Wednesday, October 01, 2014

The USN and its History of Boatrocking

Intellectual churn. Creative destruction. Marketplace of ideas. Creative friction. Robust debate.

Is progress ever made in an organization whose leaders prescribe for others and have their own careers characterized by, "Shut up and color?"

Of course, the answer is and emphatic, "No." The lockstep and the yesman are characteristics of Soviets and late-period Ottomans - neither of which are a successful benchmark for success.

The members of the front porch are well aware that our modern Navy, with a few welcome exceptions, has not been the most open for debate - but I don't think there ever was a period that was a utopia of free thoughts. In many respects, free thought is not quite in line with the military mind - and depending on who owns paper on you and your career timing, trying to engage in a free discussion of ideas can end a career - but not always. That keeps many on the intellectual sidelines. It is getting better, but still too many remain in the shadows. 

As our friend LCDR BJ Armstrong, USN reminded us in the opening of his book 21st Century Mahan, it can work out for some;
“It is not the business of naval officers to write books.”
- Adm. F. M. Ramsey, USN in the 1893 FITREP of A.T. Mahan.
The last decade or so has been, at least from this blogg'r's perspective, a golden age for those interested in the free flow of idea and open debate on national security concerns. The Internet has not only open the doors to more voices, it has also allowed greater access to facts and ideas to the larger public and most importantly - has created a rather brutal but effective marketplace of idea where every concept, thought, theory, or claim is crowdsourced fact checked quickly and without quarter. 

This was enabled by technology, and the cycle time is very short - but is this something unique to our age? Are parallel efforts to the milblogosphere such as DEF et al something new, or just another iteration of a great tradition?

Our good friend Claude Berube points us in the direction to a great history of healthy debate in the latest edition of Naval History magazine, The Crucible of Enlightenment.
... an era of naval enlightenment blossomed during Andrew Jackson’s presidency from 1829 to 1837. This period of robust contemplation and debate is perhaps best embodied in the Naval Lyceum, an organization that would serve as a prototype for later naval intellectual forums.
The Naval Lyceum provided a home for naval reformers through a permanent, professional organization that could advance new concepts. 
This was not the first American attempt at a professional military organization. The U.S. Military Philosophical Society (1802–13) was established as the nation engaged in the First Barbary War. Its purpose was to collect and preserve military science from veterans of the American Revolution and share knowledge about warfare, primarily from an army perspective. The society’s members included the sitting president, Thomas Jefferson; Secretary of War Henry Dearborn; elected officials; and Army and Navy officers.
I don't think this point can be made too much - rocking the boat is exactly what our Navy's traditions demand; not mindless followership;
In the 1830s, publications began to be increasingly distributed to promote and share ideas. These platforms of free speech were integral to the officers’ reform movement. Until this time, articles about the Navy in journals—particularly by serving officers—appeared infrequently, and were usually simple accounts of naval actions or hagiographic biographical essays of early heroes. 

The rise of military-specific publications would change that. The Naval Lyceum published its own periodical, the Naval Magazine (1836–37), for two years. Others included The Military and Naval Magazine (1833­­–34), Army and Navy Chronicle (1835–44), and The Sailor’s Magazine (1829–1935). These publications would help stimulate intellectual debate about the Navy among officers and interested civilians. Secular journals also published a growing number of articles about the Navy and/or written by naval officers. 

These periodicals featured essays that covered topics as diverse as biography, emerging technologies, officer-penned travel notes about ports and countries, foreign naval capabilities, naval policies, and ideas for improving the Navy. In the Naval Magazine , for example, article titles included “Comparative Resources of the American Navy,” “A Pilot’s Story of a Shipwreck,” “History of Navigation,” “Hints on the Mineral Wealth of the United States, Suggested by the Recent Discovery of Diamonds,” “Malaria, Produced by Vegetable and Animal Putrefaction, as a Cause in Fever,” “Traits of the Mussulman,” “The Acropolis of Athens,” and “Remarks on Quarantine Systems.” 

Some debates on the subjects covered in these periodicals became extremely contentious, particularly when senior officers began to weigh in.
This final pull-quote is perhaps a bit self-serving - but as my email basket reflects - some "smart professionals" have no clue about their real historical heritage.

Anonoblogg'rs? Yes, it is old school;
These magazines provided junior officers a valuable opportunity to publicly engage with senior officers and citizens on topics they had begun to write about in their own private correspondence and journals. They typically did so under pen names (as did many civilians). This ensured that in the event of a contentious topic, the author’s privacy would be protected and the debate would be focused on the message rather than the messenger. Essays frequently appeared with the bylines of authors using only a letter: “C,” “D,” “M,” or “X,” for example. Others chose names or phrases such as “Coquille,” “Neptune,” “Candor,” or “A Friend of the Navy.” Had authors published under their own names, their naval careers could have suffered, and the public would have dismissed their concepts as those of inexperienced junior officers. When attributed to nameless, faceless entities, their messages could gain a wider audience. 

Pseudonyms were an effective means of challenging conventional thinking, but not all officers agreed with using them. One officer, ironically identified by the moniker “Writer,” wrote of the “odious system of anonymous communications. Fear of power originated it; fear of detection has continued it. . . . In the warfare of anonymous communications, we pierce the masque, without thought of the wound we inflict on him whom it conceals, but shelters not.”
Read it all.

So, in the likely event you find yourself working for someone who is a child of the Dark Ages and not the Enlightenment - perhaps keep your thoughts associated with your name close, but know this; you are in the right and fully in line with the "finest tradition of the naval service."

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Twilight of the Summer Moonbat

It has been awhile since we pointed out the bankrupt nature of the moonbat left. 

We have a good excuse thanks to Jim Geraghty's post last week at NRO, Funeral Services for the Anti-War Movement Will Be Held Next Week.
Born in 2002, the anti-war movement suffered ill health since 2009 & collapsed in front of the White House Tuesday.
You need to read the whole thing as he has some great links that flesh out the details ... including one of mine from 2011;
“There never was an anti-war movement. Deep down, I think – most of us knew that anyway. It was an anti-Bush movement. War had nothing to do with it – it was all about the Left finding a way to regain power.”

Monday, September 29, 2014

When Do Leaders Take the McMaster Option?

Guest posting over at Rick's blog at FP, Col. Gary Anderson, USMC (Ret.) lays out what many have been thinking about in the course of the last few weeks, Is it time for General Dempsey to resign?
In a telling study of the Vietnam War, H.R. McMaster, now an Army general officer himself, castigates the military general-officer class of that era for quietly carrying out orders that they knew to be wrong. 
In 2003, many generals strongly disagreed with President George W. Bush's decision to go to war with Iraq, but none resigned in protest. How does this happen? 
General officers have offered a number of rationalizations for lack of moral courage over the years. The most often heard is that they feel they feel compelled to stay on because only they can do the job and mitigate the worst of the senior leader's decision. 
This is tripe; no one is irreplaceable. I would bet that 80 percent of the serving military cannot remember who the last JCS chairman was.
One of the wisest words I ever heard was from a CO on my first sea tour,
Your are irreplaceable until you leave, then you are forgotten.
How true.

Easier said than done - but Anderson makes his case;
The reality is that the very private threat of a resignation might well change a bad policy. No president in his right mind wants to see the very public resignation of a top general on principle. If his policy fails, and the Islamic State strategy surely will, President Obama would alone shoulder the blame for the debacle. The threat of a resignation itself might cause the president to reconsider his ill-advised action in taking American troops in a ground role off the table. Rather than be remembered as the failed implementer of a strategy that he knew to be fatally flawed, Dempsey would be an example to generations of future West Point cadets as a soldier who put honor and professionalism above career concerns.
Resignation would have even greater impact if all of the joint chiefs ask for a closed-door meeting with the president The political and strategic miscalculations that led up to the rise of the Islamic State came because the president ignored the advice of his highest national-security advisors. General Dempsey could save the nation from further strategic folly and perhaps save this president from himself.
Is that the right thing to do? Would it be a net positive for the nation? Would it accomplish anything?

Only one person can make that call or decide if he needs to consider the McMaster Option: General Dempsey.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Sunday Funnies

Generally speaking, I've left President Obama's goofy Styrofoam salute alone ... but via TerminalLance, this is just too funny to ignore.

See them all, but here is my favorite.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Fullbore Friday

I was thinking this AM about a few things; those acts of valor that we never find out about for decades because of classification issues and bureaucratic inertia that keep them hidden for so long; lost causes fought well; and that spark in the best of men who give all they have for those they serve with.

In that light, a encore FbF that is well worth looking at again.

Eventually the truth always comes out.
Chief Master Sgt. Richard L. Etchberger, who was killed in action in 1968 in Laos, will posthumously be awarded the Medal of Honor on Sept. 21, the White House announced Friday.

Etchberger will be honored with the nation’s highest award for valor for his actions on March 11, 1968.

According to the announcement, Etchberger displayed “immeasurable courage and uncommon valor” when he deliberately exposed himself to enemy fire in order to place three surviving wounded comrades into rescue slings so they could be airlifted to safety. When it was his turn to be rescued, Etchberger was fatally wounded by enemy ground fire.
This all took place during the Battle of Lima Site 85.
An estimated 6-7 Battalions of PAVN/PL troops were assembled at the base of Site 85. General Vang Pao's troops were ineffective against this large enemy force, they were responsible for a 12 mile perimeter defense. During the enemy's advance on Phou Pha Thi, General Vang Pao's 700 troops could do nothing but harass the enemy. Site 85 even called in air support in its own defense, but it was not effective enough to deter the enemy's progress. To paraphrase Dr. Timothy Castle's outstanding book on this disaster, "One Day Too Long",... they waited "Two Days Too Long" to evacuate the personnel on Site 85.
This was the largest North Vietnamese offensive ever conducted in Laos. After seeing the radar image above, how could there have been any doubt that it was time to destroy the equipment and evacuate. The decision makers evidently did not have the whole story or 1) still considered Site 85 impregnable or 2) wanted to squeeze one more day of operations out of the Site. Considering the sizable enemy force assembled, helicopters should have been assigned and sitting on the ground at Site 85 for possible evacuation.
On March 11, 1968, the inevitable happened... three teams of PAVN commandos... under cover of darkness, scaled the cliffs of Phou Pha Thi. (There is also the theory that they came in through the South defensive gate because the CIA trained locals had abandoned it.) Against previously agreed upon terms, Major Richard Secord (now retired Major General Richard Secord and author of "Honored and Betrayed", Chapter 6 concerns Lima Site 85) provided M-16's, Grenades and a few hand weapons to the Site 85 personnel. The non-combat technicians were no match for the trained PAVN commandos.
More on the battle here and here.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The CINC ignoring military advice? It's a thing.

As many of you have heard, what we are doing right now in Iraq and Syria isn't in line with the best military advice our senior military advisors are gave to President Obama;
As he laid out his strategy to combat the Islamic State in both Iraq and Syria, President Obama rejected the “best military advice” of his top military commander in the Middle East.

Quoting two U.S. military officials, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), said “that his best military advice was to send a modest contingent of American troops, principally Special Operations forces, to advise and assist Iraqi army units in fighting the militants.”

Austin’s recommendation was taken to the White House by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey. The White House rejected CENTCOM’s “advise and assist” contingent due to concerns about placing U.S. ground forces in a frontline role.
This story has legs, and it keeps coming up in circulation - so it is perhaps time to roll it out to the front porch.

OK kiddy-poos, mark your calendar; this is where 'ole Sal comes to the defense of President Obama.

Here is the bottom line up front; he is the Commander in Chief. He was elected to this position and is trusted by the American people to make the call as he feels he should. He is not a rubber stamp on the uniformed leadership or the errand-boy of Congress.

From Abraham Lincoln (TDY), to George W. Bush (PBUH), Presidents have had to make the military call in opposition to what in hindsight was the wrong military advice.

I remember like it was yesterday;
Against the advice of both the ISG and the Joint Chiefs, he embraced a proposal to increase temporarily the number of American troops in Iraq to tamp down the violence. The decision marked his single hands-on intervention in the direction of the conflict.
In so far as the President has made a call that may or may not be at odds with the senior uniformed leadership; back off folks. He is well within his charter to do so.

The key will be if he is right or if he is wrong. History will decide that - and as we are trained to do, the military leadership whether they agree or not will do their best to make his decision a success. Also remember, if the senior leadership was always right, then we wouldn't have blueberry NWU and an all light attack airwing.

Critize the substance of the decision if you like, I will; but don't criticize his right - indeed his obligation - to make the call he did. If he is wrong, well, in the end it is really the American people's fault, they voted for him twice. Either way, the Republic will survive.

Diversity Thursday

So, on DivThu, if the "... head of diversity, inclusion and women’s policy for the U.S. Navy (who BTW is a CAPT (sel) and needs to update her linkedin profile) ..." has an article at WaPo titled; To keep up with 21st century threats, the military needs to modernize its hiring, should we Fisk it?

Why yes, we should.

But, first things first.

Unless something has changed recently such that the USN has not updated its innerwebs, there is no such thing as the "head of diversity, inclusion and women’s policy." There is OPNAV N134 that in theory is the Navy Office of Diversity and Inclusion - but their websites, as linked on their facebook page (that hasn't been touched since July) are all dead ends, and their official site hasn't been touched since April of 2013 and tells nothing of leadership - nor does their site that still has Admiral Harris as a 3-star. Their NPC site looks all of 1996, and their twitter account (both of them) are dead.

Perhaps she is running the Office of Women's Policy (OPNAV N134W) (no, I didn't make that 4-digit N-code up) But again, they are very poor about identifying who is in a leadership position only giving three LT's named Erin, Heidi, and Tawney (not very diverse) as staff members, and their brief is from March of 2013 without much mention of who is running the circus either.

Here's an idea, before our good O-6 to be starts coming up with such bang-up ideas about the future, perhaps she should first get her present day house in order. Yes, that is petty, but in 2014, one can't help oneself. 

Now that we have established how great the Diversity Bullies have their social media in order to the point they can pimp articles to WaPo, let's go.

By Renee J. Squier September 23 at 9:34 PM
The writer is head of diversity, inclusion and women’s policy for the U.S. Navy. The views expressed here are her own.
Cool. This writer thinks anyone who is a HR officer on active duty can express her own views, then so can he. Using the starting point that as a professional group, on balance the self-licking, Cultural Marxist, sectarian, non-value added Navy adjunct to the diversity industry do little more than sow derision in the ranks, promote their own self interest, and in general through the performance of their duties are prejudicial to good order and discipline - then we should not let them suffer the soft bigotry of low expectations. We should offer our constructive and not-so-constructive review of their ideas.

She didn't get to O-6 for nut'n, I'm sure she's fine with it. Nothing personal - I am sure we would get along swimmingly, but Squier's ideas .... well. Let's see what cuts the WaPo mustard.
If the United States were attacked again, the way it was at Pearl Harbor or on Sept. 11, would you step forward to serve in the military? If you’ve climbed any distance up the career ladder, the answer is probably no, because the military hires people almost exclusively at entry level, and signing up could severely diminish your pay and status.
Wow. Well, I served 21 years on active duty, so I get a check in that block. After both those attacks - especially Pearl Harbor - hundreds of thousands of people in their teens, twenties, thirties, forties, and more were directly commissioned for their skill sets - and enlisted if they met the physical requirements. Even more served as civilians. After 911, as needed, so did more people leave their lives behind to serve. "Pay and Status" were not their concern. I'm not sure what she is going for in this paragraph, but it sure gives some insight in to what this HR professional thinks about people's motivations ... and it is wide of the mark and ahistorical.
But what does that mean for the defense of our nation? 
The world is changing rapidly, with technology at the forefront. It once was possible to hire military personnel young and teach them to be experts in a single skill over a 20- to 30-year career. But today this approach isolates the military from society, limiting its expertise with cutting-edge technology and reducing the diversity of its thinking.
The strawmen cometh. That could have been written at any decade in living memory and beyond. I don't know of a single enlisted person or officer who spent "20-to-30 years" on a single skill. Shipmate .... you may have spent from what I see the last six years plus just doing HR - but in the Fleet, you are lucky if you do the same thing for one tour, much less a career.

Technological change was much greater from 1910 to 1950 than it has been from 1974 to 2014. It is simply temporal copernican narcissism to think that "all is new." As for "diversity of its thinking" - wouldn't a first step perhaps be to move away from the STEM bias ... but that is a different topic for a different day. Want to give people a few years for dedicated study at civilian institution or extended fellowships at civilian corporations? Yea, that is good ... but Squier isn't quite asking for that as I can tell.
Plus, in the past, people were our main source of power projection and had to be physically present at the battlefield in a fight. But this, too, has changed. Now we use missiles and drones to fight from a distance when possible. The need for skills beyond physical prowess has multiplied.
I'm sorry. The ICBM has been with us since, when, 1959? Drones have been in use for even longer. No transformational crisis there.

Oh, "physical prowess" .... mmmm .... a little motivational leg showing here. We shall keep an eye on that as we go further ....
The breakneck advance of technology is producing commensurate change in the threats we face. How can we keep up? The answer is to be just as innovative with our human resources strategy as we are with our weapons and tactics. We need new ways to recruit the best talent to defend our nation. The key is to modernize our core concept of an all-volunteer force to include lateral hiring.
"Breakneck?" Child please. There is that "transformational" don't-let-a-crisis-go-to-waste-if-we-don't-have-a-crisis-let's-play-pretend that has grown so shopworn.

From Libya to ISIS/L/Islamic State to Ukraine to the Taiwan Straights ... even throwing in cyber (just an extension of electromagnetic warfare) - just how have the threats changed?

Answer; they haven't. They only seem unusual if you have not been paying attention or only have a historical perspective the length of your conscience life.

Now we have her "it," the term "lateral hiring." Nice - not quite ready for bu11sh1t bingo, but we'll put in on the side of the page just in case.
When the all-volunteer force was formed in the 1970s, its structure reflected the common career arcs of the day, where many workers served a single employer their entire careers. Now, workers change jobs every few years, updating and improving their skills to stay current. The military hasn’t kept pace.
I will agree that we need to update our personnel system - something we spent an hour talking to VADM Moran about on Midrats - but again - our Sailors are changing jobs every few years as well ... so are our officers. OK, Staff types, ahem, may feel stuck on groundhog day, but line officers? Job stability, well ... that's cute. In the middle 10-yrs of my career, I had four distinctly different job responsibilities over five tours - three of which were sea tours. That's normal.
Suppose you could enlist at a rank reflecting your management experience or mastery of a valuable, high-level skill? And for a limited number of years? Would that make you more likely to answer the call to serve in an emergency? For large numbers of patriotic Americans, I think it would.
Sure, I can imagine it ... because I've seen it with some, ahem, Staff positions. I have also seen this ... wait for it ... BY TAPPING IN TO THE FRACKING RESERVES FOR RECALL TO ACTIVE DUTY.

For the love of Pete ... could it be any clearer? But, I'm getting distracted by the shiny light on the wall ... back to the topic.

I would like an example exactly who in WWII or in the post 911 world we could not bring in to the fight? Examples please; UIC and BSC would be nice, but I'll take NECC or designators if possible. This general statement is just so much fried air.
There are many advantages to this approach. Although boot camp or officer candidate school would still be required to acclimate enlistees to the unique culture of the military, lateral hiring would significantly reduce the time needed to “create” effective leaders. 
(1) Officers are not enlistees. (2) I don't see how lateral hiring would have anything to do about "creating" effective leaders. Positional authority is not the same as being an effective leader.
It would also ease budgetary pressures by enabling the United States to maintain a smaller standing military, since it would be much easier to rapidly increase numbers across all ranks in a crisis. There would still be career military members, but they would be fewer and less likely to have served continuously. Instead, they would move more freely between the military and private industry.
OK, once again we are talking ABOUT THE FRACKING RESERVES. Renee, you are hurting my head.
The biggest impediment would be cultural. Some will say that lateral hiring would dilute the quality and prestige of the services, or that competition with “outsiders” for promotions would be unfair to those working their way up the ranks. 
Way too many generalities. Again, it depends on the specifics of the job. If you are a cardiologist who is less than a decade out of med school as a LCDR and the head of cardiology from Harvard Medical School came in at age 55 as a CAPT - I don't think you'd have an issue.

If on the other hand, you are a LCDR F-18 pilot with 3,000 hrs and a tour as a FRS instructor and then a 737 pilot is coming in to be your CO after just getting his safe-to-solo flight ... then sure ... there might be issues ... especially when that 737 pilot took a command slot away from a newly minted pilot with 4,000 hours and multiple combat tours.

How about a "lateral hiring" in to a SEAL team? Make a UFC champion a Chief and put him on a team ahead of others who have been on teams for 15 years?

Yes, I know - that is all rather silly, but I am only illustrating absurdity by being absurd. That is not what Squier is talking about.
But the imperative to maintain technological dominance begs for cross-discipline, integrated careers. Every company in the world does lateral hiring, and their employees accept new leaders as a matter of course. It may be difficult to give up the traditional military career ladder, but there is much more to be gained by seeking greater diversity in skills, experience and ideas.
Again ... define "diversity" please ... the Navy, especially those in the diversity commissariat like Squier, have muddied that name a bit. 

My career was very cross-discipline - heck I had jobs that were coded for a completely different designator - and in another case, a higher rank from another service. And again ... my experience is not unusual. Then again ... I was an unrestricted line officer. YMMV.

As for the substance of the rest of the above paragraph, sound great, and we have that IN THE FRACKING RESERVES.

I do not think that Squier really addressed the topic she wanted to address. She talked around it and played a little dog whistle shadow puppet with it ... but really. That can't be it. 

I was hoping for something more along the lines of what we have discussed multiple times on Midrats, but alas ... I am left disappointed.