Archive for September, 2010

These trees freak me out

September 26th, 2010 No comments

These trees freak me out, originally uploaded by JW Doom.

They look like aliens, hentai tentacle rape aliens. Fuck these trees.


What the hell, Navy?? #navy #usn #wtf

September 5th, 2010 No comments

In short: The Navy is going to shit.

In not-too-esoteric detail.

“The sea has supplied mobility, capability, and support throughout Western history, and those failing in the sea power test – notably Alexander, Napoleon and Hitler- also failed the longevity one.” Edward L Beach, in Keepers of the Sea

The Soviet Union can be added to that list, although it made a decent go of it (outlasted Napoleon, at least). But it HAD a Navy. Navy, from the Latin “navis”, which means “ship”. Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Not so much, apparently. Let’s look at some recent news.

Lean manning saps morale, puts sailors at risk

Study says Aegis radar systems on the decline

E-4, below barred from standing armed watch

In a way the last item is the most troubling, because it directly affects what has always been the core of the US Navy, its sailors.

The American Sailor
A high school friend joined the Navy, ended up working on nuclear reactors and when he came home on leave he could tell me almost everything about what he did. He could have drawn me diagrams of US Navy nuclear reactors if he’d wanted. We talked for hours on end the entire time he was home and I think maybe twice he declined to share some fact about his work. Things like specific operating parameters, pressures, temperatures, etc.

The United States military has always been comparatively open about technical details. No, they won’t tell you exactly how fast something will go, or how far a missile will fly, but odds are Popular Mechanics can figure out it and publish it. The details of our machinery and weaponry just weren’t that important. You know why? Because our sailors were really good at their jobs. The Navy’s people were always its greatest weapon against whoever we were likely to go up against. It wasn’t some fancy machine that kept the Stark and Samuel B Roberts afloat. It was well trained sailors doing the job they’d been entrusted by the Navy to do that kept those ships going and their own asses out of the drink. Stark kept cruising until 2006, and Roberts is on active service today. Sailors, a lot of them probably not old enough to legally drink, kept large pieces of steel functioning in salt water for decades after someone tried really hard to blow them up.

The Problem (for admirals)
Something happened that was good for the rest of the world, but bad for the Navy. The Berlin Wall fell down. The world was now complicated. Then 9/11 happened and it was really bad for admirals. The problem wasn’t the threat to the United States. Yes, terrorists are dangerous, but not as dangerous as the Cold War’s possibility of nationwide nuclear immolation. The problem was budgets and admirals’ jobs.

You see, non-state actors and transnational movements (what the news likes to call terrorists) don’t have fleets to sink and harbors to blockade. There just didn’t seem to be a lot for the Navy to do in a Global War on Terror. Clearly the flags had to do something.

The Solution (for admirals)

“What we’ve done — fast forward to today — we have shrunk the Navy by about 60,000 sailors in the past six to 6½ years. And along the way, we invented the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, expanded the Seabees and expanded [explosive ordnance disposal]. We’ve done a lot of expansion along the way,”

Adm. John Harvey, head of Fleet Forces Command (from the first link up there).

The Navy Expeditionary Combat Command. Seabees, river boats, Explosives Ordinance Disposal, Civil Affairs and what looks like a lot of support elements. Don’t get me wrong, these things are useful. Seabees did amazing work in WW2 and Vietnam, their contributions these days are probably grossly neglected. EOD takes apart bombs, something I think everyone would agree is important work. River boats, definitely under recognized by the world (my uncle served on one of those in Vietnam, oh the stories I’ve heard).

Why did the Navy have to invent this thing? Budgets, remember? Without a big, bad enemy fleet out there do we need a big, bad fleet? More importantly to the career officers, do we need all these admirals sitting in DC, Hawaii and pretty places in Spain?

Can’t cut the carriers, the President gets a morning briefing on where all eleven of those are.

The answer was simple, carve sixty thousand sailors out of the surface fleet and transfer that money to something that can get in the dirt and justify the same number of overall dollars. Great. The Navy has a job again, what can be wrong with that?

The problem (for sailors)

Well, how about sleep? How about tired, overworked sailors?. And it’s going to get worse with the new ships the Navy wants to build. From the Navy veteran’s blog linked immediately above:

“Computerization is nice, but computers can’t chip paint, swab decks or paint &*#$. And unless the ships have halon fire-suppression everywhere (“evacuate the compartment, shut the doors/hatches and pump in halon”), I do not see how a ship with 40 people will be able to fight a serious fire.”

Sixty thousand people is a LOT of people. Yeah, Wal-Mart might not notice it among its 2 million, but surface warships prior to lean manning had between 150 and 300 personnel, mostly sailors (rather than officers). Divide that into 60,000 people and you’re starting to get the idea. While I’m sure some of those people came from somewhere other than the surface fleet, I’m willing to bet not many of the people who deliver coffee and donuts at fleet headquarters were cut loose.

If you’ve never been on a US Navy ship, they’re not nice places. Apart from dangerous machinery and being surrounded by water the living conditions would drive most people insane. The entirety of your personal space is a bunk with barely enough room to roll over and a locker. That’s if you’re not hot bunking (I’m betting you can guess what that means). The food is like your worst school cafeteria nightmares unless the cook chiefs were inventive. And you can’t get away. You’re at sea for weeks at a time with the magic of underway replenishment.

Imagine living at your job. No happy hours (alcohol is not allowed on US Navy ships), share the TV with your coworkers. And the restrooms. Now do that without getting enough sleep. That would suck.

The problem (for the Navy)

What does NECC, useful as its components may be, have to do with the job a navy is supposed to do? Historically a navy has three jobs: power projection, command of the sea and protection of shipping. The modern era adds strategic (read: nuclear) deterrence which is fulfilled by the US submarine force (which makes cuts to that budget politically unattractive). Power projection is when the United States makes another country do what we want it to do, or more often stop it from doing something we don’t want it to do. Command of the Sea is when we can use the ocean but we can stop other people from using it if we want. Protection of Shipping is following merchant ships to keep anyone from screwing with them (or sinking them, or capturing them).

Carriers mostly do power projection, strategic deterrence is what our submarines for, as I said. The other two (for a variety of reasons that, trust me, are esoteric) are best done by surface ships. Cruisers, destroyers, frigates. How well are they doing it in an era of lean manning? Why don’t you ask a Somali pirate?

On @yeahrightpos and #doomtree (in short: utter win)

September 4th, 2010 No comments

I discovered POS a while ago, I think through CMJ. I knew he was part of a crew, so why did it take so long for me to finally type “Doomtree” into YouTube?

Go now, search for “doomtree drumsticks” and you’ll be glad it’s in time for their tour. Berbati’s in November. You’re welcome.