and return Afghanistan their way.

It is all as clear now as it was when I wrote about our culmination at Obama’s West Point speech linked above. Regulars here know the story; the rest can follow the link above.

Good ideas are timeless, so I want to return to a topic that predates CDRSalamander and this is a decision point where we can decide to return our nation to its natural state.

My view of our place in the world started to gel in the mid-90s and by the late 90s had solidified into what in the 2020s has cured into a firm mass of resolve; we will destroy our republic by playing empire.

Generations of civilian and military leaders – and generations of citizens – had their view of America’s place in the world warped by WWII and the Cold War. In both cases, the world was faced with expansionist totalitarian secular confessions that required America to be the world power that it was. 

That world, thankfully, is gone. There are major threats in this world – Islamic fundamentalism is one, a renewed China is another – but neither of them have the combination of desire and ability that fascism and communism had. Neither are trying to expand their power by military means. 

Islamism has a bleeding edge, but its center of gravity is religious, and it has natural boundaries (unless stupid migrant policies succeed in letting it expand). 

China’s military growth is based on primarily ensuring access to resources to keep its population’s standard of living improving and as such, protect the domestic power of the Chinese Communist Party. 

We do not have a land border with either.

How do we mitigate risk against these two primary and lesser constellations of threats? Generally speaking, it doesn’t take a large standing army … which in a time of limited resources, that is a good thing.  Specifically: 

- Islamic fundamentalism: simple; contain and modernize. Contain Islamic fundamentalism to where is it now, and on the bleeding edge of the territory where it has reached critical mass, support local forces and governments to modernize along moderate lines. We cannot want a modern existence more than the people of those nations. We cannot force it on them. In nations where there is not a critical mass, aggressively eliminate small cells as you find them. The Cold War campaigns against the Red Army Faction, Weather Underground etc are a good template here. A deadly nuisance, but in time will fade through impotence and attrition.

- China: not so simple. China is primarily an economic and diplomatic challenge. She wants to use her economic power to back her diplomatic efforts to ensure that nations do not get in the way of her economic growth and future prosperity. From those two items, she will take was she sees as her natural place for a nation of 1.3 billion souls: the global leader by mid-century. 

China is not advancing primarily through military means. No, she is advancing by a clear national vision, economics, diplomacy, and an evolutionary, iterative advancement of her priorities for her people supporting her national greatness. Her military strength is to underline to others her larger national will; it is supporting, not supported.

While there are some nations such as India, Taiwan, Japan, and the nations around the South China Sea that have some territorial issues, unless you are a very paranoid Russian or Mongolian, China is not otherwise a military threat around her present borders. Where she is – specifically India – they have the land forces they need to counter China if so needed. Though accidents happen, China has no need for a land war on the Asian landmass. Her other conflicts are either at sea or are connected to her access and ability to secure her sea lines of communication to resources. 

That is the key; we do not need a large standing army to mitigate the most likely Chinese threats to us or our friends. We can best address the Chinese challenge through our economic strength and smart diplomacy. We have the advantage there if we choose to use it. Militarily, we also have the comparative advantage at sea, in the air, and space … if we choose to accept that.

How does this tie into what I started the post with? Easy.

We were enabled to think we could change Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc etc because we thought we could do it on the cheap. Sure, a few National Guard forces would have to be activated, but mostly we had a large standing army to pull the effort from. Like former SECSTATE Albright said, “what is the use of a large army if you aren’t going to use it.”

That was the theory. In practice, especially in 2005-7, it turned out different especially in the reliance on National Guard forces, but we just managed to get through it only because we were one standard deviation away in 2003 from General Shinseki’s center point.

No big national discussion was needed. No large sacrifice. No great national mobilization. We went in half-ass, and our results were half-ass. In Iraq, it was a near run thing it was not a worse disaster than it turned out.

Wars of choice need to demand an understanding that wars are a dark room. You don’t know what is in it when you step in, but you will have to deal with it.

If wars are hard to get in to, you do not fall easily in to tar pits of whimsy.

Take that temptation away. Make it hard. Make it a national effort. 

We are a large nation with large responsibilities, but we are also a republic, not an empire.

Give our friends more warning than we did the Afghans last weekend but let them know we have a new strategy. They need to up their land game. We will be there to help, especially in the air and from the sea, but we will not do their work for them.

We plan to move 2/3 of our active ground forces to our National Guard. Except for a few combined logistics, maintenance, and training facilities, all our forward deployed land forces, and most of our air and sea forward deployed forces, need to come home.

WWII and the Cold War are over. Again, we are a republic, not an empire.


We will mitigate risk by ensuring that while we reset our ground forces, we maintain and improve our posture as the world’s premier maritime and aerospace power – including space. 

We will maintain a large and robust ground combat capability, but any large conflict will require mobilization of our National Guard and reserve forces. We will have a standing army, but our friends will need to plan to defend their territory with their ground forces primarily – at least at the start.

That is external … but the real benefit here is internal. Remember, the military did not get us in these long running small land wars in Asia this century nor initiate them.

Politicians and the civilians they appointed did. They provided the Direction and Guidance that drove Initial Planning Guidance. They pointed the military in a certain direction. 

A large standing army makes things too easy for people who have a short-term focus, especially politicians. Wars should never be easy for those who don’t have to fight them. 

Politicians do understand hard work as well as risk/reward. When silky smooth, feel good ideas ooze out of think tanks and faculty lounges into politician’s ears, when those politicians bring those ideas to their military staff, there needs to be a higher bar for yes-men … and more opportunities to deliver the hard truth that the politicians will need to ask more from the American people. No so much money, but the blood of their constituents living in their towns, working in their businesses, friends with their patrons and supporters.

The American people have a good, if imperfect, track record of supporting the expenditure of significant amounts of blood and treasure when needed. American politicians have a rather imperfect, rarely good, track record of convincing themselves they can fight wars of choice on the cheap.

The greatest threat to our nation’s future security and place in the world is not an unrestrained China, it is a US political elite’s inclination to empire.

Put up the guardrails. 

Come home.