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.

Thursday, April 15, 2021

The Afghanistan Problem in Two Maps

Though I have a ton of stuff for a normal DivThu, not today.

I'm still working through some Afghanistan issues. I had another post as a companion to yesterday, but after letting it sit overnight, I decided to delete it.

Like all good Sailors, when things are a bit off ... consult the nearest chart/map.

There is comfort and knowledge ... and stories ... in charts/maps.

I'll let the Front Porch extend the commentary from here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

20 Years, 20 Months, or 20 Weeks?

We picked Option A it appears.

I remember when we thought about Option C and believed Option B was too long.

I have extended thoughts on the Afghanistan withdraw announcement today over at USNIBlog.

It's been a long time coming ... but regular readers here know that.

Come on by and give me your thoughts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

General Hamlet and the Small Boys

The Navy's hate-hate relationship with its fleet of small ships would be a comedy if it were not so tragic.

As recorded here in the opening years of this blog, one of the greatest errors of the last 40-yrs was the Navy's retreat from its exceptional riverine force it learned it needed the hard way in Vietnam. 

At the end of the 1990s, we disestablished the vestige of this once great capability in the Navy Reserve just a half decade before they would be desperately needed in Iraq.

Untold numbers of American and allied personnel were killed and maimed because we invaded a nation whose central geographical feature were two great rivers that we could not, for years, gain effective control of. While we fought for each intersection and highway ashore, on the water the enemy had relatively free run of the Tigris and Euphrates with their lakes and tributaries.

We still do not have the riverine forces we should have - for the same petty reasons the USAF does not have light attack aircraft - but we at least have a few bits in the took kit to use as needed

Problem is, the simply don't have the top cover they need. Via our friend Chris Cavas;

When it comes to big things the U. S. Navy has no problem with commitment. The service loves big aircraft carriers, big submarines, big ships – ships that travel on big oceans. It loves to think big – wide-open, transoceanic, blue water operations. Its shopping lists routinely include items costing in the billions of dollars – big bucks.

But when it comes to the small stuff, forget it. While there are passing fancies, the passion soon flames out and Big Navy is on to the next Big Thing.

The latest potential castoffs are some of the smallest ships in the fleet, if at 78-feet long they can be called ships at all. The Mark VI patrol boats began entering service in late 2014 and by 2018 a dozen of a planned fleet of 48 boats had been delivered. The craft were in response to an “urgent need” request from the U. S. Navy in Central Command for fast interceptors to protect big ships in the Persian Gulf from hundreds of small, fast vessels operated by Iran.

... on February 5 a service-wide message from the director of expeditionary warfare declared all 12 Mark Vis would be inactivated no later than September 30 of this year.

Marine Major General Tracy King, the director of expeditionary warfare, told a Surface Warfare Association audience on Jan. 12 the craft “are very expensive to maintain.” Acknowledging the craft were “very valuable in assuring partners and allies,” he added, “our wargaming has told us we could probably better spend that money elsewhere.”

Another example of the abuse of wargames. Again, you tell me what you want, I'll design a wargame to give it to you. 

Sorry, I'm not sold.

As I read this AM, I'm not the only one;

 “The previously released message (February 5) has since been cancelled, which stops the inactivation of MK VI boats this year [2021]. We are not going to speculate on the program’s future. The PB22 budget request is pre-decisional. We will not comment on future budgetary decisions until the budget request is submitted to Congress later this year.  The decision [to divest the Mark VI Patrol Boats] is still under review.” 

The Salamander Underground wins again. 

If MG King can claim all seeing wargaming, then I can claim credit for anything. It's only fair. (NB: fair to give credit to Chris for this tactical victory though, he was the one to bring this in to the light).

OK people, time to fight. MK VI are good kit to have with a lot of uses ... and there is no better way to build better officers.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Don't Cry for the Navy's Cruiser Problem

Learn from it.

On the list of things future historians will blow-torch early 21st Century US Navy leadership over will be the almost criminal mismanagement of their battle fleet - and it's cruiser fleet most of all. 

Building off the least worst compromise of making a cruiser from a Spruance Class destroyer in the last quarter of the 20th Century, we coasted in the "peace dividend" 1990s by ignoring a century of shipbuilding experience by not having the replacement class of warship building as the last of the previous class was finishing up. 

A bit more than a decade and a half later, the absolute Monty Python skit that was CG(X) blew up the second best option.

That leaves us in the 3rd decade of the 21 Century facing a young and building Chinese Navy with  ... this as reported by the exceptional Megan Eckstein over at USNINews. 
A plan to keep the Navy’s guided-missile cruiser fleet operating through the end of the 2030s is struggling as the ships show there’s a very real cost in time and money to keep old platforms around for the sake of having a larger fleet.
The Navy has for almost two decades struggled to figure out what kind of platforms should replace these CGs as the air defense command ship for the carrier strike group, and several efforts have been canceled or postponed along the way. To buy more time to find a replacement, the Navy modernized 10 cruisers beginning in the 2000s to extend their lives and give them the newest combat capabilities. A second cruiser modernization program that began in 2015 aimed to do the same to seven more.
At sea and in the air (the sub bubbas are actually doing OK), our procurement and acquisition people and process has failed the Navy and the nation is serves ... but despite decades of fail, what is being done to change or fix it? Besides an occasional innocent O6-7 thrown in the volcano, who is being held accountable?
In a budget environment where the military services are increasingly looking to “divest to invest,” or rid themselves of legacy gear to free up money for new equipment aimed at a high-end future fight, the cruiser fleet may not see much support in the upcoming budget cycle, two admirals told USNI News.


A new plan will be released in conjunction with the Biden administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget request, but Vice Adm. Jim Kilby, the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities (OPNAV N9), suggested it would be hard to find support in the budget for an old ship that’s increasingly hard and expensive to maintain and operate.

“This job is more complex than I think the Navy anticipated for all the reasons Adm. Galinis laid out. So I would have to think hard about inducting more cruisers here because of what we’ve seen so far,” he said during the same interview on Friday.
“I do agree with Adm. Galinis that we’re going to get better, but I think it’s in this overall balance as I’m trying to produce the best Navy for the money that’s provided to us that we can, if that makes sense.”
We did this to ourselves. There is zero reason we should not have a new class of CG. None. Zero. The Cult of Transformationalism undercut good options because they did not have enough chrome or fins, and the lack of mature leadership refused to control their own team who was asked to deliver a tractor and instead rolled up in a BMW to plow the back 40.

Where to now? First, pray for peace as we are not ready for war. Second, we need to support Congressional leaders of both parties who are serious and, frankly, don't care who in industry or The Pentagon they piss off. Then, wait for someone in the Executive Branch to show up and appoint people who feel the same way.

What we have been doing for the last quarter century+ fails again and again. 

Until we rip up the present system - start with Goldwater-Nichols and the Joint Procurement Program bastard child - root and branch, we will not see progress that we need. We will consistently deliver 60¢ for each $1 of taxpayer money.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Supply Chains that Bind Us, with Ross Kennedy - on Midrats

Our comfortable, modern life exists on a delicate fabric of global transportation, laws, and lines of communication supported by assumptions of stability, peace, and professional competence. 

Over the last twelve months, from COVID-19 to EVER GIVEN in the Suez, the delicate nature off the global system of trade that allows affordable technology, food, and the full spectrum of consumer goods has broken in to the open for everyone to see. 
Is the global system of trade as delicate as it seems? Where are its weakest points, and how robust is it to various disruptions? 
Our guest this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for the full hour to discuss this and related topics will be Ross Kennedy Ross is a U.S.-based logistics and supply chain expert with more than fifteen years in international transportation, procurement, and analysis. His unique blend of operations, sales, and strategic planning allows him to provide creative, agile solutions for his public- and private-sector clientele.

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 09, 2021

Fullbore Friday


Prince Philip passed today after a long and full life defined by service and duty.

I first posted this years ago when he left his official duties, but thought it was the right thing to do to bring it back. 

As a nod to his service - serving as men of privilege and education should - let's take a moment today to recognize a good XO.
Hargreaves was a yeoman aboard the destroyer HMS Wallace on which Philip, son of Prince Andrew of Greece, had been appointed first lieutenant - second-in-command - at the age of 21. In July 1943, engaged in the Allied landings in Sicily, the ship came under repeated bombardment at dead of night and its crew realised that they would probably lose their lives.

It was then Philip conjured up a plan to throw overboard a wooden raft with smoke floats that would create the illusion of debris ablaze on the water. As he hoped, the German plane was fooled into attacking the raft while the Wallace sailed to safety under cover of darkness.

Hargreaves recalled the terrifying events of that night on the website: 'It was obvious that we were the target for tonight and they would not stop until we had suffered a fatal hit. It was for all the world like being blindfolded and trying to evade an enemy whose only problem was getting his aim right. There was no doubt in anyone's mind that a direct hit was inevitable.

'There was no question but to accept that on the next run or the one after that we had little chance of survival. I had been through so much that the feeling of anger and frustration was as great as the fear I and everyone else felt.

'It was less than five minutes after the aircraft had departed and - if the previous space in time was approximately the same - we had about 20 minutes to come up with something. We couldn't steam far in that time, not even far enough to make the aircraft think we had moved.'

He continued: 'The first lieutenant [Philip] went into hurried conversation with the captain, and the next thing a wooden raft was being put together on deck. Within five minutes they launched a raft over the side - at each end was fastened a smoke float. When it hit the water the smoke floats were activated and billowing clouds of smoke interspersed with small bursts of flame gave a convincing imitation of flaming debris in the water.

'The captain ordered full ahead and we steamed away from the raft for a good five minutes and then he ordered the engines stopped. The tell-tale wake subsided and we lay there quietly in the soft darkness and cursed the stars, or at least I did. Quite some time went by until we heard aircraft engines approaching.

'The sound of the aircraft grew louder until I thought it was directly overhead and I screwed up my shoulders in anticipation of the bombs. The next thing was the scream of the bombs, but at some distance. The ruse had worked and the aircraft was bombing the raft. I suppose he was under the impression that he had hit us in his last attack and was now finishing the job.

'We lay there waiting for him to leave, which he did, and, in view of the solitary attacks so well spaced apart, we were convinced he would not return. It had been marvellously quick thinking, conveyed to a willing team and put into action as if rehearsed.'

Speaking from his home in Westport in Ontario, Canada, Hargreaves told The Observer: 'Prince Philip saved our lives that night. I suppose there might have been a few survivors, but certainly the ship would have been sunk. He was always very courageous and resourceful and thought very quickly. You would say to yourself "What the hell are we going to do now?" and Philip would come up with something.'

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Diversity Thursday

There are but a few options here, none of which speak well of our Navy or its leadership – but we have to look at where this is with clear eyes.

I have tried to be as clean-slate optimistic as possible with the CNO, Admiral Gilday. On a lot of actual Navy issues, I find him incredibly well informed, intelligent, and thinking in the right direction – but that is only part of his job. 

Another part of his job is to be a good steward of the position of the CNO, the Navy’s apolitical stance in line with our national traditions, and to ensure that all his Sailors can expect fair and equal treatment and consideration under his command. In the last respect, I can no longer give what I otherwise consider good man and exceptional officer the benefit of the doubt. 

He has become a willing accomplice to division, sectarianism, and the radicalization of our Navy. He has positioned himself and his Navy as supporters of sectarianism and division for one of a few reasons:

1. He is trying to keep the worst people circling around the Beltway – the diversity industry and its DOD/DON embedded nomenklatura – at bay, sated, and leaving him alone so he can pursue “the important things.”

2. He is terrified that he will find himself in the center of some Star Chamber trial for not being “part of the solution” and being made another example of leading a systemically racist organization, not being an ally, and needing to be removed.

3. He is a true believer. In the zero sum game that is accessions and promotions, he believes that one of the primary considerations need

What ever reason, the results are the same and the negative effects on our Navy will be long lasting.

I don't really have to say all that much more, I'll let the CNO tell you for me.

He is looking at offering Navy advancement exams in multiple languages.

He is open to different standardized testing requirements based on self-identified race.

That sets a hell of a precedent. 

Go to the 51:15 mark.

He knows this, but I'll put it here anyway: if he goes forward with this, he is laying a minefield for himself and his Navy in the future. Here's why.

For a simple example: if you have three cohorts and they are approved based on different gate requirements for objective standards that predict performance (they do). Group-1 has to break 100. Group-2 break 90. Group-3 only 75.

At every point and milestone, if they are evaluated and promoted based on performance and objective criteria, Group-1 will always do better, be selected more often, and simply do their job better ... on average ... than Group-2 and Group-3. 

The "crisis" of difference not only never ends, the ongoing crisis is baked in at the very beginning. As a byproduct, your organization will also perform less well because you have more people with lesser ability to do the needed job dragging average performance down.

If you set up different standards you also encourage an already existing problem to get worse; identification fraud by people who should be in Group-1 trying to be evaluated as Group-2 or 3. You also force the growing number of mixed-race people to "pick a side" when they are not one or the other. Forcing people to classify themselves like this in order to position themselves for advantage is cancerous and unethical ... but it is encouraged by this system. This doesn't make one from many ... this makes many from one.

If people who promote this evil are allowed to expand their world view, it metastasizes throughout the system. 

Since the middle of the '00s I've warned here about the growing number of billets being dedicated to the diversity industry nomenklatura - growing in number and power. They have no desire to fix any problem, only to keep them active. That is how they justify their paycheck and very existence. 

Well meaning leaders have given in year after year to their demands for more billets and more power out of fear, fellow travellership, or at worst - simply to make them go away and be someone else's problem.

They advance and advance with little to no pushback. They wait for a ripe time - and then they push extra hard.

There was no time since the early 70s where racial tension was higher than this summer. As the "time was ripe" the embedded diversity bullies made their move across a wide front. 

Another example made it my way this month, this time from USNA. What do you notice about this?

Fully in line with the CNO's efforts in the first part of this post; meritocracy is identified as a barrier. 

How much longer will we allow this cancer to go unopposed?

I will finish this DivThu with this reminder: this is Trump's Navy doing this. This is Trump's CNO. This is Trump's diversity and inclusion nomenklatura. Except for his last few months, his government did nothing to push back against this cadre driven by sectarianism and feeding off of division.

Next time those who support a color blind nation where people should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin decide to back a candidate, pick better. Demand better. Demand action early and continuous. 

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Nagorno-Karabakh War's Maritime Lessons Learned?

There was not a sea battle to be fought in that little war ... but there are lessons for our Navy all in it.

I ponder my #1 lesson over at USNIBlog.  

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Egads on NGAD

I don't know who lead it will be or what crisis will cause it, but at some point we will realize that the golden calf idol of a procurement process we seem to think is a god is not only false, it is evil.

An entire generation going or two of acquisition professionals have grown up in a system that consistently fails the nation.

It doesn't have to be this inefficient or this ineffective, but it is. 

Latest datapoint is the overthinking and self-doubt is the replacement for the Super Hornet.

We have individuals who know what needs to be done - and if they had their way we would be a long way down the road to a modern fighter to replaced the butched-up 1970s runner-up that we have now ... but our self-imposed and voluntary system we work under won't let them. The amount of time this takes is simply gobsmacking - but we don't change.

Example. This sounds correct and sound.

The Navy is leaning toward replacing its fleet of Super Hornets with another manned fighter that will work with emerging unmanned aircraft concepts under the umbrella of the service’s Next Generation Air Dominance program.

Yes, that could have been said a decade ago and more - as a matter of fact it was, however ...

Rear Adm. Gregory Harris, who leads the chief of naval operation’s air warfare directorate (OPNAV N98), said Tuesday that the aircraft following the Super Hornets will “most likely be manned,” but that the Next Generation Air Dominance program will include a mix of both manned and unmanned platforms.

“As we look at it right now, the Next-Gen Air Dominance is a family of systems, which has as its centerpiece the F/A-XX – which may or may not be manned – platform. It’s the fixed-wing portion of the Next-Gen Air Dominance family of systems,” Harris told attendees at a Navy League breakfast. 

Is that clear? Sound confident?

Of course not. Harris knows what we need ... but ... 

“But we truly see NGAD as more than just a single aircraft. We believe that as manned-unmanned teaming comes online, we will integrate those aspects of manned and unmanned teaming into that,” he continued. “Whether that – we euphemistically refer to it as our little buddy – is an adjunct air-to-air platform, an adjunct [electronic warfare] platform, discussion of could it be an adjunct advanced early warning platform. We’ll have to replace the E-2D [Advanced Hawkeye] at some point in the future, so as we look to what replaces that.”

The Navy has been inching toward a family of systems approach for NGAD over the last several years. USNI News previously reported the service was leaning toward a manned fighter aircraft as part of the NGAD family of systems. The Navy last year quietly stood up its NGAD program office.

He can't see the future through a cloud of good idea fairies, snake oil salesmen, rent seekers, and people hanging on long enough to maximize their retirement. 

The system we have is so ossified and impeded by accretions, we can't just fiddle with it - it needs to be ripped up by the root and thrown in a chipper. 

DOD/DON won't do it either - Congress must act. 

Our acquisition systems isn't just not fit for purpose, it is an obstacle to producing the weapons our nation needs to win ... or even have a chance to win.

If you think this is a normal, efficient, and effective system - you are delusional.