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The Salty Millennial - page 5

The Salty Millennial has 57 articles published.

Salty Goes to Admiral’s Mast

in Leadership

The following is an excerpt from the non-judicial punishment proceedings of The Salty Millennial as a result of his failed attempt at satire.

ADMIRAL: Salty Millennial, you stand accused of…

SALTY: The…

ADMIRAL: Excuse me?

SALTY: THE Salty Millennial

ADMIRAL: This is gonna be fun. You are accused of using non-humorous jokes and miserable attempts at satire in two social media postings in which you poke fun at two Four Star Admirals.

SALTY: <mutters under breath> Never said it was satire.

ADMIRAL: First, you shared a post from the official U.S. Navy Facebook account, apparently attempting to mock the PAO’s decision to share a “pro-Big Navy” War on the Rocks article on the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions from an independent analyst. Yes, there are ongoing legal proceedings, and granted, the Navy is already facing unlawful command influence allegations in the CDR Benson court martial, but the PAO has repeatedly stated “RT ≠ Endorsement” which, as we all know, legally absolves the Navy of all responsibility. What do you have to say for yourself?

SALTY: Well, to be fair, I did not mention the CNO Newsletter that included 13 links to articles reporting the CNO’s own words, alongside one link to the War on the Rocks article.

ADMIRAL: What’s that supposed to mean?

SALTY: Uh…nothing.

ADMIRAL: Second, you shared an article mocking a Four Star Admiral’s response to questioning during a congressional hearing. Again, your sense of humor has been found wanting. These were entirely preventable incidents. What is your defense?

SALTY: These two incidents were a travesty, there’s no doubt about it. And I feel an immense amount of accountability for that, I’ll come back to it. But the fact of the matter is I didn’t mock 280-odd other Admirals. <pauses> More than a dozen of those other posts were performing exceptionally well.

ADMIRAL: People are posting all over America and just because they aren’t all mocking Admirals doesn’t mean they don’t need a high level of editing. To tell me that isn’t very convincing. Because there were dozens of other posts that didn’t mock Admirals. Isn’t that the standard? No Admiral mocking?

SALTY: Yes, that is the standard, but the other thing we need to remark upon is the social media performance. I used humor as a new way to get after some of our most pressing problems; I’ve had extraordinary faux millennial-mocking performance in that time frame; I had posts get picked up by Doctrine Man!

ADMIRAL: Wait…are you just using the same defense that you criticized the Admiral for?

SALTY:

ADMIRAL:

SALTY: …is it working?

ADMIRAL: And are you live-blogging this entire proceeding on your phone?

SALTY: <puts phone away> No.

ADMIRAL: I sentence you to 30 days bread and water. Take him to the brig.

SALTY: Wait, I read online that you can’t do that anymore!

ADMIRAL: That was satire.

Can I at least have UHT milk?

Will Salty return? Email him at tsm@saltyherald.com to find out!

A Tale of Two Ceremonies

in Classic Literature

This article originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute blog here.

3 May 2017

It was the best of crimes, it was the worst of crimes (sorry, I couldn’t resist!). Actually, it wasn’t a crime at all, at least according to a navy judge. I’m talking, of course, about Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer (SOC) Eddie Gallagher’s decision to conduct his reenlistment ceremony over the dead body of a slain ISIS combatant, whom he is accused of murdering post-surrender.

On 3 May 2017, Captain Aaron Rugh ruled that reenlisting over the body of an unarmed detainee you just killed is not a “prohibited act” under UCMJ Article 134. You know, that glorious “catch-all” article covers conduct prejudicial “to good order and discipline,” and that which could “bring discredit upon the armed forces.”

I am a millennial so, naturally, I am confused. I’m only a sea lawyer, but I read Article 134, and the “General Article” pretty clearly covers acts that represent a “breach of custom of the service.” The whole point is to allow commanders discretion in disciplining service members whose conduct goes against our military standard of conduct. Standard . . . such a tricky word. What is our standard for good order and discipline? How is it applied?

I’ve seen the social media comments. I’m sure many of you are going to tell me “shut it, you whiny snowflake, and let these heroes do their jobs . . . defending America is dirty business . . . so what if they have to break a few eggs. . . our boys need to be given the freedom and support to . . .” blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard this speech before. I’m not even questioning what happened before the ISIS fighter died. War is hell, enough said. But the postmortem re-enlistment ceremony is what got my attention, and I’m not saying it should be a war crime. But to say it’s not a violation of Article 134 because it’s not a “prohibited act?” You lost me. Interestingly, SOC Gallagher still stands accused of committing premeditated murder. So, Captain Rugh has created a situation where if he convicts Gallagher, he is saying that re-enlisting over the body of the person you just extra-judicially murdered is simply a matter of “extremely bad taste.” Say again, over?

Getting back to this idea of a standard of conduct, let’s fast forward a year.

13 April 2018

This is the day that Master Sergeant Robin Brown took her oath of enlistment using a dinosaur hand puppet. The video of her reenlistment ceremony went viral and, well, the rest is history. Within five days, Master Sergeant Brown was fired. The officer administering the oath, Colonel Kevin Blaser, was forced to retire. Even the cameraman was fired and given a letter of reprimand.

I, like many of you I’m sure, didn’t particularly like the optic of a hand puppet in a reenlistment ceremony. I would say it’s . . . what are the words . . . ”extremely bad taste.” It’s a mistake I’d expect to result in a one-sided conversation in my CO’s cabin. It would be like if I wore my ribbons upside down to the Capitol building for the State of the Union Address. Own up to it and move on. But Major General Terry Haston, Tennessee Air National Guard Adjutant General, didn’t think that was enough so he FIRED EVERYONE INVOLVED. He said “I am absolutely embarrassed that a senior officer and a senior NCO took such liberties with a time-honored military tradition. The Tennessee National Guard holds the Oath of Enlistment in the highest esteem because that oath signifies every service member’s commitment to defend our state, nation and the freedoms we all enjoy. Not taking this oath solemnly and with the utmost respect is firmly against the traditions and sanctity of our military family and will not be tolerated.”

Lieutenant General Scott Rice, Director of the Air National Guard, also weighed in: “Let me say, I’m equally shocked and dismayed by this event that mocks such a cherished and honorable occasion. The oath of office or enlistment not only signifies our commitment to our nation, but pays respect to our fellow service members and to those who came before us.”

Wise words, gentlemen. I couldn’t agree more. Or could I? I’m so confused.

What are the differences between the two ceremonies? Well, for starters, SOC Gallagher is on trial for war crimes so it’s not like he’s getting away scott-free, but as far as I know neither he, nor anyone else involved (Lieutenant Portier courts martial pending), was disciplined for the reenlistment ceremony. The Tennessee Air National Guard killed three careers for Master Sergeant Brown’s ceremony. Still confused . . .

Second, the video of Master Sergeant Brown’s reenlistment ceremony went viral. Media scrutiny followed. Listen, I grew up in a military family. I get the concept of “perception is reality,” but, people, we need to get a hold of ourselves. This is the age of social media and lighting fast mass communication. We can’t keep wielding a career-killing butcher knife every time we see an unflattering headline. OR . . . if we truly believe in the “sanctity” of “such a cherished and honorable occasion” then shouldn’t we react with the same discipline even there’s no video all over the internet? STILL confused . . .

Third, SOC Gallagher is Special Forces. Master Sergeant Brown is no. I know this really shouldn’t matter, but to some people, clearly it does. Just look at the tone of comments following the news of each event. Overwhelming condemnation for Master Sergeant Brown, and overwhelming support for SOC Gallagher. Of course, we have to take public opinion with a grain of salt, but official decisions appear to reflect these opinions. Part of it, I think, is an element of “hero worship” for our special warfare operators. Don’t get me wrong, these people are patriots who sacrifice more than most of us will ever know, and deserve our utmost respect, but they do not deserve—nor do they want—to be worshipped. Hero worship, fueled by Hollywood fiction, fosters a culture of infallibility that threatens to damage the SOF community. Maybe the best we can do is hold them to the same standard of “good order and discipline” that we hold everybody else. I don’t know, I’m still confused . . .

Didn’t hear a peep about these ceremonies.

Finally, thanks to the intrepid reporting of the military blog, Task & Purpose, we have several other examples of goofy, strange, and irreverent reenlistment ceremonies that did not result in public condemnation and discipline. From what I can tell, our “standard” for good order and discipline is about as standard as our uniforms are uniform. Oh, and there’s one last difference between Master Sergeant Brown and all the people reenlisting in the above linked T&P article (and SOC Gallagher). I’ll let you think about it. Maybe there were two different standards all along?

I’ll Have a Ship-Killer, No Cream, No Sugar

in Navy Stuff/Rants

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute blog here.

When it comes to shipbuilding, we in the surface force are really bad customers. We are like the guy at the Starbucks counter that hems and haws over all the seasonal varieties until the barista finally says “would you like the same grande-triple-soy-nonfat-mocha-latte-no-whip that you’ve ordered the past 1,347 times?” “Oooh, yeah that sounds good, I’ll have that!”


We both know what you’re going to ask for.

It’s not that we don’t like other delicious beverages (i.e. ships), we just have no idea how to tell the barista (i.e. industry) what we’re looking for so she can make it. Over three decades we have consistently struggled to articulate an operational concept—to tell a story—that describes an employment model for surface combatants not based in Cold War tactics. All we really know is the high-end multimission surface combatant designed to defend an aircraft carrier—the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer (the Ticonderoga-class cruiser before her sprouted from the same Cold War Aegis roots). Last year, we acknowledged the Arleigh Burke’s frame is maxed out, but from an operational employment perspective, we keep trying to fit every new ship into the Burke mold.


Its impossible to imagine a better warship (at least for the U.S. Navy)

Littoral combat ship? Look, I’m not going to pile on. I’ll just say that the root of the problem with LCS was our inability to describe what we wanted to do with the ship because we couldn’t figure out how the modular concept fit into our carrier strike group-centric paradigm. Well, at least they can replace the minesweeper fleet, right? More than a decade after commissioning the lead ship, we’re still waiting to receive fully operational mission packages. Still, this is not a knock on the LCS program itself. There is ton of value that can still be gleaned from these ships, and many missions they could do, none of which involve defending an aircraft carrier. The LCS saga is like vaguely describing a new kind of coffee that always tastes like whatever you’re in the mood for, then watching the Starbucks baristas struggle for the next 20 years trying to figure out how to make it.

At least there’s the Zumwalt-class destroyer, right? <massages temples and counts to ten> Ok, I’m not maligning the program for scoping down the buy to three hulls. Budgetary constraints are real. There’s a lot to be learned from the technology on these ships that we can apply to future designs. But, again, here we are struggling to figure out how to use these technological marvels. I applaud the Navy for experimenting with surface development squadrons to refine Zumwalt’s mission, but next time let’s do that before we spend $23 billion.


Its like alien technology from the future (maybe that’s why we don’t know what to do with it).

And that brings me to my favorite ship of the moment, the next generation frigate, or FFG(X). We reduced the cost to $800 million per ship. Yaaaayyy! I’m going on the record: in the end this will be a billion dollar warship (and I’m not talking about lead ship cost, I mean average unit cost). While we cut costs in design, we added requirements. Here we go again! What was meant to be a cutting-edge ship-killer is now beginning to look like a mini-Arleigh Burke. We’re doubling vertical launching system (VLS) cells to 32, none of which can be used to fire the Navy’s chosen next-generation antiship missile, the Naval Strike Missile (NSM). More torpedo tubes, more electronic warfare, electric drive, lasers, cooperative engagement capability (CEC), and naval integrated fire control-counter air (NIFC-CA). These all are grand, but are they adding to the ship’s mission to destroy enemy ships? Or are they added on by Navy leaders for fear that the ship might one day encounter a situation for which it is ill-suited? Surely, we can build a ship that is ready to take on any mission, anywhere, anytime, independently, right? Ah, yes, the Arleigh Burke. Meanwhile, the FFG(X) will get eight tubes for NSM. Our competitors have speedboats with as much antiship capability. And lots more of them.

What about the amphibious navy, you say? Oh, you mean the one that all my mentors told me to avoid like the plague if I wanted to be competitive for promotion and command at sea? I’ve got no bone to pick with the San Antonio-class LPD, and I’m heartened to see experimentation with littoral combat groups, but we’ve been talking about influence squadrons for years now. Besides, the more we ask for, the more the LPDs start to smell like Arleigh Burkes!


That’s a fine lookin’ raked mast ya got there.

Ladies and gentlemen, we know what we want. We have intelligently designed concepts—Dynamic Force Employment (DFE) and Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO)—that effectively balance the constraints of today while meeting the potential demands of the future. Command of the sea will belong to the best designed fleets, not the best designed ships. Key to these concepts will be “low-end” (in other words, less than $1 billion) ships that are VERY good at conducting a couple missions, not billion-dollar ships that are pretty good at conducting every mission. The missile truck is a good start. We just need to tell the shipbuilders!

Industry is, of course, incentivized to “super-size” our order. It’s much more profitable to sell us high-end, exquisite solutions because they know there’s a good chance we’ll downscope the overall buy. Shipbuilders carry massive overhead to survive the arduous DoD acquisition system. It’s in their interest to sell us the “death star.” Or, at Starbucks, the trenta-double-shot-unicorn Frappuccino. Let’s order what we really want. We’re SWOs. Give us a damn cup of sweet black gold!


Tastes even better on the mid-watch!

Tidying Up: Navy Edition

in Epiphanies

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

People tell me I’m too negative. I AM NOT!!

Buuuuut . . . I’m beginning to wonder: do I focus on what’s wrong too much? Don’t misunderstand me, I have plenty of reasons to be salty. We still haven’t paid the Coast Guard. We still don’t have a force field over the country to protect us from ballistic missiles and terrorists. We’re still at war in the Middle East. We’re still building science projects instead of warships. Tom Brady is still in the Super Bowl. We STILL can’t decide on a !@#$ uniform. I could go on…

Then I watched an episode of the Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, about an enchanting Japanese consultant and author with a knack for decluttering people’s houses and lives. Central to her KonMari method is the concept of tokimeku, or “spark joy.” When helping her clients evaluate what to keep, she asks “does it spark joy?” If so, keep it. If not, discard it. Mind. Blown.

Spark joy, not Class A fires.

The first thing I thought was how funny it would be to watch “Tidying Up: Navy Edition” in which Marie visits a DDG to conduct a pre-INSURV zone inspection. She would giggle daintily and whisper to her interpreter as she discovers fireworks stacked against an exhaust trunk in the MWR Gear Locker. Just the look on her face as she walked through berthing or the “JO Jungle” would be worth the cost of a Netflix subscription. Then, she would return a week later to find a spotless ship after the crew moved all of their excess gear to a PODS storage unit on the pier instead of getting rid of it. Come on people, lets make this happen!

The second thing that came to mind was “What about the Navy sparks joy for me? What do I like about it? What I would I keep if it were up to me?” Scary thought, I know, but there’s a lot, actually. Many of our traditions are rooted in virtue and deserve to be carried forward. Here are a few that have been on my mind recently:

  1. Our sense of service to the American Ideal is amazing. It transcends any one President, political leaders, and superior officers. It drove hundreds of thousands of federal workers to continue to serve their fellow citizens while they were not getting paid for more than a month. We’re not conscripted or drafted—we all volunteer. We swear an oath to defend the Constitution, but even this revered document can be amended to relentlessly pursue the American Ideal. However each of us defines it, our commitment to serve the American Ideal is incredible. Just look at the crew of USCGC Bertholf (WMSL-750), and the thousands of other Coasties around the world, who deployed without pay. Ultimately, there will be a price to pay, in terms of their faith in and commitment to the mission, but you better believe their service sparks joy for me. I believe this sense of service to the American Ideal – if we don’t squander it—will be a decisive factor in future conflicts.
  2. Our questioning attitude also has the potential to be a decisive factor in future conflict. There’s something uniquely American about our ability to challenge our superiors and tell them when they’re a little jacked up. Respectfully, of course. It’s also a part of our maritime heritage. Our first lesson in navigation is to not rely on single sources of information. Get multiple inputs. Analyze them. Think for yourself. We have some work to do to gain acceptance of this questioning attitude in communicating up the chain of command, but articles like this from Lieutenant Katelyn Davidson and Commander Josh Menzel give me hope (shipmates, put your knuckles to the screen because I want to give you a fist bump!).
  3. Embracing the “modern warfighter.” Let’s face it. American warfighters don’t look like they used to. So what? Who cares? I don’t. Are you capable? Are you committed? Do you have integrity? Come aboard. We have a long way to go here, but the trend is positive. We’re starting to see studies and policies that support dual-professional couples (not just dual-military or spouse employment . . . spouses with civilian careers that might even be the larger share of household income) and working mom sailors. It’s not just diversity for diversity’s sake. Modern warfighters are highly educated senior officers and empowered junior cyber warriors. We’ll need multiple perspectives to compete and win in future naval warfare.
  4. Leaders matter no more than their followers. I’m probably naively optimistic, because we’re not even close on this one. I subscribe to the General Stanley McChrystal view that leaders should think of themselves as “nodes in a network, rather than the top apex in a triangle.” Leaders serve a unique function, just as every team member serves their own unique function. Our best leaders groom others to fill their shoes if necessary, and our top performers are always ready to step in. Our special forces, whom we regard as the elite of the elite, have senior enlisted leaders who are indistinguishable from officers. In general, the line between officer and enlisted is becoming blurry and less meaningful (a trend we should watch with an intrigued eye). The division of officers and enlisted sailors is rooted in aristocracy, which obviously no longer applies. We’ve all known sailors who we’ve practically begged to apply for commissioning programs because they were already outperforming junior officers.
  5. Leaders matter no less than their followers. On the flipside, we’ve also been known to take the concept of servant leadership too far—some leaders burning out because they neglected to take care of their own wellbeing. Vice Admiral Moran’s directive to flag officers to take the leave they’ve earned is not coincidental, and it’s a beacon of hope. No one can say what led to Vice Admiral Stearney’s (a man with whom I served and deeply respect) tragic suicide, but it shows that none of us are immune to mental stress. I have long said that our slogan “ship, shipmate, self” should be thought of as a triad, not an order of priority. Maybe Navy leadership is starting to listen.

This is just a start. Maybe I’ll follow up with more next week. Email me at tsm@saltyherald.com with the things about the Navy that spark joy for you. Or tell me about the things that you think we should get rid of . . . you know I like getting riled up! Oh, and if you know how to reach Marie Kondo’s agent, let me know! I can see it now: “Clamping Down with Marie Kondo.”

Mr. President, You Want Money for a Wall? Don’t Pay Back the Federal Workers!

in Epiphanies

Ok, just hear me out.  You are asking for $5.7 billion from Congress to build a wall along the southern border, right? While the government was shut down for 35 days, 800,000 federal workers missed two paychecks.  On Friday, you agreed to reopen the government as you continue to negotiate with the Democrats.  I get it.  Compromise can be a powerful thing…well done!  Now, your administration is on track to pay back federal workers’ salaries sometime this week.  Wait just a moment and think about it.

Sir, you can use the money from the unpaid salaries to fund the wall!  The math checks out.  The average federal worker’s salary across the U.S. is $80,142.  That’s $6,678 a month.  So, for 800,000 federal workers, you’re about to pay out $5.3 billion!  That 93% of your wall budget right there!  You could find the remaining $400,000,000 in Pentagon couch cushions.

Worried about political blowback?  Sir, these people are going to vote for you ANYWAY!  You said it yourself.  You could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot someone and you wouldn’t lose any votes!

And if they’re Democrats?  Well, lets face it, you were never going to get those votes.  Do you even want them?

As an alternative to my proposal, you could also just fire those 800,000 federal workers.  I mean, what happened during the government shutdown?  We survived, didn’t we?  The economy thrived!  The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose about 1% during the shutdown.  Meanwhile, fewer Americans filed for unemployment than any time since 1969.  You are right to be proud to shut down the government!  You just learned you were paying $5 billion in excess workforce.  FIRE THEM ALL!  They’re called “non-essential” for a reason, after all.

I hope you will consider this earnest plea to take an innovative approach to funding border security.  Please reach out if you have any questions: tsm@saltyherald.com

Very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very respectfully,

Salty

Passing the Eye Candy Test

in Rants
Would you promote me? I’d promote me.

Excerpt from NAVADMIN 265/18: “This NAVADMIN cancels reference (a) and reinstates the requirement to display the Official Photograph for all Officer Selection Boards.  This policy change is the result of board feedback received since the removal of the photograph requirement that the photographs aid the board’s ability to assess the Title 10 requirements of an officers ability to perform the duties of the next higher grade.”

Before I go on, I’d like to ask everyone to watch this four minute clip from the movie, Moneyball, of baseball scouts assessing the talent of future prospects. I promise it will be worth your time.

Now, I’m not saying this is what happens during Officer Selection Boards, but I’ve never sat in on a board, so I can’t say it doesn’t happen. Judging from “board feedback” on officer photos, it seems entirely plausible this kind of conversation happens – senior officers trying to assess who passes the “eye candy test.” But lets take a step back, before I jump to conclusions, and examine the possible motivations for board members clamoring for photos to assess the potential of rising officers.

The Fat Test

Someone once told me “the Navy doesn’t want fat officers.” Fair enough.  There is real military utility in physical fitness and officers should lead by example.  If only we had some way of assessing physical fitness of our officers on a semi-annual basis… oh wait, we do!  The Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) Program!  The PFA assesses both the physical readiness and body composition of our officers. Perfect! What’s that you say? The PFA doesn’t reliably assess whether officers are “in shape” and look good in uniform? Well, I question the impact how good an officer looks in uniform has on the Navy’s ability to accomplish its mission. Granted, public perception of an all-volunteer force can have a tangible impact in a democratically elected republic.  As officers, we are all symbolic to an extent, but for the most part the American public doesn’t know the first thing about how to defeat a future enemy force in multi-domain warfare.  I’m not saying we need pink-haired, nose-ringed cyber warriors in uniform (although I wouldn’t mind), but if a big fat Ensign would’ve had the intestinal fortitude to tell LTJG Sarah Coppock to call her Captain and potentially save the lives of seven sailors, would you select him for promotion? We give too much credence to perception in officer promotion at our own peril.

Oh well, I guess if perception really is the dominant factor, then we should overhaul the PFA Program to more accurately determine “in-shapeness?” Too hard, you say? So we should just have selection board members give an eyeball judgment before they promote officers?  In that case, let’s just save some money and eliminate the PFA Program for officers. Hey, at least we’re not pretending like we actually care about physical fitness anymore!

The Diversity Test

An entirely different motivation for using officer photos at selection boards might be to ensure diversity among selectees.  This would be fine with me – I embrace the military utility in officer diversity (if you disagree, please, oh please, let me know in the comments!).  The problem with using photos to ensure diversity is that the Navy has not acknowledged this purpose.  In fact, the Navy specifically stated the reason was to assess “an officer’s ability to perform the duties of the next higher grade.” If diversity is the motivation behind this phrase, then we have bigger problems.

In any case, to my knowledge, there is no documentation that states selection boards must select a certain amount of officers for promotion based on factors such as gender, race, etc.  Quite the contrary, Title 10 U.S. Code states “Any metric established pursuant to this subsection may not be used in a manner that undermines the merit-based processes of the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard, including such processes for accession, retention, and promotion. Such metrics may not be combined with the identification of specific quotas based upon diversity characteristics.” I’m not weighing in on either side of this debate.  I’m simply saying that requiring a photo for ambiguous reasons leaves people to wonder whether the Navy is trying to manage diversity “off the record.” Worse, it leaves open the terrible possibility that the Navy is trying to limit the promotion rate of certain races or genders.  I don’t believe that’s the case, but an ambiguous photo requirement only emboldens people who are inclined to think this way.

The Eye Candy Test

Perhaps worst of all is the possibility that board members want to see officer photos so that they can judge subjectively whether the candidate has “the look” of a naval officer of the next highest grade.  This would introduce a whole host of undocumented, unconscious, and unchecked biases into the equation.  If individual board members are left to their own devices, it is quite possible candidates will be rejected or selected based on factors outside of the performance and career potential documented in their record; factors that are irrelevant to building a more effective maritime warfighting force. We are all subject to these biases, and selecting people based on photographs opens up commercial businesses to all kinds of legal jeopardy from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which is why private industry almost never asks for photos from job applicants.

I can hear it now: “the military is different from private industry!!!” I get it.  I agree in fact.  The Navy should not be managed the same as a commercial business, but, in this specific case, there is no military utility in evaluating officers based on their photograph.  At least no utility that cannot be achieved through a rigorous, comprehensive PFA and performance evaluation system.

Just like the scouts in Moneyball, if we’re using the eye candy test, we’re not even trying to solve the right problem. Our job is to win our nation’s wars at sea.  We should be promoting officers based on factors that have military utility in accomplishing that mission.  And.  Nothing.  Else.

Oh, I have a new email address: tsm@saltyherald.com. Fire away and come visit me and my friends at www.saltyherald.com.  BTW, the volume of feedback from the fleet is picking up! Apologies if it takes me a while to respond!

SPECIAL EDITION: Coast Guard Survival Guide for the Government Shutdown

in Life Hacks/Rants

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

<sits down at computer, takes deep breath, and prays he can get through this with a straight face>

On 9 January, The Washington Post reported that the Coast Guard was trying to help its members cope with not getting paid during the government shutdown. The Coast Guard Support Program published some financial advice to its members on how to make a little extra money on the side.

Coast Guard brothers and sisters! If you needed advice on how get your side hustle on, why didn’t you just say so?! I GOT YOU!

Here are some innovative moneymaking tips for those of you feeling the pinch while the government sorts out its business:

  • Climb a cellphone tower and strip out the copper to sell on the black market. Apparently you can also cut down power distribution poles to get the copper out of the transformer. Fingers crossed the breaker trips and the pole falls away from you!
  • Respond to various ads on Craig’s List. The most lucrative opportunities are going to be in the sections people warn you about. Take risks.
  • Sell your organs on the black market. You don’t NEED two kidneys, and better to get paid than wake up in a Bangkok hotel room in a tub of ice with shoddy stitching and a note to call 911.
  • Start a bitcoin mining operation. Admittedly, this would have helped you more last year but you can’t afford to be choosy!
  • Pretend to be homeless, stage an incident where you help your civilian buddies as good Samaritan, put it all over the internet, set up a Gofundme account, and ask for donations. Bonus: you may not have to pretend to be homeless much longer!
  • Sell your kids’ social security numbers on the dark web. They don’t need good credit if you’re going to be bankrupt anyway.
  • Steal Amazon packages from your neighbors’ front porches. Just watch out for glitter bombs!
  • Sell your . . .

OK! Nope! Can’t do it! LISTEN UP: Republicans, Democrats, liberals, conservatives, all of you . . . STOP ACTING LIKE CHILDREN! DO YOUR JOB! You are four days away from breaking a sacred contract with our men and women in uniform, and just because it’s happened before and they’ll likely get backpay (yes, Baby Boomers, we’ve all heard about your late paychecks during the 1995 shutdowns) doesn’t make it ok! Take a look around you! You literally could not have gooned this up any worse. OK, well except for maybe global thermonuclear war, but even that I’m hearing some of you talk about like “oh, well maybe that’s what needs to happen to get fill-in-the-blank country to act right!” WTF?!? The fabric of our Republic is becoming almost unrecognizable. And to those of you saying the shutdown is a good thing: cool, cool, let’s see how it works out for you not paying the people who secure our borders. Read that again. Wait, wasn’t this all about border security in the first place?? Forget it, never mind. You’re done, move aside. You’ve abdicated your responsibilities. We’ll take it from here.

We Talkin’ About Practice!

in Rants
Y’all need to listen to this man. He speaks the truth.

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

Seventeen years ago, Allen Iverson gave one of the most epic press conference rants in NBA history. Yes, Baby Boomers, I’m old enough to remember it. In fact, I agree with every word he said!

We are the United States Navy. First round draft pick. Undisputed league MVP 28 years running. Back-to-back world champs. We do not need to worry about PRACTICE!

Come at me, bro.

Fleet exercises? C’mon man! We gotta get these ships on deployment for the real deal! Just certify them like we’ve always done it: scripted scenarios, serialized training events, predictable adversaries, zero risk, check the block, done, see you in nine (maybe ten) months! All this talk about challenging high-end exercises? Totally unrealistic, we’re too busy. Just get the ships underway and they’ll reach basic proficiency halfway through deployment—then extend them on station and, voila, you’ve got a combat ready force! And now CNO wants to conduct a “Large Scale Exercise 2020?” Fine, as long as it’s a one-off event that only uses non-deployable assets, includes lots of photo opportunities, and haphazard lessons learned are locked away in a vault. That would be OK. Hey, maybe we should call Lieutenant General Van Riper out of retirement again!

SWO Training? I hear people like these junior officers saying we need to improve our training pipeline. Gimme a break. Our ensigns need to toughen up, report to their ship, and hit the ground running. This is the best navy in the world and we’re focused on hitting 355 ships before the Great Power Competition! We don’t have time to train every little butterbar running from one mistake to the next!

We literally do not.

Some have even suggested we give newbies a full training regimen with stick time on Yard Patrol (YP) craft. Others even going so far as to suggest SWOs earn their pins before they report aboard their ship. What are we, aviators now? So what if the flight school model has contributed to developing the most lethal and proficient naval air force in the world? We are black shoes! Twin reversible screws, 100,000 horsepower, automatic plotting radars, electronic charts with GPS input, and coffee are all we need!

The next thing you’re gonna tell me is we need to send our best SWOs to be instructors, like aviators do! Don’t be ridiculous. We need to send our top performers to be detailers in Millington so they can optimize the personnel management system and give us the perfect next set of orders!

We got this detailing thing on lock down!

In the end, maybe there’s one thing on which we can all agree. Allen Iverson said it best: this is not a game.

The Command Debate: A Viewer’s Guide

in Life Hacks

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

“Trust in commanding officers is eroding!”

No it isn’t!”

“Well, maybe?”

NO!”

Ladies and gentlemen, PLEASE . . . wait for me to get my popcorn. OK, continue!

Wait, wait, alright maybe we should set some guidelines for this debate, lest anyone get offended, and you all know how I would hate that! The above linked articles depict a fascinating conversation on the state and nature of naval command. Here’s a recap to get everyone caught up:

“Charting a Course: Stop the Erosion of Command” – Captain Kevin Eyer (retired) argues accountability in commanding officers is increasing, while the Navy’s trust in them is in “near freefall.” He paints a dire picture, likening today’s commanding officers (COs) to sacrificial lambs. He particularly laments the decision by VADM Richard Brown, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, to standardize COs’ Standing Orders across the fleet.

Trust in Commanding Officers Is Not in Freefall” – Captain James Storm counters from the perspective of a currently serving Cruiser CO. His perspective is powerful, given his position, and his experience indicates that today’s CO’s in fact are being given as much as trust and power as in the days of Admirals Nimitz and Spruance. He notes his Standing Orders already were sufficient to meet Vice Admiral Richard Brown’s guidance, so it was just an issue of formatting.

“Mission Command and Zero Error Tolerance Cannot Coexist” – Dr. Milan Vego’s article predates the others, but it is a relevant piece arguing that mission command, an effective wartime command and control system, is incompatible with the Navy’s zero-defect cultural mindset. I won’t offer any commentary here. Dr. Vego has written books on operational art that could be used as blunt force weapons. His opinion stands on its own.

Command Has Not Been Eroded” – Lieutenant Commander Catherine Reppert, currently serving as a minesweeper CO, offers another rebuttal to Captain Eyer (retired). Contrary to a lack of trust, her superiors have given her wide latitude to execute her mission without interference. I will only note here that both currently serving COs offer a positive view of trust and accountability in command. That could be a good sign, but can you really imagine a public expression of the contrary point of view? “I actually agree that the Navy treats COs like sacrificial lambs!” CO, USS Neversail (UPDATE: Former CO, USS Neversail).

Tips to Enhance Your Viewing Experience

Now that everyone is caught up, on to my sage advice. I tried to limit the sarcasm (which is really hard for me, you guys) so you can take these at face value.

  1. Embrace It. This seems like an important moment for the surface force. Whether or not we truly have a systemic problem with command, we are airing out our concerns with this vital function and getting to the root of the issue. That is the kind of gut-wrenching, frustrating, exhausting, blood-boiling, soul-searching, heartbreaking, tear-jerking, full “open kimono” accounting that is the hallmark of learning, high-performing organizations. We could be getting somewhere!
  2. Don’t Be Just a Viewer. If you have ANY stake in the future of naval command, get off the sidelines! Currently in command with an unpopular opinion? Lets see some of that risk-taking behavior we all love to romanticize. Never had command? So what!? Step up and say what you’ve got to say!
  3. Good Ideas Have No Rank. The fact that you are a junior officer, or you’ve never had command, doesn’t invalidate your perspective. State your criticisms and assessments, offer supporting evidence, and give recommendations if you’ve got them. Stop bi***ing behind closed doors and on Sailor Bob message boards, and take a professional stand!
  4. Bad Ideas Have No Rank, Either. You have to give due credit to those who have experience, and are currently experiencing, the burden of command. Be willing to accept that they probably have insight that you do not. That being said, just because you’ve had command doesn’t mean you’ve got this vitally important issue all figured out. The whole merit of this debate is to achieve greater “wartime efficacy” (as Captain Eyer [retired] puts it). That will come from collective wisdom, not a single point of view.
  5. Don’t Take it Personally. Admiral Phil Davidson, Vice Admiral Richard Brown, Dr. Milan Vego, Captain James Storm, Captain Kevin Eyer (retired), Lieutenant Commander Catherine Reppert. These names don’t matter. These names do: Electronics Technician 3rd Class Kenneth Aaron Smith, Interior Communications Electrician 3rd Class Logan Stephen Palmer, Electronics Technician 3rd Class John Henry Hoagland III, Electronics Technician 3rd Class Dustin Louis Doyon, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Jacob Daniel Drake, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Corey George Ingram, Electronics Technician 1st Class Charles Nathan Findley, Interior Communications Electrician 1st Class Abraham Lopez, Electronics Technician 2nd Class Kevin Sayer Bushell, Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr. Don’t forget why this debate matters.
  6. Question Everything. I was taught on my first ship that a questioning attitude is a principle of operational excellence. There are others of course, but this one always stuck with me because I did not expect that message in a military environment. Now, I have been known to take it a shade too far (just ask my XO when I was OPS…we had fun), but in general my questioning attitude has served me well, like most of my generation. Millennials . . . ugh, amiright? The key is knowing when it’s time to just shut up and follow orders, especially in tactical situations when time is of the essence and your superior may not be able to explain his or her line of thinking. In an open forum for professional discourse, however, there’s absolutely no reason not to question everything you read, write, and think. If a perspective can’t be defended against questioning, maybe it’s best to consider a new perspective.

My $0.02

I would be awfully hypocritical if I didn’t offer my own opinion, after all. I believe command, particularly command at sea, is transforming; however, I do not view this change as entirely negative. The autonomy that used to be so inherent in command at sea has gradually diminished over the last few decades, due partly to a greater portion of the kill chain being shifted outside the ship. One could look to the first time a CO launched a TLAM on a target for which he had no knowledge or responsibility, as a key milestone. Today, ship’s weapons can be employed in a variety of ways in which the CO does not have total control. In a networked force, that can be extremely powerful, but, yes, it does reduce the autonomy of the CO. We need to be capable of adapting to communications-denied environments, but operational concepts need to adapt to the evolution of technology, not disregard it. Ultimately, instead of having an emotional debate how much we trust our CO’s, I believe we will need to have an analytical debate about how best to employ technology in new operational concepts to maximize “wartime efficacy.”

As a parting thought, I’m reminded of a quote from the film Ronin, “Whenever there is any doubt, there is no doubt.” If you have even the slightest inkling that something needs improving in our system of command, consider trusting your instincts and pursue it. Then, consider the consequences if you don’t.

When Resignation Feels Like Divorce

in Rants
Image Credit: CNBC (www.cnbc.com)

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Naval Institute Blog here.

Its fine. Whatever. Go. I don’t care.

How do I feel about this? I’ll tell you! Why did you have to go and make a big deal about Syria? Mommy said we defeated ISIS anyway! Mommy also said ISIS remains a threat to the rest of the world, so I’m confused. Whatever, I don’t want to talk about it.

Oh, also, Mommy said you are Democrat. Is that true? I just don’t know what to think anymore.

I read your stupid, not genuine, not heartfelt, not professional, not amazingly eloquent letter. Just go. No, I’m not crying. I got something in my eye.

How am I supposed to deal with all the bullies at school without your help? And I’m nervous about this Great Power Competition coming up next semester. Grandpa and Great Grandpa won the last two, but I don’t know if I’m ready! Mommy said she might cut my allowance! Everything sucks. Get out of my room!

Wait, STOP! DON’T GO!! I take back everything I said. I didn’t mean it! My brothers and sisters and I will do better. No more UCMJ violations, we promise! What if we can beat the Taliban in one year? Will you stay? PLEASE! Also, Mommy’s new boyfriend scares us. It’s the mustache.

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