Friday, February 05, 2016

Oil Dumbness from President Obama

We all know that Mr. Obama hates the oil, gas and coal industries. Apparently he's now decided that as a lame duck, it's time to help boost the stock of his "green energy" buddies (as if the massive waste of millions of dollars into failed and failing green companies hasn't been a signature endeavor of his presidency) by pushing for a huge tax on each barrel of oil amounting to $10.

This "climate change president" who sees global warming or whatever as apparently being worse threat to the world than Russia, China, Iran, North Korea and the alphabet soup of non-state terrorist entities (AQ, AQIP, ISIS, Boco Haram, etc, etc) has decided to kill a few more productive energy jobs on his way out the door.

The Oil & Gas Journal's Bob Tippee has look at this foolishness here:
With his proposal for a “$10/bbl fee on oil paid by oil companies,” the president sides with environmental extremists in conflict not only with Americans who bring oil products to market but also with those who use them.

To fund a “21st Century clean transportation system,” he wants to expropriate one third of the recent value of crude oil from an industry in the throes of a market slump.

His proposal would ravage prospects of 100,000 oil industry workers who have lost their jobs and of thousands still employed but justifiably worried.

It would squelch the recovery of US oil production that will happen when the market regains balance.

And it would fleece consumers. They, not oil companies, ultimately would pay the fee.

Obama launches this assault on national welfare in response to climatological jeopardy evident more in the propaganda of environmental activists than in a temperature record at growing odds with alarming model predictions.

His probably ill-fated lurch offers one benefit. It illuminates the cost of aggressive climate precaution. The 25¢/gal by which it would hike the US gasoline price wouldn’t amount to even a small down payment on the sacrifice Americans must make if they’re to have any hope of influencing global average temperature.

When enough consumers recognize the mistreatment ahead they’ll begin asking questions too long ignored: How serious a threat does climate change really represent? For how much observed warming are people really responsible? Can overhaul of the energy economy really make a meaningful difference?

Oil companies have new reason to demand answers to these questions, to expose the political debate on climate for the sham that it has been, and to resist the stampede Obama wants to start.

Their interests, and the interests of their consumers, depend on rescue of the issue from the distortions of zealotry.
Funny how his "21st Century clean transportation system" involves such 19th Century gems like railways. According to the WaPo,
The administration said it would devote $20 billion of the money raised to expand transit systems in cities, suburbs and rural areas; make high-speed rail a viable alternative to flying in major regional corridors and invest in new rail technologies like maglev; modernize the nation’s freight system; and expand the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program launched in the 2009 economic stimulus bill to support local projects.
Wait, transit systems in rural areas? Well, I'm sure the farmers of Iowa and Nebraska have just been dying to have a transit system they can hop on to get to town. Texas ranchers, too. Hope the system has cars to tote large tractors and combines from place to place.

It seems odd to me that as cars have gotten more fuel efficient, as pollution as dropped significantly over the past years that this stuff continues to be pushed. I'm surprised he hasn't proposed a "war on methane producing cattle" - a major source of green house gases - perhaps he could could put VP Biden in charge of a "moonshot" to stop cow flatulence. Oh, yes, he already tried that.

Update: One other thing since the "nation's freight system" is run by private companies (and pretty darn efficiently, too) exactly why does the federal government need to throw money at a non-problem?

Friday Fun Films: Introduction to the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) System (1963) and the ASROC Nuclear Test (1962)

VLA, Lockheed Martin photo
ASROC is still around, albeit morphed into a vertically launched weapon, described by Lockheed Martin as,
The Vertical Launch ASROC (VLA) is the world’s only urgent attack operational anti-submarine warfare weapon for surface ships, providing 360-degree engagement capability, day or night in any weather conditions. The VLA missile system is a three-stage weapon that can deliver either a MK 46 or MK 54 torpedo, making it effective in either open-ocean or littoral waters.

Special hat tip to Jeff Quitney, who has managed to put so many of these classic training films on YouTube.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

A Blast from the Past - Department of The Expendable Ship Division : "How to Make the Navy Bigger, Sooner, Cheaper" Revisited

Okay, back in November 2008, I had an odd idea. Why do we insist on building huge haze gray hulls when many Navy missions, such as presence, require less significant hulls?

One answer is, of course, survival of the crew, as set out in the Dr. Scott Truver essay at the USNI Proceeding site:  "When it Comes to Ship Survivability, Prayer Isn’t Enough":
One blindingly obvious lesson from real-world combat events is that surface ships built to military standards are more likely to survive attacks than are vessels designed to commercial standards.
But what if we decided to focus on crew survival and worried less about platform survival?

Ah, you say, this crazy old geezer has no idea of what he is talking about. But hear me out - one of the several advantages of unmanned systems is that we can field lots of them and not have to worry about crew maintenance (food, sleep, comfort). But what if you develop manned surface ships that cost relatively little and have what are essentially "crew survival pods" (some of you may remember the crew ejection system on the B-58 bomber) - to get the crew off what are essentially "expendable ships" used in large numbers as potential parts of a "swarm" system?

It seems to me that a robust "crew survival pod (CSP)" has got to be cheaper than an entire ship built to military standards. And, after you have taken care of protecting the crew, you can focus on creating extremely well-armed ships that cost a great deal less than a standard frigate or destroyer.

What follows is that November 2008 blog post on "affordable naval presence:"

In the September 2008 issue of the United States Naval Institute's magazine Proceedings, the Secretary of the Navy looked at the issue of "An Affordable Naval Presence." It has a sub-head of "We need a more cost-effective Fleet."

The piece lays out the requirements imposed by our maritime nature:
Our nation's maritime strategy reaffirms the use of sea power to influence actions and activities at sea and ashore, including the need for our naval forces to support humanitarian operations, counter piracy, and assist in capacity building and training of partner nations. The requirement to support these missions moves us to adopt persistent global presence as a key tenet of our strategy. The increasing desire for U.S. Navy presence is one of the driving factors behind our decisions on Fleet size and composition.
The value of presence is under-appreciated by many, for they fail to recognize the role of maritime security in support of the world economy to protect it against the vulnerabilities that terrorism and rogue nations pose. Clearly, most would agree that the world is far more connected and interdependent than in years past. Nations have moved away from the idea that they must possess economic self-sufficiency and have largely recognized the value of trade and specialization.
The more dispersed nature of today's world trade patterns has major implications for our view of maritime security . . .
Ah, there's the rub. Too much ocean, too many shorelines, too many needs, too few ships. What's a navy to do?

Secretary Winter wants analysis of the right ships to build and a more efficient process to build them. All of which is fine, but - there is a faster, cheaper path to get bigger, sooner at lower cost - putting hulls in the water while awaiting that analysis.

Here's my modest proposal:
  1. Take $250 million dollars and put it aside;
  2. Of that $250 million, use $100 million to buy or lease 50 to 100 offshore crew boats as currently used in the offshore oil industry (many of them are reaching the end of their expected useful life in the industry - you might be able to pick up some bargains).
  3. Invest $50 million in refurbishing the boats and in getting weapons for their decks. Turn them into "navalized" vessels. Make 22 knots the minimum acceptable speed.
  4. Do not try to make these low cost littoral combat ships into battleships for all conditions. Talk to the LCDRs who will be squadron commanders and the LTs who will be the commanding officers about what they would need to provide a presence, fight in a low threat environment against modestly armed pirates and the like, support occasional missions ashore and interdict drug smuggler semi-submersibles. Give them what they need in terms of state of the art comms using COTS (heck, load put a communication van on board if so that no time is wasted trying to rewire the little ships more than needed). Put in some comfortable berthing suited for the sea states in which these things (I call them Special Purpose Vessels or SPVs) will operate.
  5. Under no circumstance should the total U.S. Navy investment in any single SPV exceed $2 million, excluding the cost of adding weapons systems (adding a M-1 Abrams, for example) and the personnel costs.
  6. Make the project a 12 month "emergency" - and kill the bureaucracy that would ordinarily take on this job - find a hard charging Captain, make him or her report directly to SecNav and tell them what the mission and the budget will be. Then get out of the way except for monthly status reports.
  7. Find a group of O-3s who are ready for command and who can think for themselves and train the heck out of them by letting them go to sea in the type of ships that you are acquiring, let them learn from the masters of current offshore supply and crew vessels. Find some O-4s who can take hold of the idea of being a squadron commander of a 5 ship squardron and train them in mission like that being conducted by the Africa station.
  8. Borrow some Army Rangers or fleet Marines and train them in the ship boarding, small boat ops, shipboard firefighting and ship defense. Treat them like the Marines of old. Stress people skills appropriate for counter-terrorism work.
  9. Lease some ships to be used as "tenders" for the SPVs - small container ships on which the containers can be shops, supply warehouses, refrigerator units, etc. Bladders for fuel. Use the Arapaho concept to set up a flight deck for helo ops.
  10. Be generous with UAV assets - use the small "net recoverable" types.
  11. Don't limit the small boat assets to RHIBs. Experiment with M-ships, small go-fasts captured from drug dealers, whatever. The idea is to have boats that can operate in one sea state worse than the pirates, drug smugglers, etc.
  12. Use the MIUW van concept for adding some sonar capability. TIS/VIS is a necessity.
Start with a couple of squadrons, tell your O-6 that you want them ready in 6 months for operational testing. Unleash the budget dollars. For op testing, send one squadron off to the coast of Somalia for anti-pirate work. Send the other off Iraq. Put those expensive great big cruisers and destroyers currently in the area to work doing blue water stuff.

Paint Coast Guard like stripe on the hull of the SPVs - but make it Navy blue. If the Coasties want to join in, give them a boat and paint the stripe orange. Make the SPVs highly visible. Nothing deters crime like a visible cop on the beat.

Show the flag.

Please let your thoughts be known.
I cleaned up some spelling issues but left the content the same. I'd bump up the total investment in any SPV to $7 million because you can get some bigger boats if you are willing to pay more but would not increase the overall budget, even after 7 years. Buy why you can using the $250 million and turn some sailors loose to work out the kinks.

Instead of sending the trial squadrons off the coast of Somalia, let's let them try out the waters of the South China Sea. Give them a couple of DDGs to call on for support if needed. I can't imagine the Philippines would mind hosting a couple of squadrons of these things on a temporary basis.

By the way, China already uses a force sort of like the one I propose. See China's 'Sea Phantom' Fleet Prowls the Open Waters:
When Beijing first used fishing vessels for militarized purposes, it was originally intended as a stopgap for the shortfalls of Nationalist navy ships inherited by the Communist regime. But these vessels were unreliable, built with wooden hulls and underpowered machinery which severely limited their range, endurance and seakeeping qualities, thus confining them to inshore and coastal duties. This state of affairs continued until 1952, when several hundred-ton Japanese fishing vessels were seized by the Chinese on illegal fishing charges. These ships so impressed Beijing, with their sturdy ocean-capable hulls and reliable machinery, that they were turned into improvised fire support vessels with sixteen-tube 132-millimeter rocket launchers. In January 1955, they played a crucial role in the Communist capture of the Nationalist-occupied Yijiangshan Island. Since then, besides wartime support roles, these pioneer “sea phantoms” performed functions such as intelligence gathering, countersurveillance and the resupply of offshore PLA garrisons.
And don't worry that they are expendable. It's a feature, not a flaw.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Surface Forces: Distributed Lethality

A video from Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet:

Update: And a brief from VADM Rowden on "Tomorrow's Surface Forces Lethal and Distributed":

Yes, it includes the first video, but you can move past that.

Defense Budgets - Let's Get Serious

Well, it's an election year and there is someone proposing a budget. Actually, it's Secretary of Defense Carter proposing a budget for the Defense Department, as set out here by DoD's Cheryl Pellerin (emphasis added):
Addressing diverse global challenges requires new thinking, new postures in some regions and new and enhanced capabilities, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said this morning during a preview of the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.

Speaking at the Economic Club of Washington, D.C., Carter said the $582.7 billion defense budget to be released next week as part of the administration’s fiscal year 2017 budget request, marks a major inflection point for the department.

"In this budget we’re taking the long view," the secretary said. "We have to. Even as we fight today’s fights, we must also be prepared for the fights that might come 10, 20 or 30 years down the road.”

Five evolving challenges drive the department’s planning, he said, including Russian aggression in Europe, the rise of China in the Asia Pacific, North Korea, Iran, and the ongoing fight against terrorism, especially the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Five Challenges

The department must and will address all five challenges and across all domains, Carter said.

“Not just the usual air, land and sea, but also particularly in the areas of cyber, space and electronic warfare, where our reliance on technology has given us great strengths but also led to vulnerabilities that adversaries are eager to exploit,” he added.

Highlighting new investments in the budget to deal with the accelerated military campaign against ISIL, Carter said the department is requesting $7.5 billion, 50 percent more than in 2016.

Of that, he said $1.8 billion will go to buy more than 45,000 GPS-guided smart bombs and laser-guided rockets. The budget request also defers the A-10 final retirement until 2022, replacing it with F-35 Joint Strike Fighters squadron by squadron.

Strategic Capabilities

To support the European Reassurance Initiative, the Pentagon is requesting $3.4 billion in 2017, quadrupling the fiscal 2016 amount, the secretary said, to fund more rotational U.S. forces in Europe, more training and exercising with allies, and more prepositioned fighting gear and supporting infrastructure.

Investments in new technologies include projects being developed by the DoD Strategic Capabilities Office, which Carter created in 2012 when he was deputy defense secretary, “to reimagine existing DoD, intelligence community and commercial systems by giving them new roles and game-changing capabilities,” he said.

To drive such innovation forward, the 2017 budget request for research and development accounts is $71.4 billion.
U.S. Networked Swarm Boat

Carter said SCO efforts include projects involving advanced navigation, swarming autonomous vehicles for use in different ways and domains, self-driving networked boats, gun-based missile defense, and an arsenal plane that turns one of the department’s older planes into a flying launch pad for a range of conventional payloads.

Investing in Innovation

The budget request also drives smart and essential technological innovation, the secretary added, noting that one area is undersea capabilities for an $8.1 billion investment in 2017 and more than $40 billion over the next five years, Carter said, “to give us the most lethal undersea and anti-submarine force in the world.”

The Pentagon also is investing more in cyber, he said, requesting $7 billion in 2017 and nearly $35 billion over the next five years.

“Among other things,” Carter said, “this will help further improve DoD’s network defenses, which is critical, build more training ranges for our cyber warriors, and develop cyber tools and infrastructure needed to provide offensive cyber options.”

Cyber, Space, People

The Pentagon’s investment in space last year added more than $5 billion in new investments, and this year the department will enhance its ability to identify, attribute and negate all threatening actions in space, the secretary said.
That old budgeting magic

“With so many commercial space endeavors, he added, “we want this domain to be just like the oceans and the Internet: free and safe for all."

Carter said the Pentagon also is investing to build the force of the future, highlighting opening all remaining combat positions to women and strengthening support to military families to improve their quality of life.
Of course, the budget of the Defense Department has critics, an example of which being found in this U.S. News and World Report piece by William D. Hartung, A Golden Age for Pentagon Waste: Ridiculous Pentagon spending may be reaching historic levels:
As the Pentagon prepares for the formal release its budget next week, there is much talk within the department that the $600 billion-plus that is likely to be proposed is inadequate. In fact, rooting out billions of dollars of waste in the Pentagon budget would leave more than enough to provide a robust defense of the country without increasing spending.
The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction has uncovered scandal after scandal involving U.S. aid to that country, including the creation of private villas for a small number of personnel working for a Pentagon economic development initiative and a series of costly facilities that were never or barely used. An analysis by ProPublica puts the price tag for wasteful and misguided expenditures in Afghanistan at $17 billion, a figure that is higher than the GDP of 80 nations.
It's not just about Afghanistan, though. Back in the United States, wasteful spending abounds. A Politico report on the Pentagon's $44 billion Defense Logistics Agency notes that it spent over $7 billion on unneeded equipment. Meanwhile, Congress is doing its part by inserting its own pet projects into the budget, whether or not they are top priorities in terms of defense needs. The most notable example is the F-35 combat aircraft, which at $1.4 trillion over its lifetime is the most expensive weapons project ever undertaken by the Pentagon. Despite the fact that the plane is far from ready for prime time, Congress stuffed 11 additional F-35s into the defense bill that was signed by the president last month.

These examples of waste and abuse spark memories of past Pentagon spending binges.

The common thread uniting the C-5 scandal of the 1960s, the spare parts scandal of the 1980s and today's array of wasteful expenditures is that they all came on the heels of major military buildups. When there is too much money to go around and no one is minding the store, spending discipline goes out the window. As then Pentagon procurement chief Ashton Carter said in a 2011 hearing, in the decade of increasing Pentagon budgets that kicked off the 2000s, it was always possible to reach for more money, "so it's natural that some fat crept into all of our activities during that time period."
But the best management tool is to put the Pentagon on a tighter budget, so it is forced to make some tough choices. No one, hawk or dove, should sit still for the waste of tens of billions of tax dollars. Waste doesn't defend us. On the contrary, spending too much on the Pentagon just subsidizes bad choices. It's time for Congress, the president and the presidential candidates of both parties to speak out about Pentagon waste, and put forward concrete plans for reining it in. Otherwise, our era may have the dubious distinction of being the golden age of Pentagon waste.
"William D. Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy." The Center for International Policy, an entity whose mission statement includes: "We advocate policies that advance international cooperation, demilitarization, respect for human rights and action to alleviate climate change and stop illicit financial flows." I invite you to visit his biography here. As we used to ponder in sociology classes - can he be "value free" in his approach to defense spending? I don't know who chose the "ridiculous Pentagon spending" part of the headline.

In any event, let's give Mr. Hartung his due. There is waste in defense spending.

Lots of it.

Probably enough to pay for a couple of Ford-class carriers, though there are those whose argue that these new, big carriers are akin to the battleships of early WWII - an expensive idea whose time has mostly passed. See Dr. Jerry Hendrix's Stop the Navy's carrier plan: The Navy's plan to modernize its largest ships would just make them obsolete. Here's how to fix it.. Jerry's solution? Build cheaper, smaller carriers and add boatloads (literally) of unmanned aircraft. If there's enough waste to cover a couple of Fords, there is certainly enough to cover several smaller carriers and, probably, all those drones. We touched on this in our recent Midrats show here about "naval presence." Dr. Hendrix suggests the need for a fleet of 350 ships - many of which could be paid for with savings on big carriers,  too, I assume.

But the waste? A great deal of it involves the way in which defense spending is authorized by Congress. Want to close a base that's no longer needed? You can be sure that a couple of members of Congress will be fighting you all the way as the impact of the loss of federal dollars in their state and district become clear. In short, Congress, not the Pentagon owns a big chunk of the waste problem.

Should we  declare some programs as too wasteful to allow to live - perhaps the F-35? Maybe the Littoral Combat Ship/Frigate? Call all the expenditure so far "sunk costs? Then answer the question of what will the U.S do for the future, when the current inventory of ships and aircraft grow too long in the tooth or too small to meet the national strategy? What if the F-35 ultimately meets the great expectations placed on it? What if the LCS/Frigate becomes a not-so-overnight success?

 Want to rein in the Pentagon slush fund - the Overseas Contingency Operations budget? Perhaps we could fold money into the "regular" budget to handle little things like small wars?

It is good to recall some earlier words of Secretary Carter from May 2015:
Slashed budgets and high worldwide demand for U.S. military forces have created an unbalanced defense program that is taking on increasingly greater risks, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Senate panel this morning.

The secretary testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee on the Defense Department’s fiscal year 2016 budget request. Joining him was Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“Over the past three fiscal years the Defense Department has taken more than three-quarters of a trillion dollars in cuts to its future-years defense spending,” Carter said.

The frequently sudden and unpredictable timing and nature of the cuts and continued uncertainty over sequestration have made the stresses greater, he added, forcing DoD to make a series of incremental, inefficient decisions.
We’ve been forced to prioritize force structure and readiness over modernization, taking on risks in capabilities and infrastructure that are far too great,” he added.

“High demands on smaller force structure mean the equipment and capabilities of too many components of the military are growing too old, too fast -- from our nuclear deterrent to our tactical forces,” Carter told the panel.
The secretary said that in recent weeks some in Congress have tried to give DoD its full fiscal year 2016 budget request by transferring funds from the base budget into DoD accounts for overseas contingency operations, or OCO –- funds that are meant to fund the incremental, temporary costs of overseas conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere.

“While this approach clearly recognizes that the budget total we’ve requested is needed, the avenue it takes is just as clearly a road to nowhere,” Carter said, explaining that President Barack Obama has said he won’t accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward, as this approach does.
“The Joint Chiefs and I are concerned that if our congressional committees continue to advance this idea and don’t explore alternatives we’ll all be left holding the bag,” Carter said, adding that the OCO approach does nothing to reduce the deficit.

“Most importantly,” he added, “because it doesn’t provide a stable multi-year budget horizon, this one-year approach is managerially unsound and unfairly dispiriting to our force. Our military personnel and their families deserve to know their future more than just one year at a time -- and not just them.”

Defense industry partners also need stability and longer-term plans to be efficient and cutting-edge, Carter said, “[and] … as a nation we need to base our defense budgeting on a long-term military strategy, and that’s not a one-year project.”

Such a funding approach reflects a narrow way of looking at national security, the secretary said.

Ignoring Vital Contributions

Year-to-year funding “ignores the vital contributions made by the State Department, the Justice Department, the Treasury Department and the Homeland Security Department,” he said.

And it disregards the enduring long-term connection between the nation’s security and factors like supporting the U.S. technological edge with scientific research and development, educating a future all-volunteer military force, and bolstering the general economic strength of the nation, Carter said.

“Finally, the secretary added, “I’m also concerned that how we deal with the budget is being watched by the rest of the world -– by our friends and potential foes alike. It could give a misleadingly diminished picture of America’s great strength and resolve.”
To create a better solution than the one now being considered, he said, “I hope we can come together for a longer-term, multi-year agreement that provides the budget stability we need by locking in defense and nondefense budget levels consistent with the president’s request.”

Carter pledged his personal support and that of the department to this effort, and, he told the panel, “I would like to work with each of you, as well as other leaders and members of Congress, to this end.”
I high-lighted that part about "the whole world is watching" because it is so important. That and the idea that the current world situation is exceptionally complex - hence the overuse of our personnel and equipment.

To add to your thinking, consider this report, NATO's Nightmare: Russian Sub Activity Rises to Cold War Levels You think the potential "bad guys" aren't looking to exploit weakness?

Oh, and as seen here, I like that "arsenal plane" idea. We need to keep on the innovation path. Being static invites defeat.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

On Midrats 31 Jan 2016 - Episode 317: "Naval Presence and National Strategy," with Jerry Hendrix

Please join us at 5pm EST on 31 Jan 2016 for Midrats Episode 317: "Naval Presence and National Strategy," with Jerry Hendrix :
From the same school as "If you want peace, prepare for war," a global maritime power must maintain a presence at sea. It must design a national strategy in line with its economic capability and political will, and make sure it mans, trains, and equips its navy in line with the design.

If presence is a critical function of a navy, how is it best accomplished, what are the tradeoffs, and how does it impact friends, competitors, and those sitting on the fence?

Our guest for the full hour to discuss this and more will be Dr. Henry J. Hendrix, Jr, CAPT USN (Ret).

Jerry is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security.

When on active duty, his staff assignments include tours with the Chief of Naval Operation’s Executive Panel (N00K), and the OSD Office of Net Assessment From 2011-2012 he served as the Director and Designated Federal Officer of the Secretary of the Navy’s Advisory Panel. He also contributed to the 2012 Department Posture Statement to the Congress. Following the fall, 2011 Navy Inspector General’s Report on the state of the Naval History and Heritage Command, he was verbally ordered by the Secretary to assume the position of Director of Naval History.

Hendrix previously served as the Navy Fellow to the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has been awarded a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies).
Listen live or pick the show up later by clicking here. Or you can pick the show up from our iTunes page here

Saturday Is Old Radio Day: The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe "The Brave Rabbit"

Nero Wolfe, the weight challenged detective and his gofer
associate Archie Goodwin:
Nero Wolfe is a fictional character, an armchair detective created in 1934 by American mystery writer Rex Stout. Wolfe's confidential assistant Archie Goodwin narrates the cases of the detective genius. Stout wrote 33 novels and 39 short stories from 1934 to 1975, with most of them set in New York City. Wolfe's residence features prominently in the series, a luxurious brownstone on West 35th Street.

About the radio show:
The New Adventures of Nero Wolfe is a 1950–51 American radio drama series starring Sydney Greenstreet as Rex Stout's fictional armchair detective Nero Wolfe. Based on Stout's principal characters but not his stories, the series aired October 20, 1950 – April 27, 1951, on NBC. It is regarded as the series that is most responsible for popularizing Nero Wolfe on radio.
Here's "The Brave Rabbit"

Illustration from the November 1940 printing of "Bitter End" (1940), a Nero Wolfe novella by Rex Stout, in The American Magazine

Friday, January 29, 2016

Expensive Lessons in Governing Captured in NYTimes "More Is Needed to Beat ISIS, Pentagon Officials Concludes"

First, you have to read this Joshua Foust's Staff: The Forgotten Metric of Presidential Success (hat tip to Brett Friedman):
Obama did not rely on his functional experts to do this work, the people who would have to mobilize the enormous apparatus of government to accommodate any big change in policy; he went to personal, trusted associates whom he knew would always defer to his judgment. His staffing decisions had the effect of cutting the State Department out of statecraft (at a speech last year in Cuba, John Kerry made it a point not to acknowledge Rhodes’ work while praising Obama’s other adviser, a subtle but unmistakable snub).

More prosaically, Obama has made choice after choice that belie a worrying ignorance of the power that good staff can have.
That provides a context for this NYTimes piece by Michael S. Schmidt and Helene Cooper More Is Needed to Beat ISIS, Pentagon Officials Conclude
In the past, the Pentagon’s requests for additional troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been met with skepticism by Mr. Obama, and his aides have said he has resented what he has regarded as efforts to pressure him. But the rise of the Islamic State has alarmed the White House, and a senior administration official said Thursday that the president is willing to consider raising the stakes in both Iraq and Syria.
I suppose we will be debating whether the final withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011 under President Obama was precipitous and whether that allowed ISIS to "pop up" for the rest our natural lives. The debate will include whether Mr. Obama was responsible for the withdrawal or was merely playing out the hand dealt to him by his predecessor. See this NPR "fact check" which contains an interesting assessment of Mr. Obama's inaction:
Thousands of American troops had died, and by the time Obama announced the withdrawal, fully three-quarters of Americans supported the withdrawal (though a majority of Republicans did not).

Still, many had real concerns al Qaeda wasn't done for. And there were some, including U.S. senators, saying the troops should stay just in case things went downhill. They say Obama should have sold the idea, hard, to Maliki.

Iraq analyst Kirk Sowell said Obama never really tried.

"This is one of the criticisms of Obama — that he sort of wanted the negotiations to fail," Sowell said, "and, so, he didn't even talk to Maliki until it was basically all over."
You can sort out your own issues of "sins of omission" vs. "sins of commission," but in my world the person who relieves the previous officer of the deck (OOD) and then does not change course to avoid a collision that was not apparent to the previous OOD cannot then blame the prior watch for "putting the ship on a course to a collision." As the saying goes, "That dog won't hunt."

Worst of all is the apparent lack of a strategy in the U.S. effort in the Middle East. As the NYTimes reporters have it:
The Pentagon’s desire to expand the military presence on the ground comes as the American public remains skeptical of the United States’ getting more deeply involved in another conflict in the Middle East. Polls have shown that Americans are not convinced the Obama administration has a plan to defeat the Islamic State, which has maintained control of nearly all the large cities it took over in 2014.
How can you have plan to defeat ISIS unless you have an idea of what the Middle East should look like when ISIS is defeated? Mr. Obama has already called for Syria's Assad to "go away" though he seems lately to have been more wishy-washy on that view. Russia and Iran are involved in Syria now and had we decisively acted earlier they might not have been so.

Perhaps Mr. Obama feels strongly diffident and, taking the easy path, has simply voted "present" again. Those deferred decisions tend to catch up with you, though. So, now, more U.S. boots on the ground.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda done this earlier and squashed ISIS at the gitgo.

See also here, here and here.

Friday Good Advice Film: "Don't Kill Your Friends (1943)"

Sometimes humor makes points:

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Some Good Navy News: Successful Testing of the "Common Control System (CCS)" on Submersible Unmanned Vehicles

We could debate the LCS mess but others are already doing that. See also Pentagon in open brawl over spending priorities.

Far better to look to the Navy's unmanned future, which actually offers the potential to be the lower-cost force multiplier we need. Here's a "good news" article from The Navy League's Seapower magazineNaval Unmanned Systems’ Common Control System Completes First Live Demonstration
The Navy recently tested its newly developed Common Control System (CCS) with a submersible unmanned vehicle during a series of underwater missions at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Keyport in Puget Sound, Wash., the Naval Air Systems Command announced in a Jan. 22 release.

The CCS successfully demonstrated its capability to provide command and control to a surrogate Large-Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV).

CCS is a software architecture with a common framework, user interface and components that can be integrated on a variety of unmanned systems. It will provide common vehicle management, mission planning and mission management capabilities for the Naval Unmanned Systems (UxS) portfolio.

During the test events Dec. 7-11, operators from Submarine Development Squadron 5 Detachment UUV used CCS to plan and execute several surveillance and intelligence preparation missions. The CCS sent pre-planned missions, via radio link, to the LDUUV’s autonomous controller and displayed actual vehicle status information to the operators during the test. The vehicle was able to maneuver to the target areas and collect imagery.

“These tests proved that operators could use CCS from a single global operations center to plan, command and monitor UUVs on missions located anywhere in the world,” said Capt. Ralph Lee, who oversees the Navy’s CCS program at Patuxent River, Md. “This event also showed us that CCS is adaptable from the UAV [unmanned air vehicle] to UUV missions.”
What? Never heard of CCS?