Friday, May 14, 2021

Fullbore Friday

USS Helena (CL-50). Nothing "Light" about the Helena. Tough, hard fighter she was - with a lot to fire with.
Armament :
5 - Triple 6"/47 main battery

4 - Dual 5"/38 DP secondary

8 - .50 caliber AA

4 - Curtiss SOC-2 Seagulls (Aircraft) on 2 Aft catapults.
Yes kiddies - that is 15 6" guns and 8 5" guns. The Japanese (who if nothing else in WWII had no problem honoring a good fighter) said she had "6-inch machine guns."

Read all about her here - but let's look at her final battle, the Battle of Kula Gulf.

On 5 July, Task Group 36.1, commanded by Rear Admiral Walden L. Ainsworth, and consisting of light cruisers USS Helena, USS Honolulu, and USS St. Louis, plus four destroyers, had received word of another Tokyo Express run down "the Slot", and proceeded northwest past New Georgia.

The Allies were in the process of launching their next offensive in the Solomon Islands, having just landed troops on the island of Rendova as a preliminary step in seizing the major Japanese airstrip at Munda on New Georgia. In support of this landing, which was to set up an initial beachhead for moving U.S. troops across Blanche Channel to New Georgia, Ainsworth had the night before conducted a cruiser bombardment of Vila on Kolombangara and Bairoko on New Georgia and, short on fuel and ammunition, was in the process of retiring to the Coral Sea to replenish. A Marine landing was scheduled on the north shore of New Georgia on 10 July and would require further support.


At 01:06 off Kolombangara, the task group came into contact with a Japanese reinforcement group commanded by Admiral Teruo Akiyama which consisted of ten destroyers loaded with 2,600 combat troops, bound for Vila, which they used as a staging point for movement into Munda. The Japanese were divided into two forces, and a formation of three escorts trailing the main column first came under attack.

The U.S. ships opened fire at 01:57 and quickly sank the destroyer Niizuki and killed Admiral Akiyama. However the Helena had expended all its flashless powder the night before and was forced to use smokeless, illuminating itself to the Japanese ships with every salvo. Two of the Japanese destroyers launched their Long Lance torpedoes and sank Helena. The main Japanese force, which had countermarched away from Vila with the first contact, broke away having landed only 850 of the 2,600 troops. Nagatsuki ran aground, while Hatsuyuki was damaged.

Both forces began to withdraw from the area, but one Japanese and two U.S. destroyers remained in the area to rescue survivors and, at about 05:00, Japanese destroyer Amagiri and USS Nicholas exchanged torpedoes and gunfire. Amagiri was hit and retired. The beached Nagatsuki, abandoned by her crew in the morning, was bombed and sunk by U.S. planes.


USS Radford and Nicholas both stayed behind to rescue survivors from Helena. While rescuing over 750 men, Radford and Nicholas had to reengage the enemy three times and were awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for their rescue. Amagiri escaped and later was the ship that cut PT-109 in half in Blackett Strait southwest of Kolombangara.
Catch that last bit? For the want of one well place 5" round .....

As a side-bar for you GRAF SPEE fans, here and here you can see where HELENA's crew had a chance to photograph the hulk during her visit to the River Platte during her shakedown cruise.

First posted April 2009.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Claude Berube: Teaching, Legacy, Mentorship, and Opening a New Chapter

Known to all on and considered to be part of the Front Part is friend to the blog, Midrats, and me personally, is Dr. Claude Berube; reserve Naval Officer, author, professor, and all-around good guy.

After a long record of service teaching political science and history at the United States Naval Academy and director of the U.S. Naval Academy Museum, Claude is moving on to start a new chapter.

In a highly enjoyable retrospective of his time in Annapolis, Claude becomes a guest on the podcast he started, Preble Hall, as interviews by Dr. Marcus Faulkner. 


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

LCS ... the Maintenance Edition

Yes, we will continue to discuss LCS because we don't seem to have quiet fully realized the many lessons ... hard, expensive lessons ... of the program.

Thanks to the GAO, we have some great info on the maintenance nightmare ... and a kind admission from the CNO that, yes, the anti-transformationalist were correct.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

The Answer to DarkSide is Well Known

Non-state or quasi-non-state actors preying on commerce for profit. They steal, hold hostages, and some times engage in extortion where if you don’t pay them off, they will break your stuff.

The news of the last 48-hrs about DarkSide and the pipeline held hostage is just another chapter in a long story;

The ransomware group linked to the extortion attempt that has snared fuel deliveries across the U.S. East Coast may be new, but that doesn’t mean its hackers are amateurs.

Who precisely is behind the disruptive intrusion into Colonial Pipeline hasn’t been made officially known and digital attribution can be tricky, especially early on in an investigation. A former U.S. official and two industry sources have told Reuters that the group DarkSide is among the suspects.

You should recognize this for exactly what it is; piracy. The cyber domain, a global common in a fashion, is not that different from another global common, the high seas. Human society has a template thousands of years old of this kind of crime. We also know how to solve it.

Piracy is like any other business, if there is a profit to be made, more people will try to make it.

Piracy usually starts with small victims with small costs. Governments and corporations, both often dangerously short sighted, accept it as the cost of doing business and not worth the trouble. They ignore it as it grows, but eventually it gets too big and too powerful, and hopefully that trigger point is small enough to be quickly managed. If you wait too long, the threat to commerce becomes a national security threat.

For decades, criminals, nee pirates, in the cyber domain have been holding small companies, local governments, and even individuals hostage, blackmailed, or even vandalized. The government, in the responsible law enforcement entity of FBI and DOJ, have not been engaged to the level they need to be  going after this international criminal conspiracy. They have been doing other things while this threat has grown. It is so effective that the non-state and quasi-non-state actors have been joined by governments in this enterprise for fun and profit.


Nation states cannot let piracy stand. It is best to crush them when a small threat, but when large, the need is even greater.

As I asked over on twitter;

We need to raise the Blood Flag.

Of course, in our overly civilized times, we cannot gibbet cyber criminals from the lampposts in front of DOJ or 10th Fleet HQ (however …) but there are other things we can do.

In conjunction with the CIA – as many of these threats are overseas – we need to make this business no longer profitable. 

Destroy their systems. Take their property or render it useless. Seize their assets. Find the embarrassing information about their principals and make it public. Seize the individuals when possible and give them to SDNY's most dyspeptic attorneys.

What we cannot do is have our government state that this is a “private sector problem” anymore than we would tell shipping companies that piracy on the high seas is a private sector problem.

Raise the Blood Flag and get our geeks to work. 

We already have patches.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Why Kiribati and Kanton Matter

Last week, you may have noticed this little jewel come across your scan; 

China is working with the tiny Pacific island state of Kiribati to explore the feasibility of improving an airstrip on one of its remote islands, China’s foreign ministry said late Friday.

Reuters reported on Wednesday, citing Kiribati lawmakers, that China has drawn up plans to upgrade an airstrip and bridge on the tiny island of Kanton (also spelled Canton), a coral atoll strategically located midway between Asia and the Americas.

This is just part of a pattern of China using a combination of economic promise to the poor, a little graft to grease the skids, and you have all sorts of access from the small Pacific Islands, long suffering African republics, European mercantilists, and DC thinktanks.

Why should we worry about one more?

Kanton Island. No accident.

Always ... and I mean ALWAYS ... get ye to a chart ... better yet, a globe.

You WWII history geeks will remember this was one of the staging areas for our progress through the Gilbert Islands (Tarawa etc). The US was nice enough to build an airbase there. You can see it clearly.

At first blush, you might think, "Well, it isn't even close to any US military facility, so what?" 

That is true.

That isn't why it is such an important spot. Here's the terminal end of the great circle route from San Diego to Australia.

Where does that great circle routs go by Kanton?

Yep. 28 nautical miles. 28.

You cannot classify geography or math. That is why the Chinese are interested in it. I can't blame them. If I were Chinese, I'd do the same exact thing. 

They know the USA can't rush to the aid of anyone from Taiwan to the South China Sea if they have to clean up what used to be their backyard first.

Time and distraction. Defense in depth. None of this can be classified. They are open to all.

The fun follow on question: what would they do with it?

Friday, May 07, 2021

Fullbore Friday

A beloved retired coach passed last month;

...Greenup County resident Ernie West, has died.


West was a football coach at Wurtland (KY) for some time

From the, "you never know what that old man has seen" school ....

Attention to citation:

Pfc. West distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. He voluntarily accompanied a contingent to locate and destroy a reported enemy outpost. Nearing the objective, the patrol was ambushed and suffered numerous casualties. Observing his wounded leader lying in an exposed position, Pfc. West ordered the troops to withdraw, then braved intense fire to reach and assist him. While attempting evacuation, he was attacked by 3 hostile soldiers employing grenades and small-arms fire. Quickly shifting his body to shelter the officer, he killed the assailants with his rifle, then carried the helpless man to safety. He was critically wounded and lost an eye in this action but courageously returned through withering fire and bursting shells to assist the wounded. While evacuating 2 comrades, he closed with and killed 3 more of the foe. Pfc. West's indomitable spirit, consummate valor, and intrepid actions inspired all who observed him, reflect the highest credit on himself, and uphold the honored traditions of the military service.

West stands with two other Medal of Honor recipients shortly after receiving their medals from President Dwight D. Eisenhower. From left: Edward R. Schowalter, Jr., West, Eisenhower, and William R. Charette

He was the last of this group of heroes. 

Thursday, May 06, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Just a quick post to put down a marker about something that has been around our Navy a long time, and that we've covered here for over a decade; affinity groups.

They seem harmless, and just pop up now and then. Here's a typical example from 2019;

Unless you've been to one of their meetings, read their literature, or subjected your admin department to processing their flood of self-serving awards, you may not have insight in to where they are in the diversity industry ecosystem and what role they play in keeping people divided along sectarian lines.

They know what they are and what their mission is - heck look them up yourself - but only now and then to they let the mask slip. Lucky for you, the affinity group advocates in the educational branch of government in Sacramento decided to do that for us;

... in Racial Affinity Groups, white people can discover together their group identity. They can cultivate racial solidarity and compassion and support each other in sitting with the discomfort, confusion, and numbness that often accompany white racial awakening. They can also discern white privilege and its impact without the aid of or dependence on People of Color (POC). White people who have formed Racial Affinity Groups report that they recognized their collective commonality and shared history, as well as the impact that their privilege has had on other races and on each Racial Affinity Group member. 

While many POC may not need an affinity group to help them relate to their racial group membership, they may need to explore the diversity that exists among POC and across POC without having the distraction of having to educate white people on whiteness and its harm. A habitual focus on white people can distract POC from knowing themselves as a diverse body. Exploring this tender territory in a Racial Affinity Group can be a wholesome alternative to expecting white people at large, who often are not aware of being racial beings, to relieve the intense distress experienced by POC. 

Of course, this is all around building an "anti-racist classroom." Fun note, go their main page where they lead with a quote from Lenin Peace Prize winner Angela Davis. You can't make this stuff up.

Anti-racist? Of course that rings a bell - that is the racist world view of the guy who the CNO Gilday wants everyone to read, Ibram X. Kendi.

As you hear more and more about "anti-racist" and "affinity groups" in your schools, companies, and your Navy - know you are not hearing about a collective good, harmless people trying to do the right thing.

No. Not at all.

Wednesday, May 05, 2021

How Will Your Division Replace its Equipment?

How many ships can a US Army division afford to lose when crossing the Pacific? You know, the ships that will carry their equipment and munitions? 

Have we thought this through?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. 

Come on over and give it a read.

Tuesday, May 04, 2021

Bad Program Management Costs More Than Money

One little nugget I’ve said too much that last week or so is that to many in the national security nomenklatura – especially in DC – the process is the product. The measure of effectiveness isn’t the ultimate delivery of useful kit to the fleet, but adherence to the process.

Billions upon billions of dollars can be made for years and POM-cycles on end getting ready to think about possible things that might be of some use … maybe.

We wind up with dead end programs that produce nothing. No one really is held to account. At the end of the day you have to do one of two things:

1. Like with the fail to transition that was ZUMWALT, you have to restart the legacy ARLEIGH BURKE line in order to keep a steady state or so of battleforce ships.

2. Shrug your shoulders with a, “I failed” like we did with CG(X), and then stare in to the abyss with the worn out equipment it was supposed to replace, in this case the TICO. You hope something will show up before you are deploying with museum pieces.

As a nation, it isn’t just the Navy who failed to perform, to do its job, to at least match the performance of previous generations of program managers – the other services too.

This doesn’t just cost money or put the nation at strategic risk – it can cost lives.

The amphibious assault vehicle mishap that killed eight Marines and a sailor in July 2020 has spurred many “lessons learned” that leaders say will prevent anything so “tragic” from happening again.
When the 13 vehicles were delivered to the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit in April 2020, 12 were not operational. But they were deemed ready for landborne operations after months of repairs by 15th MEU mechanics, and by July, the AAVs had achieved “what we thought” was waterborne capabilities, Olson said. 

However, the vehicles did not meet the standards required for waterborne operations, as became clear after the accident. More than 54 percent of the AAVs in the fleet did not meet watertight integrity standards, an investigation revealed. 

“What we found in our subsequent inspections after a safety of use message came up on the 31st of July was that we had a problem across the fleet with our watertight integrity,” Olson said. 
Only now finding that out? Really?


Make no mistake – those who failed to produce a viable replacement for the AAV share a lot of this blame. An institutional mindset that will take unnecessary risks with lives in order to not embarrass the Chain of Command who failed to properly equip it – they too share a lot of the blame.

Who will hold them to account?

We’ll see.

Monday, May 03, 2021

The Perfidy of Pakistan

One aspect of the Afghanistan conflict that I think will stick in time's craw the hardest is what we allowed Pakistan to do. I was lucky enough to be at the table at C5F when this all kicked off - one of the many quiet O4s in the back of the room watching and listening as the big guys got us ready for what was to come. 

From almost day-1, a regular refrain - besides looking for sidearms and chem gear for all the terrorists with mustard gas mortar shells that intel told us could show up any day from Iraq ... ahem ... - was how we could not let Pakistan be for Afghanistan what Cambodia and Laos was for the North Vietnamese. 

"No safe havens!" we told ourselves literally over and over as Task Force K-Bar was put together ... but then the folks in DC and Tampa had different ideas, and almost immediately Pakistan was allowed to be a safe haven. 

There were all sorts of reasons, but we did what we did - ground convoys and airspace don't become permissive on their own dontchaknow. Of course we had to go in a decade ago down the street from Pakistan's West Point to kill Osama. 

Of course.
Pakistan has played on both sides of the field in Afghanistan, contributing to the Taliban's success, a senior US senator has reminded his colleagues, a day after Washington announced plans to withdraw all troops from the war-torn Asian country by September 11.
Chairman of Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Jack Reed, on the Senate floor Thursday afternoon, said "a crucial factor contributing immensely to the Taliban's success" has been the inability of the US to "eliminate the "eliminate the sanctuary the Taliban was granted in Pakistan." 
Referring to a recent study, Reed said the Taliban sanctuary in Pakistan and state support from organisations, like Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), have been essential to their war effort and the US' failure to undermine this safe haven may be Washington's most significant mistake of the war.
Senator Reed (D-RI) was and is one of the good guys. I know he's seen the same intel I've seen ... and a lot more.

With time, the larger American public will find out more that game Pakistan played. We should not be forgiving. We should not forget. 

Sunday, May 02, 2021

May Day Midrats Melee!

OK, it is the day after May Day ... but that's close enough for government work.

As the entire maritime world this week decided to pick up on some Midrats favorites - poaching the Army's budget and making the Taiwanese porcupine a bit more imposing - could there be a better time for another Sal & Eagle One green range?

Open topic, open chat room, open phones. 

We'll cover the waterfront and invite you to come on board for a broad ranging discussion of national and maritime security issues.

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.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern come join us for a Midrats free for all.

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, April 30, 2021

Fullbore Friday

The rest of your fleet has left you behind.

The enemy is everywhere.

You have little defensive or offensive weapons - and you are painfully slow - but you have your ship and your Sailors and your mission, which at this point, is simply to survive.

What do you do?

Well ... never underestimate a Dutchman;
The ship was based at Surabaya in the Netherlands East Indies when Japan invaded in 1941. Following the Allied defeats at the Battles of the Java Sea and Sunda Strait in late March 1942, all Allied ships were ordered to withdraw to Australia. Abraham Crijnssen was meant to sail with three other warships, but found herself proceeding alone.

To escape detection by Japanese aircraft (which the minesweeper did not have the armament to defend effectively against), the ship was heavily camouflaged with jungle foliage, giving the impression of a small island. Personnel cut down trees and branches from nearby islands, and arranged the cuttings to form a jungle canopy covering as much of the ship as possible. Any hull still exposed was painted to resemble rocks and cliffs. To further the illusion, the ship would remain close to shore, anchored and immobile during daylight, and only sail at night. She headed for Fremantle, Western Australia, where she arrived on 20 March 1942; Abraham Crijnssen was the last vessel to successfully escape Java, and the only ship of her class in the region to survive.
She served her nation a long time, and you can still see her;
The ship was removed from the Navy List in 1960. After leaving service, Abraham Crijnssen was donated to the Sea Cadet Corps (Zeekadetkorps Nederland) for training purposes. She was docked at The Hague from 1962 to 1972, after which she was moved to Rotterdam. The ship was also used as a storage hulk during this time.

In 1995, Abraham Crijnssen was marked for preservation by the Dutch Navy Museum at Den Helder. She was retrofitted to her wartime configuration.
In war, for glory one does not necessarily have to earn a bridge wing full of battle stars or sink and shoot down scores of an enemy to be fullbore.

Sometimes you just need attitude.

Hat tip PS. First posted JUN17.

Thursday, April 29, 2021

When You Fool Yourself, You are One

The GAO has a report out on LCS maintenance

A long running concern here has been the intentional, and borderline criminal, neglect of maintenance Navy-wide in general.

The LCS program, from the manning CONOPS to maintenance has been one long example of bad ideas made flesh by an entire generation of pigheadedness.

In 2021, we have good people in hard jobs doing the best they can with the dog's breakfast of a class of ships they were given - and yet we can't seem to build anything straight connected to this crooked timber.

We should have stopped building them long ago - but we will have to make do with what we have.

If you want to, rage read the whole thing ... but I want to remind everyone - the first LCS was commissioned in 2008, over a dozen years ago.

We also found significant unplanned work in maintenance contracts we reviewed—often because the Navy didn't understand ship condition before planning repairs. One effect of unplanned maintenance is schedule delays that limit fleet readiness.


GAO found in the 18 LCS maintenance delivery orders it reviewed that the Navy had to contract for more repair work than originally planned, increasing the risk to completing LCS maintenance on schedule. A majority of this unplanned work occurred because the Navy did not fully understand the ship's condition before starting maintenance. The Navy has begun taking steps to systematically collect and analyze maintenance data to determine the causes of unplanned work, which could help it more accurately plan for maintenance. 

Amazing. Simply amazing. It is as if we didn't have a few centuries of experience maintaining warships.

The toxic culture of yes-men and happy-talk that begat the LCS program to begin with seems to be impacting maintenance as well.

Being that no one was held accountable for the former, I guess we should not be surprised about the later. 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

What if we Had Full Control of Our #1 National Security Threat

In a way, we do. 

Not only is it our top threat, is also is the one we have full control of to fix.

Details and ponderables over at USNIBlog.

Come by and soak it it.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Want to Benchmark Tech Best Practices?

Our Navy has a problem, or a series of problems, and everyone knows it.

It is a problem of long standing that manifests itself in a variety of ways. Our inability to design warships, or properly maintain the ones we have, is one example. Our shrinking carrier airwings - in aircraft numbers and range - is another. Not unrelated to the issues on the pointy end is the groaning weight of staff bloat and a top-heavy leadership structure.

Our self-selected elite - in uniform and out - have failed us. The system and structure that motivates, rewards, and encourages them share the blame, but mostly this is a people problem. As such, the cure will have to come from people.

Congress can help us by ripping up root and branch the late-Cold War Goldwater-Nichols and its Cult of the Joint - along with the hide-bound, accretion laden acquisition bureaucracy that it spawned. Altogether, they are a dead hand on the tiller of our Navy and about as effective as the palace full of eunuchs was to the last Chinese emperors.  

As an institution, the Navy does not have to wait for Congress to act. If we are lucky and smart, we can get the right senior leadership in place to kick start change - and that is a change in how we see our job.


We need to focus.

Let the bureaucratic structure follow the change, but we need to break things down and start with Question-1: what is our job?

To start this, why not leverage one of the fetishes of the last few decades: "What is happening in tech?"

We've all seen the field trips. We've all seen working groups.

We've all read one of the buzzword-concepts-of-the-quarter, "disruption." 

What can we do to take what does seem to get people excited, "tech" and "disruption" and find a way to use that in a constructive way?

Let's look at what is going on Basecamp, a productivity software maker.

Their founder and CEO Jason Fried just put out a letter titled "Changes at Basecamp" to his employees that I'd like to pull some interesting points from - almost all of it.

After a soft intro, Fried gets right to the point.

We all want different somethings. Some slightly different, some substantially. Companies, however, must settle the collective difference, pick a point, and navigate towards somewhere, lest they get stuck circling nowhere.

With that, we wanted to put these directional changes on the public record. Historically we've tried to share as much as we can — for us, and for you — so this transmission continues the tradition.

He acknowledges that what he is about to do will not please everyone. He wants his employees to know that, but also wants to step out front an make things clear to everyone. 

1. No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account. Today's social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn't have to wonder if staying out of it means you're complicit, or wading into it means you're a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It's become too much. It's a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places. It's not healthy, it hasn't served us well. And we're done with it on our company Basecamp account where the work happens. People can take the conversations with willing co-workers to Signal, Whatsapp, or even a personal Basecamp account, but it can't happen where the work happens anymore.

One of the worst things our Navy has done in the last two decades is bit by bit getting involved in socio-political fads that are both a distraction, a time-suck, and as they are socio-political in nature and not mission-focused. They bring division in to the ranks.

3. No more committees. For nearly all of our 21 year existence, we were proudly committee-free. No big working groups making big decisions, or putting forward formalized, groupthink recommendations. No bureaucracy. But recently, a few sprung up. No longer. We're turning things back over to the person (or people) who were distinctly hired to make those decisions. The responsibility for DEI work returns to Andrea, our head of People Ops. The responsibility for negotiating use restrictions and moral quandaries returns to me and David. A long-standing group of managers called "Small Council" will disband — when we need advice or counsel we'll ask individuals with direct relevant experience rather than a pre-defined group at large. Back to basics, back to individual responsibility, back to work.

Do you have "pre-meetings" where you have meetings to get ready for meetings? Do you have meetings where you mostly discuss what happened at other meetings? Do you have meeting where you leave them wondering what exactly this did to move the ball forward for your command or the Navy? 

Do you have people who co-opt your time and command to pursue their personal priorities that are unrelated to the command’s mission?

Every do a quick accounting of the amount of people at a meeting times the length of the meeting and see if it created more value than it consumed? Are our leaders overworked, or just overscheduled? 

4. No more lingering or dwelling on past decisions. We've become a bit too precious with decision making over the last few years. Either by wallowing in indecisiveness, worrying ourselves into overthinking things, taking on a defensive posture and assuming the worst outcome is the likely outcome, putting too much energy into something that only needed a quick fix, inadvertently derailing projects when casual suggestions are taken as essential imperatives, or rehashing decisions in different forums or mediums. It's time to get back to making calls, explaining why once, and moving on.

How long have we been working on cutting steel on a FFG design already in production? Why are we still waiting for our next fighter design? Is this a process or a mindset problem?

5. No more 360 reviews. Employee performance reviews used to be straightforward. A meeting with your manager or team lead, direct feedback, and recommendations for improvement. Then a few years ago we made it hard. Worse, really. We introduced 360s, which required peers to provide feedback on peers. The problem is, peer feedback is often positive and reassuring, which is fun to read but not very useful. Assigning peer surveys started to feel like assigning busy work. Manager/employee feedback should be flowing pretty freely back and forth throughout the year. No need to add performative paperwork on top of that natural interaction. So we're done with 360s, too.

Administrative overhead. Thank goodness the 360-deg review high-water mark was years ago, but this paragraph is important. How much time is spent doing FITREPs and EVALs? How much time processing awards - from draft copy to record management? Do they really best help us identify and promote talent? Do they add more value than they consume?

6. No forgetting what we do here. We make project management, team communication, and email software. We are not a social impact company. Our impact is contained to what we do and how we do it. We write business books, blog a ton, speak regularly, we open source software, we give back an inordinate amount to our industry given our size. And we're damn proud of it. Our work, plus that kind of giving, should occupy our full attention. We don't have to solve deep social problems, chime in publicly whenever the world requests our opinion on the major issues of the day, or get behind one movement or another with time or treasure. These are all important topics, but they're not our topics at work — they're not what we collectively do here. Employees are free to take up whatever cause they want, support whatever movements they'd like, and speak out on whatever horrible injustices are being perpetrated on this group or that (and, unfortunately, there are far too many to choose from). But that's their business, not ours. We're in the business of making software, and a few tangential things that touch that edge. We're responsible for ourselves. That's more than enough for us.

How much of the public-facing time - and the hours of PAO/HR etc - of our senior leadership is dedicated to addressing the great power competition everyone wants to talk about, much less making sure the senior leaders of 2025, 2035 and 2040 will have to fight and win at sea?

Look at where we are in 2021, it sure looks like the senior leaders of 2015, 2010, and 2005 didn't have their eye on the ball. What did they have their eye on, and why? (NB: this blog has been running since 2004. The answers are here for new readers. Longstanding members of the Front Porch already know.)

This may look like compression. A reduction, an elimination. And it is. It's precisely that. We're compressing X to allow for expansion in Y. A return to whole minds that can focus fully on the work we choose to do. A return to a low-ceremony steady state where we can make decisions and move on. A return to personal responsibility and good faith trust in one another to do our own individual jobs well. A return to why we started the company. A return to what we do best.

This is the best part. We all only have 24-hrs a day. We can only do so much. Is your time focused on what it needs to be focused on? If you need an extra 100-workhours to, oh I don't know, do preservation - then besides asking your people to get 3-hrs of sleep as opposed to 4-hrs of sleep - where do you find it? You compress the number of other things you want them to do, and have them take that time to in what they really need to be doing.

This is not a new concept, and asking for it isn't either, but the natural state of a bureaucracy is to demand more time - more reports, more metrics, more meetings - and if you don't push back they win. Before you know it, there is not "time" or money to do what is actually your mission. 

This fight takes leadership ... leadership willing to make the right enemies. Make no mistake, there are entrenched interests who get a paycheck and tingle up the leg by using our Navy to pursue their personal and political goals - defense of the nation be damned.

They will push back. They will play dirty. We just need leaders who can take it.

Who's responsible for these changes? David and I are. Who made the changes? David and I did. These are our calls, and the outcomes and impacts land at our doorstep. Input came from many sources, disagreements were heard, deliberations were had. In the end, we feel like this is the long-term healthy way forward for Basecamp as a whole — the company and our products.

That, my friend, is leadership.

Monday, April 26, 2021

The Spy in Your Pocket

One of the most compartmentalized areas, rightfully, in the national security apparatus involve the electromagnetic spectrum. Has been true for most of the last century.

Radar, radio, and now IP based systems - they all can either be used to find or reveal your side or the other's location. "War winning technology" is perhaps an overused phrase, but some of these capabilities seem to be close to that. Some are hidden in plain sight, others with elaborate cover stories, some hidden in riddles and spin.

One thing I keep telling myself as I type out my thoughts almost every day, is to remember that what I once knew is with each passing year very dated, and even when in the game, for every bit I was read in to, there was an order of magnitude or more that I was not.

We are very good in some areas; very blind in others. Our opponents the same.

As our electronic devices become more a normal part of our lives, it is only natural that this day to day convenience would, with smart people out there, be turned in to a vulnerability.


In 2016, a U.S. defense contractor named PlanetRisk Inc. was working on a software prototype when its employees discovered they could track U.S. military operations through the data generated by the apps on the mobile phones of American soldiers.

At the time, the company was using location data drawn from apps such as weather, games and dating services to build a surveillance tool that could monitor the travel of refugees from Syria to Europe and the U.S., according to interviews with former employees. The company’s goal was to sell the tool to U.S. counterterrorism and intelligence officials.

But buried in the data was evidence of sensitive U.S. military operations by American special-operations forces in Syria. The company’s analysts could see phones that had come from military facilities in the U.S., traveled through countries like Canada or Turkey and were clustered at the abandoned Lafarge Cement Factory in northern Syria, a staging area at the time for U.S. special-operations and allied forces.

When PlanetRisk traced telephone signals from U.S. bases to the Syrian cement factory in 2016, it hadn’t been disclosed publicly that the factory was being used as a staging area for U.S. and allied forces. Moreover, the company could monitor the movements of American troops even while they were out on patrol—a serious operational security risk that opened units up to being targeted by enemy forces, according to the people familiar with the discovery.

When it saw evidence of U.S. missions in the commercial data, the company raised its concerns with U.S. officials, who were alarmed by the possibilities that others could track American soldiers, according to the people. PlanetRisk was working on a tracking tool with the aim of bringing it to the federal defense and intelligence market. The company, which was beaten to market by other competitors and never finished the work, has since been split up, its pieces sold to other defense contractors.

How many of our Sailors - much less the others services personnel - have wifi and bluetooth enabled devices, phones, watches, fitbit, net work of things, etc?

How many of these are ready to respond the minute they get in range of a transmitter looking for them?  

How do you even tempest check for them on things such as a carrier of thousands?

I am sure that this is a topic better not discussed too much on this net, about defense or offense, but I would like to think in an optimistic moment that we have the right people with the right answers on this topic.

If not, at war, we will find out soon enough.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Lessons of Service Squadron TEN, with Ryan Hilger - on Midrats


Home is thousands of miles away on the other side of the great Pacific Ocean. A deadly and relentless enemy is challenging ships and sailors for every island, cove, sea and shipping lane.

There is no time – or yardspace – for damaged ships for travel home for repairs or resupply. Large shore facilities and ports anywhere near the fight are either under enemy control, or too dangerous and damaged to be useful.

How can the US Navy fight and win under these circumstances? We know the answer. We’ve been here before.

How can the war games of a century ago, and the war they helped win less than two decades later, help us today as we face another rising power in the Western Pacific?

For the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to discuss this and related questions, will be Lieutenant Command Ryan Hilger, USN. We will use as a starting point for our conversation his recent article over at CIMSEC, Service Squadron TEN and the Great Western Naval Base.

Ryan is a Navy Engineering Duty Officer stationed in Melbourne, Florida. He has served on USS Maine (Gold) and USS Springfield as Chief Engineer. He holds a masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. 

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, April 23, 2021

Fullbore Friday

As we see our nation start to emerge from COVID-19 isolation, I have read a bit about "young" people feeling they have lost a year, they can't catch up ... etc.

If you are, like my kids, in the young adult category - ignore that crap. Everyone has a headwind right now, but you in other ways don't have time to wallow.

You don't have all the time in the world; now is your time. You can do more today than people twice your age. 

Ignore anyone who says otherwise because of your "limited" experience.

Perhaps it was a bit much to move the age to have a beer to 21 from the legal adult age of 18. Perhaps it was a bit off to allow young adults to stay on their parent's insurance until age 26, an age many people have two kids of their own.

Perhaps this cultural messaging had you thinking it wasn't quite your time yet.

Chew on this from Dana Goldstein at The New Republic;
...some advocates and policymakers are citing research to argue 18 is still too young, and that people up to the age of 25 remain less than fully grown up.
Researchers are using the term “post-adolescence” or “extended adolescence” to describe this period of development in one’s twenties and early thirties. Social change is as important as biological change in understanding why some people in this age group are drawn to crime. Individuals who are “disconnected”—neither working nor in school—are more likely to get in trouble with the law. While fewer young women are disconnected today than in previous decades, the opposite is true for young men.
You can read the rest.

This isn't just about criminal justice either;
Adolescence no longer ends when people hit 18, according to updated guidelines being given to child psychologists.

The new directive is designed to extend the age range that child psychologists can work with from 18 years old up to 25.

It is hoped the initiative will stop children being 'rushed' through their childhood and feeling pressured to achieve key milestones quickly, reports the BBC.
In the name of all that is holy, we know this. My brain didn't make the flip until age 23 - but it didn't mean I was in "late adolescence" and should be treated like a child. If we are going to go down this route then fine; no one can vote until 25.

Actually, I might support that ... but let's get back on centerline.

OK, here is a thought; perhaps the problem with our young men (which you will find in the linked article) today is that we do not challenge them enough. We do not demand enough of them.

Same with young women.

Anyone who has served in the military knows that young men and women can do incredible things. You can give them the highest responsibilities. Properly led and given clear guidance, there is no limit. Every day, you put your life in the hands of 18 and 19 year old people.

The concept is rather simple. Set an expectation; provide training and guidance. Provide fair and just consequences for their response to it, good or bad. Good things happen.

In a previous age where people developed later, had poorer education and health; what did we expect from them? How did they perform?

Let's look at James Lucas Yeo, born 1782;
...he joined the Royal Navy in March 1793 as a boy volunteer. ... as a midshipman at the age of 10.

In 1797, he was promoted lieutenant, and assigned to the HMS La Loire... He first saw action as a lieutenant aboard a brig in the Adriatic Sea. 
Look at your calendar. He was promoted to lieutenant at age 15 and was already in combat.
He distinguished himself during the siege of Cesenatico in 1800.
At age 18. This was not a one-off performance. Remember, he was leading men more than twice his age in ship's company, most likely.
While off the Spanish coast, he was sent to capture the Spanish vessels in the port of El Muros. Storming the fort, he succeeded in bringing out of the port every vessel, armed and unarmed. For this achievement, he was made commander, and given the HMS Confiance, one of the vessels he had taken.
When did he do this? 1805. Age 22.
Yeo participated in several sea battles during the Napoleonic Wars so successfully that he was made a captain on December 19, 1807, by which time he had already been recognized as an intrepid practitioner of unconventional sea warfare.
Age? 24.
In 1809, he captured Cayenne, in conjunction with the Portuguese, and was in consequence made post-captain.
Age 26.

There is more; read it all.

Young men and women do not need excuses. They don't need years of medication to make up for a lifetime of weak parenting. They don't need low standards they are encouraged to meet.

Our nation and our civilization cannot prosper if we allow people to spend the balance of their most productive years - when they have the best window to think, explore, and test their physical and intellectual boundaries - to be told they are not yet adults and are not capable of agency. No, just the opposite.

I've got news for those who think they can start their life like this, by age 26, if you are only now thinking you are ready to be an adult, you are already running behind. As Mr. Waters says; "Ten years have got behind you. No one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun."

Your peers who understood this early have a half decade+ head start on you.

Wonder why so many people (Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Hank Williams) kill themselves between the ages of 27 and 30? It is because they all of a sudden look around and realize that they have gone nowhere in their 20s but in circles. Others have moved on with their lives, and yet they can't seem to drink and drug themselves out of a rut they hit at 22. They all of a sudden realize that they need to be an adult, and they can't do it. 

They were left drifting in the Land of the Lotus Eaters by other people who gained from having them get stuck in a rut for half a decade. When they age out of the profit zone, they are thrown in to a reality of the late-20s to early 30s that they simply cannot adjust to.

No one ever is going to be Fullbore by claiming, "I'm just not mentally mature." Sorry, regardless what your doctor may tell you, the world doesn't care.

By 16 you should be prepared to be 18, an adult. 

By 25, you should be helping those 16 to 18 to be an adult - by your example.

If you find yourself at 25 trying to map it out, you're lost. It isn't the fault of biology. Not your parents. Not society.

It is all on you.

Hat tip BJ. This post slightly modified from its original posting in 2018.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Diversity Thursday

Are you ready for this fight in your Navy?

As we have covered here in previous Thursdays, the CNO is an enthusiastic supporter of one of the primary advocates of the divisive "anti-racism" socio-political philosophy - Ibram X. Kendi.

The CNO created conditions where the Diversity Maoists will take the his support as top cover to take their divisive and sectarian secular religion in to your workspace.

What is "anti-racism?"

I highly recommend that everyone read the letter by Paul Rossi, at least at the time he wrote the letter, a teacher at Grace Church High School in Manhattan.

“Antiracist” training sounds righteous, but it is the opposite of truth in advertising. It requires teachers like myself to treat students differently on the basis of race.


(anti-racist doctrine) induces students via shame and sophistry to identify primarily with their race ...  Students are pressured to conform their opinions to those broadly associated with their race and gender and to minimize or dismiss individual experiences that don’t match those assumptions. The morally compromised status of “oppressor” is assigned to one group of students based on their immutable characteristics. In the meantime, dependency, resentment and moral superiority are cultivated in students considered “oppressed.”


Every student at the school must also sign a “Student Life Agreement,” which requires them to aver that “the world as we understand it can be hard and extremely biased,” that they commit to “recognize and acknowledge their biases when we come to school, and interrupt those biases,” and accept that they will be “held accountable should they fall short of the agreement.” A recent faculty email chain received enthusiastic support for recommending that we “‘officially’ flag students” who appear “resistant” to the “culture we are trying to establish.” 

When I questioned what form this resistance takes, examples presented by a colleague included “persisting with a colorblind ideology,” “suggesting that we treat everyone with respect,” “a belief in meritocracy,” and “just silence.” 


I find it self-evidently racist to filter the dissemination of an idea based on the race of the person who espouses it.

What happened to Rossi and how did his leadership react? 

Read the whole thing.

Are you ready when this comes your way? How will you respond? How will you deal with your Sailors who come to you like Rossi's students came to him?

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Kiwis go Wobbly

Another sad week for those who wish New Zealand was a better partner for the West ... but she has a history here.

What is even more sad is that it appears this time it is for little more than money over human rights. Not much more.

Details over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a ponder.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part LXXXIX

COVID-19 gifted the USA a window that, if we are smart, we will take advantage of.

I think this may even understate the advantage we have and need to leverage.

As I will cover tomorrow at my post at USNIBlog, China is making inroads in our traditional areas of influence at weak points, we need to work just as hard.

h/t ISEAS.

Monday, April 19, 2021

An Army Builds off Ukraine

There is something going on more than the usual spring maneuvers in Russian occupied Ukraine. 

The below from Der Spiegel is in Crimea ... so not an easy jump further in to mainland Ukrainian territory ... but ... still.

Moscow has been relocating military units near the Ukraine for weeksTrains with tanks, howitzers and transporters are also rolling into the Crimea, annexed by Russia . A huge new army camp has arisen in the east of the Black Sea Peninsula, as satellite images available to SPIEGEL show. 
About 30 kilometers from the town of Marfivka near the coast, the Russian military has gradually built a makeshift base, as this animation shows. If the area was still empty on March 15th, you will see more and more vehicles and bodies in the area until April 2nd:
... If you analyze the satellite image from April 13, there are more than a thousand military vehicles on the site, in addition to accommodation, in rows in fenced-off areas.:

Keep Ukraine in your scan the next six weeks or so.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Mid-April Midrats Melee!

Sometimes, Midrats is like a VLS cell; you don't know what you have until ... wait ... bad analogy... but you get the concept.

Today for the full hour, come join us for a classic Midrats melee ... we take on all topics as they come in to range. I'm sure we'll cover the latest Black Sea happenings, interesting justifications for more DDG in Rota, and WESTPAC always makes and appearance. 

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.

This Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern come join us for a Midrats free for all.

Open topic, open chat, open phones.

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, April 16, 2021

Fullbore Friday

Does this guy look badass enough for you?

You have no idea

In the summer of 1897 tribesmen of the North-western frontier of India (now a part of Pakistan) began attacking and intimidating British forces in the area. The Indian Government decided that the unprovoked attacks by the Afridis and the Orakzais tribesmen could not go unpunished and decided that a show of force in Tirah, the tribe’s summer home, was appropriate. Accordingly, Sir William Lockhart was ordered out from Britain and appointed to command a force of 32,882 officers and soldiers. The intention was to advance into the Chagru valley on 20 October but the Alikhel tribesmen had seen the preparation of a mountain road by the army working parties.

They anticipated the route to be taken by the army and occupied the village of Dargai and the Narik spur. This formed the western boundary of the valley and completely dominated the road along which the Expeditionary Force was to descend. It was therefore necessary to dislodge the tribesmen from their position. The water supply of Dargai was some distance away from the village and General Palmer saw that adjacent heights would have to be taken if it were to be reached. The tribesmen were not expected back and the order to retire was given. Two companies of the Gordon Highlanders were left to hold the tribesmen in check till the other regiments had taken up a new position. First one company was ordered to retire and then the other. Only half of the last company remained when the enemy appeared behind them from over a hill only thirty yards away. The Gordon Highlanders promptly formed up as the enemy fired and rushed them thinking them defeated. The men stood their ground and killed six of the tribesmen only yards from them. The other tribesmen turned and ran.

General Kempster’s brigade was ordered to storm the Heights and the 1st Division was strengthened by the 2nd Derbyshires and the 3rd Sikhs. They were to be supported by three batteries with another on Samana Sukh if required. The Gurkhas, Dorsets and Derbys all suffered terrible casualties and were met by such intense fire, from only 200 yards away, that those who were not cut down in the charge could do no more than hold onto the position they had reached. Over 100 men lay dead and wounded. The tribesmen rejoiced, waving their standards and beating their drums as victory seemed assured. General Kempster ordered the Gordon Highlanders to the front. The Gordon Highlanders advanced. The dead and wounded of the other regiments were brought back. On getting to the spot reached by the Derbys and Dorsets, the Gordons lay under cover for three minutes as the guns again concentrated their fire on the summit.

The moment came to advance. The Pipe-Major of the Gordon Highlanders was superintending the bringing up of the reserve ammunition when the order to advance came through and he was still doing so when the order to charge was given. Lance-Corporal Piper Milne was the next most senior piper and he led Pipers Findlater, Fraser, Wills, and Kidd into action. In his despatch to the Adjutant-General in India on 9 December 1897, Sir William Lockhart recalled that, "The Gordon Highlanders went straight up the hill without check or hesitation. Headed by their pipers, and led by Lieut-Colonel Mathias, CB, with Major Macbean on his right and Lieutenant A F Gordon on his left, this splendid battalion marched across the open. It dashed through a murderous fire…" As the Gordon Highlanders burst into the field of fire Major Macbean fell almost immediately, shot through the thigh. He dragged himself to the shelter of a boulder and cheered on his men as they passed. A bullet hit Piper Milne in the chest and he fell, unable to continue. Three-quarters of the way across the exposed strip of land Piper Findlater was shot in the ankles. He fell and, leaning against a rock, continued to play his pipes as blood ran from his wounds, dying his kilt red. Of the five pipers who led the charge only Piper Kidd made it to the Heights.

The first division reached the sheltering rocks and paused for breath. As their numbers increased to 400 they started again up the precipitous path to the crest of the hill. Reaching the top they rushed along the succession of ridges as the tribesmen took flight. The position was won at 3.15pm. The Gordon Highlanders gave three cheers for Colonel Mathias. As he came over the last ascent the Colonel had rather breathlessly commented to a colour-sergeant, "Stiff climb, eh, Mackie? Not quite - so young - as I was - you know." With a friendly slap on his commanding officer’s back the sergeant replied, "Never mind, sir! Ye’re ga’un vara strong for an auld man!" Major-General Yeatman-Biggs reported favourably on several Gordon Highlanders. "Major F Macbean, who was the first to spring out of cover and lead his company to the attack... Piper Findlater, who after being shot through both feet and unable to stand, sat up under heavy fire playing the regimental march to encourage the charge... Private Lawson, who carried Lieutenant Dingwall, when wounded and unable to move, out of a heavy fire, and subsequently returned and brought in Private Macmillan, being himself wounded in two places in so doing... I recommend Piper Findlater and Private Lawson for the Victoria Cross."

Later, Findlater wrote, "I remember the Colonel addressing the regiment, telling them what they were expected to do. I remember again the order for the regiment to attack, and the order "Pipers to the front". I am told that the ‘Cock of the North’ was the tune ordered to be played, but I didn’t hear the order, and using my own judgement I thought that the charge would be better led by a quick strathspey, so I struck up ‘The Haughs o’ Cromdale’. The ‘Cock o’ the North’ is more of a march tune and the effort we had to make was a rush and a charge. The battle fever had taken hold of us and we thought not of what the other was feeling. Our whole interest being centred in self. Social positions were not thought of, and officers and men went forward with eagerness shoulder to shoulder. When I got wounded the feeling was as if I had been struck heavily with a stick. I remember falling and playing on for a short time; but I was bleeding profusely and in a few minutes sickened. I am told that the time I continued playing after falling was about five minutes. After the position was won, and the wounded taken to the rear, my first thoughts on recovery were how lucky I had been in getting off so easily. It never occurred to me that I had done anything to merit reward. What I did I could not help doing. It was a very great surprise when I was told that my action had been brave, and a recommendation had been made to award me the soldier’s prize - the VC."

I don't think the FbF is fully complete unless you know what these men followed up that hill. Here's "The Haughs o' Cromdale."

Hat tip Claude & David. First posted OCT17.