France’s Strategic Vision — Planned Inadequacy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Last week, the French government released its outline for future defense strategy and spending. The presentation made it clear that the Macron government wishes to cut its defense budget, concentrate on high-technology advancements, and reduce manpower. When questioned about the feasibility of the force reductions at a time when the French military seems to be busier than it has been in recent decades, a French military spokesman, on behalf of the French Ministry of Defense, stuck to a tightly-scripted play book.

Notably, he did not deny that the restructuring would be inadequate for France’s national security needs. Instead, in a rare instance of political honesty, he said that in the future, the French would rely on “more privileged countries like the UK and USA to provide the necessary manpower.”

French military parade on Bastille Day — soon to be outsourced?
Image US DOD, public domain

That statement was brief and seemed to slip right past the “privileged countries” that France says would have the privilege of sending their flesh and blood to defend France.

However, in spite of the lack of coverage by the US and UK media, it did not quite go completely unnoticed, as in, Piper and I noticed it. We get it. Everyone gets tired of adulting sometimes. These days, politicians commonly woo voters with promises of cradle-to-grave dependence on the “more privileged,” but it’s unusual that a country would actually admit that it expects cradle-to-grave dependence on other countries to provide its defense, so we believe it is worth examining France’s strategic vision more closely.

In a world controlled primarily by despotic nations that offer little freedom and little hope for the future, Western Europe matters. If France were surrounded by allies with more military power, then it would perhaps be less important that France is actively planning on a strategy of military inadequacy, as their neighbors could rush across the border to assist whenever needed. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. 

A country’s Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) is a standard measure for arguing military spending by NATO member nations, and while this article does not pertain directly to the ongoing NATO debate, percent of GDP spent on defense gives us a legitimate measure. We can optimistically claim that France’s commitment to its national security is backed up by defense spending in the neighborhood of 2.3% of its GDP. However, their allegedly powerful neighbors in Germany only have a defense budget on the order of 1.4% GDP. To France’s southwest, the Spanish have risen from a laughable 0.8% GDP to a still-pathetic 1.2% GDP spending on defense. While a nation’s defense spending as a percent of GDP cannot tell us everything about the quality of its military, it does tell us what that particular nation’s commitment is to national and, in the case of Western European nations, international security.

That said, the numbers change depending on who you ask and who is doing the asking. I am using the numbers that seem to me to be most reliable, based on a combination of what each country most frequently admits and what third-party analysis by groups such as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute provide. In any case, everyone’s estimates indicate that France’s closest neighbors are in no position to substantially reinforce them.

In the case of Germany, the government and defense industries are partnering closely in hopes of completing more lucrative foreign sales while ignoring the Germany military’s own desperate need for parts, new equipment, and maintenance.

For example, the German Navy has accepted responsibility for submarine patrols in the Baltic Sea—a critical commitment to NATO and Western security in this age of Putin Imperialism. Germany designed and built six submarines optimized for operations in the relatively shallow waters of the Baltic and it allocated suitable manpower. That in itself was no small expense, as skilled submarine crews are so difficult to recruit and train. Unfortunately, Germany did not maintain those submarines due to lack of dry dock time and insufficient parts production. As a result, if the German submarine forces had to put to sea tomorrow, they likely could not keep a single submarine at sea for more than ten days.

You heard correctly—the Germans famous for the U-boats now are not capable of keeping even one submarine operational at sea for more than a handful of days.

Stranded German U-boat 1921 — Who knew this would be the standard in 98 years?

So why didn’t Germany allocate adequate dry dock time and produce parts for the critical maintenance of its submarines?

Because German shipyards were occupied with rushing through construction of new submarines for Israel. That was good news for the Israeli Navy and for German industrial giants. It was bad news for the German submarine force, for NATO, and for Germany’s self-defense.

The German Luftwaffe is in better condition, but it is still not in adequate condition. Due to a shortage in maintenance budget and parts, an undisclosed number of Germany’s planes are not operational at this time. All air forces have planes down for maintenance on any given day, but in the case of the German Luftwaffe, the numbers are so dismal to German taxpayers and NATO partners that Merkel’s government prefers not to announce them.

As for Spain, its current government is claiming that it intends to increase defense spending substantially over the next six years to address its many shortfalls in equipment and operational abilities. Also, in the last two years, Spain has been more willing to provide Spanish personnel to counterterror operations around the world. Like France, Spain, too, maintains garrisons of elite forces in North Africa in locations such as Ceuta and Melilla. However, the Spanish military currently lacks both sufficient financial and popular support to fulfill its strategic vision. The lack of popular support leaves us wondering if its current and next governments will actually complete Spain’s defense rebuilding goals. What we do know, though, is that in its current state, Spain can only minimally contribute to the defense of Europe.  

So then, how about those “more privileged” countries? As far as I know, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States were consulted about France’s new strategy of planned inadequacy. In fact, I am quite certain that they were not consulted. For that matter, the Macron government did not even do much consulting with its own military leaders.  

The Macron government operates on the assumption that everything that the French military needs to know about military matters is what Macron tells it. French military leaders can either support the government’s positions and fantasies, or they can find new careers. Macron and his ministers do not wish to waste their time by listening to the military opinions of generals and admirals.   

It’s not difficult to guess how the current US administration will respond to France’s cute little plan to let Americans provide the French with manpower for their defense. I do not represent the opinions of the US government. I assume that the US administration will respond quietly.

How the UK government responds, though, is of no great consequence. The United Kingdom currently spends only 1.8% of GDP on defense—an even worse defense spending record than France. Also, the United Kingdom, similar to Germany, has currently failed to provide its Navy with the ships that it will need to complete its missions.

I respect the sailors of the UK Royal Navy. They are excellent, but they can’t perform miracles. They need the ships and manpower to complete the missions that the UK government claims that it wishes its navy to complete. Also, while the UK Royal Air Force is in a much better condition than the German Luftwaffe, it has suffered funding cuts to programs that the UK government considered essential. As a result, the Royal Air Force has fewer planes and drones than the UK government agreed that it needs. 

However, a closer look at France’s military systems does offer a somewhat brighter picture.

France has been successful in small antiterror operations in Africa, even with a low budget and poorly-performing helicopters. Lacking helicopters when operating far from any major bases in rugged and remote areas is no easy task. War is easier with adequate airborne resupply and close air support. Enemy strongholds are not particularly bothersome once an air force has been kind enough to drop the proper ordnance on their locations. Without those advantages of adequate helicopters and air support, a country like Chad is a much more daunting theater of operations. The French Army deserves credit for succeeding there, and the French government deserves credit for sending its army there.

France has made good use of two critical advantages in their operations in Africa. First, France has enough personnel overall to enable a system that includes large numbers of forces that specialize in geographic areas. That allows the French to better prepare and shape operations in hostile environments. Second, having forces specialized in geographic areas allows France to pursue a tactic of what we might call “vertical intelligence delivery.” That is to say that the private on patrol is almost as well-informed of all useful available intelligence in his area of operations as is the regimental commander. This greatly minimizes the chance of small patrols unwittingly drifting into ambushes. It also helps the soldiers to establish better relationships with the locals. Both of these advantages will be impacted with force reductions, which will make it more difficult for France to maintain this regional expertise.

The one exception might be the French Foreign Legion. The Legion is excellent, and it will remain viable in the foreseeable future, though it is limited in size, equipment, and logistic support and can only do so much with what it has.  

So how do we form a reasonable view of what the future of Western European defense spending and strategy will look like? Understanding the money and politics might clarify things a bit. Let us glance at a few European cases.

France claims that it is emphasizing high-tech equipment upgrades because that will allow it to operate a smaller, but equally effective, military force. There is perhaps some truth to this, but the more obvious reason is that France wants to focus on foreign military sales rather than its own defense. In particular, the French government intends to quietly keep French defense industries successful and profitable by supplying Mideast and African nations with military equipment. Those French companies would be happy to sell their wares to just about anyone, but they have been most successful in recent years with sales to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. Helping to build other nations’ defense forces is more profitable than building their own. 

Italy is more direct about its intentions to market its ships and other military equipment to any buyers with cash.

The Italian defense corporations make no secret that they intend to complete as many foreign sales as possible, and that their product designs are emphasizing foreign sales as opposed to the needs of the Italian military. As for the Italian government’s defense strategy and planning, those are easy to understand on any given day, but one might not wish to put in even that minimal effort to do so, as tomorrow they will change again.

The German government currently feels that it is important to give the appearance of being highly restrained in foreign military sales.

German corporations attempt to be less public about their foreign marketing efforts than the Italians or the French. The reality is that German ships, tanks, guns, and the occasional Eurofighter are all for sale to those who have the cash. The buyers just need to reassure the Germans that the armaments will not be used to kill anyone, because the German government likes to maintain the illusion that munitions are to be used for peace, not for war.

The underlying assumption in Western Europe is that it is not currently under threat by any peer or near-peer forces.

In the case of France, it will continue to rely on the bedrock of Gaullist military thinking, which is to maintain a viable nuclear force to deter Putin, Kim, or anyone else from conducting all-out military operations against them. Young readers might find that approach strange and a bit simpleminded, but France, along with the United Kingdom, sees its nuclear weapons as a viable national security insurance. This Gaullist approach is as ingrained in French military planning as it is in UK, US, and Russian military planning. Western European countries overall, however, assume that terrorist attacks will continue, and they intend to maintain adequate military forces to deal with that threat.  

From the US and UK points of view, there would be no benefit in reacting too strongly to France’s “let the United States and United Kingdom defend us” strategy. The Macron government is speaking to its voters rather than addressing strategic realities.

The Yellow Vests are on the verge of storming the Bastille in their opposition to Macron, and Macron and his handlers have to invent something that sounds like good news to the French working class voters while pretending to give a damn about them. France and NATO have weathered worse storms than the Macron wind storm. They will survive Macron, as well.

In reality, the only thing new in France’s strategy statement is that it is actually admitting to what we already knew—that France is unwilling to carry the burden of its own defense and instead is willfully dependent on its allies. Prepare for the status quo to continue, but maybe don’t stand between Macron and the Yellow Vests.

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What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft, and the personal challenges of the people behind the myths.

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Real News: March 5 Mashup

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Real News Mashup is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please share articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can remember that the world is bigger than the propaganda storm.

 

 

Things That Might Make You Want to Slap Someone

Why the US Supreme Court’s New Ruling on Excessive Fines is a Big Deal — German Lopez, Vox

Today’s Supreme Court rarely hands down a unanimous ruling. This is one of them.

 

“Dear Attorney General Barr”: Advice from Insiders — Sheryl Attkisson, The Hill

I found this list compiled by several lifelong veterans of the military and intelligence communities. They were asked the question, “What should be Attorney General Barr’s top priorities?” These are their answers. 

 

 

Saudis Prepare Trials of Detainees Identified as Women’s Rights Activists   Hesham Hajali, Reuters

In other words, Saudi women can now drive under limited conditions in Saudi Arabia, but those who fought for the right are now being prosecuted. And just to make sure none of the Saudi women forget they are still chattel in the Sharia Law kingdom . . .

 

Google, Siding with Saudi Arabia, Refuses to Remove Widely-Criticized Government App That Lets Men Track Women and Control Their Travels — Bill Bostock, Business Insider

 

US-Backed Forces Launch What Could Be the Last Major Battle Against ISIS in Syria Small Wars Journal, Articles by Liz Sly of The Washington Post and Gordon Lubold of The Wall Street Journal

 

Venezuela’s Suicide: Lessons from a Failed State — Moisés Naím and Francisco Toro, Foreign Affairs

Forty years ago, Venezuela had a thriving economy. Now, millions rush to escape the failed state. It took decades to get from Point A to Point B, and the journey has many lessons for the rest of us.

 

DIA Mole Ana Montes
FBI mug shot, public domain

 

Ana Montes Did Much Harm Spying for Cuba. Chances Are, You Haven’t Heard of Her. — Jim Popkin, The Washington Post  

 

China Is Building Soft Power In US Schools — Rachel Oswald, Roll Call

 

Smart Home Assistants, Like Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Apple HomePod, Might Soon Report Their Owners to the Police for Breaking the Law — Charlie Nash, Breitbart

 

Now Facebook is Allowing Anyone to Look You Up Using Your Security Phone Number — Michael Grothaus, Fast Company   

Facebook does not allow anyone to opt out, but the article has instructions in the last paragraph to limit access to your phone number to “friends.”

 

Seeding Control to Big Agriculture — Gracy Olmstead, The American Conservative

In the Canada Has Lost Its Flaming Mind Department . . .

 

Defending Yourself Against a Home Invader Is Now a Criminal Offense in Canada — Lance D. Johnson, News Target

 

Police In Canada Are Tracking People’s “Negative” Behavior In a “Risk” Database — Nathan Munn, ViceI

“Information in the database includes whether a person uses drugs, has been the victim of an assault, or lives in a ‘negative neighborhood.'” . . . What’s next? A Citizenship Score? IMHO, a road to hell soundly paved with the good intentions of decent Canadians.

 

Stepping Back from the Edge . . .

From Bombers to Big Macs: Vietnam A Lesson In Reconciliation — Denis D. Gray and Hau Dinh, Associated Press

 

The Disease of More — Mark Manson, Mark Manson  

 

Meet the Skier Who Made the “Impossible” First Solo Descent of K2 — Aaron Teasdale, National Geographic

 

8 Etiquette Tips for Social Receptions at Conferences — Lenny Zeltser, Lenny Zeltser

 

 

A Message in a Bottle Washed Up on Padre island–57 Years Later  — Dan Soloman, Texas Monthly

 

And These are Just Fun . . .

 

Couple Who Served in WWII Together, Married Seven Decades, Pass Away on Same Day  Healthy Food House

 

Game of Thrones First Look: Inside the Brutal Battle to Make Season 8 — James Hibberd, Entertainment

 

Hadrian’s Wall Archeologists Discover Rude Grafitti and Pictures of Roman Quarrymen Who Built It — Patrick Sawer, The Telegraph

 

The funniest thing that happened this week, unless you are Russian. Watch as the Russian freighter Seaguard plows into this bridge in Busan, South Korea. . . . No injuries or deaths reported, so laugh away!

 

All the best to all of you for a week of avoiding the obvious obstacles.

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What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft, and the personal challenges of the people behind the myths. Order now at Amazon and Kobo

 

 

Real News Mashup–January 24, 2019

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

News Finds is a compilation of articles that I consider to be interesting, informative, or both. Please feel free to share non-political articles of your own in the comments. Perhaps if we work together, we can combat the overwhelming propaganda we are bombarded with by mainstream media.

This post is a bit long, as I’ve been stacking up articles for a while.

 

General Interest

 

Tony Mendez, “Argo” CIA Officer Who Smuggled US Hostages Out of Iran During Crisis, Dies at 78

A master of forgery and disguise, Tony Mendez was an outstanding professional and an outstanding human being. Rest in peace. #Respect

How the Media Convinces Us All the We’re Outraged — Even When No One Cares

Someone posted a video online of youngest senator Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez dancing. Social media exploded with outrage at the “conservative outrage” over her video. I noticed, though, that I didn’t actually see any of the conservative outrage that was the supposed source of all of this leftist outrage. Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed.

Police Have No Duty to Protect You, Federal Court Confirms Yet Again

Something to keep in mind when considering personal security issues.

Davos Billionaires Keep Getting Richer

The world’s billionaires and their political minions are meeting in Davos, Switzerland this month.

My own observation:

In the past, the richest people were visible and had the responsibility of ruling nations. We called them kings and queens. Since democratic forms of government came along, the richest people have been able to outsource public appearances and the daily headaches of governing the masses to minions known as “world leaders.” We like to believe that media is above it all and holds these world leaders and their largely invisible billionaire backers accountable for their actions, but mainstream media is owned by those billionaire backers, so mainstream “news” reduced to agenda-driven propaganda.

And the rest of us? The handful* who own the world see us as the barnyard animals to be herded and juggled for their money-farming needs, i.e. “We need more cheap labor in Europe. Let’s get our minions there to push open immigration.” Sort of like, “We need more plow horses. We’ll introduce another twenty to the herd. It will take some time for the herd to adjust, but it will.”

Where in the past the owners of the world used religion to inspire the outrage necessary to get the mob going the right direction, now they use social buzzwords and politics.

Conspiracy? Not at all. Simply the organic alignment of personal interests.

*When I say handful, I mean handful. According to a recent report by Oxfam, only 26 people now own as much as 50% of the entire world’s poorest.

 

 

Military/Intelligence Articles

 

Defense Intelligence Agency (“DIA”) Chinese Military Power Report

An excellent report on Chinese Military Power published by the US Naval Institute.

Does the US Face an AI Ethics Gap? 

This article explores the Artificial Intelligence Ethics Gap in the Western world that impacts military defense. In other words, Communist China and other countries develop AI technologies in ways that are ethically prohibited in Western societies. Does this put Western societies at a disadvantage? It poses an interesting dilemma.

On Nobility and the CIA’s War in Afghanistan

Setting the record straight.

The US Intelligence Community Wants Disruptive Change as Long as It’s Not Disruptive

An excellent piece on how collecting facts without thought is like doing steps without dancing.

OSS Training in the National Parks and Service Abroad in WWII

A fairly intense downloadable book on the history of the OSS and its relationship with the National Parks.

 

Now let’s lighten up!

 

Man “Marries” Laptop, Sues for State Recognition and a Wedding Cake

Yes. Really. Can’t make this up.

Bring It On! New Taliban Video Shows Intense Training for New Cheer Squad Competition

Likely hilarious to anyone who has served in the US Armed Forces.

Photos from the Moon’s Far Side: China’s Chang’e 4 Lunar Landing in Pictures

First pictures from the dark side of the moon. *queues up Pink Floyd*

Florida Couple Run Over by Patrol Car While Lying in Road to Watch Lunar Eclipse

A Darwin Award near miss, for sure.

Natural Beauty of Wildlife Beneath the Waves Revealed in Stunning Pics

The word “stunning” is generally overused these days, but it applies in this instance.

 

The Tank Chair

 

 

 

All the best to all of you for a week of stunning beauty.

Piper

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Rules of Engagement:

  1. We love comments.
  2. Feel free to disagree with me and with each other in comments as long as arguments are rational and not things like “It scares me so it should be banned.” Thoughtful disagreement fosters intellectual growth for all of us.
  3. Civil Discourse is strictly enforced. That means you can say anything as long as you focus on the concepts and say it with respect, free of personal insults.
  4. No arguing or advocating for or against Trump or any other politician, no matter what your position. We are all inundated with too much of that already.
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Espionage Info for Everyone — SPYCRAFT: Essentials

Bayard & Holmes

We are proud to announce the birth of our new book baby, SPYCRAFT: Essentials.

 

 

What do the main intelligence agencies do and where do they operate? How do they recruit personnel? What are real life honey pots and sleeper agents? What about truth serums and enhanced interrogations? And what are the most common foibles of popular spy fiction?

With the voice of over forty years of experience in the Intelligence Community, Bayard & Holmes answer these questions and share information on espionage history, firearms of spycraft, tradecraft techniques, and the personalities and personal challenges of the men and women behind the myths.

Though crafted with advice and specific tips for writers, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is for anyone who wants to learn more about the inner workings of the Shadow World.

 

Now available on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, and in print at Amazon.

 

“For any author, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is the new bible for crafting stories of espionage. It’s also perfect for anyone who wants to know the lengths nations will go to keep or steal secrets and the methods they will use to do so. This is a bombshell of a book.”

~ James Rollins
New York Times Bestselling Author of The Demon Crown

 

“From novices to experts, I suspect everyone will find something in this book that they did not know before.”

~ Doug Patteson
Film Technical Advisor and Former CIA Officer

 

“Bayard and Holmes have done the unprecedented: crafted a fully informative, while wholly unclassified, overview on American spycraft with a special focus on preparing novelists for realistic scene writing. That said, this little treasure should not be limited to writers. Because it delivers solid, valuable information as a comprehensive primer on how the Intelligence Community really operates, SPYCRAFT: Essentials is a must-read for all involved Americans.”

~ Rob DuBois
Retired US Navy SEAL and NSA Collector

 

“An instant classic. Detailed, insightful, and authentic, SPYCRAFT: Essentials for Writers is my go-to reference for all things espionage.”

~ Grant Blackwood
New York Times Bestselling Author of the Briggs Tanner series

 

“An essential addition to every thriller writer’s library. If you want to know how the Intelligence Community really works, read SPYCRAFT: Essentials and you’ll get it right every time. Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes know their stuff!”

~Diane Capri
Award Winning New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Hunt for Jack Reacher series

The USS Fitzgerald/ACX Crystal Collision – Questions & Conclusions

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

At approximately 2:20 a.m. local time on June 17, 2017 the US Navy Destroyer USS Fitzgerald suffered a collision with the Philippines-registered container ship ACX Crystal approximately 64 miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan.

 

USS Fitzgerald at Yokosuka Naval Base
Image by US Navy employee, public domain

 

The 29,000-ton container ship suffered minor damage and was not impeded from continuing its journey to Tokyo. The 9,000-ton Arleigh Burke class USS Fitzgerald, on the other hand, suffered significant damage on her starboard side. Based on early reports, the USS Fitzgerald was in danger of sinking, and seven of her crew members lost their lives.

First and foremost, we extend our sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the seven sailors who lost their lives.

This collision reminds us that there is no such thing as a “safe” deployment. Because of what those seven sailors suffered and what their families are now paying, decency demands that we be cautious in drawing conclusions about the causes of the collision.

Our US Navy, along with the broader US defense community, exists to ensure the sovereignty of the United States of America and the freedom and safety of her citizens.

Modern, extravagantly expensive and highly complicated Burke class destroyers play a critical role in that mission. These ships are an important and finite asset, and we currently have sixty-one of them in active service with fourteen more in various stages of design and building.

From my perspective, the loss of any service member always matters. Now, and at a time when only a small minority of eligible young Americans are willing to serve in our military, it is even more important for our military to do what it can to minimize personnel casualties.

In modern corporate America, workers are generally disposable and easily replaceable, but in the modern US military, qualified soldiers and sailors are a precious resource. The US military is in the business of war, and human losses are a grim, but somewhat unavoidable, result of war and war preparations. However, we must endeavor to not waste the lives of our service members due to inadequate equipment, doctrine, training, or leadership.

In an attempt to avoid similar calamities in the future, the US Navy and the US Coast Guard will each conduct thorough independent investigations of the collision.

The Navy will, in fact, conduct two parallel investigations. The Japanese Coast Guard is also conducting an investigation, and the Philippine government has, not surprisingly, announced that it, too, will conduct its own investigation. In addition, beyond all the official investigations, any number of intelligence services from a variety of nations will be searching for any unusual evidence relative to the collision.

All investigations of maritime calamities rely on constructing an accurate and detailed timeline of the events leading up to and subsequent to the impact. The communications logs, navigations logs, bridge recordings, and all physical evidence from the USS Fitzgerald and the ACX Crystal must be examined in detail. Also, all members of both crews must be questioned. The investigators have not had time to gather and examine all of the statements and evidence, and they have yet to offer any conclusions concerning the causes of the accident.

The fact that the professional investigators have yet to draw conclusions has not stopped the legions of not-professional armchair naval experts from reaching ironclad conclusions. The fact that those ironclad conclusions of the not-professionals seem to change by the hour does nothing to dissuade these folks from fervently and passionately espousing what they consider to be irrefutable fact.

Many Americans care a great deal about our Navy, our entire military, and our nation’s defense. That perhaps explains their need to have immediate answers as to whom or what caused the disaster. I salute their patriotism. For a democracy to survive, it requires the diligence of enough of its citizens to overcome apathy. However, I suggest to them that they remain flexible in their views until more evidence is available.

Some of the opinions being passionately expressed are, to say the least, a bit colorful. Most collisions at sea do not involve complex conspiracies or exotic causes, and a collision in a shipping route at night in busy waters is not altogether rare. This collision has our attention because it involved one of our valuable “Burkes,” and because seven sailors lost their lives.

Many of the conspiracy theories popping up are influenced by several key factors.

First, the night was clear. Even on a clear night at sea, haze can impair and distort a helmsman’s or watch stander’s view, and judging the distance and speed of another ship at night is not as simple as it sounds. Even so, in this day and age, we all quite reasonably expect that any modern US Navy warship has adequate radar, sonar, transponder sensors, and adequate information processing systems to detect and note an approaching 29,000-ton freighter. It begs the question, how did the Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal not see each other in time to avoid a collision? In theory, only one of the ships’ crews would need to be aware of the other ship in time to avoid a disaster.

The second reason the public is suspicious is that the accident occurred near Japan, where China and/or North Korea might be able to easily influence events. I, too, am suspicious. In fact, I am justifiably suspicious of the North Koreans and the Chicoms every moment of every day. However, we must remember that suspicion is not, in itself, evidence.

Third, some early and not yet verified statements indicate that the ACX Crystal had her running lights and her navigation transponder off. At this point, my suspicion is that her transponder was on, but I may be wrong. I am not sure about her lights. If they were in fact off, then that may well have been a major contributing factor to the collision. We will have to wait for all the crewmen to be questioned and data logs from multiple sources to be examined before we know if those assertions are accurate.

A fourth factor that drives suspicions of foul play is the fact that as a container ship, sophisticated electronics warfare equipment capable of damaging or temporarily obstructing radar and radio systems could conceivably have been loaded on to the ACX Crystal without the knowledge of the captain or crew. Such equipment could have been activated remotely.

It’s important that for now we remember the critical difference between “could have been” and “was.”

At this point, I estimate that Communist China wants war with the United States even less than we want war with China. In spite of all the propaganda out of China, and in spite of her current efforts to expand her naval power, China remains at a strategic disadvantage in any potential war with the United States. North Korea has been, and remains, less rational in its decision making as compared to China, but the distances between “would do it” and “could do it” remain substantial for now.

One possible factor that many members of the public might not be aware of is the fact a US Navy warship might at times operate without its full suite of Aegis systems active.

Aegis is a powerful and brilliant radar tracking system, but the more powerful a radar system is, the more easily it can be detected by opponents. I have no information indicating that the USS Fitzgerald was on that night, or any night, operating in “quiet” mode. I am simply explaining that it is one possibility.

I understand the tremendous need for answers and explanations.

I feel the same way. I share your anger. I want to know why those sailors died, why our ship was damaged, and who or what is at fault. This sad event is important to me, because our national security is important to me, and because I consider all US military members to be my brothers and sisters. We share an oath that matters to me.

I know that this calamity is also important to many of you. We owe it to the lost sailors and to their families to find the real causes of the collision. I hope that as a country, we will not rely on emotion or conjecture, but rather wait for investigations to lead us to accurate conclusions, because as you read this, many other US Navy and allied ships and sailors are sailing in dangerous waters, and we need accurate information to prevent more loss of life and more damage to valuable ships.

 

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Gunner’s Mate Seaman Dakota Kyle Rigsby, 19, of Palmyra, VA

Yeoman 3rd Class Shingo Alexander Douglass, 25, of San Diego, CA

Sonar Technician 3rd Class Ngoc T Truong Huynh, 25, of Oakville, CN

Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Noe Hernandez, 26, of Weslaco, TX

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Carlos Victor Ganzon Sibayan, 23, of Chula Vista, CA

Personnel Specialist 1st Class Xavier Alec Martin, 24, of Halethorpe, MD

Fire Controlman 1st Class Gary Leo Rehm Jr., 37, of Elyria, OH

*

Our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of these fine sailors.

 

 

Staying Safe in Public Spaces

Bayard & Holmes

With the increasing number of terrorist attacks around the world, the public is becoming ever more aware that it’s wise to take precautions and think about safety measures. Today we welcome former CIA officer Doug Patteson of Inglorious Amateurs, who shares his insights and advice on precautions we should all take as a matter of habit.

 

Staying Safe in Public Spaces

~ Doug Patteson

Whether it is the recent suicide bomb in Manchester UK, or the 2003 The Station nightclub fire, or any number of other recent catastrophic events, we are reminded that we need to always be thinking about our security in public events and transitional spaces. Just because you are in an event or location with robust security, you should not ever take your safety for granted.

 

 

At events like the Manchester attack, we tend to think we are safe. The arena has security, no weapons are allowed, it’s a fun crowd out for a fun evening.

Attackers know these thing too and they tend to look for the weak points in security. In this case, the attacker chose a transitional space, a natural funnel between a primary exit from the arena, and the nearest public transport, the Manchester train station. He knew traffic flow from the concert would be heavy and concentrated. He knew the only likely security in the transitional space would be CCTV cameras (great for post mortem, not so hot for prevention). And he knew that by the nature of the transitional space, no one would think twice about someone loitering (waiting on friends? A train?) carrying luggage (it’s a train station entrance after all).

In 2003, The Station nightclub caught fire and was engulfed in smoke and flames in 5 ½ minutes. Of the 462 people in a club with capacity for only 404, 100 died and 230 were injured. When the fire began, people panicked and fled blindly, trying to exit through the one door they had entered, ignoring other potential exits.

A framework can be helpful in this process. Largely, the model below is familiar to most military or first responders as it is similar to the traditional OODA loop, or Observe, Orient, Decide, Act model of decision making. But, sometimes jargon gets in the way of understanding. So here is some simpler language.

Pay attention

For some reason, when we get around our friends, in a social situation, excited about our plans as they unfold, we stop paying attention to the world around us. When we are alone in public, we tend to pay far more attention to our surroundings. We feel alone, which often makes us feel insecure, less safe, but heightens our focus. Being in a group brings an often false sense of security, and a fair number of distractions.

Don’t let your guard down. Stay vigilant and pay attention to the world around your group. If something seems out of place, or makes you feel off, there is probably a good reason for it. Security professionals often call this situational awareness, which is a fancy way of saying understanding the environment and events you are in, in relation to time and meaning, what is normal and expected, and thus what is out of context and therefore noticeable. And if you notice something that looks out of place, or your spidey senses start tingling, an unattended bag or individual dressed inappropriately for the environment and looking uncomfortable, etc. let someone in authority know.

 

Know the layout

There is a reason flight attendants show passengers where the exits are. Statistics point to a significantly increased probability of surviving a plane crash if you know where the exits are. Virtually any public venue you go to will have multiple entrances/exits. Don’t just remember the one you went through to get there, learn where at least one of the others is.

In 2003, during The Station nightclub fire,  100 people died, 40 of them in the doorway they had entered through. There were three other exits in the building, and an entire front of windows that could have been broken to create egress points. People are creatures of habit, they like to go in the way they came.

Take a few minutes, look for the exits, talk it over with your group and have a plan in case you get separated or things go south.

Take a moment to assess what’s happening

If you are in situation where an event has happened (active shooter, plane disaster, ied), don’t panic. Stop, take a moment to assess the situation. Where is the threat? Is it ongoing? What are my escape options? Remember, you already learned where the various exits were. What is the crowd doing? Is there cover available to me? Or just concealment? Can I leave? Or is hiding my only option?

In the early days of active shooter training, the mantra was Run, Hide, Fight. Today that has been replaced with Avoid, Deny, Defend. In either case though, you need to take a little time to assess what is happening. Don’t freeze however, this is an active assessment informed by your previous knowledge of the area. You are making decisions about your next steps.

Take action

With your assessment in mind, action is now required. Can you safely and quickly leave the area? Which way? What is the crowd doing? There can be significant risk in following the crowd. Crowds can lead to deadly bottlenecks. In the case of a terrorist attack, one tactic we have seen applied is an initial attack designed to stun/assault a crowd, followed by a second, potentially larger attack, designed around a bottleneck of fleeing victims and/or first responders.

Are you responsible for others? Are they with you? Can you communicate with them? Did you set up a meeting place in case you got separated? Now is the time to execute on the plan you worked through earlier. For example, “We are going to head out that emergency exit on the north side of the stage. We will make our way back to our vehicle in section X of the parking lot.” Once you leave, get away from the threat zone. Remember, debris from an explosion can travel long distances. Don’t linger in the area.

Finally, what to do if you or a friend are injured?

Do you know CPR? ABCs (airway, breathing, circulation). Are they conscious? Talking? Take another moment now to assess their injuries. Have you taken any medical training or first aid courses? Do you know to apply pressure if they are bleeding? Do you have a med kit? I highly recommend you get one, get trained on using it, and carry it. Call 911 and, if necessary seek medical attention as soon as possible.

 

 

Look, I don’t want you to live your life in fear. That’s what the bad guys want, whether a bully, criminal or terrorist. Go out with friends. Attend concerts and movies. Travel. Live your life. I am only advocating that you go out in that life a little more prepared. A slightly harder target than the average person. Someone more likely to survive when faced with a deadly threat. Because you have taken the time to pay attention, assess, build a plan and be prepared to execute on it.

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Doug is a former CIA officer with extensive overseas experience in Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. He is skilled in several foreign languages, personal security, tactical driving, counter terrorism tactics and small arms. He holds an MBA from Wharton and has worked in high tech, private equity and manufacturing. He regularly writes on business and intelligence topics for both web and print publications, serves as an on air SME for news and opinion shows, and consults/produces on film and television productions.

 

For more from Doug, please see his work at Inglorious Amateurs.

A Grain of Salt–Spy Ships, Officials, and Russian Missiles

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard

Big Media, Big Politics, and Big Business all profit financially and politically when they keep the public worked up in fear and/or outrage. They are not our friends. Let’s take some of their power back with a few facts.

Outrage

Throughout media, “US officials” report that a Russian spy ship has “appeared” off the East Coast – the first such sighting during the Trump administration.

Facts

  • Russian spy ships have been “appearing” off the US East Coast since the invention of the radio – literally over ninety years.
  • If we want to get technical, Russian spy ships have been “appearing” off of US coasts ever since Russia could sail to the US coast.
  • It is entirely possible that this is the first time journalists have bothered to notice Russian spy ship patrols.
  • According to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles (22.2 km; 13.8 mi) from the mean low water mark of a coastal state.
  • The Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, and Emperor Palpatine can legally park their entire navies 14 miles off the US coastline and have a bacchanalia if they want to, and they are breaking no international laws.
  • The Russian spy ship Viktor Leonov was 30 miles off the US coast as of February 15, 2017.
  • There are no allegations that any Russian ships have violated US territorial waters.
  • US ships regularly cruise coastal waters of Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, and every other country on the planet that has a coastline.
  • Merriam-Webster defines “official” as “one who holds or is invested with an office.”
  • Merriam-Webster defines “office” as “a position of responsibility or some degree of executive authority.”
  • Well over 800,000 people in the Intelligence Community hold top secret clearances, which would indicate “position[s] of responsibility or some degree of executive authority.”
  • If I had cited to “officials” in my freshman journalism class, I would have flunked and become the department poster child for shoddy journalism. 

 

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

Where the hell have “journalists” been for the past ninety years? This is like watching seven-year-olds discover Knock-Knock Jokes. These same “journalists” couldn’t even find Russia on a map before it hacked the DNC last August.

Actual photo of journalists finally noticing Russian spy ships off of US coast.

 

Outrage

“Russia Deploys Missile, Violating Treaty and Challenging Trump” ~ The New York Times

 

Facts

  • Versions of this headline are being paired throughout media with “news” of the Russian spy ship.
  • Russia did indeed deploy a new intermediate-range missile, which can be considered a violation of the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.
  • Russia deployed this missile in December, 2016, before Trump took office.
  • The Obama administration was aware of the Russian missile program in 2014.
  • The Obama administration warned Russia in 2014 that it was violating the treaty.
  • The Obama administration warned Russia again in 2015 that it was violating the treaty.
  • Russia now has two batteries of the new cruise missiles.

 

Bayard & Holmes Opinion

While the arms treaty issues will certainly pose a challenge to the Trump administration, Putin threw down the Arms Gauntlet during the Obama administration. Obama responded with a frown. This recent missile deployment is not about Putin “challenging” Trump like some sort of international cock fight, as the headline implies. It was just time for Putin to test his new toys. He’d have done it no matter who won the election.

Unfortunately for all of us, Trump threw down the Screw-You Gauntlet when he started his administration by publicly telling off all of the top media muckity-mucks. The media has picked up that gauntlet, and the public is nothing but a pawn in the Media War.

 

Bottom Line

Spy ships are old news, and Putin has had his missile agenda for a very long time. Media and politicians also have their agendas. None of these agendas include an informed, educated public.

Take it all with a grain of salt!