The Navy announced the Blue Angels will switch to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet… in 2021. Whoa! I hope two years lead time is enough to transition to an aircraft that’s been in service since the ’90’s!
In the latest episode of Salt Force One, we discuss the future of global telecommunications, the relative merits of poo parades, and many other very important issues. Enjoy! Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE on your favorite podcast platform!
Also, early 5G adopter The Prince of Darkness… “What the hell is a Bieber?!?”
This is a guest post by Midshipman Briney Von Saltington VIII, which originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
Developing the next generation of strategic thinkers is critical to securing our national interests in the Era of Great Power Competition. We need officers who understand global military strategy from Day One. That is why I signed up for the first cohort of the Navy’s new Defense Analyst First Tour (DAFT) program.
A couple weeks ago, World Politics Review published an article by Steven Metz advocating for strategic education early in officers’ careers, and highlighting the value of certain “homegrown” military strategy consortia (although no mention of <cough> the U.S. Naval Institute, or <cough> CIMSEC). This article met strong criticism in the military blogosphere, so I thought I would explain the value of my DAFT career path. This is called “strategic communication.” When talking to senior officers, I find it is most effective to explain strategic concepts using quotes and short sentences.
As a DAFT midshipman, I will graduate with a degree in public policy and immediately join the team at OPNAV N5879X. My job will be to write quarterly strategic assessments, based on random articles from various military blogs I periodically check when I’m curious if any of them cited my published papers. My first order of business as a DAFT officer will be to publish my strategic masterpiece, Lethal Third Offset 5G Offshore Balancing Strategies for Great Power Competition in the A2AD Grey Zone, which is mostly a collection of my hot takes on strategic current events. I expect it to be a roaring success, as I have painstakingly regurgitated DoD and Navy leaders’ favorite buzzwords.
I was selected to be DAFT based on the quality of my senior thesis, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 2017–2019. With DAFT JOs influencing naval strategy in the decades to come, we will have the opportunity to shape the fate of the nation using the news and analysis provided to us by our social media networks. Some would call this “recency bias,” but I prefer to think of it as being unencumbered by the boredom of history.
When you go DAFT, you get to skip all that tactical and technical detail that many junior officers obsess over. Things like leading a division, flying a helicopter, and running a propulsion system are hardly relevant in the really important matters, such as nuclear brinkmanship and the big data revolution. In the fleet, we will fill shipboard policy and strategy officer (PSO) billets, where we will develop strategic plans for each individual ship. #DistributedStrategy!
DAFT is modeled on naval aviation’s highly successful SERGRAD program, in which highly qualified student naval aviators are selected to go directly to instructor training, and then return to flight school to teach new students how to fly naval aircraft. When an idea works in one particular instance, we all know it’s best to apply it universally. Since SERGRAD has been so successful, it was pretty much a “no-brainer” for the Navy to create an equivalent career path for naval strategists. As in, I am fairly certain nobody gave the decision much thought.
Most midshipmen spend their summers integrating with the fleet to gain firsthand experience with the various Navy communities, complement their education, and help them select their career paths. DAFT midshipmen, however, spend their summers interning with Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, getting indoctrinated into the unique American brand of military strategy. I chose to intern with The Salty Herald, one of the most innovative, cutting edge think tanks around. It’s a great workplace, although Saltron is a pain.
Dear Rich People,
Thanks. THANKS A LOT. You just jeopardized the future of our national security.
Because of you, now I can’t rely on my parents to bribe officials to get me into Naval University. The Navy has this great new continuous education initiative, and now I have to earn my way in! To be fair, Naval University is actually the logical synthesis of three schools: the Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, and Naval War College. I’m a little old for the Naval Academy, and NPS and NWC are . . . like . . . hard.
You just haaaaad to go and get caught paying millions of dollars to coaches and administrators to get your kids into elite schools. And you got caught EXACTLY ONE MONTH after SECNAV released the results of his Education for Seapower study. SECNAV seems pretty convinced of his intuition that “the intellectual development of our naval leaders is the most critical warfighting capability for our national security.” See the problem here? I’m a millennial. I need my parents to help me get through adult life.
Now what am I supposed to do? Go to Naval Community College? Community college is for people who can’t qualify or can’t afford to get into the big boy schools. Oh wait, I read that wrong. Naval Community College is for enlisted sailors. And Marines.
Even if I don’t go to NPS or NWC, the Navy will soon require me to go to grad school before I can qualify for major command. Who am I supposed to bribe now? Tutors, so I can be admitted based on merit? You want me to demonstrate critical thinking, analytical, and technical communication skills on par with the skills my subordinates already have? Get real.
SECNAV is also creating a Chief Learning Officer and a Director of Warfighting Development. Hey, maybe I could land a job as one of their aides and then they could hook me up with an honorary MBA? The Navy needs more of those, right?
What happens next? Thanks to your recklessness, there’s no telling how far Navy leaders will go in reforming our continuous education system. They might even outlaw gouge! You know . . . those thinly veiled cheat sheets masquerading as study guides in our training centers and schoolhouses. How am I ever going to pass exams without robotically memorizing the entire question and answer database?
Look, everyone knows the normal rules don’t apply to the rich and famous. That’s the whole reason I joined the Navy. So I could become an admiral and get rich and famous. The problem is you all are getting sloppy! There’s a saying I picked up in Annapolis: “You rate what you skate.” Get your act together! We can all agree that meritocracy is a farce, and you’re just making it harder for future generations to skate their way into success.
The War College has a saying: “It’s only a lot of reading if you do it.” That’s the spirit! To succeed in Great Power Competition, the Navy will need proficient, intelligent, ethical, and dedicated professionals in all levels of leadership. Well, that’s not going to happen. So, the next best thing is a horde of career survivalists who accumulated the requisite certifications through intrepidity, innovation, and a tenuous grasp on morality.
Not to be outdone, the fleet has a saying of its own: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Well, rich people, you need to try harder! Otherwise, I might never get to join you!
With much irritation,
P.S. Speaking of Great Power Competition, can someone please email me the gouge file for defeating the Chinese PLA Navy at email@example.com? Thanks!
Apparently, we’re OK with ships that suck.
Here are a few excerpts from yesterday’s article on Roll Call, a Congressional news website:
“Contrary to the Navy’s own policy, and despite spending nearly $16 billion on average in each of the last 30 years on new warships, most U.S. combat vessels are delivered from private shipbuilders with flaws significant enough to impair the vessels’ ability to perform missions or to keep crews safe, according to recent audits conducted for Congress.”
“Take the USS Coronado, one of a class of small shore-hugging vessels called Littoral Combat Ships. The Navy accepted the Coronado in 2013 even though its system for distinguishing enemy ships and aircraft from friendly ones wasn’t working, according to the Government Accountability Office. What’s more, a key radar was so flawed it could have fired missiles in the wrong direction. Both deficiencies were only fixed months after the Coronado was already in use.”
“In many cases, shipyards first get paid to build ships and then often get paid again to fix things on the ships that should not have been broken, analysts say.”
“Retired Rear Adm. Robert Wray, a former chief of the Navy’s ship inspections board, or INSURV, thinks the Navy has diminished the board’s power by reducing the rank of its director and making him report to a command often more interested in positive news than honest assessments.”
“Indeed, for at least the past 15 years, the Navy has only once declined to accept a ship because of defects, despite regularly having cause to do so, experts say.”
I could go on, but I think you get the point. We’re gonna have to figure out a way to be better, more discerning customers, or they quality of ships we get will only get worse. Eventually, someone is going to die because we accepted a ship with known deficiencies and still put it into service.
That is, if you think SWOs should drive ships.
This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
I’ve been called the intellectual equivalent of a kid squirting adults with a water gun. That’s not fair. I’m just as annoying to kids too. People have even said I couldn’t debate the merits of chunky versus smooth peanut butter. Ridiculous. Smooth is better. Chunky is just unfinished slop that the peanut butter manufacturers foisted on us to save on operating costs.
Luckily, I have more personalities than James McAvoy in Split. One of those personalities, Jimmy Drennan, has a fully loaded and primed super soaker of knowledge. He has been busy laying out his ideas for the Navy of the future over at the Center for International Maritime Security. His series, “The Bad Day Scenario,” looks at what the Navy might learn from a worst-case scenario that could happen tomorrow morning, and what it means for future force development, operational concepts, and cultural and personnel issues.
Today, he published “Part 3: Developing a Dynamic, Distributed, and Lethal Global Force,” in which he examines the convergence of two new concepts: Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) and Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO). The result is his proposal for a Navy of the future, Global Force 2020, which can operate efficiently on a daily basis, while remaining postured to respond to global crises and contingencies. Catch up on Part 1 here and Part 2 here.
Operational Factor – “Global Force 2020 will not be able to rely on Composite Warfare Command (CWC) as an effective method of tactical maritime C2. DFE and DMO are bringing about a sea change in naval C2 that will require commanders to operate effectively both independently, and as part of a larger networked force.”
Salty Translation: If the WiFi’s down, keep calm and carry on.
Technological Factor – “Today’s weapons, sensors, and communication systems enable friendly forces to coordinate fires outside visual range of each other and the enemy. In the future, some key technologies will enable naval forces to engage targets when not even in the same theater. Global Force 2020 will utilize long range hypersonic missiles and aircraft, next-generation cruise and ballistic missiles, next-generation unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, and cyber to name a few.”
Salty Translation: Knock knock. Who’s there? U.S. Navy. U.S. Navy wh- <BOOM!>
Human Factor – “Global Force 2020 will give rise to a new level of complexity in the warfighting capabilities that Surface Warfare Officers (SWOs) will be expected to employ, and missions they will be expected to execute. It is prudent to ask whether the surface force has maxed out the cognitive capacity of generalists, and whether it is time for SWOs to be trained as specialists to become experts in a single mission or warfare domain . . . The U.S. Navy needs surface tactical action officers who are as proficient with their ship’s combat systems as an aviator is with his or her aircraft . . . The time may come when the surface force is forced to consider contracting its maneuvering function, which will be increasingly irrelevant to combat, while naval officers specialize in areas that contribute directly to lethality.”
Salty Translation: “jack of all trades, master of none” doesn’t work too well when you’re going toe-to-toe with another maritime superpower!
So, make yourself a smooth PB&J, sit back, and enjoy! If you don’t agree, fire away with your own water gun of wisdom at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Believe it or not, this is possible.
Hey Midshipmen! You all need to CHILL. OUT.
Publishing articles about how we can do better in the Navy before you’re even commissioned? Seriously, not cool, bros and bro-ettes. You Gen-Z’ers need to get onboard and get in line. Expressing your views freely is NOT / NOT / NOT / NOT how we do things in the fleet!
Shipmates, come alongside and let me SWO-splain a few things to you. First, we millennials learned, through a revolutionary box set of computer training CD’s, the optimal way to conduct surface naval operations. We don’t need the “good idea fairy” coming in and shaking things up. Second, wait until you’ve been in the seat to offer your opinion. Ideally, you wait until you’ve left to tell your shipmates how messed up things are, and how you would fix things if you had the time, but you don’t anymore so it’s on them. The USNI Blog is full of great examples. 😉
Let’s take a look at some specific examples of why Generation Z is so annoying:
“Recent Improvements to SWO Training Are Not Enough,” by Midshipman Paul Kenney. Ok, you were on board the USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) when she collided with ACX Crystal in 2017, so you’ve seen us at our worst, and you apparently did some “research,” but that doesn’t mean we need your opinions. Your ideas, like focusing on fundamentals rather than technology and more extensive, hands-on seamanship training precommissioning, would never work. If giving midshipmen a baseline of navigation and seamanship fundamentals, and resourcing more at-sea stick time made sense, then why wouldn’t we have done it for the past 30 years? Hmm??? Yeah, I bet you didn’t think about that Mr. Smarty-Pants!
“Talking About My Generation—and the LCS,” by Midshipman Connor Coleman. So, you’ve been following the controversy over the LCS? Well, I hope your parents read you bedtime stories by CDR Phibian Salamander, because the debate’s been raging for longer than you’ve been alive. Actually, past tense . . . it’s settled now. LCS is a minesweeper. End of story. We tried modularity, it didn’t work. Stop trying to act like the concept is sound because it works in submarines, airplanes, missiles, merchant ships, commercial transportation, combat systems, and nearly every computer in the world. More bridge time for JO’s? You know first-tour division officers aren’t even being assigned to LCS, right? Why would we want do that? We’re not that cruel. Convoy protection? Yes, ok, the Navy just conceded we don’t have enough warships to effectively escort shipping in a major conflict, but using LCS to protect convoys would force us to think outside the CSG box. Let’s not get crazy, okay!?
“Social Media Today Will Affect the Armed Forces Tomorrow,” by Midshipman Kathleen Meeds. How did you even find the time to write this with your social media technology addiction? So, you want us to learn and adapt to ever-evolving social media communication trends. Listen, youngster, let me drop a #truthbomb on you. We’re all over this social media thing. Our Chief of Information is the best. He is very “influential.” You recommended we use our mission-focused mindset to improve communication with the American public. You say honesty and transparency are vital to our success. We’re way ahead of you. Check out the PAO Lethality Task Force! #lethalPAOlethality
“Honor Cannot Be Divided,” by Midshipman First Class Noah Johnston, U.S. Navy. So, let me get this straight: you want us to live with honor in our professional AND personal lives? Sheesh! Take it down a notch, Eagle Scout. You reference the Fat Leonard scandal, but those were isolated ethical failures. Dozens of isolated ethical failures spanning several decades, ships, and fleet staffs. You write that midshipmen could improve their character development by researching the origins of the honor concept and critically analyzing its impact on their lives. That’s fine, as long as you keep that stuff in Annapolis.
And now I hear the winners of the Midshipman Essay Contest will be published in the coming months. Ugh. Gen Z just, like, be cool. Now I know how Commander Darcie Cunningham felt about millennials.