Monday, December 18, 2017

Squeezing Australia

As we wait for the big reveal on the National Security Strategy, I share the hope that Michael Allen has over at FP that we have a clear-headed view of how China will use its economic power;
China’s economic strategy extends far beyond domestic policies. In particular, its Belt and Road Initiative — potentially spanning some 60 countries — aims to exert greater Chinese political influence in and foster greater economic dependence among nations in its immediate neighborhood and beyond. Separately, China has demonstrated a penchant for using economic coercion in support of its political objectives, such as curtailing economic ties with South Korea over its deployment of a U.S. missile defense system.

The Trump administration is correctly elevating Chinese economic practices as a national security issue. To build on the NSS, President Trump should build a framework through which to respond to a direct challenge from China and employ a broad array of national instruments. Use of traditional tools alone, such as instituting tariffs and blocking foreign direct investment, are not commensurate to the challenge and may harm U.S. business. Washington must improve intelligence to understand the magnitude of the problem, pursue sustained diplomacy, and generate economic defense plans in regions where China seeks predominance.
This is already happening, especially for those nations up close and personal to China, and a close ally of ours is a perfect example.

The Chinese are not being shy about wanting to put pressure on one of their raw material suppliers like Australia who are being difficult.

They are not above trying to corrupt any political system to their gain. Via FT;
The resignation of Sam Dastyari, a rising opposition star, follows the publication last week of tough legislation aimed at cracking down on espionage and covert attempts by foreign entities to influence Australian politics and society.

“After much reflection, I’ve decided that the best service I can render to the federal parliamentary Labor party is to not return to the Senate in 2018,” said Mr Dastyari, a 34-year-old senator and the first person of Iranian origin to sit in Australia’s parliament.
Subsequent leaks to the media included claims that Mr Dastyari warned Chinese donor Huang Xiangmo, founder of Shenzhen-based property company Yuhu Group, that his phone was being tapped by intelligence officials.

Although Mr Dastyari denied the claim, he became the focus of attacks by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, who alleged the senator was “putting at risk the security of our nation”.

“Here’s the question for Sam Dastyari: Whose side are you on? Why are you giving counter-surveillance advice to a foreign national closely linked to a foreign government?” said Mr Turnbull recently.
Clive Hamilton, professor at Charles Sturt University, said Beijing had targeted the Labor, Liberal and National parties in Australia with donations in an attempt to win influence.

“This is not about ideology, it is about influence,” he said. “But the new legislation published by the Australian government shows they are getting tougher on PRC influence operations.”

In Australia both the main political parties — Labor and the Liberals — have accepted at least A$6.7m ($5m) in political donations from companies with alleged links to the Chinese state.

Both Mr Turnbull and Bill Shorten, Labor party leader, have been photographed with Mr Huang, who until recently was chairman of the Australian Council for the Peaceful Reunification of China, a body academics allege has close ties to Beijing’s propaganda division.
And they don't want Australia fiddling in their backyard;
Taiwanese daily China Times reported Friday Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy commander Shen Jinlong met with Australian Vice Admiral Tim Barrett, and told Barrett the drills were not in line with promoting peace and stability in the region.

China's admonishment of the Australian navy comes as a year of heightened tensions draws to a close, owing to perceptions in Australia Beijing is buying influence among politicians in Canberra.

According to Chinese state tabloid Global Times, Shen specifically said the presence of 1,200 Australian servicemen aboard six naval vessels during a drill in September 2017 had stoked concerns in Beijing.

China, meanwhile, has not stopped building sophisticated military facilities on reclaimed islands in the South China Sea.

According to AMTI, China has enjoyed a "constructive year" in base building, as the United States has taken a less critical approach to Beijing's activities in the maritime region in 2017.
With each year, China will assert herself against those she believes should accept their client role.

I don't think she will find it all that easy. With a NSS properly informed by this reality, we should be positioned to help back up front-line nations as they strive to maintain their independence from Chinese influence.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Year End Midrats Extravaganza!

Come join us live this Sunday from 5-6pm as we wind up our 7th year of Midrats. 

Just EagleOne and me covering WestPac to the former Caliphate; South China Sea to Sub-Saharan Africa; from LCS to our new SSN - plus anything else that pops in our head.

As always, our listeners are welcome to call in or ask us questions from the chatroom as look back at the year - and give a few ideas for what we see coming in 2018.

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 15, 2017

Fullbore Friday

One of my favorite FbF from the archive. Enjoy it again - but make sure and go to the bottom of the post for an update that includes video from the recent movie, The King's Choice.

The war is about to begin. You are in command of your Navy's newest ship and are leading the attack on another nation's capital. Decades before others thought they had discovered such concepts as "Shock and Awe" and "Decaptitation Strikes" - you are on the tip of the spear of an attack that will seize the Head of State of the target nation before they even have a chance to resist.

Your opposition? A weak nation with a weak military - a nation you hold in contempt as the arrogance of their self-declared neutrality has lulled them into thinking they were beyond the reach of the most feared warriors the world has ever known. 
They are so weak that you are sailing right into their nation's capital. The only thing they oppose you with are obsolete, static defenses that even your Grandfather would dismiss. It is a great day for Victory.

Will your nation be able to stay out of this war? Which side will try to seize your capital? Will they keep to themselves? Your nation just wants to be left out of everyone else's wars. We have no claim on anyone's land or treasure. We insult no one. We just want to be left alone. 

You are old - well past you life expectancy. When you started your service, most ships were just getting steel warships, there were no cars, trains were a rare treat - and the only things that flew flapped their wings.

Your command is over a hundred years old, your weapons are older than the fathers of the raw recruits you have running around your battlements. Your main guns are 50 years old.

This is your Command though - your young sailors make up for their lack of experience by the bravery that comes from bravado and ignorance. That will be good enough.
 You have one trick though. One thing the enemy, whoever they are, do not know about. Thing is, your "secret weapon" is 40 years old. You feel old; but heck your secret weapons once belonged to an Empire that no longer exists - but that's OK - your people are known for keeping their equipment in good shape. You are worried. Even though the officer in charge of your secret weapon is out sick, you had a small boat pick up a retired Commander who, 31 years ago, once worked with them. He showed up last night. He will have to do - even though he looks like a museum ship in his old, ill-fitting uniform.

Sigh, you go to war with what you have - not what you wish you had.
You have no orders.

The approaching naval force already had forced their way past the outer forts and had received both warning shots and live rounds. As the vessels continue towards the capital, you make a decision; you consider them enemy warships and will engage them as such. Knowing your job, you turn to your men and state;

"Either we will become heroes or we will be court-martialled. Let's just do our duty for our country."
And so, it starts.
The total German naval attack comprised 1 heavy, 1 armoured and 1 light cruiser, 14 destroyers, 14 torpedo boats and miners and 41 freighters and tankers.

Hitler's planned to take the Norwegians by surprise and forcing them to surrender within hours (like he did in Denmark). But the first surprise he encountered was when the pride of his Navy, the brand new heavy cruiser "Blücher" - that was to spearhead the surprise attack on the nation's capital - at 4 AM, at full speed, no lights.
The heavy cruiser Blücher now moved slowly with darkened lanterns towards the old fortress built in 1847, obviously believing they could just sneak past. Erichsen stood at the main battery with his men to demonstrate that he as the boss was in the front line. As the German ships appeared from the darkness and morning fog, the loomed like giants ahead. A nervous, newly graduated lieutenant fiddled with the range finder and reported, "Distance 3,000 meter". "Nonsense!", Erichsen grumbled and shouted, "Distance 1,200 meter - Gun no. 1, Fire!" He never calculated to get off more than two shots with the museum-aged guns and his untrained men (some of them were the cooks!), so he had to get a hit!By sheer luck, the first 28-cm shell hit the Blücher's forward gunnery control station, effectively disabling the ship's forward guns. The second main battery round hit the aircraft hangar, destroying the ship's Arado Ar 196 reconnaissance seaplanes and igniting aviation fuel and infantry munitions stored on deck. There was only time for the main battery to fire these two rounds, due to their slow reload time. After losing its fire control system the Blücher was rendered unable to effectively respond to the fortress' bombardment. Blucher's main 20,3 cm guns never opened fire.

While fire was raging aboard the Blücher, the secondary Norwegian coastal batteries pelted her with guns ranging in calibre from the two small 57 millimetre pieces at Husvik, designed to protect the fortress' missing naval mine barrier, to the three 15-cm guns of the Kopås battery on the eastern side of the fjord. The larger guns wrought havoc on board the cruiser while the 57-mm guns were successful in suppressing the fire from her light artillery as the Blücher slowly slid past the fortress. All in all thirteen 15-cm rounds and about thirty 57-mm shells hit the German cruiser as it passed the guns of the fortress' secondary batteries.

After passing the line of fire of the fortress' gun batteries the cruiser was burning and severely damaged, but its captain still had hope of being able to save his ship. At this point, however, the Blücher entered the sights of Kommandørkaptein Anderssen and two of his three torpedo tubes at a range of only 500 meters. The torpedoes the retired officer was aiming at the pride of the Kriegsmarine were 40-year-old Whitehead weapons of Austro-Hungarian manufacture. These torpedoes had been practice-launched well over 200 times before being fired in anger, and no-one was certain if they would function or not. As Kommandørkaptein Anderssen pushed the firing mechanism the weapons showed themselves to work perfectly, first one and then another torpedo raced out of their tube at three meters below the surface towards the ghastly-looking burning warship. The first torpedo hit near the Blücher's forward (Anton) turret, and the second in the engine room, leaving her drifting out of control in the narrow fjord. The third torpedo tube was left loaded in case more ships were to follow close behind Blücher. After firing the two other tubes were reloaded and readied for the next target.

With all engines knocked out by the second torpedo hit, the cruiser anchored near the Askholmene islets to try and fight the ferocious fires raging throughout the vessel. The Blücher's torpedoes were also fired against land to avoid them being brought to explosion by the uncontrolled fires aboard. The crew's struggle would still prove hopeless when the fires reached the midship ammunition hold for the 15-cm guns and a huge gap appeared in the ship's side.
At 06:22 a.m. the Blücher sank bow first into the depths of the Oslofjord, taking hundreds with it below. After the ship had disappeared from the surface large quantities of oil floated up and covered the close to two thousand sailors and soldiers fighting for their lives in the freezing water. This oil rapidly caught fire, killing further hundreds of Germans.

All in all, some 800–1000 Germans died, going down with the ship or burning or freezing to death in the fjord.
That is it. You have done what you could. But there is still work to do.
While the Blücher had been sunk the remaining naval force destined for Oslo had long since turned around and retreated back down the fjord. Not knowing of the torpedo battery, the commander of the Lützow assumed the flagship had hit mines and at 04:40 decided to turn back and land the invasion forces out of range of Oscarsborg.

Before the force made its escape the fortress had managed to damage the Lützow,the 15-cm guns of the Kopås battery scoring three hits and knocking out the ship's forward ("Anton") 28-cm gun turret. After pulling out of range of the fortress guns the Lützow employed her remaining "Bruno" turret to bombard the defenders from a range of 9-10 kilometers down the fjord. The fortress was also subjected to heavy Luftwaffe bombing later on the same day, to which the fortress could only reply with two 40-mm AA guns, but again without Norwegian casualties. One of the anti-aircraft guns became unserviceable after only 22 rounds; the other gun kept up its fire until 1200 hrs, but to little effect. After a break in the attacks the Luftwaffe bombers returned at 1330 hrs and soon strafed the remaining Norwegian AA gun, forcing the crew to seek shelter in the nearby forrest at around 1400 hrs. In all, the fortress was subjected to around nine hours of air attack.
But you know that it is far from over. Your nation is small and weak - there is much more coming.
Although the naval attack on Oslo had been thwarted by the actions of Oscarsborg, the city was seized by forces that was airlifted in to Fornebu Airport. In light of the capture of the capital, and with news of German landings at the village of Son south of Drøbak, Colonel Eriksen decided that further fighting without adequate infantry support was in vain. The fortress was surrendered intact on the morning of April 10.
So old man; what did you and your old equipment buy for all your efforts? How will history judge you?
The effect of halting the German fleet was huge. On board Blücher were troops specially designated to capture the King, the Norwegian government, the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) and the national gold reserve. The delay made it possible for all these to escape from Oslo. If the King and government had been captured, it is most likely that Norway would have capitulated fairly soon to reach a deal with the German similar to that gained by the Danes. Instead, the Storting was able to convene at Elverum and give the government a wide authorization to continue until a Storting could again assemble. In fact, the Norwegian government was able to continue the defense of Norway until it had to go into exile in London.
Never assume the "old" can be dismissed. Do not discount old officers and inexperienced men who are fighting in their home waters. Do not assume away challenges with fairy dust and hopes.The Norwegians during the Battle of Drøbak sound.Fullbore.

UPDATE: From the 2016 movie, The King's Choice;

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Diversity Thursday

After a few weeks respite from reporting on this sordid little corner of Cultural-Marxist sectarian, time to poke are head in and find something positive ... and there it is.

Rejoice dear hearts, Chief Gunner's Mate Kyle Shafer, USN picks up on a cornerstone theme from DivThu.

Though it may be behind the paywall, read it all in the latest edition of Proceedings. Here are the operative bits;
...the segregation of celebrations—which are intended to build unit cohesion—creates division.
Sailors spend a month segregating one group of people at the exclusion of all other races.
Segregating some Sailors from other Sailors for a month at a time multiple times a year has negative consequences by creating doubts, confusion, and division. Moving forward, the Navy should stop celebrating specific demographics. Sailors are first and foremost Americans. We are not black, white, Filipino, Mexican, male, female, Hispanic, Asian-Pacific Islanders; we all are simply Americans. The Navy needs to recognize Sailors as Sailors, and the colors blue and gold.
Amazing, but such talk is considered radical. It will get you called names, but I don't think the Chief cares.

He loves his Sailors all the same, as we all should. The only people who could object to his opinion are the usual suspects we find in the Navy's wing of the diversity industry; paycheck hunting rent-seekers, race baiting grievance mongers, and others who prosper personally, financially, politically, or psychologically by keeping people divided and at each others throats.

Still a disgrace that our Navy continues to support sectarianism and division - but as that kind of seething cannot survive the light of day and fresh air - give our Navy time.

It may not be tomorrow, next year, or next decade - but eventually we will show these agents of division the door.

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.

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.


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.


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.


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.