Friday, April 24, 2015

On Midrats 26 April 15 - Episode 277: Manpower, Modernization, and Motivation - an Hour with VADM Moran

Please join us on Sunday, 26 April 2015 at 5pm EDT for Midrats Episode 277: Manpower, Modernization, and Motivation - an Hour with VADM Moran
For the Sailor, nothing is more immediate, more "now" and of more impact to their personal and professional lives than their next set of orders.

For our Navy, nothing defines present operational performance, the development of future leaders, and ensuring success at war for the next few decades than personnel policy.

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern will be the Chief of Naval Personnel, Vice Admiral Bill Moran, USN.

We will discuss the drive to man the Fleet to appropriate levels now, while looking at ways to modernize the personnel system to provide greater choice, flexibility and transparency for our Sailors and the commands they serve.

We will also look at the ongoing discussion about how to best keep with one hand a firm hand on what has worked, while with a free hand, reach for those things that will ensure that today's officers and enlisted personnel have a Navy that not only is meeting its needs, but takes in to consideration the individual goals and priorities of its personnel.
Join us live if you can by clicking here (if you can't join us live, you will also find show archived at that link or at our iTunes page here).

Friday Fun Film: "The Navy Way (1944)"

Full length film about the challenges of Navy boot camp in the old days.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Disaster Prep Wednesday on a Thursday: Bicycles in Disasters

I've been reading a lot of "disaster fiction" lately. Most of it seems based on some sort of EMP event that wipes out the electricity and drops us- plop - back to the stone age. It is each man/family/community for itself and the devil take the unprepared.

None of these books seems complete without a veteran who was some combination of SEAL/Green Beret/Ranger - which, of course, eliminates about 95% of the rest of those who actually served in the military. I guess it's not sexy to have a supply type involved.

In any event, shortly after the lights go out, the worst instincts of mankind come to the fore and . . .

Really? No power? No gas? Roads not clear?

But I digress. Sorta.

As I have suggested before, one of the most important tools that you could have in a disaster is a bicycle. And by a "bicycle" I don't mean some sort of machine gun equipped thing that will help you fend off the marauders who, according to the above-mentioned literature, are headed your way to steal your food, water, and raid your armory. How they get the gas and operating cars to do this is never made clear . . .

No. I mean a sturdy bike.

Why? Interesting reading in this Master's thesis by James Alexander, "The Role of Cargo Bicycles in Disaster Planning and Emergency Management
Bicycles are not typically emphasized as a disaster response tool. However, some recent hurricanes and earthquakes have highlighted the effectiveness of bicycles in disasters. Bicycles can be more nimble than automobiles, effective in gas shortages, and can even be adapted to become human-powered generators. Cargo bicycles also retain these functions, while adding a heavy payload capacity.
Several recent disasters have highlighted the bicycle as an effective, but often overlooked tool in the aftermath of a disaster. Hurricane Sandy victims
in 2012 turned to bicycles en masse to travel in and out of Manhattan during the days after the hurricane shut down bridges and caused gas shortages in New Jersey (Goodyear 2012).
The Goodyear article, based on Hurricane Sandy, can be found as The Power of Bicycles in Disaster Recovery:
New Yorkers are learning things from this storm, and from the relief efforts that are ongoing even as another weather front sweeps through this afternoon, forcing another round of evacuations. Practical things. They are learning where to go for help, and how to help each other. They are learning how to get around when the transportation system fails, and the importance of redundancy and resiliency in all kinds of infrastructure. They are learning what you really need to have on hand when supply chains are disrupted, and what you can do without. They are learning how to assess the accuracy of information, and how to spread it. They are learning that individual efforts, pooled together, can make a substantial material difference in a crisis.

Bicycles are part of all this. In the early days after the storm, when the trains and buses stopped running, bikes were one of the few reliable ways of moving people, objects, and information around streets choked with debris. They don’t require the gasoline that people are still lining up for hours to get. They don’t need to be charged up – just add some basic food to a human being, and you can power the legs that turn the cranks.
See also "The Use of Bicycles as Disaster Relief Tools" :
Cycling isn’t a perfect solution after the storm passes but it can be critical when the supply chain is disrupted. With a bicycle, short to medium length trips to deliver people or supplies is an option when a car simply is not. As long as the rider has the carrying capacity ability and the physical ability, limitations of using a bicycle are significantly minimized. “Cycling tends to play a smaller role, because it requires bicycles, the ability to ride, and adequate riding conditions, but can still be useful in some situations. For example, walking and cycling can be the primary mode for large numbers of people to evacuate away from a coastline during a hurricane or tsunami, and for evacuees to travel to transit and rideshare pickup stations.”
A better title cuts to the chase "Bicycles Are Like the Cockroaches Of Transportation in Natural
James Thomas of Bicycle Design likens bikes to cockroaches, not in the sense that most drivers would like to squish them but in the sense that in a time of natural disaster they just keep going.
Note that the use of bikes in disasters is acknowledged by disaster professionals The bicycle's next frontier: disaster response :
The city of Portland, Oregon, as well as citizen-led Neighborhood Emergency Teams(NET), have been including the cargo bike in their plans.

Heavier framed than the standard bicycle, the cargo, or freight, bicycle was common in dense urban environments. They were commonly used for deliveries of commodities such as milk or bread, though they were capable of carrying relatively heavy loads.
A good cargo bike isn't cheap. See here. But a good sturdy bike like this probably won't break your wallet.

Besides, you need the exercise, so using a bike to train for disaster use is a good idea.

Oh, and if you need to generate electricity, there are things like this 300 Watt Bicycle Generator. See a "how to" here. Also here (although will charging cell phones be a big deal in an EMP event? However, for all those other disasters that knock out electricity it's a good idea). More here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

China: A Video on Its "Defensive Layers"

Sam LaGrone put up this video on the USNI News site but it is from the Office of Naval Intelligence:

The rest of Sam's post is well worth reading, as it deals with Global Guided Missile Expansion Forcing U.S. Navy to Rethink Surface Fleet Size:
Rapid growth in the capability and quality of guided missiles — mostly Chinese in origin — is causing the U.S. Navy to rethink the number of surface ships it needs to effectively fight a high-end war.

Early estimates based ongoing war games could mean the current number of 88 large surface combatants — the Navy’s fleet of guided missile destroyers and cruisers — needs to grow to more than a hundred into the 2020s just to keep to today’s current level of risk, USNI News has learned.
Then it goes into budgets and alternatives.

Good read.

First Amendment Threats: George Will on the Challenges to Free Speech

Well, here's what the sensitive snowflakes of "trigger warnings" are bringing us:
“Today’s attack is different. It is an attack on the theory of free speech. It is an attack on the desirability of free speech . . . What we have today is an attack on the very possibility of free speech. The belief is that the First Amendment is a mistake.”

Regarding Ms. Clinton's challenge to free speech, it's couched in terms of getting "anonymous" money out of politics, as set out here:
The one comment that arguably raised the most eyebrows was Clinton’s reference to political reforms: “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment.”
Clinton didn’t delve into too many details – not surprising given that this was only her second full day as a candidate – but as the campaign unfolds, Andrew Prokop sketched out what a possible constitutional amendment might look like.

The problem, as campaign finance reformers see it, is that for decades the Supreme Court has defined speech too broadly and corruption too narrowly. It has ruled that laws capping how much an individual or group can donate to a particular candidate are acceptable, because they help prevent corruption. However, overall caps on the amount any candidate or corporation spends on elections are unconstitutional, because they muzzle speech without specifically preventing corruption. (The court’s narrow definition of “corruption” has consistently been disputed by some justices in the minority.)

So the Democrats’ proposed constitutional amendment specifically says that both Congress and state governments can limit the “raising and spending of money” meant “to influence elections.” It lists several rationales for doing so – advancing “democratic self-government” and “political equality,” and protecting the “integrity” of the political process. However, it only says that “reasonable limits” are acceptable – so if the amendment is ever enacted, there would undoubtedly be court battles over which restrictions are reasonable or unreasonable.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Well, it is the 21st Century: "Third-Gen Electric Laser Weapon Now Ready"

Not a prototype
Aviation Week report by Graham Warwick, General Atomics: Third-Gen Electric Laser Weapon Now Ready
The company has responded to an Office of Naval Research (ONR) solicitation for a 150-kw laser weapon suitable for installation on DDG-51-class destroyers to counter unmanned aircraft and small boats using only ship power and cooling.

Under ONR’s Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation program, the weapon is to be demonstrated in 2018 on the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer that now serves as the U.S. Navy’s ship-defense test vessel at Port Hueneme in California.

GA-ASI has proposed its Gen 3 High-Energy Laser (HEL) system, which recently completed independent beam-quality and power testing for the U.S. government. The Gen 3 system is the third generation of electrically pumped laser using the architecture developed for Darpa’s Hellads program.
Some info from General Atomics:
DDG 51 with frickin' lasers
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA ASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced that an independent measurement team contracted by the U.S. Government has completed beam quality and power measurements of GA-ASI’s Gen 3 High Energy Laser System (HEL) using the Joint Technology Office (JTO) Government Diagnostic System (GDS).

“These measurements confirm the exceptional beam quality of the Gen 3 HEL, the next-generation leader in electrically-pumped lasers,” said Claudio Pereida, executive vice president, Mission Systems, GA-ASI.

The new laser represents the third generation of technology originally developed under the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS, Gen 1) program. The Gen 3 Laser employs a number of upgrades resulting in improved beam quality, increased electrical to optical efficiency, and reduced size and weight. The recently certified Gen 3 laser assembly is very compact at only 1.3 x 0.4 x 0.5 meters. The system is powered by a compact Lithium-ion battery supply designed to demonstrate a deployable architecture for tactical platforms.

The Gen 3 HEL tested is a unit cell for the Tactical Laser Weapon Module (TLWM) currently under development. Featuring a flexible, deployable architecture, the TLWM is designed for use on land, sea, and airborne platforms and will be available in four versions at the 50, 75, 150, and 300 kilowatt laser output levels.

The GDS was employed by an independent measurement team to evaluate the beam quality of the Gen 3 system over a range of operating power and run time. According to JTO’s Jack Slater, “The system produced the best beam quality from a high energy laser that we have yet measured with the GDS. We were impressed to see that the beam quality remained constant with increasing output power and run-time.”

With run time limited only by the magazine depth of the battery system, beam quality was constant throughout the entire run at greater than 30 seconds. These measurements confirm that the exceptional beam quality of this new generation of electrically-pumped lasers is maintained above the 50 kilowatt level.
What's it mean? Try this "Tactical Laser Weapon Module Can Laserify Almost Anything" the title of an Evan Ackerman post at the IEEE Spectrum:
The thing in this picture (you have to follow the above link to see it) isn’t a photon torpedo. But, it’s close. It’s a photon cannon, currently under development by General Atomics. Small, versatile, and completely self-contained, it turns anything onto which you stick it into a powerful laser weapon. And at just two cubic meters in volume, you should have no trouble mounting it on the roof rack of your Volvo.
What we were able to find out about this thing is that it’s a laser weapon with output energies (that's output, not total power in the system) ranging from 75 kilowatts all the way up to 300 kilowatts. To put that in perspective, about a year ago we wrote about how Lockheed was using a portable fiber laser to shoot down rockets at a range of 1.5 kilometers using just 10 kilowatts of power. Suffice it to say, 300 kilowatts is rather a lot. The weight of the system is dependent on its output power and the number of shots you want, but General Atomics engineers say that they’ve gotten it down to just 4 kilograms per kilowatt.

Monday, April 20, 2015

What Happens When the Bill of Rights Gets Trampled

A stunning article from David French at National Review, "Wisconsin’s Shame: I Thought It Was a Home Invasion":
Yet no one in this family was a “perp.” Instead, like Cindy, they were American citizens guilty of nothing more than exercising their First Amendment rights to support Act 10 and other conservative causes in Wisconsin. Sitting there shocked and terrified, this citizen — who is still too intimidated to speak on the record — kept thinking, “Is this America?”
An extremely partisan prosecutor, a remarkably compliant judge and out the window go the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Sixth Amendment.

Further, as noted in the article, the "chilling effect" on others by the acts described reach far beyond those actually assaulted by law enforcement agencies.

What that old Buffalo Springfield song (written about a different set of circumstances, but still valid):
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
t's s time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
Why isn't this song being sung on college campuses today? Go back to that first verse.

Those first ten amendments to our Constitution are important.

James Madison
UPDATE: Another good read Myron Magnet's piece in City Journal Free Speech in Peril:
. . .  I think Madison right to say that the proper response is not criminalization but argumentation. In a remarkable foreshadowing of John Stuart Mill’s 1859 classic, On Liberty, Madison wrote in 1800 that it is to free speech and a free press, despite all their abuses, that “the world is indebted for all the triumphs which have been gained by reason and humanity, over error and oppression.” Only out of freewheeling discussion, the unbridled clash of opinion and assertion—including false, disagreeable, and unpopular opinions, Madison believed no less than Mill—can truth ultimately emerge. So it is troubling to see that the camel of repression has gotten his nose under the Constitutional tent by a law allowing the prosecution of bosses for tolerating speech by some employees that allegedly creates a “hostile environment” for others. The Court ought to squelch such an affront to the First Amendment. And it is equally troubling that state and federal laws have created such a thing as a “hate crime.” All that should matter to the law is whether the perpetrator of a crime acted with criminal intent, not whether that intent rested on an outlandish opinion.
Equally wrong are campaign-finance laws, which, happily, the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision has begun to undo. In the American political system, based on man’s natural right to life, liberty, and property, money should talk. The core of Madison’s worry about the “tyranny of the majority” in Federalist 10 was that the unpropertied many might vote themselves the property of the rich few—whether by disproportionate taxation, abolition of debts, inflation to erode savings and investments, “an equal division of property, or . . . any other improper or wicked project”—which the Founders believed would be no less a tyranny than an absolute monarch’s expropriation of property. Madison argued in Federalist 10 that the clash of many competing interests in such a big republic as America would prevent such democratic tyranny from occurring; but he proved wrong. . .

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day: #52 and final in the series

About a year ago, I begin putting up quotes from Robert A. Heinlein. Like many people who have read some of his works, I find them sometimes to be inspiring, sometimes to be prophetic, sometimes disturbing and sometimes disgusting.

However, from the first time I checked out Space Cadet from the Anderson Air Force Base library on Guam when I was in 4th grade (I think I checked it out 10 or 12 more times after that), to reading the Red Planet (over and over) to my first encounters with Glory Road (teenage boy dream fodder that) to the many, many readings I have undertaken of Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, I was/have been a Heinlein junkie.


Because of this:
Through science fiction the human race can try experiments in imagination too critically dangerous to try in fact. Through such speculative experiments science fiction can warn against dangerous solutions, urge toward better solutions. Science fiction joyously tackles the real and pressing problems of our race, wrestles with them, never ignores them—problems which other forms of fiction cannot challenge. For this reason I assert that science fiction is the most realistic, the most serious, the most significant, the most sane and healthy and human fiction being published today.
I'm sure there are hundreds of quotes available about the optimism of science fiction - that it assumes there will be a future. But no one ever expressed as well as Heinlein did the role science fiction plays or should play in helping us ponder that future.

Friday, April 17, 2015

On Midrats 19 April 2015 - Episode 276: "21st Century Ellis"

Please  join us at 5pm EDT on 19 April 2015 as we return live, after a two week hiatus, for Midrats Episode 276: "21st Century Ellis"
The next book from USNI's 21st Century Foundations series is 21st Century Ellis: Operational Art and Strategic Prophecy for the Modern Era, edited by Capt. B.A. Friedman, USMC.

This book covers the work of Lt. Col. "Pete" Ellis, USMC who in 1921 predicted the coming war with Japan.

Included in this collection are some of his articles on counterinsurgency and conventional war based on his experiences in WWI and the Philippines.

Capt. Friedman will be with us for the full hour to discuss this and more.

Capt. B.A. Friedman is a field artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps currently stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC. He is pursuing a master's degree in national security and strategic studies through the Naval War College.
You can join us at the date and time above, or pick the show up later by clicking here. If getting the show later on iTunes appeals to you, our iTunes page is here.

Friday Fun Film: "Supply - Lifeblood of Seapower" (1959)

Saved by Periscope Film
Created in 1959, this documentary film profiles the U.S. Navy's Supply Corps. and shows the varied activities of its personnel. Modern punchcard computers are seen in the film (00:09:35:00 and 00:12:00:00) in a segment where a "vital part" is located in the supply point warehouse and sent to the fleet via a long chain of logistics.

The Supply Corps of the United States Navy traces its beginnings to February 23, 1795 when the nation's first Purveyor of Public Supplies, Tench Francis, Jr., was appointed by President George Washington. The Supply Corps is one of the oldest staff corps in the U.S. Navy. Supply Corps officers are concerned with supply, logistics, combat support, readiness, contracting and fiscal issues. The official motto of the Supply Corps is "Ready for Sea" - reflecting the Supply Corps' longstanding role in sustaining warfighting. The motto derives from the traditional report from each Department Head of a ship to the Captain prior to getting underway. The tradtional form is "Good Morning, Captain, The Supply Department is ready for sea in all respects."

Commissioned officers in the Supply Corps are schooled and experienced in a variety of disciplines such as supply management and expeditionary logistics, inventory control, disbursement, financial management, contracting, information systems, operations analysis, material and operational logistics, fuels management, food service and physical distribution.

Supply Corps officers can be members of a ship or shore activity's supply department or can be billeted into supply units/commands - such as the Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group (NAVELSG), Fleet Logistics Centers (FLCs) or Navy Special Warfare (SPECWAR) Logistics Groups which support the United States Navy SEALs. Supply Corps officers can command supply units. A Supply Corps officer is always the Commanding Officer of a Naval Cargo Handling Battalion - groups charged with stevedoring and logistics whose constituent companies are led by both Supply Corps and Civil Engineer Corps officers. Supply Corps officers also serve in forward deployed land-based units - such as the Seabees - working alongside Civil Engineer Corps officers and with the Marine Corps.