Well, I was wrong on Scheller

I won’t say catastrophically wrong, but wrong nonetheless. In case you forgot, I predicted Scheller’s court martial would get drawn into obscurity by his defense counsel, who would want some time to pass before anyone passed judgement on Scheller. Any good defense lawyer is going to want distance between alleged crimes and judgement so that emotions can die down and, hopefully, cooler heads prevail. I also figured after getting a light sentence of some kind, which would not include jail time, Scheller would be allowed to retire.

Besides the light sentence part, I was wrong. Lt. Col. Scheller plead guilty to all six charges against him. The judge punished him with a sentence of one month forfeiture of $5,000 and a reprimand. His next stop is a Board of Inquiry, which will likely recommend dismissal from service.

Now, this doesn’t mean he loses all benefits. The Veteran’s Affairs will still assess if he can get disability pay, which could be in the thousands per month depending on his level of disability. Given that he fought in Afghanistan, and the Marine Corps has pounded his body over the past 17 years, he’s almost assured to get some disability pay.

At first I was in disbelief that things went completely different from my prediction. I took some time to read his court martial statement, which made things much more clear. Lt. Col. Scheller couldn’t NOT plead guilty. If he had fought the charges, it would have made him look like a crazy person who suddenly realizes he made a mistake and is trying to quickly sweep it under the rug. Scheller isn’t crazy. He might be depressed, but its understandable, given that both his wife and the Marine Corps are abandoning him. But he’s not crazy. It becomes very apparent near the end of his statement:

…Going forward, I am still demanding accountability from my senior General officers.  Since this endeavor began, not a single General officer has accepted accountability.  Not a single General officer has contacted me directly in any forum to deescalate the situation.  Since this endeavor began, I have acknowledged that I should be held accountable for my actions.  I am standing here today pleading guilty.  This is me accepting accountability.  But it deeply pains me that my senior leaders are incapable of being as courageous.  

Without accountability from our senior leaders, the system cannot evolve, and the military will ultimately keep repeating the same mistakes in the future.  It doesn’t matter if a SSgt squad leader is highly efficient in distributed operations if the General officers have relegated themselves to ‘yes sir’ responses.  We need senior leaders who possess the morale courage to push back when something doesn’t make sense. 

– Lt. Col. Scheller

If Lt. Col. Scheller wanted to cast light on the problem, he certainly did so. But where does it go from here? Tackling the military industrial behemoth is a daunting task. Even Mad-dog Mattis, who finally won the war in Iraq, still struggled to make the Department of Defense refocus and change. The revolving door for senior officers still exists, not dissimilar from the revolving door for politicians and lobbyists. Also, given Lt. Col. Scheller’s negative response to help from Donald Trump, I’m not sure where he’s going to start to affect the change he wants to make.

I will say this: this episode is only going to make the 2024 personnel cliff even worse for the military. In less than a month the military threw everything at Scheller over social media posts. Every military member is taking notice. Any that agreed with him will be quietly quitting, and the slow drip of lost manpower is going to accumulate into a river.

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. If you liked what you read, why not buy my book on Amazon and help me out!

The military still doesn’t understand social media

The debate concerning Lt. Col. Stuart Scheller, the Marine Corps officer that openly criticized the Joint Chiefs of Staff over the Afghanistan withdrawal, continues to prove my title point. For those of you not following it, here are the basic details:

  • Lt. Col. Scheller produced a video where he expressed outrage over the suicide bombing in Afghanistan that killed 13 service members, as well as the withdrawal from Afghanistan in general
  • He was relieved of command (he was in charge of the Infantry Training Battalion in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina) pretty soon after. He tendered his resignation after that.
  • The details here get murky, but at some point he was ordered to go to mental health screening. He then continued to post videos and content, despite being ordered not to.
  • The military placed him in pre-trial confinement, and he is scheduled for an Article 32 hearing next week.

For those that don’t know, and Article 32 hearing is where a military prosecutors argues before a judge about what charges a service member will face. The defense will argue against those charges, and the judge will send the prosecutor a letter saying what charges he thinks there is enough evidence to meet probable cause. Pre-trial confinement simply means the defendant sits in a jail cell until the Article 32 hearing, at which point the judge will recommend whether they remain there or not before trial.

Because of how the military chose to handle this case, its going to stay in the news for a long time. Plenty of other officers have resigned in protest, but they have pretty much all dropped out of the news. Unfortunately, the military services will take a black eye on the Scheller case, even if they win. People have already pulled this into the political arena, and once something is political, it tends to stick around. That’s a no-win situation for either side, because already people are making connections to Lt. Col. Vindman (remember him!?!) and his very different treatment.

Nobody wins here…except Lt. Col. Scheller. I’ll make my prediction here: Lt. Col. Scheller comes out of this with a military retirement and a nonsense charge on his record, and a subsequent request removes even that.

First, everyone is going to be glued to the news about his Article 32 hearing. The prosecutor has a pretty easy job here, since Scheller posted everything online. Open and shut right? Wrong. Any good defense attorney is going to fight tooth and nail to pick apart the arguments. Was Scheller really ordered to stop posting online, or was it a suggestion? Was the order in writing? Was it official? Was it done via official methods? It’s the defense attorney’s job to cast doubt into the charges.

Ultimately, some charges are going to get preferred, meaning Scheller will get charged with something. Likely, it’ll be Article 92 (failure to obey a lawful order) that will be the main and hardest charge to fight. The defense attorney’s next job is to drag this case out. Everyone that would sit on a court martial for Scheller right now is senior to him and likely angry over how he posted on social media. The defense is going to want time to pass, and lots of it. So we’ll see a lot of discovery requests and a lot of motions. We won’t have a court martial until summer of 2022. A good defense attorney will work hard to have it drop out of the news.

By that point, even if Scheller is found guilty of something, it’s unlikely he’ll be dismissed from service. Instead, he’ll then go to a Board of Inquiry (BOI) to determine if he should stay in the Marine Corps. That process might wrap up by the end of 2022. He should be at 18 years in the Marine Corps, and thus so close to retirement the BOI will likely recommend retention until 20 years. The Marine Corps certainly won’t promote him, but if he wants, he can finish serving and then leave. Granted, this assumes he wants to stay, since he could simply resign and walk out. But by pushing for a court martial, we almost guarantee that Scheller will get a chance to retire.

Now, what could the military have done differently? Simple: accept his resignation immediately, put him on terminal leave, issue him a Letter of Instruction and call it a day. Then, when Scheller makes statements about Afghanistan, let him talk. If you’re smart and issue detailed, written orders, Scheller will probably incriminate himself multiple times, and as any police officer will tell you, once someone starts talking, it’s only a matter of time before that person says something incriminating. Once you have a massive body of evidence, then you can release a statement that says something like this:

“Lt. Col. Scheller announced his resignation from the Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps accepted it and issued him a timeline so that he could quickly turnover and transition to civilian life. The Marine Corps supported him, like we support all our Marines, and tried to ensure Lt. Col. Scheller could transition without issue or delay. Unfortunately, instead of following these instructions to prepare himself for civilian life, Lt. Col. Scheller continued to engage in activity that violates the UCMJ, despite repeated written orders to the contrary. Because of his actions, we are now pursuing charges via the Court Martial system.”

Now, people will still cry foul, and anyone that wanted to use Scheller as a political weapon against the Biden administration is still going to do that. But the people in the middle, the ones that normally want folks to follow the law and don’t like politics in general, those people will read the above statement and think “Sheesh, what was Scheller thinking?” It’s a simple way of shifting blame. You don’t have to argue his points, and you won’t win by doing that. People don’t trust our generals and admirals (doesn’t help when they have hostile work environments), and trying to argue about the finer points of Afghanistan isn’t a winning plan. Instead, you deal with people like Scheller by giving them exactly what they want. From a prosecution point of view, Scheller is golden material, because he will literally write your case for you.

Now, I’m not saying the Marine Corps, or Scheller, are wrong. Maybe the Marine’s have a good reason to push charges and put him in pre-trial confinement. They have more information than I do. But pre-trial confinement over social media posts will get conflated with “punishment over mean tweets,” and you couldn’t have written a more political talking point if you tried. I’m also not saying Scheller is wrong. Many of his points are valid, which is why the greater danger is all the service members that will leave over the next 4 years as fallout from this and other decisions.

Watch Scheller’s case over the next year and let’s see how my prediction plays out. And remember, nothing I say should be construed as official positions or policy of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any other government agency. I’m just a poor author writing about my personal opinions, so you should buy my book from Amazon to help me out.

The coming extremist tsunami in the Navy

While everyone was focused on the dumpster fire that is Afghanistan, an innocuous NAVADMIN (a Naval message that relates to administrative issues) came out on the 23rd of August, subject line OPNAVINST 3100.6K. NAVADMINs are normally pretty boring. They cover policy like how you can use your GI Bill, when people get promoted, or various annual awards.

OPNAVINST 3100.6 is the instruction that covers situation reports (SITREPs). SITREPs are required reports that Navy units send when bad things happen. For example, if a Sailor is arrested for drunk driving, a unit would notify their immediate superior in command (the “ISIC”) by using a formatted message called a Navy Unit Sitrep. OPNAVINST 3100.6 gives you the exact format to send this message, which are also called OPREP-3 messages (short for Operational Report). The instruction covers more serious messages too. In those cases, units might send an OPREP-3 Navy Blue message. This message goes to the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) office, as well as the ISIC and others. Incidents that require a Navy Blue are more serious or carry negative media attention, hence the need to notify the CNO lest he be surprised. A good example was when COVID-19 was first discovered, any Navy person that contracted it required an OPREP-3 Navy Blue message.

The most recent change to OPNAVINST 3100.6 is now version K and added this section:

4. MAJOR PERSONNEL INCIDENT CHANGES INCLUDE: [SRB, EXTREMIST BEHAVIORS,
BULLYING, ETC.]
4.A. ADDED PERSONNEL INCIDENT REPORTING FOR SUPREMACIST OR EXTREMIST
BEHAVIORS.

Bullying? Supremacist Activity? Extremist Activity? Yup, these all require varying forms of Navy Sitrep messages. We don’t know what level (that’s not released), so we have to guess what becomes a Unit Sitrep and what becomes a Navy Blue. At a minimum, every time we have something resembling bullying, supremacist or extremist activity, a message must be sent out.

This becomes a tsunami of messages when we define extremist groups as:

– an organization that espouses supremacist causes;
– attempts to create illegal discrimination based on race, creed, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex (including gender identity), sexual orientation or religion;
– advocates using force or violence;
– or otherwise engages in efforts to deprive individuals of their civil rights.

Navy Discussion Guide on Extremism

So, if a Navy member participates in an Antifa protest, do we label him as an extremist? They certainly “advocate for the use of violence.”

What about Black Panthers?

A Black Panther Party member brings a shotgun into the state Capitol, May 2, 1967. He was one of two dozen armed Panthers who entered the building. (Photo: Walt Zeboski/Associated Press)

What if someone accuses Republicans of “depriving them of civil rights” (like we’re seeing with the voter registration issues)?

Vox headline

Is being a Catholic extremist because they won’t give Communion to someone that is openly living a homosexual lifestyle?

The problem with this broad definition is that it is broad and goal posts move all the time. People used to argue that homosexual unions would never impact Christians, until Christian bakers were sued for not making wedding cakes. Or the goal post moves the other way, and protests that burned down homes and businesses become “mostly peaceful,” and obviously didn’t incite any violence whatsoever. BTW, it’s been illegal to be in extremist groups since 1990, and people do get kicked out for racism (watch episode four of the PBS series Carrier for an example).

Besides, didn’t we make service members sit through training for this that covered:

Speech that incites violence or criminal activity that threatens to undermine our government and Constitution is not protected by the First Amendment.

and Vandalizing government property and storming a police barrier is not an exercise of First Amendment
rights.

Extremists don’t have a place in our Navy, but when we make the definition really broad, soon we’re all going to get painted as extremists. When that happens (and its a when now, not an if), why would you want to join the Navy? Remember that the Navy is constantly bringing in new people, to the tune of around 40,000 every year. People sign up for a variety of reasons, but one big assumption is the fairness and meritocratic environment that the Navy claims to have. When you remove that, or even appear to do so, it removes a large incentive to join. It’s already hard enough to get people to join, especially if you want people with high technical skills. I fear that this change is going to drive people to leave after a first enlistment and not bother staying around, if for no other reason then the worry they’ll be labeled as a bully or extremist.

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.

DaTechGuy Quick Commentary Biden’s Afghan Debacle

A quick commentary on the Afghan debacle, might have made it up before Kabul falls.

A lot of people who counted on us are going to be slaughtered thanks to Biden and his “expert” military leaders who say folks like me are the real threat.

The only enemy this Biden Administration and their woke Military leaders are prepared and anxious to fight are us.

Make this Memorial Day personal

Newspaper from the Battle for Crete in World War 2

History is best learned in person. While I was temporarily stationed on Crete in support of the ongoing conflict in Libya, I had a chance to visit a local museum that featured Cretan history from ancient times to the present. There was a large room devoted to the Battle of Crete, where the forces of Nazi Germany first fought a naval engagement, and then invaded Crete in one of the largest parachute drops in history. While Germany did successfully invade, it came at a great cost, and the Germans were hesitant to use parachute tactics in the future.

The newspaper above has a few interesting titles. First, its a good reminder that things weren’t all that certain in 1941 in Europe. Losing Crete, and followed by a massive German invasion of Russia soon after, left Europe’s position pretty uncertain. It’s easy to read history now and say “Well, its obvious the US would prevail,” but at the time it wasn’t so certain. I also had to smile at the “Capture of Fallujah” headline, since Fallujah continues to be as important back then as it is in modern times.

Walking in the nearby cemetery I found graves from both Allied and Axis powers. The graves are simple. I don’t recognize any of the names. I know the facts of the battles they fought in, but the actual people, outside of a few significant generals and admirals, are unknown to me.

I suspect that this is the same feeling many Americans get walking through Arlington National Cemetery. Sure, if you have a loved one buried there, its a different feeling. But most people don’t, and during Memorial Day, its hard to know what we’re supposed to feel about the graves we walk by. Sad? Respectful? Mournful?

I think the reason its difficult is because we’re taught history from an events perspective, especially for wars. These groups of people, using these weapons, fought over this place on a map, and this group won. But the truth is that each of those people that fought have a back story. A loved one at home. A family that misses them. They are fighting for many different reasons. Maybe they were drafted, or maybe they enlisted because they really believe in their country. Maybe they joined to climb further in the ranks, or maybe this is a one-and-done enlistment.

When we get the chance to hear these personal stories, they stick with us. You can’t read the book Unbroken (or watch the movie) and not be moved by it. Same goes for stories like Hacksaw Ridge or even Black Hawk Down. It’s easy to gloss over history in a cold, calculating way when its presented as figures, numbers, and geography, but its a lot harder when we hear about the individual people behind the battles. We identify with people.

So this Memorial Day, I encourage people that often struggle with “How am I supposed to react” to take the time to learn one story. Learn about the in-depth story of someone that gave their life for their country. Talk to a veteran about someone they knew that died fighting for their country. Make that individual connection. Don’t get too worried about the big picture stuff, instead, focus on one individual story. That will make it much more personal and meaningful.

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.

China fails faster than the US Navy in shipbuilding

Image courtesy of USNI

In the 1950s and 1960s, the term “Made in Japan” was a way of pointing out the poor quality of items, particularly vehicles, coming from Japan. Recovering from World War 2, Japanese manufacturing was just getting back on its feet, while America had enjoyed not being bombed or nuked into submission. But the Japanese were pretty industrious, and while American cars continued to decline in quality, particularly in gas mileage, Japanese vehicles slowly improved. All that was needed was a spark, and when the oil crisis happened in 1973, imports of the more fuel efficient Japanese cars soared. “Made in Japan” no longer implied poor quality.

“Made in China” is going through the same throes now. The picture above is the LUYANG III destroyer. If it looks uncannily like a US Destroyer, you’re not wrong, and capability-wise, its pretty close in many respects. The PLA Navy is on pace to crank out 2-3 of these every year. That alone is scary, but more importantly, the LUYANG III represents a Chinese 3 step building plan that involved failing fast, then making a big investment.

China didn’t have the most robust ship building, and its first LUYANG model, the Type 052B, was more of a test platform. They built two of these and learned a LOT about shipbuilding in the process. The Type 052B isn’t very capable in a big fight, but the point was to build something and be OK at failing a lot.

The next failed step was the Type 052C. Here China added extensive air search capabilities and used only Chinese systems. They also made these at different shipyards, exposing them to the issues created when you build ships in an enterprise. It’s not a bad ship, but again, was built to teach the Chinese how to build warships.

Enter the Type 052D, the LUYANG III. Extremely capable warship. Now that China has the right design, its cranking these out quickly. There are 13 in service and 11 in construction now. To put this in perspective, in 2019 the US Navy commissioned 2 new destroyers, and 8 total ships, one of which was an aircraft carrier.

Speaking of aircraft carriers, China is working on carrier #4 now. You’ll see the same “fail fast” pattern here as well. First carrier was a Ukrainian purchase. It sucks, but it was mostly designed to teach China how to operate with a carrier. The second carrier was China’s first Russian-knock off, the Shandong, and it taught the Chinese how to build something pretty large. The third carrier, with an estimated 85K tonnage, will likely be completely Chinese design and help iron out bugs in the design process. Talks about carrier number 4 being nuclear are already happening. I’m guessing that when China begins carrier #5, it will have a design it likes and will crank out 10 of them in a row.

In the meantime, we can’t get a US shipyard to crank out a warship on-time or on-budget, and we’re cutting the shipbuilding budget anyway. We have more experience than the Chinese Navy, but that gap is closing as the Chinese deploy around the world, including near constant deployments to the Middle East and Europe.

Give it five years, and China’s Navy will have the numbers and equipment to be better than the US Navy in nearly any combat situation. That should scare us.

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.

China’s continued maritime march and the coming hard reckoning

Despite the Coronavirus, despite the Hague Rulings, despite the Philippines now cozying back up to the United States, China continues its maritime march to dominate its neighbors and eventually the world.

Sounds crazy? Let’s look at the facts:

In 2012, China and the Phillipines agreed to move away from Scarborough Shoals, a shoaling area frequented by Phillipine fishermen and inside Phillipines EEZ. Phillipine forces left, Chinese ones did not. Now, in 2020, we’re worrying about China reclaiming land around these shoals. Reclamation and militarization of other fake islands continued, with Fiery Cross now able to support H-6K bombers.

In 2014, China deliberately moved an oil drilling platform, the Hai Yang Shi You 981, into Vietnamese waters and drilled for oil, all while protecting the platform with a ring of maritime militia vessels. Was it a one-time incident? Nope. China continues to harass fishermen in the area.

In 2020, a Chinese investor purchased a Keswick Island near Australia and is essentially pushing out the Australian residents. At the same time, the Chinese government is working its economic and social media muscle on Australia.

When people discovered China’s 251 dash line, China was quick to dismiss it as a joke. China would never lay claim to Hawaii, they said. They would never work against the United States to separate Hawaii. In case you thought that was old, try tracking the large Chinese fishing fleet that finds itself off the Galapagos, North Korea, and Chile. It won’t be long till they discover the Atlantic Ocean.

The hard reckoning with China is coming. Just like Nazi Germany, they will continue to do as much grabbing as they can without getting a response from the international community. Just like the invasion of Poland, something is going to trigger a conflict. Maybe it’ll be Taiwan, or the Senkakus, or North Korea, or a remote mountain outpost on the Indian border, or even something in Tajikistan or Kazakhstan. Something is going to push another country to a redline, and kinetic weapons are going to fly. Maybe even nuclear ones too. At that point, we’re going to have to pick a side, because its not something we can sit out.

We can’t sit it out because we’re the last “stop” for China. Nothing else is going to stop them except US resolve. We can’t outspend China like we did Russia. China is smart enough to pay people well to steal US secrets, a mistake the Russians made during the Cold War. Relying on patriotism or social justice to insulate the US from China doesn’t work when even Google, supposidly a hot-bed of social justice warriors, looks the other way on issues like Xinjiang and even actively works on a filtered search engine for the Chinese government. The Chinese movements in the maritime are just the precursor for a bigger movement to usurp the world order.

It’s coming, whether its in 2021, 2025 or 2030, that hard reckoning is coming.

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.

First Fleet? How about funding what you have?

You know, these big ships break more when you can’t fix them right the first time.

Navy. We’ve been cool for a number of years now. We’ve endured lots of changes, everything from new uniforms to physical readiness exams to more uniforms. I’m sure yet more uniform changes are on the horizon. But we’ve gotta talk about this thing called expanding the bureaucracy.

‘Cause I gotta tell you, its not good.

We got issues, Navy. The shipyards can’t seem to ever fix a ship in time. Yeah, like 75% of the maintenance projects are overbudget and late! If Navy shipyards were a grocery store, it would be like ordering grocery delivery for Thanksgiving, but the delivery guy rolls up in a scooter to dump off bologna sandwiches at the end of your driveway instead of a turkey and stuffing on your porch.

Its not just shipyards. We’ve got a lot of bureaucracy. At the top, we’ve got more admirals than ships. Sure, we have to put someone in charge of important things like motorcycle safety, but come on man. More admirals than ships? Even when we count submarines? That seems a bit much.

So given those two really basic problems, why on earth would we want to build yet another numbered fleet? Are we lacking in 3-star admirals (hint: we’re not!)? Does a new fleet give us more capability?

No and no. Right now, we can’t man, train and equip the Navy we have. Ships are only manned to 92%. That sounds good, right? Its not. On a 4,000 Sailor crew of a carrier, that means we’re short 320 people. That’s almost a destroyer’s worth of people, which means we’re leaving lots of positions open. And shore commands? You’re doing well if you reach 85%.

Our response to get ships to sea seems to be to constantly take some “slackers” from shore duty, because heaven forbid we give people a break. Ships are constantly using ashore manpower “volunteers” to fill gaps. That works in the short term, but long term we simply aren’t bringing in enough people.

Even when we do, we give them no incentives to stay. I’ve had three crappy bosses in my short career, two of which were fired. I had people dress me down in public because it “suited them,” even when it was over minor offenses. If you’re not in the military, that sort of behavior makes HR scream. In the Navy, its just Tuesday, and you’re expected to simply take it. So guess what happens when we ask Sailors to reenlist, most of whom have nice job prospects in the civilian world that don’t involve getting screamed at over minor things or signing Page 13s that limit your right to eat in a restaurant? They don’t sign, and we resort to canceling failing PRT scores to try and keep enough people in.

So, while I applaud SECNAV’s efforts to find new niches for the Navy, I’d rather we get what we have to being well again. Get our manning to nearly 100%. Make the shipyards not suck again. Fill the billets we have now before we consider adding more. But please, don’t start up a new fleet until that part is done.

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. Obviously.

500 ship Navy is a bit of a pipe dream

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Oct. 1, 2020) An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the “Wildcats” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 launches from the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Ike is operating in the Atlantic Ocean in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Cameron Pinske)

News that Defense Secretary Esper is calling for a 500 ship Navy is good news. We’ve had a Navy too small trying to do too much for some time now, and its been ignored while we stayed focused on fighting terrorism. This resulted in a lot of extended deployments, poorly executed maintenance periods and burned out ships and Sailors.

But while a 500 ship Navy would help, we have a long way to go to get there. When policy makers discuss ships, it’s as if the numbers of ship is what matters. But there is a lot more to it:

  • Personnel. The last time we had 500 ships was in 1991. Since then, we’ve drawn down Navy personnel to about 330,000 to cover about 270 ships. Essentially, to get to 500, we’d have to double the number of Sailors. That would make the Navy larger than any of the other services, and a massive jump in personnel costs.
  • Shipyards. We can’t fix the ships we have now fast enough. Nearly doubling ships would mean we need more shipyards to build and maintain them. Given that American shipbuilding is almost exclusively government, we don’t have a great civilian infrastructure to turn to. So we’re either building new yards (expensive) or building in foreign countries (sending money overseas).
  • Support. Ships have to communicate, and rely extensively on satellite systems, which we don’t have enough of now. Combined with a variety of other support, and the price adds up quickly.

We can get away from personnel costs with more unmanned systems, but unmanned systems still require humans, and considerably smarter people to run them, which the military struggles to keep in, because other companies like Amazon will throw a lot of money at unmanned operators. This only gets worse as AI and unmanned systems spread in the commercial sector.

We’re getting to a tipping point with the Navy. We expect ships to be everywhere all the time, but we don’t have the ships, infrastructure or people to do that in peacetime, let alone war. We’re smart to recognize that, but its going to take a lot more than wishful thinking to get to a sustainable fleet level.

As a side note, the above picture was labeled “Rosy Outlook” on defense.gov. Most appropriate I think.

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.

Diplomacy done right for Taiwan and India

Image from: https://www.imrmedia.in/india-rattles-china-appoints-new-envoy-to-taiwan/

Perhaps the only country not having a horrible 2020 might be Taiwan. Taiwan was one of the few countries to fight the spread of COVID-19 well, despite its proximity to Communist China. Later in the year, multiple US Navy vessels transited the Taiwan Straits, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reiterated that the US is “a good partner for security” for Taiwan.

Now, on the day that is celebrated as Taiwan’s Independence Day (10 October, or “Double 10” day), #TaiwanNationalDay is trending throughout India. Communist China tried to snuff it out in advance with a strongly worded “reminder” that there is only one China. Not long ago China and India were fighting each other along their mountainous border, so its no surprise that this “reminder” found its way to the press. The reaction by Indians is telling. Even better, the timing is great, with Secretary Pompeo meeting with top Indian officials at the end of the month to discuss how to deepen ties between India and the United States.

After taking Hong Kong, China showed the world it will weather any storm of protests to achieve its own goals. Anything short of hard military and economic power doesn’t work. People continue to protest the horrible maltreatment of Uighurs and development of South China Sea artificial islands, and yet nothing has changed. The only reason China hasn’t grabbed Taiwan is the risk it faces of US military action. To get over this, China has built a navy now larger than the US (at least in terms of number of ships) and modernized its ground and rocket forces.

Traditional thinking would condemn the US to build an even bigger military, and recently Defense Secretary Esper called for just that: a 500 ship Navy. That’s currently a pipe dream, because we can’t even man the Navy we have now. The Navy currently has roughly 350,000 Sailors; an increase to 500 ships would require gaining at least 200,000 more, not to mention ships and Sailors take time to build and train.

But India? India is already worried about China. India is already in conflict. If Taiwan brings India into any future conflict with Communist China, its a winning move. China doesn’t want to fight on two fronts. It might be able to hold off the US long enough to cement gains in Taiwan, but its not going to do well if India pushes into its western territories. Worse still, if a place like Tibet or Xinjiang decides to not rejoin China, that could drag any conflict out for years, dragging down the economy and the Chinese middle class in the process. That’s a double whammy, because Communist China has to provide a good economy in exchange for not being a democracy. If the economy goes south for too long, it risks revolt.

Deepening ties with India is a smart move for Taiwan and the US. Let’s hope we get more of this diplomacy to stave off future conflicts.

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.