Round Two – Sharing Isn’t Caring

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I never fully understood all the secrecy surrounding ship’s port calls. At least in the endgame, it’s certainly not classified information. If it was, family members would have no idea when or where, and we all know that’s not the case. At some point, staff officers at numbered fleets are talking with husbanding agents on the phone. One can only presume they are not having that discussion on a secure line. There are tugboats, harbor pilots, and line handlers. They must be told what day to come to work and why. Let it suffice to say that no aircraft carrier has ever arrived in a foreign port of call unannounced. By my best estimate, I’ve made some 50 port calls over the years during cruise and workups. Yes, workups. Don’t ask. There was never a single moment when someone acted surprised to see us there. I once visited the lovely island-nation of Malta. By the time we were pier-side, the citizenry of the entire country was already queued up awaiting a tour of the ship. They somehow got the word.

As it was explained to me, and as I was reminded during annual computer-based training, Operational Security (OPSEC) is the process by which we protect unclassified information that can be used against us by our adversaries. You diligently make efforts to safeguard information, even if it’s not classified, because when combined with other pieces of seemingly harmless information, certain conclusions become discernible. Flight schedules are an easy example. They are not classified, yet we don’t post them to the internet. Instead, we e-mail them to those who need to see them, or we password protect a sharing portal. We take these steps with a single thought in mind. Don’t make it easy on the enemy. Remember that.

This is the Navy’s response to the recent release of the ISIS “hit list”. For those who don’t want the re-direct, here is the text.

RMKS/1. As you are all aware, this week 36 of our shipmates’ names and addresses were posted on a website claiming to be friendly to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cause. While Department of Defense (DoD) and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) have not found evidence of operational planning or an imminent threat, there is little doubt that this gesture has caused concern and anxiety specifically for those on the list, their families and shipmates and more generally to the force. To inform conversations with Sailors and their families, I want to address some of the most common concerns we’re hearing across the Fleet.

2. This incident is a reminder of the importance we individually have to place on our personal safety and operations security. The guidance shared with Sailors in their sustained and cyclic training remainsvalid…stay aware, stay vigilant and be prudent about the information you share. Standing guidance for our web pages and command social media accounts remain valid as well–there is not a need to make a change. Ongoing intelligence and law enforcement assessments continue to reinforce that sharing information smartly and with due caution remains safe—this includes dealings with vetted U.S. and international media. If anything changes or new intelligence becomes available, we will pass that information via the appropriate channels.

3. We serve in the most dynamic and powerful Navy on earth, made possible by our Sailors’ efforts and the support of their families. Taking the time to discuss this issue, to place it in the appropriate context, will help ease anxiety and focus responsive effort on productive, appropriate and necessary measures. This approach serves our Sailors and their families best.

Perhaps some of you have trouble reading between the lines. If you count yourself among them, allow me to translate. “You all need to review and heed our guidance in order to adopt best practices. We’re good though. Business as usual. Best of luck. We’ll be in touch.”

I have spoken with people directly affected by the “hit list”. Like in the message above, I assured them that someone would have called if there was any corroborating evidence of planned action. I’m quite confident the ISIS Hacking Division (the dudes at Anonymous are rolling their eyes) got a pre-paid $50 debit card and an account at whitepages.com. Or Spokeo. It doesn’t matter. Terrorists use fear as a weapon. That’s why they are called terrorists. You can tell a service member there is no cause for alarm all day. Try that same approach with a wife who has been alone with the kids for months and already hears random noises that keep her up through the night. She deserves better than to be told, “All is well. No changes are necessary at this time.”

I don’t know the young lady in the photo that was in Wednesday’s post. In spite of the fact that I am proud of her and what she is doing, I don’t even remember her name, which is why I never needed to read it in the first place. If you want to post a picture of her, with name attached, hoisting a Pilot of the Year trophy while on shore duty, have at it. Doing the same while she’s preflighting a jet before flying into combat? C’mon, man. We’re better than that.

I understand the need to tell our story. I also understand the need to find balance. Everyone can devise better guidelines and business practices to that end. Everyone includes not just the individual, but the institution as well. Above all else, don’t make it easy on the enemy. Surely we can we all agree to that.

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Sharing Isn’t Caring (Guest Post)

Remember that Greenie Board guy? He’s back, and you can read his work right here. Normally when I leave a comment on one of my posts, I am commenting about a comment. Now I get to comment about the actual post. Time to don the carnival-barker hat. Smell like cabbage. Small hands.

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Recently, ISIS released the names, photos, and addresses of 100 American service members, calling for its sympathizers to launch what have come to be known as “lone wolf” attacks against these “targets.” On Tuesday, Navy Live, the Official Blog of the United States Navy, posted “Four Things to Know about Operations Security and Your Privacy.” The post begins with:

“Online searches. Public records. Social media. And more. Each presents a unique challenge to protect Operations Security and your privacy. It’s always a good time to ensure you’re practicing good habits to better protect both. Below are four things to know about OPSEC and your privacy.”

1) You should be careful about sharing too much information: Share information about yourself smartly and be careful about what you disclose about your family and occupation. Sailors and their families should be particularly careful not to share:

  • Deployment status
  • Home address
  • Telephone numbers
  • Location information and associated location information in posts, tweets, check-ins
  • Schedules

2) Sailors and families should be careful about sharing too much information:

  • Dangerous
    • My Sailor is in XYZ unit at ABC camp in ABC city in Iraq.
    • My daughter is aboard XYZ ship heading back to ABC city/country in X days.
    • She will be back on X date from ABC city.
    • My family is back in Youngstown, Ohio.

3) Be careful who you friend or those who follow you on social media:

  • Not everyone who wants to be your friend or follower is necessarily who they claim.
  • Be mindful of others attempting to use your social presence.

4) OK to share:

  • Pride and support for service members, units and specialties
  • Generalizations about service or duty
  • Port call information after it has been released to the media
  • General status of the location of a ship at sea (i.e., operating off the coast of San Diego)
  • Released posts from official U.S. Navy social media presences

Undoubtedly, American service members must pay closer attention to what they willingly put out into the public domain, and as such the basic advice offered above is sound. Even in the absence of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media outlets it is neither impossible, nor particularly difficult, to obtain information about someone. Public records are just that, and our free, open, and democratic society thrives on a certain level of access and transparency.

I believe the point Navy Live attempts to make with this post is that we shouldn’t make the process of collection any easier for would be criminals. Again, this advice is sound. The question is; are the people and agencies issuing this advice following it themselves? From the Daily Beast:

“As it turns out, the group [ISIS] didn’t need to hack the Pentagon. At least two-thirds of the troops on the ISIS “hit-list” had been featured on public Defense Department websites designed to promote the military.”

Unfortunately, the U.S Naval Central Command / Fifth Fleet Facebook page serves as prime example of this phenomena. Below is a summary from the last thirty days. I won’t provide links. If you need verification you know where to point your mouse.

March 24th – Four Things to Know About OPSEC and Your Privacy

March 21st – Letter from Major General Michael Garret, CENTCOM Chief of Staff concerning recent threat from ISIS and recommendations for increased social media vigilance.

March 16th – Posted official U.S. Navy photos that identify two Sailors by name, with hometown and unit (see points 1 and 2).

March 15th – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying a Lieutenant Commander by name, squadron, and aircraft (see points 1 and 2).

March 8th – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying Naval Aircrewman by name and squadron (see points 1 and 2).

March 5th – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying Navy Diver by name and unit (see points 1 and 2).

March 3rd – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying Naval Aircrewman by name and unit (see points 1 and 2).

March 3rd – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying Third Class Petty Officer by name and squadron (see points 1 and 2).

February 26th – Posted official U.S. Navy photo identifying a Seaman and Third Class Petty officer by name, hometowns, and unit (see points 1 and 2).

Some may argue that the information is out there, and a dedicated assailant could find it with enough time and determination. That can’t be refuted; however, we must ask ourselves: if the intent of the Four Points memo is to provide techniques for making the collection more difficult (again, not impossible), then why is that advice good for the Sailor, but not the Navy? Why does NAVCENT think it’s acceptable to put this image on their Facebook page:

 

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Others may argue that the benefit is worth the risk because the Navy is able to provide positive imagery that supports a larger narrative of forward presence and international resolve; however, the Navy can meet that objective without plastering names, pictures, and hometown information across its publicly accessible social media outlets. The Navy (and the entire DoD) can meet that objective by adhering to some of the same practices it encourages its Sailors to use with their personal accounts.

Over the weekend I watched as many within my social network (myself included) changed their Facebook names and profile pictures. Personally, I removed photos that were clearly related to my service or showed me in uniform. Is that an overreaction? At least one well-respected friend (and senior military officer) suggested so. Of course, neither his nor my face appeared on an ISIS hit list this weekend – so maybe we don’t have proper perspective. The bottom line is, I was reminded this weekend that we should always be mindful of what we’re putting out into the public domain. Always. Whether we’re protecting against identity theft or jihadists, paying attention to our profiles, photos, and posts is something we should ALL be mindful of.

If the Navy believes posting a “selfie” in uniform, pre-flighting an aircraft before launching to battle ISIS, is over the line (and it is), then why is it acceptable for NAVCENT to do it for me? And remember, they do think it’s okay – see point four – under the “OK” bullet: “released posts from official U.S. Navy social media presences.”

It’s long past time for the Navy and its public affairs officials to reevaluate their approach to information sharing via social media. If these posts and photos aren’t directly endangering service members, then, at a minimum, they are making family members unnecessarily uneasy. Is ISIS going to send a militia force to Oceana, Whidbey, San Diego, or Lemoore? That seems highly unlikely. Is the Navy’s irresponsible use of social media making it easier for potential lone-wolves to find, fix, and target service members? Yes.

The real test will be to watch Navy, and DoD, social media over the coming weeks, and months. Will the techniques offered to individuals resonate with the larger organizations? Will public affairs officials be able to resist the urge to “over-share”? I’m skeptical. After all, we’re talking about some of the same individuals who allowed a wife and mother to learn of her husband’s death via an official U.S. Navy Facebook page.

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The Strike-Fighter Shortfall

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Let’s say that I have two sleeves of golf balls on hand. I’m not too worried about the low inventory. I have only two rounds of golf scheduled before my next sleeve arrives in a week. During my first round of golf, I hit two balls into the water on the very first hole. I’m still not panicked. I have that second sleeve of balls in reserve. I don’t expect to use them, but I can if required. Later in my round, I snap-hook my drive into deep brush that doubles as a Titleist graveyard. I dip into the second sleeve of balls earlier than planned. This is still not a crisis. Mid-way through the back nine, I receive a text message from my boss. The company has high-profile clients coming into town and we have to take them out for 18 holes at the local country club. Awesome. An unplanned round. As long as my swing soon comes into form, I’ll have a sufficient quantity of golf balls. Just as I skull a wedge into the creek that sits behind the 17th green, I get an e-mail from USPS telling me that my shipment is delayed. Now I have a full-blown crisis.

Substitute golf balls with FA-18s in the above analogy, and F-35s for the pending shipment, and you have not just a crisis, but a crisis with national security implications. Wipe the sleep from your eyes, for this is not a dream, it is reality. It is a harsh reality with very dire implications.

Like the last kid picked for dodgeball, the seafaring service never says no. It is unbeknownst to me whether or not saying no is an option, as I am rarely at the table when the Global Force Management process is underway. You can’t argue that the Navy isn’t a can-do organization. It is the service’s hallmark, but one that is equal parts virtue and vice. The reputation for unfailingly answering the call is well-earned. The cost is watching your equipment driven into the ground. One might make the case that the humans who operate and maintain it are driven likewise.

Situation report to follow.

The US Navy’s case for requesting more Boeing-made F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters rests with two issues: requirements and replacements.

It’s been only two years since the US Navy quit buying F/A-18 Super Hornet strike fighters — part of a long-planned transition to the F-35C joint strike fighter — but a confluence of events has led to the new possibility that more attack aircraft could be ordered from Boeing.

When the US Navy submitted its fiscal 2015 request a year ago, it was the first budget since the 1970s that did not include some version of the F/A-18 Hornet strike fighter. Procurement of F/A-18 E and F Super Hornets ended in 2013, and the last of 138 EA-18G Growler electronic warfare versions was included in the 2014 budget.

Congress, however, added an unplanned-for 15 Growlers in the 2015 budget, responding to a Navy unfunded priority list request to meet a joint tactical need. The move keeps open Boeing’s St. Louis production line an extra year, through 2017.

Now, a strike fighter shortfall the Navy thought it could manage by a variety of methods is being further exacerbated, and it seems highly likely that when the new unfunded requirements list is submitted to Congress by mid-March, it will include a request for new Super Hornets.

The shortfall is not a new situation — it’s been developing for years, and was something the Navy’s leadership thought it could manage its way through. But in recent weeks, sources said, the emphasis has shifted from using current resources to deal with the problem to including the purchase of new aircraft as part of an overall solution.

That’s because the current resources don’t exist. We’ve already extended the planned service life of FA-18Cs from 6,000 to 10,000 hours. This extension comes at a steep cost in terms of both manpower and money. Depot facilities are already overwhelmed, and the specter of sequestration threatens to pour gasoline on the fire. While you can extend service life in terms of making sure the fuselage doesn’t snap in half, there is no way to predict what parts will eventually start failing at a high rate. And fail they will.

Budget constraints and software development issues have pushed out F-35C procurement to the right — delayed by several years — and the first “35 Charlies” aren’t scheduled to reach initial operating capability until 2018. Full rate production of 20 aircraft per year isn’t planned until 2020, and it will be another two years before those aircraft enter service.

My shipment of golf balls is delayed.

Increased operating tempos due to combat operations against the Islamic State in northern Iraq and western Syria meant that the Navy did not realize reduced flying hours from the drawdown in Afghanistan.

Unplanned round of golf with clients. Given current global volatility, it is unwise to ever assume the enemy doesn’t get a vote.

Increased operating tempos due to combat operations against the Islamic State in northern Iraq and western Syria meant that the Navy did not realize reduced flying hours from the drawdown in Afghanistan.

I had to break into that second sleeve of golf balls earlier than planned. The term death spiral comes to mind.

To mitigate, the CNO proposed the purchase of 36 Super Hornets, enough to equip three squadrons. That’s not enough to make life easy, but it puts a finger in the dike, and it neutralizes the risk that comes with wear and tear on the current inventory. FA-18Es and -Fs are eventually going to face the same maintenance issues plaguing the FA-18C fleet right now. Believe it.

We have many options here, but only two of them are viable.

  1. Tell the JCS Chairman, the Combatant Commanders, and the entire national security establishment what we won’t be able to do without these aircraft. And stick to it.
  2. Buy these aircraft.

I favor option 2. Even the kid continually picked last for dodgeball will eventually say no.

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Aviation Command Screen Board Results (FY16)

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Only a seaman realizes to what great extent an entire ship reflects the personality and ability of one individual, her Commanding Officer. To a landsman, this is not understandable – and sometimes it is even difficult for us to comprehend – but it is so!

A ship at sea is a distant world in herself, and in consideration of the protracted and distant operations of the fleet units, the Navy must place great power, responsibility and trust in the hands of those leaders chosen for command.

In each ship there is one man who, in the hour of emergency or peril at sea, can turn to no other man. There is one who alone is ultimately responsible for the safe navigation, engineering performance, accurate gunfire and morale of the ship. He is the Commanding Officer. He is the ship!

This is the most difficult and demanding assignment in the Navy. There is not an instant during his tour as Commanding Officer that he can escape the grasp of command responsibility. His privileges, in view of his obligations, are almost ludicrously small; nevertheless, this is the spur which has given the Navy its great leaders.

It is a duty which richly deserves the highest, time-honored title of the seafaring world – Captain.

– Joseph Conrad

Please join me in offering the heartiest of congratulations to the most recent round of officers selected to march the path toward command. Well done, all of you.

Reserve Component selections are below.

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The Vessel Exception and Naval Injustice

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Some six months ago, the entire leadership team of the guided missile destroyer USS JAMES E. WILLIAMS (DDG 95) suffered a severe leg sweep. As fast as you could say the word “triad”, they had each been taken down at the knees and assigned to other duties. We’ll not discuss the particulars. There are plenty of other outlets fully devoted to such pursuits. Explore them if you must.

One peculiar aspect of the case is that both the former CO and former XO requested trial by court martial in lieu of non-judicial punishment (NJP). Both requests were denied. Lawyers from the Commander Naval Surface Force Atlantic staff told them they were ineligible. Even though they were on dry land. Even though they were detached from their ship. Even though they were not collecting sea pay. Even though they were not subject to recall. Let’s be honest. COs and XOs removed from their duties in command are seldom invited back. And if you aren’t enamored with the word seldom, you can replace it with the word never.

Military Justice Primer. Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice gives unit commanders the authority to impose NJP for minor violations. Punishment options available to the CO are limited, although not insignificant. They range from reduction in rank to fines to restriction. The most noteworthy aspect of NJP is in the name itself. It is non-judicial. Indelible marks are not etched into permanent civilian records. Additionally, the Navy uses a preponderance of the evidence standard for burden of proof. This is not at all the same as the beyond a reasonable doubt standard. If the CO believes the evidence mostly indicates the accused is guilty, he can and will adjudicate accordingly. More important, the rules of evidence do not apply. Illegal search and seizure? No problem. Court martial, on the other hand, is military court, and it requires the prosecution to make a much more convincing case. Article 32 hearings mirror grand jury hearings in that they determine whether or not court martial is warranted. If a case goes to court martial, members (jurors) may impose punishment up to and including the death penalty. A finding of guilty at General Court Martial equates to a felony conviction, even for charges that might seem outdated and inconsequential to a civilian. Imagine yourself at a job interview after explaining the origin of your felony. “What, exactly, is conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman?”

Given the severe risk, why would anyone opt for court martial? The math is easy. It’s all about proof. The two officers mentioned above could not have known for certain, but they were supremely confident they would not be convicted by a jury at court martial. They likely predicted the Navy would realize the same and scuttle the court martial before proceedings ever began. Ironically and unfortunately, the Navy is often motivated to deny court martial to the accused for the same reason the accused might find it an attractive (if you can call it that) option. Court martial is messy, time-consuming, and costly. Moreover, if the Navy stands to benefit from a certain outcome, it is risky. Much better to hand it over to a unit CO at some level and let him/her thump the accused on the head with a one-man vote. Risk avoided.

The avenue used to deny court martial to accused service members is called the vessel exception.

Except in the case of a member attached to or embarked in a vessel, punishment may not be imposed upon any member of the armed forces under this article if the member has, before the imposition of such punishment, demanded trial by court-martial in lieu of such punishment.

In short, if you’re on a ship, you don’t have the right to decline NJP and thus demand court martial. No one, least of all me, would argue the efficacy of such a policy under the right circumstances. If you have a Sailor who made menacing gestures to shore patrol and then spray-vomited the front window of a restaurant in Hong Kong on the last day in port, NJP is warranted, and the vessel exception should be invoked if required.

If, however, you see a policy that is open to abuse, you are paying attention. Assistant Attorney General Norbert Schlei recognized it when President Kennedy was reviewing the changes to Article 15 in 1962. He was compelled to write a memorandum to the President addressing his concerns.

Mr. Schlei addressed the ambiguity of the vessel exception and the possibility that it might be applied to persons “considerably removed from the vessel involved, and without regard to whether actual boarding of the vessel is planned for the immediate future. Mr. Schlei opined that such an interpretation “would appear to be inconsistent with the congressional intent.” Mr. Schlei assured the President that “the military services have no intention of denying an election to any member . . . unless he is either aboard [a] vessel or unless he is in the immediate vicinity of a vessel and is in the process of boarding.”

Well, I suppose that means we have short memories. Sailors are denied court martial even when their vessel is tied to the pier for extended overhaul. I have first-hand knowledge of an instance when charges against a senior officer were actually delayed until he reported onboard in order to make sure he could not demand court martial. Great American, too. I can’t imagine that’s what Congress and President Kennedy had in mind.

It’s time to either equip the vessel exception with concrete shoes or put boundaries in place to prevent abuse. If anyone deserves protection of their due process rights, isn’t it those who are willing to die for them?

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Hillary’s E-mail

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The foreman commanded the full attention of the room. One could hear a mouse whisper with only modest effort. “We the jury, duly empaneled and sworn, and upon our oaths, do find the defendant, as to the charge of first-degree murder, guilty.”

After exhibiting noticeable disappointment, the recently-accused and now-convicted murderer stole the stage. “This can’t be. It is unfair to highlight me in this manner. There were over 14,000 murders in the US just last year.”

The judge was clearly stunned. He had not yet considered the impact of an eleventh hour “everyone-else-is-doing it” defense. In a remarkable display of resolute commitment to justice, he overturned the results of a four-month trial. When interviewed by the local media, the judge explained his sudden reversal. “Initially, I honored the jury’s verdict. Upon hearing the defendant / convict / free-man’s final comments, I could not, with clear conscience, allow the imprisonment of a man who had committed a crime also committed by multitudes of others.”

Do you buy it? Neither do I. Which makes me wonder why some media outlets have worked so hard to use this premise in defense of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. To my knowledge, no reasonable person accepts an argument that is routinely used by six year-olds in homes around the world, and is summarily rejected by parents in those same homes. Yet, here we are.

Report: Condoleezza Rice never used personal email at State Dept

Colin Powell says he doesn’t have any of his State emails

Lindsey Graham: I’ve never sent an e-mail

The Republicans who did ‘exactly what Hillary did’

They are not hyper-linked. You can thank me later.

As with any inflammatory situation, please note that I didn’t use the word scandal, it is important to separate facts and logic from rhetoric and emotion.

Was Secretary Clinton’s use of personal e-mail while serving as Secretary of State illegal? No. If you’re hoping her 2016 Presidential bid is going to be halted by an indictment over e-mail, you are bound to be disappointed. The rules, which haven’t earned the right to be called laws, are soft. Squishy, even. Yes, the government is supposed to be open and transparent, but regulations at the time only required those who used private email systems for government business to preserve those e-mails for record keeping with the appropriate agency. Most agencies had the latitude to determine their own policies. While Secretary Clinton might have run afoul of the intent of guidelines in place to preserve governmental transparency (assuming you believe such a thing exists), she certainly did not violate the letter of the law. According to the New York Times, President Obama signed legislation just last year that requires government workers who use personal e-mail for official business to turn those e-mails over to the applicable agency in 20 days. There is a huge hole in that program; I’ll bet you’re all smart enough to find it.

Hillary was smart enough to find it. Her team handed over 30,000 e-mails and deleted 32,000 others because they were deemed “private”. What should or should not be considered private is much like what should or should not be considered beautiful. It’s all in the eye of the beholder. I see a filthy rodent. A snake sees two weeks worth of food.

Given that Secretary Clinton broke no laws, nor violated State Department policy, is this much ado about nothing? Is this just another example of right-wing crazies trying to cripple the likely 2016 Democratic nominee for President? Not exactly. Reputable sources are indicating that Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett orchestrated the probe into the former Secretary’s email use. There is also the matter of Secretary Clinton’s intent. She claimed in a press conference that she used her personal e-mail because she didn’t want to carry two phones. I get that. I don’t like carrying one phone, much less two. Then again, I’m not the Secretary of State, and if two phones was her largest administrative burden, then surely global diplomatic matters were well in hand. I don’t buy it.

She had a private IT firm set up a server in her house. The Clintons aren’t new to this game. She (and he) knew that every move she made as Secretary of State would be scrutinized in her eventual second run at the Presidency. She was also bound and determined to make sure that it wasn’t going to be an errant e-mail, either poorly worded or taken out of context, that took her out at the knees. Team Clinton is much smarter than that. Her actions were not illegal, but you can (and should) know for certain that they were purposeful.

As for the growing political divide in this country, surely this will help.

John Boehner Expected to Announce New House Investigation Into Her Practices

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When One-Stars Become Two-Stars

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For those who care about such things, these are the most recent nominees for promotion to Read Admiral (upper half). The one exception is listed at the bottom. He’s a Navy JAG Captain nominated for Read Admiral (lower half).


 

Navy Reserve Rear Adm. (lower half) Ron J. MacLaren has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. MacLaren is currently serving as director, Joint Contingency Acquisition Support Office, Defense Logistics Agency, Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) John D. Alexander has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Alexander is currently serving as commander, Task Force SEVEN ZERO, and commander, Carrier Strike Group FIVE, Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Brian K. Antonio has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Antonio is currently serving as program executive officer for Littoral Combat Ships, Washington, District of Columbia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Ronald A. Boxall has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Boxall is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group THREE, San Diego, California.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Robert P. Burke has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Burke is currently serving as director of operations, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa; deputy commander, U.S. SIXTH Fleet; and commander, Submarine Group EIGHT, Naples, Italy.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Matthew J. Carter has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Carter is currently serving as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Japan, and commander, Navy Region, Yokosuka, Japan.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Christopher W. Grady has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Grady is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group ONE, San Diego, California.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Michael E. Jabaley Jr., has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Jabaley is currently serving as deputy commander for undersea warfare, SEA-07, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Colin J. Kilrain has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Kilrain is currently serving as commander, Special Operations Command, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Andrew L. Lewis has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Lewis is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group TWELVE, Norfolk, Virginia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) DeWolfe H. Miller has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Miller is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group TWO, Norfolk, Virginia.

Navy Rear Admiral (lower half) Terry J. Moulton has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Moulton is currently serving as commander, Navy Medicine East, and commander, Naval Medical Center, Portsmouth, Virginia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Bret J. Muilenburg has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Muilenburg is currently serving as commander, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Pacific, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) John P. Neagley has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Neagley is currently serving as deputy commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, San Diego, California.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Nancy A. Norton has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Norton is currently serving as director for command, control, communications and cyber (C4), J6, U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Patrick A. Piercey has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Piercey is currently serving as commander, Carrier Strike Group NINE, San Diego, California.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Charles A. Richard has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Richard is currently serving as commander, Submarine Group TEN, Kings Bay, Georgia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Robert D. Sharp has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Sharp is currently serving as director of intelligence, J2, U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, Florida.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Paul A. Sohl has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Sohl is currently serving as commander, Fleet Readiness Centers, and assistant commander for logistics and industrial operations (AIR-6.0), Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Maryland.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Hugh D. Wetherald has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Wetherald is currently serving as commander, Expeditionary Strike Group SEVEN, and commander, Amphibious Force, U.S. SEVENTH Fleet, Okinawa, Japan.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Mark R. Whitney has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Whitney is currently serving as deputy commander, logistics, maintenance, and industrial operations, SEA-04, Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington, District of Columbia.

Navy Rear Adm. (lower half) Ricky L. Williamson has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral. Williamson is currently serving as commander, Navy Region Mid Atlantic, Norfolk, Virginia.

Navy Captain John G. Hannink has been nominated for appointment to the rank of rear admiral and for assignment as deputy judge advocate general of the Navy. Hannink is currently serving as a Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group fellow, Newport, Rhode Island.

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Teddy’s Ready; CVN 71 Deploys with CVW-1.

USSTR full steamI had this one cued up. Thankfully, my fingers, via the trackpad, never wandered to the “Publish” button. Had they done so, I would have been embarrassed. On occasion, events that cannot be foretold come to be. Members of the intelligentsia call them black swans. I am not fully prepared to call this event a black swan, as I have been similarly plagued by such circumstance. USS THEODORE ROOSEVELT (CVN 71), an aircraft carrier now underway, was delayed in her deployment by clogged seawater intakes. This is not a horribly unique condition. Spineless sea-critters have a history of causing these problems.

“USS Theodore Roosevelt is temporarily delayed in getting underway due to unexpected fouling of seawater piping due to marine growth. It is not uncommon for fouling this time of year in the James River,” Fleet Forces spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Reann Mommsen wrote in an email.

If it’s not uncommon this time of year in the James River, that means that someone must have known it might happen, which then begs the question….. oh, never mind. My own experience with clogged seawater intakes does not have a happy ending. We were inport Brisbane, Australia. Ocean-going invertebrates did what they do, only their antics did not delay our departure, they quite hastened it. And don’t you know that a hastened departure from such lovely environs is very much not a good thing. Imagine the dismay. I shed tears of “Old Yeller” volume and frequency.

The good ship TR is now and finally under sail. It’s a magical moment made noteworthy by both sadness and relief. It is sad because it is always hard to be gone from home. Relief comes by way of anticipation’s end and impending execution of the Lord’s work. When the brow comes up, it’s time to get on with it. There is no looking back. Lest you believe otherwise, I assure you that TR’s brief delay was not a good thing. One goodbye is enough. Multiple goodbyes are nearly unbearable.

Right now, there are trails of tears strewn about the continental United States as the embarkable units, to include the ship and her crew, unplug from the mainland in order to set about our nation’s enemies for 3/4s of a year. There are an untold number of marquee events that our Sailors will miss. Graduations. Birthdays. Anniversaries. Holidays. First steps. Baseball games. May they all be missed in pursuit of a just and noble cause. And may we all remember that heroes don’t always wear a uniform.

Right now, there is a junior officer who is terrified at the realization that he forgot to pack an obscure cord that is the only one of its kind capable of operating the video projector that hangs from the ready room ceiling. In short order, there will be a frantic phone call made from ship-to-shore that will direct some poor sap to the local Best Buy in order to find its replacement. Financial compensation is, of course, forthcoming. The remainder of the late fly-ons will bring Krispy Kreme donuts, Taco Bell, newspapers, and anything else that carries with it the stink of society soon to be left behind.

Right now, the ready rooms look as though someone lit a stick of dynamite underneath 50 pounds of tinker toys. Work-centers are awash in tools. IT specialists are realizing that, even though the ship and air wing were underway just two months prior, none of the computers work and every e-mail account must be reset with new passwords. Bags and cruise boxes are dragged to the staterooms. In them are books that might get read, foreign language software that will never be opened, and contraband that will satiate one vice or another.

Many moons ago, when I was but a Lieutenant, I had a casual discussion with my Commanding Officer about time spent on dets and deployments. I had astutely observed that professional golfers arguably spent more time on the road than naval aviators. He deadpanned, “True, but they’re doing it to play golf”. There can’t be any question that the duties awaiting our recently deployed Sailors are relevant, if not historic.

Get some, Tarbox / Rough Rider team. If my memories of time spent on that very team are accurate, you’ll do just that. Speak softly and carry a big stick. A very big stick.

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I Would Like to Walk Gus

One of my many faults is that I’m very hesitant to start something I fear I can’t finish. This blog falls into that category. I found one reason after another not to begin writing. In spite of my reticence, this blog was born. You can’t win what you don’t put in the middle. You won’t make the US Olympic Volleyball Team if you don’t play volleyball. And that. When you get right down to it, there is nothing wrong with discovering that you’re not very good at brewing beer. Just get after it, man. You might even enjoy your mistakes.

The gentleman who inspired me to quit worrying about whether or not my proposed blog would succeed was not even here to prod me. Were he here when I was dawdling, he would have told me to get on with it, already. The handsome fella in question is pictured below with his handsomer bride.

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That photograph was taken off the coast of China on a very fine piece of property. I remember it well. His future was so bright, he couldn’t even keep his eyes open. Were Cognac and cigars involved? Maybe. If anyone asks, we paid fair market value for them. I have receipts.

Lex passed too soon. At least he did so unshackled by cubicles and classified internet accounts. He lived a life worth living. It’s all he knew how to do. Look closely; there is a lesson there.

In honor of this morose anniversary, I’d like to offer everyone a reason to smile by sharing my favorite blog post from Neptunus Lex. Swish it around your glass. Take in the bouquet. Have a sip. Let it roll over your entire palette. The man’s words flowed like creek-water over mossy stones. So effortless. Behold, the unbearable lightness of Lex. I am better for my time with him.


Walking Gus

Apart from being the principle breadwinner at Chez Lex, among my household chores includes picking up the mail from a drop box up the street. In this duty I am inevitably assisted, accompanied and abetted by Gus, the dachshund.

Gus, occasional readers may remember, was destined to serve as the one and only present requested by the Kat on celebration of her 14th trip around the sun. He cleverly managed to worm his way into my dear wife’s heart – and at least partially alienate himself from the Kat’s affections – through the agency of soiling himself not one quarter mile from the breeder’s gate on the trip back home. Unprepared as we were for this eventuality, the Kat and I went looking for a proper carry crate, as well as summat to clean up the mess in a little shopping complex down the road. Whilst thus engaged, Gus and the Hobbit “bonded,” as they say. And the rest is history.

Gus was magnanimous in victory however, and even allowed me to continue sharing the Hobbit’s bed, so long as I knew my place and respected the proper boundaries. One of the concessions he extracted from me was the requirement that he accompany on my afternoon walk to the mail box after coming home from work, yea, verily even on a Sunday, despite my protestations to him that no mail is ever delivered on the Sabbath. I have come to the conclusion that, from Gus’ perspective, my household duties take a back seat to his entertainment, not to mention certain biological imperatives, the urgency of which he alone is qualified to know.

No longer a puppy, Gus is nevertheless a wee, sma’ thing, a member of what is known as the “teacup” breed of dachshund. He’s got a big-heart for such a little package, and is a bold scamp whose expressions – and here I admit to anthropomorphizing – vary between curiosity bordering on concern and frank joy, the latter being the customary visage presented upon my return home, weary from the evils sufficient to the laboring day. There is much wriggling, whimpering and moaning until I have set down my burdens and leashed him for the walk, which action is routinely completed with a yawning yelp of excitement. Once out the door it would amaze you how a ten pound dog can almost dislocate your shoulder, given a running start. I theorize that, could one leash a teacup dachshund in each hand without them getting all tangled in a coil – an admittedly unlikely prospect – one could readily stand atop a skateboard and travel at one’s leisure for a goodly mile at least, he’s that enthusiastic, and wouldn’t that be good for the environment if not my waistline?

The closest route to the mail box is to the east once established on the sidewalk which stands in front of the Crushing Burden of Debt, but an alternative and rectangular route leads first to the west for half a block before turning south for a few hundred feet, then east again through a cozy little parkway, narrower on its entrance than at its exit. At its terminus the park becomes a playground where the younger children play, like puppies themselves, as yet happily unaware of the greater world and its hard edges. One more left turn from the parkway leads us back to the street and thence to the mail box and home.

Except during the very rare periods of inclement Sandy Eggo weather, Gus and I invariably take the longer route, it being both more scenic for the pedestrian, whether he walks on two legs or four, but also better for our respective constitutions. When it does rain, I have to take the shorter route, and carry a large umbrella, for Gus is apparently convinced that he is made of sugar and will certainly dissolve should he be exposed for any duration to the elements.

Eager though he might be to get on with it, Gus will nevertheless pause to lift his leg and water our next door neighbor’s precious shrubbery – but sparingly, only sparingly, for there are many, many features along our pathway that must be serviced, and both careful analysis and hard-won experience have demonstrated that a small dog can only carry so much water.

At the park’s opening, I will generally let Gus run free so long as there are no other dogs coming in the opposite direction. I take the precaution of trailing his leash behind him, the better to gather him back at end, for without any encumbrance of any sort he can be deucedly hard to re-capture, the wicked rascal and everything is sport to a dachshund. This conditional freedom is deeply resented by the larger dogs whose houses back into the park, and Gus typically answers their antagonisms with the lifted leg, followed by rakishly throwing one ear flap atop his head and jauntily trotting off. Restrained by their respective fences, the neighbor dogs howl out their anger and secretly plot their dark revenges, but if Gus nourishes some private doubts about his fate should ever he meet them in the open, he hides them well.

Dachshunds are at their cores “hounds,” animals bred to course for prey, low slung and with a keen nose for scents. I marvel at all the many several trees, tufts of grass, signposts, trash receptacles and even flowers that must be carefully snuffled and whuffled along our way, and what deep, canine mysteries are revealed to him in his careful examinations. Whatever these mysteries may be, there appear to be only two appropriate reactions: Far the more common response is the lifted leg, but a second consists of – and to the human nose, or at least one carefully kept a good five feet above the ground, the distinction is inexplicable – territory that, having been deeply scented of, is then momentarily pawed at before being rolled in. He will drive his left shoulder into the exposed scent, and then writhe his back around in it, whether to share in the other creature’s scent – and here I engage in conjecture – or to mask it with his own he has never seen fit to share with me.

There may be twenty such reactions on a usual day, and towards the end they take the form of courtesy rather than need, because with all the will in the world, poor Gus has typically exhausted his ammunition by the time we take the final turn to the mailbox. In all his exertions there may be one or two places that, having been carefully tended, must be fiercely kicked and dusted by his rear legs before the job can be properly considered done. Whether this is intended to cover the scent or spread it more broadly is open to interpretation, but I prefer the former explanation to the latter, if only because – having satisfied himself through dint of strenuous effort – he always energetically leaps from the scene as though fleeing culpability.

Having tried to wrench my shoulder from its socket for the first three-fourths of our quotidian journey, Gus will turn truculent on the last leg and I am forced to tug him from each and every new blade of grass or sidewalk stain that he would happily spend the rest of the day examining, anything to prolong the ramble just a few moments more. By the time we reach the mail box, he is typically resigned to his fate however and – taking no interest whatsoever in the contents of the mail itself, which was after all, the ostensible reason for our expedition – trot contentedly the rest of the way home.

There will always be mail tomorrow, in Gus’ mind. Even on a Sunday.


He was better than me. I’m neither ashamed nor afraid to admit it.

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Oh, Bibi

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I wanted to write about the Netanyahu speech. It made perfect sense to do so, yet I had resolved this morning not to do it. In a former job, I studied that part of the world, so I see some things others might not notice. I’m not an expert, for whatever that means. Even experts are overcome by their own biases, which run deep on all matters Israel. Ultimately, the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech to Congress was a lot of posturing. Posturing by everyone involved. Nancy Pelosi was near tears because of the “insult to the intelligence of the United States”. Standing ovations were just as meaningless as they are at the State of the Union address. I didn’t know how to dissect all of this and offer anything useful to you. These situations present only the option to take sides. Rest assured that Netanyahu sees the President’s administration as an adversary, so yes, I meant taking sides.

Voting for Team Israel is logical as they are the nation facing a very existential threat at the hands of a sovereign nation that has vowed to remove them from the map. They deal with very real problems with a very direct impact. They aren’t involved in conflicts with the goal of preventing enemies from massing at their borders. Their enemies are at their borders now. It’s not hard to discern how the Prime Minister’s cause would garner support.. Then again, Netanyahu proposed nothing more than “don’t do what you’re doing now”. Moreover, there is an Israeli election in less than two weeks.

Voting for Team Obama is also logical. Right now, you are wondering why I didn’t write Team America. Was it a mistake? No, it was not a mistake. Netanyahu was invited to address Congress by House Speaker John Boehner. What Netanyahu wanted was to rally support from Congress and the American people in order to put pressure on the White House, whose recent efforts at international diplomacy could best be described as squishy. For their part, the President’s administration and the Department of State don’t have the luxury of viewing the world’s problems in isolation. Iran is not viewed as just a threat to Israel. They are the Shiite hegemon with tentacles that permeate the entire Middle East. They also possess the cork to the wine bottle that is the Arabian Gulf (or Persian Gulf, were you to ask them).

Israel is the youth baseball player who has lost his glove an hour before game time. His only concern is having a glove to use in the game. America is the parent or guardian who has to produce a glove or suffer unbearable guilt. This parent may have to pay for a new glove, which then requires payment for the missing belongings of the baseball player’s siblings. If unwilling to submit said payment, uncomfortable conversations ensue. Perspective changes everything.

Perhaps a better question, and one that has been swirling in my head like a funnel cloud for decades, is why America’s Jewish population so overwhelmingly (5:1) leans to the political left. I’ve spent no small amount of effort researching the topic in years past. By researching, I mean reading other people’s articles. I gather that qualifies. They’ve all left me wanting. In short, they largely claim that the long history of Jewish oppression allies them more closely to the liberal cause. Additionally, American Jews decreasingly feel direct ties to Israel as a nation-state, meaning Israeli interests are not assumed to be synonymous with Jewish interests.

That’s no small amount of drivel for a guy who had not intended to write about the Netanyahu speech. I mean no disrespect to the Israeli Prime Minister or what anyone hoped might get accomplished yesterday, but I can tell you what did get accomplished yesterday. Very little. HuffPo put it best: “Lawmakers impressed but unmoved.” One might even argue that it was another burst of the flame thrower up the middle of the theater audience that sent patrons sprawling to their respective sides. And that, we surely didn’t need.

Photo Credit: NBC News

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