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.