Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Navy's Leaders Step Off the Bridge While Conning

From the Chief of Naval Operations to the Secretary of the Navy and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the priorities have shifted from fielding and training a fleet and winning battles at sea to environmentalism, social issues, and the federal budget at large.

Former Mississippi governor and current Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus(D), stated in his swearing in ceremony that his number one and two goals would be to eradicate sexual assault in the Navy and to push green technology initiatives. Noble efforts for certain, especially for a nation at peace, flush with cash and secure in its financial and security outlook--Except the nation is embroiled in two large wars with a global conflict against terrorism (not to mention a resurgent Russia and looming China). So what gives? The SECNAV is taking on issues that he feels most comfortable with. Despite having served in the Navy as a junior officer, Mabus has had precious little interaction with the military since his youth. His ability to weigh in on policy, shipbuilding, strategy, or tactics is extremely handicapped. His selection as SECNAV was a reward for his early-on support of the Obama campaign in the south (back when Obama was trailing Clinton). He has been quick to get on board with the Obama administration's primacy on advancing the democrat agenda, even at the expense of the service that he is supposed to champion. It was no surprise, then, that Maybus was selected to lead the federal government's recovery effort from the still ongoing BP Oil Spill. The sad part is that his (temporary?) absence from his job as SECNAV will not be missed.
Former Pacific Fleet Commander and current Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, stated during his change-of-command ceremony that his top goal for the Navy was, in a word, "Diversity." Since that watershed moment, Roughead has gone about undoing the meritocracy of the Navy in favor of a box of crayons approach where you must have "all the right colors" in "all the right proportions" in order to consider yourself whole. Gone is the color blind service where performance equates with promotion (or officer / naval academy selection). During his time as Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Roughead's primacy concern was the exponential Chinese military buildup. Since his departure from the Pacific Fleet, media outlets began widely publicizing the proliferation of anti-surface ballistic missiles (capable of targeting navy aircraft carriers and other vessels), the proliferation of anti-surface cruise missiles by non-state actors, piracy in waters all over the world, Iranian ballistic missile capabilities, and Axis of Evil nuclear weapons development. Since his time at PACFLT, ships have gotten even more expensive, maintenance has gone down, training is a joke, we have no executable thirty-year shipbuilding program, and our largest shipbuilding program--the littoral combat ship--is putting out ships capable of neither littoral operations nor combat.
Former Chief of Naval Operations and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has shown an unusual interest in economics as of late. From his profiles on the Huntington Post, Fast Company, Time Magazine and others he has routinely stated that he considers the national debt to be the single largest national security threat facing the United States today. And, in a move that has shocked insiders and observers of the Department of Defense, he has advocated offering up his own department for slaughter to help pay it down. This is a far cry from the transformational navy that Mullen has advocated back when he was Director of Surface Warfare and Chief of Naval Operations. Mullen was the key driver behind the low manning number Key Performance Parameter (requirement) for the next generation destroyer, the DDG 1000. By reducing manning, a reliance was being built in to conduct all maintenance (both preventative and corrective) by contractors and or civillian / military pier based personnel as well as developing automated systems that could be operated by 1/3 of the crew of a traditional destroyer. This effort was and continues to be cost intensive, and its half-assed resourcing (due to sticker shock) has led to the rampant failure of concept of the DDG 1000 and its cousins: the Littoral Combat Ship, and the LPD 17.
When did these Navy Men stop being Sailors? Where is the advocacy of the sea services as something other than as a Global Force for Good? Where is the commitment to training, to maintenance, to a sustainable shipbuilding program that is both affordable and capable of producing and maintaining quality ships capable of fighting and winning battles at sea? For all the years at sea and operations they have taken part in, the surrender of salt in our Admiralty and the complete void of salt in our SECNAV has led to a Secretary of Defense who questions the very existence of core Navy capabilities, namely the capability to assault a beachhead and prosecute objectives inland using the Navy-Marine Corps Team. Our own marketing campaign describes us as an international relief agency that also stands by to shoot down Iranian ballistic missiles or errant satellites.
Beyond Battle of Midway celebrations, Fleet Weeks, and Conversations with the Country, our Navy leadership needs to commit itself to the Navy itself, and recognize that history has shown us what happens when we take our eyes off the waterfront (Carter administration) and start looking elsewhere, be it to business lingo or social engineering. It is hard enough to resource and maintain a fleet when your leaders are committed to it; it is impossible when those leaders are distracted.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Your Keffeyah / Shemagh is not Worldly, it is Silly

I'm so tired of seeing every single hipster on the metro sporting a keffeyah / shemagh. What is a Shemagh? the Shemagh is an ancient Arab headress that is worn either as a turban, a scarf, a sun shield, or a mask for conflict / sandstorms. The shemagh was adopted by every invading Army of the Holy Land since the beginning of time as a way to blend in and battle the elements--namely the sand and the sun. Since this time, however, hipsters, the "culturally aware", tactical posers and other dregs of humanity have taken to wearing the shemagh as a fashion / political statement.
The fashion statement served in the 1980s as unity with the Palestinians (intifada) as they and Israel killed each other in a series of terrorist attacks and military reprisals.
The fashion statement today can only be described as unity with the insurgents of Iraq.
See the above pictures and tell me who looks ridiculous.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nobody Asked, But I'm Telling: Thoughts on Getting Rid of DADT

Beyond the Cheerleading, DoD Needs to do "Due Dilligence" on Possibly Throwing out Don't Ask Don't Tell

Somewhere near the corner of National Identity Boulevard and Rugged Individualism Road, we can expect to see a major car wreck in the next few months. As if the Obama Administration didn't have enough to tackle (even before trying to fix two hundred years of desperation in Haiti), stand by for a sexual identity war the likes of which have never been seen. And, similarly to every other major civil rights debate, the Department of Defense is front and center.
During the State of the Union address, President Obama repeated a campaign promise to can the "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy regarding homosexuality in the military. "DADT" was the product of a bipartisan compromise after Clinton's first legislative effort--repealing the ban on homosexuals serving--was crushed by lack of institutional support and a lackluster effort by Congressional Democrats, then the majority. DADT is codified under Title 10, and can be viewed in its entirety here:

DADT did not repeal the ban of homosexuals serving in the military. Instead, it provided a mechanism for them to serve--so long as they remained "in the closet." Outing yourself, or being outed--usually with some sort of empirical evidence such as photographs, etc--is grounds for dismissal. Dismissals used to be "Other Than Honorable" but modern guidance directs most cases to be labeled as "Honorable." According to statistics fielded by the Boston Globe, between six and seven hundred soldiers are dismissed from the military each year--the overwhelming majority for outing themselves.

In testimony this week first before the Senate Armed Services Committee and later before the House Armed Services Committee (and also on Twitter), Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen not only revealed a "blue ribbon" panel to investigate avenues of implementation of opening military service to homosexuals, but their 'personal' support of such an initiative. This marks the first time that a current SECDEF and CJCS have endorsed a legislative change (in 1991, then Chairman General Colin Powell was one of the biggest opponents). The endorsement has led to Senate accusations that the Department of Defense leadership is trying to circumvent the Constitutional legislative process and is ignoring the impacts to the uniformed military in a time of two wars.
The potential impact to the Department of Defense cannot be understated. Admiral Mullen testified that he believes the issue to be one of personal and institutional integrity: the military's core values are compromised by its members pretending to be who they are not while talent is discouraged from applying due to bias against them. In addition, the retention of members that are compelled to resign and or admit their sexuality would allow the department to hold onto trained personnel--essential in a time of war. The viewpoint espoused by Admiral Mullen is naïve. Integrating homosexuals into the military--openly--is not going to be a simple matter-of-fact action that can be accomplished with a pen stroke. Serious issues, with impacts that will transcend the department and reach into the rest of the federal government and even the states, will have to be reconciled. Amongst them:

- Where is the line drawn? Gays and Lesbians? Transgenders? Transsexuals? Is serving in the military a constitutional right, or, as noted Civil-Military Theorist Samuel Huntington says, "does the military's functional imperative [ability to break things and kill people] trump all?"

- Berthing (where the troops live in barracks and ships): will homosexuals and their heterosexual counterparts live together? If so, why do heterosexual males and females live apart? That comes with significant cost!

- Gay Marriage: Will the department recognize same-sex unions that are validated by individual states? Is it lawful for the department to recognize some and not others? Does this mean that benefits will be extended to dependents? That comes with significant cost!

- Culture: The military has traditions such as the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. In accordance with DADT, only male-female couples are allowed to attend such events. Will they go away, or will they continue? How will the military's aggressive heterosexual culture adapt to accommodate homosexual families? What will they have to change so as not to offend? What will that do to unit cohesion?

- Diversity: One of the most contentious issues in the military today (not that you'd know it by leadership testimony) is the effort by leadership to promote more women and minorities in order to produce a more rainbow military. Accusations have been leveled at the Naval Academy and other commands throughout the DoD that military members of certain gender and race are awarded "extra credit" and the road for them plowed by superiors mindful of appearances. The US Navy has initiatives to increase the number of minority members of the department's civilian Senior Executive Service, the Officer Corps, and the Senior Enlisted ranks. Will homosexuals be included in this? Certainly you would think they would, as a minority element. Will this increase the disenfranchisement of the largest demographic (white heterosexual Christian male, single, age 18-24)?

- Reality: Much has been made of the Netherlands model for having the military open to homosexuals. I have personally embarked Dutch Marines onboard my ship, and seen their interactions with American Sailors and Marines. While acknowledging that Europeans are "just out there" in their behavior, I can say that we had many incidents of Sailors and Marines wanting to fight the Dutch when they encountered homosexual sex, were "hit on," or were victims of sexual harassment. Similarly, I have read reports of Americans responding harshly at Iraqi and Afghani allies who (as a matter of cultural normalcy), were found engaging in homosexual acts or hitting on their American counterparts. I recognize that American discipline would eliminate much of these problems (as it does now with service members serving "in the closet"); however once being homosexual in the military is no longer forbidden, would it be reasonable to assume that an increased amount of newly lawful demonstrated homosexual behavior / speech would incite our largest heterosexual demographics? What will that do to unit cohesion (see culture)? In case anyone doesn't know, lack of unit cohesion translates into decreased morale, in turn leads to less combat effectiveness.

When it comes to homosexuals in the military, I don't know the answer. DADT is an imperfect solution. Whenever I am confronted by a social problem regarding sexual identity, my politics crashes into the question "could I stand by this ideological belief, look my gay friends in the eye, and tell them that this is how it's going to be?" When it comes to child adoption, I can't. I believe my gay friends would be outstanding parents. I really do. I think that their prospective kids will face a lot of unique challenges, but I believe in my friends and their hearts and capabilities. But when it comes to national defense, I draw the line at our capability to kill bad guys and to break their gear. We cannot pretend that America's warriors will not be affected by this. And in the middle of the Global War on Terror (yes, it is still going on despite what the administration claims), we cannot afford to degrade our combat capability. I have yet to see a compelling argument to show that such a legislative action will not grossly degrade our combat capability, and in turn, make us a much more vulnerable nation.

America prides itself on rugged individualism. But sometimes our individualism is not compatible with every organization. The US military is a martial organization that requires a specific breed of person. The US military molds you to fit what it needs. You cannot be an individual. You are a member, a teammate. Significant thought, consideration need to go into determining if the team can continue its essential winning ways with open homosexuality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The (White House) Plot to Unseat Democrats

Forget the Obama administration being scared up a tree over the Massachusetts Tea Party. Secretly, they are ecstatic.

President Obama is trying to torpedo the Democrat controlled Congress, wants to see it transferred to the Republicans so that he can ensure a second term ala the Bill Clinton model.
It sounds like an absolutely insane statement. The most liberal president in history is trying to destroy the democratic majority that ushered him into power? Yup!

The same tidal wave of liberal euphoria, with foundations conceived and not actually built, that President Obama rode to town in is now a huge liability to him. The American people want results, and are only getting the debt that comes with a liberal social-centric agenda. Despite the Conventional Wisdom that a Congress and Executive unified under one political banner will beget instant results, history has proven that the converse is actually true. The country is center-right, and the delivery of the promised liberal agenda is causing record low approval ratings. This underscores the need for a change.

In 1994, the disasterous beginning of the Clinton administration--epitomized by failed healthcare reform, failed gays-in-the-military initiative--led to a Republican resurgence under a banner of action: the Contract With America. Despite what revisionist historians may tell you today, Clinton embraced many facets of the Contract with America, and made them his own. The Congress and Clinton conspired on multiple legislative initiatives to include Welfare Reform, reducing the size of government, and balancing the budget.

President Obama can ensure greater Republican participation in the legislation beyond being the much bemoaned "Party of No" by ensuring their success in the 2010 elections. By necessitating their participation and collaboration (they will have power equal to the President in crafting and passing legislation), the president will be able to deliver results, and possibly a recovery before 2012, which is his real concern.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Truth is Nothing Fancy

"TNP:" A Lesson in Greek Civics

At the height of the recession, an Allstate commercial stated that times like these cause us to "get back to basics, and the basics are good." Further, we should, "leave them in good hands."

I couldn't agree more. Enter "The Nutnfancy Project," (TNP (c) to his devoted followers) a multi-year and no doubt multi thousands-of-dollars and certainly thousands of hours in production YouTube series spearheaded by an assumed Lieutenant Colonel in the US Air Force (reserve?) and part/full time law enforcement officer to promote good citizenry, family, proper pet ownership, comraderie, outdoorsmanship, survival skills, and making great memories with loved ones.

The series of videos reviews outdoors gear, survival gear, firearms, knives, backpacks, and basic medical gear while providing background knowledge in employment, philosophy of usage, and an advocacy for expanding one's own knowledge and skill set. The knowledge provided is fantastic for beginners and experts alike, and his comments section proves it.

The series recommends gear options that maximize utility and minimize senseless bells and whistles (unless you can afford a meaningless smile on your face that only that shiny chrome exterior can produce in a 'Second Kind of Cool' way). It is in this respect that Nutnfancy earns his name.

Advertisement for my favorite YouTube channel, complete, I want to quickly highlight why NUTNFANCY is so relevant today. Nutn occaisionally comes out with philosophy videos which discuss "personal responsibility" and "dangerous things." These things can, should and must coexist. You cannot safely and properly operate/utilize dangerous things without personal responsibility, and likewise you cannot shun dangerous things and consider yourself personally responsible.

Ancient Greek philosophers such as Aristotle considered that the most basic political unit, the "Polis", the individual operating within the body politic, was inherently responsible for the civilization, and that personal responsibility translated into being able to support it, uphold it, and if need be defend it against internal and external threats be they man made or other. Those of us who have ever taken an oath of office may easily recognize the origins of our vows in the above lines. NUTNFANCY epitomizes the advocacy of this philosophy in his discussions of the "sheepdog concept." The Sheepdog Concept states that those of us with the capability have a solemn duty to learn the crafts and skills to help those who by circumstances or lack of physical ability, mental capacity, emotional stability or sheer will cannot in times of challenging muster what is required to defeat a challenge and or threat. This far surpasses simply standing by, watching or calling 911; it entails proactively engaging a threat or putting yourself into harms way to help another person. Military, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, private security professionals do this every day; however in times of true emergency their numbers will prove in sufficient, their response times wanting. It is the proactively engaged, trained and motivated private citizen, the Polis, who rushes to a car accident, an active shooter, a post-tornado building collapse, a heart attack victim, who may make the difference until the professionals hopefully arrive.

Time are tough. This is a multi-threat axis environment that we live in today with natural and man made disasters waiting around every corner for us. By being good, proactive citizens, trained and ready, we will leave our country in good hands--our own. We can all contribute to this with personal, basic investment of treasure, time, training, and stepping up when needed. This truth is simple, nothing fancy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Republican needing a Loan

When the heat stops working, you start questioning your political beliefs.

Anyone familliar with my facebook comments or daily (hourly) diatribes knows that I am a card-carrying, tea-bag tossing, gun toting, Ronald Reagan quoting, God fearing Conservative. As such, I have, and in large part continue, to oppose the current instantiation of health care reform, TARP, the bailouts, and other programs.

That was, until my entire heating system broke on Monday night. Now I am sitting here typing in a well-lit icebox with Mother Nature's Hellspawn Nor-Easter Blizzard and all 20+ inches of her snowy wrath bearing down on me.

I like to plan my major purchases and finances, so lieu of this large and unexpected purchase, I thought the most prudent move would be to take out a short term home improvement loan. Easier said than done. In today's poisonous lending environment, even with my excellent credit rating and the fact that I have never been delinquent on a payment, the fact that my house is worth less than the mortgage prevented me from qualifying for a loan with my bank of 12 years!

This shocked me. I can't get a loan? ME? Do you know what I do for a living? Do you know where I work? I am trusted with all these things but can't get a mesely small loan?

Fear not, friends, this story has a happy ending and eventually a loan at a great rate was secured from another institution. But the fact remains that my bank, which has received money from the bailouts (and is the only major lending institution yet to pay back the money to the federal government) saw fit to keep my ass in the cold. My tax dollars went to them (FDIC already insures my accounts) to keep them solvent, and they couldn't help out a customer of 15 years.

I hate on Timothy Geithner like it's my second job. But sitting in the ice box, I couldn't help but wonder if he was on to something. How dare these institutions that we keep solvent throw bonus after bonus while refusing to lend to credible individuals like me? And how dare all of us let them run amuck to the point where they were too big to fail? It became a nasty Catch 22 that caused everyone, Liberals and Conservatives, to bend their beliefs in order to keep America from crashing beyond the Great Depression.

Capitalism is not the root of the problem here. Greed is. Fraud is. Lust of Power is. All three of these know no political party, no socio-economic class, no race, and no faith. Or they know them all. The responsibility of this federal government is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemeies, both foreign and domestic. I would contend that the practices and policies, the fraud and the abuse that led us to this mess qualifies as an enemy of the Constitution. As such, responsible legislation, in accordance with the Constitution, should be enacted to mitigate as much as possible its devestating effects being repeated.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Selling Out

Call me old school: I remember when Green Day released the album "Dookie" and were immediately accused of "selling out" by going mainstream; similarly, I was at RFK stadium when Good Charlotte debut'd their then new song, Little Things, which to alt-punk rock music purists was equally blasphemous.

Now fast forward about a decade to the current state of politics, and witness some serious "selling out" on both the left and the right. On the left, how much does it cost to change your healthcare vote, Mary Landreiu? Turns out a $120 Million line item for Louisiana does the trick. On the right, remember John McCain's 2008 campaign for President? How many times did he vote with President Bush after spending years castigating him? In both cases, the politicians were changing their votes against their conscience to satisfy something else, usually political ambition.

I'm all about having a change of heart, or reaching a compromise. Compromise is how we arrive at our best legislation, like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But when you sacrifice your conscience for reelection, you sacrifice your soul in the eyes of the American voter. Ends rarely justify the means.

As Abraham Lincoln said, "You can fool all of the people some of the time. You can even fool some of the people all of the time. But you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."

Truer words never spoken.