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.