Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Keeping an Eye on the Long Game: Part XCVI

Since August of last year, this picture keeps cropping up, and for good reason.

Images posted on the Chinese social media platform Weibo show five hulls of the Luyang III-class Type 052 destroyer under construction at the state-owned Dalian Shipyard in Liaoning province, northeast China

China is building at a wartime pace - more than just these five - for a reason. They have plans ... or at least want to be ready to execute a plan ... one long in the making.

While we're at it, let's bring up a picture of the People's Liberation Army Navy's first aircraft carrier Liaoning - without which they would be at least one if not two decades behind in building their carrier fleet.

While it is encouraging that in the last few years "official Washington" has reached the pivot point in seeing the PRC's plans - it is almost criminal the lack imagination and vision on our part seeing it, especially in the 1990s when was the point everyone should have seen the game was afoot.

Just two datapoints, both related to these two pics.

"The Long Game" was an old story by the time we started it in 2004. It has its roots a lot further back. I think the first tickle of the idea came to Ensign Salamander back in 1990 when he caught a bit of info in the local paper about something that dominated the skyline for anyone coming in or out of Mayport.

Go to the pic at the top and look at those cranes and then return here. 

Know what the pic below is?

That's right - it was the original plan for "Goat Island" in the St. Johns River in northeast Florida. Today is is known as Blount Island.

There were big plans there in the 1960s and 70s;

...Offshore Power Systems (OPS) was formed on July 6, 1972 as a 50/50 joint venture between Tenneco Power Systems (who owned the Newport News shipyard) and Westinghouse Electric Corporation. It proposed to design, manufacture, and market complete nuclear power plants of a standardized design and integrated with specially designed floating platforms 5.

Each floating nuclear power station (FNPS) would contain two or more FNPPs within a protective breakwater. The individual plants were to be 1150 MWe Westinghouse four-loop PWRs with ice-condenser containments. They had once-through steam condenser cooling with no cooling towers. Electricity was to be transmitted at high-voltage (345 kV) through submerged cables beneath the sea bottom. A shore support facility would provide a staging area, a docking facility, office buildings, and parking.

At the time, the largest crane of its type in the world, just one, was at Blount Island - but the anti-nuclear movement in the 1970s killed OPS before any construction could be started.

That crane though...what was to be done with that? In 1990, in the heart of the Bush41 Presidency;

A REMNANT of a futuristic project that would have supplied cities with electricity from floating nuclear power plants is about to leave Florida. The world's largest crane, designed to build the nuclear systems, is being dismantled along the St. Johns River for shipment to China. The crane is being taken down by workers from the China State Shipbuilding Corp. at Blount Island. The Chinese reportedly paid $3 million for the 38-story crane, which cost $15 million when built for Offshore Power Systems.

Ensign Salamander - always suspecting the worse of all communist nations and enraged that we would do any business with them, was unpleased, but had a lot of PQS to do and was keeping a weather eye to that Iraq thing and hoped his betters knew what they were doing.

So began a bi-partisan decade of stupid acts.

Quick, go up to look at the PLAN carrier pic above again then come back.

Where did that start?

It was a mission like no other. In the aftermath of the Soviet Union's collapse, one businessman armed with cash and a casino cover story scooped the world to buy the unfinished hulk of a Ukrainian aircraft carrier that would become the centrepiece of the PLA Navy.

Speaking to the media for the first time, the Hong Kong-based businessman at the heart of the undertaking reveals in a two-part series the details of the little-known, behind-the-scenes odyssey to realise China's long-held dream of owning such a warship.

Xu Zengping disclosed that the militarily sensitive original engines of the carrier were intact when Ukraine sold the vessel in 1998. This is contrary to what Beijing told the world at the time.

Soon to be LCDR Salamander didn't like this either, but he was focused on that guy in Iraq who needed a good spanking for trying to kill Bush41, so he hoped  his betters knew what they were doing. He had his suspicions because we were also selling MIRV technology to the PRC, but what did I know?

His betters didn't.
Karginov told the media: “The unfinished aircraft carrier Varyag was handed over to Ukraine and then sold to China to convert it into a casino. After China received the ship, it completed its construction and renamed it the Liaoning ship. The ship was originally supposed to become one of the main ships of the USSR.”

I'm not really mad at the PRC. I'm actually quite impressed with their leadership's long term vision, drive, and follow through. 

Are we thinking as long-term? Is our defense nomenklatura focused on the Long Game ... or any game at all outside the Beltway?

Have we learned?

Monday, January 30, 2023

Denial May Bring War - Punishment May Keep it at Bay


Does your opponent respond the same - or to the same degree - to identical incentives and disincentives than you do? 

Are you mirroring? 

Do you want your opponent to think a certain way because it is convenient to you and your priors?

Are you doing your best to structure your actions such that they are conveniently aligned with your peacetime path of least resistance, or are they mindfully structured with your opponent's view of warfighting?

That kept coming to mind yesterday during our conversation with our guest Toshi Yoshihara on Midrats discussing his new book Mao's Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China's Navy, and for the second half of the hour while we discussed related topics from his CSBA study, Chinese Lessons From the Pacific War: Implications for PLA Warfighting.

Two of the take aways from our discussion were the People's Republic of China's (PRC) institutional habits at war shaped by two predilections; 

(1) A quick sneak attack to negate an opponent's military strength. 

(2) Incremental attacks against a stronger opponent's isolated outposts where local superiority can be obtained at the moment of contact.

When they see these two opportunities, they are more predisposed to offensive action. If we want to deter the PRC from starting a new war in the Western Pacific, then we should not provide them tempting targets that feed their two preferred options.

While we may think many forward deployed bases - which this decade are now well inside the PRC's rocket artillery as in the above graphic - will deter the PRC from action against Taiwan, we may actually create conditions to encourage PRC aggression.

It would seem to me if we want to take the PRC's mindset and preferences in to account, a much greater way to deter them would be in two ways:

First, Taiwan and Japan cannot move, so they must be as strong as possible - long quilled porcupines - who are clearly positioned to thwart and survive any offensive action by the PRC in line with (1) and (2) above.

Second, the USA must maintain a strong, long ranged, and safely based offensive force well outside the range of a PRC quick strike - homeported/based at diverse locations - and supported by logistics capabilities in depth to reach and sustain at range combat operations. Both must be structured assuming not insignificant combat loss rates. We cannot be 2-ships away from being operationally defunct.

As part of my morning read, this article from Emma Helfrich came across as ... well ... worrisome; 

The U.S. Marine Corps has activated a new base camp on the strategic island of Guam in the Pacific, and, at least according to the Marines, it will serve as the first newly constructed base for the service in 70 years. Named Camp Blaz, the installation’s location is not only steeped in Marine Corps history dating back decades, but the activation also reflects the U.S. military's evolving posture in the increasingly tense region over which China looms.

How many more assets can we really put on Guam that just encourages PRC targeting with existing conventional precision strike missiles? The island doesn't need to tip over for those densely packed capabilities to be taken off the board at D+1.

I keep coming back to our requirement to refocus on USA based, long ranged, robust logistically supported forces that demonstrate on a regular basis at peace substantial global reach in support of front-line allied nations.

Smarter move if we assume war is coming - and if robust enough, might prevent that war from coming at all.  

Sunday, January 29, 2023

The People's Liberation Army Navy in 2023, with Toshi Yoshihara - on Midrats


From a navy of peasants to professionals on par with any Western navy; from coastal patrol to global reach, the slow and steady growth of the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) crept up on some policy makers in the last decade, but as the PLAN eclipses the United States Navy in numbers and is accelerating their industrial capacity and capabilities, the decades of the American uncontested dominance at sea is no longer granted.

Returning to Midrats to discuss this and the larger trends he raises in his new book, Mao's Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China's Navy, will be Dr. Toshi Yoshihara.

Toshi Yoshihara is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). He was previously the inaugural John A. van Beuren Chair of Asia-Pacific Studies and a Professor of Strategy at the U.S. Naval War College.

In addition to his latest book is Mao’s Army Goes to Sea: The Island Campaigns and the Founding of China’s Navy, he co-authored, with James R. Holmes, the second edition of Red Star over the Pacific: China's Rise and the Challenge to U.S. Maritime Strategy. He currently teaches a graduate course on seapower in the Indo-Pacific at the School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University.

Join us live if you can
, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. 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.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Riverine: our Stupidity is Ukraine's Gift

In the first year of this blog ~18-yrs ago, we blowtorched the Navy for throwing away our riverine capability forcing the Army in Iraq to "reacquisition" fishing boats, and generally surrendering a primary logistics path - rivers - to the enemy.

We covered the rise and rebuilding of riverine in our Navy, and if you followed the tag, the ahistorical stupidity of our Navy at once again throwing it away due to having the attentions span of a squirrel.

Wherever there is war with any significant river systems, having a mature, well equipped riverine force is essential to controlling that logistics corridor and having the ability to defend from and project force quickly using the water.

This is military 101, but again, we have a problem with institutional maturity to support the "unsexy but important."

At least we are giving the Ukrainians what we are foolishly throwing away.

Over at Naval News they have the full report.

For the record, the United States’ State Department approved a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to the Government of Ukraine of up to 16 Mark VI Patrol Boats and related equipment for an estimated cost of $600 million back in June 2020. The U.S. Department of Defense on 5 January 2021 awarded SAFE Boats International a US$ 19 million order to start production of Ukraine’s first two Mk VI Patrol Boats. Eight months later NAVSEA awarded SAFE Boats International a US$ 84 million contract modification for the delivery of six more Mk VI patrol boats, with an option for an additional two boats.

Mark my words; we will - again - regret with blood and treasure giving up this capability. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

The White Swan off Yemen

Civil wars are nasty and unpredictable things. The longer they go, the more the thin veneer of civilization starts to strip away for even the most advanced nations and their people. Less advanced nations devolve to Madmaxistan rather quickly.

All governmental efforts, money, and attention goes towards weapons, food, and fuel. Industries, infrastructure, and parts of civil society that do not support that get left as if frozen in aspic.

If you don't live in a nation suffering that civil war, it is easy not to pay attention to that which does not effect you.

There is one aspect of the Yemen civil war that no one should ignore - and it is at sea.

This isn't a disaster that anyone can state will be a surprise in the likely event nothing is done in time and it reaches its ultimate end. This isn't a "Black Swan" - this is a White Swan.

In a real world version of "Life After People" there is a ticking timebomb off of Yemen. Via Maritime-Executive;

Floating in the Red Sea, attached to an oil pipeline that runs nearly 300 miles to the war-torn city of Marib, the FSO Safer was established as a Yemeni oil export facility in 1988. The massive converted tanker was due to be decommissioned and replaced by a land-based terminal when the Yemen civil conflict erupted nearly eight years ago. Owned by SEPOC, a company which itself is owned by the Government of Yemen, the Safer sits off the coast of Ras Isa, an area controlled by Houthi rebels.

The vessel is still loaded with 1.14 million barrels of oil. While roughly 15,000 barrels have evaporated over the last eight years, and a thin layer has polymerized, the majority of that cargo remains liquid and liable to spill. The portion of the pipeline that runs for five miles beneath the Red Sea has an additional 17,000 barrels of liquid crude in it.  Without intervention, the Safer will either explode or corrode and spill its contents - and likely take the pipeline with it. 

Of note, Safer is a single hulled old-school tanker just rotting in the water. There is little to any margin of error left.

What could the results of inaction be?

For context, the amount of oil spilled off Mauritius (which destroyed an entire marine protected area) was 8,450 barrels. This is less than one percent of what is at stake with the Safer, and less than half of what is in the subsea pipeline. And while the Ever Given disrupted trade through the Suez Canal for six days, some projections suggest the Safer's spill could slow or stop trade through the entire Red Sea for weeks or even months, forcing ships to divert around the Cape of Good Hope to avoid spreading the oil by sailing through it.

The combined risks of a massive explosion, the blockage of international commerce, and a devastating oil spill form only part of the concern with the FSO Safer.  Add in the deaths of millions of people (already in famine) from loss of drinking water, caused by the contamination of desalination plants, and limited access to food caused by the blocking of Hodeida, and we will have a humanitarian emergency at a level the world cannot currently sustain. 

Furthermore, with the annihilation of the world’s most temperature-resistant coral system along with 10 unique species of fish, and the long-term damage to economic activities like fishing and tourism, the effects of this one vessel’s demise would be felt for generations. The potential consequences dwarf the various other maritime disasters experienced in the last few years. 

Usually when there is a cause for international action it is either military related or the disaster has already happened. 

This looks to be a space where those maritime nations who are hesitant to get involved militarily to maintain the global order, make a lot of noise about being "green," and generally make long speeches at the UN about such issues ... well ... they could take action.

The UN even has a "Go Fund Me" like pledge drive going to raise enough funds to get a cheap fix instead of an expensive clean up. I'm not sure if you get a tote-bag or not, but...I mean, really...this is embarrassing.

So much time and money spent on imaginary or exaggerated threats to the environment are flooded with billions of dollars, but a real one has to beg for scraps?

I'm pretty sure a fraction of the money spent at the latest Davos gathering by the WEF would have covered the cost, but there would be no power to be gained and the skiing in terrible in Yemen, so I guess not.

Time is ticking. 

h/t E.

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

The German Problem ... is our Problem

Complacency, a self-serving bureaucracy, and a willful forgetfulness of the fundamentals of war is a common thread in most 21st Century defense establishments in the developed world, but these very human conditions are worse in some nations than others.

Germany stands out.

If you want a sobering view of the military situation of our German allies, Der Spiegel has a staggering report that provides a stark view of what small budgets, ill-fitting reforms, and just plain anti-military politicians can do to a nation who is - whether they want it or not - a keystone to NATO's continental defense.

Though it isn't quite fair to use the end of the cold war force levels - everyone's graphs would look nasty with that benchmark - but it is helpful to look at what was in living memory back when your host 'ole Sal was a JO;

Coming to 2023 and recent history, well, what the German political elite did makes what we've done to the American military look like art;

According to a forecast by the German Economic Institute, Germany will fall 10 billion euros short of the 2-percent target by 2026 – and by just short of 40 billion euros the following year.

And it’s not even certain that NATO’s defense spending target will remain at 2 percent. Given the Russian threat, some Eastern European member states are insisting that alliance members raise defense spending to 3 percent of their gross domestic product.

There are a number of indications that NATO is planning this year to turn the 2-percent mark from a target to a minimum. Germany, which sees itself as a leader on security policy, would find itself in a position of having to prove its intent by adequately funding its military.

A boost to the Defense Ministry budget would only be politically palatable, however, if it can be guaranteed that the extra billions for the Bundeswehr would not simply trickle away like water in the desert. And for that, the military would have to be fundamentally reformed, a project that Minister Christine Lambrecht has shown no interest in – even if she bears little responsibility for the predicament in which the Bundeswehr currently finds itself.

This should sound familiar;

The grain-size for sand in shooting ranges is specified, for example, while limits for the exposure to gunshot gas in the combat compartment of infantry fighting vehicles are bickered over so that the threat of "amniotic fluid damage to the female Puma crew" can be strictly ruled out.

Regulators require that gangways on new warships must be as wide as those on civilian ships. Now, you can walk past each other with "two walkers without any problems," as one naval officer scoffs. Meanwhile, though, the Bundeswehr is no more combat ready than it used to be. On the contrary.

The armed forces have lost their core competence over the years as they have become completely bureaucratized: combat. Within the administration, combat isn't even a relevant category – except, that is, when it comes to dealing with the next closest department.

The administration thinks in terms of processes, not results. The most important thing is that decisions be made in accordance with the rules. Every civil servant knows that mistakes can slow down a career and that a project well done doesn't necessarily guarantee further advancement. Instead, risks are eliminated to the degree possible. And time plays no role in the equation.

This combination of regulatory frenzy coupled with risk aversion is stifling the Bundeswehr. Systematically, responsibility has been shifted from the bottom up to anonymous large-scale authorities. In the past, it was up to a battalion to decide who would be promoted to lance corporal. Today it is the Personnel Office of the Bundeswehr that makes that decision.

Are any nations doing this well, or are we all just different degrees of bad?

The German military is in many ways is subject to a distilled version of the challenges the US military has. Large budgets can hide a lot of problems from bad leaderships and worse ideas. Shrink that budget down, and you get a concentrated soup of bad.

The present German government is led by the SDP, a party that simply is not institutionally capable in 2023 of being a serious leader of a serious military. 

Until there is fundamental change at the top where the desires of the German people align with the desires of their NATO allies, then we will have to continue to find work arounds. In the long run, the experience of the last year will set back Germany a few decades from her taking her position on the continent where she belongs. An opportunity for Poland and France, if they want it.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Can we Learn Something From the Air Force?

The Navy's tale of woe in trying to force the acquisition system to actually produce something besides process is almost too painful to recall, especially on the surface side of the house.

We have the walking wounded of LCS, the squib DDG-1000, the gilded promise Ford CVN, and the never-was-has-been CG(X). We have hope that we can't screw up the existing Franco-Italian FREMM in the upcoming modified to American requirements Constellation Class FFG, but we shall see if our optimism is well placed.

As we all wait with bated breath and gritted teeth on what may be with DDG(X), we should look around to see if there is a benchmark recently that did work. 

On the surface side of the house, LPD-17 won't quite make the cut as it was only made to work with a lot of additional money and Sailor sweat, though we can call it adequate, if a bit expensive and clunky in initial execution.

We can look over at the aviation side of the house, but that is quite spotty. F-35 is meeting our lowered expectations, but it is a Joint hobbled kludge. If you ignore the pile of pants that is maintenance, the sub side of the house seems to be doing quite well, but they're a special case in a variety of ways. The Super Hornet program was a great success, but that was only because NAVAIR tricked everyone in to thinking that it was just an update to the Hornet...which it was absolutely not. 

Hmmmm, a successful acquisition system from the 1990s that was a success by ... bypassing the acquisition system. Did anyone learn a lesson there?

Well, it appears the USAF did in the B-21. Via Stephen Losey at DefenseNews;

Following a dramatic unveiling of the B-21 bomber in California on Dec. 2, 2022, former Air Force leaders are holding a muted celebration. By moving from contract award to public rollout in seven years, they said in interviews with Defense News that they proved their acquisition strategy — despite McCain’s criticism — worked.

Better yet, they said, their unexpected approach might provide best practices for other major programs and serve as an antidote to the beleaguered development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the 1990s and 2000s.

Their secret? They learned how to limit bureaucracy.

“There were fewer checkers checking the checkers,” James said. “Don’t ever underestimate the ability of the Pentagon bureaucracy and these many, many reviews to slow the doggone thing down.”

Most notably, officials point to the unusual move to put the Rapid Capabilities Office in charge of the B-21′s development. That office had a narrowly focused team of skilled, experienced engineers and program managers, a board of directors to hash out key decisions and reviews, and an ability to cut through red tape, James said.

In other words, when you really want something done, you go around the system that is there to help you.

Kind of telling, isn't it?

...the Air Force’s decision to have the Rapid Capabilities Office take charge of developing the B-21 was a critical step in its acquisition process.

The Air Force created the Rapid Capabilities Office in 2003 to quickly develop, acquire and field some of the service’s highest-priority programs — many of which were classified, such as the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle. The RCO is intended to take advantage of innovative approaches, “without the rigidity of traditional acquisition,” the Air Force said in an online fact sheet about the office.

The B-21 was a much larger program than the RCO typically managed, Wilson noted, but it worked. The office’s team on the B-21 was unusually slim compared to other programs, and it included some of the Air Force’s most experienced engineers and program managers. Most importantly, she said, they were trusted to use their judgment and go fast, without micromanagement.

“It was run very differently from other programs,” Wilson said. “You get high performers in the [RCO] program office, and you don’t crush their will to live with huge bureaucracies. … I think it’s a good example of how to do major programs better.”

Another data point in our long-standing call to uproot the not fit for purpose, accretion hobbled, rent seeking, and self-satisfied acquisitions system that best seems to serve itself. 

It is a human creation - not the revealed truth from some diety. Other systems have better served our nation. It is time to upgrade this one. 

If the end result does not have at least 50% few GS/SES, then we have failed.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

The Navy’s New Mission with Bryan McGrath - on Midrats


Officially the Navy may have a “new mission” but it is just putting in to law what has been in existence since the first Stone Age man outfitted his fishing canoe as a war canoe.

In a modern society, words mean things and even what is self-evident must on occasion be put in writing.

What is “Title 10?” That is what tells our Navy what it’s mission is.

We now have newTitle 10 language, in Section 8062(a):
“The Navy, within the Department of the Navy, includes, in general, naval combat and service forces and such aviation as may be organic therein. The Navy shall be organized, trained, and equipped for the peacetime promotion of the national security interests and prosperity of the United States and prompt and sustained combat incident to operations at sea. It is responsible for the preparation of naval forces necessary for the duties described in the preceding sentence except as otherwise assigned and, in accordance with integrated joint mobilization plans, for the expansion of the peacetime components of the Navy to meet the needs of war.”
What’s different?

As our guest stated earlier this summer;
“…the peacetime value of the Navy is no longer negotiable, it cannot be minimized, or at least it cannot as easily be minimized. As I said earlier, this is NOT an increase in the Navy’s mission set, it is a codification of the Navy’s mission set. The Navy has been promoting the national security interests and prosperity of the United States in peacetime since its inception, but only now (if passed) will the law actually reflect this.”
Don’t miss this Sunday’s Midrats from 5-6pm Eastern where almost exactly 13 years since his first appearance, Bryan McGrath, Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC. returns for the full hour to discuss this and more.

Join us live if you can, but it not, you can get the show later by subscribing to the podcast. 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, January 20, 2023

Fullbore Friday

Today is a great day;

A hero pilot who shot down at least four Russian Migs in a classified dogfight at the height of the Cold War which saw his jet shot 263 times is to receive the Navy Cross.

Retired Navy Captain Royce Williams was sworn to secrecy for more than 50 years over fears that his battle against seven Soviet fighters could spark war with Russia.

Now the 97-year-old is free to tell his tale and is due to receive the Navy's second highest award for combat valor on Friday at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Captain Williams first graced the pages of CDR Salamander almost 11-yrs ago. In honor of his well deserved Navy Cross, let's bring it back. 

No one will challenge us; they never had before.

Don't worry - just another boring CAP mission; four JOs against ... the flight schedule, I guess.

Yawn ... and I have to wear a dry suit. Ungh.

Lt Elwood, the Flight Leader, reported his Fuel Pump Warning Light was on. The Combat Information Center (CIC) directed the Flight Leader to report overhead the Oriskany. Lt Elwood passed the lead to Royce and turned back to the CTF with his wingman Ltjg Middleton flying as his safety escort. Suddenly the odds went from 7 against 4 to 7 against 2. Royce and his wingman, Ltjg Rowland, continued climbing toward the approaching MIGs. At 45 miles from the CTF, the MIGs passed directly overhead and immediately turned left as though going to make a 180 degree turn and return to Vladivostok. Royce turned left to follow the MIGs and continued his climb to 26,000 feet. Royce followed the 7 MIGs keeping them in sight. The MIGs abruptly broke sharply back toward the 2 F9F-5 jets, split into two groups of 4 and 3 aircraft and dived steeply. The MIGs were lost by Royce when they passed conning altitude and the vapor trails vanished. Royce called out "Lost Contact" to the Oriskany controller to get information on the Bogie locations but the Bogie blips were no longer visible on ship's radar.

Royce started a gradual left turn after arriving at the position of last visual contact. A line of four MIGs abreast suddenly appeared at ten o'clock, diving towards them with all guns blinking orange as they attempted to shoot down the Panthers. Royce turned into the first four MIGs and positioned his Panther in gun range on tail end Charlie. Royce fired a short burst of 20 MM cannon fire at the trailing MIG. The 20 MM impacted the fuselage of the MIG and he fell out of the formation trailing smoke and aircraft parts.

Royce's wingman trailed the smoking MIG down to 8000 feet trying to get his guns to fire and his gun camera to function. He finally gave up, broke off the engagement and started the long climb back to his Section Leader. The remaining three MIGs climbed to position for another firing run on Royce. Then they reversed course, rolled in on individual diving runs and commenced firing both 23 MM cannons and the 37 MM Gun at a great distance away. Royce turned into them again and fired his 20 MM as they flashed by at a very high rate of closure. The other three MIGs joined the fray which had Royce alone dog-fighting six MIGs. While reversing, jinking and rolling against the Bogie gaggle, Royce could see a MIG locked on his six o'clock position but Royce executed a very hard turn which caused the MIG to overshoot. Royce was firing at every MIG that passed within gun range as they sped by after taking shots at his tail. Finally, Royce got in a kill position on another MIG and fired off a concentrated burst while watching the HEAP (high explosive armor piercing) rounds detonating on the MIG's fuselage. The disintegrating MIG forced Royce to break away from the debris. Several times Royce tracked an individual MIG and fired rounds that appeared to hit the target. Royce did not follow up on the damaged MIGs but instead kept trying to keep his 6 o'clock clear of MIGs while still firing at every opportunity. Royce was tracking and firing at a smoking MIG when he saw a MIG slip into close range at his six. Royce called out to the ship that he could use some help. Royce rapidly reversed by breaking sharply but he felt a 37 MM explode into his aircraft. His Panther was severely damaged. He lost rudder control and had little use of his ailerons. That left him with only one fully operational flight control and that was his elevators. By porpoising the aircraft he could see 20 MM tracers passing above and below and could even see the 37 MM projectiles as they shot by his wounded F9F-5. Royce pushed hard over and while still at full throttle made for the 12000 foot cloud tops. He felt a rush of relief after entering the security of the ominous cumulous.

Royce broke out below the clouds and headed for Oriskany. As he passed a few of the more than 20 ships of the CTF, some fired at his aircraft. The friendly fire stopped after his Panther jet was visually recognized. The Panther was hardly airworthy, but Royce hated the thought of ejecting into the icy Sea of Japan. The F9F-5 was controllable above 170 kts and Royce flew aboard the carrier with a lot of help from the Captain of the Oriskany lining the ship on final approach to accommodate the drifting F9F-5.

Royce was ordered to report to VADM Briscoe, COMNAVFORFAREAST, at Yokosuka, Japan. Briscoe cautioned Royce that a Top Secret agency called NSA was aboard a Navy cruiser off the coast near Vladivostok and monitored all Soviet communications. NSA warned the CTF of the Soviet MIGs taking off from Vladivostok and flying toward the CTF. NSA covered all the radio transmissions and followed the MIGs from departure through the entire confrontation and until return of the remnants of the MIG flight to Vladivostok. NSA told Admiral Briscoe to tell Lt Williams that he got at least 3 of the MIGs. Admiral Briscoe warned Royce to not tell anyone about what he had been told about the Soviet encounter.Royce reported that virtually all of his 95 minutes (1.6 hours) in the air was at full throttle, gun cameras used throughout and that he had fired out all of his 20 MM rounds during the engagement. He further stated that he had learned that the names of the Soviet pilots killed were Captain Belyakov, Captain Vandalov, Lieutenant Pakhomkin and Lieutenant Tarshinov.
No such thing as a normal combat mission. History finds you when she does - and when she does, let's hope you're fullbore.

Fullbore Friday

 "Hey, we have this bizarre operation that has a shoestring budget, is in the middle of nowhere, and is asking for something to be done that has never been done before. Most likely, if the people sent are ever seen again, it will end in abject failure and humiliation for the officer leading it. Who should we send?"

"Hey, who is that weird 40-yr old LCDR down the hall with all the strange tattoos and whose uniform is all out of wack? I have no idea what he does at that desk, I won't miss him."

"Oh, you mean LCDR Geoffrey Basil Spicer-Simson?"

"Yes, that chap. He has an eclectic background fitting his personality. I think he just might be the fit."

And so starts a story that inspired books, radio programs and movies ... all for a wee spat in an important but relatively forgotten backwater.

...and below is Spicer-Simpson, right after he captured the German ship Kingani. Yes, he went to war in a skirt.

If you find the naval campaign in Africa interesting, I did another post a few years ago I'd recommend.

Hat tip Campbell. First posted AUG2018.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Diversity Thursdsay

Do I ever tire of DivThu? Yes, every Thursday I tire of it ... but we've been at it so long, why not?

Do I get tired of the topic? Well, sure. Heck, almost 13-years ago I tired of seeing higher education organizations - always claiming poverty - spending millions of dollars a year, especially at the service academies, doing nothing but promoting the division of young men and woman on the basis of race and ethnicity.

...but ... especially in the last few years, there has been a wonderfully blossoming of the understanding of this cancer in higher education that bleeds out in to the general culture.

That glimmer of hope and the fact that we seem to be getting traction is, really, why I keep going here.

To really start to turn to a 21st Century construct of race relations - something that is becoming more and more needed as we have many more mixed race citizens - we need leaders. Serious leaders with a record of success is the one thing that has been missing. Leaders who understand how to use power and influence to effect change through access to the levers of power. That is how the diversity industry got where they are today, and that is the only way you are going to excise them from their bastions.

We now have open advocates in the House of Representatives and the Senate ... but not yet the majority. They are growing in number and influence. What was once only whispered is now openly called out.

The Supreme Court - even at its slow pace - is really ahead of everyone in this area, as I believe we will see further proof soon with the upcoming ruling against Harvard and UNC almost a decade in the making.

To really take action to the next level towards a better, more unified nation, we need help in the Executive Branch. 

It won't take much, but it does take vision and courage. 

What do I mean by "much?" Simple. The best things usually are simple. We just need a leader willing to say, "No." Refusing to let there be any more discrimination and division based in immutable characteristics.

To do the right thing;

Governor Ron DeSantis can ask Florida public universities for information on their spending on critical race theory and “diversity, equity, and inclusion,” a federal judge ruled recently.


The requested data includes detailing how the campus programs involve CRT and DEI and the number of employees allocated to them, as previously reported by The Fix.

Follow. The. Money.

If you didn't already, look at the "13-years" link above. It was millions of dollars at USNA alone then, it has to be much more now. I would offer that those asking for metrics need to be careful, as was shown recently, the diversity industry will try to hide what they are doing. 

You have to look not just at the full time and part time nomenklatura, you need to look at "targeted recruiting," travel, and hosting expenses for racialist speakers, panels, and affinity group activities. That is where you are going to find the real expenditure of money. 

You also need to interview faculty under Chatham House rules. From PhD students to professors at civilian and military schools of higher education, I continue to almost daily get reports - most on background not for attribution or sharing - on what is going on. They are in some combination horrified at what is being done, disgusted with what they are participated in, and terrified that they will be seen as not "onboard" with this cult of division.

It's a racket - and a counterproductive one at that. Forget the morally reprehensible insistence that people self-segregate based on self-identified sectarian divisions, even ignore preferential treatment or punishment based on same ... no ... just look at the fact that as what Rod Dreher points out,  what even the well-meaning are doing is counterproductive;

Over the years, social scientists who have conducted careful reviews of the evidence base for diversity trainings have frequently come to discouraging conclusions. Though diversity trainings have been around in one form or another since at least the 1960s, few of them are ever subjected to rigorous evaluation, and those that are mostly appear to have little or no positive long-term effects. The lack of evidence is “disappointing,” wrote Elizabeth Levy Paluck of Princeton and her co-authors in a 2021 Annual Review of Psychology article, “considering the frequency with which calls for diversity training emerge in the wake of widely publicized instances of discriminatory conduct.”

Dr. Paluck’s team found just two large experimental studies in the previous decade that attempted to evaluate the effects of diversity trainings and met basic quality benchmarks. Other researchers have been similarly unimpressed. “We have been speaking to employers about this research for more than a decade,” wrote the sociologists Frank Dobbin and Alexandra Kalev in 2018, “with the message that diversity training is likely the most expensive, and least effective, diversity program around.” (To be fair, not all of these critiques apply as sharply to voluntary diversity trainings.)

If diversity trainings have no impact whatsoever, that would mean that perhaps billions of dollars are being wasted annually in the United States on these efforts. But there’s a darker possibility: Some diversity initiatives might actually worsen the D.E.I. climates of the organizations that pay for them.

That’s partly because any psychological intervention may turn out to do more harm than good. The late psychologist Scott Lilienfeld made this point in an influential 2007 article where he argued that certain interventions — including ones geared at fighting youth substance use, youth delinquency and PTSD — likely fell into that category. In the case of D.E.I., Dr. Dobbin and Dr. Kalev warn that diversity trainings that are mandatory, or that threaten dominant groups’ sense of belonging or make them feel blamed, may elicit negative backlash or exacerbate pre-existing biases.

Many popular contemporary D.E.I. approaches meet these criteria. They often seem geared more toward sparking a revolutionary re-understanding of race relations than solving organizations’ specific problems. And they often blame white people — or their culture — for harming people of color. For example, the activist Tema Okun’s work cites concepts like “objectivity” and “worship of the written word” as characteristics of “white supremacy culture.” Robin DiAngelo’s “white fragility” trainings are intentionally designed to make white participants uncomfortable. And microaggression trainings are based on an area of academic literature that claims, without quality evidence, that common utterances like “America is a melting pot” harm the mental health of people of color. Many of these trainings run counter to the views of most Americans — of any color — on race and equality. And they’re generating exactly the sort of backlash that research predicts.

If you think the worse of what we are seeing in academia isn't at the US Naval Academy, West Point, USAFA, or USCGA - well then you either have not been a loyal reader of DivThu for the last 18-years or so, or you live in willful disbelief.

If you don't think it isn't elbow-deep in to the military ... well ... I'm not sure how far it will take to get you our of your denial.

Again, we will have to wait for the right chief executive, but there is no reason the ground cannot be prepared by Congress.

If Republican really care to act instead of signal, then there are simple things to do. Like Governor DeSantis has done in Florida, they can effect change at our service academies. They need to ask ... no belay my last ... demand that the service academies answer the same question about funding. Be both broad and very specific on the request and audit the answer you get. Salaries, BA/NMP, collateral duty, travel, speakers, panels, consultants, seminars, affinity groups based on DEI's usually subject areas, all of it.

...and interview, in private, the active duty and civilian instructors who are there. 

No one said doing the right thing is easy.

Make sure and come back next week where we will be reviewing some of the nasty-bits in the "Academic Year 2021-22 Institutional Effectiveness Assessment Report" from the US Naval Academy.

Yes, it is about as bad as you think.

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

A Post-Davos World? Sign me up.

The whole World Economic Forum/Davos experience is one part Bond villain parody, one part clout seeking billionaires, one part megalomania, a heaping cup of greed, and a dash of rent seeking. 

In 2023 things have reached the point where any association with Davos should put an individual or organization under notice of suspicion. Amazing to see people who claim to be American conservatives or lovers of liberty attending in an non-ironic, non-protesting capacity.

This wannabee gaggle of quasi-oligarchs and autocrat throne sniffers represents everything that is wrong with the human desire for control, power, and to crush the individual for fun and profit.

They pretend to be the world government in waiting that no one asked for, no one wants, and trust me on this - no one wants to live under. Being unaccountable to the people is their ideal state.

If you don't know what I am referring to above, shame on you. Google it yourself, but I couldn't help but giggle when I read the title from this article by Gideon Rachman at The Financial TimesGeopolitics threatens to destroy the world Davos made.

Really? It is? Then by all means let's have MOAR!

...the 2023 WEF — the first to take place in its regular winter location since the pandemic began — could be seen as signalling a return to normalcy. However, China’s sudden abandonment of its zero-Covid policy has raised fears that a new wave of variants could emerge.

And, even if a fresh pandemic phase is avoided, Covid has left its mark on the way governments and businesses think about globalisation. The assumption that goods and commodities can always be shipped easily around the world has been shattered.

Except for the mentally fragile few and those who leverage power through them, the world is over COVID like it is over the flu. The last three years has been a clarifying event bringing in to stark relief those autocracy worshipers and hypocrites who hold individual rights in contempt. It also helped us see the existential danger a free people can face when they put themselves at the mercy of governments who see a crisis opening a door for an easy grasp at additional powers they will never want to give back.

The past the Davos set desired failed the future that is our present, but that doesn't give pause to any of them. The Davos view of the future where everyone (except for those at the top) lives in a pod, eats bugs, owns nothing but is "happy" is at best dystopian, at worst justifies at some point if they are not stopped, open global revolt against the ruling class with all the violence and blood that comes with it.

As an American, I have no problem saying that. America is a revolutionary nation that twice in its history drenched its soil with blood to ensure the rights of the individual over government and an unaccountable ruling class lording over those they considered lesser humans.

We are not at that point in most nations ... but when you see it happen like we saw in Sri Lanka ... understand where it is coming from.
Often prompted by governments, businesses are having to change their ways. It is not wise to rely on complex supply chains vulnerable to disease, war or other emergencies. Companies such as Apple — which boasted of products “designed in California, assembled in China” — are having to diversify production. Apple increasingly also produces in India and Vietnam.

Notice to complete focus on mercantilist concerns here? No mention or recognition, intentionally, of the maligned influence and moral repugnance of the People's Republic of China?  

Efforts by some western companies to lessen their dependence on China were prompted by the pandemic, but they have since accelerated because of a heightened awareness of geopolitical risk — otherwise known as war.

These are not dumb people. If it took them until the last couple of years to be concerned about war with the PRC ... are they fools or were they just trying to drain as much money out of offshoring to the PRC using slave labor until it was no longer easy to do? I vote the later. Either way, they are not using their intelligence for good. 

So, yes - bring us to a post-Davos world ... and let anyone who attended WEF before 2019 be giggled at ... and anyone who attends after 2023 - we'll give well meaning people a year to catch up because we're nice like that - on be an anathema to a free people.

Nuclear war is the most frightening potential development — and one that has concerned the White House since the outbreak of fighting last February. Even if the use of nuclear weapons is avoided, the danger of widening conflict remains as Nato sends advanced weaponry to Ukraine and Iran supplies Russia with military drones

The chance of nuclear war is less now than it was for the first 30 years of my life. The pearl clutching and paper bag huffing about this just encourages the use of nuclear blackmail. I'm sorry - but if you are "frightened" right now, then find another line of work besides national security. This profession requires rational thought, not emotional posturing.

Additionally, if we could keep the externalized masochism to a minimum it would be appreciated. The conflict is not expanding because we are helping a nation to defend itself from an imperial war of aggression. When the first Russian tanks crossed the Ukrainian border (again) that is your widened conflict. All else is the inalienable right to self defense.
Politicians and industrialists are scanning the horizon for the next big geopolitical threat. Many have focused on Taiwan, which produces 90 per cent of the world’s most advanced semiconductors. A Chinese invasion of Taiwan might shut down TSMC, the most important semiconductor producer, with devastating results for the world economy.

Even geopolitical tensions that stop well short of war have disrupted international commerce. The increasingly wary US attitude to China has led the Biden administration to sharply restrict exports of sensitive technology there. This affects not just US companies, but also foreign technology giants, such as South Korea’s Samsung, that use US tech.
Again...the Davos mindset. 180 degree lockoff. Taiwan and its semiconductors are not the threat, the PRC is. Note that it isn't the maligned presence of the PRC that is the problem, it is the US response to it.

Of course, in line with the mindset above, it isn't the WEF that is the problem, but ..
Political leaders, particularly in the west, must worry, too, about domestic pressure from populists. Many of the latter have made the WEF a symbol of inequality and rootless international capitalism.
Can anyone tell me where WEF is a supporter of equality and working towards domestic national resilience vice quarterly balance sheets, sketchy bank accounts on small Caribbean islands, or unaccountable power grabs?
In recent years, Davos has attracted the ire of anti-vaxxers, climate change sceptics, religious zealots and hardline nationalists. The forum features in a range of conspiracy theories. On the wilder internet fringes, the WEF has been accused of using the pandemic to seize control of the world economy.
Oh, nice ... no legitimate concerns, just swivel eyed loons. Don't dare oppose anything going on at Davos, your betters may just call you a name or throw you in the bin with the icky people.
Such theories aside, the idea that Davos is faintly toxic has gained ground. President Joe Biden, determined to present himself as fighting for ordinary working Americans, is unlikely to risk an appearance at Davos — unlike Donald Trump, who enjoyed rubbing shoulders with the assembled CEOs.

Even centrist and conservative leaders in Europe may be cautious about coming.

Good. They should be. Also, will someone put the American (R) there on notice that we see them?

President Emmanuel Macron of France, a defender of globalisation who has spoken at Davos in the past, has a sensitive domestic pension reform to push through, so may decide that now is not the right time to attend the WEF. As a new British prime minister, and one with a finance background, Rishi Sunak would normally be expected to seize the opportunity to woo the world’s most powerful chief executives. But the UK faces a wave of strikes, so he too will probably decide that it would be wise to miss Davos this year.

Simply unacceptable in democratic nations that the will of the people might promote change in political leadership. Next thing you know, they might want even more free speech and redress of grievances. 
Those world leaders who are present might do well to take the funicular up to the Schatzalp Hotel, which served as Mann’s model for the sanatorium in The Magic Mountain. The hotel’s view is the best in Davos — it may offer a chance for quiet reflection on how to prevent war and natural disaster from once again engulfing the global economy

Perhaps they should reflect on how they encouraged Russian aggression and European vulnerability to hydrocarbon blackmail? Should they take a moment to see how they look the other way as the PRC engages in wholesale oppression of their Muslim minority? Are they proud of their dividends derived from almost unimaginable levels of air and water pollution flowing out of PRC's slave labor run factories? 

Unlikely - they might miss out on the next party.

A post-Davos world? 

How do we bring it here faster? 

h/t Alessio.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

What about South Korea?

Whenever I see something about South Korea, their economy or their military, I think of my dad's generation who were of draft age during the Korean War. I've read a bit about the war and the condition of the country and its people when we fought to keep the communist yoke of their neck, and when you look at the South Korea of 2023, it is simply an amazing testimony what free enterprise and education can do to a people held back by autocracy and illiteracy ... with a good bit of rule of law and a benign quasi-imperial military power willing to give them the security to grow. Worth the war? I think so.

In the last year, South Korea has impressed many who were not paying attention concerning their growing place as a military-industrial power - specifically their arms exporting and partnership with Poland as she does all she can to be the military power of the Three Seas nations

I keep wondering, do we need to bring South Korea closer in to the Western military infrastructure?

Yes, she has a spot of bother to the north that needs almost all her attention and her demographics are far from robust ... but still - is their a collective gain by bringing her closer in?

This graph from Zach Cooper really hit home how isolated, in a way, South Korea is outside the bi-lateral relationship it has with the USA.

In the abstract to his paper (that I'd love to read in full, but I am sans-access...ahem). 
As South Korea has aligned its focus to that of the United States, Seoul has expected Washington to integrate South Korea more deeply into American regional strategy. Yet, US efforts to build minilaterals have seldom included South Korea. Addressing this divide will require leaders in both capitals to adjust their approaches to both focus and format in the Indo-Pacific.

South Korea has a population of 51.7 million souls, greater than all but six of the 30 NATO nations (USA, TUR, DEU, FRA, GBR, ITA). She has a GDP of 1.8 trillion USD, greater than again all but six of the 30 NATO nations (USA, DEU, GBR, FRA, ITA, CAN).

Worth more pondering. 

Monday, January 16, 2023

The Manning Shortfall Bow Wave is Only Starting

It appears that the recruiting and retention challenges are breaking above the ambient noise at the start of 2QFY23. We go through these cycles, but if things seem a bit different to you this time, your instincts are right.

The ebb and flow of manning the Navy is a regular story - but there is one major cause that is different this time around and is beyond the control of anyone - it is an almost geographic or structural in nature as will be outlined later in the post.

Layered on top of this structural challenge to recruiting and retention are challenges of our own creation and are fully in our control - a headwind of our own creation via decisions and policies that even if changed overnight, their effects will linger for years...and their negative effect will increase with time unless changes are made sooner more than later.

Via Diana Stancy Correll at Navy Times;

There are about 9,000 operational sea-duty gaps, with the highest gaps appearing in the most sea-intensive ratings...

The first thing to came to mind when I read that were the "too clever by half" efforts to "solve" afloat manning that help lead to the horrible summer of 2017. I do believe that we have tried to address this problem of throwing unqualified people just to make the metrics work, but that temptation will always be there.

I would really like to see the data over time with that gap number. What has it been for, say, the last 20 years? I know that graph exists...I'd love to see it just so we know how the challenge in in FY23 than it was in FY2013, FY2003, etc. Ships that belong at sea need Sailors, so this multi-causal problem will require more than one effort to fix it.

Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener said the Navy is experimenting with a new pilot program aimed at eliminating the number of temporary additional duty, or TEMADD, sailors that are taken from their primary duty stations.

Again, this brings more questions than anything else. There is nothing "new" about this problem that would make it a cause of today's difficulties ... unless we have allowed a known problem to get worse. Where are those TEMADD Sailors going? How do FY2023 numbers compare to FY2020? FY2015?

If we're talking schools, well good googly moogly, this was a problem when I was a JO. Heck, back in 2011 when I was only 2-yrs post-active duty, in San Diego I asked the senior Lieutenant of a riverine craft doing a static display what was the number one thing he wanted from Navy leadership.

His answer was, roughly, "Don't have my Sailors show up only long enough to check in before they are sent off to school to be qualified to do their job. If I'm short an EN1 and Millington tells me, 'You have an EN1 I just sent you.' I tell them, 'Yeah, he checked in last week, will sit here for eight more weeks before going to a six month school. By then my most experienced EN2 is separating. Heck, he goes on terminal leave in two months. That EN1 not only is no good to me, the way he was sent to me only makes my problem worse."

We then spent a few minutes saying bad things about Millington before I asked him what his plans were. I'll consolidate and paraphrase roughly. "I'm getting out next year. I'm a Lieutenant in a riverine command. I have no competitive future on active duty."

Like I said, not a new problem.

So, back to the challenge we're talking about today. As we saw with previous shortfalls, everyone hits the "Easy Button."

“The reality is we need to buy more people,” Kitchener said. “And I think right now we’re committed to buying more people; we’re just having a hard time recruiting.”

The Navy is offering multiple enlistment and retention bonuses to recruit and keep sailors. For example, future sailors or veterans who re-up right now can combine the maximum enlistment bonus with a maximum student loan repayment to cap out at $115,000 — if they ship out before March. The Navy first introduced the policy last year and kept it for FY23. 

Well, yes, money helps, but it is only going to get you so far.

What is the structural problem I mentioned at the top of the post? 

2023 is not 2003 or even 2013. This is the most important graph for understanding our manning problem.


Demographics is destiny. Always was, always will be. Each year, the a new cohort of children born 18-20 years earlier become the source material to recruit in to the military.

Is it easier or harder to get more people from a shrinking pool? 
Yes, we have that problem - but like our geography and natural resources, the USA has this as a comparative advantage, in a fashion.

Compared to other developed nations, our demographics are rather good. Have you seen Korea's?

The People's Republic of China?



As a species, human society has never see such a demographic profile. The developed world and its militaries will have to figure out how work around it. So, yes, the USA and its Navy has a demographic challenge, but so do our friends and competitors ... we just look healthier.

Oh, in case demographics and population trees are new to you and you don't really understand how different things have changed for the USA, the below graph is helpful.

So much of how we think about manning and retention in our military is based on outdated assumptions about demographics. Look again at the first graph. The USA will have a slightly easier time with a larger cohort of 18-20-year olds in 2028, but then that pool shrinks again, fast.

The easiest time to recruit officers and enlisted in the last half century was ... 2011 - and that pool is simply not coming back.

Speaking of pools, this should give everyone pause;

The Navy met its active duty enlisted recruitment goals for fiscal 2022, but fell short among active duty and reserve officers, as well as reserve enlisted personnel. The service is also prepared for an even more challenging year in recruiting; it drained its Delayed Entry Program pool to the lowest the service has experienced in 40 years to meet its active duty enlisted recruitment benchmarks for FY22.

You can only do that once and that trick is done. Over at twitter retired Admiral John Harvey, USN made a solid point on this;

I see a lot of reacting, pulling from the historical tool box and otherwise dealing with symptoms to try to move the needle inside a POM cycle. However, we got here for a variety of reasons years in the making that will not respond quickly to the degree we think they will as described above.

Some things, like demographics, we can't do anything about. As we face that shrinking pool we will see again in 2028, there are things we need to act on now to help change perceptions that can linger for years before they change. 

To make these changes, it will require admissions of error, and that is the problem. Feelings will be hurt. Rice bowls will be turned over. As that those feelings and rice bowls contributed to the problem we have, that shouldn't bother well meaning people.

Here they are; Image, Leadership, Reputation:

Image: What do our candidates see and hear? In the civilian world, every call is a sales call and every customer is a referral source for new business. In the military, every photograph, event, and gathering in uniform is a recruiting event. We have covered it here in detail previously so no need to point to examples, but who would want to join a service whose ships look uncared for? Whose Sailors are all wearing three or four different uniforms ... brown boots, black boots, camo, blue hat, tan hat ... etc? What messages do rusty ships and disheveled Sailors send to friends and enemies? Why does it seem that so many leaders in our Navy seem to want to dress like they are in the Army or the USMC when they are CONUS or afloat? Are they ashamed of being Sailors? Are they even recognized as being Sailors by potential recruits? Does any of this make the Navy an attractive place to join or stay in - or a place to avoid?

Leadership: What are candidates' future bosses saying? When senior leadership is seen and heard from, what are they talking about? Would you want to join an organization whose leadership seems mostly concerned that they employ a bunch of racists, sexists, rapists, and domestic terrorists? Do you want to work for leaders who never seem to defend their people ... who at first chance will defer to the latest slander and promise to "do something about it" when they know there really isn't an "it" but won't support their people by saying so? What about over a decade trying to act as if there were no costs, no down side to making 8, 9, 11-month deployments with a short turnaround as the "new normal?" What about the reality of people spending the balance of their first enlistment in a ship during overhaul because we can plan for the expected?  

Reputation: What do others think of their Navy a candidate may want to join? One of the worst examples of governmental corruption at scale this century in the United States was/is the "Fat Leonard" scandal. It has been 13-years, almost four times longer than it took to fight WWII, and the primary player, Leonard Francis, has yet to go to trial and even escaped from home arrest earlier this year. On a regular basis, we have IGs investigate someone for an accusation of X, X is never found, but they still dig until they find Y and then destroy a person's decade long service - often draining their personal funds defending themselves in the process. We burn a multi-billion dollar large deck amphib in port, blame it on an undesignated Seaman, drag his name, life, family, and fortune through a court system only to find him not guilty ... all while scrapping the evidence needed to find the cause in the process. The chief uniformed leader, the CNO, invests what little personal and professional capital he has left promoting the toxically divisive racial essentialism of Ibram X. Kendi. This is going on while at the same time parents all across Northern Virginia and the United States are in open rebellion against the public schools in their area for promoting the same Critical Race Theory adjacent racialist practices in their schools. Would those same parents want their kids to join an organization who admits they like having pictures in promotion boards so they can actively discriminate on the basis of race? Really?

These all add up. Drip, drip, drip ... the issues with the Navy's image, the defensive crouch and thirsty virtue signaling of its leadership, and the own goals degrading its reputation among the general public - a very different cohort than those the Potomac Flotilla socializes with - has etched a mark on the Navy's attractiveness that cannot be buffed out in a year or two. No, it will take a few years to stabilize the ship and to get it underway on a better course.

There are enough challenges out there in recruiting numbers that we need, we need to scrape off the self-applied accretions making the effort even more challenging. It won't come without other costs, but if the goal is to move the needle out of orange and in to yellow, then we need to focus on those things we can control. 

Start with image, leadership, and reputation. All three have lesser included actions that will come along if you can do these three things better to remove reasons not to join the Navy, and equally important, come off the list for those who want to leave the Navy.