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Friday, June 29, 2012

Somali Pirates: Somalia's President Wants Bigger Lever ($) to Move Pirates

"Give us the weapons and we can beat pirates, says Somalia's president," reports The National
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, president of Somalia’s transitional federal government, yesterday called on the international community to spend money arming his navy.

“These pirates do not live at sea; they live in Somalia. Who better to battle them than the people of the land,” he told a gathering of 400 delegates at the second UAE Counter-Piracy Conference in Dubai.

“We are completely ready to combat this problem. Despite our limited funds we are ready to train and set up a marine force that would attack and dispel all pirate activities.”
He's correct in part and not so correct in another part.

The ideal way to stop the pirates is for the Somalis to do it.

But, as he notes, the pirates do not live at sea.

Thus, Somalia does not need a navy and marine force to "battle" the pirates, it needs an army or police force.

I'm afraid funding a Somali navy or coast guard at the present time would simply be dumping money into the sea.

UPDATE: The UAE appears to disagree with my assessment and has pledged a million dollars to help fund the Somali navy, as reported here:
The UAE has contributed USD 1 million to help build the capabilities of the Somali naval forces to fight rampant piracy off their coasts, and called for greater international support to upgrade Somalia's national response capabilities.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs, told a conference on counter-piracy that the threat of pirates emanating from the Somali coasts had escalated, as more seafarers were held captive for long time, facing violence and increasing inhuman conditions.

"In this respect the UAE is pleased to contribute USD 1 million to building and upgrading capabilities of Somali naval forces and coast guard to carry out their missions properly.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One link on "Obamacare"

Roberts health care opinion, Commerce Clause: The real reason the chief justice upheld Obamacare.

I don't think all the Democrats have figured this out yet, but it's gonna limit how the federal government expands.

It's a smart decision.

Nice job, Mr. Chief Justice.

UPDATE: Okay, I was wrong, one more link.

UPDATE2: Wrong again, here's #3.

Fundamentally, it seems to me that the majority decision just tells the American voting public to "grow up and start paying attention to how important your votes are."

UPDATE: One more:
So, as it turns out, the 2012 presidential election won’t really be about same-sex marriage. Or deportations. Or Bain Capital. (Well, mostly not about that stuff.)

Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding President Barack Obama’s health-care reform law, the election will–at its core–be squarely about Obamanomics, and whether American voters are happy enough with the results of four years of radical economic experimentation to give the go ahead for four more of the same.
LAST UPDATE: Chief Justice Roberts is correct - it is not up to the courts to strike down bad but constitutional legislation. It is the voters' job to toss out of office politicians who do not reflect the voters' interests. It has long been the Democrats who race to the courthouse to get rulings they could not get passed by any legislative body and it ill becomes the right in this country to expect to be saved by the same courts they have so bitterly decried. Man up and get out the vote and send the offending pols back to their homes before they can do any more harm.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fueling the Military: "Rand studies question synfuels' role in meeting military needs"

Not a surprise to me, but it might be to some others, as the Oil and Gas Journal reports on some Rand reports, "Rand studies question synfuels' role in meeting military needs":
The US Department of Defense can meet its fuel supply needs more effectively by using petroleum products more efficiently and protecting major transit corridors than by embracing synthetic fuels, three new Rand Corp. studies concluded.

Proponents contend that biofuels and other synthetics can provide US military services an alternative with fewer environmental impacts than crude oil and products from politically unstable suppliers. Prices also would not be as volatile, they add.

But Rand researchers concluded in the June 19 reports that alternative liquids do not offer DOD a way to appreciably reduce fuel costs.
Rand press release, with links to reports covering the topic, can be found here:
"While the Department of Defense is one of the world's largest fuel users, its consumption of about 340,000 barrels per day is a small fraction—less than one-half of one percent—of global petroleum demand," said James Bartis, a RAND senior policy researcher and the author of the first volume. "Considering that the United States produces more than 8 million barrels of oil per day domestically, there is no credible scenario in which the U.S. military would be unable to access the supplies of fuel it needs to defend the nation."

The report emphasizes that future oil prices cannot be predicted. "Too often military planners are afflicted with petroleum anxiety," Bartis said. "They think prices are heading in only one direction: up. But history teaches us otherwise."

Bartis said that although the military will have access to the wholesale fuel supplies that it needs, the purchase price could be uncomfortably high. The study finds that as fuel consumers, the military services have only one effective option to deal with high petroleum prices: use less fuel.

This can be done by purchasing more energy-efficient equipment, by adopting maneuver schemes that are more energy efficient and, in the short term, by implementing other energy conservation measures. The studies find that alternative liquid fuels do not offer the Department of Defense a way to appreciably reduce fuel costs.

"Pending a major technical breakthrough, renewable jet and marine fuels will continue to be far more expensive than petroleum-based fuels," Bartis said.
Not the first time Rand has take this position, see Background: "Biofuels of No Benefit to Military" says Rand. Navy rejects report.  SECNAV Mabus was directly asked about that earlier Rand report during a DoD Bloggers Roundtable as set out in An Unimportant Navy News Release (yes, it's there, you just have to keep reading) and again rejected it.

I suspect SecNav won't like this collection of reports much, either.

Some in Congress, on the other hand, already know that bio-fuels is a money pit, since they already acted see Slicing the Baloney: Congress Stalls Expensive Navy Bio-Fuels Project



Photo credit: The guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale conducts a refueling at sea with the Miltary Sealift Command fleet replenishment oiler USNS Henry J. Kaiser during heavy seas in the Pacific Ocean, Jan. 17, 2011. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class James R. Evans

India's Naval Growth

Conceptual view of INS Vikramaditya
There's a lot of discussion about China's naval programs and the prospect of s Chinese aircraft carrier taking to the seas sometime in the near future.

One Asian navy already operates a carrier, has trained carrier qualified pilots and a plan to grow its fleet by adding 50 modern ships to its force with a few years, including more carriers. Its goal is to have three operational carrier battle groups.

A summary report from NDTV on "How Indian Navy is expanding and modernising":
According to the report of the Standing Committee on Defence, tabled in Parliament in the last week of April, the Navy's short-term plan has the following objectives:

- Augment airborne maritime surveillance, strike, Anti-Submarine Warfare and air defence capability through induction of shore-based aircraft, integral helos, carrier based aircraft, space based AIS and UAVs, along with suitable weapons and sensors.

- Develop ASW (anti-submarine warfare) capability through induction of suitable platforms, weapons and sensors.

INS Viraat
- Build adequate standoff capability for sea lift and Expeditionary Operations to achieve desired power projection force levels, influence events ashore and undertake Military Operations Other Than War.

- Induct assets and develop suitable infrastructure to augment forces available for Low Intensity Maritime OperaINS Vtions (LIMO), protection of off- shore assets and Coastal Security framework.

- Induct force multipliers like satellite based global communications, reconnaissance and network enabled platforms to achieve Battle-Space dominance capability and perform network centric operations.

- Induct state-of-the-art equipment and specialised platforms for Special Forces to enhance niche capabilities to conduct Maritime Intervention Operations and other envisaged roles.

- Develop support infrastructure in island territories to support the planned force levels as well as support infrastructure for ships/submarines/aircrafts at ports and airbases.
Given the extensive plans presented to the Parliament, it is evident now that the Indian Navy is in the middle of its most ambitious expansion plan in the past three decades. Senior officers point out that the Indian Navy's perspective-planning in terms of 'force-levels' is now driven by a conceptual shift from 'numbers' of platforms - that is, from the old 'bean-counting' philosophy - to one that concentrates on 'capabilities'.

Naval headquarters says 50 modern ships are currently on order with majority being built in Indian shipyards. . .
INS Shivalik
Two stealth ships - INS Shivalik and INS Satpura - commissioned recently have been designed and built by public sector Mazgaon Docks Limited. The order books of India's oldest government-owned shipbuilders are full with the Navy wanting four more such guided missile frigates over the next five years.

There are more acquisitions in the pipeline. They include: four anti-submarine corvettes, four guided missile destroyers, three stealth frigates, six Scorpene submarines (being built at Mazgaon Docks with French technology and help) and two nuclear-powered submarines.

India's conventional diesel-powered submarine fleet is down to single digits right now but with the Russian-built Nerpa class nuclear submarine (leased for a decade) joining service earlier this year, the submarine arm has got a major boost. But the biggest force accretion in recent years has come in the form of Boeing Pi-8long range maritime reconnaissance (LRMR) plane that gives the Indian Navy a reach and capability to mount surveillance way beyond its traditional areas of influence.
According to its near-term plans, the Indian Navy has ambitions to become a three Battle Carrier Groups force by 2020.

While it's most prestigious acquisition-Russian Aircraft Carrier Admiral Gorshkov, to be renamed INS Vikramaditya - is likely to be inducted into the fleet latest by March 2013, one more carrier being built indigenously will most likely join the service by 2015.

Indian MiG-29
Currently India operates a lone Aircraft Carrier, INS Viraat, a British-built 1960s vintage ship that is on an extended lease of life thanks to the Navy's innovative engineers and planners.

Vikramaditya, once inducted, will give India the much needed edge in its maritime capabilities since it will come with the latest MiG-29 K series of aircraft. Indian Naval Aviators are already hard at work training themselves on the planes but away from the ship

MiG-29 photo from here.

Sea Pirates: Week of 18 June to 25 June 2012

From Live Piracy Report:
20.06.2012: 1200 UTC: Posn: 20:29N – 059:03E, Around 13nm East of Masirah, Oman, (Off Somalia). Pirates hijacked a dhow and took her seven crew members as hostage. Authorities informed.

12.06.2012: 0520 UTC: Posn: 12:49.6N – 43:15.9E, Off Mauyyun Island, Red Sea.
Six skiffs with 3 to 8 persons in each approached a LNG Tanker underway at speeds between 14 to 20 knots. Weapons were sighted in three skiffs. The skiffs approached and started tailing the vessels stern at a distance of around 200/300meters. The onboard security team were deployed and they showed their weapons to the approaching skiffs resulting in the skiffs backing off. Over the next 2.5hrs the skiffs approached the vessel five times from port and stbd sides before moving away.


20.06.2012: 0505 UTC: Posn: 20:50.8N-059:30.2E (Around 35nm NE of Masirah Island, Oman), Off Somalia. Pirates in a dhow armed with guns fired upon a LNG tanker underway. Pirates were also armed with RPG. The dhow closed in to 50meters from the ship and fired shots from their guns, of which three hit the vessel. Master enforced anti-piracy measures and managed to evade boarding.

18.06.2012: 1105 UTC: Posn: 12:19N - 043:57E, Gulf of Aden. Six skiffs with 4-6 pirates in each skiff approached a bulk carrier underway at 25 knots from the stbd bow. Master raised alarm, increased speed, altered course and sent distress message. The skiffs attempted to close onto the vessel from the stbd beam and stbd quarter and one skiff tried to approach from the port bow. The onboard armed security team fired eight warning flares but the pirates continued their attempts. Weapons and ladders were identified in the skiff. After nearly 40minutes the security team fired six warning shots and the pirates aborted and moved away. A naval ship came for assistance.
Map from NATO Shipping Center showing location of hijacked dhow, other recent attacks along shipping routes. Emphasis added to reports to reflect reported multi-skiff attacks.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Midrats Episode 129: China and its Eastern Approaches June 24, 5pm (Eastern U.S.)

UPDATE: Well, sometimes things don’t go as planned, and so it went for this show. So, we winged it a little and then started a “Best of Show” on China. Sorry.

Episode 129: China and its Eastern Approaches 06/24 by Midrats on Blog Talk Radio, 5pm (Eastern U.S.)

As a growing maritime power, when China looks east, southeast, and south - how does it see its neighbors?

Even more importantly - how do its neighbors see it?

Is Russia even a top-tier concern?

Our guest for the full hour will be Wendell Minnick, author, commentator, journalist and speaker who has spent two decades covering military and security issues in Asia, including one book on intelligence and over 900 articles.

Since 2006, Minnick has served as the Asia Bureau Chief for Defense News, a Washington-based defense weekly newspaper.

From 2000-2006, he served as the Taiwan Correspondent for UK-based Jane's Defence Weekly.
Join us live by clicking here or pick the show up for later listening here or on the Midrats iTunes page here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Somali Pirates: "Pirate Swarm Attacks is a Myth"

Danish company Risk Intelligence reports, via press release,  "Pirate Swarm Attacks is s Myth"
Every summer shipping companies are warned about large swarms of pirate boats off the Horn of Africa. The warnings are based on reports from ships in the area and put out by security companies and governments. The only problem is that pirate swarms do not exist, according to the Danish intelligence company Risk Intelligence.

“We have monitored these rather panicky reports since at least 2008, when a European Naval vessel reported swarms of up to 20 pirate skiffs. But it is a misunderstanding every year. The phenomenon can be understood and described as something else every time it is reported” says Nis Leerskov Mathiesen, Chief Analyst with Risk Intelligence.

The swarm attack reports always start coming out when the monsoon brings rough weather to large swaths of the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. This means that small boat traffic moves to more sheltered waters, most significantly fishermen and smugglers. Both these groups use small boats similar to those of the pirates. And both groups manoeuvre in ways that can frighten a master of a merchant vessel. Fishermen will move at high speed towards merchant vessels, either to protect their nets or to benefit from the wake and wash of a ship. Smugglers are often “jumping” from ship to ship at high speed to stay hidden from radar surveillance. Pirates are sometimes present in the area as well. They hide in larger groups of boats. They then attack and lookouts confuse background traffic with pirate accomplices.

“We have never seen any proof that an attack is carried out by more than a small handful of skiffs. So the repeating reports of 10 and 20 strong “swarms” is a question of wrong observation in the heat of the battle and short-sighted analysis by those who put out the warnings. The effect is fear mongering”, says Nis Leerskov Mathiesen.
You can get the full report as a pdf here. Interesting read and makes some telling points about why a "pirate" swarm is unlikely. The photos in the report illustrate how confusing the sea picture can be at times. RI points the difficulty, logistically and operationally, of organizing and coordinating a large swarm of boats to attack a ship by pirates.

One of my posts regarding a reported pirate "swarm" can be found here.

Military style swarm attacks are another matter, though they, too, pose coordination issues.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

China: Using Presence to Build Dominance in the South China Sea

Interesting read at gCaptain, discussing "another" Chinese fleet (meaning not the PLAN) - more specifically, the Chinese Maritime Surveillance force- dubbed there as "China’s Great White Fleet".

Floating under that tag will be a planned 350 or so ships which already are establishing themselves as a "presence" in what are hotly contested sea areas.

One such area is the portion of the South China Sea falling under the "nine dotted line," (see the nearby "Nine Dotted Line" map) sometimes referred to as "China's Cows Tongue" (see also China and the South China Sea: Back to the "Cow's Tongue").

As set out in the gCaptain post:
Worries extend not only over the larger nation’s diplomatic claims over the region – claims in which China argues span centuries of maritime history – but in China’s increasing military strength in the region. At the heart of the problem is the aggressive newbuild strategy of the China Marine Surveillance (CMS) agency, a paramilitary maritime law enforcement agency created on 19 October 1998 under the auspices of China’s State Oceanic Administration and responsible for law enforcement within the territorial waters, exclusive economic zones (EEZ) and shores of the People’s Republic Of China.
Painted white with the English words, “China Marine Surveillance” emblazoned in tall blue letters across the sides of their hulls, the vessels being built for CMS are reminiscent of the great battleships built by the United States at the turn of the last century...
While the CM ships are relatively small, between 78 and 98 meters in length, and may be only lightly armed, they are certainly enough to intimidate fishing vessels and may prove effective in future actions against larger targets.
The CMS fleet has the proven audacity and speed to harass vessels of sizes ranging from small fishing boats to the 281 foot (85.78 m) USNS Impeccable, but unarmed fixed structures may be the primary target. Agency vessels are keeping a close eye on offshore oil and gas structures in the region and, in March of this year, CMS issued a press release citing the successful surveillance of “illegal exploration of oil and gas fields” in the South China Sea . . .
The gCaptain post goes on to note a report of a small Indian "convoy" being "welcomed" to the South China Sea by Chinese naval forces which then escorted the Indian vessels for several hours. Such a "welcome" might just be one way to let people know who the dominant power in the area is.

Using the combination of CMA and PLAN ships to "surveill" is damn clever way to assert maritime dominance.

A report on the CMS can be found at China Daily's
"Expansion of fleet to safeguard sea rights"
An SOA [State Oceanic Administration] official, who requested anonymity, told China Daily on Wednesday that the lack of ocean surveillance ships has hindered the country's ability to protect its maritime rights.


Sea disputes between China and other countries have surged in recent months.

Sino-Japanese relations have been strained since a collision between two Japan Coast Guard patrol boats and a Chinese trawler on Sept 7 in waters off the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea.

Beijing suspended all high-level contacts with Tokyo after Japan illegally detained the Chinese captain. China has since sent several fishery administrative ships to monitor the region.

In the South China Sea, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Brunei all have competing claims over some Chinese islands.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in July that sovereignty issues in the South China Sea were a "diplomatic priority" for the US and proposed dealing with them in the international arena.

"The new ships (joining the fleet) can be interpreted as China's response to recent sea disputes," said Wang Hanling, a maritime law specialist at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
One more thing to keep an eye on.

UPDATE: Salamander is on the case with a nice link to Professor Holmes at China’s Monroe Doctrine, which points out the differences in the current situation.

UPDATE2: About that "escort service" provided to the Indians from The Indian Express .
Indian Navy in South China Sea: Beijing’s unwelcome escort
The PLAN’s challenge to India was presented in a typical and exquisite Chinese style. In ‘welcoming’ and ‘escorting’ the Indian naval unit, the PLAN was showing India its velvet covered fist.

The message is this: “nice to see you here, but you are in our territorial waters and within them there is no right to ‘freedom of navigation’ for military vessels. You are here at our sufferance.”

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More on Management

U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis
Yesterday I noted that one of my favorite business books is available on Kindle and added a couple of quotes from the book, Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits.

Thinking it over, I left out my favorite quote:
Excellence: Or What the Hell Are You Doing Here?

If you can't do it excellently, don't do it at all. Because if it's not excellent it won't be profitable or fun, and if you're not in business for fun or profit, what the hell are you doing here?

More than that, one of the fundamental concepts of Mr. Townsend's work is the importance of management's primary job - that being giving the employees the right tools they need to do their jobs.

Not tools that "sorta maybe kinda" allow them to get the job done (often by using
work around" of their own creation), but the right tool in the right hand at the right time.

Not tools that have the "potential" to get the job done in some idealized future, but tools that work right now - tested before they are introduced to the workforce.

Any lessons that you choose to take from that concept and apply, say, to the Littoral Combat Ship, well, that's entirely up to you.

Of course, there is this from Phil Ewing:
“We’re making it up as we go” and “We don’t even know what it is yet!” are two Big Navy rallying cries for LCS, and they’re also two reasons why the program continues to have so many skeptics in and out of uniform. People want a ship to be a ship, not for a multi-billion dollar defense program to be a free-form jazz odyssey.
You know, what prompted some of my return to Up the Organization was our conversation on Midrats a couple of weeks ago concerning "Disruptive Thinkers" and by Galrahn's post over at the USNI Blog, Diversity Is Currently Dead in the DoD, Redundancy Reigns, referring, of course, to intellectual diversity - replaced, at least in Galrahn's view, by apparent "group think."

Which leads me to another Townsend quote:
Disobedience and Its Necessity: A commander in chief [manager] cannot take as an excuse for his mistakes in warfare [business] an order given by his minister [boss] or his sovereign [boss's boss], when the person giving the order is absent from the field of operations and is imperfectly aware or wholly unaware of the latest state of affairs. It follows that any commander in chief [manager] who undertakes to carry out a plan which he considers defective is at fault; he must put forth his reasons, insist on the plan being changed, and finally tender his resignation rather than be the instrument of his army's [organization's] downfall. citing Napoleon, Military Maxims and Thoughts

Somali Pirates: Gang Wars

Somali pirate groups have apparently taken to fighting each other, probably out of boredom in waiting for the "beach assault" of the EU/NATO forces. The report from UPI at Fighting erupts among rival Somali pirates :
Pirates fired on each other on land on the Somali coast Monday, killing at least one person and wounding many others, residents near the fighting said.

Witnesses in Hobyo, in the Mudug region of Somalia, said fighting broke out when a group of pirates tried to capture another pirate gang, Shabelle Media Network said.

"We woke up this morning hearing the barrage of bullets and sounds of artillery fire exchanging between two groups of Somali pirates," one resident told Shabelle.
Artillery fire?

Tough life being a pirate.

May they all lose. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Best Business Books: Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits

Fooling around with my Kindle, I was pleased to see a Kindle version of what I have found to be one of the more timeless business books on my shelf* - Up the Organization: How to Stop the Corporation from Stifling People and Strangling Profits by Robert C. Townsend.

If you have ever wondered how so many organizations (profit and non-profit) seem to have wandered off the rails, this book might be just right for you.

Not at all a lengthy text book, it's a simple book full of good stuff.

Back in the day when the Navy Reserve used to trust me to command units, I had cobbled together some the thoughts from this book onto one sheet which I used to hand out to the crew shortly after assuming command.

Here's a sample:
Decisions: All decisions should be made as low as possible in the organization. The Charge of the Light Brigade was ordered by an officer who wasn't there looking at the territory.

Mistakes: Admit your own mistakes openly, maybe even joyfully. Encourage your associates to do likewise by commiserating with them. Never castigate. Babies learn to walk by falling down. If you beat a baby every time he falls down, he'll never care much for walking.

Reserved parking spaces: If you're so bloody important, you better be the first one in the office. Besides, you'll meet a nice class of people in the employee's parking lot.

There's much more.

*A legacy of a M.A. in Management earned in my youth

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Things to Read and Listen To

Private maritime security companies: Lt. Kurt Albaugh's discussion of how private companies fill a need in counter-piracy with some more discussion at LCDR Claude Berube's “The Evolution of Privateers to PCASPs”

A little naval history about a "disruptive thinker" in a series by LCDR B. J. Armstrong: A Junior Officer and a Discovery", The Gritty Truth of Junior Leader Innovation and Expertise, Voice, Grit and Listening . . . a Look at the Possible.

A little discussion of "disruptive thinkers" on the latest Midrats episode Episode 127: Disruption, Disfunction & Leadership. Which may or may not play into a discussion of a military "generation gap" at Jeannette Haynie's "The Military Generation Gap (or 'What's Wrong with These Fools?"), with reading the comments highly recommended because there is a real discussion there, which, after all is one of the goals of the USNI.

Missing from all this is some of the chat room discussion from the Midrat's show linked above, which included suggestions that some (all?) of the older generation of military leaders retire or otherwise get out of the way to make room for the new. Such suggestions are, as you might guess, usually made by the younger crowd. I might have even made the same suggestions when I was a young ensign . . .

About a zillion years ago, when I was somewhat younger myself, there was this Bob Dylan song that also raised a similar argument, The Times They Are A-Changin':
Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’
Change "mothers and fathers" to "generals and admirals" and, well, there is an anthem there for someone to seize on.

I would note, however, before the crowd runs amok and demands gray haired heads on pikes, that Halsey, Nimitz, Mitscher, Spruance, Eisenhower, MacArthur, King, Leahy, Patton, and Marshall were all in their 50's or older in 1941 when the U.S. got into WWII. Omar Bradley was "only" 48 when at the start of U.S. involvement.

So, yeah, there is always going to be a "generation gap" but the seems to me that the key is not to toss off the old just because of some arbitrary age thing.

UPDATE: Oh, got caught in something else and forgot to mention that you should be looking over at Information Dissemination for a slew of great guest posts put there as part of ID's 5th anniversary - all great reads.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Somali Pirates: Countries that say "No" to private armed security guards

Countries that are saying "No" to private armed security teams on their flag merchant ships: Netherlands:
The Dutch government does not allow ship owners to have armed guards on board, but it does provide marines as protection. However, ship owners and insurers say there are not enough of them.

Hillen says he thinks the ship owners are protesting at the cost of the marines, who cost twice as much as private security guards, say press reports. He will see if the cost can be reduced but can give no guarantee.
Transportation Minister E.E. Mangindaan said the hiring of private armed security guards on ships had been a pretty hot issue at the recent meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) maritime safety committee in London; it had also been the subject of prolonged debate among stakeholders at home.

“But the government will consistently oppose the proposal due to the absence of national and international legal instruments,” Mangindaan said during the opening of the International Transport Workers’ Federation’s Asia-Pacific regional conference in Jakarta on Tuesday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

News You Can Use to Take a Vacation Day: "Alien Spaceships to Attack Earth in November 2012"

Sometimes you just have to read the Weekly World News which reports ALIEN SPACESHIPS TO ATTACK EARTH IN NOVEMBER 2012!:
Beginning in August of 2012 the U.N. will begin preparing citizens of the world for the second attack of the three Gootan spaceships and a subsequent alien attack, which they predict will be “a large-scale assault.”
Thank goodness for the U.N., by golly.

I wonder, though, exactly how one prepares for the attack of the Gootan spaceships?

Do you think the U.N. will do its usual bang up job of preparation? Are the Security Council resolutions drafted forbidding the attack? Oh, I hope so.

Oh, perhaps, like me, you missed the first attack, I guess I was busy or something.

Apparently, according to WNN, there are Gootans already among us.

Shock and horrors.

I guess now you can say you have been warned.

Well, if not an alien attack, something else important is scheduled to happen in November 2012.

Monday, June 11, 2012

China: A Maritime Strategy

From the China Daily, a Chinese view of maritime strategy in "Safeguard maritime rights and interests":
. . . China's maritime strategy should focus on the following:

First, it should clarify its maritime strategy based on the three pillars of traditional and non-traditional maritime security; marine economy and technology; and its diplomatic strategy, making full use of international law, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Second, it should strive for an understanding with the US and explore a bilateral coordination mechanism to maintain a dynamic balance of competition and cooperation. China has no intention of challenging the US' maritime hegemony, so the US should respect China's maritime rights and interests "on its doorstep".

Sino-Russian and Sino-Indian cooperation should be expanded and Sino-Japanese competition controlled.

China and Russia are making efforts to safeguard their legitimate maritime rights and interests and held a large-scale joint military exercise in the Yellow Sea in April.

Third, it must avoid getting isolated while dealing with the territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Fourth, China must resolutely and effectively defend its maritime territorial sovereignty and core interests. It must resolve disputes caused by overlapping exclusive economic zone and fishery and oil, gas and mineral resources disputes through negotiations and consultations, and safeguard the security of sea-lanes through regional multilateral cooperation.

Fifth, China should establish an institutional mechanism to develop its marine economy and integrate the use of law enforcement, diplomatic, military and other means, strengthen department coordination, and coordination between the central government and coastal provinces, and set up a national institution specifically responsible for dealing with marine affairs.
Earlier in the piece is this:
. . . [T]he specific territorial disputes between China and some neighboring countries, which have been aggravated by the lack of strategic trust between the United States and China. The maritime sovereignty disputes between China and Japan, Vietnam, and the Philippines are complex and troublesome, and the last thing China wants is to see these countries and the US joining hands against China. In fact, China and the US have no maritime sovereignty disputes, they are contending for sea power and influence.
Hmmm "lack of stratgic trust?" Does that mean standing up for allies with those claims contrary to China's?

"Sea power and influence" . . . time to dig out my Mahan again.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Midrats 10 June 12 :Episode 127: "Disruption, Disfunction and Leadership" on Blog Talk Radio

Join us Sunday, 10 June, at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) for Midrats 10 June 12 :Episode 127: "Disruption, Disfunction and Leadership" on Blog Talk Radio, a show that poses some interesting questions:
What is a "crisis in leadership?

In an organization that prizes the Type-A personality that takes risk combined with a strong intellect - yet at the same times asks from it silence and order - what happens when each end loses faith and trust in the other?

Our guest for the full hour will be Peter Munson, Marine officer, KC-130 aircraft commander, Middle East specialist, author, and editor of Small Wars Journal.

As a starting point, we will use his article in SWJ, Disruptive Thinkers: Defining the Problem:

"Today’s military is facing a significant crisis. ... The rank and file of the military who have made or witnessed the massive efforts and sacrifices of the past decade, and who have seen so very little in the way of satisfying results in return, ... They are disappointed by the failures of leadership and imagination that have yielded toxic commands, a rash of firings in some services, and a breach of trust with our most vulnerable service members. They wonder about the future of the weapons systems that support and defend them as they read tales of acquisition woe. They question the growing focus on bureaucratic minutiae. They question how they can be trusted so completely in a combat environment, but are treated as children in garrison. They wonder how a military system that prides itself on justice will reward the generals that have presided over failure, ... while at the same time eroding the autonomy and discretion of junior commanders with a creeping campaign of bureaucratic centralization.

These are symptoms of a malaise facing the military, of an ossified and decadent institutional culture and a bloated bureaucracy that has grown a profusion of power centers that jealously guard their territory and their budget."
A crisis or a return to the old "garrison mentality" that follows all wars? A return to a system that punishes warriors and rewards "toadies" who are all "book?"

Seen the movie, "Heartbreak Ridge?" - remember the major out to get Gunny Highway? He's one of "role models" we'll be talking about.

I suspect that John Boyd's name will come up.

Can't make the show? Pick it up later at Midrats on Blog Talk Radio or from Midrats on iTunes

Friday, June 08, 2012

What I heard at the Marine Corps War College graduation

First, congratulations to the graduates of the various programs offered by the Marine Corps University who were honored on 6 June. You are an impressive group, you mid-career Marines, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Army officers, along with the remarkable group of foreign military students from Afghanistan to Ukraine who were your classmates.

For those of you who could not attend this ceremony, part of the MCU is the Command and Staff College (CSC) which enrolls Marine/AF/Army majors and Navy/Coast Guard Lieutenant Commanders who have taken on the challenge of a military career.*

If not all future generals or admirals, these CSC grads will be part of that core around which forms the U.S. military. And, yes, I know that there are those other Command and Staff schools who also annually send a couple of hundred of graduates out into the field for field commands but I was at this graduation.

For the graduates, a career milestone has been checked off. The first PME has been fulfilled.

Of the 204 or so 2012 graduates of the CSC about 164 received Masters of Military Science degrees. Unknowing civilians may scoff at such a degree, noting its apparent lack of usefulness in their civilian world.

That civilian world misses the point.

You want your military to have read Clausewitz, to have walked the fields of Gettysburg, to have studied logistics and read John Boyd, because that is the world of the military professional.

You want that hard-charging young major or LtCol to draw on more than just personal experience when the nation's defense is in his or her hands.

So, again, congratulations to the grads. And a further congratulations to the American people. You should take pride that in the service of your country are such amazing young people.

Second, let me talk about the graduation speech for the class of 2012. The Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps delivered it.

It was short as such things go, but a couple of things struck me. In the absence of a transcript, you will have to live with my recollection (and I was not taking notes).

General Dunford pointed out that for some time there were few changes in the way in which the Marines went to war. He noted that when he entered the Corps, he was issued the same "cold weather gear" that his father had used in the Korean War ("not like the gear my father used, but the same gear") and that a platoon leader in Korea or Vietnam would not have had difficulty, if magically transported to the future, with the tactics first employed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He then noted in past few years that great changes have occurred in the ways of war. Changes such that a Marine who fought in Afghanistan 6 years ago would not find things the same - there had been such a rapid revolution in tactics and equipment that the American battlefield was off in a new direction. A platoon once responsible for a limited front, now has coverage of a vastly larger area. Better communications, better equipment, and (I assume) better Marines allow such an expansion of responsibility.

So, Lesson #1: "Things change"

Then the challenge - he had a couple of good yarns about things that seemed, well, "unnecessary" at the time they occurred. He spoke of an effort he led, as a young colonel, to assess the threat to and protection of various key national infrastructure assets - ports and bridges and highways and the like - which his boss did not really appreciate the need for, at least in early 2001.

He also spoke of a paper written by a young officer that addressed the threat of "improvised explosive devices (IEDs or roadside bombs)" and suggested a look at the South African response to such weapons. All of which ultimately led to the MRAP vehicle. The paper was written in 1996 by an officer taking a "what if?" look at things.

Things change. You never know exactly how, so you need to be flexible and ready.

So, Lesson 2: "Challenge the conventional thinking."

We no longer line up in box formations and attack in broad fronts. The aircraft is not just used for spotting targets. Submarines are not interesting novelties. Anti-ballistic missile systems can work. OODA.

Revolutions in military affairs were not led by assuming things have to be as they have been

I don't know how many of the graduates were listening to the speech.

I can't remember a single line of any graduation speech I have ever heard because, well, I had other things on my mind. Like getting the heck out of there.

But, if they were listening they should have heard the warning order implied in the softly delivered speech, which I took to be:
We do not know what you will face in the future, We only know that you will need to use your education and experience to face those challenges that come your way. We have added to your tool kit and trust you to put those tools to good use.

Our national defense is- well - you and your band of brothers in arms.

Be flexible, be ready, be strong.

Because you never know.

*And FBI/DEA/BATF/DOS and others

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Beginning to Liberate France- the Normandy Invasion -- The D-Day Landings, 6 June 1944

It took years to assemble the force, years to build the tools, years to train the men, years to defend air attacks, years to build the air power, years to build the sea power, years to move into North Africa, years to take Sicily, move up Italy, years for the Russians to hold against a ruthless onslaught and then, on one day - the war in Europe took on a new ground front with Normandy Invasion -- The D-Day Landings, 6 June 1944:
The Normandy invasion took place in the Bay of the Seine, on the south side of the English Channel between the Cotentin Peninsula and the port of Le Havre. Some fifty-five miles broad and twenty deep, its waters were shallow, had a considerable tidal range, and, when the wind blew from the northward, could be very choppy. The planned landing beaches covered about forty-five miles of the Bay's shoreline. Westernmost was "Utah" Area, stretching eight miles southward along the low-lying southeastern coast of the Cotentin Peninsula. Directly to the east was "Omaha" Area, covering twelve miles of generally hilly terrain. United States forces were assigned to take both of those areas, with important assistance from the navies of Great Britain and other Allies. British and Canadian troops would assault the areas code-named "Gold", "Juno", and "Sword", which ran twenty miles eastward from "Omaha". This sector ended at the mouth of the Orne River, some fifteen miles west of Le Havre, where the German Navy based a group of potentially very dangerous torpedo boats.
Now, the vise was closing on the Germans - in the East the Russians were pressing, in the South, the "soft underbelly" (which proved hard enough to crack to mock that phrase) was giving way (Rome captured 4 June 1944), and now, the new "Western front" - Germany pinched - not yet defeated, but it became the beginning of the end.

68 years ago.
Pearl Harbor survivor USS Nevada provides supporting fire on D-Day in Normandy

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

How to Win a Sea Battle

A slightly updated re-posting from 2009 as part of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Midway:

In preparing for a major sea battle, make sure of the following:
  1. Have your major surface combatants destroyed or seriously damaged and unavailable for use.
  2. Make sure the enemy has 4 aircraft carriers and some big battleships headed for you.
  3. Make sure you are outnumbered in aircraft carriers by 4 to 3.
  4. Have 1 of your 3 aircraft carriers severely damaged and limp into port unable to support flight operations.
  5. Have only a vague idea where the enemy fleet might be.
  6. Arrange to have your most aggressive, experienced aviator admiral come down with some sort of skin infection that puts him in a hospital bed, unavailable for duty.
  7. Replace him with a non-aviator admiral just in time for what you know has to be a battle largely fought by carrier aircraft. See #1.
  8. Have him hatch a scheme that hides the fleet way off to the north of where you think the enemy are headed. Just in case they aren't because your fleet is all that stands as a defensive barrier between Hawaii and the U.S. mainland.
  9. Make sure the whole battle will turn on which fleet spots the other fleet first.
  10. Do hasty repairs on that banged up carrier and send her, after 24 hours out to sea with civilian workers to try and do more repairs underway.
  11. Don't have enough patrol aircraft out looking for the enemy fleet so that your coverage of possible avenues of approach is spotty.
  12. Make sure your torpedo attack planes are slow and carry torpedoes that can only o be dropped after a long, slow low level flight toward enemy ships.
  13. When you spot the enemy fleet, make sure it is at the maximum range of your aircraft.
  14. Make sure your tactics include the arrival of the low slow torpedo bombers and the dive bombers and fighters all at the same time, otherwise the torpedo bombers will be "sitting ducks."
  15. Make sure that the tactic described in #12 does not work out at all. Lose nearly all your torpedo planes early in the engagement.
  16. Arrange for an enemy sub to end up in the middle of your formation where it will eventually sink one of your carriers.
  17. Have ground based aircraft from Midway Island find the enemy fleet and carry the fight to him as well as they can.
  18. Have this fight cause the enemy fleet to be in the act of rearming reserve aircraft when your main air attack starts and fouling the deck with ordnance.
  19. Have the enemy distracted by the low and slow torpedo bombers while your dive bombers arrive to do their work.
  20. Scatter your aircraft so that instead of all arriving at once they appear to come in waves.
  21. Have a stubborn squadron leader who, instead of turning back with low fuel, kept searching until the enemy fleet was spotted and attacked.
  22. Have the non-aviator admiral make the decision to head his carriers toward the enemy fleet so he could cycle his aircraft faster.
  23. Sink all 4 enemy carriers, while only losing 1.
  24. Completely halt the enemy attack and turn the tide of the war.
  25. Be very, very lucky.
70 years ago. The Battle of Midway.

Art from the Navy Art Collection

Monday, June 04, 2012

70 Years Ago - the Battle of Midway

Seventy years ago, the Battle of Midway may not have won the the war for the U.S., but it certainly shifted the momentum and paved the path to victory. Now, the Battle of Midway:
The Battle of Midway, fought over and near the tiny U.S. mid-Pacific base at Midway atoll, represents the strategic high water mark of Japan's Pacific Ocean war. Prior to this action, Japan possessed general naval superiority over the United States and could usually choose where and when to attack. After Midway, the two opposing fleets were essentially equals, and the United States soon took the offensive.

Japanese Combined Fleet commander Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto moved on Midway in an effort to draw out and destroy the U.S. Pacific Fleet's aircraft carrier striking forces, which had embarrassed the Japanese Navy in the mid-April Doolittle Raid on Japan's home islands and at the Battle of Coral Sea in early May. He planned to quickly knock down Midway's defenses, follow up with an invasion of the atoll's two small islands and establish a Japanese air base there. He expected the U.S. carriers to come out and fight, but to arrive too late to save Midway and in insufficient strength to avoid defeat by his own well-tested carrier air power.

Yamamoto's intended surprise was thwarted by superior American communications intelligence, which deduced his scheme well before battle was joined. This allowed Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander, to establish an ambush by having his carriers ready and waiting for the Japanese. On 4 June 1942, in the second of the Pacific War's great carrier battles, the trap was sprung. The perseverance, sacrifice and skill of U.S. Navy aviators, plus a great deal of good luck on the American side, cost Japan four irreplaceable fleet carriers, while only one of the three U.S. carriers present was lost. The base at Midway, though damaged by Japanese air attack, remained operational and later became a vital component in the American trans-Pacific offensive.

UPDATE: Excellent history of the Midway Battle in a series of posts by Steeljaw Scribe- go and read.

Somali Pirates: NATO Look at Piracy in High Risk Area

As the Somali pirate operating area enters the SW Monsoon period, a nice chart from the NATO Shipping Center: Piracy statistics:
The statistics presented on this page are for information purposes only . . .
Click on image to enlarge

In short, expect a slow down for the next couple of months due to weather, armed guards and the "preventive" strikes on pirate "mother ships."

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Midrats Episode 126: "National Security in the 2012 Election" -5pm Sunday, June 3 on Blog Talk Radio

"Political Season," like "Hurricane Season," is upon us and it is a good time to look at some of the ramifications of the votes to come, which is exactly what we are doing this Sunday, June 3 at 5pm (Eastern U.S.) with Midrats Episode 126: National Security in the 2012 Election 06/03 on Blog Talk Radio
Five months and a bit to the November 2012 election.

The war in Iraq is over, the war in Afghanistan is adrift - but the underlying cause of both remains. OBL is dead yet the drone wars expand.

Our traditional European allies have never been weaker in living memory. The old order in the Arab world is changing, and the western Pacific grows in focus.

A military worn out by a decade of war is also looking at decreasing resources in a sluggish economy.

Where do we prioritize? What is the best mix of strategy and programs to best prepare our military for the challenges of this century?

Which issues related to national defense will make it in to the 2012 contest? How do President Obama and Governor Romney differ in their views, plans, and priorities for our nation's military?

Our returning guest for the full hour will be Mackenzie Eaglen, Resident Fellow at the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute.

Mackenzie Eaglen has worked on defense issues in the U.S. Congress, both House and Senate, and at the Pentagon in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and on the Joint Staff. She specializes in defense strategy, budget, military readiness and the defense industrial base. In 2010, Ms. Eaglen served as a staff member of the congressionally mandated Quadrennial Defense Review Independent Panel, a bipartisan, blue-ribbon commission established to assess the Pentagon's major defense strategy. A prolific writer on defense related issues, she has also testified before Congress.
Join us live by clicking here or later by downloading the show from here or from the iTunes page.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Gulf of Guinea Pirates: Unsuccessful Attack on Greek oil tanker off Nigeria

AFP: report "Pirates attack Greek oil tanker off Nigeria":
Pirates attacked a Greek-owned oil tanker off Nigeria Friday but failed to hijack the ship after the crew hid in a safe room, the International Maritime Bureau said.

The tanker was anchored off Lagos when armed pirates boarded early on Friday, said Noel Choong, head of the IMB's piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur.

The 23 crew onboard managed to lock themselves into a safe room and sent out a distress call that was received by the IMB, which in turn alerted the Nigerian navy and other warships patrolling the area, Choong said.
Choong said the pirates, likely aiming to steal the ship's cargo, abandoned their plan as they could not enter the safe room and urged crews of other ships off west Africa to be vigilant.