Category Archives: U.S. Marine Corps

Book Review: The Generals by Tom Ricks

Book Review: The Generals by Tom Ricks

By:

Thomas E. Ricks, The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today. New York: Penguin, 2012. 558 pp. $32.95.

When Tom Ricks published Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq in the summer of 2006, the impact was immediate and extraordinary. The book shredded any pretense that the Bush administration knew what it was doing in Iraq and also brought to light myriad failures of the American military establishment in the war. A Naval Academy graduate and a senior U.S. senator told me that he could only read a few pages before having to take a walk around the block to cool down so that he could see straight enough to continue reading. He was not the only reader to react strongly to Fiasco; the book became a number one New York Times bestseller and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Fiasco contributed to a reassessment of military strategy in Iraq and focused attention on the failures of American military leadership in that war. One of the most pointed indictments came from inside the Army when my friend Lt. Col. Paul Yingling published an essay titled “A Failure of Generalship.” Yingling noted the Army’s failures to prepare for the Iraq war and to adapt to its requirements during the course of the conflict; his most damning line noted that “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

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Submarine Stormtroops

Submarine Stormtroops

Proceedings, November 2012
An unconventional spin on the Marine tradition of forcible amphibious entry could counter modern A2/AD threats—at little expense and with minimal training.

The year is 2020. A country has attacked a U.S. ally and seized multiple islands. Simultaneously, it has flooded the area with guided rockets, artillery, mortars and missiles (G-RAMMs). Intelligence has identified three separate anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) and anti-air (AA) locations on one island that must be destroyed before a U.S. aircraft carrier battle group or amphibious ready group (ARG) can aid our ally. Intelligence also suggests the enemy has hidden mobile ASCM and AA capabilities. All assets are protected by a dispersed, company-size enemy force. Through commercial and proprietary satellite coverage, the aggressor can locate and target U.S. Navy ships. That country does not know, however, where U.S. submarines are.

The President convenes the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and asks what can be done.

Marines operate from the USS Hawaii U.S. Marine Corps photo

Marines operate from the USS Hawaii U.S. Marine Corps photo

“We can execute precision-guided munition (PGM) strikes,” the chairman responds, “but that cannot guarantee the destruction of all sites, nor can the destruction of sites we hit be confirmed. Nor can we guarantee destruction of the enemy’s mobile weapons using PGMs alone.”The Chief of Naval Operations observes: “Until the ASCM and AA threat are destroyed, we can’t move our $14 billion aircraft carrier (USS Gerald R. Ford) or $4 billion amphibious assault ship (USS America) within 300 miles of that island.”

“Mr. President,” notes the commander, Special Operations Command, “we have some ability to confirm the destruction of the sites, but limited manpower prevents us from securing terrain or destroying enemy garrisons.”

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Both Obama and Romney Proposals Don’t Meet Navy Requirements

Both Obama and Romney Proposals Don’t Meet Navy Requirements

In the run-up to Election Day, both campaigns have put an increased focus on national security, foreign policy and defense spending. President Barack Obama has touted, among other things, the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, a strategic pivot to the Asian-Pacific and the killing of Osama bin Laden. Republican nominee Mitt Romney has criticized the President for his policies in the Middle East, decried defense-spending cuts from the Department of Defense efficiency push and the congressionally mandated sequestration process, and said he plans to pump more money into the Pentagon budget.

Barack Obama, Barack Obama

Most recently, Obama and Romney have clashed over Navy force structure. The President’s plan invests in nearly ten new ships a year, bringing the aggregate to 307 vessels by 2042. The Romney camp is advocating a 350-ship Navy based on a procurement rate of 15 ships per year.

Both Obama and Romney want to buy more submarines, destroyers and aircraft carriers, but Romney also wants a new frigate and a dedicated missile-defense ship. Both the President and his challenger are advocating more tactical fighter aircraft, including a mix of F/A-18s and F-35s. Romney advisers have said they want more of the legacy Hornets, in addition to the new joint-service platform and want to add an 11th carrier air wing, to match air units to each of the Navy’s eleven aircraft carriers.

The two also differ on the total number of ships the Navy needs. At the 19 October foreign policy debate, Romney stuck by his call for a 350-ship fleet. “Our Navy is smaller now than any time since 1917,” Romney said. “I want to make sure we have the ships that are required by our Navy.”

The stand prompted one of the more terse exchanges between the two candidates during this cycle.

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Ringside at the Missile Crisis

Ringside at the Missile Crisis

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George W. Anderson Jr. was part of the inner circle of military officers advising President John F. Kennedy on how to deal with the Soviet Union’s shipping missiles to Cuba.

In October 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States and the Soviet Union perched precariously on the brink of nuclear war. At this time of extreme challenge for U.S. leadership, there were serious disagreements within that echelon. In the event, the United States prevailed.

In 1983, the U.S. Naval Institute published The Reminiscences of Admiral George W. Anderson , an oral history in which the former Chief of Naval Operations reflected on his role in the crisis and on the controversial nature of his one-term tour as CNO. Excerpts from those recollections presented here are of enduring value.

President John F. Kennedy and a new generation took office in January 1961. If there were hopes for improved relations at the outset, Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev soon found themselves on a road turning rocky. In April, the U.S. move to oust Fidel Castro from Cuba in the Bay of Pigs invasion failed miserably. In June, during their summit talks in Vienna, Austria, Khrushchev measured Kennedy as weak and pushed ahead on three fronts: strengthening the Soviet strategic nuclear arsenal; cutting off East and West Berlin with the Berlin Wall; establishing a stronger presence in the Western Hemisphere; and introducing a growing array of arms to Cuba.

On 1 October, the President appointed Army General Maxwell Taylor, center, to take over for General Lyman Lemnitzer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Taylor had been serving in the White House as military representative to the President. Flanking Taylor, left to right, are Army Chief of Staff General Earle Wheeler, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Anderson, and Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Shoup. Navy History and Hertigae Command

On 1 October, the President appointed Army General Maxwell Taylor, center, to take over for General Lyman Lemnitzer as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Taylor had been serving in the White House as military representative to the President. Flanking Taylor, left to right, are Army Chief of Staff General Earle Wheeler, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Anderson, and Commandant of the Marine Corps General David Shoup. Navy History and Hertigae Command

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The Asymmetric Nature of Cyber Warfare

The Asymmetric Nature of Cyber Warfare

Proceedings, Oct. 2012
How likely is it that a conflict between two combatants involving both kinetic and cyber operations would be an asymmetric one? And does the answer to that question depend on who the combatants are? In a kinetic scenario, the creation and “massing” of forces is often possible to observe. Whether it is the number of troops, warheads, or aircraft, one can physically monitor the activity. The buildup can be measured in days or weeks. Such a scenario involving state-of-the-art kinetic weaponry also needs a high level of expertise that only comes from years of education and training. One needs a well-funded organization to support this kind of activity.You can trace the kinetic matériel fairly accurately to its source, and the effects of a kinetic attack unfold over an observable period of time. You can watch and react to it. Defense is possible as long as you are sufficiently diligent and prepared with a response.

U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy photo

The cyber battlefield is different. First, you don’t need a factory or a military base or physical materials. You don’t need the same sort of education, training, and expertise. All you need is a computer, Internet connection, and the time and patience to learn about software, hardware, and network vulnerabilities. Anyone can learn about and create effective cyber weapons. That’s why non-nation-state combatants are the most common potential adversaries. The development of offensive cyber weapons is very hard to actually “see.” It might be occurring in the room next to you, and you’ll be unlikely to know it.

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Romney's Navy Plan

Romney’s Navy Plan

This week in a speech in Virginia, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney talked about his plan to build a 350-ship Navy, boosting spending on current programs and creating two new ship designs. But affordability is a key detail in any procurement discussion, and it’s one piece of the puzzle that the Romney camp is still fleshing out. Romney also did not identify any new requirements for a 350-ship fleet.

vmi_0There is no doubt shipbuilding is a priority for whomever occupies the White House for the next four years. The Navy’s current roster of ships is near its smallest since 1916, when then-President Woodrow Wilson signed the Naval Act authorizing a massive build-up. At Wilson’s behest and with congressional approval, the Navy built 10 battleships, six battlecruisers, 30 submarines, 50 destroyers and other support vessels over three years, tripling the size of the sea service by 1919. Wilson’s 752-ship Navy was the high-water mark for decades, and his push leading up to World War I is credited with establishing U.S. naval dominance in the 20th century. But the expansion came at a cost — some $500 million at the time or a mere $10.2 billion in current-year dollars. But today’s ships are different by nearly all metrics — mission, capability, sophistication, size and cost among other factors.

Nearly a century later, Congress finds itself in much the same quandary as Wilson — an aging fleet of warships in need of modernization and, some say, expansion. The U.S. fleet as a whole has been on a slow decline since the late 1980s, bottoming out at 278 ships in 2007. The Navy says it needs between 310 and 316 ships to meet all its obligations around the world, a number that has remained roughly unchanged since the 1994 Quadrennial Defense Review.

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MRAPs On the Way Out

MRAPs On the Way Out

On Monday the Pentagon ceased production of the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle (MRAP), perhaps the most iconic acquisition program of the past ten years. The trucks were designed and built in response to the urgent need to protect service members in Iraq from the pervasive improvised explosive device (IED) threat. The vehicle went through five different iterations and the production lines produced 27,740 trucks. The total price tag came to $47.7 billion. For all the investment, what are we left with?

Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau in Kuwait in 2008. U.S. Navy Photo

Mine resistant ambush protected vehicles offloaded from the Military Sealift Command roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Pililaau in Kuwait in 2008. U.S. Navy Photo

The vehicle may be of use to the U.S. Army, but there is little place for the armored monstrosities in the Marine Corps. They are too heavy to be practical on the Navy’s amphibious warships. Marine Corps and Navy leaders rightly are concerned about the weight of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, so the weight issue is a red line for integrating the trucks into permanent service. Any MRAPs remaining on the Marine Corps rolls will most likely be stripped of their radios and mothballed.

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Navy, Marine Corps Reprogramming Clears Way for Nuclear Refuelings to Continue

Navy, Marine Corps Reprogramming Clears Way for Nuclear Refuelings to Continue

The future of certain Navy and Marine Corps programs remain in doubt while a temporary legislative funding measure takes effect on Monday. A little over a week ago, Congress approved a six-month spending package that will give the House and Senate until March of 2013 to decide how to meet the nation’s financial obligations, including funding for the Department of Defense (DoD).

The so-called Continuing Resolutions (CR), allow the government to remain open and operating but they also prevent DoD from starting any new programs and require funding levels for current programs to remain essentially the same. For the DoD overall, the funding continuation means a half-percent increase in the topline, but restrictions in the bill hit the Navy and Marine Corps especially hard. Shipbuilding programs could stall and multi-year buys of fighter and vertical lift aircraft could be put off, driving up costs and impacting readiness.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Station Norfolk and begins a towing operation to Northrop Grumman Newport News Ship Building for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in 2009. U.S. Navy Photo.

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) departs Naval Station Norfolk and begins a towing operation to Northrop Grumman Newport News Ship Building for a Refueling Complex Overhaul (RCOH) in 2009. U.S. Navy Photo.

But the Navy’s two biggest issues in the CR were funding for a pair of aircraft carrier midlife maintenance projects called RCOHs or Refueling and Complex Overhaul. USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) is scheduled to finish its three-year, $2.5 billion rebuild in June 2013, but the CR funded only half of the expected costs. USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) is scheduled to start its downtime next year as well, but new programs are specifically prohibited under the CR.

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Trends in Hybrid and Irregular Warfare

Trends in Hybrid and Irregular Warfare

Proceedings, September 2012
Savvy adversaries are more capable than ever of using high-tech gadgets and social media against the United States.

From Tunisia to Cairo, Sanaa, Bahrain, Benghazi, Damascus, London, Wall Street, Berkeley, and the University of California, Davis, 2011 was the year of the social-media revolution. Smartphones and social media have enabled groups of like-minded individuals to share information, spread their messages, and upend traditional relationships between the public and authorities. These developments are part of a continuing trend in the democratization of information: the empowerment of groups and individuals by information technology. Combined with the democratization of destruction, or the expansion of access to destructive technology and tactics, small groups and individuals will have greater ability to counter traditional security forces in hybrid and irregular conflicts, where force-on-force military engagements may be blended with other operations aimed at influencing key populations.1

ScharreF1Sept12

The future operating environment will be one of contested domains—air, land, sea, space, cyber, the electromagnetic spectrum, and increasingly, the influence domain, where individuals and groups compete to spread their messages. U.S. military forces must be prepared for future challenges within these domains from nation-states as well as non-state groups or individuals. While the Department of Defense (DOD) is generally good at estimating and preparing for challenges from organized military forces, threats from non-state groups tend to be more diffuse and decentralized, more organic, and less predictable in nature.2 The continued diffusion of power to non-state groups will increase the challenges associated with irregular and hybrid warfare, with significant implications for U.S. forces.3

The Democratization of Information

The widespread availability of social media and Internet-capable smartphones has transformed relationships between the public and traditional authority. In the past few years, these technologies have helped non-state groups record and broadcast abuses of power, organize to form ad hoc collectives, and counter messages from authorities. In many cases, authorities have been slow to realize the implications of these changes. Even U.S. domestic agencies have repeatedly been embarrassed by incidents in which officials have been recorded using heavy-handed tactics. Images and video of peaceful protesters being pepper-sprayed, abused, or intimidated by law-enforcement officials in New York, Berkeley, UC Davis, the University of Maryland, and Washington, D.C., have led to outrage, suspension of offending officials, and in at least one case felony criminal charges.4

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Sebastian Junger: Tim Hetherington Didn't Have to Die

Sebastian Junger: Tim Hetherington Didn’t Have to Die

U.S. Naval Institute’s Fred Schultz spoke with journalist and documentary filmmaker Sebastian Junger on Sept. 24 about Junger’s new organization dedicated to providing basic medical training to freelance frontline war reporters and photographers.

Junger created Reporters Instructed in Saving Colleagues following the 2011 death of photographer Tim Hetherington in Libya.
Hetherington was wounded by mortar fire while covering the conflict in Libya and died on the way to a local hospital. Junger said if fellow journalists on the scene were trained in basic first aid, Hetherington could have survived.

RISC has conducted its first intensive training session in April and his preparing for a second in New York.

Junger also discussed his view on the U.S. Afghanistan pullout and his responsibility for helping make the term “The Perfect Storm,” one of the most overused clichés in the last twenty years.