All posts by Nic di Leonardo

Strategic Communication and the Growing Australia–Indonesia Crisis

This post originally appeared at the Australia Strategic Policy Institute and was cross-posted by permission.

The United States has thus far avoided getting publicly involved in the Indonesia–Australia spying row; however, it can’t afford to do so any longer. Australia has demonstrated a naiveté in thinking that public diplomacy rows such as this can be settled using traditional ‘cocktail diplomacy’. Likewise, its apathy to public diplomacy on social media may be indicative of an inability to plan and conduct strategic communications campaigns. Indonesia is home to 50 million Facebook users, 35 million Twitter users and a projected 42% social media penetration of the population by 2017. As broadband internet access penetrates further into rural Indonesia, US–Allied strategic communications and public diplomacy are only going to grow in complexity and importance.

‘Cocktail diplomacy is dead,’ reads the simple Facebook post from retired Admiral James Stavridis after attending the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. Indeed, as information technology continues to mature and proliferate across the globe, public diplomacy via social media will be increasingly important as citizens become more aware of international politics and attempt to shape policy by exerting influence over their respective leaders. Nowhere does this statement resonate more profoundly than in the current Australia–Indonesia row.

Following the Snowden revelations, Indonesia’s highly socially networked population took to Twitter, Facebook and the blogosphere to denounce the Australian spying. While Indonesia’s government tried to get ahead of the popular outrage and launched its own statements on social media, Australia maintained silence on its official Twitter/Facebook accounts, promising only to send a formal démarche within a week. This thumb in the eye of public diplomacy in favor of more traditional ‘cocktail diplomacy’ did nothing to assuage the growing outrage and resulted in Indonesia’s suspension of elements of the Lombok Treaty such as coordination of counter human-trafficking operations, leading to confusion, misunderstanding, accusations of violations of sovereignty/territorial waters, increased military patrols/redeployments and an escalating war of words both at the civilian and military levels.

The Lombok Treaty has been the modern foot in the door for US–Australia–Indonesian Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) missions. Recent changes to Australian security policy in the past years have generated apprehension in Indonesia. For example, the establishment of a permanent US Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force (SP MAGTF) in Darwin led Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa to rebuke it as ‘…a reaction to the rise of China’ and ‘capable of generating a vicious cycle of tension and mistrust.’ Tensions due to the ongoing spying row will only make it harder to sell both the SP MAGTF deployment to the Indonesians as a force for regional stability / security and the perception that US-Australian-Indonesian tri-lateral relationship is mutually beneficial (not conspiratorial against the Indonesians).

China has proven to be adept at generating and exploiting regional tensions—especially when western powers are involved—by presenting itself as a sympathetic Asian neighbor. The curious simultaneity of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force announcing the creation of the Air Defense Interrogation Zone (ADIZ) and Edward Snowden’s releasing of his files detailing the Australian SIGINT operations against Indonesia point towards a potential Chinese plot to undermine the Lombok Treaty.

If China chose to ingratiate itself with Indonesia, it would have a good basis to start from.  Annual Chinese trade with Indonesia (US$66bn) triples US trade (US$22bn). The minority Chinese diaspora population controls over 73% of publicly traded companies within Indonesia and are critical to brokering the PRC financing of infrastructure projects such as roads and broadband internet. By comparison, US Agency for International Development (USAID) assistance only accounts for a trifle $166m. According to a 2013 Pew Research survey, Indonesians view China as more of a partner than the United States (53%-46%). That’s surprising, given Indonesia’s history of anti-Chinese sentiment.

Nonetheless, American regional engagement has to work in this environment, and to influence the views of Indonesians in the streets it will first have to reach them. ‘Strategic Communications’ is the answer to how the United States coordinates its messaging and actions across various government agencies in the age of 21st century social media, and is defined as:

…synchronization of our words and deeds as well as deliberate efforts to communicate and engage with intended audiences via public affairs, public diplomacy, and information operations (condensed 2010 USG definition).

Given the demonstrated influence of the socially networked and internet savvy Indonesian public, as well as their economic reliance on China and Chinese industry, it’s essential that the US and Australian governments engage in a joint strategic communications social media campaign targeting the Indonesian people to change their attitudes on both the spying row as well as the basing of the SP MAGTF in Darwin. The failure to effectively communicate with the Indonesian people could result in stronger, mutually-exclusive, bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia, at the expense of western nations.

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the staff of the US Chief of Naval Operations, as well as a graduate student of the US Naval War College. The views presented here are his own and do not necessarily represent the official positions of the United States Navy or the US Naval War College. Image courtesy of Flickr user US Department of State.

Escape from Sochi: Montreux Convention Considerations and the Moneyball Fleet

Snake Plissken: A good solution for a 1 person rescue, not a 10,000 person NEO.
Snake Plissken: A good solution for a 1 person rescue, not a 10,000 person NEO.

The Russians are not ready to host the Olympic Games.  Everything from the hotel roofs to the perimeter security leaks like a sieve.  10,000 American Citizens are going to be in town for the games and will need to get out quickly in the event of a terrorist attack or public health emergency.

We are one day from the Opening Ceremonies of the 22nd  Winter Olympics and the early reporting from Sochi is damning: active kinetic security operations against Chechen forces are underway, wanted posters of known terrorists litter public places and the tap water has been deemed unsafe to bathe with, let alone drink.  In response to the potential threat against Americans visiting Sochi for the games—and recognizing the constraints of warship tonnage permitted to cross the Turkish Straits by the Montreux Convention—the United States’ European Command (EUCOM) has deployed the 6th Fleet Flag Ship, USS Mt. Whitney (LCC-20) and the guided missile frigate, USS Taylor (FFG-50) to the Black Sea. While bolstering the regional command and control (C2) / multi-agency liaison capability, the deployment of these two ships does little to provide additional sources of emergency egress to American citizens in Sochi due to their limited passenger capacity, small flight decks and absence of well-decks.  There is, however, a way to meet both operational requirements and the requirements set forth in the Montreux Convention: THINK MONEYBALL

Montreux Convention Primer

montreux

“The Montreux [Switzerland] Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits” was a 1936 agreement (subsequently amended) giving Turkey sovereign control of the Bosporus Straits and Dardanelles—the waterway passages from the Mediterranean Sea (Aegean Sea) to the Black Sea.  The agreement was negotiated by Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, the USSR, the UK, Turkey, and Yugoslavia as a strictly enforced body of regulations for vessel transits of the straits replacing the previously unrestricted navigation protocol under the 1923 League of Nations Treaty of Lausanne.  The convention places limitations on the number, types and tonnage of warships, overall tonnage of merchants / warships permitted to cross into the Black Sea by non-Black Sea bordering countries both individually and as a whole at any one time.

The Sabermetrics of Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO)

Distilled to its essence, NEO is concerned with the removal of civilians from an at-risk location and transporting them somewhere more secure as expeditiously and safely as possible.  In order to achieve the speed and safety requirements, naval task forces engaged in NEO should have the following capabilities:

2006 Lebanon NEO during Israel – Hezbollah War, USS Nashville (LPD-13)
2006 Lebanon NEO during Israel – Hezbollah War, USS Nashville (LPD-13)

– Surge-ready command and control spaces sufficient to plan and execute a joint, multi-agency (potentially multi-lateral), multi-axis NEO

– A flight deck capable of landing CH-53s, MV-22s, CH-47s, MH-60s – a variety of versatile helos

– A well deck capable of embarking Landing Craft Air Cushion (LCAC) / Landing Craft Utility (LCU)

– A fleet surgical team with operating rooms, triage, and isolation

– Overflow berthing / open spaces to erect large numbers of cots

– Messing and sanitary capacity for hundreds of evacuees

– The ability to embark Naval Expeditionary Combat Command / special warfare personnel for the conduct of security operations and / or special operations

Moneyball: Deploying the Right Ships for Sochi (and Building Smarter Task Forces for the Future)

Turkey has been an extremely unreliable partner over the past eleven years.  As demonstrated by their reneging on a commitment to allow the US Army’s 4th Infantry Division to attack Iraq in 2003 as well as their preventing the USNS Comfort from entering the Straits to deliver Georgia humanitarian aid during the South Ossetia War with Russia in 2008, the United States should not count on Turkey to waive Montreux Convention limitations on tonnage and numbers of warships in the event of an evacuation contingency.  The 6th Fleet Commander (COMSIXTHFLT) needs to plan with forces on station in the Black Sea without an expectation of reinforcements.

ships
Moneyball: Major surface combatants that are Montreux Compliant look sexy and deliver “Credible Presence,” but lack the sabermetrics necessary to conduct a large scale NEO.

Whereas “Moneyball” is usually tied to limitations of budget, in this case it is tied to limitations of tonnage and numbers of ships.  COMSIXTHFLT needs to squeeze the maximum NEO sabermetrics into his Sochi Task Force.  To that end, I have highlighted the LCS-1, LPD-17, JHSV-1 and MLP-1 as ideal candidates for a Sochi NEO.  While the LCC-19 is an ideal C2 platform for coordinating a multi-lateral, multi-agency, Joint NEO—it lacks a sufficient flight deck / well deck to make a large contribution to the transport of evacuees.  Single mission ships went out of vogue generations ago, and make even less sense for a Sochi NEO—especially when you consider that command / liaison elements can embark an LPD-17, JHSV-1 or MLP-1 to exercise C2 while the respective ships are actively participating in LCAC / helicopter  transport of evacuees.

Beaches and piers provide prime egress points for a Sochi NEO
Beaches and piers provide prime egress points for a Sochi NEO

A good NEO plan is all about options of egress (i.e. fleeing in an orderly fashion).  Sochi International Airport features only two runways and is highly susceptible to uncooperative wind patterns that routinely halt flight operations.  In the event that the 2014 Winter Olympics turns into “Escape from Sochi,” the 6th Fleet ships on station in the Black Sea will need to exercise an organic NEO capability beyond C2 and liaison.  Going forward, NEO Task Forces should organize and plan around a sabermetric list of requirements that is agnostic to hull types and otherwise irrelevant traditional warfighting mission sets.

 

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff, as well as a graduate student of the Naval War College.  The opinions expressed here within are solely his, and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Expeditionary Warfare Division or the Naval War College.

The Capability Cost of a Flight III Ballistic Missile Sea Shield

The following is part of our series “Alternatives to the U.S. Navy’s DDG Flight III

DDG-51 Flt III and the Shifting Sands of BMD Requirements

BulletTo intercept a ballistic missile intercept, platforms must be at the right place at the right time to detect, track, and engage.  Depending on the capability of the sensors and interceptors, these three locations may not be synonymous—the laws of physics and trigonometry are uncompromising; and, the clock is always ticking.  Threats must be properly classified and their ultimate target determined.  Flight paths and opportunities for intercept must be calculated.  Interceptors must perform flawlessly, and to a degree, so must the adversary’s missile.  Any deviation in expected performance throughout the boost, mid-course, and terminal phases that exceeds parameters might be enough to cause a failure to intercept. 

Raytheon Missile Systems nonchalantly describes this manuever as “hitting a bullet with a bullet,” which still doesn’t quite respect enough the degree of complexity and luck required to conduct integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), the integration of simultaneous anti-air warfare (AAW) and ballistic missile defense (BMD).  It does, however, hint at everything that is wrong with our approach to it.  From largely ignoring cheaper ways to attack the enemy kill-chain to Aegis brand myopathy to shifting war-fighting capability requirements to fit fiscal/political constraints, the U.S. Navy is risking the credibility of its large cruiser/destroyer surface combatant force by building its justification on the shifting sands of its BMD requirements.

In 2007, the Navy completed its most aggressive, expensive ($35M) and comprehensive Analysis of Alternatives (AoA) to date, the Maritime Air and Missile Defense of Joint Forces (MAMDJF) AoA, also known as the Next-Generation Cruiser/“CG(X)” AoA.  The recommendation of the analysis was for either a nuclear-powered cruiser or a conventionally powered cruiser with hybrid-electric drive/integrated propulsion system—both larger than the BB-41 Iowa-class battleships. These were to be capable of generating more wattage than the sum of the entire surface combatant fleet, and were to have radar array faces orders of magnitude larger and more sensitive than legacy SPY radars.  The cost per hull was projected at a staggering $9B. 

Among the alternatives the study looked at, near the rear of the discounted hull forms and behind a DDG-1000 mod, was a DDG-51 derivative.  Yet in 2013, the 30-year shipbuilding plan shows 33 of these DDG-51 derivatives, now called Flt III!  What changed that has made the alternative (and its 12-14 foot radar arrays) operationally acceptable when only CG(X) (and its 36 foot radar arrays) were acceptable in 2007-2010?

“I don’t believe they [CG(X) requirements] are clear. And I think its requirements at two levels. First we need to make sure we understand what it is we want on this ship and what it is we want in the fleet, how that is all going to work together. This ship is not going to work by itself. It’s going to work with other components, as part of ballistic missile defense system [and] many other components. We need to understand how that’s all going to work…. I think this is the first time in a long time that we’ve tried to work it in this formal a process. And to work through a real detailed specification and set of requirements. And that is creating some challenges. And there are tradeoffs that have to be done. And these are more than just worrying about what type of hull form we use…”
–Former SECNAV Donald Winter, 2007

AMDR: Battle of the Bands
                     AMDR: Battle of the Bands

From the January 2012 GAO report, “…since the MAMDJF AoA was released the Navy has changed its concept on numbers of Navy ships that will be operating in an IAMD environment.”  This concept, “sensor-netting,” is not new and was in fact analyzed in the MAMDJF AoA, but the problem with relying on sensor-netting multiple sensors and shooters first observed then remains today.  The capability to fuse multiple (and disparate) sensors and pass high-quality track data (measured by its track quality index (TQI)) in real-time for BMD does not exist, nor is there currently a plan to expand existing systems such as Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC).  If the Flight III CONOPS is therefore reliant upon satellite tactical data-links, what does it mean to the Navy’s BMD capability when confronted with an anti-access/area denial (A2AD) environment, such as we may face with a near-peer competitor? The GAO for one concluded that the Flight III will likely “be unsuitable for the most stressful threat environments it expects to face.” 

The purpose of BMD is to defend the U.S. homeland, bases, critical infrastructure (including forces afloat), and Allies from ballistic missiles.  All three of the defense departments—Army, Air Force, Navy—maintain a BMD capability.  The Air Force and the Army have largely invested in developing capabilities to intercept ballistic missiles in terminal flight—their descent from space to final target.  The Navy is primarily investing in interception at the boost and mid-course phases, due to Navy’s ability to use the ocean as maneuver space and close the threat, enhancing ballistic missile defense-in-depth while providing the only means of IAMD for the sea base. 

Intercepting ballistic missiles in boost phase is the most dangerous as it requires the warship to be closest to the enemy.  Intercepting in mid- course is the most difficult due to the distance, including the altitude, and window for intercept—taxing both radar and interceptors.  In both phases, sufficient radar resources must be devoted to tracking the ballistic missile while still searching for additional ballistic or cruise missiles.  For a DDG-51 Flight III without a large radar array, such as the one planned for CG(X), this will be much more challenging. 

When Greenland attacks Africa, it's best to cover all phases of the missile's flight.
        When Greenland launches on Africa, one can’t be too prepared.

The Aegis combat system—a proprietary product of Lockheed Martin (LM)—has evolved from a robust anti-surface cruise missile (ASCM) area-defense system to a comprehensive combat system for all mission areas, including BMD.  Attempts at forcing competition, open architecture, and migration to an enterprise-shared “Objective Architecture” starting with CG(X) have all ultimately failed as LM successfully lobbied against such efforts.  While the merits of each position can be and often are debated, one fact remains: we are utilizing a combat management system that at its root was designed in the 1970s.  Likewise, the decision to go with a Flt III of the DDG-51 line ensures that the Arleigh Burke-class (or derivatives thereof), will be in service for over 100 years.  The B-52 and M-16 are the only likely other platforms that will be able to claim that dubious honor.  How much capability can the Navy continue to squeeze out of a 40-year-old, proprietary combat system (despite its upgrades in hardware and software)?  What is the return-on-investment?  What changed since 2007 when PEO IWS determined that a new combat system was required for the IAMD mission?

Land targets must be defended by hard kill; attacking ballistic missiles with electronic warfare only to cause the missiles to later fall on civilian populations is unacceptable.  Can the same thing be said about the sea base?  Is there significant heartburn over a seduced, distracted, or diverted ballistic missile falling into unoccupied ocean, killing Flipper?  The Navy should look beyond hard kill solutions for a better way to attack the kill chain that does not hazard surface combatants by closing the threat to achieve a boost-phase intercept, but also does not overly tax our radar and interceptor resources (and budgets) for a mid-course intercept.  By focusing exclusively on hitting bullets with bullets; by reducing the IAMD requirements to fit the DDG rather than finding a ship that fits the requirements; and, by building its justification for the DDG line on the shifting sands of politically and fiscally constrained BMD requirements the Navy is risking the credibility and health of its surface force.

Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division of the OPNAV staff and a graduate student of the Naval War College.  The article represents the author’s views and is not necessarily the position of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, the Naval War College, or the United States Navy.

The Greenert Gambit: Playing Moneyball with the Pivot to the Pacific

CNO’s 30-Year Shipbuilding Strategy Reflects Lessons of his Favorite Book

Sometimes you need a Brad Pitt, sometimes you need a Jonah Hill.
Sometimes you need a Brad Pitt, sometimes you need a Jonah Hill.

Armchair Admirals and defense analysts alike lit up the blogosphere when President Obama first announced the strategic “Pivot” from Mid-East counterinsurgency operations to the Pacific, with visions of Surface Action Groups, Carrier Battle Groups, and Amphibious Task Forces the like of which haven’t been seen since former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman’s 600 Ship Navy.  Alas, the CNO’s vision of that Pivot leaves many feeling like the victims of a Jedi Mind Trick: “This isn’t the Fleet you’re looking for.” 

Afloat Forward Staging Bases (AFSBs), Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSVs), Mobile Logistics Platforms (MLPs), and Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) will never be mistaken for surface combatants; however, they represent the product of a refined understanding of what wars we are likely to fight in the future, and a sabermetric analysis of what it takes to win the peace in the Pacific—presence, lift, and command and control (C2).  While facing significant fiscal constraint, by focusing acquisitions on affordable platforms capable of persistent presence in uncontested waters and afloat forward basing of expeditionary / special operations forces, Admiral Greenert is on the cusp of successfully employing strategic Moneyball in his 30-year shipbuilding plan.

According to National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, the purpose of the Pivot is:

“…strengthening alliances; deepening partnerships with emerging powers; building a stable, productive, and constructive relationship with China; empowering regional institutions; and helping to build a regional economic architecture that can sustain shared prosperity.” 

Key to achieving these strategic aims is regional stability—a stability that can only be maintained with the confidence of regional power brokers that the status quo is acceptable and not threatened.  The U.S. supports freedom of navigation and defense of its allies against rogue actors such as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) through deployment of conventional naval forces such as Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)-cruisers and destroyers.  However, these ships do not provide an optimal platform for two of our largest mission sets in strengthening alliances and partnerships: Theater Security Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Response (HA/DR).  Relatively low-cost, an ability to embark disparate and substantive payloads, and a capability to access littoral waters make JHSV, MLP, and LCS the optimal platforms for these missions.

In his recent book, Invisible Armies, Max Boot notes that the most prolific type of war throughout history is the insurgency.  Indeed, the last true state vs state war took place over the course of a few weeks in 2008 between Georgia and the Russian Federation, while formal insurgencies continue on every continent save Antarctica and Australia.  Since 1945 and the information/media revolutions, insurgent victory rates have increased from 29% to 40% (with caveats).  As the ability to access and broadcast information increases and fractures to different mediums, Boot hypothesizes that insurgent success rates will continue to grow; with it, insurgencies will proliferate.  The United States has spent the past decade refining our doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLPF) to successfully implement counterinsurgency.  Having sacrificed this capability and capacity many times in the past to refocus on building large, conventional forces to engage in rare conventional combat, the Department of Defense has the chance to make a historic deviation and retain some of that urgently needed competence.  Bottom line: insurgencies aren’t going away anytime soon, and neither should naval ability to support counterinsurgency operations.

There exists a myth of “credible presence” in some corners of naval strategy.  This myth devalues the “sabermetrics” of presence, lift, and C2 for more traditional metrics of large-caliber guns, vertical launch cells, and radar dB.  Purveyors of the myth believe that absent a Mahanian armada capable of intimidating the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) to never leave their inshore territorial waters, our presence operations aren’t ultimately successful.  The myth operates under the false portrayal of the People’s Republic of China as a monolith, the same fallacy with regards some of our recent adversaries—Ba’athists, Islamists, and Communists.  The PRC and the U.S. conduct over $500 billion in trade annually, much of that through PLA and PLA(N) companies that would stand to lose their financial backing should a shooting war break out between the U.S. and PRC—an undesirable outcome despite the testy rhetoric of select PLA generals and colonels.  The question is not how to win a war with the PRC—I am confident that we can do that, albeit painfully.  The question that should drive our acquisitions in the Pivot is “how do we win the peace?”

The capability and capacity of JHSVs, MLPs, and LCSs to successfully conduct afloat forward staging and presence operations has been demonstrated by their respective ship class predecessors both operationally (Philippines, Africa Partnership StationSouthern Partnership Station, Somalia) and in exercises (Bold Alligator, Cobra Cold).  By focusing acquisitions on these platforms, we stand a greater chance of building on both our presence and afloat forward-staging capability/capacity.  While the Air-Sea Battle and its high-end carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and amphibious task forces is an essential strategy to deter armed aggression by China, the CNO is playing Moneyball to win the peace at a bargain price.
 
Nicolas di Leonardo is a member of the Expeditionary Warfare Division on the OPNAV Staff and a graduate student of the U.S. Naval War College.  The views expressed by this author are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the official positions of the Expeditionary Warfare Division, the Naval War College, or the United States Navy