Category Archives: News & Analysis

The Senate and the Law of the Sea

The Senate and the Law of the Sea

The Law of the Sea Treaty has been a political hot button for more than 30 years. In 1982 then-President Ronald Reagan refused to sign the treaty and ratification of the treaty has bounced around the U.S. Senate for decades. On Thursday the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a day worth of hearings on the pros and cons of the treaty’s ratification. Military leaders pushed for the treaty’s ratification while former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld spoke against ratification.

Military star power endorses high seas treaty

By Donna Cassata
WASHINGTON (AP) — Proponents of a treaty governing the high seas rolled out military star power Thursday to try to lift the prospects for a long-spurned pact that faces strong conservative Republican opposition. more
Associated Press

Former Bush officials clash over need for the Law of the Sea Treaty

By Julian Pecquet
John Negroponte, Bush’s first director of national intelligence, joined the State Department’s former top lawyer John Bellinger in warning that the Navy and American oil and gas companies would be hamstrung if the U.S. doesn’t join the pact. But former Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld countered that having to pay royalties to a United Nation agency was unacceptable to President Ronald Reagan in 1982 — and remains so today. more
The Hill’s Global Affairs blog

Why the U.N. shouldn’t own the Sea

By Donald Rumsfeld
Thirty years ago, President Ronald Reagan asked me to meet with world leaders to represent the United States in opposition to the United Nations Law of the Sea Treaty. Our efforts soon found a persuasive supporter in British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Today, as the U.S. Senate again considers approving this flawed agreement, the Reagan-Thatcher reasons for opposition remain every bit as persuasive. more

The Wall Street Journal

The Jeannette Expedition

The Jeannette Expedition

Excerpted from U.S. Naval Institute’s The U.S. Navy and The Arctic Question 

On July 8, 1879 USS Jeannette, a barque rigged, propeller driven U.S. Navy steamship departed San Francisco on a voyage to reach the North Pole from the western Pacific via the Bering Straight north of Russia (sometimes referred to as the Northeast Passage). She was also to try to determine the fate of a Swedish expedition headed by Nils A. E. Nordenskjold aboard his vessel the Vega, which was believed to be in Alaskan waters. Her commander, Lt. Cmdr. George Washington DeLong, had discussed a new Arctic exploration with Henry Grinnell, a wealthy and politically connected New York ship owner who had been involved in two previous Arctic expeditions. However Grinnell felt he was too old to be involved. Support for the Jeannette Expedition, as it would be called, ultimately came primarily from newspaper publisher James Gordon Bennett Jr., who had inherited ownership of the New York Herald. Described as a playboy eccentric, it is widely held that without Bennett’s drive, political influence and financing the expedition would not have occurred.

delongJames_Gordon_Bennett_jr

The Jeannette had been officially commissioned a U.S. Navy vessel on June 28. The ship carried a crew of 32, of who five men, including DeLong, a 1865 U.S. Naval Academy graduate, were attached to the U.S. Navy. DeLong had Arctic experience, having participated in the search for survivors of explorer Charles Francis Hall’s failed 1872 Polaris expedition. The popular press frequently emphasized that the Jeannette effort was in fact a U.S. Navy enterprise “…a national work [that] will extend the geographical survey and topographical knowledge of the northern boundary in the interests of commerce and navigation.”

Read More

BAMS Down

BAMS Down

One of the U.S. Navy’s largest and most expensive unmanned aerial vehicles crashed in the Chesapeake Bay under unknown circumstances early Monday afternoon. The downed $180 million RQ-4A Broad Area Maritime Surveillance Demonstrator (BAMS-D) is one of five modified U.S. Air Force Global Hawk UAVs the Navy is testing ahead of an estimated $40 billion program that the Navy says will greatly improve its maritime domain awareness. Under Secretary of the Navy Bob Work said the inclusion of BAMS into the fleet would mitigate the need for a large surface fleet for maritime domain awareness.”Everyone focuses on whether there are going to be 313 ships or 310,” he said on Jan. 12 in Jane’s Defence Weekly. “I say, who cares? I’ve got BAMS. [Its surveillance coverage] is a lot bigger than a 600-ship navy.”

BAMS-D

US Navy Photo

Primary Function: Specifically tailored for maritime and littoral intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. The BAMS-D system currently consists of two Block 10 RQ-4A air vehicles, one Mission Control Element (MCE), two Launch and Recovery Elements (LRE) plus one Tactical Auxiliary Ground Station (TAGS).
Contractor: Northrop Grumman
Date Deployed: January 2009
Propulsion: 1 Rolls-Royce AE3007H turbofan
Endurance: 31 hours (with reserves)
Length: 44.0 feet (13.4 meters)
Wingspan: 116 feet (35.4 meters)
Height: 15.2 feet (4.6 meters)
Weight: Max design gross take-off: 25,600 pounds (11,612 kilograms)
Airspeed: 340knots (approximately 391 mph)
Ceiling: 60,000 feet (18,288 meters)
Range: 10,500nautical miles (19,446 kilometers)
Crew: 4 per ground station (2 pilots and 2 sensor operators)
Sensors: Automatic Identification System (AIS) receiver, Electronic Support Measures (ESM) and the following side-looking sensors: Electro-Optical/Infrared(EO/IR) camera, maritime-enabled Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and Inverse Synthetic Aperture Radar (ISAR)

Information from U.S. Naval Air Systems Command

The Return of the Privateers

The Return of the Privateers

Alfred Thayer Mahan is credited as saying: “War is business, to which actual fighting is incidental.”

These words speak to the counter-piracy mission more than all others. Mahan’s modern counterparts agree: Dr. Martin Murphy, a piracy expert, prolific author and fellow at the Atlantic Council, refers to piracy as “trade’s dark double.” By mixing violence with trade, piracy transforms maritime security into a commodity. Now, a burgeoning privateer fleet is offering a competing product: a navy for hire.

A recent announcement by the Convoy Escort Programme, a private navy funded by insurers Jardine Lloyd Thompson and underwriter Ascot, declares that they will commence operating in the Gulf of Aden by the end of this year. While private security companies are nothing new, CEP represents a watershed moment in the struggle to align the benefits of trade with the responsibility for maintaining that trade. So long as pirates ply the seas, society can only choose the method it pays the costs they incur: either directly through ransoms paid to pirates, or indirectly through publicly financed navies or privateers. Standing navies only became common in the past few hundred years. Before that, societies relied on hired ships to secure their trade. CEP also represents a return to this historically dominant means of paying for security.

U.S. Navy Sailors from USS Pinckney (DDG 91) approaches a suspected pirate vessel in 2011 U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy Sailors from USS Pinckney (DDG 91) approaches a suspected pirate vessel in 2011 U.S. Navy photo

To date, the world has responded to Somali piracy primarily through a combination of ransoms and naval patrols. According to a report by the One Earth Future Foundation, $160 million in ransoms were paid in 2011 and they estimate the annual cost of the international naval presence in the Gulf of Aden at $1.27 billion. Adding in the cost of increased insurance premiums or the more circuitous and expensive routes ships use to avoid pirate threats, the Foundation estimates the total cost of Somali piracy at $7 billion – enough to give a new iPhone to every person in the state of Pennsylvania. Whatever the figure, maritime security in the Gulf of Aden has value, and at 70 million dollars, CEP’s navy represents a bargain compared to even one ship from the U.S. Navy.

Read More

The Rise of the Narco Navy

The Rise of the Narco Navy

Somali pirates and Iranian irregular warfare craft are well known to naval audiences, but the narco navy deserves equal infamy for its drug-smuggling operations in the Americas. Both crude self-propelled semi submersibles and full makeshift submarines are complicating drug interdiction in the Americas. The United States and international partners have responded with network-centric surveillance, tracking, and interdiction efforts, but seaborne interdiction operations are ultimately adjuncts to the more expansive interdiction missions conducted on the U.S.-Mexican border itself and the counternarcotics operations run throughout Central and Latin America by the U.S. military and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Since the beginning of the War on Drugs in the 1970s, the United States and its partners have sunk vast sums into detecting, interdicting, and deterring drug smuggling. But, as rapper Rick Ross observed, drug smugglers consider “being dead broke [as] the root of all evil.” The mind-boggling sums of money available to those who can supply product to the hemisphere’s biggest drug market is more than enough to convince drug lords and their agents to risk imprisonment, injury, and death. How much money? By 2009 estimates (the latest available), Mexican and Colombian cartels rake in $39 billion in wholesale drug profits annually. Depending on where you live in the U.S., a kilo of cocaine sells for between $34,000 to $120,000. The risks are great, but so are the potential rewards.

The primary battlespaces in the drug war are the “plazas,” a set of heavily contested drug-trafficking routes in northern Mexico. Cartels spill blood and cut off heads for control of the plazas, but the Caribbean trafficking routes are no less important. By utilizing small craft and “narco-subs,” drug smugglers make it more difficult and expensive for the US to interdict them. The narco navy also heavily exploits capability gaps among American partners that lack American manpower and advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

Read More