FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 27 through 30, 2017

Friends of FOD

Some additions to previous stories and some new FOD to pick up. Comments appreciated.

 

USNS Comfort (T-AH20) Proceeding To Puerto Rico and Other Puerto Rico Events/Opinions

USNS Comfort (T-AH-20) is proceeding toward Puerto Rico to aid in relief efforts on the storm damaged island.  The USNS prefix identifies the Comfort as a non-commissioned ship owned by the U.S. Navy and operationally crewed by civilians from the Military Sealift Command (MSC). A uniformed naval hospital staff and naval support staff is embarked when Comfort is deployed, said staffs consisting primarily of naval officers from the Navy’s Medical Corps, Dental Corps, Medical Service Corps, Nurse Corps and Chaplain Corps, and naval enlisted personnel from the Hospital Corpsman rating and various administrative and technical support ratings (e.g., Yeoman, Personnel Specialist, Information Systems Technician, Religious Program Specialist, etc.).  Criticism has surfaced in the last few days implying Comfort should have already been positioned there.  Former Senator Hilary Clinton sought headlines and attempted to crush some additional sour grapes into whine on the issue.  The facts are the Federal Emergency Management Agency was responsible for coordinating efforts of all participating agencies as part of that agency’s charter and the agency provides state and local government support for disaster relief, until September 28, when the US  Army has appointed BGen Richard Kim to oversee every facet of the massive mission and coordinate the National Guard, FEMA and Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s office.  Generally it is FEMS’s responsibility to request DoD and other assets as necessitated by the events.  Since then, the US military is conducting round-the-clock missions to send aircraft, troops, food, water, medical supplies and communications equipment and power generation equipment to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.  The humanitarian and rescue efforts must necessarily precede the rebuilding efforts and emphasis is being given to search and rescue efforts, distribution of supplies and bringing power back to hospitals, airports, ports and other such facilities.  The totality of the destruction on Puerto Rico is so vast as to have limited any analysis of what’s needed and where.  The power grid and hence everything run by electrical power generators; cell phone sites, gas station pumps, water pumps, etc. are all out.  Puerto Rico has traditionally been hampered by inefficient and corrupt local and territorial government officials and organizational apparatus that now finds itself incapable of handling the immense efforts required to both evaluate and distribute aid on a large scale.  It’s like New Orleans post Katrina times 1000.  On September 28, Congress and the President, at the request of Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló have temporarily waived the Jones Merchant Marine Act allowing foreign ships to deliver items to the island.  The Fireball opinion is this is a finger pointing exercise regarding relief supplies and is a familiar argument used by Puerto Rico officials to draw attention away from the island’s debt crisis.  I see the news coverage shows thousands of containers of relief supplies and other commodities already off loaded on San Juan docks.  Power at the docks is being supplied by diesel generators.  But drivers aren’t available because they don’t have the fuel for their personal vehicles and/or the communication chain to get them to work coupled with the lack of fuel for the truck needs to move and/or refrigerate their contents.  Drivers and security personnel are now being flown in.  If you’re a store, it’s hard to take delivery of goods when your store has no roof, no power for cash registers and your employees can’t get to work.  Without electricity the banking system is paralyzed as well.  According to the latest from Washington on 29 September, President Trump is making no specific promise to rebuild what was already a much antiquated infrastructure (including the electrical grid).  Later Friday, during a speech on tax policy, Trump said, “Ultimately, the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort…will be funded.” Trump said the effort “will end up being one of the biggest ever” and noted that Puerto Rico already had “a tremendous amount of debt.”  Fine, but let’s help our American citizens who are critical need of water, food and medical support.  Currently only 5% of the islands electrical service has been restored a full 10 days after Hurricane Maria.  We should be doing better.  Alec Baldwin did a great Trump on the kickoff of ‘SNL.’  As an aside, the Jones Act regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports. Section 27 of the Jones Act deals with cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flagships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.  It has been instrumental in maintaining a merchant marine capable of supporting our national defense and our national security despite what Arizona Sen. John McCain says with regard to the law.  It has sustained a ship building critical to our nation and decreases the adverse consequences of exposing ports and waterways to foreign seafarers.

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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 3rd through 7th 2017

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Invest in People and Not Just Platforms

As the US Naval investigations of the two broadside collisions with much slower commercial vessels, resulting in the death of 17 sailors, Congressional inquirers are also ramping up.   Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., (below left) the chairman of the House Armed Services’ Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee,

traveled to Japan to visit the fleet and speak with Navy leaders and sailors about what Congress can do to help get the service back on track. This subcommittee was scheduled to conduct hearings on September 7th looking at Navy readiness and what it calls “underlying problems associated with the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain.”  Questions will be asked as to whether the Navy is stretched with more demands to patrol not only the Asia-Pacific region but to provide security for the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf as well as European-Atlantic areas.  “They’re having to do more with less,” said Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and Bush administrations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Since the Cold War, he said, “the fleet size has been decreasing the whole time while commitments have been increasing.”  And while new technology may be helpful, these are basic seamanship issues.  Some basic questions need to be addressed: do we have enough people aboard our ships?  Are they receiving adequate training?  Are they operating as they were trained?  Are our ships being maintained in a manner as to be fully ready for any encounter?  We know our aircraft maintenance programs lack the time and funding to improve readiness and it’s well known the nation’s shipyards are overworked and struggling to get ships through maintenance cycles.  How can we move forward with additional investment in ships and planes when we can’t take care of the one’s we have?  And the same can be said for our sailors who have been asked repeatedly to do more with less.  There are limits.  Have we reached them?  The more advanced the technology introduced into the fleet and into the hands of potential adversaries, the greater the demand on the men and women in the Navy.  Not only must they be able to operate more advanced systems, they also must not forget how to operate without them.  The ancient art of celestial navigation is just one of the most obvious ways the Navy has sought to ensure operational integrity regardless of how well technology is working.  When you drive a car these days, it is easy to become reliant on a screen shot provided by a camera, but that doesn’t mean you should not also glance in the rearview mirror or look out the window. The same principle applies to the high-tech U.S. Navy.  The service needs to maintain a high level of technical proficiency while retaining the ability to operate in a potential environment of technical denial.  We need to invest in our people and not just our platforms.  That’s the Fireball opinion for the day.  Comments?

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day September 3rd through 7th 2017”

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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FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 24th through 26th, 2017

Congratulations to the Classes of 2017

A special congratulation goes out the future leaders of our armed services and our nation.  Today, as I’m drafting this, May 26, 2017, the senior classes of the US Naval Academy, the US Military Academy and the US Air Force Academy are receiving their degrees and their commissions as officers in their respective services.  Thank you for your dedication and your efforts to date.  Your work has just begun and more than ever we value and appreciate your leadership.

 

Memorial Day Weekend

As we observe and enjoy the unofficial beginning of summer (I thought it would never get here), let us take a moment to remember all those who gave their last full measure in defense of  our nation this Memorial DayThe holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers.  By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.  Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.  The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day,” which was first used in 1882.  Memorial Day did not become the more common name until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.  On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.  The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.  After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress’ change of date within a few years.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 24th through 26th, 2017”