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.

 

 

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Fat Leonard, US Navy, & America’s Military Corruption Conspiracy of the Century

Bayard & Holmes

~ Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

The US Navy is currently caught in the throes of the greatest known American military corruption conspiracy of this century to date.

After a three-year investigation, the story first broke in November, 2013 with the accusation that Director of Naval Intelligence Vice Admiral Ted “Twig” Branch and four other naval officers accepted bribes of cash, prostitutes, and expensive trips in exchange for steering US Navy contracts for port services to a company named Glen Defense Marine Asia (“GDMA”). Indictments started coming down.

 

Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis
Image by US Navy, public domain,
via Defense News

 

Several naval officers and civilians were arrested at that time on charges of Conspiracy and Bribery. Among those arrested was the apparent mastermind, one Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, a Malaysian businessman who is the owner and CEO of GDMA. He is a port service kingpin in the South Pacific region with alleged connections to Communist China. According to the US Justice Department prosecutors, “This is the first time multiple officers are charged as working all together in a multi-layered conspiracy, pooling their individual and collective resources and influence on behalf of Francis.” It is a multi-layered conspiracy with countless cost to our nation.

One of the indictments was unsealed on March 14, 2017, and its 78 pages reveal just how extensive this maze of betrayal, greed, debauchery, and arguably even treason had become, involving at least twenty US Navy officers including a Vice Admiral, five Rear Admirals, a Marine Colonel, five Navy Captains, six Navy Commanders, two Navy Lt. Commanders, and a Navy Warrant Officer, along with several top GDMA employees. Some officers even drew their wives into this proven criminal conspiracy.

It began in January of 2006 when Navy Contract Supervisor Paul Simpkins, a Department of Defense civilian employee, contacted Fat Leonard and offered to throw Navy ship docking service contracts to GDMA in exchange for cash.

One month later the cash—our taxpayer dollars—started flowing. GDMA signed a $929,000 contract with the US Navy for docking services. Not only was this the first contract of many, but the Navy now estimates that it paid more than double the normal rate for the services provided. In exchange, Simpkins received $50k in US cash from Fat Leonard’s hands.

In short time, Simpkins and Fat Leonard pulled several naval officers into their dealings—senior officers who were responsible for coordinating missions, directing operations, directing ship movements, and scheduling port visits to service the ships and submarines of our US Navy 7th Fleet, which is the US Far Eastern Fleet. One conspirator was even the commanding officer of the nuclear aircraft carrier, USS George Washington.

Soon, these senior US Navy officers were using their position and influence to direct business to Fat Leonard’s facilities throughout the Far East. Not only that, some of the officers regularly sent the Malaysian classified ship schedules and helped protect GDMA from investigations by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (“NCIS”). In return, the officers received lavish dinners, time with prostitutes, expensive gifts, travel expenses, and luxury hotel accommodations for themselves and their families.

The recently unsealed indictment best indicates the jaw-dropping extent of the criminal activities undertaken by these conspirators, not to mention their sheer stupidity. It includes charges of Conspiracy, Bribery, False Statements, and Obstruction of Justice, and Conspiracy to Commit Honest Service Fraud—a laundry list of what NOT to do as a naval officer.

As you read this, please keep in mind that it is highly illegal for any government employee, military or civilian, to receive expensive meals and gifts, much less prostitutes and travel expenses, from defense contractors or any other influencers. Also remember that Fat Leonard is a Malaysian national operating a multi-million-dollar business throughout the Far East, including facilities in Hong Kong.

You know, Hong Kong? That place controlled by Communist China, the hostile country that spies on the US at every possible opportunity? Yeah. That Hong Kong. Because a Malaysian criminal defrauding the US government is certainly going to be too moral and ethical to trade or sell our classified information to his host country of China, right?

Let’s look at the list of allegations included in the indictment:

  • Repeated incidents of officers sending Fat Leonard classified information on planned US Navy ship movements via private email and Facebook.

One of numerous examples from the recently unsealed indictment:

“On or about January 25, 2008 at 12:25 a.m., SHEDD, using his cooltoad.com account, emailed Francis [Fat Leonard] multiple classified ship schedules. During this exchange, SHEDD confirmed a change to the schedule of the U.S.S. Fitzgerald to accommodate Francis.”

  • Repeated incidents of officers using their position and influence to steer contracts to GDMA in full knowledge of the fact that GDMA was charging the US approximately twice the going rate for port services.

  • Repeated incidents of officers using their position and influence to re-direct US Navy ships to GDMA’s facilities, often at Fat Leonard’s request. (See quote above.)

  • Repeated incidents of officers actively suppressing GDMA competition for contracts.

  • Repeated incidents of officers using their position and influence to suppress NCIS investigations into GDMA’s overbilling practices.

  • Repeated incidents of officers warning Fat Leonard of investigations and helping to destroy evidence and otherwise obstruct said investigations.

  • Repeated incidents of officers and even their wives “shaping” contacts. “Shaping” is the espionage term of art for courting someone into a conspiratorial ring.

From the indictment:

“In a further effort to recruit AB, the FISC official, into the conspiracy, DEGUZMAN, his wife, Aruffo, Francis and others developed and implemented a ‘shaping op[eration].’ On March 30, 2007, DEGUZMAN wrote to Aruffo: “Ed san, Domo [thank you] for the tuna. Got the other tuna to [AB’s wife] for ‘shaping.’” Aruffo forward the email to Francis, adding, “Beginning our ‘shaping’ OP, dropped off a chunk of tuna that I bought in General Santos [City] for DEGUZMAN’s wife to drop off with [AB’s wife].””

Using wives this way is not uncommon in conspiracies. Sending wives to other wives with expensive gifts is a low risk way to test the waters before inviting new co-conspirators into schemes.

  • Repeated incidents of officers recruiting their successors to continue these criminal activities on behalf of Fat Leonard and GDMA.

  • At least one incident of an officer requesting that Fat Leonard pay off his personal debts, to which Fat Leonard requested and received classified information on planned US Navy ship movements.

  • At least one incident of an officer using his position to influence staffing levels in a Ship Support Office in Hong Kong at the request of and on behalf of Fat Leonard and GDMA.

  • Repeated incidents of officers requesting employment from GDMA for their post-service lives. As a point of interest, none were hired by GDMA.

  • Repeated incidents of officers destroying evidence, making false statements, and obstructing justice once they, themselves, came under investigation.

In return for these actions on his behalf, Fat Leonard provided the officers and many of their wives with lavish meals valued at tens of thousands of dollars, entertainment, travel and hotel expenses, gifts, cash, and the services of prostitutes. The recently unsealed indictment is a laundry list of things US Navy officers should NOT be receiving from smarmy defense contractors.

  • Repeated incidents of officers requesting and receiving travel expenses and lodging accommodations for themselves and their families.

  • Repeated incidents of officers and their wives receiving lavish meals costing tens of thousands of dollars.

From the indictment:

“On or about March 24, 2007, NEWLAND, DEGUZMAN, HORNBECK, and Aruffo attended a multi-course dinner hosted by Francis at the Oak Door in Tokyo, Japan, during which was served, at Francis’s expense, foie gras, Lobster Thermidor, and Sendai Tenderloin, and for dessert, “Liberte Sauvage,” the winning cake of the 10th Coupe du Monde de la Patisserie 2007, followed by cognac and cigars. Each course was paired with fine champagne or wine.”

  • Repeated incidents of officers and their wives receiving expensive gifts from Fat Leonard.

  • Repeated incidents of Fat Leonard arranging and paying for debauchery with prostitutes.

From the recently unsealed indictment:

“On or about May 22 – 25, 2008, during a port visit by the U.S.S. Blue Ridge to Manila, Philippines, HORNBECK, DOLAN, LOVELESS, LAUSMAN, SHEDD, and Sanchez stayed at Francis’s expense at the Makati Shangri-La in Manila, Philippines, where for himself and the U.S. Navy attendees, Francis booked the Presidential Suite. In this venue, Francis hosted a raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes in attendance, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available at the Shangri-La. Room and alcohol charges born by Francis exceeded $50,000 USD.”

Two of the conspirators emailed Francis to thank him for his hospitality from the private cooltoad.com accounts the group used to communicate regarding their criminal activities.

 


This photo of Presidential Suite, Makati Shangri-La Manila, sans prostitutes, is courtesy of TripAdvisor.

The investigation, opened in 2010, is ongoing, and the indictments continue to flow.

Most of the defendants have not yet gone to trial, and some that had already been convicted have yet to be sentenced. For those readers whose stomachs can endure a more detailed description, the US Justice Department indictments that have been released are available at both the Justice Department web page and the US Naval Institute web site.

The US Justice Department took and kept the lead in this long investigation, and it is pursuing prosecutions in Federal Court. However, if any of the accused officers should miraculously escape the wrath of the federal judges, the US Navy retains the right to re-arrest and charge them under military law with that great catchall “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer.” Some of the minor players have already pleaded out and have, in some cases, received punishments proportional to their crimes.

This Fat Leonard Conspiracy has dealt inestimable damage to our national security on multiple levels:

  1. When the details of deployments and ship schedules are known to our potential enemies, those ships are then more vulnerable to well-planned attacks, including terrorist attacks. That’s why ship schedules are classified in the first place.

  1. Ship deployments are supposed to be determined by our national security interests. When ships are diverted from the locations where they most benefit our national security, that damages our national security in strategic terms.

For example, strategic realities might have indicated that on a particular day, a particular aircraft carrier and her escorting cruiser and destroyers would have been ideally located off the coast of Japan. But because these officers were selling out our country for Lobster Thermidor and blow jobs, those same ships might have been instead in a port in Singapore or Malaysia. But hey, why let national security get in the way of free prostitutes?

  1. The service employees of GDMA, a corporation owned and operated by a criminal, had access to our US Navy vessels and the highly sensitive systems they carry.

We don’t know to what extent Fat Leonard or any of the implicated GDMA employees are involved with the communist Chinese government or with individuals that are involved with the Chinese communist government. By exposing our ships to service employees from foreign docking and ship services that were operated by a criminal, these US Navy conspirators unduly exposed our technology to those who would do us damage, and possibly on behalf of Communist China.

We may never know if the communist Chinese government received classified information about the highly sensitive systems on our US Navy vessels, but it would be an unusual misstep for the Chinese if they did not.

  1. Congress gives money to the US Navy on the assumption that the Navy is not wasting it. The next time the Navy goes to Congress for money, Congress will rightfully ask, “Is that price with or without the hookers?”

The US Navy, the Pentagon, and the current US administration hope to be able to contain any physical conflict with China to the Western Pacific, as opposed to Los Angeles or downtown Kansas City. That requires very expensive ships, very expensive maintenance on those very expensive ships, and the very expensive recruiting of skilled, patriotic young men and women to maintain and operate those very expensive ships. When US Navy officers engage in criminal financial malfeasance, they make it more difficult for the US Navy, the Pentagon, and the president to convince the taxpayers that they should all willingly pay more taxes to modernize the fleet.

It’s hard enough explaining the $13 billion going into the construction of our first of class USS Gerald Ford supercarrier. How can the taxpayers not question building and manning such a ship when they are wondering if and when another Fat Leonard Conspiracy will occur, or if there is even another one ongoing? How can the US taxpayers not wonder if the USS Gerald Ford will be in the hands of trustworthy leaders? How can we all not wonder if the extremely expensive new technologies on that aircraft carrier will end up being exposed to the ongoing, robust espionage efforts of Communist China and Putinesque Imperial Russia?

  1. Such criminal malfeasance on the part of officers at the very top of the US Navy undermines the entire military culture.

Repeatedly throughout the active years of the conspiracy, junior officers objected and made recommendations that their superiors shot down. In a chain of command, junior officers and enlisted service men and women can raise concerns, but they don’t get to question orders. Implicit in that is that the officers at the top can be trusted to be serving our nation and not themselves. When those at the bottom don’t or cannot trust the people at the top, there is a breakdown in authority and effective functioning.

These conspirators, ranging in rank from First Class Petty Officer to Vice Admiral set a horrific example for the US Navy and all military branches with their criminal behavior. Our best young people are not inspired to stay in the Navy and do their best job for their country when their senior leaders are stabbing them in the back. It’s bad enough that our enlisted men and women risk their lives serving at such low wages to defend our country when our politicians so infrequently display any sense of patriotism or selflessness. Having their own senior officers, whose judgments their lives depend on, betray them so coarsely makes it that much harder for those young Americans to continue serving our country selflessly.

There may be much more that we will never know about the Fat Leonard Conspiracy, but there are two known and glaring facts worthy of our attention.

  1. That such a broad conspiracy involving so many people could continue for at least five years speaks poorly of US Navy financial oversight, Navy security oversight, Navy counter-intelligence efforts, and the US Navy’s culture and leadership in general.

  1. That senior Navy officers and Navy Criminal Investigation Division agents willingly helped schedule and then attended wild parties in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and the Philippines, where they were serviced by prostitutes procured by GDMA indicates a frighteningly amateurish level of conduct by trained professionals. Did the Communist Chinese government conduct honeypot operations against these Navy officers with the help of GDMA? We can’t say for certain, but it’s entirely plausible and a good bet. If Holmes were Chinese, he certainly would not have missed the opportunity for such an easy intelligence coup.

The biggest question in all of this is to what degree the US Navy will improve its oversight and its promotion selection process. So far, the changes have been minor. The US Navy needs to conduct a serious investigation not just into these crimes, but into the culture that allowed them to occur.

This problem may seem far removed from our daily lives, but it touches all of us.

We are not helpless. We can let our elected officials in our home districts know that we are revolted by this criminal malfeasance that has bilked we taxpayers of untold millions, and we can demand an investigation into how these crimes went on for so long. This web site has complete instructions on how to reach each representative and senator—How to Contact Your Elected Officials.

These politicians might not care much about our US Navy or our national security, but they all care a great deal about being re-elected. They want our votes. Let’s make them earn those votes for a change. No government will ever be any better than we, the people, force it to be.

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Bayard & Holmes Official Photo

Piper Bayard is an author and a recovering attorney. Her writing partner, Jay Holmes, is an anonymous senior member of the intelligence community and a field veteran from the Cold War through the current Global War on Terror. Together, they are the bestselling authors of the international spy thriller, THE SPY BRIDE.

Watch for their upcoming non-fiction release, CHINA — THE PIRATE OF THE SOUTH CHINA SEA.

 

cover-3-china-the-pirate-of-the-south-china-sea

Keep in touch through updates at Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing.

You can contact Bayard & Holmes in comments below, at their site, Bayard & Holmes, on Twitter at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Bayard & Holmes, or at their email, BH@BayardandHolmes.com.

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Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin Charged with Spying for China…And US Made It Easy

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

Once again, the US government has allowed your tax money and the nation’s security to be compromised in ridiculous fashion.

On Friday, April 8, 2016, the US Navy charged an active-duty maritime reconnaissance officer with passing US military secrets to a foreign government. The US Navy filed multiple charges, including espionage, against Lieutenant Commander Edward Lin during an Article 32 hearing in Norfolk, Virginia.

 

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin Image by US Naval Institute

Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin
Image by US Naval Institute

 

Originally, the US Navy had not released the suspect’s name or the name of the country for which he (allegedly) spied because the Navy had designated the case as a “‘National Security Case.”

A “National Security Case,” according to the US military, is one which “ . . . to any serious degree, involves the compromise of a military or defense advantage over any foreign nation or terrorist group; involves an allegation of willful compromise of classified information, affects our military or defense capability to successfully resist hostile or destructive action, overt or covert; or involves an act of terrorism.”

The Navy explained that, “NCIS and FBI are still investigating the details of this case, and, therefore, we cannot provide any additional details at this time.” Since then, unidentified Navy officers have identified the accused as Lt. Cmdr. Lin and the beneficiary of Lin’s espionage work as Communist China.

You remember China? It’s that country that has been rapidly expanding its military and is claiming large areas of international waters as their national domain. Yes, that China.

Though redacted, the charging document describes a depressing story in which Lin transported secret information out of the country without permission and then lied about his whereabouts when he returned to duty. The charging documents allege that Lin successfully committed espionage twice and attempted espionage on three other occasions. Lin is currently in pre-trial confinement at the Naval Consolidated Brig in Chesapeake, Virginia.

Given that Lin had a high security clearance and served on E-P3E Aries II reconnaissance aircraft, he likely did tremendous damage to the US.

The technical and operational information that Lin was entrusted to safeguard constitutes an intelligence coup for Communist China. The reporting on this case will understandably focus on Lin’s access as an officer in the Commander, Patrol and Reconnaissance Group.

However, Lin had access to a whole other trove of treasure for China.

He served as the Congressional Liaison for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Finance Management and Comptroller from 2012 to 2014. In his position as liaison to Congress, Lin would have had access to a vast array of sensitive information from every part of the US Navy.

It would be easy to assume that Edward Lin went to great lengths to succeed at such a villainous subterfuge. He didn’t. It was all too easy, and anyone could do it.

Most of the outrage – all of which Lin and my beloved Navy deserve – will be directed toward Edward Lin. In my opinion, Lin is just one small aspect of a much larger problem that we should not continue to ignore.

How did the US Navy, the FBI, and the rest of the US government manage to miss Lin’s (alleged) spying for what was likely more than a decade?

In the case of the FBI, we can forgive them if their pathetically small counterintelligence efforts missed Lin. Given their lack of resources and minimal mandate, the only surprise from the FBI counterintelligence team would be if they ever actually stumble upon an espionage operation. I am not knocking the FBI agents tasked with counterintelligence. They are undoubtedly as well trained and dedicated as other FBI agents, but they simply lack the means to conduct anything like an effective counterintelligence operation.

As for the US Navy, the Department of Defense, the Executive Branch and the Legislative Branches, I am much less forgiving. For one thing, Lin was a Taiwanese-born Taiwanese citizen until he was 14 years old. I disagree with the current policy that allows foreign born naturalized citizens to so easily gain high security clearances. I’m sure it’s the more politically correct thing to do, but it’s an asinine policy.

This is not the first time that the United States has lavished secret information on a Taiwanese born “alleged” spy.

Refer to the Wen Ho Lee* case if you are uncertain of the wisdom of this policy. In any event the proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the proof is in the feast that Lin served up to hostile Communist China.

If Lin is indeed guilty, then he deserves a life sentence of hard labor at Leavenworth or some obscure distant location. Most of my cohorts in the US Military and the US Intelligence Community will likely disagree with me and would prefer for Lin to be executed.

I can’t agree to that because I don’t support the death penalty. All judicial proceedings depend on the integrity and wisdom of those involved in prosecutions, and I can’t ignore that people are not perfect. For example, the government that is prosecuting Lin is the same government that was stupid enough and careless enough to make it easy for Lin to rob the taxpayers blind and endanger our national security. We now know about Edward Lin, which begs a question . . . Who do we not know about?

Regardless of the outcome of Lin’s trial, we, as American citizens, should start demanding better security standards to protect our national security and the billions of dollars in technology that we are all financing. Until our politicians have reason to think that the public is paying attention to our pathetically poor security policies, they will have no motive to fix it.

I hope that all of our readers will look beyond Edward Lin and tell their Congressweasels and their White House to start acting like adults on issues of national security. Edward Lin, if guilty, is a dangerous criminal, but this is a democracy, and We the People allowed him to do what he did.

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* Note to Wen Ho Lee:  I am not the New York Times. Don’t dream of sending lawyers in my direction. You and I have met before. I meant what I said . . . Does your hand still hurt?

The Military-Industrial Complex — Where Is The Money?

Bayard & Holmes

~ Jay Holmes

On January 17, 1961, US President Dwight D Eisenhower delivered his farewell speech. The retired five star general had served two presidential terms and was being replaced by his fellow military veteran, the newly elected John F. Kennedy.

 

President Dwight D. Eisenhower receives hydrogen bomb tests report from Lewis Strauss Image public domain.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower receives hydrogen bomb tests report from Lewis Strauss
Image public domain.

 

In that farewell address, Eisenhower warned, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military–industrial complex.”

Left-wing radicals are always quick to oppose military spending, but Eisenhower could hardly be accused of being anything like a left-wing radical. At the peak of his long military career, he skillfully commanded the allied forces in Operation Torch, which was the 1943 Allied invasion of Northwest Africa, as well as the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy and the Western Offensive against Nazi Germany and the European Axis powers.

After WW2, Eisenhower served as US Army Chief of Staff and then as Supreme Commander of European Forces. Few Americans could claim to have anything close to Eisenhower’s military experience or expertise.

Eisenhower was no “dove.”

He took the threat of Soviet expansion seriously. As US President, he oversaw the conclusion of the war in Korea in 1953 and approved funding for fledgling US space and satellite programs. Eisenhower also approved expensive Navy projects, such as the nuclear submarine program and the construction of the nuclear carrier, the USS Enterprise. He presided over the growth of expensive jet aircraft in the young US Air Force, and he approved funding for expensive new air defense systems for the US Army.

In spite of the large military budgets that President Eisenhower approved, some military and defense industry leaders saw him as being too frugal. Conversely, Eisenhower and his supporters felt that increasing military budgets threatened the economic health of the US.

Fifty-five years later, the arguments over defense spending continue.

Unlike during Eisenhower’s time, the arguments are now conducted against a backdrop of a frightening budget deficit and an eighteen trillion dollar national debt. The consequences of all government spending have a serious impact on the quality of life for the average American and on national security.

In Eisenhower’s time, the real threat posed by the Soviet Union impacted defense spending. Today, the Soviet Union is gone, but US and European citizens are justifiably concerned by threats from various radical Islamic groups, the increasingly nuclear-equipped North Korean despot Kim, a rapidly growing communist Chinese military capability, and a resurgent and belligerent Russia.

At a glance, it might seem as though a stable status quo has been in effect in military budgets.

In some senses, similar dynamics have remained in force. In 1961, Eisenhower was unable to convince Western allies to commit to adequate defense spending. The allies seemed happy to let the US military and taxpayers carry more than their fair share of the responsibility for the defense of Western Civilization. In 2016, that dynamic continues. US President Obama listens to nations like France, Canada, and the UK proclaim their increased commitment to defeating Islamic radicals, but then he watches as they reduce their defense programs. Eisenhower would recognize his frustration in dealing with NATO partners.

We might be tempted to assume that US defense spending itself is proportionate to what it was in 1961. Let us make some comparisons.

In 1961, US military personnel were badly underpaid. In 2016 this remains true. In 1961, the US defense budget was close to 10% of GDP. Today it is below 5% of GDP. In terms of GDP, the defense budget seems reasonable enough. But let us compare some specific defense project costs.

In 1961, the new Enterprise class nuclear aircraft carrier cost $451 million to build. Due to the escalated cost of construction, the additional three carriers of that class were cancelled. Today the new Ford class nuclear aircraft carrier is, so far, costing the taxpayers $12.8 billion to build, with an additional $4.7 billion in research costs. If we compare the two ships in inflation adjusted costs, then in today’s dollars, the Enterprise would have cost $3.4 billion to build. Where did the other $9.4 billion go?

When the Enterprise was built, it included many state of the art features, but its air defense system had been scaled back to save money. The Gerald Ford class carrier includes state of the art equipment and features, but the overall economics of the two programs are completely out of scale.

 

USS Gerald Ford under construction in Newport News, VA. Image public domain.

USS Gerald Ford under construction in Newport News, VA.
Image public domain.

 

My question is simple. What national defense value are we receiving for the disproportionately high cost of the USS Gerald Ford?

We could make similar comparisons with nuclear submarine programs, but let us instead apply the scrutiny to a broader defense project, the F-35 fighter program. The F-35 was developed as a low cost alternative to the F-22 Raptor. So what does “low cost alternative” mean in the defense industry?

The F-22 cost a frightening $150 million per plane. No wonder we wanted a “low cost alternative.” The F-35, so far, cost between $100 million for the basic model and $104 million for the VSTOL version. I’m grateful that we decided to pursue a “low cost” fighter plane.

Let’s compare the F-35 to the infamously expensive Republic F-105D fighter. In 1960, the year before Eisenhower’s farewell speech, the outlandishly expensive F-105D cost $2.1 million each. In 1960, it was the state of the art fighter, and it incorporated many new technologies. It was plagued by cost overruns, and its development was every bit as contentious as the F-35 development has become. In 2016 dollars the F-105D cost $17 million apiece. As with the Gerald Ford Carrier, the cost of the F-35 has wildly outpaced inflation.

 

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base Image public domain.

F-35 Joint Strike Fighter at Edwards Air Force Base
Image public domain.

 

What defense benefit are we getting for the additional $80 million per each F-35? Is the F-35 going to bring us more security today than the F-105D brought us in 1960? I don’t see it.

The defense industry would counter my concerns with comforting catch phrases. They tell us that it is “stealth,” and that it employs more “net centric ability” than previously imagined. For less than $100 my house is “net centric.” So how does the marvelous net centric ability account for the cost of the F-35? From my point of view, it doesn’t.

Defense contractor PR players would likely question my patriotism. Am I not aware of all the real threats in the world? Do I not want the best possible defense for my family’s safety? In fact, I am very much aware of the many threats to our national security, and I do want the best possible defense capabilities for our nation. That’s precisely why I question our $100+ million fighters and our $13 billion aircraft carriers.

Every dollar wasted or overpaid is a dollar that does not help our national defense. At the same time, high costs work to erode our national defense by damaging our economy.

The F-35 and the Ford Carrier are only two of many defense projects that beg closer scrutiny. These high cost programs are being funded at the same time the US Marine Corps is undergoing a 30,000-man reduction in force. The Pentagon and the White House tell us that we are more committed than ever to fighting the increasing terrorist threats, so how is it that we justify large cuts in our premier expeditionary force? The numbers just don’t add up. In some cases, they don’t come close to adding up.

President Eisenhower’s words are even more appropriate today than they were in 1961. Think twice before you quietly accept every extravagant defense expenditure. Let your congressmen know you are watching.

Buyer Beware!

 

US Navy Scandal–The Man with the Golden Silencer

By Jay Holmes

In November of 2013, the US Navy made public an investigation into the questionable purchase of firearms silencers* for US Navy SEAL Team 6. The silencers were for use with AK type weapons, such as the venerable Kalashnikov AK-47**. They were also to be “untraceable,” which is easily achieved by using simple, non-American designs without a serial number system or trademarks.

 

Beloved US Navy SEALs Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

Beloved US Navy SEALs
Image by Dept. of Defense, public domain

 

So why would the grumpy US Navy inspectors be upset by the purchase of a few AK silencers for our beloved sailors in SEAL 6? Don’t the killers of Osama Bin Laden deserve to have the equipment they need? Sure, they do. But there were a few problematic details with these particular silencers.

First, nobody at SEAL 6 knew anything about the silencers in question. They never requested them, and they never received any of them.

Second, the Navy paid $1,600,000 for 349 silencers of the lowest imaginable quality. In fact, the silencers that my kids made for their third grade science projects were better quality.

Third, the order was completed with a no-bid contract given to a bankrupt auto mechanic, who just happens to be the brother of the civilian Navy Intelligence employee that requested the funds for the silencers.

In the spring of 2014, the US Attorney General’s office joined the US Navy in the investigation and brought the case before a federal judge. On October 30, US Judge Leonie Brinkema handed down a guilty verdict against two defendants, civilian Navy Intelligence official Lee Hall and auto mechanic Mark Landesman. Both are due to appear for sentencing in January 2015.

The disposition of two other civilian Navy employees is as yet unclear. Perhaps they were volunteered for target practice for SEAL 6. Well, probably not, but it’s always fun to imagine such things where people have indulged in such base corruption.

One marvelous piece of evidence that helped prosecutors was the fact that one defendant, the contracted mechanic Mark Landesman, was either too unskilled or too lazy to make the simple, low quality silencers himself. He instead subcontracted the work to a legitimate machinist and paid the machinist $8,000. That little detail fixed a clear value for the manufacturing of the silencers. There was no explaining away the $1,600,000 payment made by the Navy to Landesman.

One of the saddest things about this case is that, in spite of how lame their conspiracy was, they nearly got away with it. When US Special Forces need silencers, they don’t have to hire unemployed auto mechanics to make them. There are plenty of well-vetted contractors available that routinely supply such items.

I was half hoping that the defense team would roll out the old “this was really a CIA Black Ops job” defense ploy. It might have made the defendants eligible to be tried for Patriot Act violations, and then they would now be on extended all expenses paid vacations at a remote location in the Pacific Ocean, waiting for their preliminary hearing dates in the year 2090.

In this particular instance, though, we will have to settle for sentences ranging from five to fifteen years for the two guilty scammers and hope that the other two culprits don’t walk away untouched. SEAL 6 does indeed need lots of expensive items. So does every other group in the US military. But when traitors steal the taxpayers’ money, it damages national security.

Since 2010, the Navy has increased its efforts at preventing fraud and misallocation of resources. This case is probably the result of those efforts. With so many billions of dollars being spent on national defense, you can bet that plenty more scam artists will continue to do their best to rob you of your tax dollars. Let us hope that the Pentagon will continue to refine their defense against fraud.

*In the case of an AK-47, the term “suppressor” is generally more apt than “silencer,” but this story is referenced at other sites throughout the internet using the term “silencer.” For the sake of clarity and consistency, we have done the same.

**US military forces at times opt to use various non-American weapons for a range of operations.