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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Navy We Need

Power projection, preserving freedom of the seas, aiding allies, bothering bullies and the ability to “move U.S. soil anywhere in the world.”
USS Carl Vinson departs San Diego, headed west. (Photo by Lorna T.)
George Will writes an interesting opinion piece "Navy with a mission in mind" which contains the above quote from Rep. Randy Forbes and more:
Greenert’s Navy, which has fewer (290) but much more capable ships than the Navy had during the Reagan buildup (594), can still move nimbly to put anti-missile ships near North Korea or F/A-18s over the Islamic State. But cascading dangers are compelling Americans to think afresh about something they prefer not to think about at all — foreign policy. What they decide that they want will define the kind of nation they want America to be. This abstract question entails a concrete one: What kind of Navy do Americans want? The answer will determine whether U.S. power can, in Greenert’s formulation, “be where it matters when it matters.”
The question, however, is: Do Americans, demoralized by squandered valor in Iraq and Afghanistan, and dismayed in dramatically different ways by two consecutive commanders in chief — the recklessness of one and the lassitude of his successor — want U.S. power projected? They will answer that question with the Navy their representatives configure. The representatives should act on the assumption that every generation lives either in war years or in what subsequent historians will call “interwar years.”
He could have written much of that after WWI, when the Navy was cut way back only to be needed again in the face of a rising Asian power seeking to dominate the Western Pacific.

I should note that our Navy has been long been forward deployed and on a war footing since - what? 1987? We need more ships and more people in them. This is not the time to shrink away from our duties to ourselves and others.

Warships are long lead time investments. They are not something you can run down to the local "ShipMax" and pick up a nice barely used model on the cheap (unless you are a U.S. ally picking up our cast-offs). If you need a great big gray hull out there - to do the nation's bidding- you need to keep the shipyards working. The "quality versus quantity" debate becomes meaningless if you can't meet the demands placed on you due to the lack of hulls to be in the right places at the right times.

Written a couple of years ago, this CNN opinion piece by retired Brigadier General Paula Thornhill , "History shows danger of arbitrary defense cuts" expresses the right concerns:
As America embarks on a tough strategic journey in the aftermath of Iraq, and contends with an ailing economy, it is wise to be mindful of the difference between hope and fact. The president and Congress might focus on strengthening the economy and assume for a time that a smaller military will suffice. Pursuing prudent military reductions in this environment makes sense; however, relying on a budget-driven process to make these reductions does not.

The nation's leadership needs a Plan B so that a heroic assumption -- or hope -- about the unlikelihood of future wars does not inadvertently lead to strategic disaster. This is harder than it seems. Plan B would allow more flexibility to meet what could go wrong in the strategic environment rather than just making budget cuts.
"Plan B" should include sound thinking about the dangers ahead and the tools to face them. In my opinion, a solid Naval force should be item #1 in the tool box.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Disaster Escape Routes for the Home

Wherever you live - in a house, town home or apartment - it is a good idea to think about how to get out of the place should there be a fire or some other disaster that threatens your life.

Of all the scenarios which might pose a danger to life and limb, probably the most likely is that of a fire, so let's use that as our starting point for this discussion.

FEMA has a pretty good website on this topic, Learn About Fire Escape Plans:
In the event of a fire, remember that every second counts, so you and your family must always be prepared. Escape plans help you get out of your home quickly. In less than 30 seconds, a small flame can get completely out of control and turn into a major fire. It only takes minutes for a house to fill with thick black smoke and become engulfed in flames.

Prepare and practice your fire escape plan twice a year with everyone in your household, including children and people with disabilities. It's also a good idea to practice your plan with overnight guests. Some tips to consider when preparing your escape plan include:

Draw a map of each level of your home and show all doors and windows. Find two ways to get out of each room. Make sure all doors and windows that lead outside open easily.
  • Only purchase collapsible escape ladders evaluated by a recognized testing laboratory. Use the ladder only in a real emergency.
  • Teach children how to escape on their own in case you cannot help them.
  • Have a plan for everyone in your home who has a disability.
  • Practice your fire escape plan at night and during the daytime.
In case you missed it, the key point is to "identify two ways out of each room." It's also good to have a pre-arranged post-escape meeting place so that a head count can be made.

For those of us who live in two story houses, this might entail acquiring one of those "collapsible escape ladders." If you live in a two story house, that requires about 13 feet of ladder, assuming your house is on relatively level ground. For 3 stories, you need 20 feet and there are 4 or 5 story ladders that are 45 feet long. Amazon has, not surprisingly, a pretty extensive list of such ladders here. Prices range from $30 for a 2-story model to a little over $200 for the 45 foot ladder (which weighs about 40 pounds, so factor that in making decisions about where to store the thing). Other sources include, Home Depot and Lowe's.

 For those who don't like the thought of having to set up a ladder in the midst of an emergency, there are permanent mount fire escape ladders, like this one (not endorsing, just noting):
The REDI-EXIT® Fire Escape Ladder is a permanently mounted escape system that attaches outside a bedroom window, looking very similar to a downspout in its normally closed position. Just press the red release knob to open the REDI-EXIT Fire Escape Ladder.

The REDI-EXIT Fire Escape Ladder requires no heavy lifting to deploy and the ladder rungs are spaced 11" apart, making it easy for young children and the elderly to use.
Photos from the REDI-EXIT site, where the list price of a 2 story ladder is about $1300, and a 3 story version for about $1800. They make them up to 4 story lengths.

Werner ladders has a variation on the fixed ladder with its fire escape ladder, where a flexible ladder is permanently mounted for easy deployment.

One of the things to consider in developing your escape plan is the physical characteristics of the home occupants. Very young children and the elderly or infirm may need to have something different than a ladder than must be climbed down. How important is this? Well, for older residents the risks are higher:
In 2010, older adults (ages 65 and older) represented 13 percent of the United States population but suffered 35 percent of all fire deaths.

Older adults are 2.7 times more likely to die in a fire than the general population. The risk worsens as we age.

People ages 85 and older are 4.6 times more likely to die in a fire. Older adult males are 62 percent more likely to die in a fire than older adult females.
Here is a repetitive video to drive home this point.:

If you have elderly parents or are getting there yourself, you might want to consider relocating the sleeping area to a ground level room with a couple of exit routes that can be managed by people who may not be able to swing themselves over a window ledge and down a swinging ladder.

The key here, as usual is to have an escape plan and to practice that plan. Without practice, it won't be automatic in the event you need to execute the plan.

Oh, and smoke and fire alarms - lots of them!

As an aside, and while it's not in the "escape" plan system, one good idea for all homes, but especially those with "forgetful" or "distracted" people are automatic stove turn off devices. While these may seem pricey, consider what they are protecting. More ideas here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Middle East History: Empires and Tribes

As a sort of follow-on to our Midrats show from Sunday, in which the topic of the shaping of the modern Middle East as a part of the end of World War I was discussed,
More Military Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Midrats on BlogTalkRadio

There is this nice "Imperial History of the Middle East" from Maps of War, which takes us to about 2006:

And a discussion of how clans, tribes, religion and more all are factors in what may be a reshaping of the Middle East as 100 year old (or so) nation-states seem to melting away before more ancient demands, from StratFor:
The states the Europeans created were arbitrary, the inhabitants did not give their primary loyalty to them, and the tensions within states always went over the border to neighboring states. The British and French imposed ruling structures before the war, and then a wave of coups overthrew them after World War II. Syria and Iraq became pro-Soviet states while Israel, Jordan and the Arabians became pro-American, and monarchies and dictatorships ruled over most of the Arab countries. These authoritarian regimes held the countries together.

"Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon's Precedent is republished with permission of Stratfor."

So, one point is that "stability" in most of the Middle East is not something that ought to be considered the norm but something that has been forced on the local tribes by various degrees of strong men and empires back to the dawn of history. As a friend of mine once said on reading the Old Testament, "It's a history of warfare going back thousands of years."

The other point, which should be clear after a long history of U.S. and other Western involvement in the Middle East, is that it is inappropriate to think in "Western" terms about the local political structures and the state lines drawn by old empires that have themselves faded away. In particular, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq are cobbled together constructs.

That is not to say that the West should stand by and watch groups like ISIS ravage through territory to impose their version of "normal" in the area. In helping the locals to resist ISIS, though, delicate balance is needed to allow the locals to find their own path to a structure that makes sense to them.

The danger is a collection of failed states and the Somiliazation of the Middle East albeit with heavier weapons.

As the old movie line goes, "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oil Matters: Iran Is Thinking of Oil Terminal Outside the Arabian/Persian Gulf

Most of Iran's ability to get oil and gas products to the world outside the Arabian/Persian Gulf can be blockaded by putting a "stopper" in the entrances to the sea line of communication chokepoint that is the Strait of Hormuz. That "stopper" could be naval forces or mines or air power sufficient to threaten shipping trying to leave the A/P Gulf.

To an extent, the great worry to many of those outside of Iran who rely on shipments of oil and gas from the area has been that Iran might place its own cork in the mouth of the Gulf and cut off vital supplies, creating an international energy shortage and chaos in energy markets.
Other oil and gas producing states in the A/P Gulf have taken steps to reduce the risk of economic harm caused by Iranian action by developing alternative paths (by which I mean pipelines) to carry products away from the Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. See the nearby map of such alternatives. Click on it to enlarge it.

Iran's potential to close the Strait of Hormuz is a double-edged sword, however, because a truly effective Iranian cork (perhaps using mines) in the Strait of Hormuz might also hobble the Iranian oil and gas export business which is also dependent on an open Strait. This limitation affects the ability of Iran to apply "energy supply" leverage on the world to get what it wants.

This Iranian dependency on an open Strait also constitutes a powerful strategic lever against the Iranian government when international disputes arise. Due to the alternative export routes developed by its neighbors and that are currently unavailable to Iran, it is possible that through - a blockade or other action closing the Strait to it - Iran could be boxed in the Gulf with oil and gas but no way to get it to market. No sales of such products could wreak havoc on the economy of Iran. A Iranian economy that gets bad enough could lead to internal strife in Iran and an overthrow of the present "republic."

Recognizing this problem, Iran is pondering a way to build itself a way out of this "box." One possibility is to set up an oil and gas port outside of the chokepoint Strait of Hormuz. The Tehran Times reports on just such a plan, in "Iran to invest $2.5b to build oil terminal at Sea of Oman port" :
Iran is planning to invest $2.5 billion to build a new crude oil export terminal at Jask Port on the Sea of Oman, bypassing the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the only way in and out of the Persian Gulf, the managing director of the Iran Oil Terminals Company announced on Saturday.

Most of Iran’s exports are funneled through the big terminal on Kharg Island in the northern Persian Gulf, then shipped southward in supertankers through the Strait of Hormuz, the Mehr News Agency quoted IOTC Managing Director Pirouz Mousavi as saying.

Iran also plans to lay a pipeline running from the Caspian Sea in the north to Jask, Mousavi added.

An older look at Iran's oil and gas infrastructure (2004)
Since a large number of joint oil and gas fields are located in the Persian Gulf, such a terminal will help the country expedite oil storage and export operations, he stated.

The Jask oil terminal will be comprised of storage facilities with a total capacity of 20 million barrels, loading and unloading docks, as well as onshore and offshore facilities, Mousavi said.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a meeting with domestic researchers in Tehran on Saturday that the diversification of oil export routes is one of the most strategic policies of his administration.

Mohsen Qamsari, the deputy director for international affairs of the National Iranian Oil Company, recently said that Iran is exporting an average of one million barrels of oil per day based on the November 2013 interim nuclear deal with the 5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China, and Germany).

Under the deal, the six countries undertook to provide Iran with some sanctions relief in exchange for Iran agreeing to limit certain aspects of its nuclear activities.

The two sides agreed to extend the nuclear talks until November 24, with a view to achieving a permanent accord.

Iran produced 2.762 million barrels of oil per day in July, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said in its latest report. (emphasis added)
Bandar-e-Jask Area
So, Iran is sitting on a million+ barrels of oil that it can't legally export under its agreement in the interim nuclear deal.

It needs an alternative path for its oil and gas. It has a small port at Jask on the Gulf of Oman - so . . . it has now floated a plan to enlarge that port and get an alternative out of the Gulf.

The arrow on the nearby map points to Jask.

Jask is also home, since 2008, to an Iranian naval base which it has asserted gives it the ability control the Strait of Hormuz:
"We are creating a new defence front in the region, thinking of a non-regional enemy," Adm Sayyari told state run Iranian radio.

"In this region we are capable of preventing the entry of any kind of enemy into the strategic Persian Gulf if need be," he said.
Is this proposed oil port real? If so, is it a sound and smart strategic plan or a bargaining chip for the nuclear talks? Or both?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #22

History is never surprising—after it happens.

“Logic of Empire” (1941)

On Midrats 24 Aug 2014- Episode 242: "Lost Opportunities: WWI and the Birth of the Modern World"

Please join us at 5pm (EDT) for Episode 242: "Lost Opportunities: WWI and the Birth of the Modern World":
A hundred years on, in 2014 what insights can we gain from the war that started 100 years ago in August of 2014? What are some of the lessons we need to remember in all four levers of national power; diplomatic, informational, military, and economic - in order to help steer our future course as a nation, and to better understand developing events?

Using his article in The National Interest, World War I: Five Ways Germany Could Have Won the First Battle of the Atlantic as a starting point for an hour long discussion, our guest will be James Holmes, PhD, professor of strategy at the Naval War College and senior fellow at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs.

Jim is former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer, graduating from Vanderbilt University (B.A., mathematics and German) and completed graduate work at Salve Regina University (M.A., international relations), Providence College (M.A., mathematics), and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University (M.A.L.D. and Ph.D., international affairs).

His most recent books (with long-time coauthor Toshi Yoshihara) are Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age and Red Star over the Pacific.

Jim has published over 25 book chapters and 150 scholarly essays, along with hundreds of opinion columns, think-tank analyses, and other works. He blogs as the Naval Diplomat and is an occasional contributor to Foreign Policy, The National Interest, War on the Rocks, CNN, and the Naval Institute Proceedings.
Join us live at 5pm (EDT) if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Gulf of Guinea Oil "Pirates"

Over the past few months there has been much discussion of the "oil pirates" of the Gulf of Guinea who grab tankers, empty their oil cargoes and release the ships. One of the lingering questions has been what they are doing with the oil they have stolen. One fascinating possibility is reported by BenoƮt Faucon and Drew Hinshaw in the Wall Street Journal's "Tiny Ghana Oil Platform's Big Output Sparks Scrutiny" (which is behind a subscription block) where they report,
A small oil facility off the coast of Africa appears to be sending lots of crude to Europe, raising questions by Nigerian and U.S. authorities about whether some of it is pilfered Nigerian crude that they say is increasingly making it to global markets.

Ghana's government inaugurated the Saltpond platform back in 1978 to pump oil from an offshore field. In its heyday, the field, located seven miles off the country's coast, produced more than a million barrels a year. That has dwindled to just over 100,000 barrels over the course of 2013, according to Ghana's finance ministry.
But since last August, three tankers picked up more than 470,000 barrels from Saltpond, transporting it to an Italian refinery near the port of Genoa, according to port officials, ship-tracking services and port records.
The article notes that there are some legitimate shipments through the platform, but
The Saltpond platform, meanwhile, has been a destination for at least one vessel connected to Nigerian oil theft, according to ship-tracking services.
Two cargoes, unloaded in August 2013 and February 2014, carried about 340,000 barrels altogether, according to Genoa port officials. The third tanker, unloaded on April of this year, carried 132,000 barrels. Together, that's more than four times the platform's 2013 output of around 100,000 barrels, according to the Ghana government figures.
Very interesting.

Oil and money. Two parts of a formula for corruption and crooks.

More on the Saltpond Oil Field and its current operator Saltpond Offshore Producing Company Limited.

Friday Fun Film: Just a reminder of ""Operation Earnest Will" 1987

How long has the U.S. Navy been at war footing in the Arabian/Persian Gulf? Just a reminder of the Reagan-era effort to ensure oil flowed out of the A/P Gulf in 1987 - and a little music from the "Top Gun" movie days:

Ah, those fearless news guys.

Interesting take on the Earnest Will op at (pdf)-
In 1987 the United States agreed to register eleven Kuwaiti oil tankers under the American flag and provide them naval protection at the height of the Iran – Iraq War. Motivated primarily by Cold War considerations, the United States embarked on a policy of “neutral intervention” whose intended effects were certain to be disadvantageous to Iran. American planners failed to adequately anticipate Iranian reaction to the American policy,which led to a number of violent naval actions and American retaliatory strikes on Iranian oil facilities. Nevertheless, by April, 1988, the United States had largely achieved its declared objectives, which were to secure the safe transit of Kuwaiti oil through the Gulf, and forestall the expansion of Soviet influence in the region. On April 29, 1988, however, the United States expanded the scope of the protection scheme, extending the U.S. Navy’s protective umbrella to all neutral shipping in the Persian Gulf. This decision divorced the American policy from its original limited objectives, increased the likelihood of further confrontation with Iran, and laid the groundwork for the destruction of an Iranian airliner by USS Vincennes (CG-49).
So, 27+ years.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Active Shooter Preparedness

Suppose you had been on the campus of Virginia Tech when Seung-Hui Cho went hunting for people or are on a high school campus when a couple of young thugs decide to get revenge against people who have hurt their feelings - what you need to have is some form of preparation for such an event - no matter how unlikely it might seem that it could happen to you.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA have some advice for you if you find yourself in what is referred to as an "active shooter" scenario.

A definition:
An active shooter is an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and other populated area. In most cases, active shooters use firearms and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims. Active shooter situations are unpredictable and evolve quickly.
DHS has developed an independent study course entitled Active Shooter: What You Can Do. This course was developed to provide the public with guidance on how to prepare for and respond to active shooter crisis situations.

Upon completion of Active Shooter: What You Can Do, employees and managers will be able to:
  • Describe the actions to take when confronted with an active shooter and to assist responding law enforcement officials;
  • Recognize potential workplace violence indicators;
  • Describe actions to take to prevent and prepare for potential active shooter incidents; and
  • Describe how to manage the consequences of an active shooter incident.
The referenced course is available as IS-907: Active Shooter: What You Can Do.

DHS also has a video:

Get out, or get into cover and concealment.

Here's a slightly more aggressive take:
Run, hide, fight.

The question of what changes when members of the threatened group are armed is not addressed, but . . . be careful to take out the bad people and not your fellow innocents.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Drone Wars: Combined Manned, Unmanned Carrier Operations

Shouldn't be surprise, should it?

I mean, that was the plan - right? USS Theodore Roosevelt Conducts Combined Manned, Unmanned Operations:
“Today we showed that the X-47B could take off, land and fly in the carrier pattern with manned aircraft while maintaining normal flight deck operations. This is key for the future Carrier Air Wing.”

Capt. Beau Duarte
Program Manager, Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Aviation office
Wave of the future.

The first series of manned/unmanned operations began Sunday morning when the ship launched an F/A-18 and an X-47B. After an eight-minute flight, the X-47B executed an arrested landing, folded its wings and taxied out of the landing area.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Saturday Is Heinlein Quote Day #21

“Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.”
―Robert A. Heinlein

Which reminds me of a Carl Sandburg poem, A Father To His Son:
A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.
Works for daughters, too.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Killing ISIS 2: What Bing West Says

Bing West has thoughts on how to kill ISIS (a/k/a ISIL) at "How to Defeat ISIL":
U.S. policymakers must commit themselves clearly to containing, disrupting, and defeating it.
You should read the whole thing.

Mr. West makes many good points, but as with solving most problems, the first step is recognizing you have a problem and then choosing a plan of action to eliminate that problem. I have serious doubts about the ability of the Administration and its aiders and abettors in the press to do that with ISIS, because, as Mr. West notes:
If the commander-in-chief does not perceive a mortal threat and if the press grossly underreports the persecution of Christians and other minorities, then the public will see no reason for our military to become heavily involved.

With the Obama administration, nothing is ever what it was or may be in the future. There is no constancy. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has described the threat in terms of “some of the most brutal, barbaric forces we’ve ever seen in the world today, and a force, ISIL, and others that is an ideology that’s connected to an army, and it’s a force and a dimension that the world has never seen before like we have seen it now.” The Visigoths, Attila, and Tamerlane have a new rival. Obviously this new scourge upon mankind must be destroyed.

But wait: Then Mr. Hagel delivered the punch line. “I recommended to the president, and the president has authorized me, to go ahead and send about 130 new assessment-team members.” Mr. Hagel is holding the rest of our force in reserve in case the Martians attack. One hundred thirty assessors are sufficient to deal with “the most barbaric forces we’ve ever seen.”
It occurs to me that the Administration having charted its course ("withdrawal by date X" and "no U.S. combat forces in country Y"), plods along, adjusting only its portrayal of the facts to rationalize that course. A ship's navigator who failed to alter course to allow for the effects of winds and currents is headed for rocks which cannot be avoided by repeating phrases such as "the plan was to steer 270 degrees and we are on that plan" or "most of the crew likes the course we are on" or "once we steered course 270 and ended up where we were supposed to be."

As noted in Killing ISIS? you need more than an announcement of what you want the end result to be ("We put a bell on the cat!" or ""ISIS must be destroyed") to make things happen. If the U.S. goal is to kill ISIS, then the planners better be put to work to use the tools available to make that happen. If it requires U.S. combat ground forces to cut off the ISIS logistics train - well, conditions on the ground have changed since there were promises made to withdraw our forces from Iraq. The Administration can blame it on unexpected ocean currents or winds or on the way the world works - as in the way bad guys tend to rush in to fill vacuums of power.

Friday Fun Film: The Amphibious Marines (1952)

Amphibious with their Navy teammates, that is.

Update:"Cavalry of the air" - - AirCav Marines? In 1952?

Live on Midrats 17 August 2014: Episode 241: Personnel Policy and Leadership, with VADM Bill Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel

Please join us live at 5pm EDT U.S. on 17 August 2014 for Midrats Episode 241: Personnel Policy and Leadership, with VADM Bill Moran
How does policy shape, limit, or empower the effectiveness of command at the unit level? Which policies are a net positive, and which ones are counter productive? Are there things we can do to better balance larger Navy goals with the requirement to give leaders the room they need to be effective leaders?

In times of austere budgets, can you both reduce end-strength while at the same time retain your best personnel? Are we a learning institution that can adjust policy that answers the bell from DC in shaping tomorrow's Fleet, yet does not break trust with Shipmates?

To discuss this and more we will have as our returning guest, Vice Admiral Bill Moran, USN. Chief of Naval Personnel. A P-3 pilot by trade, he held commanded at the squadron, wing and group levels. As Chief of Naval Personnel, he oversees the recruiting, personnel management, training, and development of Navy personnel. Since taking over a year ago he has focused on improving communication between Navy leadership and Sailors in the Fleet.
U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Margaret Keith
Join us live if you can or pick the show up later by clicking here.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Killing ISIS?

NYTimes map
Robert W. Merry at The National Interest writes, "America Must Destroy ISIS":
. . . ISIS represents an ominous threat to U.S. security if it is allowed to establish itself permanently as a state or quasistate in the heart of the Middle East. It’s easy to bemoan the tragic American foreign-policy folly of the past eleven years that has destabilized this crucial region and paved the way for this horrendous turn of events. But that doesn’t obviate the reality that those events now pose a serious threat to regional stability and the safety of the West and America.
Okay, suppose Mr. Merry has a case that we need to "bell the cat", but his answer of exactly how to accomplish the destruction of ISIS is . . . well, mouse-like:
 . . .[O]nce the decks have been cleared and a policy devised that is both coherent and comprehensive, the United States must move not just to thwart the ISIS menace, but to destroy it. It isn’t clear what that will take, but whatever it takes must be brought to bear.
Robin Simcox at the Foreign Affairs website has suggestions in, "Go Big or Go Home: Iraq Needs U.S. Ground Troops More Than Ever:
The U.S. government has set entirely understandable political goals for Iraq, but it has almost certainly chosen the wrong strategy for achieving them. Since the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the extremist group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in June, U.S. President Barack Obama has insisted that Iraq needs an inclusive government capable of winning support among not only the country’s Shia majority but also its Sunni minority. Obama also declared that the formation of such a government must precede any attempt to defeat ISIS. Washington’s current military intervention reflects that analysis: until Baghdad agrees to Washington’s political vision, the United States has declared that it will commit only to conducting limited air strikes -- that is to say, air strikes that are sufficient to halt the extremists’ progress but not to defeat them.

Washington’s strategy is backward. Any diplomatic leverage in Iraq would come from demonstrating that it can defeat ISIS. In other words, if the United States wants to influence the political situation in Iraq, it must first make itself an indispensable military player there.

If there is a consistent pattern in U.S. policy toward Iraq over the past several decades, it is that Washington can achieve significant diplomatic gains only if it is prepared to make significant military investments.
If Obama’s diplomatic goals are as significant as he claims, his military ambitions ought to match them. The United States should actively assume responsibility for decisively defeating ISIS. Needless to say, limited air strikes outside the northern Iraqi city of Erbil will not be sufficient to the task. Instead, the U.S. military should be actively ordered to attack ISIS positions in strongholds such as Mosul. The Iraqi air force has launched such attacks, but the United States’ military precision is greatly needed -- ISIS can be overthrown only if the Sunni civilian population agrees to support the mission, and that will happen only if civilian casualties are kept low.

Given their vast experience and world-class capabilities, U.S. special forces should be deployed to Iraq so that they can conduct counterterrorism operations, gather intelligence, and advise Iraqi forces. Washington should also extend military assistance to the Kurds in northern Iraq, and offer to provide their militias with the heavy military equipment they need to properly defend themselves. (Given that the Kurdish government is not a sovereign state, the provision of these arms may need to be organized by the CIA or other covert agencies rather than by the Pentagon.)

This mission would require a long-term commitment; in the absence of sustained attention and military force, terrorist networks tend to regenerate. It’s true that the mission would put the lives of U.S. troops in danger. But it’s the only military strategy that could accomplish a significant military goal -- namely, the decisive defeat of ISIS, a group that over the last decade has presented a clear threat to the West.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Margaret Keith/Released
At the same site, Michael O"Hanlon offers up How to Win in Iraq: Why Air Strikes Might Not be Enough:
Although the president has been correct to use only limited airpower so far (even while warning that U.S. involvement in Iraq could last for months), he needs to avoid any sense of complacency that he can limit the United States’ role to modest actions taken several thousand feet up in the air. For now, the United States’ only realistic goal in Iraq is to prevent further ISIS advances. But ultimately, the collective aim of the United States, Iraq, and others in the region should be to fully push back the radical and brutal group, which is committed to the creation of a caliphate throughout much of the broader Middle East and even parts of Europe, and is willing to employ brutal tactics to achieve its aims. This group simply cannot be allowed to remain in power in large sections of Iraq and Syria indefinitely.
But then we come back to the difficult questions. After containing ISIS, the United States will need to consider what comes next -- how to help form a suitable government in Baghdad and assist it in expelling ISIS from cities such as Fallujah, Mosul, Ramadi, and Tikrit, where its legions have by now largely infiltrated civilian populations. And here, Obama needs to be fair to his critics and avoid suggesting that those in favor of doing more want to return to the Iraq mission of 2003–2011. In fact, there are many options in between an all-out use of U.S. combat forces and the limited measures employed in recent days.

The history of using limited airpower in wars like this one shows that a few pinpricks from the sky rarely make a difference on the ground.
One option is to deploy a significant number of special operations teams, well above the very modest number that may be in in the theater now as part of the detachments of several hundred U.S. planners sent to Iraq over the last month. But how many? If there are 10,000 dedicated ISIS fighters that U.S. and Iraqi units must ultimately remove from the battlefield, experience in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests that the U.S. and Iraqi units will need to conduct perhaps several thousand raids informed by good intelligence. Ideally, the United States would strike hard, fast, and early in any operation so that the enemy does not have time to adjust. To do that, it would need up to several dozen in-country commando teams (or those based in neighboring countries in some cases), making for a grand total of 1,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops. In all likelihood, such a mission would last perhaps several months at peak intensity. However, the United States need not take the lead on most such operations and need not continue them indefinitely.

The other option involves a type of military unit, developed in recent years in Afghanistan, called a Security Force Assistance Team. This is a small team of 10­–20 U.S. soldiers who are embedded at the small-unit level within indigenous forces. Since elements of the Iraqi army have, in some cases, already dissolved, such advisory teams -- which live with and deploy into the field with their counterparts -- could be crucial for rebuilding good tactics, unit cohesion, confidence in the leadership, and tenacity, as well as designating targets for air strikes. Assuming that such teams might be deployed with most of Iraq’s army battalions, and assuming roughly ten battalions per division, there could be a need for up to 100 such U.S. teams. Again, these would need to stay in Iraq for a period of several months to perhaps one or two years.
Foreign Policy's website has its doubters about the "commitment" of this administration to keeps U.S. troops out of combat in Iraq against ISIS, as set out in Gordon Lubold's "Obama Pledge to Keep Troops Out of Combat May Fall Flat":
James Dubik, a retired Army three-star general who commanded U.S. forces in Mosul, said it's hard to square the administration's words when it comes to defining the U.S. mission there without accepting that U.S. forces are in combat. "Pretty narrow splitting of hairs," he said in an email.
I suspect someone will have to tell those folks on the ground in Iraq and the pilots flying missions over the country that it's not "combat" if the Administration says it isn't.

But there is that other thing that this Administration keeps forgetting - telling the other side that you are not really going to go to war with them or stay the course if you do get involved just allows the "bad guys" the comfort of knowing that you are, as the Chinese used to refer to the U.S. back in the Cold War days, a "paper tiger" whose words are ". . . full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing." Or to go back to the Foreign Policy piece:
Breen, who left the Army in 2006 and believes fighting IS is in the nation's security interests, said the White House is sending dual messages while trying to avoid acknowledging that American military personnel are operating in a war zone.

"Attempting to convey to the American people that this is an operation that is limited in its goals and limited in its scope, unfortunately conveys something to [IS] and others in the region that is not helpful," he said.
As we say in the South, "it's time to fish or cut bait" for this Administration.

They have the tools if they need them.

USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5), left, conducts a vertical replenishment with USS Bataan (LHD 5). USS Roosevelt (DDG 80) is in the background. Bataan is the flagship for the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and, with the embarked 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (22nd MEU), is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class RJ Stratchko/Released)
UPDATE: The side of the fight Cut funding to ISIS and ISIS: World’s scariest terrorist group also the richest.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Professor Rubel Writes - "A Theory of Naval Airpower "

Ripped from the Summer Issue of the U.S. Naval War College Review, a serious discussion by Professor Robert C. Rubel of the role of naval air and who should control it and when that control should be exercised.

This is a vital topic as the U.S. Air Force seeks to gain control of all national military air assets.

A Theory of Naval Airpower - Robert C. Rubel

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Ebola

Soooo, you might have learned from the news talkers that there is this "Ebola" thing popping up again in Africa and there is some danger it might head your way. What should you do to protected yourself and your family?

Well, my guess is that you really ought to stay out of places where the "pop up" is occurring. See the adjacent map graciously provided by the U.S. Center for Disease Control.

Or, if you prefer the work of a UN agency, here's a World Health Organization map:

WHO describes the disease:
Ebola virus disease (formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever) is a severe, often fatal illness, with a case fatality rate of up to 90%. It is one of the world’s most virulent diseases.The infection is transmitted by direct contact with the blood, body fluids and tissues of infected animals or people. Severely ill patients require intensive supportive care. During an outbreak, those at higher risk of infection are health workers, family members and others in close contact with sick people and deceased patients.

Ebola virus disease outbreaks can devastate families and communities, but the infection can be controlled through the use of recommended protective measures in clinics and hospitals, at community gatherings, or at home.
There are good reasons not to go to full protective suits for wear around your house - including the fact that Ebola is actually hard to contract:
Travel and transport risk assessment: Recommendations for public health authorities and transport sector
1. Summary of epidemiological facts and experience

- The incubation period of Ebola virus disease (EVD) varies from 2 to 21 days. Person-to-person transmission by means of direct contact with infected persons or their body fluids/secretions is considered the principal mode of transmission. In a household study, secondary transmission took place only if direct physical contact occurred. No transmission was reported without this direct contact. Airborne transmission has not been documented during previous EVD outbreaks.
- There is no risk of transmission during the incubation period and only low risk of transmission in the early phase of symptomatic patients. The risk of infection during transport of persons can be further reduced through use of infection control precautions (see paragraphs 3.2 and 3.3).
- In the current outbreak, infected travellers have crossed land borders with neighbouring countries and there is a possibility that other cases might occur in neighbouring countries.
- Historically, several cases of haemorrhagic fever (Ebola, Marburg, Lassa, Crimean Congo haemorrhagic fever) disease were diagnosed after long distance travel but none developed the symptoms during the international travel. Long-distance travellers (e.g. between continents) infected in affected areas could arrive while incubating the disease and develop symptoms compatible with EVD, after arrival.

2. Risk of EVD for different groups
2.1. Tourists and businessmen/women returning from affected areas in a country

The risk of a tourist or businessman/woman becoming infected with Ebola virus during a visit to the affected areas and developing disease after returning is extremely low, even if the visit included travel to the local areas from which primary cases have been reported. Transmission requires direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animal, all unlikely exposures for the average traveller. Tourists are in any event advised to avoid all such contacts.
2.2. Visiting families and relatives

The risk for travellers visiting friends and relatives in affected countries is similarly low, unless the traveller has direct physical contact with a sick or dead person or animal infected with Ebola virus. In such a case, contact tracing should confirm the exposure and prevent further spread of the disease through monitoring the exposed traveller.
2.3. Patients travelling with symptoms and fellow travellers

There is a possibility that a person who had been exposed to Ebola virus and developed symptoms may board a commercial flight, or other mode of transport, without informing the transport company of his status. It is highly likely that such patients would seek immediate medical attention upon arrival, especially if well informed, and then should be isolated to prevent further transmission. Although the risk to fellow travellers in such a situation is very low, contact tracing is recommended in such circumstances.
So, keep away from the sick and the dead. Especially avoid "direct contact with blood, secretions, organs or other body fluids of infected living or dead persons or animal." Which seems like good advice most of the time anyway.

CDC pages on Ebola here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

U.S. Navy's Asymmetric Payloads: "Mine and Undersea Warfare for the Future"

An interesting free article from the U.S. Naval Institute's Proceedings, Mine and Undersea Warfare for the Future by Joshua J. Edwards and Captain Dennis M. Gallagher, U.S. Navy:
Vice Admiral Conner recognizes that the United States’ and its allies’ current and future interests in national security will depend on a survivable, lethal undersea force. Such a force will consist of smart payloads and unmanned vehicles in an affordable manner to satisfy financial and industrial constraints. Technical advances have opened a floodgate of possibilities for asymmetric solutions, and clandestine, unmanned offensive mining is just the beginning. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) has invested in an affordable idea to minimizing risk and task to traditional forces.

The Advanced Undersea Weapon System (AUWS) is a group of unmanned systems (sensors, effectors, communications, and vehicles) that can be pre-positioned to autonomously and persistently influence the adversary at a time and place of our choosing. The ONR capabilities are specific components of the AUWS program currently being developed in conjunction with a large unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV), a relatively few miniature torpedoes, and many distributed mine sensors to address the threat of adversary ships and submarines. The AUWS will give commanders the ability to deploy sensors and weapon nodes as a minefield while maintaining the capability to remotely activate and deactivate the weapons. It will also maintain positive control of lethal weapons throughout the operation to ensure the ability to recover unused weapons when desired. The AUWS is a lower-cost force multiplier that will force adversaries to invest in mine-countermeasures capabilities.

This concept provides asymmetric clandestine solutions that will free traditional platforms to be more effectively employed in a capacity for which they were designed. The AUWS provides commanders with unique operational and tactical options in contested waters without regard to air superiority or water depth, freeing them to act aggressively with autonomous inexpensive tools. Its modular design will allow operators to integrate a wide variety of sensors and weapons, thus tailoring the system for specific missions. Sensors of choice may include short-, mid-, and long-range devices. Kinetic options include submarine-launched mobile mine (SLMM) warheads, torpedoes (CRAW or Mk-54), AIM-9X missile, and projectile explosives. Commanders may also apply deliveries to distort an adversary’s tactical picture through deception (decoys, noisemakers, etc.), ISR packages, and real-time intelligence. The AUWS may be delivered from surface ships, submarines, or aircraft, or it may self-deploy from a friendly port within range. Unmanned vehicles to transport AUWS deliveries may be reusable or expendable.

While the initial focus will be offensive mining, future AUWS missions will include defensive mining, antisubmarine, antisurface, and antiair warfare, intelligence, surveillance. and reconnaissance, pre-positioning of electronic-warfare and strike assets, supporting protective safe havens for resupply, and political leverage through deterrence. This modular architecture allows warfighters, military planners, and engineers to work symbiotically to maximize current capabilities while simultaneously developing new configurations of the AUWS.***
There is discussion of a DARPA approach here:
No matter how capable, even the most advanced vessel can only be in one place at a time. U.S. Navy assets must cover vast regions of interest around the globe even as force reductions and fiscal constraints continue to shrink fleet sizes. To maintain advantage over adversaries, U.S. Naval forces need to project key capabilities in multiple locations at once, without the time and expense of building new vessels to deliver those capabilities.

DARPA initiated the Hydra program to help address these challenges. Hydra aims to develop a distributed undersea network of unmanned payloads and platforms to complement manned vessels. The system would innovatively integrate existing and emerging technologies to deliver various capabilities above, on and below the ocean’s surface. By separating capabilities from the traditional platforms that deliver them, Hydra would serve as a force multiplier, enabling faster, scalable and more cost-effective deployment of assets wherever needed.

Hydra intends to develop modular payloads that would provide key capabilities, including Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Mine Counter-Measures (MCM). Each payload module would plug into a standardized enclosure that would securely transport, house and launch various payloads, while sustaining payload functionality for weeks to months. The Hydra system would emphasize scalability, rapid reconfiguration and maximization of payload. Naval forces could deliver the Hydra system by ship, submarine or airplane to littoral ocean zones (shallow international waters near shorelines).
More here:
“The climate of budget austerity runs up against an uncertain security environment that includes natural disasters, piracy, ungoverned states and the proliferation of sophisticated defense technologies,” said Scott Littlefield, DARPA program manager. “An unmanned technology infrastructure staged below the oceans’ surface could relieve some of that resource strain and expand military capabilities in this increasingly challenging space.”
Not every dangerous weapon needs to be . . . large, expensive and . . . dumb.

UPDATE: A NAVSEA presentation:

Developments in Mining by lawofsea

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Saturday is Heinlein Quote Day #20

From The Puppet Masters, Chapter 24:
Don't ask me why it was top secret, or even restricted; our government has gotten the habit of classifying anything as secret which the all-wise statesmen and bureaucrats decide we are not big enough girls and boys to know, a Mother-Knows-Best-Dear policy. I've read that there used to be a time when a taxpayer could demand the facts on anything and get them. I don't know; it sounds Utopian.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Disaster Prep Wednesday: Geomagnetic Storms

"'Extreme solar storm' could have pulled the plug on Earth" screams the headline. "'Pushed back to the Stone Age': massive solar storm missed Earth by just one week" says another.

After living in the woods with the bears and bunnies for a week or so, it was interesting to come home and read about a "near miss" of a solar event in 2102 - two years ago. If it had been last week, I might not have noticed given how I was living.

But, given the hype, I wondered - what is the risk of the sun sending us back to the Stone Age?

NASA has a piece up on "Space Weather", which includes a nice description of the effects of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) and the issues they might cause:
The most serious effects on human activity occur during major geomagnetic storms. It is now understood that the major geomagnetic storms are induced by coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Coronal mass ejections are usually associated with flares, but sometimes no flare is observed when they occur. Like flares, CMEs are more frequent during the active phase of the Sun's approximately 11 year cycle. The last maximum in solar activity was in the year 2000. The next maximum is expected to occur in 2013.

Coronal mass ejections are more likely to have a significant effect on our activities than flares because they carry more material into a larger volume of interplanetary space, increasing the likelihood that they will interact with the Earth. While a flare alone produces high-energy particles near the Sun, some of which escape into interplanetary space, a CME drives a shock wave which can continuously produce energetic particles as it propagates through interplanetary space. When a CME reaches the Earth, its impact disturbs the Earth's magnetosphere, setting off a geomagnetic storm. A CME typically takes 3 to 5 days to reach the Earth after it leaves the Sun. Observing the ejection of CMEs from the Sun provides an early warning of geomagnetic storms. Only recently, with SOHO, has it been possible to continuously observe the emission of CMEs from the Sun and determine if they are aimed at the Earth.

One serious problem that can occur during a geomagnetic storm is damage to Earth-orbiting satellites, especially those in high, geosynchronous orbits. Communications satellites are generally in these high orbits. Either the satellite becomes highly charged during the storm and a component is damaged by the high current that discharges into the satellite, or a component is damaged by high-energy particles that penetrate the satellite. We are not able to predict when and where a satellite in a high orbit may be damaged during a geomagnetic storm.
***Another major problem that has occurred during geomagnetic storms has been the temporary loss of electrical power over a large region. The best known case of this occurred in 1989 in Quebec. High currents in the magnetosphere induce high currents in power lines, blowing out electric transformers and power stations. This is most likely to happen at high latitudes, where the induced currents are greatest, and in regions having long power lines and where the ground is poorly conducting.

These are the most serious problems that have occurred as a result of short-term solar activity and the resulting geomagnetic storms. A positive aspect of geomagnetic storms, from an aesthetic point of view, is that the Earth's auroras are enhanced.

The damage to satellites and power grids can be very expensive and disruptive. Fortunately, this kind of damage is not frequent. Geomagnetic storms are more disruptive now than in the past because of our greater dependence on technical systems that can be affected by electric currents and energetic particles high in the Earth's magnetosphere.

Could a solar flare or CME be large enough to cause a nation-wide or planet-wide cataclysm? It is, of course, impossible to give a definitive answer to this question, but no such event is known to have occurred in the past and there is no evidence that the Sun could initiate such an event.
Less restrained in its language is this Press Release:
Ashley Dale, from the University of Bristol, was a member of an international task force – dubbed SolarMAX – set up to identify the risks of a solar storm and how its impact could be minimized, explains how it is only a matter of time before an exceptionally violent solar storm is propelled towards Earth.

Such a storm would wreak havoc with our communication systems and power supplies, crippling vital services such as transport, sanitation and medicine.

In this month's issue of Physics World, Ashley writes: “Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases we thought we had left behind centuries ago soon returning.”
You know, as so well said in Ghostbusters:
Dr. Peter Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, "biblical"?
Dr Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath of God type stuff.
Dr. Peter Venkman: Exactly.
Dr Ray Stantz: Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies! Rivers and seas boiling!
Dr. Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes, volcanoes...
Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
Dr. Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!
Well, let's think about this. If you have 3 to 5 days to prepare for a disaster like this, what should you do?

No, I don't mean, "When in danger, when in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!" Which can be fun, but . . .

Okay - what are the weakest links in the survival chain? Somebody looked at them in 2005 here and pointed to the biggest issue:
Electrical Power - The North American power grid continues to operate on declining margins, and with only modest infrastructure back up for its critical transformers. There have been three major blackouts in the last 10 years affecting 50 million people. Replacement parts for the largest transformers at 500 - 700 kiloVolts require long lead times of over 12 months, and are only supplied by foreign companies. The current stockpile for these critical items is fewer than the number of likely failures during the most severe space weather storms of the last 150 years. However, although there have been several near-blackouts of portions of the US electrical grid by space weather events since 1998, operators have been able to avoid these blackouts so far. In the next 5 years, the construction of new power plants will continue to fall behind the domestic need for power, and margins will decline to between 1 and 5% in most areas. Space weather forecasting techniques are slowly being adopted, but the chief data resource, the NASA ACE satellite, is operating beyond its mission lifetime and will be decommissioned by 2007, leaving the US power grid without any advanced warning of impending space weather storms. This quantity is assessed to be Poor.
More here:
Briefly, a really big CME will—not could, but will—collapse the entire North American electric grid. Based on research by Lloyd's of London, there is a 1 in 150 chance of having a CME equal to the largest one on record, in 1859. The probability of a smaller CME that is equivalent to the one that shut down the electric power grid in Quebec, Canada in 1989 is 1 in 50. Compare these to the probability of someone dying in a traffic accident, which is 1 in 6,584. The probability of a CME is 44 to 132 times higher than dying in a car accident!

Importantly, we know with 100% certainty that a CME will, in fact, occur. This is a natural phenomenon, a normal process for the sun that has been going on for millions of years and will continue for many more millions of years. There are currently no preparations made across the entire U.S. power grid to accommodate and mitigate CME impacts.
A reasonable person might weigh the risk of a solar event and other events that might cause a grid failure and buy a decent generator to be kept in a Faraday cage (touched on here). There is a great deal of free advice on the internet regarding Faraday cages, e.g. Build Your Own Faraday Cage. Here’s How. or How Faraday Cages Work. It's a fun hobby and will keep you off the streets. Don't forget that one of those metal garbage cans you can buy at the local hardware store can make a good Faraday "cage" for small electronic devices if properly set up - see Budget Prep: Faraday Cage. The last site makes a good point about one thing that ought to be in your trash can/Faraday can:
Having a small solar panel, along with a battery charger and rechargeable
batteries, can keep your electronic equipment running, even if the whole power grid goes down.
And you ought to have all those normal disaster recovery things that make a good recovery kit - like water filters, water carrying containers, etc. You can look back at old Disaster Prep Wednesday posts on this site for ideas. I think clicking on the label will bring them all up.

Transportation? Got a bike? A good pair of hiking boots?

Food? You might want to have a supply on hand. One person's review of one brand here. You can buy a month's worth ( for 1 person) of this stuff from Amazon for about $130 of so. Buy a bucket a month until you have the supply that you think you need. They appear to have a long shelf life.

You might want to stock up on things like Tabasco sauce and other flavorings, too. On the other hand, if you get hungry enough you will eat almost anything and enjoy it.

Doomed by a solar CME? Not so much, if you prepare. And make use of the 3 to 5 day warning period of a CME to get everything protected.

Or you can do nothing, figuring the risk is low (2% or less?) . . . but I wouldn't come looking for help from me if you discover that you guessed estimated wrong.

I might be grumpy.

UPDATE: From the Lloyd's report linked to earlier:
The risk of intense geomagnetic storms is elevated as we approach the peak of the current solar cycle. Solar activity follows an 11-year cycle, with the most intense events occurring near the cycle peak. For the current Cycle 24, the geomagnetic storm risk is projected to peak in early 2015.
As the North American electric infrastructure ages and we become more and more dependent on electricity, the risk of a catastrophic outage increases with each peak of the solar cycle. Our society is becoming increasingly dependent on electricity. Because of the potential for long-term, widespread power outage, the hazard posed by geomagnetic storms is one of the most significant.

Weighted by population, the highest risk of storm-induced power outages in the US is along the Atlantic corridor between Washington D.C. and New York City. This takes into account risk factors such as magnetic latitude, distance to the coast, ground conductivity and transmission grid properties. Other high-risk regions are the Midwest states, such as Michigan and Wisconsin, and regions along the Gulf Coast.

The total U.S. population at risk of extended power outage from a Carrington-level storm is between 20-40 million, with durations of 16 days to 1-2 years. The duration of outages will depend largely on the availability of spare replacement transformers. If new transformers need to be ordered, the lead-time is likely to be a minimum of five months. The total economic cost for such a scenario is estimated at $0.6-2.6 trillion USD