President Trump told Philippine President Duterte that there were two nuclear submarines ready to respond to North Korea…and you would have thought the world ended on social media. After making the mistake of engaging on this subject on Facebook, I figured I’d break it down here for everyone.

NO, the presence of nuclear submarines near Korea isn’t classified. It would be impractical to do so, since we announce when they pull into port. The unnamed Pentagon officials (if they even exist) are completely wrong, because we do talk about submarines, in the countless Sailor evaluations and fitness reports, unit awards and in unclassified documents submitted to Congress to justify continued funding of the submarine program.

And even if it was classified, the President can decide to declassify that information. All previous Presidents have done so, including President Obama. It’s part of their job description, check out Executive Order 13526 when you get a chance. Us in the military don’t always like it, but it’s not our job to decide that. The overwhelming majority of military members are derivative classifiers, meaning we classify things according to rules handed down by others. It also means we can’t declassify most things on our own, and the constant “leaking” of information by “unnamed” officials is a far bigger problem than the President’s comments.

How is this different from what Secretary Clinton did? Easy. She wasn’t declassifying anything. She was transmitting classified information via unsecure means, and doing so intentionally. Considering the level of information she sent, that will have far larger consequences than anything President Trump has talked about so far.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other federal agency. Unlike “unnamed officials” from those agencies, I actually use references.

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I’m not old enough to remember Vatican II.  As I grew up, I sometimes heard people talk about a “Latin Mass,” but I never attended one until well after I graduated college.  That’s when I started teaching Catechism at our local church, and in order to make sure I could answer 9th grader questions, I researched a lot before each class.

I found a cool mixture of tradition and reverence at the Tridentine Mass.  I grew up with the Novus Ordo, but I attend both the Tridentine Mass and Novus Ordo, depending on what makes the most sense for my family at the time.  I’ve even gone to Eastern Rite churches when I travel.  To me, the Mass was always about the miracle: the transubstantiation of bread into the Body of Christ.

Sadly, I feel alone in thinking this way.  A storm brews inside the Catholic Church.  On one side are the so-called “traditionalists,” who treat the Novus Ordo as heresy.  The other side has the “progressives,” who believe the Church needs to modernize for the 21st century.

I get caught in the middle of this storm.  My in-laws never attended my wedding because I wasn’t “Catholic enough” (read: attends the Novus Ordo).  I bristle when people complain about “rad trads,” and then tell me they are OK with artificial birth control and abortion.  It’s aggravating, and unfortunately I have few friends that I pleasantly converse with about my Catholic faith.

But this whole debate is really a fallacy, because being Catholic has absolutely nothing to do with what language the Mass is said in.  I’ve met wonderful people on both sides of this debate, and it greatly bothers me that people spend their time vilifying others with all the evil that already exists in the world.

For so-called traditionalists (or “rad trads,” or whatever other silly titles they have), your blanket judgement of people that attend a Mass in vernacular is ridiculous.  Jesus didn’t give us a rigid Mass structure, he gave us guidance and the Church built a Mass, which has evolved over time, even before the Tridentine Mass came into existence.  So don’t lecture me how you are the original Mass, unless you want to roll back to saying the Mass in Aramaic.

For so-called progressives, I’m even more dismayed.  So little is expected of us as Catholics: weekly Mass, regular Confession, follow basic Church teachings, pray regularly and teach your kids about the faith.  When you consider that in many places you can’t attend Church without risk of death, these requirements are a small price to pay for salvation.  Yet over the past month here at my local church I’ve seen:

  • A bulletin announcement for parents picking up kids from Catechism, asking them to please attend Mass with their kids.
  • A lasy in front of me at Mass constantly checking Facebook on her phone during Mass.
  • People regularly showing up late to Mass and leaving early (get an alarm clock perhaps?).
  • Folks coming into the pew in front of me while I’m praying and talking loudly.
  • People shaming a mother for bringing her kids to Mass when they make one tiny peep of noise…sadly, the same loud people that interrupted my prayer earlier.

And I’m not trying to call out my local Church, because I’ve seen similar things elsewhere.

For both sides, you all are being played by an atheist-minded media hell-bent on tearing the Church apart from the inside.  This media gleefully alters quotes from Pope Francis to get people riled up.  It dramatizes Church business like the Synod of Bishops on the Family.  I think I spend more time proving that what the media says is wrong to people than I do talking about how much I love the Church.

And that is the problem.  We’ve become so focused on hating each other we often forget that the Church is supposed to bring people together, to help us overcome the daily temptation to sin, and to be our supernatural support structure.  We’re so busy arguing about who is better that we forget to see the good in others.  We’ve been corrupted by the world around us, rather than changing the world for the better.

I encourage you to change the status quo.  If you’ve never attended a Tridentine Mass, find one and go.  Same for Novus Ordo.  Talk to those Catholics after Mass.  Volunteer to teach Catechism and build young adults who are strong in their faith and knowledge of the Church.  Turn off your phone and pray peacefully on Sunday.  Set a good example, not just at Church, but whenever you walk out into the world.

Be that light to the world that Jesus wanted us to be.


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This week I had the chance to visit the USS YORKTOWN museum, docked at Patriot’s Point in sunny Charleston, SC.  The crew at Patriot’s Point have done a fantastic job fixing the YORKTOWN, and one of the new exhibits I hadn’t seen before was called the Combat Information Center (CIC) experience.  So, I walked in to check it out.

The revamped CIC at Patriots Point. The “people” are actually projections. Image courtesy of Patriots Point.

The “officer” in CIC talked about tracking a Russian Tu-95 bomber that was preparing to overfly the Navy vessels in formation.  Then he had to deal with a quiet Russian submarine.  The CIC experience walked through the how the Navy tracked and dealt with each of these circumstances in the Mediterranean.


Russian TU-95 bomber , with US escort in the background. DoD Image.

I was struck at how much things haven’t changed.  We’re still dealing with Tu-95 overflights and Russian submarines, and we’re still in the Mediterranean.  Students of history will likely chime in “History repeats itself.”  But I don’t think that’s the full story.  What amazed me as I walked around this World War II era ship is how similar things are to current ships.  While we have nicer equipment, the equipment is essentially covering the same functions as it did 60 years ago.  Even weirder, I read a few of the old ship “Plan of the Day” and some diary entries, and the issues they dealt with were very similar to what we still have now.

I don’t think history repeats itself.  Rather, I think people haven’t changed much, and they tend to attack problems in the same manner they have been for generations.  The only time history changes is when someone steps outside of that box.  Look at World War II Germany.  Previous European wars had not changed the map very much.  Germany shifted to massively different tactics (Blitzkrieg) and won surprising victories.  Eventually we copied that idea, and we haven’t changed much since.

Russia realized this after losing the Cold War and has completely shifted tactics.  That’s why we’re seeing Russian disinformation campaigns, cyber attacks, and a much more subtle Russia, followed by low level conflict to gain territory.  But even this isn’t new…it sounds strangely similar to Germany in the 1930s.  Our sanctions response is doing nothing because it hurts regular Russians, who blame the US for their problems instead of President Putin.

If we want to stop watching history follow predictable human behavior, we have to do something new, and stop attacking today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions.


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“How do you even function?”

I get asked that question a lot these days.  After I got back from a week long work trip (my first time out since Rebecca died), some people were shocked that I’d even consider leaving home.  To go to work, travel and in general try to function at a previously normal level is apparently so…not normal?

Viewed one way, Rebecca’s death was the latest in a string of crappy events in my life.  Before that, my wife had a crappy pregnancy, including finding out about a heart defect and having a doctor essentially recommend we abort her based on a crummy medical test.  Even before that, I had a crappy job in Hawaii, my dog died while I was on island, and my master’s degree almost didn’t happen due to the government’s continuing resolution.  Hawaii was not paradise for me.  I had plenty to be depressed about.

But I don’t view my life as a string of unfortunate events.  While I don’t ignore the hard stuff, I certainly don’t let it control me.  I think about what I learned from it and move forward.  More importantly, I look for the good things that happened, and if you look, there is plenty to be happy about.

It worries me that I’m apparently the exception to the rule.  I worry that we’ve become a clinically depressed society, where we simply medicate our problems away or worse, insist that we live our day to day life unable to maintain a consistently positive view on our future.  I worry that our young people get told to seek happiness in free sex, material goods, a college education, or a variety of other fleeting escapes, and then are shocked when they are truly not happy.  I worry that the depression causes people to damage themselves in long term ways.

We had two things that worked quite well to break depression: a strong faith and strong personal connections.  But it isn’t cool to have faith anymore (unless it’s the kind that doesn’t have all those pesky rules), and our Facebook and smart phone culture is breaking down our personal connections.  Those solid connections kept us steady during the storms in our lives.  Now, instead, we drift through life, blown around by whatever the latest whim or fancy is.

It doesn’t have to be that way.  We can turn back to the foundation that made us strong before.  Over this past weekend, I stopped checking my Facebook status and started calling people I hadn’t talked to in months.  You know those conversations you have where both parties don’t want to stop?  I had a bunch of those.  It made me look forward to the future.

Happiness isn’t going to find you.  It’s going to require you to find it.


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United employees forcibly drag a doctor off a plane.  American employees hit a mother of two across the face.  What in the heck is going on here?

Fluffy guidance, that’s what.

Airlines are in a heavily regulated industry, with rules upon rules.  Every time you fly, government regulations demand you hear the same ditty about lighted egress routes and oxygen bags, the excuse being that they save lives (although rear facing seats would be more effective).  In most cases, the rules tend to cover the circumstances.  But not always.

When rules hit a snag, employees do one of two things:

  1. Strictly enforce the rules.
  2. Use guidance to modify the rules and accomplish your end state.

But have you looked at corporate guidance lately?  It would be hard to do so for the airlines.  I tried and struggled to find anything publicly posted.  When I look at other companies, I find guidance, but it tends to be fluffy, using big words like “empowered” that don’t mean much when you’re dealing with irate customers.

The civilian side could take a lesson from the military.  Commanders are taught to issue guidance so that their subordinates will have principles to guide their actions when they face situations not covered by the rules.  A good example is Pacific Fleet, where the guidance fits on a sheet of paper but covers their mission, principles and what the end state should be.

Guidance gives employees flexibility.  United could have offered to boot four passengers and give them first class tickets on a follow-on flight.  It could have offered more than 800 dollars.  If employees knew that their CEO wanted passengers to be happy flying United, then an employee bending policy to accomplish that would be celebrated.  Guidance also gives employees a voice, because when established rules conflict with guidance, employees can and should point it out.  Overbooking makes it hard to keep people happy if you get bumped.  I’m willing to bet more than a few United employees have good ideas on how to prevent overbooking issues, although it’s doubtful they will be heard.

We have too many people claiming airlines haul people off because of profits.  Yes, that’s a motivation, but not the entire story.  I think it’s laziness on part of management.  Issuing iron-clad rules is easy, especially from a cushy office building.  Writing guidance so that your employees can navigate the difficult situations they face each day is much harder.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, United Airlines, American Airlines, or Disney.  I don’t have the training in force choking and hand to hand combat to properly represent any of those organizations.

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EC-121, similar to the one shot down by North Korea. Image courtesy of stationhypo.com

So how about that North Korean aggression?  No, I’m not talking about nuclear tests or sinking South Korean vessels.  Let’s talk about the long history North Korea has of aggression.

On this day in 1969, North Korea sent two fighters into international waters and shot down an unarmed reconnaissance aircraft. You can make all the arguments you want about whether we should have been there or not, but the reality is that we subscribe to international law and allow unrestricted operations in international waters.  This means that when occasionally other people do things we don’t like, such as Russia sending spy ships off our coast, our first reaction isn’t to lob a missile at them.

Later, in 1976, North Korea would murder two Army officers with axes who were trying to chop down a tree in the Joint Security Area.  Before either of these two incidents, North Korea took (and still has) the USNS Pueblo and its crew hostage.

On top of this, North Korea engaged in brutal persecution of Catholics in the area.  This is not the lame American version of persecution that we hear echoed in university halls.  It’s straight up martyrdom for being Catholic, at the end of the barrel of a gun.

As we celebrate Easter tomorrow, let’s pause to remember that the war didn’t stop in 1953.  Remember that 31 Americans gave their lives while monitoring a country so that we could avoid war.  Pray for the people of North Korea, that perhaps one day they’ll know true freedom and be saved from a savagely oppressive government.


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Everyone is focused on Syria.  Literally, everyone.  To be honest though, was anyone surprised?  I wasn’t.  Syria’s best bet would have been to lay low and stay off the radar.  Instead, they became a very convenient way for President Trump to prove he was serious about the Middle East, show President Xi he was comfortable with military action, and distance himself from Russia.

If the video doesn’t make you say “‘Murica!” and love the Navy, you need to check your little red book at the door 🙂

But why is no one focused on this?

North Korea launched yet another intermediate range ballistic missile,” the statement read, according to CNN. “The United States has spoken enough about North Korea. We have no further comment.”

On top of that, President Trump says he is not afraid to act alone on North Korea.

None of this is accidental.  If you care about human rights, North Korea routinely ranks lower than even Syria.  It imprisons its own people on a massive scale, has massive issues providing enough food and medical care, yet finds the money and effort to build nuclear weapons.

From cartoonmovement.com

China has chosen to do nothing about North Korea because the country is convenient for them.  Not only does North Korea routinely rattle Japan, but they keep South Korea (with a very capable military) totally focused on the peninsula and not on China’s repeated expansion elsewhere.  With the rest of the world willing to condemn North Korea but take no actions, China is sitting pretty, able to continue expanding in the East and South China Seas, as well as in their western territories, while cheaply distracting Japan, South Korea, and to a lesser extent, the US.

Until now.

President Trump’s willingness to go it alone hits the soft underbelly of politics with China:

  • It would unite Japan and South Korea in a conflict.  China has always cited past Japanese aggression whenever it conducts diplomatic talks with South Korea.  A conflict would put Japan and South Korea working together, something that would likely bolster the stalled improvement of relations between both countries.
  • It would give China a massive immigration crisis.  There are easily over 200,000 people imprisoned in camps, and most of the ~25 million people in North Korea live in dirt-poor conditions.  China has always been a destination for illegal immigration, and if the North Korean state collapses, you would likely see a massive migration north.
  • It would create a low cost competitor.  When East and West Germany reunited, there was a massive economic boom in East Germany.  Although it’s likely the South Korean economy would take a bit of a hit, China is much more vulnerable, having based a large amount of its economic growth on low cost manufacturing.  An open North Korea would be a magnet for manufacturers and would likely tank the Chinese economy.
  • It would damage China’s reputation.  Asian culture in general is much more concerned about ‘saving face‘ than Western cultures.  China is trying to prove it is an international power, but to have the US walk in and clean up problems in its backyard is damaging to that image.
  • It puts the fight where China doesn’t want it.  China stations its best military units near Taiwan and (increasingly) in the South China Sea, and believes that in a fight there it will win.  Putting the fight squarely in their backyard, and with a combined South Korea and Japan, places them at a significant disadvantage.

We can joke all we want about North Korea being the short bus of nations, but a fight there would be nasty, and the humanitarian reconstruction afterwards would be massive.  Syria’s end state won’t change the map much, but Korea’s end state could significantly change the balance of power in that region.

Trump’s pivot to the Pacific has already begun.


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Secretary of State Tillerson continues to beat up NATO nations for not paying their fair share.  Normally we hear these complaints by people leaving, so it’s refreshing to hear them early, which means we might actually get some reform.

Liberals seem loathe to support Trump on this point, and I’m not sure why.  NATO’s own data shows the gap is real.

But this is percentages, which mean nothing.  With Microsoft Excel as my friend, I calculated what this actually means in terms of billions of dollars, using the data from NATO’s website.

That’s 121 billion dollars, with a ‘B.’  But still again, this is just a number, impersonal and meaningless.  It means more when you dig into budgets and find out what nations are spending the money on instead:

Secretary Mattis was right to tell NATO nations to pay more.  NATO nations are taking care of their own while allowing America to bear the cost of fighting terrorism and keeping the world safe for trade.  The 121 billion would make a dent in student debt, to the tune of giving every student almost 6,000 dollars.  It could pay for better health care coverage or help us improve our own infrastructure.  In short, you’ve been paying for child care and a host of other services for non-Americans.

But wait, there’s more.  Not only do these nations pay less, but when we go into combat, they do less.  In Afghanistan, lot’s of people “contributed,” but placed restrictions on their troops.  German soldiers couldn’t operate at night (no night light perhaps?), wouldn’t transport Afghans, and only operated in the quietest regions of the country.  Out of 26 nations, 20 placed restrictions on troop usage.  A common saying was that NATO would fight for Afghanistan until the last dead American.

I still believe in NATO (I used to work with them).  I still think NATO has a place in this world.  I don’t think freedom is going to defend itself, and NATO provides a good way to keep democratic governments free.  But Denmark shouldn’t pay for it’s health care on the backs of American Sailors, and Canada shouldn’t provide child care while American Soldiers struggle to keep their own child care open.  NATO paying their fair share is something all people, liberal and conservative, can get behind.


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A while back I was the training department head, called the “N7” in department head speak.  One of the divisions I owned was indoc, which has new people at our command before they go to their jobs.  Indoc gives new Sailors a place to work while they get their stuff moved in, find a place to live, and finish required paperwork they need for their new jobs.  This division included our junior officers, young ensigns that have recently graduated college and attended a few weeks of Navy training.  When I took over the job initially, I thought I would enjoy mentoring them upon arrival.

I was in for a rude awakening when one of my first check-ins told me “I’m really concerned about work/life balance.”  I told him “Uhm, you’ve had a lot of life and not a lot of work, so yes, you’re out of balance.”  It probably seemed like a dick-thing to say at the time, but it was true.

Seems doable…From Dilbert.com

Your first job out of college is a big challenge.  You have to prove yourself to your employer and your fellow employees, plus you have to learn about your industry.  This holds true for Naval Officers, who have to learn about the Navy, their specific job, and how to lead Sailors, all while getting qualified.  Oh, and occasionally contribute to the local community.  Until you get qualified, it’s an uphill battle that takes much more than 40 hours a week.

Increasingly people are graduating college with flawed ideas about work and a lack of critical thinking skills.  I’m shocked at the junior officers who can’t write a cohesive paper, can’t arrive on time for work, and think that the Navy’s rules about physical readiness are flexible.  Part of the point of college was to eradicate these bad habits, but college is increasingly becoming an extension of high school, rather than an adult incubator.  I used to think “adulting” memes were cute, but now I sadly realize they honestly reflect the internal thoughts of most graduates.

So if you’re a soon-to-be college graduate, and you’re looking forward to a graduation speech about taking on the world and how you’re going to solve world hunger, all within a 9 to 5, Monday to Thursday workweek…please stop yourself.  Get a job, and get a mentor or two that are successful.  Talk with someone successful about finances and how you build wealth in your twenties.  The “cool kids” that are drinking their pay checks and scamming out of paying student loans?  They aren’t going to be the cool kids in their thirties.  Trust me, it won’t mean working yourself to death, but it will involve a bit of sacrifice and thinking ahead.  The thing is, you’ll find real happiness and satisfaction when you do.


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I received an email notification that a Department of Defense Civilian Reduction in Force (RIF) was coming.  I almost deleted the email.  RIFs are nothing new, and they typically go like this:

  • Some older employees use it as a chance to retire early
  • Most employees that have been around greater than 2 years continue to stay
  • Young employees or ones with extensively documented issues get let go

The problem is that RIFs consider tenure status and veteran status over performance.  This makes it extremely hard to fire someone.  The performance portion has to be absolutely horrendous, and most employees are smart enough to do the bare minimum so that as a supervisor, you struggle to find anything negative to document.

Even when there are problems, they take forever to solve.  Out in Bahrain, I had a civilian employee that regularly sent angry emails to our entire command, in many cases including the Admiral.  But her previous boss had written glowing performance reviews, so when the command wanted to fire her, she had a case against them.  Her new boss (who I had gone to school with) painfully documented her performance issues and outbursts for a year.  During her performance review, she received such a low score that the HR office called us and asked if we had made a mistake.  She lost a $10K bonus and was removed a few weeks later.

Had she been a Google or Amazon employee, I doubt she would have lasted 4 weeks.

So imagine my surprise when I read these paragraphs:

In order to comply with the law, the department has reprioritized the “order of retention” as implemented by Office of Personnel Management in government-wide regulations, by placing performance as the primary retention factor.  This is a substantial change for DoD from existing, government-wide provisions.  The current, government-wide RIF retention factors are:  tenure, veteran’s preference, length of service, and performance, in descending order.

Under the new procedures, employees shall be ranked on a retention register based on periods of assessed performance, followed by the retention factors of:  performance rating of record, tenure group, performance average score, veteran’s preference, and DoD Service Computation Date- RIF (DoD SCD-RIF).

Performance?  That could be a game changer.  The memo gives you an idea of how they will score people, but just the fact that we’re going to use performance as the driving metric is a huge step in the right direction.


This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy or any other government agency. 

Except the actual memo…that’s totally real DoD policy.  No fake news here.

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