Category Archives: New Initiatives

New projects and initiatives at CIMSEC.

ComBot: A Rose by Any Other Name

After his brush with stardom, he’s really let go.

Our present-day pilotless platforms have been branded “drones” to their detriment. The word communicates a lack of adaptability or agency. For an increasingly automated fleet of machines, it denotes monotony and mindlessness: the droning of engines as a Predator lazily loops above the mountains, observing friend and foe alike. “Drone” is inappropriate for an ever-expanding suite of devices with greater close-in roles in combat. An AlphaDog, an EOD bomb-disposal bot, the DARPA Crusher, and the Battlefield Extraction Assistance Robot (BEAR) are not “drones.” To better describe our new combat compatriots and better comprehend their multitudinous uses and designs, let us properly christen our autonomous allies.

ComBot is the accurate alternative to “drone.” An obvious combination of Combat and Robot, it describes our soon-to-be automated assault associates in an easy-to-digest term. The name has a practicality lacking in most military monikers. It is not a shoe-horned acronym such as Close-In Weapons System (CIWS) pronounced “see-wiz” rather than “ki-wis” or “cue-z”. What layman would ever think of a high-tech Gatling-gun when they hear “CIWS”, or a pilotless aircraft when they hear “UAV”? However, the wordplay of ComBot makes the backing concept immediately recognizable. A rose by any other name may be just as sweet, but people abandoned the term horseless carriage for a reason; let’s update our language to match the concept.

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 – 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.

“Time Macho”

Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter has garnered record-setting attention for her Atlantic article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” While primarily addressing women, I thought her piece also captured  the essence of changes occurring in men; many men my age do think more about so-called “work-life” balance than the men of generations past. When we have families, we want to be present to coach softball, catch the school play, or help with homework. Prof. Slaughter rightly points beyond gender to a generational shift in the prioritization of family life against a career.

Regardless of gender, though, her description of “time macho” professions – those that prize the expenditure of time as a measure of commitment and performance – is spot-on and should strike a chord with those of a naval persuasion:

Back in the Reagan administration, a New York Times story about the ferociously competitive budget director Dick Darman reported, “Mr. Darman sometimes managed to convey the impression that he was the last one working in the Reagan White House by leaving his suit coat on his chair and his office light burning after he left for home.” (Darman claimed that it was just easier to leave his suit jacket in the office so he could put it on again in the morning, but his record of psychological manipulation suggests otherwise.)


The culture of “time macho”—a relentless competition to work harder, stay later, pull more all-nighters, travel around the world and bill the extra hours that the international date line affords you—remains astonishingly prevalent among professionals today. Nothing captures the belief that more time equals more value better than the cult of billable hours afflicting large law firms across the country and providing exactly the wrong incentives for employees who hope to integrate work and family. Yet even in industries that don’t explicitly reward sheer quantity of hours spent on the job, the pressure to arrive early, stay late, and be available, always, for in-person meetings at 11 a.m. on Saturdays can be intense. Indeed, by some measures, the problem has gotten worse over time: a study by the Center for American Progress reports that nationwide, the share of all professionals—women and men—working more than 50 hours a week has increased since the late 1970s.

I know that naval officers, particularly those wearing black shoes out there, recognize the concept of “time macho” instantly.  What’s less clear is how to change this culture to accommodate a new generation of naval professionals who think about work and family differently than those of the past. To begin, we must recognize that long hours will never go away completely – I believe that one reason the military is a time macho organization is because it truly wants to provide the most value for the American taxpayer. Sometimes this requires sacrifice. There is a difference between complaining about the demands of military service and seeking ways to allow all of us to spend more time with those that we love. I remember my first Captain’s unconventional take on the familiar list of naval priorities, “ship, shipmate, self.” He said that this concept was sound, but that sometimes you have to take care of yourself in order to maximize your ability to serve the ship. This kind of thinking is what I’m talking about.

As such, I think it will become increasingly important for leaders to weigh judiciously the likely value to be found in burning the lamps late. They will have to recognize that flexible work schedules may likely incentivize quicker accomplishment of tasks; Prof. Slaughter rightly notes that  simply knowing that she was going to work late made her less efficient. Finally, as an organization which values technology, the Navy should seek ways to allow Sailors to work remotely at seagoing commands as it has done on shore stations.

What do you think? What can the Navy do to become less “time macho?”

LT Kurt Albaugh is President of the Center for International Maritime Security, a Surface Warfare Officer and Instructor in the 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.

LCDR BJ Armstrong’s Innovation Presentation

If you weren’t in Virginia Beach, Virginia for the U.S. Navy’s Navy Warfare Development Command Junior Leadership Innovation Symposium earlier this month, you might have read LCDR BJ Armstrong’s posts on the career of Rear Admiral William Sims at the U.S. Naval Institute Blog, here, here, and here.

However, if you’re like me and functionally illiterate, you’ve been missing out. Well no longer! The videos are now available:


My friend BJ has also invited commentators to “talk about how goofy I looked trying to talk to a circular room. What was Shakespeare thinking with the “in the round” stages?” Fire away.