July 4th: Nation from a Navy

A year before Boston’s infamous “Big Dig” was started.


Before the Founding Fathers put pen to paper, formally declaring the independence of these United States, there was a navy. This is a nation birthed by a navy. Our vast nation started with the intrepid explorers, pilgrims, and entrepreneurs who first crossed the vast and often terrifying Atlantic to reach our shores. As the colonies developed, the journey became mainstream, the colonies plied an ever-growing trans-Atlantic trade network supported militarily and logistically by British Naval might .

I’m torn between my love of America, and my distaste for French Rococo.

Founded by sea, defended by sea, and nourished by sea, our Republic found its independence at sea. From the Boston Tea Party to the Continental Marine’s landing at Nassau and John Paul Jone’s raid of England proper, the colonists’ plucky determination to use their hard-won seamanship skills against the mighty Crown served as a source of great courage to the embattled freedom fighters. However, of even greater importance was the interference provided by the French and later Spanish navies. The very ocean that served as America’s source of wealth was also Britain’s greatest source of military strength and a direct link back to the Realm’s stores and armories. No amount of determination could, with that source of power unchecked, defend the colonists from the full might of Imperial disciplines.Indeed, the war itself was won at sea, the French putting the lid on Cornwall’s Yorktown coffin as the colonists hammered in the nails.


USS KEARSARGE (LHD-3) transits the Straits of Hormuz.

Here at CIMSEC, we celebrate the transformation from Jefferson’s colonial upstart to Hamilton’s commercial superpower. From the Barbary Wars to America’s modern steady-state Great White Fleet, America is now defined by its global position: an economic, political, military, and cultural presence fed by a world-spanning arterial network of ships both commercial and kinetic. America is a nation born by sea, raised by sea, and living by sea.

That was your obligatory Fourth of July post. Now get some BBQ and set off explosions.

Matt Hipple is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy. 

Front and Center: CIMSEC’s Past and Future

I recently returned from leave and some thistle-pulling and sagebrush clearing a family reunion and realized that the month of June has already ended. It’s surprising how fast the summer has arrived and equally surprising that in a week or so, CIMSEC and the NextWar Blog will have been active for three months. With the selection of a leadership team and our continued growth, I’m writing all of you in my new capacity as President to talk about where we have been and where we may dare go.

First, I have a running tab of gratitude to settle. To the established centers of thought who have encouraged us to strike out and begin writing, especially the teams at Information Dissemination and the US Naval Institute, thank you. Thanks specifically to LT Rob McFall, LCDR BJ Armstrong, Galrahn, Sam LaGrone, CDR Salamander, Peter Munson and CDR Chris Rawley for your advice, hyperlinks and shameless plugs. Thank you to our members, readers, authors, and all of the other interested parties who have lent their time and their minds to growing a new organization. There have been too many acts, both large and small, to name here. I hope that everyone who has posted on NextWar or on our facebook page realizes the significance they are having while at the tiller. Thank you for keeping the ship steady. Most of all, however, thanks is due to our Founding Director and current Vice President, Scott Cheney-Peters (anyone wish to second my motion to name him “Fearless Leader”?), whose vision and leadership have created an important new space in the discourse on securing the seas.

We have a lot to be proud of in the nearly three months we have been active. Under Scott’s leadership, CIMSEC has expanded from a ragtag band of junior officers into an organization with many dozens of members ranging from E-5 to O-8 in the U.S. military and countless other affiliations in government, industry, and think-tanks. We are most proud of the international facet of our identity; the lack of international dialogue on maritime security is a gap we sought to fill early-on as we contemplated our role in the defense blog ecosystem. We have members from countries all over the world, including Poland, Japan, the Philippines, Uruguay, the United Kingdom and Canada. Many of these international members are or will be active authors. We can learn much from each other. We’ve also sought to prove that a web platform can help give voice to less well-known authors. NextWar blog posts have been cited by many prominent defense blogs and websites as well as the Navy’s CHINFO Clips – so we have reason to keep our shoulder to the wheel. Our writing has also attracted partnerships with prestigious and diverse organizations such as the Atlantic Council of Canada, the Naval Institute, and TheRiskyShift.com – and we look forward to additional partnerships in the future. Finally, one friend of ours said in an email that CIMSEC is the realization of a maritime variant of Small Wars Journal. This humbling compliment is, to me, more of an admonition to continue what we’ve started and a worthy aspiration which I hope we can, in time, fulfill.

As with any new organization, the most exciting opportunities lie ahead. We need your help in the following areas to further grow and mature:

  • Branding. Successful websites have a strong visual brand, and we aspire to present an appearance commensurate with our writing. I’m pleased to announce the “CIMSEC Logo Contest.” Anyone interested in fashioning CIMSEC’s new logo can submit art to me by 15 July. Images should be high resolution and fit in a rectangular shape (a ratio of 1:2.5 height/width). We are also looking for a “Favicon” which will appear in the URL line in most internet browsers, which should fit in a square (1:1 ratio). I will treat the winner of each category to liquid refreshment at our next meet-up. Thanks to Armando Heredia for stepping up to manage our online presence – you can contact him if you have more technical questions.
  • Membership. Though we have grown significantly in membership and readership, increasing both will remain a priority. Each of you has a role to play in growing our base. Email links, tweet, “like” us on Facebook and use good ‘ol fashioned word of mouth to introduce us to new people. Again, we are proud of our International character, and are specifically seeking international members, readers, and contributors. LCDR A.J. Kruppa is directing our membership efforts – please contact him for more information.
  • Publications. Our strategy for publication is simple: we will continue to publish the best possible writing on international maritime security. If we quietly pursue excellence, people will cross-post, read, link, like and discuss our products. Contact our Director of Operations and Editor of the NextWar Blog, LTJG Matt Hipple, if you are interested in posting. We are also excited about the NextWar Journal, a longform e-publication that will feature in-depth coverage of international maritime security issues. We are still seeking contributions for our first edition. Contact me if you’re interested in contributing to the journal.
  • Organization. A personal priority for me will be to legitimize CIMSEC as a legal entity. We seek to incorporate as a non-profit organization in the United States and will pursue appropriate copyright and trademark protections for our work. Though the digital domain is still a wild frontier when it comes to intellectual property, pursuing these goals will allow CIMSEC to become as respected and as durable as our desires and ability allow.
  • Social Media. We’re in the midst of a rapid expansion beyond our website to other forms of social media. More will follow from our Director of Social Media, Ben Purser, on this subject.

I’m honored to be a part of this organization and excited to see what the next three months bring. Don’t be afraid to get involved – this is your discussion!

LT Kurt Albaugh, USN is President of the Center for International Maritime Security, a Surface Warfare Officer and Instructor in the U.S. Naval Academy’s English Department. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Indian Maritime Security After Mumbai


Captured Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab

Last week the Indian government announced that it had arrested Abu Jindal, an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba leader accused of masterminding the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed at least 160 people.  His capture was only the most recent of a series of arrests and trials in India, Pakistan, and the US of people involved in planning or participating in the attack.  Those events spurred a major re-evaluation of India’s maritime security posture, but the efforts that India has undertaken to improve those capabilities demonstrate some of the inherent difficulties of applying the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness to missions like counter-terrorism.

Following the attack the Indian Navy was designated as “the authority responsible for overall maritime security which includes coastal security and offshore security,” effectively relegating the Coast Guard from its primary coastal security role.  Organizationally, a series of Joint Operations Centers were established with responsibility over the various coastal regions, with the intent to institutionalize information sharing between the Navy, Coast Guard, and local agencies.  The Navy and Coast Guard began acquiring long and medium range surveillance aircraft and UAVs for a new “three-tier aerial surveillance grid.”   The Navy also set up a new coastal security unit, the Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB), with the mission of  day/night operations and “seaward anti-terrorist patrols.”

Despite these efforts, it does not seem like India’s improved maritime security framework has been successful.  In 2011 the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General issued a highly critical report stating that the Coast Guard “remains ill-equipped to discharge its enhanced role and meet the challenges of today… Post 26/11, the response of ICG and government has been ‘ad hoc’ as can be witnessed by increased patrolling, increased funding, fast tracking procurements.”  The most embarrasing instance was when a ship originally abandoned off the coast of Oman escaped detection by India’s new “multi-layered coastal security” system and washed ashore in Mumbai during July 2011.  Even though Indian authorities claimed that patrols have increased, as of 2011 the planned Command & Control network, radars, and AIS receivers enabling them had yet to be fielded as planned.  Only 250 or so of the 1000 SPB billets had been filled, and none of the planned 80 interceptor craft had been purchased.

 Whether or not India’s efforts at improving Maritime Domain Awareness and interagency cooperation between the Navy and Coast Guard are successful, it still remains unclear how either entity would have been able to act against the attackers.  It was later revealed that the US had provided warnings to the Indian government warning of a seaborne attack and that hotels were potential targets in Mumbai.  It is unclear whether those warnings were disseminated to Navy or Coast Guard units at the tactical level, or whether that would have even made a difference.

 According to the lone culprit captured alive after the attack, the attackers left Karachi on the ship “AL HUSSEINI,” and then hijacked a fishing trawler named “KUBER” in Indian waters.  They killed all the crew but the captain, who was then killed after guiding them to Mumbai.    The attacker claimed that the fishing trawler that they had hijacked had been detected by an Indian Navy or Coast Guard vessel, but that Navy or Coast Guard patrol did not stop the trawler.  Being detected was the event that spurred the attackers to leave the trawler and start their final movement ashore in small inflatable boats.

Assuming that story is true and the trawler was seen by the Navy or Coast Guard, there still is not necessarily a reason that those authorities would have had to justify them interdicting and boarding the suspect trawler.  It is plausible that they could have been ordered to stop all suspect vessels, but it is not clear that the trawler full of terrorists would have met the criteria of a suspect vessel at first glance (it was just a fishing boat heading to Mumbai).  Without a good description or location of the boat, how would the Indian Navy or Coast Guard target it?  This instance demonstrates the difficulty of both achieving something like total Maritime Domain Awareness, and then applying that knowledge to drive successful operations.

How often did Indian intelligence and/or the various maritime security agencies get warnings of this type, and if so, would the operational result of that be instructions to interdict all vessels in a certain area?  How would the boundaries of such a search area defined?  How would “suspect” vessels be identified without an accurate description of the target?  How long could any maritime force sustain widespread interdiction of suspect vessels?  Even an unlimited number of maritime platforms and ship-tracking sensors will not make any difference in terms of differentiating the bad guys from the rest of the civilian traffic if the bad guys are able to blend in.  Realistically, the only way that the Indians would have been successful in stopping the attackers would have actionable indicators derived from analysis or penetration of those illicit networks such as the location or description of a specific boat.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence Officer and currently serves on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence and onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

Russia and Iran in the Caspian


The Caspian Sea

This new piece from Foreign Policy discusses the current efforts of Russia, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan to enhance their naval capabilities in the Caspian Sea.  Global economic crisis aside, there seems to be a promising market in selling ships/boats and aircraft to states asserting their economic interests in resource-rich maritime regions.

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.