Category Archives: Notes to New CNO Week

Restore Authority and Accountability

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By Commander Rob Brodie, USN

Restoring authority and accountability will quickly solve the most pressing of our material, personnel, and joint/combined operational issues and inculcate a culture of innovation. The cause of the Fitzgerald and McCain collisions was the administrative chain of command’s decisions to send untrained officers to the fleet while also replacing intuitive with non-intuitive ship control consoles without training support. But instead, only the operational chain of command was held accountable for the loss of life. We ask mostly administrative regional commanders without operational forces, the appropriate skillsets, or adequate manning, such as Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, to lead the development of operational plans and exercises with high-end foreign forces who normally operate with operational commanders. This results in confusion and extra effort for our allies. We should take advantage of the significant shortage of staff officers, LCDRs, CDRs and CAPTs, to cull the excessive administrative and operational bureaucracy and create the dynamic, learning organization we claim to be.

In the early 2000s, in order to facilitate a rapid decision cycle and maneuver warfare coordination, we were supposed to refocus our tactical forces around combined arms one-star commands, Navy carrier and submarine strike groups, Navy/Marine Corps expeditionary strike groups, Army brigade combat teams, and Air Force expeditionary air wings. Unfortunately, the echelons above see themselves as tactical backstops instead of operational forward thinkers, leading to a focus on building, staffing, and certifying maritime operations centers for every layer instead of sound operational thinking and planning. And do we really need all those naval layers if our total deployable force is only a couple carrier and expeditionary strike groups from each coast?

A direct link between customers and producers is what keeps a business successful. We should emulate that with our tactical to operational, operational to strategic, and military to civilian authority. The flattened chain of command pictured will restore these important relationships. (Author graphic)

Even at the joint level, the Air Force and Army aren’t going to add significantly greater numbers of similar formations, especially if there are no established and friendly ports or airfields where they can deploy. Pacific and Atlantic joint operational commands with service components to maintain the tactical forces, using the help of regional combined forces coordination centers like the Combined Forces Headquarters in Korea to do the local warfighting, should be able to operate our forces and provide inputs to the strategic level. Modernization and maintenance ideas would bubble up from the tactical level during annual lessons learned and trade shows on each coast, appropriately staggered to cross-pollinate the feedback loop.

Learning is only a process if there is a feedback loop. The numerous operational and administrative layers we currently have make it almost impossible for something learned at the tactical level or dreamed by industry or academia to make it not only to production, but be operationalized in the fleet in time and at a price to provide the required return on investment.

The lag between idea and capability has already demotivated many in my generation, which grew up fishing, reading, working, and making our own entertainment. Those raised in newer generations accustomed to instant gratification will not and should not tolerate the sluggish status quo, especially when we have the opportunity to rapidly fix our processes by massively cutting a bureaucracy we already can’t staff.

Commander Brodie, a 1993 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, is a surface warfare officer who recently returned to CONUS after 26 years at sea or overseas. He has served on board two frigates, an amphibious dock transport ship, an amphibious command ship, a high-speed catamaran, and a destroyer. His shore experience includes Amphibious Task Force (CTF)-76 in Okinawa, CTF-73 in Singapore, and various joint/combined air operations centers as a member of the Seventh Fleet Naval and Amphibious Liaison Element.

Featured Image: SAN DIEGO (Aug. 29, 2019) Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Alex Olivera, from Brockton, Mass., inspects an anchor chain on a barge next to the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Olympia O. McCoy)

To Win Great Power War, Treat Information as a Strategic Resource

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By LCDR Robert “Jake” Bebber, USN

A strategic resource is one for which states compete. Land is the classic example of a strategic resource, but virtually any resource can be strategic if it is essential to a nation’s interests and if gaining and maintaining access to it requires states to formulate and pursue competitive policies. In the twentieth century, petroleum often was held up as the preeminent example of a strategic resource. It was viewed as such a resource because it could be leveraged—assuring access for friendly states and denying it to adversaries. This leverage required a whole-of-nation approach which included private industry, diplomatic policy, and military planning. For example, in 1980, the United States declared that it would use military force, if necessary, to protect its interests in the Persian Gulf region—a policy known as the Carter Doctrine—to assure Western access to oil resources while denying it to the Soviets.1

Since the end of the Cold War, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has pursued rapid military expansion coupled with cyber-enabled and information-related geo-economic strategies to capture and control key industries, networks, and infrastructure in order to replace the liberal international order with a Beijing-led order, supplanting the U.S. as the dominant superpower. The American response, while welcome, remains constrained to issues related to either trade balances or intelligence-collection risks. A holistic approach is required.

The U.S. Navy is particularly vulnerable to China’s geo-informational and geo-economic strategies. For example, the PRC’s growing control over the semiconductor industry, the undersea cable industry, maritime shipbuilding, and port operations, place the ability of the Navy to execute its core functions in doubt.2 The Navy and the Defense Department are also vulnerable to larger influence and shaping operations through the capture of key education, media, and entertainment industries by the PRC, which shape the global cultural understanding and American public perception.3

To win a strategic resource competition, the Navy must leverage American advantages in all-source automated data collection and analysis, and rapidly develop and field autonomous information systems to platforms that provide commanders with battlespace awareness beyond a “red” and “blue” common operational picture display.  The Navy must dramatically increase investment, especially in bandwidth availability and advanced antenna networks that enable effective employment of new information systems.

The Navy and Joint Force should be part of a national strategy that harvests information resources and controls critical information industries while denying that leverage to our adversaries. This requires new operational concepts, deeper relations with partners, allies, and industry, and a re-thinking of current personnel recruitment, training and retention.

LCDR Robert “Jake” Bebber is assigned to Information Warfare Training Command – Corry Station (Pensacola, FL) as the Senior Instructor of the Cryptologic Resource Coordinator (CRC) course. From 2017-2019, LCDR Bebber was the CRC assigned to Carrier Strike Group 12 on board USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). He is supported by his wife, Dana, and their two children, Zachary and Vincent.


1. Bebber, Robert. “China’s Cyber-Economic Warfare Threatens U.S.” Proceedings 143, no. 7 (2017).

2. Bebber, Robert. “Treating Information as a Strategic Resource to Win the “Information War.” Orbis 61, no. 3 (2017): 394-403.

3. For example, the upcoming Navy-centric movie “Top Gun: Maverick” appears to have been censored to remove references to Japan and Taiwan. Tencent Pictures, a Chinese movie production company, is an investor and “co-marketer” of the film. See:

Featured Image: Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren, Va. (Aug. 19, 2004) – Naval reservists, scientists and engineers work in the Integrated Command Environment (ICE) Human Performance laboratory located at NSWC Dahlgren, Va. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Defend and Advance Core Undersea and Network Capabilities

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By John T. Kuehn, Ph.D., Commander, USN (ret.)

What follows is a summary of my advice to Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson while I was a member of his Fleet Design Advisory Panel in 2016-17 (FDAP).

An indispensable component of any fleet of the future is its undersea warfare capability. The ability to prosecute anti-surface warfare and sea denial through submarine employment in contested areas of the global commons is critical. This means any report or plan that cuts back on submarine and undersea capabilities as they exist today, manned or unmanned, should be viewed as unacceptable. Any erosion of the doctrine and training for this capability, as was long tolerated after the end of the Cold War, should also be viewed as unacceptable.

Be ready to fight a missile and torpedo fight. The naval battle of the future has already been hinted at in history, especially at the Falklands in 1982. It will involve primarily missiles and undersea weapons with a healthy dose of electronic warfare and cyber. The cyber aspect is not yet well understood and will require more integration into naval doctrine, especially electronic maneuver warfare (EMW) and our understanding of emission control. The day has arrived that our receivers are as vulnerable as our transmitters when we conduct emission control (EMCON).

The network is the modern-day capital ship. The network that supports EMW and Distributed Maritime Operations, and the nature of its graceful degradation under fire, the development of artificial intelligence options (or reserve modes), and the accompanying command philosophy (i.e. disciplined initiative) will constitute either the greatest strength or the greatest weakness for any future fleet. It is vital, but the people who will use it across the spectrum of war are more important. Human capital is the more important half of this modern-day capital ship.   

The Navy must emphasize fielding proven technology. Do not bank on emergent technology that only currently exists on paper and in formulas, and is not something that can be fully operationalized into the fleet we have by 2030. Avoid the Arthur C. Clarke “syndrome” of attempting to skip a generation or two of technology whose advantage will be fleeting anyway and possibly out of touch if a protracted war breaks out.

Commander (retired) John T. Kuehn is a professor of military history at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. A former naval aviator, he is the author of Agents of Innovation (Naval Institute Press, 2008) and the coauthor, with D. M. Giangreco, of Eyewitness Pacific Theater (Sterling, 2008). He has also published A Military History of Japan (Praeger 2014), Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns (Praeger 2015), and America’s First General Staff: A Short History of the Rise and Fall of the General Board of the U.S. Navy, 1900-1950 (Naval Institute Press, 2017).

Featured Image: PEARL HARBOR (Feb. 21, 2019) Rear Adm. Daryl L. Caudle, commander of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMSUBPAC), delivers remarks during the COMSUBPAC change of command ceremony aboard the Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Mississippi (SSN 782) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Shaun Griffin/Released) 190221-N-KV911-0254

Every Sailor a Cyber Warrior

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By LT Douglas Kettler, USN 

Every Marine a rifleman. This mantra resonates with the nation and highlights a fundamental fact about the USMC – no matter what a Marine’s primary job is, they are expected to be able to pick up a weapon and fight.

The CNO, having been a previous commander of U.S. Tenth Fleet/Fleet Cyber Command, should instill this same principle into his Sailors with a new creed, “Every Sailor a cyber warrior.” Given that the CNO is taking charge of numerous complex naval weapons systems that nearly all depend on the cyber domain to ensure their lethality, it is extremely vital that the CNO foster cyber literacy, programming skills, and robust cyber hygiene across the force. Similar to learning a new language, this process may appear difficult, but as a 2015 RAND study suggests, the impact could save the Navy billions of dollars and prevent critical network infiltrations.

This change will benefit the Navy in two primary ways, innovation and cyber defense.

First, naval innovation will be unleashed through advancing Sailor-driven programming skills and Sailor-driven coding solutions to improve computer-based weapons systems. The USAF has embraced airmen-driven innovation schemes with programs like the “Kessel Run,” while the Navy has continued to be beholden to expensive and slow contractor “solutions” to Sailor needs.

An emphasis on cyber will squeeze the most effectiveness and innovation out of fielded weapons systems by having the Sailors that run the systems manage an improvement cycle at little to no cost. A recent success story along these lines is seen in the Maritime Patrol community with a junior officer who drove innovation from the front while the contractors struggled to catch up. The CNO’s approval and fostering of similar types of programs across his weapons platforms at the Fleet level could unleash a wave of combat lethality and innovation unrealized since Eugene Fluckey created land-attack strike and special operations missions for the submarine force in World War II.

Second, cyber defense is critical to maintain if Sailors are trained and encouraged to make programming improvements for weapons platform software. This is where the CNO can generate outsized returns for his Navy. The current system of Cyber Awareness General Military Training alone does not cut it. The CNO must go further and inculcate more impactful and more frequent cyber training. This means cyber training that focuses on how the cyber domain specifically impacts the Sailor’s rating and the Sailor’s weapon system, not just their cellphone. While extremely important, social network operations security, personal electronics management, and other traditional “all-hands” cyber efforts are entry-level education that all Sailors are expected to understand. The next level of fleet-wide cyber education should show the Sailor how the domain impacts their lethality and arms them with the education to recognize, respond, and overcome adverse cyber effects.

Through the new creed of “every Sailor a cyber warrior,” the CNO will be able to leverage his experience at Tenth Fleet to arm the Navy with the foundational skills necessary to fight and prevail in twenty-first century network-centric warfare.

Lt. Douglas Kettler is a P-8A Naval Flight Officer and Weapons and Tactics Instructor in the U.S. Navy. He is an associate editor with CIMSEC. His views are his own and do not reflect the official position or policy of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Navy.

Featured Image: PACIFIC OCEAN (July 25, 2019) Operations Specialist 2nd Class James Martin, from Pennridge, Pa., plots surface contacts in the combat information center (CIC) aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Hamilton (DDG 60). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Julio Rivera/Released)