Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Africa - coming to a future near you

In case you were feeling hopeful about a future relatively free of starvation, pestilence, war, and death - head on over to USNIBlog were I am doing my best to keep you depressed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Not that there isn’t time, it just isn’t a priority

Our friend John Kuehn wastes little time in his most recent Proceedings article. Right off the top rope:
The U.S. Navy is in violation of the law as regards Joint Professional Military Education (JPME). It is not in marginal or tangential violation—it is in full blown, egregious violation that thumbs its nose at the intent of the Goldwater-Nichols Act (GNA).
Professional military education is a subject that will always start an argument. There are so many valid opinions of what should be done, how it should be done, and who should do it, that any suggestion out there will be immediately countered with two or three other options. Some slightly better or worse depending on the weight you give the different variables.

Regardless of what you would want it to be, we have a system in place, as imperfect as it is, and few really seem to be happy with it. As John outlines, we are slow walking compliance almost as if by policy;
Why is the Navy having difficulty sending its mid-grade officers to professional military education at places like the Naval War College and the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College? 

…the Navy officer corps, quite simply, is too busy—and too small—to allow its key mid-grade officers to attend JPME.

As the law states in the OPMEP: “Seminar mix at Service ILCs [intermediate-level service colleges] . . . must include at least one officer from each of the two non-host Military Departments.” 8 Translation: At CGSC, the Air Force and Navy departments will provide one officer each to each seminar for the Command and General Staff Officer Course (CGSOC). 
The current requirement for sea service officers at CGSC is based on the following agreed-upon totals for 74 staff groups:
USMC: 28 students (fully manned)
USN: 44 students (23 short: only 21 Navy officers assigned this year)
USCG: 2 students (1 short: only one assigned this year)

The Navy must take care of the fleet it has, as well as focusing on the fleet it wants. The recent accidents and the shorting of bodies at JPME institutions both indicate that the service is too busy—too busy to get better and too busy to learn.
His critique points towards another option; PLAN SALAMANDER for JPME that predates my blog-life. Simple; no War College/JPME requirement until after CDR-Command. Full stop.

Let company and field grade officers master the Tactical level of performance their nation requires, and if they stay on in the military service, it will help inform their Operational and Strategic level staff work.

Before then, if possible for a few, then we can send officers off to civilian institution to get full-time graduate degrees. Not everyone, and not considered a career requirement. It will work for some, notsomuch for others – and that should be fine. We don’t want every officer to have the same professional experience and background. That narrow scope helps no one.

As for the larger question about why the Navy isn’t executing its nation’s laws? That is for the CNO to answer, not me.

Monday, December 11, 2017

SECNAV Spencer: Stow the Optimism, There Will be no Naval Renaissance

With apologies to The Bard;

Friends, Navalists, members of the Front Porch, give me your attention. I have come here to bury the 350 Ship Navy, not to plan for it. The evil that men do is remembered after the POM, but the good is often buried with the sequestor. It might as well be the same with NDAA. The noble SECNAV told you that a substantially larger Navy was ambitious. If that’s true, it’s a serious fault, and our Navy has paid seriously for it. With the permission of SECNAV and the others — for SECNAV is an honorable man; they are all honorable men — I have come here to speak at the 350 Ship Navy's funeral. She was my friend, she was faithful and just to me. But SECNAV says she was ambitious, and SECNAV is an honorable man. She brought many captives home to the E-ring whose HASC testimony brought wealth to the city.

There will be no reconditioned OHP's. 

There will be no license-built EuroFrigate.

If we are lucky we will get better focus on proper manning, training and equipping our Navy. Maybe all our DDG will get some OTH ASUW capability. That is about it. I have not totally given up hope that we may restructure the malformation of our Surface force, but that is looking to be losing headway as well. The revolution seems to have culminated at the first whiff of grapeshot at the first barricade.

The Swamp around the Potomac Flotilla has won.

Sometimes it is best to just be silent in mourning. After reading the latest from SECNAV Spencer, sadly I think this may one of those times.

Before we get there, we must Salamander a wee bit. 

Really, this should not be unexpected. One would have thought that if we had a realistic chance at growing to 350 ships or more, that once his mandatory SAPR training was complete, our new SECNAV and he band of merry men and women would be visiting every port and shire to get the word out so our politicians could feel the swelling support ... but no. You have not seen it. I have not seen it. Reports from the field from the last month or so have been sprinkled with meh leavened with some pumpkin spice feh.

As I am sure that the primary players have already seen a draft of the soon to be revealed strategy, you can assume that no one who would expect to retain credibility and self-respect would get too far over their skis - or better yet - regardless of their personal feelings, would start to set expectations around them in alignment with what will soon be behind door #3.

That is why, I believe, when you read from the link above, you get an extra helping from the output of the "Random SECNAV Speech Generator."
Rest assured, the Department of the Navy is dedicated to restoring readiness and increasing the capacity and capability of the fleet to meet the nation’s security needs. We are beginning to witness improvements in these three areas, and we expect to see the rate of improvement increase in the near future. We are committed to doing so in a way that works hand-in-hand with our partners in Congress and industry so we may deliver superior national defense at a value to the American taxpayers.
...
This administration is dedicated to rebuilding American military might and ensuring stability and certainty as we address global security demands. The future is challenging but bright as we lean forward to engage with our legislative and industry partners to guarantee that the Navy and Marine Corps team remains the world’s most ready and lethal forward-deployed fighting force.
...
The money we do have must be invested as efficiently as possible, which means we must attain greater budgetary certainty in order to fund our strategy. Having a clear line of sight to the necessary resources for growth will allow our partners in industry to invest for the future, which will in turn lower overall costs.
...
All of us in the national security enterprise ― the Pentagon, Congress and industry ― share the goal of supporting our current and future sailors and Marines so that they can be successful at conducting their missions.
There is one pull quote that I find of utility;
We will do this by streamlining our acquisition process and working with our congressional partners to secure steady funding commitments, which will encourage innovation, better manage risk and drive efficiencies.
Yes, yes, yes ... we all know that our acquisition process needs to go in to drydock to get all the accretions accumulated over the last few decades scrapped off, the hull reconditioned and painted ... but ...

When is it starting?
Who is doing it?
When will it be completed?

It is almost 2018 people.

If that is all we can do, then fine. That is actually an extremely valuable long term thing to do. Have it done properly and perhaps at some point we can design, commission, and deploy new warships that can actually fight a war. 

You know our track record this century; something besides the DDG-1000 white elephant we are trying to do anything with, or LCS that almost a decade after commissioning Hull-1, still is of no use in any front line wartime contingency. 

As we finish picking the last of the lint out of our belly button, the Chinese are in serial production of their Type-55 don't-call-it-a-destroyer-it-is-larger-than-a-TICO, the Russians have corvettes with more combat capabilities in all warfare areas than our larger, more expensive LCS. Nations with less than 2% of our population (DNK & NOR) are producing more modern and effective warships under 8,000 tons than we are.

So, if we can't get more money - then let's do the hard work of getting an acquisition process that supports the military, as opposed to having a military that supports the acquisition process.

Give the job to McGrath and Eaglen. They'll have it done ready for signature by the mid point of Q4FY18.

Oh, and about the critique of growing cynicism;
"Cynicism is the smoke that rises from the ashes of burned out dreams."
I'll take the Llama.

Friday, December 08, 2017

Fullbore Friday

This December 8th FbF, I want to quote a bit from a great combat leader most Americans have never heard about, Major General Aaro Pajari, Finland Army.

As a unit level leader during the Winter, Continuation, and Lapland wars of the late 1930s through the mid 1940s, his stories could take up months of FbF.

Then a LtCol in the 16th Regiment, his men faced the onslaught of the Red Army’s 139th Rifle Division.

His response in simple, clear, and direct language turned the desire to flee in to a drive to fight. As leaders, how do you take the very real and dangerous reality your men face in combat, and turn that towards motivation to fight?

From the book, Finland At War 1939-1940, let’s check in with Aaro on 08DEC39;
Upon their first inspection of the front, both Pajari and Talvela were mortified to see the demoralized state of the men. They heard of many instances where sheer panic had infected both veterans and new conscripts, spreading like a virus. On 8 December, as Baljalev’s 139th Rifle Division continues its attack at the Kivisalmi rapids, they witnessed for themselves defenders running away in terror. This in turn prompted Pajari to utter his dire warning to his battalion: “You can run, but you will only die tired!”
…Talvela realized that they needed some kind of victory in order to curb the panic, regain the initiative and show the men the the Soviets were not invincible. As he had earlier reasoned to Mannerheim; “In situations like this, as in all confused and hopeless situations, an energetic attack against the nearest enemy was and is the only way to improve the spirits of the men and to regain control of the situation.”
To paraphrase Peter Murphy; libraries are full of keys. Where’s your lock?

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Eleanor Roosevelt Reflecting on December 7, 1941

An interesting perspective from the 1950 from an important player on the front lines about a leader's behavior in crisis.

Good benchmark.

For those who have not heard Eleanor's voice before, this is a rare opportunity to hear an almost extinct American accent. The Northeast upper class accent. Almost British, that you hear now and then in old movies from the time. You really never hear about it today.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

How Do You Feed Your Rage and Shame?

Rage and shame are great motivators. Use them well to make yourself and those things you love better.

Does this help any?


I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. Come on by for a visit.



Tuesday, December 05, 2017

A Year in, Everyone Sobers Up

Could things be worse? Of course things can always be worse, but a year after the excitement about President-elect Trump's "350 ship Navy" talk - along with a general increase in defense spending - reality is setting in.

DefenseOne's Marcus Weisgerber reports from the Reagan National Defense Forum POSTEX that the party probably started a bit too early thinking we were in for a lot more defense spending;
With yet another government shutdown looming and Trump and Republican lawmakers focused on a tax bill that will increase the federal deficit by an estimated $1.5 trillion over the next decade, optimism for large defense-spending increases is starting to wane, attendees here said.
...
Last year, the defense hawks came here bullish that a Republican president and GOP-controlled Congress would repeal federal spending caps and begin the massive military buildup promised by Trump. Now one year later, that optimism has subsided as the same hurdles that blocked the repeal of budget caps remain. And no one has a solution.

“In order to get to that number, Congress has to vote to change the Budget Control Act,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, said at forum. “If we were so hell-bent to do that, if this was such a priority, why are we sitting here in December and we haven’t done it? We haven’t done it because there is this massive inconsistency in the way we look at the budget.”
...
Americans want a balanced budget, don’t want their taxes to decrease and no one wants to cut popular programs, Smith said. “That cannot be done,” the congressman bluntly said. “It is mathematically impossible, but that is what the public expects.”
...
While Republicans and Democrats widely support increasing defense spending, the same gridlock in Congress that has led to seemingly annual continuing resolutions and even a government shutdown remain. Republicans want to offset defense increases with cuts to social programs. If defense gets a plus-up, Democrats want equal increases to those domestic programs.
...
“If there’s not growth in the budget, where are we going to invest it and get a reasonable return?” Strianese said. “That’s why I would advocate more for a certain level of growth and stability in the defense budget.”

One thing hasn’t changed since last year, or the previous one: the cries for budgetary help from top officials at the Pentagon:

“I don’t have the amount of funds that I need for the requirements that are being heaped on me,” Navy Secretary Richard Spencer said. “I need to increase my capabilities in every single aspect where I do business.”
Jerry Hendrix was there too, and in addition to a nice summary of events and speakers, gives a little warning;
Despite a broad consensus among attendees, it was clear that internal disputes with “fiscal hawks” who viewed rising deficits as significant national-security threats in and of themselves were going to block any Republican attempts to do away with the Budget Control Act in the near future. There was a palpable sense of frustration in the room, especially among the Republican members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. Despite having a Republican president who wants a larger military, and majorities in the House and the Senate, there was no real sense of energy or forward movement on strengthening the nation’s defense. Force readiness was the other bogeyman in the room, with speakers from McMaster to former Obama appointee Kathleen Hicks highlighting the need to invest in readiness and modernization. 
Readiness and modernization, the latter in the form of investments in new “offsetting” capabilities, seem to represent the major hurdles that the Department of Defense needs to clear before it can begin to grow the force. Both seem to suggest false choices, as no real dollar amount has been advanced to answer the question of how much it would cost to achieve high “readiness,” and investments in modernization can coexist with investments in growing the force by following a traditional acquisition strategy consisting of a “high-low” mix. The desire by some to pursue only those high-end capabilities that are viewed as essential to winning the next great-power war carries with it the potential to diminish the day-to-day force that is critical to preserving the peace.
2018 is going to be an election year where the Democrats see an opening back to power on at least one side of the legislative branch. That does not bode well for a resolution to defense funding problems years in the making.

Winter is coming after a false spring.

If you are still on the party bus thinking the executive branch might be able to push things in a direction you'd prefer, Bryan McGrath is having none of it. Check out his bit as well.

Monday, December 04, 2017

Andy Marshall; First Person Spoken Word

Most of our readers here have heard of Andy Marshall. A very few have heard him speak, even fewer have seen him in person.

Over at NRO, Jamie Weinstein interviewed him for an hour. No way here to embed the audio, but go to this link and you can listen to it.

Don't miss this opportunity.
In an interview with The Jamie Weinstein Show, Marshall discussed his career, what threats he sees on the horizon, a recent meeting with Steve Bannon, and much more.


Sunday, December 03, 2017

Global Naval Power at the End of the 2nd Decade of the 21st Century, with Eric Wertheim



Take a moment to get away from your shock that it is already December, and let it soak in that it will be 2018 in less than a month.

That means that we are officially well in to the end of the second decade of the 21st Century. It is time to look at the latest global feet developments breaking this year, and to what should shape discussions next.

From Argentina's missing submarine, submarine proliferation around the world, Asias growing naval powers, Russian naval capabilities, European naval trends, and US naval systems/vessels capabilities - we are going to touch on them all Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern with returning guest Eric Wertheim.

Eric is a defense consultant, columnist and author specializing in naval and aviation issues. He was named to the helm of the internationally acknowledged, one volume Naval Institute reference Combat Fleets of the World in 2002.

He has served as an advisor or contributor on dozens of studies and reports conducted by the Department of Defense and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and from 1994 through 2004 Mr. Wertheim wrote the bimonthly "Lest We Forget" column on historic U.S. warships for the Naval Institute's Proceedings magazine. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C.

Since 2004, Eric Wertheim has written the monthly "Combat Fleets" column for Proceedings, and his annual review of world navies runs in the March issue of the magazine. He is the coauthor with Norman Polmar of the books, Chronology of the Cold War at Sea and Dictionary of Military Abbreviations, both published by the Naval Institute Press.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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, December 01, 2017

Fullbore Friday


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

4 - Dual 5"/38 DP secondary

8 - .50 caliber AA

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

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

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

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

Battle

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

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

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

Aftermath

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

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



First posted April 2009.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Iron Domes and Wooden Doors

A potential catastrophic success?

Are there deeper 2nd and 3rd order effects from Israel's success with IRON DOME?

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog. Come on by and give it a read.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

So, what do you put in the NLOS void?

One of the many original sins of the LCS program was the assumption that there would actually be a NLOS missile. As such, there is on both classes a void forward where the never was has been NLOS was supposed to be.

As a stop gap - still using the two decades old thinking about what threat is what - ideas have come up to include Hellfire missiles or other short-legged anti-surface options.

Well, we are sneaking up on 2018, and do we really need to worry about the threat that NLOS was supposed to take care of?

What about area denial problems coming from the air? As presently configured, LCS can barely protect itself while doing its best to stay out of the way. RIM-116 RAM/SEA-RAM is a nice bit of kit, but is a last ditch defense.

Let's put to the side how you would support the radar and take a peek at what the Israeli Navy has come up with to take to sea their combat proven IRON DOME system. My guess would be to give some support to their new offshore gas fields.

A proved medium range anti-missile, anti-artillery, "if it flies it dies" capability. A bit more range than RIM-116.

I'd love to give the problem to some good naval architects and engineers and just ask them, "Tell me how you make this work on an LCS using the NLOS void."

Maybe the answer is, "you can't" - but if I were tasked to tool around WESTPAC in one of these Tiffany gunboats, I would not be worried about Boghammars from the Bill Clinton administration.


Monday, November 27, 2017

Odds are, the unmanned military you are thinking about is not the one you will face

Here a bit, more on twitter, and now and then on Midrats when the subject of unmanned systems comes up, I will almost always bring up my concern that the largest problem we will have with unmanned systems operationally is that the Russians, Chinese, and others will not restrain their AI as we will. Our caution and legions of JAGs will encumber our AI with caveats and reachback requirements such that we won't have much more than we have with our guided weapons today, at least at the terminal end.

Other nations - and unquestionably non-state actors - will not have such qualms.

I don't think I have it quite right. I don't think I have been either cynical or dark enough in my thoughts.

You cannot classify open source technology. With 3-D printing and the universal ability to write code, once a capability is out there - especially ones that do not require hard to get physical material - you can't pull it back.

Civilized people cannot force others to be civilized.

The danger is not flights of AI driven fighter-bombers, submarines, or surface ships fighting manned versions of the same - though we will see that - no. Things I believe will be much more personal. Much smaller. Much deadlier. Much more on the homefront.

No, I have it wrong I think. I think the odds are 50/50 that in my lifetime the scenarios outlined below will be close to being a fact of life.




UC Berkeley professor Stuart Russell and the Future of Life Institute have created an eerie viral video titled "Slaughterbots" that depicts a future in which humans develop small, hand-sized drones that are programmed to identify and eliminate designated targets.
...
Russell, an expert on artificial intelligence, appears at the end of the video and warns against humanity's development of autonomous weapons.
ALSO: Artificial intelligence may soon be able to build more AI
"This short film is just more than speculation," Russell says. "It shows the results of integrating and militarizing technologies that we already have."
Watch this in full while wearing your red hat ... and then think a bit deeper.



As I started this post with Elon Musk, might as well end with this interview; we're summoning the demon.


Friday, November 24, 2017

Fullbore Friday

A little WWI FbF.

Portugal in WWI? Yes, little Portugal fought with the allies in WWI and by all reports she more than held her own fighting in Africa and Europe alongside the British, French, and Belgian forces.

There was one standout; the Million Man Soldier, Anibal Milhais.
...on 9 April the Germans launched Operation Georgette, the second of their great Spring offensives. The Allied lines were pounded by artillery and lethal gas shells. Faced with eight German Division, the greatly outnumbered and exhausted Portuguese troops were not able to hold their positions.

Two battalions of Portugese soldiers initially stood firm along with 50th Northumbrians and the 51st Highlanders but they were overwhelmed and forced to retreat. Anibal Milhais stayed behind with his machine gun ‘Louisa’ and covered the retreat and so allowed them to regroup. Eventually, his ammunition ran out and he managed to hide in enemy held territory for three days. He rescued a Scottish doctor from drowning in a swamp and together they returned to the British lines where the doctor informed everyone of Private Milhais’ courage. His commanding officer called him ‘Soldado Milhoes’ a soldier worth a million men and henceforth he was known as ‘The Million Man’; he received the highest Portuguese military decoration, the Order of Tower and Sword of Valour, Loyalty and Merit.
...
It was a brutal skirmish. Within a few hours 1,938 men were killed, 5,198 wounded and about 7,000 taken prisoner.

A few months later, Milhais once again displayed outstanding bravery in battle. He single-handedly resisted German troops alone. This time, he was providing cover fire for a Belgian unit. He was helping them retreat safely to a secondary trench. There were no causalities.

According to Milhais,
On the 8th [of April] I left the lines and dreamt about my village’s patron saint. The day after I told my friends “I’m happy with the dream I had. I’ve dreamt about my patron saint and she was smiling to me.”

I was drinking coffee when the fighting started. I picked up my machine gun and there we went to the front. I arrived at the top of La Couture, but only one soldier had accompanied me. His nickname – they called him – was “Malha Vacas”. There we were, behind a house that was burning. Everything was on fire. To that soldier I said: “Look, Malha Vacas, our battalion has ran away. Let’s get out of here. Poor fella, barely run. He had moved about 10 meters when a grenade hit him and pulverised him. I kept on running. I entered the shelter and saw no one. I could only see fire around me.

Later, the Germans started advancing over the fields of La Couture. The fields were crowded with people. On the front line they came dressed as Portuguese. They had captured our soldiers and were using their uniforms. As I wasn’t sure, and I had seen five Scots, I went to ask them to do some reconnaissance. Then I ran back to the shelter. When I arrived, the soldiers already were at the top of La Couture, on motorcycles and with tall helmets. Then I was sure they were German. I opened fire and the invaders fell. An hour later another invasion. Again I opened fire, before they could even reach their previous position. A machine gun fires a lot. But later, another invasion came. It wasn’t as big. I cut it down too. I didn’t see Germans after that.
He survived the war and lived, mostly in poverty, until 1970.

As usual, most nations never rise to the level of service to their people that their people willingly provide to it.

Fullbore.

Just a little side note to Portugal in WWI. 

Though she only lost 7,222 in combat, almost 82,000 civilians died due to malnutrition and disease during the war related to the breakdown of trade. When you roll in the civilian deaths, she lost ~1.5% of her population during the war.

The USA? 0.13%.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

I wish everyone a great Thanksgiving

I am blessed that I am with family and friends. For those who aren't, you will be again before you know it.

When you are, remember Joan's party secret.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Second Thoughts on the Third Offset

I think we overestimate ourselves and underestimate potential adversaries.

I'm pondering over at USNIBlog.

Come on by!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Dangers of Going Half-Brained and Whole Hog on STEM

I'm not sure how many of you had a chance to check out the recent CSIS panel that touched on introducing STEM into JPME. I'll embed the video at the bottom of the post.

Really? As if we don't have enough of a bias towards technology?

Not only does it tie in to the conversation we had Sunday on Midrats on Making a Better War College, it had me thinking of John Naughton's article in The Guardian, How a half-educated tech elite delivered us into chaos.

In part;

It never seems to have occurred to them that their advertising engines could also be used to deliver precisely targeted ideological and political messages to voters. Hence the obvious question: how could such smart people be so stupid? The cynical answer is they knew about the potential dark side all along and didn’t care, because to acknowledge it might have undermined the aforementioned licences to print money. Which is another way of saying that most tech leaders are sociopaths. Personally I think that’s unlikely, although among their number are some very peculiar characters: one thinks, for example, of Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel – Trump’s favourite techie; and Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.

So what else could explain the astonishing naivety of the tech crowd? My hunch is it has something to do with their educational backgrounds. Take the Google co-founders. Sergey Brin studied mathematics and computer science. His partner, Larry Page, studied engineering and computer science. Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard, where he was studying psychology and computer science, but seems to have been more interested in the latter.

Now mathematics, engineering and computer science are wonderful disciplines – intellectually demanding and fulfilling. And they are economically vital for any advanced society. But mastering them teaches students very little about society or history – or indeed about human nature. As a consequence, the new masters of our universe are people who are essentially only half-educated. They have had no exposure to the humanities or the social sciences, the academic disciplines that aim to provide some understanding of how society works, of history and of the roles that beliefs, philosophies, laws, norms, religion and customs play in the evolution of human culture.

We are now beginning to see the consequences of the dominance of this half-educated elite. As one perceptive observer Bob O’Donnell puts it, “a liberal arts major familiar with works like Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, or even the work of ancient Greek historians, might have been able to recognise much sooner the potential for the ‘tyranny of the majority’ or other disconcerting sociological phenomena that are embedded into the very nature of today’s social media platforms. While seemingly democratic at a superficial level, a system in which the lack of structure means that all voices carry equal weight, and yet popularity, not experience or intelligence, actually drives influence, is clearly in need of more refinement and thought than it was first given.”

Monday, November 20, 2017

SUBLOST: All Hands to Argentina

There was a huge drama unfolding off Argentina over the weekend with the loss of Argentina's 32-yr old TR-1700 Class conventional submarine ARA SAN JUAN.

The immediate response you saw from other navies the world over is a reminder of a tradition almost universal in the common culture of all professional mariners; the past does not matter, the cause does not matter; friend, neighbor, stranger, or even actual or potential enemy does not matter - helping fellow mariners in distress are your #1 priority.

Argentina's friends, neighbors, and even the nation they recently fought a war against are all doing what they can, and sending what they have to help find the SAN JUAN, and hopefully bring her crew to safety.
A U.S. Navy rescue crew from San Diego has joined the international search effort for a Argentine submarine and its 44 crew members missing for several days beneath the stormy southern Atlantic Ocean.

Navy sailors with Undersea Rescue Command (URC) departed Miramar Saturday with a Submarine Rescue Chamber (SRC) and four aircraft, en route to where the ARA San Juan lost contact with the Argentine Navy Wednesday.
...
... highly trained American sailors will employ advanced technology on the Submarine Rescue Chamber, or SRC, which has already been in touch with the family members of the 44 on board, and will utilize an underwater system called Remotely Operated Vehicle, or ROV. It can climb down to depths of 850-feet and pull to safety "up to six persons at a time," the Pentagon officials said.

The sailors will also be relying on Pressurized Rescue Module, or PRM, which can rescue "up to 16 personnel at a time ... by sealing over the submarine's hatch allowing sailors to safely transfer to the recuse chamber," according to officials.

The American reinforcements will join the Navy's P-8A Poseidon multi-mission maritime aircraft and a NASA P-3 research aircraft that have been assisting the ongoing search for the ARA San Juan,
The weather in the South Atlantic is being what it is, horrible;
The best-case scenario, according to some experts, was that the submarine’s communications gear malfunctioned — perhaps as a result of a fire or flood — but that it did not lose the ability to navigate. Working against that theory is the fact that the submarine was due to arrive at its home port here on Sunday.

“It’s grim,” said Capt. Richard Bryant, a retired United States Navy submarine commander. “It implies that the ship is either on the surface without the ability to use its propulsion or that the ship is submerged.”

The first of those possibilities is deeply concerning, but not hopeless, according to experts. Given the stormy conditions, the crew is in significant peril if the vessel is being whiplashed.

The grimmest alternative is that the submarine sank as a result of a catastrophic event such as an explosion or fire. If the crew survived such an event, those onboard could conceivably have enough oxygen for several days after it went under, according to an Argentine Navy official who was not authorized to speak on the record.

If it is flailing on the surface, and the crew manages to weather the storm, the sailors would have enough fresh water and food to last for about 25 days, the official said.

The growing concern on Sunday was fueled by the fact that the crew had not activated emergency beacons that are standard in commercial and military vessels.

“The fact that we haven’t had communication for so long, that it didn’t show up at port as expected, and the fact that at least the initial search effort hasn’t found anything yet all point to the fact that the submarine may well unfortunately have been lost,” Captain Bryant said.
...
"We have 11 ships from the Argentine navy, from municipalities, and from countries that have collaborated with research ships such as Uruguay, Chile, Brazil, Peru, the United States, and (the UK).

"These ships are following the submarine's planned route, (and are) sweeping the whole area and we also have navy ships sweeping from north to south and from south to north."
...
Among those missing is Argentine Eliana Krawczyk - who became the first female South American submariner.
...
The Royal Navy is now flying in its elite Submarine Parachute Assistance Group (SPAG) to help locate the sub and the 44 people on board.

The team of medics, engineers and escape specialists will join the US in the search as offers of help also rolled in from Chile, Uruguay, Peru and Brazil.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Making a Better War College, on Midrats



What is the best way to hone the intellectual edge of the officers who will lead our Navy? How do we gather our best minds and ideas together to best prepare our Navy for the next war?

How is our constellation of war colleges structured, how did it get to where it is today, and how do we modernize it to meet todays challenges?

We've put together a small panel on Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern to address this and related issues with returning guests Dr. James Holmes and Dr. John Kuehn.

Dr. Holmes is a professor of strategy and former visiting professor of national security affairs at the Naval War College. A former U.S. Navy surface-warfare officer and combat veteran of the first Gulf War, he served as a weapons and engineering officer in the battleship Wisconsin, engineering and firefighting instructor at the Surface Warfare Officers School Command, and military professor of strategy at the Naval War College. He was the last gunnery officer to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger.

Dr. Kuehn is the past General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer in EP-3s and ES-3s. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008) and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco, as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

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, November 17, 2017

Fullbore Friday

Captain Hudner passed this week. In his honor, a replay FbF from 2010.


Of course, you know who is today's FbF. Who else? It is EagleOne and my guest on Midrats this Sunday at 5pm EST - CAPT Thomas J. Hudner Jr., USN (Ret). I'm going to steal this from my bud Stephen at AcePilots ... but I don't think he will mind.
Flying one thousand feet above the icy Korean mountains, the Corsair's engine cut out. At such a low altitude, the pilot, US Navy Ensign Jesse Brown, couldn't bail out or clear the mountain. He spotted an opening that looked more or less flat, and in any case, it was his only choice. A wheels up, dead stick landing. The Navy's first African American aviator probably thought that he had been through worse than this, being hazed and harassed throughout his pioneering Naval career.

The F4U went down heavily and smashed into the rough terrain, folding up at the cockpit. Sliding through the deep snow, the big fighter started smoking immediately.

Lt. (Jg) Thomas Hudner and the other VF-32 pilots studied the situation on the ground as they circled overhead. This close to the
Chosin Reservoir, Chinese Communist soldiers would be along soon. The crashed and burning aircraft was a hopeless wreck. At first the Navy fliers thought that Ensign Brown was dead. Then his wingman and roommate, Lt. William H. Koenig, noticed Brown waving to them through the open canopy of his Corsair (Bureau # 97231). A rugged, prop-driven, big-nosed WWII design, the Chance Vought F4U normally could take a lot of damage. On this day, 4 December 1950, Brown had been tragically unlucky; some North Korean flak gunner had hit the plane in a vulnerable spot.

Flight Leader Richard L. Cevoli radioed "Mayday" and called for helicopter rescue. A Sikorsky HO3S helicopter was dispatched, but would take at least 15 minutes to reach the stricken flier. Lt. Hudner looked down at his friend and flying mate. He promptly decided to go down and try to pull Brown out the smoldering aircraft. Hopefully, both pilots could then escape on the chopper.

Hudner made one more tree-top pass and dumped his remaining fuel and ordnance. He dropped flaps and tailhook, and thumped the Corsair onto the ground. He hit a lot harder than he had expected. At 6,000 feet above sea level, the Corsairs' air speed indicator had understated the actual speed. Hudner began to wonder if this had been such a good idea.

"I knew what I had to do," said Hudner in an interview by Frank Geary, for Jax Air News, the Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla., base newspaper. "I was not going to leave him down there for the Chinese. Besides, it was 30 degrees below zero on that slope, and he was a fellow aviator. My association with the Marines had rubbed off on me. They don't leave wounded Marines behind."
Hudner tightened his harness and, with his wheels up, set his Corsair down onto the snow and rocks some 100 yards from Brown's smoking aircraft. "He was alive, but barely, when I got onto his wing and tried to lift him out of the cockpit. But his right leg was crushed and entangled in metal and instruments. I hurried back and requested a rescue helo, making sure it would bring an ax and a fire extinguisher. When I got back to Brown, I began packing snow around the smoking cowling.
"When a two-man Marine helicopter arrived with only its pilot, the ax he carried proved useless in our efforts to hack away the metal entrapping Brown's leg. He was going in and out of consciousness and losing blood. "The helo pilot and I, in our emotion and panic, and with the light of day fading, discussed using a knife to cut off Jesse's entrapped leg. Neither of us really could have done it, and it was obvious Jesse was dying. He was beyond help at that point. The helo pilot said we had to leave. Darkness was setting in and we'd never get out after dark," said Hudner. "We had no choice but to leave him. I was devastated emotionally. In those seconds of our indecision, Jesse died."
'Nuff said. More over at AcePilots.

First posted May 2010.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

You know what our Army needs? More Mannings and Bergdahls

As if those two guys weren't enough of a data point that perhaps they should focus on intake quality;
People with a history of “self-mutilation,” bipolar disorder, depression and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August, according to documents obtained by USA TODAY.

The decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions comes as the service faces the challenging goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers through September 2018. To meet last year's goal of 69,000, the Army accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.
...
“The decision was primarily due to the increased availability of medical records and other data which is now more readily available,” Taylor's statement to USA TODAY said. “These records allow Army officials to better document applicant medical histories.”
...
While bipolar disorder can be kept under control with medication, self-mutilation _ where people slashing their skin with sharp instruments _ may signal deeper mental health issues, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, which is published by the American Psychiatric Association.

If self-mutilation occurs in a military setting, Cameron Ritchie said, it could be disruptive for a unit. A soldier slashing his or her own skin could result in blood on the floor, the assumption of a suicide attempt and the potential need for medical evacuation from a war zone or other austere place.
That is the least of the problems they can make.

I don't know about you, but I would rather be in a 80% manned unit, than a 100% manned unit loaded with 20% administrative burdens. Heck, make that 80% to 85% even ... or 80% to 81% ... you get the idea.

You are always going to have problems with people. They can be fragile and imperfect ... but in the name of all that is holy would you inject that problem in to the system from the start ... with full knowledge?

I think we have lost the bubble on avoiding administrative burdens.

This kind of burns my hide a bit. What this does is let the recruiters make their metrics, but at the cost of pushing the problems down the line to be dealt with, fixed, or consequences suffered by the operational side of the house.

"Hey look!" they'll say, "Look at all the high ASVAB scoring recruits we brought in!" 

Then you look at the details, "...but many have significant mental health issues. You're bringing in damaged smart people."

"...but, look at their numbers! Now, give me my Army Comm for the month. Let someone else worry about TS-SCI access, combat stress, and access to the most powerful conventional weapons on the planet."

Monday, November 13, 2017

OHP's 2nd Life: The Sins of the Past Haunt the Present and Weaken the Future

For those familiar with what condition the SPRU were in when we started sinking them, and the neglect the last serving OHPs received in their last few years, there was always a little something haunting the back of our minds when the idea was floated to bring them back. That little something was that unless the Navy played against type - there was little to any way we would see them back in a usable form after being run so hard and put up so wet.

So, we have a perfect set-up for the Potomac Flotilla's 5-Step Faint-Bluff-Cover-Run CONOPS:

1. If we were going to do things right, it is not going to be cheap. 
2. As Big Navy does not want them back, they will not low-ball the estimates. 
3. When everyone balks at the estimate, Big Navy will offer the minimum-capability cheap option.
4. The minimum-capability cheap option will then be evaluated, naturally, as not really worth the bother.
5. Big Navy can then do with the money what they wanted to do in the first place.

We saw Step-3 when SECNAV Spencer floated a bit about bringing them back in their self-propelled 76mm gun with attack helo-pad form, but that is not all that usable, unlike other modernization options. Less expensive, but you get what you pay for.

It looks like we are somewhere between Step 4 & 5 now. Big Navy is going to win this argument;
A single-page internal memo, which was circulated in the Chief of Naval Operations office in October, estimated the Navy would have to spend at least $432 million per ship over the decade of service, a figure that well exceeds the cost of one brand new littoral combat ship.

A second October memo described to Defense News said that of the 10 frigates left for recommissioning, two are reserved for foreign sales, one isn’t seaworthy, and the remaining seven would still cost more than $3 billion to bring back.

The paper instead recommends putting the money toward destroyer and cruiser modernization, as well as littoral combat ship procurement and development of the next-generation guided-missile frigate now in development.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Fullbore Friday

As the lead-up to Veterans Day also happens to be the USMC Birthday on FbF ... of course we have to have a certain focus today.

Every day, American's men and women are serving in places no one knows about, cares about, or even if they did - have any clue why they are there and why what they are doing is important.

Today I ask you to give a nod to our Marines in Anbar.

For you listeners to Midrats, you'll recognize their leader.

Susannah George of AP reports; over to you;
The US-led coalition’s newest outpost in the fight against the Islamic State group is in a dusty corner of western Iraq near the border with Syria. Here, several hundred American Marines operate close to the battlefront, a key factor in the recent series of swift victories against the extremists.
...
Under a plastic tent, the Marines run an austere joint command center about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the border. A dozen monitors relay surveillance footage and troop positions in the town of Qaim nearby. Using racks of radio and satellite equipment, the coalition forces and Iraqi officers at the base pass information between forces on the ground and al-Asad air base, the coalition’s main base in Anbar province some 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the east.

Such outposts have become more common the past year, bringing the Americans out of main bases and closer to the action. U.S. commanders say the tactic has paid off in the swift rollback of the Islamic State group.
...
U.S. Marines Col. Seth W. B. Folsom, commander of Task Force Lion, oversaw the Qaim fight and said he expects clearing and holding the retaken territory in Anbar to be more difficult than the assault itself.

“It’s much more challenging, no doubt in my mind it’s more challenging,” he said. Motivating troops to attack to regain their country is easy, he said. “What’s less easy to motivate men to do, is to stand duty on checkpoints.”
...
“Anbar is the far reaches of Iraq,” said Col. Folsom. “The challenge that we’ve got here that they have not had as much up in the north is really just the tyranny of distance.”
...
Col. Folsom said he hoped within the next year Iraqi forces would be able to hold the western edge of Anbar on their own and coalition forces can fall back to al-Asad air base.

“We have to find some sort of sustainable presence,” he said. “What that will look like, I don’t know. There may still be some commuting to work in one way or another.”
Best to you and your Marines Seth.

You can listen to our interview with Seth about his previous book, Where Youth and Laughter Go, below.



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Are we holding the right people accountable?

Our friend Mike Junge, CAPT USN doesn't think we are.

I'm pondering his ideas over at USNIBlog.

Come on by and give it a read.

Trumpism Without Trump? No. Trumpism-Light Without Hillary

Give a nod to Virginia Democrats. They had an exceptional get out the vote effort, were jazzed to get to the voting booth, and had a smart top of the ticket that jinked towards the center to bring in the big squishy middle.

Poor Ed Gillespie. Ed is a good guy and would have been a fine Governor. Why he picked 2017 to make a run? Who knows. It was a low-probability voyage of the damned the day a year ago that Trump won.

As I remain in many respects a Party unto myself – and not a Virginian – I’ve watched this race with a detached and neglected curiosity, mostly to see what kind of wreck it will be.

Between twitter and what few minutes of “the shows” I’ve been able to stomach, I’ve found the spin and hot takes to be less than convincing on both sides.

I do think there are some important lessons that both Democrats and Republicans should ponder.

1. Ed is about as establishment GOP (not that there is anything wrong with that) as you can get. He was never going to excite the Trump base to turn in numbers in the hinterlands as great as the pent-up frustrated Democrats within commuting distance of DC wanted to come out and rage-vote.

2. Ralph Northam is a good politician who offered an opportunity for the (D) to get a 1 in the “Win” column with style. He was always the favorite to win, and by shifting towards the right to even center-right in the general, he broadened his spread.

3. The pummeling the VA GOP got was well deserved and should be of no surprise. So much of it comes from the general confusion in the GOP establishment that is directly responsible for Trump being elected.

Let me take a bit to flesh-out that last bit, as it applies to the nation as a whole, and a bit to VA.

Exhibit A is Reince Priebus. He exercised even less control of the 2016 primary process than he did in his shambolic and abbreviated tour as Trump’s Chief of Staff. He allowed a huge clown car of Republicans to run and suck the oxygen out of the room, divide blocks, and created an opening for a neglected and scorned part of the GOP coalition to cleave almost in whole away from the rest the pack to Trump.

While Trump cultivated the part of the Republican Party that the establishment constantly took for granted – those who each election played Charlie Brown to the GOPe Lucy – those told to shut up and vote for the nominee given to them – the rest fed on each other.

Jeb! and his Alfrid Lickspittlesque partner Mike Murphy engaged over $100 million in a selfish personal vendetta against Marco Rubio from one side, while the unelectable Chris Christie came at him from the other. The professionals joined with the unelectable to eliminate the plausible, as the picayune egoists allowed to clutter the stage scampered about throwing glitter and smoke in the air. Ted Cruz? He was as confused as everyone else, and as he tried to position himself as best he could in the chaos, the table was already set.

As I mentioned as far back as 2015, Trump’s personality is exactly what he is; a New York City real estate developer. It isn’t a show, it just is. As the established coalition partners in the Republican Party were having slap fights over who was more entitled to what – Trump consolidated the neglected and scorned portions of the Republican Party together, welding them to him by constantly reassuring them he would not leave them.

How could a life-long Democrat, Clinton supporting, abrasive, womanizing, gun control supporting, single payer healthcare, crass Yankee get Evangelicals, gun owners, honor bound Southerners, nice Midwesterners and others to support him?

One person; Hillary Rodham Clinton. More and more people began to see that only one thing kept HRC away from the levers of power she lusted after. Sadly, that became DJT. Reince did not have the balls of Debbie Wasserman-Schultz to do what needed to be done – so Trump hijacked the Republican Party.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The Republicans, on paper, have never been stronger – but there is a problem. That problem is Trump. He is toxic.

Yes, he as strong support, but 1/3 does not give you 50.1%. There are a lot of people who did not vote for DJT, but against HRC. That bolt is shot.

The HRC dragon has been slain. That motivation is no longer there. Without it, there is DJT standing in the light. He is not an attractive figure for many that voted for him simply to keep HRC away from power.

Anti-HRC enthusiasm is gone.

The standard Conservative message is good – but it needs to get out from Trump’s shadow to survive.

There is no Trumpism, there is only Trump. Some of those specific issues that gained him legitimacy; anti-sanctuary cities and respect for our history for example, are issues that the Democrats adopted to win in VA.

Trumpism is Trump. The Republican Party cannot be Trump, because when he goes, so will the Party if they are yoked to him. Trumpism is a dead end.

The Democrats know this better than the Republicans, I think – or just have an easier job. They are going to continue to push (R) towards DJT to keep his stink on them. They don’t need Trumps 33.3%. They just need some of the other 16.8%+.

What they need to do is to not just capture some of that 16.8%, they need to depress and de-motivate the Trump base before the Republicans find a way to re-motivate them in a post-Trump world.

The Democrats are in the process of cutting the last strings to the Clintons. This will open all sorts of doors to them – and will remove a not insignificant motivation for Republicans that has powered many of for decades.

The Republicans need to regain the respect of the parts of their coalition that is loyal to Trump. They don’t need to be Trump – they just need to do show some respect for all parts of their Party. They also need to realize that they need to absolutely avoid the most toxic parts of Trumpism as it will kill them.

Can they do that? I don’t know. My inner-Eeyore thinks not in time. The Republicans will pay a price for having a NYC Democrat populist at the top of their ticket. How big will the price be? We’ll see.

There is great opportunity here for those who are fighting the good fight inside the Republican Party. As Trumpism takes its course, those who were steadfast yet out of the frag pattern will be able to step in and take power in the Party. Those who left or retreated from conservative principals by joining Democrats or fan-boi Trumpism? No. They will not be seen as part of the solution. There is not much time left to re-join the fight. Come back - we need 'ya.

A final note: no one born before 1963 should run for office as a Republican ever again. Those who are closest to the Reince/Mike Murphy part of the Party should be sent to lobbyist exile.