USNS Dreadnaught: A Combat Logistics Force for 21st Century Warfare

By Chris O’Connor 

The Future Capital Ship

During a recent CIMSEC topic week, the idea of the “Future Capital Ship” was discussed. This hypothetical asset was depicted several different ways that week. Transplanting the idea of the twentieth century battleship or aircraft carrier to the near future, this conceptual combatant could be bristling with railguns and directed energy weapons, in lieu of an “all big gun” dreadnaught’s armament. It could also be the mothership to many cross-domain unmanned systems, an update to the aircraft carrier archetype. Some viewed “capital ships” of the future as swarms of unmanned systems operating autonomously, a complete disruption in naval warfare akin to the first dreadnaught – eliminating the need for a manned vessel entirely. 

Taking a different route, the organizational investment that was put into the capital ships of the past could be applied in a way that transcends the idea of physical warfighting platforms. The CNO Strategic Studies Group 35 used that thought experiment to point out that the Navy of the future should treat the “Network of Humans and Machines” as the future capital ship. The argument was also well-made that investments in information warfare and cyber capabilities should be at the forefront, even to the extent that the U.S. Navy will eventually evolve into a cyber force with a maritime component.

These concepts are all deserving of consideration, and the future Navy will most likely be a combination of many of them, but the major foundation of naval power is usually an afterthought. The dominant Navy of the future will be the one with the most robust and adaptable logistics support structure needed to succeed in the future high-end fight as well as maintain command of the seas in peacetime through sustained global presence. 

Death of a Salesman

Aggressive recapitalization of the Combat Logistics Force (CLF) is needed because the Navy’s current logistics force structure is unprepared to support a distributed fleet in a fight against a peer competitor. There are fewer than 40 hulls in the CLF, a mix of oiler (AO and AOE) and dry cargo (AKE) supply ships of differing types. It is impossible employ them all at once, so the effective number of usable hulls is in fact lower for they require upkeep like every other vessel. They are incapable of defending themselves from anything other than limited numbers of lightly-armed small boats. This leads to the unfortunate conclusion that a limited number will be available to replenish shooters in the fight – if they can survive an area denial battlespace. In a high-end fight, they will become prime targets, and providing escorts to CLF assets only takes shooters away from the fight. But given the logistically-intensive nature of naval power projection, CLF ships will take on capital-ship value in a tightly contested conflict.

The force structure of CLF ships we have today is based off of their employment in the older model of hub-and-ferry routing, centered on specific ports in overseas Areas of Responsibilities (AORs). As the Navy moves toward fighting as a distributed fleet, it creates a complex variant of the travelling salesman problem (TSP). Familiar to anyone who has taken an operations analysis business course, TSP looks for the optimization of a route that passes through a set of points once each. Cities or houses in a neighborhood are often the problem set. In a disaggregated environment, a replenishment asset must do the same (if its customers have to stay in the fight), but the difficulty is compounded by the fact that the delivery locations will be moving targets and the distances between them will stretch around threatened areas and land masses. The academic TSP problem seldom includes the possibility of the salesman getting killed and never reaching the destination. In addition, naval assets are going to be limited to external lines of communication in some future conflicts. Ships will travel farther distances than their peers in the opposing force, leading to longer transit times between shore support and afloat customers.

CONOPs and Force Structure for Distributed Naval Logistics

Distributed naval warfare needs more “salesmen,” working together as an interconnected web of logistics assets. An enlarged fleet of combat support vessels is the base of this new support schema. Practically, this is easier done than asking for more warships. As we build a larger number of warships for the future, our military shipyards are going to reach capacity, especially if they continue to build platforms using conventional methods. New replenishment ships can be acquired in a number of ways, apart from dedicating some military shipyards to building replenishment vessels (which will take away from warship building capacity), or building them in foreign countries (which is politically unfeasible). There is a surplus of offshore support vessels (OSVs) that could be purchased and put into Military Sealift Command (MSC) service, along with other commercial vessels that could be modified for CLF purposes. Modified in smaller civilian shipyards instead of military ones, they could create work that would please the constituents of a number of decision-makers on Capitol Hill. Under new CONOPs, vessels such as OSVs could be employed in shorter range replenishments to independent deployers on missions such as antipiracy and ballistic missile defense.

HOS Arrowhead under way, date and location unknown (U.S. Navy photo via Navsource)

These additional CLF vessels will still be vulnerable, especially if kept in the current MSC construct as unarmed USNS assets. Risk of enemy attack will have to be built into the calculus of how these ships are employed. But giving them sufficient self-defense weapons and damage control resilience to survive being set upon by enemy platforms would be prohibitively expensive. A larger number of our vessels would create a targeting problem – they can service more combatants, operate from more ports, and inject uncertainty into the situational awareness of an adversary. In the current model, there are only a couple of CLF vessels operating in an AOR, and watching select ports will give plenty of indications of U.S. Navy presence. 

These ships can be augmented with automation to the level that is currently employed on commercial vessels, allowing MSC to man more ships with the same number of personnel. An AKE in current MSC service has approximately 130 personnel onboard, while there are thousands of commercial vessels afloat with crews numbering less than 30. At-sea replenishment creates demands for more personnel during alongside evolutions, but this could be mitigated with updating the CONREP (connected replenishment) stations with new equipment.  The receiving ship could guide the delivery ship’s systems remotely with short-range remote operation systems, supervised by a few merchantmen on the delivery ship. A fly-away crew could attend to this equipment only when needed, and not ride for long transits, or into harm’s way.

To reduce the threat profile of the manned CLF hulls, a system of smaller unmanned systems would create a web of logistical support. Cargo unmanned aerial systems (CUAS) will travel hundreds of miles point-to-point to deliver critical parts, instead of sailing entire vessels closer to get within VERTREP (vertical replenishment) range. They could carry parts for multiple customers and use aviation-capable ships as lily pads to get to others. Heavier lift CUAS could carry out VERTEP from unmanned CLF vessels to delivery ships, obviating the need for sailing alongside to transfer parts in a connected replenishment with a robotic vessel. These systems would be augmented by small unmanned surface vessels, possibly based off of the Sea Hunter Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), that could blend into surface traffic and make deliveries in battlespaces that are not conducive to aerial vehicles.

Arabian Sea (Nov. 11, 2003)  The guided missile cruiser USS Gettysburg (CG 64), top, and the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65), bottom, underway alongside the fast combat support ship USS Detroit (AOE 4) during a replenishment at sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Douglas M. Pearlman)

There are a number of solutions to support problems that will also be needed in the Navy of the future. Digital investments will be needed to improve our logistics IT structure to create a more resilient and adaptable family of systems. Taken to the farthest extent, this would lead to Vertical Expert Systems (specialized AI), predicting demand through data analytics and optimizing the use of delivery assets. Additive Manufacturing will allow parts sourcing from many more locations than are currently available. Underway ships could eventually have the ability to make complex parts for their use or for other vessels that lack the technology. Fuel production from bacteria and “grow-tainer” produce farms could bring commodity sourcing much closer to the fight. Adoption of these technologies is important, but they do not eliminate the need for support to be physically delivered to our combatants anytime in the near future. 

Recognizing Priorities

The counterargument to a larger fleet of CLF hulls deserves to be heard. The Navy is looking toward a 355-ship force, and most of that plus-up number would be in warships. We want a lean Navy- with as little tooth-to-tail as possible, and the idea of buying more replenishment assets seems to be anathema to that. But the Navy must recognize it is unable to fight a long-term shooting war, especially in a disaggregated manner, with the current CLF force structure. A larger fleet of combatants only complicates this problem, especially since a majority of these shooters will be powered by liquid petroleum products that have to be brought to them.

To placate these concerns, these new vessels do not have to be single mission vessels, dedicated only to logistics. They could act as routers for line-of-sight transmissions, or even couriers of data packages between other platforms when they carry out their supply missions in a communications-restricted environment. They could seed sensors or deploy and recover unmanned systems in their transits. These missions could reduce the burden on warships and dedicated survey ships in peacetime and in war. 

A Worthy Investment

A successful future U.S. Navy will be comprised of innovatively designed combatants, with arsenals of new weaponry, employing cyberwarfare and unmanned systems to an extent that we can barely conceptualize now. They will still need a capital-ship level of investment in an interconnected web of logistics assets to fight against a peer adversary. The toilet paper, Diet Pepsi, and turbolaser parts have to come from somewhere.

Chris O’Connor is a Supply Corps officer in the United States Navy and a member of the CIMSEC Board of Directors. The views expressed here are his own and do not represent those of the United States Department of Defense.

Featured Image: (Feb.12, 2015)  USNS Guadalupe (T-AO-200) delivers supplies to the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), not pictured, during a nighttime vertical replenishment. (US Navy photo by MC1 Ronald Gutridge)

The CCP National Congress: Milestone for Policy Revision?

Dr. Ching Chang

The Coming Power Reshuffle

The Nineteenth National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will be held on October 18, 2017. As many China political observers already know, the Communist Party National Congress itself and the First Plenary Session of the Nineteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China that gathers immediately after the National Congress will be the defining event for the reallocation of power for the next five years.

This National Congress will select new membership for the Central Committee, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection, and the subsequent First Session of the Central Committee will select Politburo, Politburo Standing Committee, and party Secretariat members. It will also decide on the members of the Military Commission of the Central Committee, in addition to leadership selection such as the General Secretary. Additionally, many states that are tightly associated or affected by future Chinese political maneuvers are concerned about whether any new policy will also be formulated through the same mechanisms.

This article will provide certain credible references as the basis to judge the possibility of revising existing policies by scrutinizing the institutions of these two meetings and reviewing actual practices of previous similar meetings. Whether these two meetings can become platforms for substantial policy discussion, debate, and reconciliation is the core matter that needs to be understood in order to identify any PRC policy revision and grasp a more overt picture of how the Chinese Communist Party manages their political and power transitions. Yet this still might not be necessarily implying any immediate policy shifts and adjustments.

Examining the Nature from the Institutions

It is necessary to review the Chinese Communist Party Constitution to understand the nature of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party. According to Article 19 of the Constitution:

The functions and powers of the National Congress of the Party are as follows: 1. To hear and examine the reports of the Central Committee; 2. To hear and examine the reports of the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection; 3. To discuss and decide on major questions concerning the Party; 4. To revise the Constitution of the Party; 5. To elect the Central Committee; and 6. To elect the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection.

As we review the meeting records of previous Chinese Communist Party National Congresses, we may notice that all six functions and powers have been well exercised except the third one which is, “To discuss and decide on major questions concerning the Party.” This is actually the only function that contains the possibility of formulating or revising policies, yet it is rarely utilized in previous congressional agendas. The first and the second functions are fundamentally a top-down model of political communication and the examination process is in essence a formality conducted by applauding. The fourth function is focused on internal institutions by setting operational rules within the party and hardly associated with any policy toward the outside world. And finally, the fifth and the sixth functions are basically serving the purpose of internal power reallocation. We therefore hardly find any trace of substantial policy formulation.

Nonetheless, the first function of the Party General Secretary is to identify certain elaborations and interpretations of policies. For instance, Hu Jintao, in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, delivered his report to the Eighteenth National Congress of the Communist Party of China titled, “Firmly March on the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics and Strive to Complete the Building of a Moderately Prosperous Society in all Respects” (堅定不移沿著中國特色社會主義道路前進,為全面建成小康社會而奮鬥) on Nov 8, 2012, is a typical case of identifying the contents of PRC’s policies.

The major portion of this policy report may address domestic issues. Nevertheless, contents mainly within several chapters of this report such as the Chapter IX, “Accelerating the Modernization of National Defense and the Armed Forces” (加快推進國防和軍隊現代化), Chapter X, “Enriching the Practice of ‘One Country, Two Systems’ and Advancing China’s Reunification” (豐富”一國兩制”實踐和推進祖國統一) and Chapter XI, “Continuing to Promote the Noble Cause of Peace and Development of Mankind” (繼續促進人類和平與發展的崇高事業) may naturally trigger concerns from  international audiences.

There are several features we should address here to remind the readers that these statements within the report are not the result of policy formulation process contained by the meeting agenda. First, the contents of the report are concluded from the actual practices during the period of the previous Central Committee still in power. The perspectives are more or less retrospective and relatively less prospective in nature. Second, it is a report delivered by the party General Secretary of the past five-year term Central Committee. Unless the same General Secretary of the party extends for another term for five years, power may pass to new leadership right after the party National Congress. Although there certain elements of policy continuity may exist, the contents revealed by the report are no assurance for their applicability in the future.

And last, it is a unilateral political communication, not a multilateral discussion at all. It therefore could not be a result of a policy review occurred within the National Congress itself. We may expect Xi Jinping will follow the same modus operandi to conclude all his achievements in his previous five-year term and mention still valid policies for his next term. The possibility of declaring new policy is relatively low since no proper policy review is likely to happen in this enormous political gathering. There also is no meeting agenda to accommodate any provisional policy proposal.

As for the First Plenary Session of the Nineteenth National Congress expected to be held right after the National Congress, its main mission at this period is to select new leadership for the party, not revise or promulgate new policies. According to Article 22 of the present Constitution of the Chinese Communist Party:

The Political Bureau, the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau and the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Party are elected by the Central Committee in plenary session. The General Secretary of the Central Committee must be a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau. When the Central Committee is not in session, the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee exercise the functions and powers of the Central Committee. The Secretariat of the Central Committee is the working body of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and its Standing Committee.

The members of the Secretariat are nominated by the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee and are subject to endorsement by the Central Committee in plenary session. The General Secretary of the Central Committee is responsible for convening the meetings of the Political Bureau and its Standing Committee and presides over the work of the Secretariat. The members of the Military Commission of the Central Committee are decided on by the Central Committee.

It is also noted at the end of the same article that, “The central leading bodies and leaders elected by each Central Committee shall, when the next National Congress is in session, continue to preside over the Party’s day-to-day work until the new central leading bodies and leaders are elected by the next Central Committee.

Obviously, the power rearrangement is the major concern for the First Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party Nineteenth National Congress. Although it is clearly noted in  Article 21 of the present Chinese Communist Party Constitution, “The Central Committee of the Party meets in plenary session at least once a year, and such sessions are convened by its Political Bureau. The Political Bureau reports its work to these sessions and accepts their oversight,” it is not always practical to conduct these for the First Plenary Session of each party National Congress since the members of the Central Committee and the Politburo are newly elected at the moment. We therefore may expect that no policy review and reformulation process will be exercised during the coming First Plenary Session of the Chinese Communist Party Nineteenth National Congress.

Assessing Meeting Practices

Reviewing actual meeting practices, we may also assess whether the Chinese Communist Party National Congress and its subsequent First Plenary Session of the Central Committee can be a platform for policy revision and formulation. As many political observers have already concluded, although the Chinese Communist Party National Congress and the Central Committee are theoretically the highest political power mechanism as noted by Article 10, Point 3 of the CCP Constitution: “The highest leading body of the Party is the National Congress and the Central Committee elected by it,” all the important decisions including personnel arrangements and policy stances are generally settled before the actual meetings. After all, the actual political practices are the consequences jointly achieved by political institutions and political culture together. Hidden rules in human societies always exist.

Premier Li Keqiang delivers a speech during the National People’s Congress in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. (AFP)

So far, the Chinese Communist Party has persistently tried to keep a harmonic and systematic power transition process since Deng Xiaoping in the mid-1980s though this political design was still unavoidably disrupted by the Tiananmen Square incident in 1989.  The routine CCP National Congress may always attract international media attention simply because it has the capacity to present the major leadership shift every ten years in its even number term gatherings. On the other hand, the CCP National Congress will also reveal the future political leadership by promoting young generations to key party posts for preparing to shoulder the duties of leadership in those odd number party assemblies of the national level like this time.

Given the size of congregation, well over two thousand including voting delegates plus specially-invited delegates who are retired seniors but granted equal delegate privileges for the CCP National Congress in the previous two terms. As for the Central Committee, its full members and alternate members are generally selected from the leadership of provinces, direct-governed municipalities and autonomous regions, top brass of the People’s Liberation Army, operational theater and major staff establishments of the Central Military Commission, leadership at the minister level of the State Council and CCP administration apparatus, as well from the leadership of state-owned enterprises or state-sponsored institutions. No meaningful and substantial policy reconciliation process can be managed within a meeting of such a complicated composition and with members from so diversified backgrounds. And this is exactly the reason why we had never seen any PRC’s policy shift after those CCP National Congresses for power reshuffles and their subsequent First Session of the Central Committee.

Predicting Policy Orientation from Personnel Structures

As noted above, the nature of the CCP National Congress and its subsequent Session of the Central Committee is power reorganization and transition, personnel reallocation and revisions to party institutions as necessary. These two meetings are by no means an appropriate or useful venue for policy review, discussion, debate, and formulation. Although certain traces of policies can be identified from those political reports, most of the contents in these political statements are retrospective but less prospective.

Nonetheless, policies are defined and designed by those holding the legitimate positions in the decision-making systems. Fresh arrangements of PRC’s personnel structure in various dimensions can be the catalysts for formulating new policies towards the external world. Those states that have deep concerns about how new Chinese policies will affect their interests have the opportunity to observe these decision-makers, and their selection, through these two political conferences. Even though we should remember that it always takes two for tango, many policies are the result of interactions and not unilaterally decided. For those cases where Beijing does not have full capacity to dominate all future developments, it is hard to precisely expect how Beijing may react to outside challenges with any specific policy.

We should also remember that the process of negotiating personnel arrangements before these two party meetings among the party leadership may also practically reflect the significant political positions that will eventually affect policies. Many active political figures may not be promoted in these party meetings as many international observers would expect. Those PRC government officials who are not assigned any party posts are encountering the dead end of their political future.

Those who expect any PRC policy revision towards any specific objective or aspect after the coming Nineteenth Chinese Communist Party National Congress and the following First Plenary Session of its Central Committee should reconsider the nature of these political events before jumping prematurely into conclusions. Without knowing the result of power sharing arrangements, how can we fairly foresee the future Chinese policy? As we have no idea of the general characteristics and power structure of the PRC’s leadership over the next five years, how can anyone tell what will possibly be the results of their policy review and revision process?

It takes time for the new echelon of the PRC leadership to review the present policies before any future revision. That nothing regarding policy can be really determined immediately after the power transition is the best advice that we should keep in mind. And of course, no reliable or credible predictions of PRC’s future policies can be made before these two meetings, either.

Dr. Ching Chang was a line officer in the Republic of China Navy for more than thirty years. As a very productive commentator on Chinese military affairs, he is recognized as a leading expert on the Peoples Liberation Army with unique insights on its military thinking.

Featured Image: The ceiling of the 10,000-seat auditorium in China’s Great Hall of the People. (Wikimedia Commons)

Sea Control 144 – Humanitarian Operations with CDR Andrea Cameron

By Matthew Merighi 

The military plays an integral role in dangerous humanitarian operations. What are these operations and how exactly does the humanitarian world work?

Join us for the latest episode of Sea Control for a conversation with CDR Andrea Cameron of the U.S. Naval War College about her work at the intersection of security policy and humanitarianism. She talks about the different kinds of humanitarian operations, how the military gets looped in, and provides guidance for how people in uniform can better operate in a complex environment.

Download Sea Control 144 – Humanitarian Operations with CDR Andrea Cameron 

A transcript of the interview between Andrea Cameron (AC) and Matthew Merighi (MM) is below. The transcript has been edited for clarity. Special thanks to Associate Producer Ryan Uljua for producing this episode and Associate Producer Cris Lee for the transcription. Note: these views do not necessarily represent those of the U.S. Naval War College, the U.S. Navy, or Department of Defense.

MM: So, as is Sea Control tradition, please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background and how you got to where you are now.

AC: I have had a very unique career, I was a Surface Warfare Officer for seven years, I was stationed on big deck amphibs and aircraft carriers. And then I was a human resources officer in the Navy for about 10 years. I specialized in education, training, and development. And after that I was selected as a permanent military professor. When I joined the Navy back in the 90s, the post-Cold War era had a really different variety of military operations other than war, and I was fascinated at the time how military could respond to such a variety of contingencies in short order. So, my particular interest is humanitarian assistance/disaster relief. When I was selected as a permanent professor, they let me study whatever I wanted within the security studies field so I chose kind of a mix of international relations theory and political science, and applied that specifically to my topic of humanitarian assistance-disaster relief

MM:  So, you mention the term permanent military professor a couple of times in your intro, what is that role, how did you get selected for it? What are the benefits and drawbacks, how did you get to be in that particular role?

AC: So, permanent military professor is a lateral transfer. If you’re selected, the Navy funds a PhD program for you and your obligated service is basically the rest of your career through statutory retirement, while you’re serving as a professor at one of the Navy’s educational institutions. It’s a very small community, we have about 80 billets. And four of them are at the Naval Postgraduate school, three are currently at the Naval War College, and the rest of them are all at the Naval Academy.

MM:  So what do you have to do to become a PMP?

AC: The community is generally open to the unrestricted line and information warfare corps, but other restricted lines can be considered. Every year there’s a NAVADMIN that comes out that says what fields of study we’re trying to find people for, and when that time comes, be ready.

When I tell some what I do, I hear, “that’s my dream job” or “I want to do that.” So, I usually give out two general pieces of advice. One advances in your designator, and to be a permanent military professor, you need to be an O-5 or O-5 select, and they do that because it hits the sweet spot of that junior O-5 level. You have enough time to get a PhD and also a lot of years of teaching at one of the institutions. And the second one piece of advice that I’d give everyone is to really think of your academic future. This is what you want to do and you want to get selected as a PMP, then you have to be accepted into a PhD program. There are stellar applicants into the program, but if you don’t have a undergrad and a master’s degree in your field and have really good grades that would let you be admitted into a PhD program, then that’s kind of a roadblock. So, if you’re one of those junior officers out there and you think you’d like to do this someday, really think long term about your academic future and build a record that will really shine when your opportunity comes. 

MM:  So, that actually sounds like a pretty sweet deal, are there any drawbacks to be being a PMP because that sounds pretty fantastic.

AC: It is, I won’t lie, I’m living the dream job, the primary drawback is that there is definitely lack of upward mobility. When you’re doing this, you’re most likely a terminal O-5. Everyone would love to be considered for those handful of O-6 positions, but when you get picked up, you acknowledge up front in the application that there’s limited career progression and its driven (like every other community) by the needs of the Navy and PMP requirements, so that’s the primary drawback.

MM:  Okay, so let’s talk then a little bit about what it’s like being a PMP in terms of your research. So obviously you mentioned it at the top, but your field of study that you’ve kept consistent through these different phases has been development and humanitarianism, which let’s just say for most members of the military is atypical. So, what brought you to study those particular fields? How’s that gone so far?

AC: It’s going well. I work at the Naval War College and fortunately, they allow you to study every field that can be related to national security interests. Why do I study these? Because I tend to take a broader view of what national security interests are. A lot of times you’ll hear that 4+1 construct: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and violent extremists, and that construct works really well. With those threats, you can identify a country, a place on a map, a leader, a government system, their capabilities, and you can figure out what you want to do to counteract that. And fortunately there’s thousands of people around the world who study this very in depth.

I look at national security interests differently. As a country with global interests, politically, economically, and ideologically, there are a lot of national security issues that aren’t covered under this 4+1 construct. One of my favorite phrases is “Threats without enemies.” And if you look at a variety of human security issues, they are threats without enemies, and they’re going to affect our national security interests in the future.

MM: That sounds like a bit about the ideas behind human security that we hear about  inside the security realm nowadays. There are schools like Fletcher that will be teaching human security issues in the midst of the traditional security studies classes because it’s become such an integral part of the community’s view on things. So, could you give us some examples of how those threats without enemies manifest? Are there ones that are at the top of your mind that you think would resonate with our audience?

AC: Human security is often described in the inverse, in the insecurities of individuals, not states. You’ll often hear about economic insecurity, food insecurity, or health or environmental insecurity, those are all broad topics that fall under the umbrella of human security. Within this, there’s a laundry list of things that are covered. Global climate change, food and water scarcity, poverty, urbanization, mass migration, epidemics, all of that falls under this broad umbrella of human security issues. And some of these may not touch us directly, but they’re definitely going to start affecting our partners and allies around the world. I definitely think that this is a good approach to looking at national security issues.

MM: So, if this is a good approach, how then does the United States operationalize that in foreign policy? What does that mean? Are there certain tweaks and ways that we do things differently from the past that allows us to go after these sorts of threats without enemies? How does that all work?

AC: We tend to look at our foreign policy in this 3D construct, and if you’re not familiar with the three ds they’re defense, diplomacy, and development. And that has evolved over the years. For a long time, defense has been naturally your military arm or your hard power. And diplomacy and development are more of the soft power. This can get rolled up into a formula that can combine the two and they often call it smart power. These are very important things to consider because you want to have a balance. And that’s something that is very hot in the language today with how these organizations are changing. The military, the DOD, is naturally in charge of the defense-D. And the State Department is the lead on diplomacy. And the United States Agency for International Development has the lead for all the development and humanitarian efforts of the United States government.

MM: And that’s the construct as it stands now. How is that evolving and changing under the current administration? Is it going to be more of the same, are there tweaks that are being talked about? I know in the news there’s been talks about putting USAID back under State Department. What do you see as the long-term trajectory of that bureaucratic organizational system that currently comprises the 3-Ds?

AC: This is a great discussion that’s come out in a lot of places. First, the discussion by the administration of expanding the defense department and wanting the it paid for by the budget proposal the president put forward. In that budget proposal, are increases to Defense and massive cuts to the State Department and USAID. It’s still to be determined whether this is going to happen, if Congress is going to execute the President’s budget as it was submitted, which is probably not likely that it will cut state and USAID to such a great degree. However, we see Secretary Tillerson in State Dept. already reducing personnel, reforming the institution and taking away some of the programs that have long term implications for Foreign Service officers. And that’s all of course, in accordance with the President’s vision of where State should be going.

USAID is to be determined. They just confirmed Ambassador Mark Green to lead the USAID and he recently testified before Congress. A slightly different approach to development, which is much more of a hand up, not a hand out perspective. Nothing wrong with that. But what was reassuring was his language about humanitarian efforts in the future. So that’s kind of the current status under the new president and I’ll probably talk about a little bit more as we discuss some of the topics.

MM: So, you’ve used a lot of terms so far that I think much of our audience is familiar with, at least on a basic level. But I know that they don’t all mean the same thing. So, you’ve mentioned development, you’ve also mentioned humanitarianism and humanitarian assistance, disaster relief. There are a lot of different layers to this. So, I was wondering if you could walk us through some of those terms now that we’ve got the baseline. What is the difference between development, humanitarianism, and disaster relief? How does that kind of difference pop up in your studies?

AC: Development is the broad category and most of our foreign aid assistance falls under the development category. Development is basically when one state or actor helps to improve another’s economy, health, government, social well-being, anything that you’re trying to do. By its nature, it’s inherently political. The United States government is working with another actor to help them out and of course when you’re doing that, there is this natural question of what’s in it for the United States government?

There are fourteen different agencies that use foreign aid and assistance: DOD is just one state, USAID, they all have lines of accounting this. In FY16 it was about a $36 billion budget and it effects 142 countries around the world. So, when we’re talking about what does slashing this budget impact, it involves a lot of U.S. government agencies and a lot of countries we work with. The military does development. It usually does it through security cooperation or military-to-military relations. We do some infrastructure building, we do some global health engagement. But a lot of what the military does is through security cooperation. Through exercises, through education exchange programs, institution building, those types of activities give a really good example of what the military is doing for development.

MM: Alright, so that’s development. So how does it differ from humanitarianism?

AC: Humanitarianism has a completely different mindset. Humanitarian actors provide aid for saving lives or alleviate suffering. And with this, they have some governing principles, they operate under the principle of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and operational independence. Those principles kind of govern everything they do. They take them very, very seriously. Everything about their identity, their effectiveness, their safety, and authority all derives from these principles. What’s different about governments and militaries is that we cannot be neutral. And we’re not going to be impartial. This is also what makes them different from development agencies. Because of this, that the nongovernmental organizations don’t want to blur the lines primarily by working with militaries. The international humanitarian institutions from the United Nations and the nongovernmental organizations, they all reflect this preference for the humanitarian principles, and as such, working with the military is what they call the last resort.

MM: So, if there is that big of a difference between development and humanitarianism, it seems that there is that underlying friction between the humanitarian community and the military, why then did you decide to focus on humanitarian assistance as the field that you wanted focus on for your PMP?

AC: I focus on humanitarian assistance largely because I believe there isn’t a conflict that doesn’t have a corresponding humanitarian crisis. And often whatever is driving the humanitarian crisis is probably the root cause of the conflict. And if you look at those escalating human security issues, we touched on earlier: urbanization, food and water scarcity, mass migration, I think the logical conclusion is that we will see more conflicts like this in the future, and if we don’t address the root causes of conflict, you won’t find a way to end the conflict. So, I look at this way so that as my contribution to the study of war.

MM: So, let’s dive in deeper. You think that there’s a way to reconcile the military component and humanitarian assistant component that are intertwined and whatnot. But let’s talk about those actors. Between the humanitarian actors and the militaries, go into a little bit more detail about what that friction is, how it manifests, and how that affects the battlespace.

AC: So, I mentioned the international humanitarian governments. It was all developed back in the post-Cold War 1990s, at the height of humanitarian intervention missions. So, militaries were all in these types of humanitarian interventions, there still was the use of force, although we labeled it humanitarian, we were not being impartial, we were not being neutral, we were trying to end violence through the use of force. The military was in fact not being a humanitarian actor. In these various events, you might remember Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo. We had varied levels of engagement and varied levels of results. But in the context of civil-military coordination, it was all developed during this time.

Militaries and humanitarians, they work in the same geographic space, but back then we tried much harder to segregate. You work on this side, and I’ll work on this side of the humanitarian space and if we can, we’ll just stay out of each other’s way as much as possible. And this helped reaffirm the humanitarian principles for the humanitarian actors, and it helped mission completion for the military actors. Also during this, the military, being in essence, the belligerent, the NGOs are not compromising their values and they’re not ultimately compromising their mission or their safety. So, they really liked to segregate as much as possible.

This has evolved a lot over the years, and basically the concept of having separate spaces no longer exist. The collapse of the humanitarian space forces the nongovernmental organizations and the militaries to work together much more closely. A great example of this is in Iraq and Syria today. Where you get the military operating, CENTCOM is working with USAID and they’re trying to deconflict, that’s the word: Deconfliction efforts. So that the NGOs, if they’re willing to cooperate, provide us some information of where they are, so we cannot be operating in the same space, or be operating at least with some understanding of where they’re working so we can avoid each other.

MM: And so, you’ve mentioned sort of the historical foundation of this and mentioned a bit about how it works in Iraq and Syria. Do you see any other changes happening in that relationship as time goes on since clearly that immediate post-Cold War relationship of segregation to where we are now is very, very different? Do you see that as continuing to change or are we in kind of a state of equilibrium right now or do people know what the swim lanes are and people know how to interact with one another?

AC: No, we don’t know where the swim lanes are, we’re constantly evolving in this practice, and the government still largely remains the same. Of course, the humanitarian principles still guide the humanitarian actors but their willingness to work around and with militaries is evolving somewhat. Just for their own safety, there’s more and more attacks on humanitarian workers, security has become such an issue for them, that how they view the military and how they can partner with the military, is a constantly evolving thing and we shall see where it goes in the future.

MM: So, we talked about development, we’ve talked now about humanitarianism. But there’s also the third aspect, the second half of HA/DR, a term that most people already know, which is the disaster relief element. So how does the instance of a flood or a hurricane or an earthquake change the dynamics between the relief community and the military, and how the military gets involved in those kinds of things. Is it the same? Is it different? What are the rules of the engagement on that front?

AC: So, this is what I find the most fascinating about the natural disaster component. Because the sudden onset of crisis really brings the humanitarian imperatives to the front. You want to help this many people, to do these humanitarian missions, save lives, and alleviate suffering. So, whoever the host nation or the affected state invites to assist is doing that. They are there to save lives and alleviate suffering. Counter to everything I’ve just explained, in many countries, the military is actually evolved as a first responder within their own country. Or even a lot of bilateral agreements have been set up that a partner country, agrees that if there’s a natural disaster, a partner country will supply these kind of military resources. So, in counter to everything I just said, because of the different context of natural disaster, now keep in mind the nongovernmental organization still may resist working with the militaries, but it may change the larger the scale of the event. They want to help people, and they need the resources that they didn’t need yesterday.

So, this entire notion of being in a disaster, it kind of upends the government with the rules, the norms, and it changes the notion of what can be done with civil-military coordination. This isn’t just true for humanitarians, it also upends military norms. You know, in the military we have the mindset that we’re here to break things and kill people. And in a flash of an event we’re here to build things and save people. So, this isn’t something that Clausewitz has laid the groundwork for previously. The really big question is why does this topic matter? Because we the military, we are doing this now, and we’re going to keep doing this in the future. So, the nature of warfare is changing, what you can do with the military is doing is changing, and we’ll all be better by giving this certain activity some more attention.

MM: So, the U.S. military is involved in humanitarian disaster relief mission, but you specifically mention that there are other countries where the military isn’t just an actor, but the primary first responder. So, from your research, which countries are currently configured that way, where the military is the first responder and consequently, which ones of those that are configured that way do you find do the best job and maybe the model best worth emulating rather by the United States or by others?

AC: I think, two examples, and unfortunately, they’re countries that deal with these events quite frequently. One that is very obvious is the Philippines. They get typhoons quite regularly and they have a very robust internal emergency management system and they actually just train military and emergency managers routinely so they can be prepared for the next event. Another example, I think of is, Chile. And they have earthquakes quite frequently and occasionally with tsunamis and the military is also first responder down there. That is probably the poster child of how to do it right.

MM: So those countries are configured with specifically dedicated units and peoples and processes and whatnot, but for the United States, how then with our configuration, does the military get involved in HA/DR missions? What’s the process? Since a lot of people have some operational experience, how do the tasking orders work, who ends up being in charge? How does the military then get looped into HA/DR missions from the U.S. context?

AC: There’s two pieces to this. There’s the formal kind of process and there’s what’s happening when they’re working together. So formally, there’s an event, the host nation goes to the ambassador, the State Department writes it up to the secretary of state and the president, “can we assist this country, they’ve formally asked for our help.” If the government wants to do that, of course the United States Agency for International Development, USAID, responds and the DOD might be tasked as a supporting unit to them. While all of that is happening of course, we watch the news, we know there is an event, there is a geographic combatant commander whose working with the embassy on the ground, who’s already probably working with the USAID people on the ground, and they’re all setting this up so that when the formal guidance comes, the operational orders come, we’re ready to do it.

Because it is a natural disaster, there is a small window of opportunity for any geographic combatant commander. They have 72 hours, while all of this formal stuff is happening, the geographic combatant commander has a 72-hour window to save lives and alleviate suffering. And what they’re doing is possibly redirecting their forces, plotting out some logistics, setting up their staffs, task organizing. Whatever they’re doing to get ready so that when the order comes, they’re already in action. The size of the response could be anything from a single ship, to a joint task force, or you might recall the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, where the joint task force quickly evolved into a combined support force, where other militaries were working with us to support the humanitarian assistants.

As soon as an event happens, it’s not just the U.S. government that responds, there is an international humanitarian system that responds, led by the United Nations agencies. Specifically, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). They have a robust cluster system that provides coordination, they also set up coordination cells for middle-of-the-mill cooperation and for civilian-military coordination. And it’s through this broader network that both USAID and supporting Department of Defense resources will all plug into.

MM: One of the things that I’ve noticed that we’ve talked about before is that there is a change in the Navy and the aea services strategy, the Cooperative strategy for 21st Century Seapower. The 2007 version that had HA/DR as a core capability, but then it was changed where it wasn’t considered a core capability in the 2015 version. Could you talk a little about then how current Navy and sea service strategy addresses the HA/DR mission?

AC: So, the HA/DR mission has now been placed under power projection. And it’s the same assets and capabilities of ship-to-shore movement, that is wrapped up into power projection which is why HA/DR kind of was removed as a core capability. But it’s still something very important to one of our primary missions which is power projection.

It’s very interesting to see how this has developed over time. HA/DR is something listed specifically in the QDR. It’s been mentioned in the National Security Strategy. Given that it was already kind of placed underneath power projection in most recent security strategy, I think that will carry through even with the new administration. I don’t think that’s something that is going away. I just think that it will be something that stays core to our mission, but probably underneath the power projection category.

MM: So, if it’s not going anywhere, I imagine then it would probably make sense for the people listening to get even smarter on the topic then you’ve already made us in this interview. So, for those people that are out there, especially imagining they’ll be doing humanitarian interagency coordination one day, do you have any recommendations about how people can learn more about this topic and what sorts of sources they should dive into? Since this is sort of an atypical field of study, either in the humanitarian space or inside the military space.

AC: There’s two particular training opportunities that I recommend to anyone interested in the subject. First, in Hawaii there’s the Center for Excellence for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance. They have a fantastic course called the HART course: Humanitarian Assistance Response Training. And if you cannot get to Hawaii, they have wonderfully put this online through the JKO, the Joint Knowledge Online. So, it’s the HART course on JKO and anyone can take that with a CAC card. The second opportunity is with USAID military liaison teams put together the Joint Humanitarian Operations Course. They teach it to us, and they travel around to different military commands, the ones most likely to be doing this type of work, and they give you the basics on the USAID-DOD relationship and how in operations we work together. So, if you ever get an opportunity to sit in on what they call the JHOC course, Joint Humanitarian Operations Course, it’s a fantastic opportunity and extremely valuable.

MM: So, for those officers and enlisted people out there in the services that don’t have the opportunity to take any of those course, what would you say then is the biggest takeaway for them? So that if they get put into a situation where they need to know about HA/DR they can be at the very least literate in what’s going on?

AC: So, most importantly, just remember that the military is a short-term piece of a very large-scale response. And we’re only there for a little bit of time until the civilian response capabilities can be fully established, and then we’re out. And also remember that there’s USAID, they’re the lead agency and if we do this, we are supporting them. There’s much less of them than us, but they are the lead agency when we do humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

MM: Well, since it seems like we’re getting towards the end of our interview, we’ll end it the same way we do all the other episodes. Tell us a little bit about what you’re reading. And what kinds of resources and articles are capturing your attention nowadays.

AC: I’m participating in the Women, Peace and Security Conference at the Naval War College and I’m reading a book right now by Rosa Brooks. She previously worked as the counselor to the undersecretary of defense and she wrote a great book about how everything became war and the military became everything. It really shines a light on all the ways that war, and everything else we do that is not war, has been blurred in modern warfare. So, it’s a fascinating book. And the second thing I’m reading right now is unpublished, but it should be published in the next year, it’s a book called How Navies Fight and Win at Sea by Jeff Cares and Tony Cowden, and it really provides an in-depth modernization to naval operational art. It draws on rich operations research background and then it pulls in kind of the prolific naval thinkers like Fisk’s and Wiley and Wayne Hughes, and I think this book, How Navies Fight and Win at Sea, will be kind of a future classic, so no doubt it will show up in some way on CIMSEC when it gets published. Fantastic work.

MM:  I’m looking forward to giving that one a read at some point. Thank you again Andrea for your time. Appreciate you sharing insights into this unique topic in the military space and best of luck with your research and thank you very much for being with us on Sea Control today.

AC: Thank you, Matt.

Commander Andrea H. Cameron, U.S. Navy, is a Permanent Military Professor teaching the Policy Analysis sub-course.  In 2011, she also completed a Doctorate Degree in Educational Technology from Pepperdine University with research about the Apple iPad in the academic environment. She also holds a B.A. degree in Political Science, a M.A. in Human Resource Development from The George Washington University, and a M.S. in Military Operational Art and Science from the Air Command and Staff College.

Matthew Merighi is the Senior Producer of Sea Control and Assistant Director for Maritime Studies at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He serves as a member of CIMSEC’s Board of Directors.

Plaster The Ship With Paint – Dazzle & Deception in War

James Taylor, Dazzle: Disguise and Deception in War and Art. Naval Institute Press, 2016. 128 pages, $38.00/hardcover.

By Christopher Nelson

There is a fun little ditty in the last page of James Taylor’s book, Dazzle: Disguise and Deception in War and Art. It goes like this:

Captain Schmidt at his periscope,
You need not fall and faint,
For it’s not the vision of drug or dope,
But only the dazzle-paint.
And you’re done, you’re done, my pretty Hun.
You’re done in the big blue eye,
By painter-men with a sense of fun,
And their work has just gone by.
Cheero! A convoy safely by.

British composer George Frederic Norton wrote the tune for a close friend and fellow artist. The friend? His name was Norman Wilkinson. And more than anyone, he was responsible for one of the most iconic painting schemes on ships at sea. Known simply as “Dazzle,” or “Dazzle paint,”  it was a mixture of different shapes and colors covering the hull and superstructure of merchants and combatants, primarily in World War I, intended to deceive German submarine captains about a ship’s heading and speed.     

Yet years before World War I, Wilkinson established himself as a talented artist. Born into a large family in the late 19th century, in Cambridge, England, he moved to the southern part of the country as a young boy. It was there, in Southsea, England, that his artistic talents flourished. And like many artists, he benefited from the good graces of a well-connected benefactor. In Wilkinson’s case, it was his doctor. But not just any doctor. His doctor was the creator of  Sherlock Holmes –Arthur Conan Doyle. The famous author and physician introduced Wilkinson to the publisher of The Idler, a popular British magazine at the time. Wilkinson would go on to create some illustrations for The Idler and Today magazine. These illustrations were the first of many commissioned paintings, drawings, and posters to come. Landscapes, maritime themes, planes and trains, Norman Wilkinson would end up painting them all.

Author and Physician, Sherlock Holmes supported Norman Wilkinson’s early entry into English periodicals

In fact, military naval enthusiasts – and more than a few naval intelligence officers – might be surprised to learn that Wilkinson was later responsible for the World War II poster that depicted a sinking ship with the disclaimer: “A few careless words may end in this.” The poster is obviously a close cousin to the popular American military idiom, “Loose Lips Might Sink Ships,” a piece of operations security art by Seymour R. Goff (who had the interesting nom de guerre “Ess-ar-gee”) that was created for the American War Advertising Council in World War II. Prints of Goff’s work still cover the walls and passageways of U.S. naval shore facilities and ships today.

A Few Careless Words May End in This, by Norman Wilkinson/Wikipedia

When World War I began, Wilkinson, like thousands of British men, wanted to join up and, as the saying goes, “do his bit.” Eventually, he was assigned as a naval pay clerk and deployed to the Mediterranean theater in 1915. But by 1917 he was back in Britain, and Germany had resumed unrestricted submarine warfare. It was around this time that Wilkinson had an idea to protect merchant shipping. And as with so many great ideas, often hatched during the quiet, daily moments of life, Dazzle was born, not in a boardroom or on a chalkboard, but in a “cold carriage” following a fishing trip in southern England.  

Here Taylor quotes Wilkinson:

“On my way back to Devonport in the early morning, in an extremely cold carriage, I suddenly got the idea that since it was impossible to paint a ship so that she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer – in other words, to paint her, not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as to the course which she was heading.”

A few months later, with support from the Royal Academy of Arts, a friend in the Ministry of Shipping, and a few others, the “Dazzle Section” was created. Staffed with artists and modelers (many of them women), they were responsible for paint schemes that covered over 4,000 merchant ships and 400 combatants by the end of the war.  

Taylor does a fantastic job at detailing the personalities and the process that got Dazzle from Wilkinson’s mind onto the hulls of so many ships. Taylor discusses the numerous other artists that helped bring Wilkinson’s idea to fruition, the introduction of Dazzle to the U.S. Navy, and its brief return in World War II. He also highlights the dispute between Wilkinson and Sir John Graham Kerr, a professor of zoology at the University of Glasgow who for years claimed that he, not Wilkinson, should deserve credit for the creation of the dazzle concept. Taylor notes that Kerr “relentlessly campaigned to advance his claim that his scheme was in principle one and the same as Wilkinsons.”   

Camouflage pattern for Benson class destroyer in WWII/Wikipedia

Taylor’s Dazzle, besides succeeding in substance, also succeeds in style. About the size of a composition notebook, Dazzle is large enough to show illustrations of the paint scheme on merchant ships and combatants in clear detail, while it also includes photographs of the artists in the Dazzle sections at work. Hunched over large tables holding small models in their hands, artists carefully painted various Dazzle schemes on each model. Once the model ship was painted they placed it in what they called the “theatre.” This was no more than a room with a table and periscope. The model was placed a circular table and rotated, while another person looked through a periscope that was about seven feet away. “In this way, one could judge the maximum distortion one was trying to achieve in order to upset a submarine Commander’s idea on which the ship was moving.”  The colors that covered the model were then meticulously copied onto a color chart that was provided to the contractors who covered the ships in dazzle designs.

Yet the question still remains: Did Dazzle paint work? Did it deceive U-boat commanders? A small painted model in a theatre is one thing, but out at sea is something entirely different. 

Unfortunately, as Taylor says, we really don’t know. Dazzle painting was introduced late in the war. Naval critic Archibald Hurd noted that there was not “enough evidence” to determine its “efficiency.” Nor, as Taylor notes, did any captured German submarine captains say that Dazzle confounded their targeting of enemy vessels. A single sentence in a submarine log or captain’s diary –Verdammt die Tarnfarbe! – would be an indictment, but if it exists, it has yet to be discovered by naval historians.

Dazzle was intended to deceive U-boats about the ship’s speed and course/U.S. Navy File Image

Taylor, the former curator of paintings, drawings, prints and exhibition organizer at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, has written a book that does justice to Wilkinson’s work. The talented Dazzle artists would probably be amazed to see how far his paint scheme has come – as Taylor includes an entire chapter about Dazzle painting’s influence on modern art and how the big blocks of paint now cover cars and even Nike footwear.

My only critique is a request really, that the publishers make this book available in an e-book format for people who prefer the work on an electronic reader.

Regardless, Taylor’s detailed account of Dazzle, his careful selection of photographs, illustrations, and paintings, all printed and bound in a beautiful book is essential for anyone interested in the history of naval deception, World War I navies, or the rare but respected breed who enjoys the intersection of war and art. 

Lieutenant Commander Christopher Nelson, USN, is stationed at the U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He is a graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Navy’s operational planning school, the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, Rhode Island. He is a regular contributor to CIMSEC. The opinions here are his own.

Featured Image: Aquitania in Dazzle Paint/Wikipedia Commons

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.

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