Monday, February 27, 2017

The UK's Military: Withered by Design

Russia has sobered everyone up it seems. 

As part of a push this year to increase the military capability of the British military, The Financial Times has gotten hold of a 10-page memo to by General Sir Richard Barrons, recently retired commander of Joint Forces Command (UK).

Make no mistake; this has everything to do with Russia.
In the correspondence, a copy of which has been obtained by the Financial Times, Sir Richard states:

● There is no military plan to defend the UK in a conventional conflict. “Counter-terrorism is the limit of up-to-date plans and preparations to secure our airspace, waters and territory . . . There is no top-to-bottom command and control mechanism, preparation or training in place for the UK armed forces [to defend home territory] . . . let alone to do so with Nato.”

● A Russian air campaign would quickly overwhelm Britain. “UK air defence now consists of the (working) Type 45 [destroyers], enough ground-based air defence to protect roughly Whitehall only, and RAF fast jets. Neither the UK homeland nor a deployed force — let alone both concurrently — could be protected from a concerted Russian air effort.”

● Navy ships and RAF planes are often deployed without adequate munitions or protections because they have grown used to depending on US forces to protect and support them. “Key capabilities such as radars, fire control systems and missile stocks are deficient.”

● The army is not equipped to fight a rival professional land force and is significantly outgunned by Russia. “The current army has grown used to operating from safe bases in the middle of its operating area, against opponents who do not manoeuvre at scale, have no protected mobility, no air defence, no substantial artillery, no electronic warfare capability, nor — especially — an air force or recourse to conventional ballistic or cruise missiles.”

● Small numbers of hugely expensive pieces of military equipment make the UK’s capabilities “extremely fragile”. It is unlikely the UK’s two new aircraft carriers, which cost £2bn each, will ever be sent within 300km of the Chinese coast, for example. “We operate platforms that we cannot afford to use fully, damage or lose — industry would take years to repair or produce more.”

● Manpower across all the forces is dangerously squeezed. “It is not necessary to shoot down all the UK’s Joint Strike Fighters, only to know how to murder in their beds the 40 or so people who can fly them.”
Read it all, and remember that it is generally considered that the British are not only our most reliable ally, but our most capable.

They are also in many ways the most transparent and honest - and don't completely dismiss this as a part of selling additional spending to the British public. That being said, it is all true.

I'd also recommend a viewing of the short video by British Defense Secretary Michael Fallon over at The Independent.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Fullbore Friday


People like making excuses for themselves and others. We all have short comings and are human - those with character and maturity know this and accept their problems and move on. "No excuse, sir." Cliche, perhaps - but it speaks a lot to the person you say it to, as they know very well that things happen - they have been there too.

Jennifer Bowen at - we have the words of one man who speaks for many. His story and his ship. Good for perspective,
Seaman 1st Class Eccles in 1941 was a machinist's mate on the USS Smith, a 1,480-ton Mahan class destroyer. He was on the Smith throughout the war.

"I was seasick for the first two times I went out," Eccles said. "And that was no excuse. If you had a shift, you'd better be there, no excuses. If you were puking, you'd better bring a bucket. On a destroyer, if you weren't attacking someone, you were defending yourself. And if you weren't doing one of those, you were on watch. We were so busy we didn't have time to make excuses."
The USS Smith was in the Pacific patrolling the Santa Cruz Islands with a fleet of other destroyers, carriers and cruisers, Eccles said. His job was to keep the engines running, but like everyone else aboard ship, he was also a gunner and assigned to man the guns on the gunnery deck.
He had been assigned to those forward guns until, for some reason unknown to him, he was moved to a different location around the beginning of October 1942.
On Oct. 26, 1942, the fleet was attacked by Japanese planes. A carrier was sunk. A cruiser was sunk.
A flaming Japanese torpedo plane was going down, so the pilot aimed it into the USS Smith. It crashed into the gunnery deck Eccles had occupied just two weeks earlier.
"Here I am, I didn't have a scratch on me, and my buddies were flying through the air with their clothes on fire," he said. "We took the dead men and wrapped them up properly and slipped them overboard and then we went to New Caledonia to drop off the injured men."
The dead had to be buried at sea, he said, because on a destroyer there wasn't a spare square foot to properly store bodies.
Twenty-nine men were killed on the USS Smith that day, 28 were missing in action and 12 wounded.
One-hundred and forty Japanese planes were destroyed during the Battle of Santa Cruz.
"They say combat changes people," Eccles said. "That day definitely changed me."
Thank you Mr. Eccles. Fullbore.

Just a note - the Mahan Class was a little under 1,500 tons. Less than half a LCS. Look at the punch she carried;

Twelve 21-inch:
l One quadruple centerline mount between the stacks
l One quadruple wing mount on each side of the main deck abaft the after stack

Four dual purpose 5-inch/38:
l Two forward in shielded pedestal mounts (Dunlap and Fanning only: enclosed base ring mounts)
l Two aft in open pedestal mounts

1938: Four .50 cal machine guns
1945: One 40mm twin; six 20mm singles

First posted May 2011.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The McMaster Reading List

Back in November of last year, Lt. Gen. McMaster, USA spoke at VMI. In the Q&A portion, he answered a question that always gets my attention, "What do you recommend that we read."

If you want to get your head around what the man who will be our next National Security Advisor thinks is important, and I know you do, then you might want to consider the following.

Click the pics/links for more.


- Army Capabilities Integration Center's Professional Reading Section, updated weekly.
- Ft. Benning Maneuver Self-Study Program.
- Australian Army Reading List, "The Cove."

- Margaret MacMillin, "The Rhyme of History."

Take the time and watch the full video below.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Lt. Gen H.R. McMaster, USA, to National Security Advisor

Regulars to the Front Porch have been reading about H.R. McMaster here for 11 years. As such, I don't need to say much more than this: we have Mattis and McMaster inside the tent. If that isn't enough for you, nothing will be.

His book is essential reading. If like me, you have it in your library, dust it off. If not, follow the link below and get the book and read what he is bringing to the table.

Have a great Navy day.

The Imperial City Disconnect, by the Numbers

I do my best to give the benefit of the doubt to my friends in academia who are thrashing about in search of why the nation is in the mood it is in right now. Poor things live in academia for goodness sake; the human intellectual terrarium. The outside world is a frightfully dangerous "other." They just don't know any better. It is what it is.

Those inside the Beltway who are still foam-flecked and thrashing around as to why everyone in the lumpenproletariat seem to be taking crazy pills? Not as much sympathy.

In many ways, we are not a normal nation (i.e. ethnic Danes mostly live in Denmark, etc). We are a republic of ideas. As such, even our capital is a bit different. Unlike London which is a financial hub of global importance, Washington DC has but one business; government. Like Brazil's capital, Washington DC is a purpose built entity whose very existence is simply as a place for our central government to call home. 

It serves then to be an indicator of who is serving whom. Does our government serve the people to help them grow and prosper, or do the people exist to serve to government and to make sure it grows and prospers?

Government at its most raw is an organization that uses the police power of the State to force wealth out of the citizens to put to the public good - "good" as the government and the people's representatives so define it.

It doesn't produce much but other people's money, access to power, and the ability to manipulate both both products in directions that may or may not be in the pursuit of the greater good - humans being human and all that.

Those who live and work within a commute of DC have a few things in common with each other that are distancing themselves and their worldview from the citizens in the provinces. 

First, is where their paycheck comes from. Always start with the money. If not directly, that are at best one to two degrees of separation away from having their livelihood directly connected to the Federal pocketbook. That bias towards a strong Federal government derives from the brain-stem need to supply food and housing to the family, and as a result, skews the mind for most. Any threat to a big government is a threat to their family and tribe.

Second, as a result of #1, they are soaking in a left-of-center ether well out of tune from the rest of the nation. Sure, there are plenty of right-of-center people and ideas in the environment, but as love of government is largely a left-of-center mindset, just not as many compared to the rest of the nation. The USA may be a 50/50 nation, but the Beltway is more of a 70/30 nation. 

As such, those of the left get lots of affirmation from peers, and those of the right are constantly second guessing themselves while trying to make friends with the bullies and Heathers that they have in their neighborhood and have to find a way to live with.

Third, they get caught up in the same information flow their neighbors are in; WaPo, NYT, and the Big-3 networks. Even in 2017, with a few exceptions, they derive their perspective about what is right, wrong, or indifferent from the same sources their grandparents did. That isn't how the rest of the country works anymore.

That outlines their problem in broad strokes. Then there is how the rest of the nation sees them. 

At the front is the economic isolation those in the Beltway experience. They did not suffer during the Great Recession. As a matter of fact, they prospered.

Here we find ourselves with four of the five most rich counties in our republic cocooned around the Washington DC. 

This isn't how it was supposed to be.

It is how things are. It is not good for the American people or its government – and it is a condition that is not good for the long term sustainability of our republic.

We have a legion of rent-seeking people focused on two things; access and power.

Access matters so much because in a large nation such as ours, as the Federal government grows in its size and degree of control, it becomes more like the late middle-ages imperial monarchies.

Access to the levers of power in the Imperial City gives those who are “at court” access to the largess of the state.

There is a dysfunction in a republic of ideas, of individual liberty, of a self-governed mercantile republic where the bureaucratic machine becomes the center of wealth.

Let’s take a little quote from G.J. Meyer’s book, “The Tudors,” and tell me this doesn’t sound a bit familiar?
Access mattered so much because the whole political system was powered by royal largess. It was the king (along with those to whom he listened) who bestowed the highest offices, the gifts of land, financial favors ranging from annuities and monopolies to exemption from the payment of tariffs, wardships like the one that had brought Plantagenet blood into the Tudor family, and pardons for virtually any kind of offense. Such gifts were the means by which the king built a following and rewarded faithful service. To be eligible for them one had to be known to the king or his most trusted friends, and there was little chance of becoming known except at court.

Admission to court as most broadly defined – to the crowds that gathered wherever the king was resident – was not difficult. It required little more than a reasonably respectable appearance (meaning the attire appropriate to a gentleman), a plausible claim to have business with the Crown (anything from wares for sale to a dispute in need of resolution), and a sufficient supply of ready cash (bribery being routine). Merely being at court, therefore, was of limited value. Men spent years, even decades, hanging around the court and angling for preferment, only to see little of the king and come away empty-handed in the end. The trick was to get lifted out of the herd; this could be accomplished through good connections, and ability to charm or to make oneself useful, simply good luck, or some combination of these things. The goal was to become one of the lucky few likely to come to the royal mind when lucrative offices needed to be filled or patronage was available to be disbursed. Getting there could take years.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Trump, Andrew Jackson and Our Navy - on Midrats

Since his election in November, the administration and several articles have suggested Donald Trump is a new Andrew Jackson whose portrait now hangs in the Oval Office. What might that mean for the Navy? How did Andrew Jackson approach his Navy and what lessons can we draw from that?

Our guest for the full hour this Sunday from 5-6pm Eastern for a discussion of an understudied part of our naval history and what it could mean for the current administration is returning guest Claude Berube.

Claude is the Director of the Naval Academy Museum and has taught in both the Political Science and History Departments at the Naval Academy. He has worked in the U.S. Senate, as a maritime studies fellow at the Heritage Foundation, as the head of a terrorism analysis team for the Office of Naval Intelligence and as a defense contractor. An intelligence officer in the Navy Reserve, he deployed with Expeditionary Strike Group Five in 2004-05. His articles have been published in Orbis, Vietnam Magazine, Naval History, The Washington Times, Jane’s Intelligence Review, Naval Institute Proceedings and others. He’s also written or co-authored five books. He’s completing his doctoral dissertation through the University of Leeds.

Join us live if you can, but if you miss the show you can always listen to the archive at blogtalkradio or Stitcher

If you use iTunes, you can add Midrats to your podcast list simply by clicking the iTunes button at the main showpage - or you can just click here.