FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day November 3rd through 6th, 2017

Normalization of Deviation Within Seventh Fleet Led To Collisions At Sea

I spoke to some of findings of the Navy’s investigation into the recent collisions of the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain in the last edition of FOD.  Acceptance of deviations or the normalization of deviation from standards of training led directly to the shortfalls in the core functions of basic ship operations at sea in the case of the recent collisions at sea.  Defense News is reporting in one of the most remarkable U.S. Navy documents in recent memory, the service is admitting to widespread failures and training shortfalls at the core of its most basic function: safely operating ships at sea.  A comprehensive review of the Surface Navy conducted by the Navy’s Fleet Forces Command found that both the Japan-based 7th Fleet headquarters leadership and its ship commanders allowed training and proficiency to erode as they sought to keep ships underway to meet operational requirements.  “The risks that were taken in the Western Pacific accumulated over time and did so insidiously,” according to the report released Thursday. “The dynamic environment normalized to the point where individuals and groups of individuals could no longer recognize that the processes in place to identify, communicate and assess readiness were no longer working at the ship and headquarters level.”  The problems became easy to ignore because, prior to the mishaps, they were still getting the job done, the report argues.  The comprehensive review, led by fleet boss Admiral Phil Davidson, found that the issues in 7th Fleet were in some ways unique to the pressures and demands in the Pacific region, the Navy’s most fast-paced and dangerous operating environment, but in other ways pointed to serious lapses in training and evaluation of its officers and sailors.  The review raised troubling questions about the ability of surface warfare officers in today’s fleet and their ability to act under pressure.  In a detailed analysis of the four major accidents in 7th Fleet this year — two deadly collisions, a grounding and a minor collision with a fishing boat — the review found that officers and enlisted sailors performed poorly when faced with a dangerous situation.  The review ascertained that in all four incidents this year, when the crews were faced with an extreme situation, they delayed actions, froze and did not alert their crews of imminent danger.  “Incorrect actions in extremis were a contributing factor to the chain of errors that resulted in the incident[s],” the report reads.  The report also found that teamwork was at times non-existent between the bridge and the ship combat information centers, the place that displays and synthesizes the information from a ship’s sensors and weapons systems.  Furthermore, the review determined that sailors had routinely failed to use the tools available to them to increase awareness of their situations.  In the review, the Navy also acknowledges that its surface warfare officers lacked sufficient navigation and seamanship skills, and recommends creating an “objective, standardized assessment program to periodically assess individual seamanship and navigation skills over the course of a surface warfare officer’s career.”  The review details steps, including new evaluation processes, to correct the issues.  In regards to the issues at 7th Fleet, the review argues that leaders in the region were blinded by operational commitments and that cutting corners became the norm in order to fulfill commitments.  “Evidence of skill proficiency on ships and readiness problems at headquarters were missed, and over time, even normalized to the point that more time could be spent on operational missions,” the document reads. “Headquarters were trying to manage the imbalance, and up to the point of the mishaps, the ships had been performing operationally with good outcomes, which ultimately reinforced the rightness of trusting past decisions.  “This rationalized the continued deviation from the sound training and maintenance practices that set the conditions for safe operations.”  The collisions of the destroyers John S. McCain and Fitzgerald this summer led to the relief of both commanding officers and several other crew members, as well as the destroyer squadron commander, the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group commander and the 7th Fleet Commander.  And that’s why we had changes of command without bands.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 9 through 13, 2017

Cast & Blast 2017

I am on vacation this week!  I’m not quite sure how that differs from my other weeks these days, but I’m calling it vacation.

Well anyway, I’m enjoying some time with a group of good friends, mostly old Navy guys.  We spend a few days fishing, shooting at pumpkins filled with Tannerite, brushing up on our much unpracticed Texas Hold’em skills and sharing some great meals at The High Country Inn – Home.  I’m sad to report no fish were harmed on our first day of fishing, but we’re picking up some today!

Friends should help you move.  I can call on these friends to help move the bodies.

 

 

President Trump Moves To Decertify Iran Deal

As predicted in the previous edition of FOD (and some of those other media institutions) President Donald Trump is expected to put the 2015 Iran nuclear deal squarely in the hands of Congress, refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal but letting lawmakers decide whether to tear it up.  Congress will now have to decide if they will reimpose sanctions on Iran with regard to the country’s nuclear program, or attach new conditions to the agreement. Those sanctions were lifted as part of the 2015 agreement, and reimposing them would effectively destroy the deal, known as the JCPOA.  I watched his short speech announcing his actions.  He focused on many actions Iran has taken over the years to destabilize nations in the region as well as their strident and continual support of terrorism around the globe.  That terrorism includes state and non-state militant Moslem actions, cyber attacks, threats to freedom of navigation on the high seas coupled with their development of ballistic missiles in conjunction with their own nuclear development program.  One of the big issues of concern to Tehran is how the president would treat the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the hardline military wing that had already been sanctioned for weapons proliferation under prior administrations. This is also of concern to European countries that do business with shell companies actually owned by the IRGC.  According to a senior administration official, Trump intends to designate the corps as a supporter of terrorism, but will stop short of calling it a foreign terror organization. The administration is required to make the designation under legislation Trump signed in August covering sanctions against Iran, Russia and North Korea. Although officials had until Oct. 31 to decide, they are including the designation in today’s speech of the larger Iran strategy.  Those in the administration who are worried about Iran misinterpreting or overreacting are eager to emphasize the distinction between being a supporter of terrorism and an actual terrorist organization. They also emphasize that it has no practical effect because of other existing IRGC designations, but that it could enrage the Iranians.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day August 23rd through 27th 2017

Friends of FOD

OK I got busy and haven’t published in more than a few days.  What can I say?  Maybe I’m suffering from Solar Eclipse Overload Syndrome.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the many folks who have lost their homes and personal possessions as a result of Hurricane Harvey.

 

US Navy 7th  Fleet Relieved

Following a collision between the Seventh Fleet destroyer USS John S. McCain with the merchant ship Alnic MC in the the Strait of Malacca in the South China Sea, which left 10 navy sailors missing and five sailors injured on August 21, 2017, off the coast of Singapore it was confirmed the commander of the United States Seventh Fleet has been relieved of command.  Vice Admiral Joseph P. Aucoin (below right) was relieved of his command on 23 August 2017 due to “loss of confidence in his ability to command.”  He was just weeks away from retirement.  The Wall Street Journal first reported the planned move Tuesday.  RADM  Phillip G. Sawyer has now assumed command of Seventh Fleet.  While I was a bit glib in earlier editions of FOD regarding the need for a band, etc. it is unfortunate to see the careers of fine officers ended in such a manner.  That being said, the Navy reposes special trust and responsibility for the safety and well-being of the ship and those who sail within her and thus commanding officers are held to the highest standards of accountability.  The U.S. Navy announced on 24 August 2017 that it would be suspending search-and-rescue efforts to focus on recovery efforts of the missing sailors.  Divers have recovered the bodies of all 10 sailors missing.   The Navy previously identified eight crew members who were missing as Charles Nathan Findley, Abraham Lopez, Kevin Sayer Bushell, Jacob Daniel Drake, Timothy Thomas Eckels Jr., Corey George Ingram, John Henry Hoagland III and Logan Stephen Palmer.  The bodies of Kenneth Aaron Smith and Dustin Louis Doyon were previously recovered.  There has been at least a rumor out there McCain may have suffered a steering causality or a loss of steering control shortly before the accident, but that doesn’t add much to the discussion at this point.  My experience aboard aircraft carriers was that after-steering (the manual backup steering control room) and all other steering backup systems were always fully manned during a transit of the Strait of Malacca.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 25 through 27 2017

Friends of FOD

Hey, I’m getting tired of talking to myself here.  I need your comments to make this worthwhile to me and to others.  I’m sure you Friends of FOD have some opinions.  Let’s hear/see something from you.  And if you have suggestions or personal contributions surrounding an event or a interesting tidbit from around the dates of a particular edition.  I’d really like to hear from you active duty Friends of FOD.

 

Trump Verses Transgender Service Members

The big news across the military today is President Trump’s tweet from July 26th saying transgender individuals would not be allowed to serve in any capacity in the US military.  This announcement came as a shock to Pentagon leaders who had no idea such a policy change was coming.  In fact Secretary of Defense  James Mattis (left) is on personal leave this week and newly confirmed Deputy SECDEF Patrick M. Shanahan (below right) is holding down the fort.  Previously, the policy allowing the enlistment of transgender recruits into the military was put on hold pending a six-month review of all military policies.  That review did not cover transgender individuals already serving openly.  There are many unknowns here and more questions than answers.  Does a tweet make policy, or does it need to be codified before a change in policy can be enacted?  What happened to the requirement to be published in the Federal Register?  What guidance should be provided to unit-level commanders regarding men and women under their command?  And more importantly, what does a change in policy mean to thousands of men and women who have identified themselves in the months since the Obama administration’s policy allowed and welcomed them to serve openly?  I think it’s a bit too late for such a radical change of policy.  That horse has left the barn!  The military, rightly or wrongly has been THE organization where social changes have been codified ahead of societal norms in the civilian population.   I was going to mention this in FOD anyway, but Executive Order 9981 was an executive order issued on July 26, 1948, by President Harry S. Truman. It abolished racial discrimination in the United States Armed Forces and eventually led to the end of segregation in the services long before segregation was dealt with by the civilian sector.  In January 2013, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta issued an order to end the policy of “no women in units that are tasked with direct combat”, though it still has yet to be determined if and when women may join certain direct combat roles, but changes are occurring.  Women are now in leadership roles across all commands, demonstrating there are no glass ceilings if you have good leadership and management abilities.  And women in the military are paid equally for their service, something women are fighting for today in the nearly all civilian sector jobs.  Just to conclude, President Trump tweeted on Wednesday that transgender service members could be forcibly separated because the Defense Department cannot, “… be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”   Military Times pointed out, the Defense Department spends 10 times as much money on Viagra and other erectile dysfunction medications than it spends on healthcare services for transgender troops.  So the expense for transgender troops will never fly in Congress. And Military Times also reported Top defense lawmakers on Capitol Hill quickly blasted President Donald Trump’s transgender military ban Wednesday, calling the policy change short-sighted and potentially dangerous.  Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., called the surprise news “yet another example of why major policy announcements should not be made via Twitter.” He said Trump’s statements on the issue were unclear and confusing.  “Any American who meets current medical and readiness standards should be allowed to continue serving,” he said. “There is no reason to force service members who are able to fight, train, and deploy to leave the military, regardless of their gender identity.”  Expect to see legal actions filed soon.  Your comments appreciated.

 

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day June 20 through 25, 2017

Friends of FOD

A bit delayed on this edition.  I’ve been moving the last few days.  It’s a pain in the butt.  And it doesn’t get easier with age or with the number of moves made in my lifetime.  Suffice it to say I’ve traded a great lake view for a great mountain view.   So things have gotten a bit behind.  Plus I had to wait until today to get my internet installed.  I know – excuses will be listened to, but not tolerated!

 

US Companies Providing Russians with Security Source Code

We have known for quite some time the Russians are employing every possible cyber tactic to undermine US computer systems, establish hacker networks and steal millions of dollars on a recurring basis.  So where are they getting some of the most critical product security secrets you might ask?  From the very companies developing the software.  Cisco, IBM and SAP have all acknowledged and acceded to the demands by Russia to review source code for security products such as firewalls, anti-virus applications and software containing encryption before permitting these products to be imported to and sold in Russia.  This, according to Reuters, has been going on for quite some time and those requests have increased since 2014.  Supposedly these requests are done to ensure foreign spy agencies have not hidden and “backdoors” that would allow them to borrow into Russian computer systems.  But in doing so Russian inspectors have the opportunity to find vulnerabilities in products’ source code and instructions that control both basic and advanced operations of computer equipment.  While a number of U.S. firms say they are playing ball to preserve their entree to Russia’s huge tech market, at least one U.S. firm, Symantec, told Reuters it has stopped cooperating with the source code reviews over security concerns. That halt has not been previously reported.  Symantec said one of the labs inspecting its products was not independent enough from the Russian government.  U.S. officials say they have warned firms about the risks of allowing the Russians to review their products’ source code, because of fears it could be used in cyber attacks. But they say they have no legal authority to stop the practice unless the technology has restricted military applications or violates U.S. sanctions.  (photo above left is the Russian Security Service Building).  From their side, companies say they are under pressure to acquiesce to the demands from Russian regulators or risk being shut out of a lucrative market. The companies say they only allow Russia to review their source code in secure facilities that prevent code from being copied or altered.  I wish I were making this up.  My recommendation – don’t sell them anything – let ’em rot.

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