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All Things Logistics

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First, let’s all savor that free part – because we mean it. CIMSEC membership, and all the content on this website, will be free – Forever. However, helping us provide a regular donation stream gives CIMSEC the stability to plan long term for regular costs, and the flexibility to pursue new events, projects, and expansion ventures.

Tr_great_white_fleet_from_photo_nh100349_USS_Connecticut_1907Mahan noted that modern steam-powered navies needed  coaling stations to be an effective global force; the modern internet-ship of CIMSEC needs a reliable constellation of funding stations. Since our plan is to remain advertisement free, we make the humble request that our community members and supporters consider a charitable monthly donation.

We are starting this steady-state funding drive now out of a desire to continue building our long-term institutional resilience. Our board, officers, editors, writers, and other associated partners happily volunteer their time and money to the cause when and if the need arises – and the CIMSEC community was more than kind during our opening Kickstarter campaign. However, when we turn CIMSEC over to a new generation of leaders, I hope we can present them with an institution that can wholly fund itself for the forseeable future with a known and stable source of funding.

For roughly the price of an Arby’s Brown Sugar Bacon BLT, a Chili’s Triple-Dipper Appetizer Plate, or for the more generous, a Large Hawaiian Stuffed Crust Pizza Hut pizza, you can stoke the coal fires of this intellectual Great White Fleet! It’s 100% fat and calorie free, unlike those other things I mentioned that are 100% delicious fat calories.

Your investment will fuel the continued development of this community and its home online – a place to constructively engage other passionate people on the issues of maritime security, technology, defense, and international affairs. From hosting your articles in our ever-expanding catalog of material, to facilitating the topic weeks you love, to hosting new events & community wargames, to building you a library of  unique audio and visual media – you can rest assured, this is too much fun not to keep improving every day.

So, just in case you missed it, here’s that box again:

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

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Remember! We have been, are, and always will be free! No matter how you choose to contribute  – from articles to allowance – we are incredibly grateful.

Matthew Hipple, President of CIMSEC, is a US Navy Surface Wafare Officer and graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He hosts the Sea Control podcast and regularly jumps the fence to write for USNI and War on the Rocks.

Distributed Basing: The Key to Distributed Lethality’s Success in the Western Pacific

The following is a submission from guest author Eric Gomez for CIMSEC’s Distributed Lethality week.

The distributed lethality concept that was unveiled in Proceedings at the start of this year represents a new way of using naval forces against an adversary attempting to deny the U.S. Navy access to a combat area. Simply put, distributed lethality calls for creating hunter-killer surface action groups (SAG) consisting of a handful of surface combatants that conduct offensive anti-submarine and anti-surface operations.

In the Western Pacific, the greatest challenges to the U.S. Navy’s surface fleet are the air, naval, and missile forces of the People’s Republic of China, which are supported by a growing array of surveillance and reconnaissance systems. However, China’s ability to track and target American surface ships is still relatively weak and could be the “Achilles’ heel” of China’s anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategy. Distributed lethality seeks to exploit this surveillance weakness by putting more targets into a combat area, making tracking and targeting a more complex problem.

If implemented as intended, distributed lethality will likely succeed at making it difficult for the Chinese military to target U.S. Navy surface ships that are underway. However, the ports and base facilities in the region that the Navy depends on to keep it surface forces in the fight would be at risk. For example, the naval base at Yokosuka, Japan, the only base west of Hawaii that can repair aircraft carriers, lies within the range of Chinese land-based missiles. Bases that are protected by distance from Chinese attack, such as Guam, are too far away to play a major role in the distributed lethality concept that calls for fast tempo offensive operations.

A look at US bases in the Western Pacific (2011)
A look at US bases in the Western Pacific (2011)

In order for distributed lethality to work, the U.S. Navy and government must start reaching out to Western Pacific partners to expand American access to naval bases and port facilities. Realistically, “expanded access” would probably look like the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with the Philippines, or the stationing of Littoral Combat Ships in Singapore. These are not full-fledged U.S. bases, but there is an expanding American military presence that should include more of the surface combatants that are the lynchpin of distributed lethality. The best way to implement the distributed lethality concept in the Western Pacific is through distributed basing, expanding the number of facilities where U.S. surface combatants can be based.

Distributed basing gives strategic heft to the distributed lethality concept in two ways. First, distributed basing increases the credibility of American extended deterrence in the Western Pacific by creating more “tripwires” similar to the token American forces stationed in Berlin during the Cold War. Second, distributed basing raises the costs of Chinese attacks by placing U.S. surface combatants alongside the military equipment of host countries. If the Chinese military wants to inflict a crippling first strike on U.S. Navy surface combatants in port, it will risk destroying the equipment and killing the personnel of another country’s military. This would likely draw that country into military conflict with China, thereby raising the economic, political, and military costs of the Chinese decision to strike.

However, no military decision comes without negative consequences, and it is important to consider the costs or pitfalls of distributed basing. Bases and other facilities will have to be able to withstand attacks. There has been much discussion about hardening U.S. Air Force bases against Chinese missile attacks. Similar hardening efforts or installing the Aegis Ashore missile defense system would be two examples of American efforts to keep a

A depiction of Aegis Ashore (USNI)
A depiction of Aegis Ashore (USNI)

distributed surface combatant force alive in the opening stages of a conflict. Fully implementing such base defenses will take time and resources, both of which might be in short supply. This could create a “window of opportunity” for Chinese military action in which the distributed lethality concept will be less effective as bases and facilities are upgraded.

Additionally, there is no guarantee that other states will allow the U.S. to implement distributed basing. Even in Japan, a U.S. treaty ally, there is considerable popular opposition to the basing of American forces. An increasingly threatening China could provide a compelling rationale for allowing American warships to be put back into bases and ports, but distributed basing is by no means a political slam dunk.

The distributed lethality concept does provide a new and potentially effective way for the U.S. Navy to respond to A2/AD threats, but more work needs to be done on the logistical side. In order for distributed lethality to be most effective, U.S. surface combatants should be distributed at more locations throughout the Western Pacific. This would enable them to get to their combat areas faster and would present more targets for the Chinese to engage in the early stages of an armed conflict. However, expanding access and distributing surface combatants across more facilities in the Western Pacific will not be easy tasks. Having the U.S. Navy spread across more facilities will not be beneficial unless those facilities can be adequately defended. Bringing many facilities up to an acceptable standard of protection will require an investment of time and resources that create a “window of opportunity” for Chinese action.

Having the distributed lethality concept is a good start because it shows the Navy is thinking creatively about new ways to counter the A2/AD strategy. However, more thinking and writing on the logistics aspect of distributed lethality needs to be done in order for distributed lethality to reach its full potential.

Eric Gomez is an independent analyst and recent Master’s graduate of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. He is working to develop expertise in regional security issues and U.S. military strategy in East Asia, with a focus on China. Eric can be reached at

CIMSEC content is and always will be free; consider a voluntary monthly donation to offset our operational costs. As always, it is your support and patronage that have allowed us to build this community – and we are incredibly grateful.

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Coast Guard Budget Battles Revisited

Post by Chuck Hill

Why does the Coast Guard seem to be losing the budget battle within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)? While funding for the Department has grown, the Coast Guard budget has in fact declined in real terms. I suspect it has a lot to do with perceptions of a miss-match between DHS missions and Coast Guard missions.

Congress attempted to address this perceived mismatch in the Homeland Security Act of 2002 by requiring an annual report of resources allocated to DHS missions and non-DHS missions, to ensure non-DHS missions are not ignored. I will refer to this “Annual Review of  the  United States Coast  Guard’s  Mission  Performance” (pdf) as the Performance Report.

It is an interesting report, but it does have significant weaknesses, largely stemming from the use of undifferentiated and undefined “resource hours” as a measure of effort. I reviewed a report back in 2010 and offered my criticisms, which have not changed herehere, and here.

Unfortunately, I think this report may be part of the problem, in that it defines several Coast Guard missions as “non-DHS,” and it gives the impression, erroneously I believe, that roughly half of the Coast Guard’s budget goes for things outside the DHS charter.

Of the eleven Coast Guard missions, six were regarded as Non-Homeland Security missions: SAR, AtoN, Living Marine Resources, Marine Environmental Protection, Marine Safety, and Ice Operations.

The five Homeland Security missions are Ports, waterways, and coastal security, Drug Interdiction, Undocumented Migrant Interdiction, Defense Readiness, and Other Law Enforcement (primarily Foreign Fisheries Enforcement).

But these distinctions are fallacious.

The Department views its own missions as:

  1. Preventing Terrorism and Enhancing Security
  2. Securing and managing our borders
  3. Enforcing and administering our Immigration laws
  4. Safeguarding and securing cyberspace
  5. Ensuring resilience to Disaster

NON-DHS MISSIONS: All these missions, at least in some respects, support DHS missions.

SAR: A robust SAR organization is clearly a necessary foundation for “Ensuring resilience to Disaster.” What were Katrina and Sandy but huge SAR cases? SAR command posts and communications are the skeletal structure upon which Disaster Response is based. After all, every SAR case is really a response to a disaster of some dimension. If the 3,000 plus people the CG saves every year had died in a single incident, it would have been a disaster on the order of 9/11.

AtoN: Most of the population lives near the coast or inland waterways. Most depend heavily on marine transportation and in many cases fishing. When there is a disaster, restoring safe navigation is a high priority both for bringing in assistance and for recovery.

Marine Environmental Protection (MEP):  The Deepwater Horizon was a disaster. MEP regulation attempts head off disasters and mitigate its effects, that is “ensuring resilience to disaster” plus offshore and port-side energy infrastructure are potential terrorists targets.

Marine Safety: Marine Safety is designed to prevent marine disasters. A sunken cruise ship could be a disaster on the order of 9/11. Marine Safety standards tends to mitigate the effects of a terrorist attack on marine targets

Living Marine Resources: Destruction of valuable marine resources can actually be as disaster for the economy of some communities.

Ice Operations: Domestic icebreakers can prevent flooding. We recently had a case where a community in Alaska would have been left without fuel, if an icebreaker had not opened a path for delivery.


Safeguarding and securing cyberspace: It is not one of the Coast Guard’s eleven statutory missions, but this is in fact one of the Commandant’s key priorities. Still it is not addressed in the Coast Guard’s annual Performance Report.

THE NON-DHS DHS MISSIONS: Two missions listed as DHS missions in fact are of little interest to the department, and performance goals (which are themselves perhaps inadequate) in these two areas are not being met.

Defense Readiness: Apparently the Coast Guard is doing more for Defense Readiness now than it was before 9/11, but really little has been done in terms of adapting resources for wartime roles. Additionally, a potentially major Coast Guard contribution to defense readiness, the major cutters, are being replaced at such a slow rate, the fleet continues to age, making it less reliable.

Other Law Enforcement (primarily foreign fisheries): DHS probably has little interest in this. This mission also suffers from the aging of the cutter fleet, and additionally the very large US EEZ in the Western Pacific has been largely ignored.

Problems in DHS: I do think the Departments placement of priority on counter-terrorism over more general disaster response is misplaced,  and this is another source of problems.


I will quote my closing paragraph from my 2010 post,

When it comes time to decide the Coast Guard budget, I would suggest Congress take a different approach. Consider return on investment. If you like the return you are getting from the Coast Guard now, invest more.  Don’t say, “Agency ‘X’ isn’t working, we need to put more money into that.” “The Coast Guard, is doing a good job with their current budget so we don’t need to give them any more.” I don’t quote scripture very often. I’m not religious, but there is some wisdom there. Check out the story of the “good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:14-30.


This article can be found in its original form on Chuck Hill’s CG blog.  Chuck retired from the Coast Guard after 22 years service. Assignments included four ships, Rescue Coordination Center New Orleans, CG HQ, Fleet Training Group San Diego, Naval War College, and Maritime Defense Zone Pacific/Pacific Area Ops/Readiness/Plans. Along the way he became the first Coast Guard officer to complete the Tactical Action Officer (TAO) course and also completed the Naval Control of Shipping course. He has had a life-long interest in naval ships and history.

The Gutting of Ukraine

By Norman Friedman

UkraineChina has consistently supported Ukraine during its agony at the hands of Russian-supported separatists. One of the less-publicized reasons why is that China has relied heavily on Ukrainian firms to help modernize its military.

For example, the active phased-array radar on board Chinese Type 052C destroyers was developed by a Ukrainian company. The current Chinese main battle tank is essentially the current Ukrainian one. The firms involved are all in the heavily-industrialized area in which the Russian-backed forces are operating; it may even be that the Russians are specifically targeting particular Ukrainian towns and companies. From Mr. Putin’s point of view, the Ukrainian companies may be unwanted competitors with the military industrialists on whom he depends for much of his power. At the least, he is trying to put them out of business. The white trucks supposedly carrying humanitarian aid into Ukraine from Russia were actually arriving to plunder Ukrainian factories of their modern machine tools. What the West may not want to sell to Mr. Putin, his forces can steal.

The Ukrainian plants and development companies exist because of policies implemented long before the Soviet Union broke up. The rulers of the Soviet Union were always worried that nationalism would break up their country — as, in the end, it did. One of their insurance policies against breakup was to make it difficult or impossible for those in any one of the republics making up the Soviet Union to build key items independently. For example, gas turbine ships built in Leningrad (St. Petersburg) in Russia were powered by gas turbines made in Ukraine. Their torpedoes came from Kazakhstan. Sonobuoys came from Ukraine, as did helicopter dipping sonars. Some ballistic missiles came from Ukraine. The only shipyard in the old Soviet Union capable of building carriers was in Nikolaev, in Ukraine. However, any carrier built there was armed with weapons and sensors from elsewhere in the Soviet Union, mainly from Russia.

In Soviet times, none of this really mattered. The Ukrainian factory making gas turbines responded to commands from Moscow to deliver engines to St. Petersburg, just as any factory in Russia did. There was little or no distinction between what happened in Moscow and what happened in, say, Nikolaev — no border, no transfer of cash. To a considerable extent design organizations were set up in Ukraine in the early 1960s or the late 1950s because Nikita Khrushchev, who ran the Soviet Union, was Ukrainian. For example, Khrushchev decided to reward his homeland by transferring the Crimea to it. Unsurprisingly, Russians applauded its seizure, since they had never considered the transfer legitimate. Ukrainian independence is a much more substantial issue, although most Russians apparently consider it a spurious notion, its separation a penalty imposed by the West at the end of the Cold War.

Once the Soviet Union broke up, the Soviet -era distribution of facilities suddenly mattered a great deal. All of the constituent republics of the old Soviet Union were suddenly plunged from a world of command by Moscow to a world of cash purchases. The Ukrainian plant could still make gas turbines, but if Moscow wanted a set for installation in St. Petersburg it suddenly had to pay up with real money. That was not easy. In time the Russians built their own gas turbine factory, but while that was happening they had to power ships with steam plants, because the steam plants were being made in Russia.

Conversely, key components of the carrier Varyag, afloat at Nikolaev, could not be delivered because they could not be paid for. The yard had no way to complete the carrier. Parts of her weapon system were visible for some years on the pier alongside, incomplete and hence impossible to install. In much the same way the Ukrainians had no way of completing a Slava class cruiser left nearly completed when the Soviet Union broke up. The carrier proved saleable — its transfer may have been the beginning of Ukrainian arms exports to China — but the cruiser did not. Even Ukrainian governments clearly favoring the Russians could not conjure up the resources to give the Russians weapon systems or platforms they wanted, because it took cash to move equipment over the border.

With their Russian (ex-Soviet) customers no longer paying, Ukrainian firms looked elsewhere, and they seem to have found their main customer in China — which certainly did have lots of cash. Exports were not so much finished equipment (which would probably have required components from elsewhere in the former Soviet empire) as innovative designs, such as the active phased-array radar. From time to time the Russians have tried to police the export of military data and know-how from their country, but once the Soviet Union broke up Ukraine must have made such controls a mockery in many cases. That might not have mattered had Russian military R&D kept advancing at its pre-collapse pace, but the cash shortage stopped most of that, too. Ukrainians who knew what the Soviet Union had developed by the time of its collapse could sell just about anything Russians could.

For a time, the Russians recovered to the point that they did have cash, but Russian military producers faced much higher costs at home, not least to feed an extremely corrupt political system. Now that a plunging oil price has cut Russian cash resources, it is even more difficult for them to buy from Ukrainian firms. It must be doubly difficult if they have to compete with much wealthier Chinese buyers. Theft is a much easier way to obtain the necessary products. Since it includes the theft of production tooling, the plants in question can be re-established in Russia, where their products will be far more affordable. Hence the systematic looting of plants in Ukraine. Looting also circumvents the effect of a falling price of oil, which drastically reduces hard-cash resources in Russia.

If the Ukrainian agony were all about money and access to technology, it would be unhappy enough. However, a major the driving force is nationalism. Vladimir Putin’s only important attraction for Russians is nationalistic: he is seen as a strong man who will restore the strength of the motherland, and he will also expunge all of those unhappy guilty memories of the Soviet past. In this narrative, the West is the enemy who broke up the Russian Empire and thus sought to crush Holy Russia. Anyone familiar with Russian history before the Revolution can recognize the sort of policy Mr. Putin is following. It takes a very committed Russian nationalist to say, as some have in recent days, that the falling price of oil is part of a deliberate plot on the part of ‘certain organizations’ in the West intended specifically to weaken Russia. Ukraine was the oldest part of the Empire, and its recovery excites Russian nationalists. Before he annexed Crimea, Mr. Putin was extremely unpopular. People in Russia saw him for what he was: a thief working with larger thieves to plunder their country. Afterwards his popularity soared, and old-style raw Russian nationalism became a ruling force.

Russian nationalism is opposed by Ukrainian nationalism. It may not be particularly powerful in the Eastern Ukrainian regions in which the Russians and their friends are operating, but in much of the country it is alive and well. Ukraine has a distinctive culture and language. The language and the alphabet are similar to Russian, but by no means identical. Ukraine enjoyed brief independence after the Russian Revolution. During the late 1920s and early 1930s the government in Moscow created a famine in Ukraine that killed 6 to 10 million people in the name of collectivizing farming. Ukraine had been the breadbasket of Europe, its wheat exports the major source of foreign currency to Czarist Russia. After collectivization, the Ukraine was badly enough ravaged that in the 1950s the Soviet Union found itself buying wheat abroad.

The horrors of the 1920s and 1930s remained fresh in Ukrainian minds when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Initially Ukrainians understandably welcomed the Germans as liberators, only to discover that the racist Germans lumped them with the Russians as sub-human. Even so, they hated the Russians even more, and a low-level insurgency continued well into the 1950s. The Ukrainian view of the man-made famine is somewhat analogous to the Polish view of the Soviet massacre of Polish military officers in 1941 at Katyn. Each was a horrific crime committed by the Soviet Union and then buried. Under Soviet domination, denial that the Soviets had committed such crimes became a test of political loyalty. Once Ukraine and Poland were free of Soviet control, memory of such crimes helped generate nationalist hatred for the Soviets. When Mr. Putin glorifies the Soviet Union which produced him, he enrages those it tortured. Victims inside the Soviet Union are less than popular in the current nationalist climate, but victims outside are in a very different position.

To further complicate matters, another Soviet-era strategy for binding together the Soviet Union was to encourage ethnic Russians to settle in the various republics forming the Soviet Union. That produced large ethnic Russian minorities in countries like Latvia and Ukraine. Mr. Putin is encouraging the ethnic Russian minority in Eastern Ukraine to revolt against the government in Kiev. Although he is enjoying a short-term advantage, surely what he has done has made other post-Soviet governments uncomfortably aware that they may be harboring hostile minorities. They may decide to do something about them before they can revolt.

If that seems an extreme extrapolation, remember that before World War II Hitler exploited the manufactured resentments felt by a large ethnic German minority in Czechoslovakia (in the Sudetenland) to dismember that country (he did not have to resort to invasion or even to proxy invasion, as in Ukraine). Governments who remembered what minority Germans had done in the 1930s expelled them after Germany collapsed in 1945. Many Germans found themselves walking all the way across Poland from what had been East Prussia, and for years the cry to recover that territory resonated through German politics. What is likely to happen now in places like the Baltic states? Their governments lived through decades of repression in the name of the Soviet Union, but up to now they have been relatively restrained about the Russians in their midst.

Norman Friedman is author of The U.S. Naval Institute Guide to World Naval Weapon Systems. This article can be found in its original form at the Australian Naval Institute here and was republished by permission.