Tag Archives: Lessons Learned

Innovation and Lessons Learned

ConversationsThere have been some interesting posts in the past week or so on spurring naval innovation that are worth the time to read.  An article we cross-posted Wednesday, by LCDR Jason Schwarzkopf, dealt with fostering broad, collaborative discussion on tactical and practical naval matters and it received a well-reasoned response from CDR Salamander at his synonymous site.

Another post, by Robert Kozloski, “The Politics of Naval Innovation Revisited,” laid out some of the fascinating political aspects of working through the bureaucracy to champion the innovation that might develop out of such discussions advocated by Jason (especially innovation of a material/technological nature).  One of the findings Robert highlights from a 1994 U.S. Naval War College paper is that:

“Programs that have the potential to be truly innovative will have a better chance of being fielded if promoted as evolutionary rather than revolutionary systems.”

Meanwhile at the Harvard Business Review, Maxwell Wessell discussed the (in his view false) business phenomenon of ‘high-end disruption’ in “Stop Reinventing Disruption,” and thereby laid out a good definition of classic disruptive innovation:

“Start with a barely-good-enough product that captures consumers too cheap to buy the existing, expensive product, then make it better and better until one day, it’s as good as, or better, than the incumbent product

These last two articles relate only tangentially to what I’d like to focus on for the rest of the post, but they make for good reads and help one understand how successful innovation typically works – through incremental and evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, approaches.  This is not to say true revolutions in naval affairs don’t happen – but to be successfully embraced by the bureaucracy (and not just a senior-level champion) they need to not be oversold and show initial incremental advantages that are cost neutral, or provide a cost benefit.

Returning to Jason’s post, he touches on something that I’ve also pondered – namely why there is no well-run site for professional naval discussion that can take things beyond UNCLAS.  There are plenty of UNCLAS models for how pieces of such a site could be structured, and most in enlisted/JO to mid-grade year groups have enough experience using such web-based tools that their absence from the professional sphere is all the more keenly felt.

Sailor Bob provides an example of the free-wheeling message board-format, but its unofficial nature means there is no formal on-ramp to capture and endorse the true kernels of wisdom and lessons learned that frequently appear.  This is not to discount the importance of the informal route, but the lack does nothing to alleviate the “perception of ideas flowing into a doctrinal “black hole”” that Jason notes, and it is of course limited to UNCLAS.

Blogs such as ours and journals such as USNI’s Proceedings also aim to host professional discussions and can focus thought on a particular issue or innovation.  Yet they are similarly UNCLASS and the time-delay to voice one’s thoughts, from hours to months, can markedly lag the near-real-time speed with which today’s generations expect to have conversations.  Yes, journals provide a valuable service by developing and refining ideas through peer-review, establishing a threshold of maturity prior to providing their endorsement that something is fit to print, and subsequently exposing the idea to a broader base of critique and consideration.

However, the core ideas in an article could (potentially) be exposed to many more readers and thinkers, more quickly, and go through many more cycles of reaction and refinement in the time it takes for a print version to come out.  Further, many with a great idea – or even just a nuanced piece of insight or feedback – may not, as Jason alluded, have the time to type out a great piece of literature.  In a sense it’s a trade-off between quantity and quality, but if done well the diminished quality is only in the writing polish as opposed to the ideas themselves.

Another model, which does a good job of rapidly focusing many minds on a single idea or theme, is the series of online wargames run out of the U.S. Naval Post-graduate School (NPS) called MMOWGLI – Massively Multiplayer Online Wargame Leveraging Internet.  These wargames have allowed anonymous-but-verified users to collaborate and contribute their two cents on topics from counter-piracy to electromagnetic maneuvers.  With official backing, NPS has been able to run a counterpart on the classified side.  The only distinct drawback that I’ve so far discerned (aside from the inability to participate of many on NMCI computers) is that determining the topic of MMOWGLI efforts is a top-down approach.  So if someone has a great idea for a topic not in discussion they have to wait and hope it falls under the purview of the next game.  In short, it can’t do everything, but is certainly worth sustaining.

In my last active duty assignment at N86/N96, one of my jobs was project manager for SWONET.  This meant essentially acting as liaison between the Navy and the contractors who actually ran the site.  One of my priorities was transforming SWONET into a more useful tool for surface warfare officers (SWOs), including swapping and sharing lessons learned – essentially a combination Sailor Bob/Google Docs for the professionally minded, leveraging the fact that it was access-controlled to navy.mil emails and that discussions could be held at the For Official Use Only (FOUO)-level.  The contractors did a decent job of enhancing the site, and the message board was only one tool among many that were upgraded. Unfortunately, as we were rolling out the updated platform we ran into the Era of Austerity and the site was shut down as a cost-saving measure.

So what does this survey of web-based tools show?  First, that there’s no go-to site for collaborating with one’s counterparts or for recording someone’s bits of wisdom (or just data points), even at the UNCLAS level.  Second, that there are in fact demonstrated ways to do such a site.

In my mind a site can be developed at low cost in a way that accounts for the fears of stifled discussion if it focuses on these steps:

  • Host duplicate NIPR/SIPR sites at a command where the development of ideas is its core mission – whether an academic setting like NPS or the Naval War College, or tactically/operationally focused like NWDC.
  • Let users remain anonymous (once verified through NPC) with their own usernames.  This does not mean a typical terms-of-use regulating conduct need not be enforced.  Keep it professional, keep it respectful (regardless of rank – which would not be displayed), or lose your access.
  • In addition to the message board, provide an easy-to-use searchable repository of lessons learned to help provide quantifiable data.  This could be done by integrating the existing Navy Lessons Learned site with the discussion forum and making it more flexible.  While not every lesson learned will necessarily be reviewed by a flag, having one’s notes on a particular exercise or solution to a similar problem available for a counterpart in another command might be just as useful.
  • There’s further opportunity to leverage a single-stop “official” collaborative site, if it comes about – from letting users share copies of command instructions and useful forms, reducing time spent “reinventing the wheel”, to using the discussion forums to inform future MMOWGLIs.

One of the big lessons learned of the past decade of Navy experimentation with web-based tools is to focus on the tools that are lacking, rather than trying to duplicate what already exists (often for free) even if it is unofficial.  Right now, however, it’s clear that there are things that can’t be done unofficially and that only an official site can accomplish.

h/t to BJ for the HBR link.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.

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. 

Gen Y and the Barriers to Professional Blogging

Where is the one-stop shop for all things tactical in the United States Navy? Is it held within the hallowed halls of the Navy Warfare Development Command? NWDC aggregates lessons learned, fuses experience with doctrine, models and simulates how we fight (and how we can fight better), innovates to provide warfighters with the latest technical solutions, and is best positioned to influence the future of Navy warfighting. We would be remiss if we didn’t periodically ask the question: how do we better communicate with those frontline Sailors who are executing doctrine, tactics, techniques, and procedures such that we improve our ability to change doctrine when necessary? Be it the blog, the formal request, or feedback in the form of professional journal articles, NWDC should tap the innovative spark residing in every combat information center in the Fleet.

How do we share their lessons learned?
            How do we share their lessons learned?

In every organization that thinks, the old guard is wary of the perspectives of the new, but has a healthy appreciation for their views, energy, and willingness to discuss their experiences. That feedback loop has always existed in any organization willing to robustly challenge the status quo, but the desired feedback is not available at a macro level within the Navy for a variety of reasons–cultural, technological, and social. Imagine the differences between a junior and senior officer sharing perspectives of a generation ago (when they might have privately shared a bridge-wing discussion of a professional article published in Proceedings), juxtaposed with the immediacy and reach of the modern professional blog:

“Gosh…I am writing about something online, which I care enough about to expose my opinions and limited intellect to the great unknown–which could result in numerous fanboys championing my cause and lauding me as the next Mahan–or could result in numerous subject matter wonks illuminating my ignorance and lambasting my conclusions…all in full view of my superiors in the chain of command.”

The perceived risks and rewards of sharing ideas online have never been greater in an era where the center of gravity in naval warfighting thinking has shifted from the dusty Naval War College Review lying unread on the shelf in the empty wardroom, to the simulator and the blogosphere. Speaking of the latter, where is the sailorbob or cdrsalamader ‘site on the high side? Given the requirement to keep much of our tactical discussion away from prying eyes, how easy has the Navy made it for the average watchstander to find high-side sites where tactics are routinely and robustly discussed?

The generational difference above most keenly illustrates the loss of intimacy in professional feedback. Whereas every Commanding Officer wishes to create his or her own wardroom of “Preble’s Boys,” there isn’t a big-Navy “brand” that elicits a similar desire for fixing problems; rather, the average junior officer views the naval bureaucracy with the same degree of mistrust and fatalism most Americans feel about big government bureaucracy. Additionally, Gen Y expects feedback to generate change (or at least to generate transparent discussion)–not to sit in some fonctionnaire’s to-do queue for months as tired stakeholders and “antibodies” deliberate change.

Why is it so difficult to attract Gen-Y thinkers to post about naval warfighting? For a generation raised online, which Dov Zakheim, Art Fritzson, and Lloyd Howell discussed in the article Military of Millenials, one would think that information-sharing is second nature.

…deeply ingrained habits challenge established organizational values. To command-and-control organizations like the military (and many corporations), knowledge is power and, therefore, something to be protected – or even hoarded. To Gen Y, however, knowledge is something altogether different; it belongs to everyone and creates a basis for building new relationships and fostering dialogue. Baby boomers and Gen Xers have learned to use the Internet to share information with people whom they already know, but members of Gen Y use blogs, instant-messaging, e-mails, and wikis to share information with those whom they may never meet – and also with people across the hall or down the corridor. Their spirit of openness is accompanied by a casual attitude toward privacy and secrecy; they have grown up seeing the thoughts, reactions, and even indiscretions of their friends and peers posted on a permanent, universally accessible global record.”

Unfortunately, the article also sheds light on barriers which senior leaders need to be aware of, when it comes to sharing those innovative thoughts.

And there is a still more challenging issue: A Concours Group report on generational change proposed (in August 2004) that Gen Y’s comfort with online communications may mask the group’s inexperience in negotiating disagreements through direct conversation and a deficit in face-to-face social skills. Beyond the implications for this generation’s future management style, how might such a skill deficit affect the military’s ability to “win hearts and minds” in future conflicts? In recent years, the military has done extensive training to offset educational deficiencies. Indeed, the promise of such training has been among its greatest attractions for recruits. Should the military now begin to focus on developing new recruits’ interpersonal skills, neglected through years of staring into cyberspace?”

How does Navy leadership make Gen Y more comfortable with confrontation online, in a command-and-control environment, to engage in that robust discussion essential to the discovery of better ideas and processes? Recruit football players? Take boxing classes? Teach verbal judo? Train a generation of naval officers that a prerequisite for robust discussion is the ability to confront, even to the detriment of consensus? Or do we encourage anonymous blogging in such a way that an individual feels comfortable expressing his or her thoughts without fear of repercussion? A blogger should always expect to face contention. Most ideas works at a certain level, but become cannon fodder for memes on other levels. To mitigate as much ridicule as possible, one needs to consider additional perspectives to preempt the ridiculous assumptions of online “trolls.”


Yeah I'll get to that tactics discussion, I just need to grab something out of my zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....
Yeah I’ll get to that tactics discussion, I just need to grab something out of my zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz….

The greatest factor we are fighting, regarding the target audience of young leaders is quite simply TIME. The average sea duty workload is something close to 74 hours a week. That’s lowballing the estimate, for the very leaders we somehow expect to be having these discussions and sharing their vital experiences (beyond their internal training teams). I still expect that junior officers, mid-grade enlisted, Chief Petty Officers are all engaged in those midwatch conversations about the best way to accomplish a mission, to fix a process, to kill more efficiently…but are simply too busy to push those ideas out to yet another feedback loop outside the lifelines, to whom sailors owe no particular loyalty nor do they expect to see any returns for their hard work.

The more insidious factor being a silencing of innovation in warfighting thought because of the perception that sharing of views outside of one’s own chain of command is seen in a negative light. Jeff Gilmore’s excellent post titled “Where is Lt Zuckerburg“  illustrates the challenges the military has placed upon its own innovators, from the lack of a coherent social media policy to the impediments placed upon junior thinkers by senior staffs. When coupled with the perception of ideas flowing into a doctrinal “black hole” once they leave the unit (due to the length of the vetting process, or due to failing to find advocacy outside the lifelines), what motivation do junior leaders have to share their ideas?

Another factor (WAIT! Was that a picture of a chicken wearing a birthday hat?): Distraction in the workplace is yet another detractor to naval Warfighting cognition. Let’s face it: war at sea is cerebral. Our ability to forecast, plan ahead, and train for those “what-if” scenarios is fundamental to preparing for adversity.

The omnipresent distraction of email, administrivia, meetings, drills, texts, and social networking sites creates a pervasive environment of “ADHD management” rather than the silence (and admittedly, for better or for worse, boredom) of a sanctum. However, should we not consider that it is from this very boredom that some of our greatest innovations stem? Think tanks do not hold a monopoly on innovation; rather, we should be tapping the limitless potential of our young watchstanders, disaffected with processes and TTPs that simply don’t make sense. Without a meaningful (and easy to use) method to feed those innovative ideas back to the doctrine-makers, we will continue to belabor the proverbial “open” in the feedback loop.

So how should the Navy engender robust participation in the warfighting discussion? Here’s a few thoughts on improving our Fleet warfighting advocacy:

One: Utility

Make a Navy-wide SIPR repository of all things tactical. You need to find that TACMEMO? We’ve got it. You want to rant about why page 348 of the pub is misleading? Post about it. You want to engage in knock-down, drag-out “discussions” with your peers and your seniors on more effective ways to take an enemy apart? Get in the game.

Two: Network

Centers of Naval Strategy, like the Navy Warfare Development command staff, should directly engage the mid-grade strategic thinkers at the CSG, ESG, squadron, and individual unit levels–and ensure they have access and opportunity to post. Usually, this comes when there are slow times for the umpteenth under-instruction watchstander in combat, who was tasked with looking something up online.

Three: Improve Inertia

Provide timely feedback, especially in cases where a particular TTP conflicts with AOR practices–essentially acting as the tactics referee for the Navy, ready to feed back to Fleet commanders when something doesn’t work as intended.

We can overcome the lack of organizational inertia that bureaucracy forces upon warfighting; but doing so requires us to train our young leaders to use a healthy dose of critical thinking, some self-righteous zeal, and a bulldozer when necessary.

Jason is a Surface Warfare Officer currently serving in the Innovations and Concepts Department within the Navy Warfare Development Command.

This article was cross-posted by permission from the Disruptive Thinkers Blog.


The Counter-Piracy Failure: Andromeda Strain

We Won but We Failed: What We Should Learn

Quicker to learn?

In Andromeda Strain, the scientists of the Wildfire Team struggled against their pathogen foe, (spoiler alert) only to have their problems solved by circumstance and environment. An entire plot was written about a crisis team that, in the end, accomplished nothing. East African piracy, while by no means eradicated, looks perhaps to have peaked, and public interest waning possibly even faster. Sure, the Maersk Texas was attacked in May, but this single blip on the radar is a paltry show compared to the still-notable number of small-boat attacks off the coast of India, yacht abductions, and beach resort kidnappings.

Unfortunately, after almost a decade of engagement, the West’s maritime Wildfire team has had almost no hand in the changes on the high seas. A series of military incursions by neighbors, newfound vigor in the AU mission, and rise of PMC’s at sea have changed the state of play and cut the mission short, leaving a real possibility for naval leadership to miss the lessons learned from their recent miscalculations.

As the counter-piracy mission is fresh in our minds and before the threat fades into the jaws of vengeful regional militaries, we should use the opportunity to recognize and assess our failures as a force in countering piracy on the high seas.

The West Reacts to the Pathogen

In scope, the naval response to the threat of piracy appeared robust. Dozens of warships plied the waters in search of high-seas bandits. Area patrols ran alongside convoy escorts. Several multi-national coalitions (NATO, U.S.-led Combined Military Forces, the EU) ran operations concurrently with the independent efforts of ten or more countries at any one time. The Indian navy recently captured a stunning 61 pirates after a pitched gun battle. Over 20 nations now meet for the annual Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) conference to build a united front against piracy. Maritime Patrol Aircraft and UAVs from multiple nations surveil the Internationally Recommended Transit Corridor (IRTC), pirate anchorages, and the open ocean. There was a reasonable expectation that such a massive military drag net might stymie piracy. However, the result was a better skilled and better organized pirate. As Napoleon said, “You must not fight too often with one enemy, or you will teach him all your art of war.”

Piracy’s Adaptation and Resistance

Until military action ashore cut short the party, coastal raids with small skiffs developed into multi-million dollar kidnapping operations with captured tankers converted to motherships. Pirates used UHF communications, skilled hostage negotiators, and money changers in Dubai. Merchants deactivated their automatic identification system (AIS), a system used for vessel safety during the height of piracy around the Straits of Malacca, as pirates at large used it as a homing beacon. Pirates adapted to the law-enforcement rules of engagement used by the respective patrolling navies, hiding or disposing of all pirate paraphernalia and making it next-to-impossible for maritime enforcers to get the convictions occasionally sought. Many pirates moved to new areas altogether, shifting operations away from patrols and avoiding the range of immediate military responses.

The focus of piracy shifted from capturing cargo to capturing people. Kidnapping was the name of the game. Due to an inability to enforce arrangements, some companies paid full ransom for captured employees and only received a fraction of their personnel in return. EUNAVFOR even reported more brazen tactics of avoiding capture, namely the threatened and actual torture of hostages.

This adaptation, combined with the lack of political stability, created threats beyond endangering global commerce. With Al-Qaeda operating in Somalia next to Al-Shabab, endless opportunities presented themselves for terrorist networks to simply generate profits through partnership or create havoc with vessels purchased from pirates. Rather than siphon off fuel for profits, the pirates could sell a vessel wholesale to terrorists who could use the vessel as a massive explosive in a civilian port, blockage in the mouth of a harbor, or a suicide battering ram against an unsuspecting warship. Capture-and-switch tactics with maritime commercial vehicles had precedent; the 1998 hijacking of the Petro Ranger being a case in point. It only takes a savvy pirate with the right connections to profit from the sale of hijacked tankers for acts of terrorism. Piracy is a crime of opportunity, and human beings are always good at finding new ones.

Breaking the Sea-Shore Learning Cycle

The key to breaking the adaptation puzzle is to boost the intensity of the counter-piracy dosage. One can have the best weapons in the world, but it won’t matter unless the operational concept is correct. The U.S. was weak on piracy, an inch-deep mile-wide river. Pirates waded easily across to tell their compatriots what they’d seen, creating a deadly sea-to-shore innovation cycle that improved pirate learning. This must be solved through more vigorous piracy prosecution, more aggressive rules of engagement (ROE)/posture, and a shore kinetic solution.

Instead, the U.S. released many captured pirates back into Somalia, only prosecuting those that attacked the rare U.S. flagged vessel. The idea behind this policy is that piracy is a crime, not a national security issue. If the vessel’s flag would not prosecute, there could be no trial or detention. Piracy is however very much a national security issue – not only does it drive up the cost of shipping and goods, but pulls mission-ready forces from other duties to keep the costs from rising higher. Sailors deployed to counter-piracy missions can attest to lengthy force protection details off the coast during RHIB transfers of detainees to shore. These temporary detentions were a waste of time and money, punishing piracy with nothing more than a few days in the ship’s center-line passageway with three squares meals and regular washes. The idea that pirates “learned” something from their capture was correct. The lesson was that they likely would survive encounters with U.S. warships and be returned to their anchorages. At the very least, more suspected vessels should have been diverted and escorted to ports where their hulls, cargo, and crew could be inspected and held if necessary. U.S. tactics involving capture had little meaning without a resolution other than emancipation. At worst, such impotent gestures actively undermined the authority of the U.S. presence.

Actions Louder than Words

These operations would have been aided by more lenient ROE and a higher level of aggressiveness in the U.S. posture toward piracy. This is a complicated subject as the rules were designed to maximize legitimacy and minimize controversy and liability. It is frustrating to read message traffic insisting on defining pirates clearly caught in the act as “suspected.” Pirates, when positively identified, are hailed and warned, but rarely destroyed. A comical irony is that an escort for a pirated vessel provides, if anything, little more than military protection for the pirates on the vessel.

Better ROE would be more aggressive, allowing the engagement and destruction of vessels with known associations to piracy. Once the chance to surrender is given, threats must be made good. To counter the use of human shields, a counter-offer must be made to pirates. The normal method, as I witnessed it, is that U.S. warships hail pirate vessels, occasionally fire warning shots, then are deterred by the presence of human shields or pirate threats to kill their hostages.

Ending Incentivization

Just as the U.S. has a standing policy not to negotiate with terrorists, the same should be clearly applied to pirates: remove the incentive to use hostages. Piracy is not about ideologies, but competing costs and benefits. The U.S. concept of operations places far too much stake on the presence of hostages, further imperiling mariners by encouraging their capture. Military policy should make hostage-taking and the use of human shields a non-factor. If uncooperative, all pirate vessels should be engaged with disabling or destructive fire. Rather than reducing the equation to capture or an escape with hostages, warships should amend the options: capture or death. If hostages are used as shields or threatened with death, the pirates should understand that they only further endanger their own lives by risking lethal retaliation. If hostages are killed by pirates, the responsibility lies with the pirates, not with the military endeavoring to save them. This is an unpleasant idea, but kinetic operations of this kind can rarely be conducted without at least a trace of regrettable collateral damage. Military planners should recognize this unfortunate inevitability and pursue the larger goal of protecting future mariners and an entire region’s stability.

Not Just the Sea

One development that did prove effective was stationing warships at pirate anchorages. This led to a better picture of piracy operations, their frequency, and capabilities. However, partially due to the presence of hostages, the infrastructure remained largely undisturbed. From only a few miles off the coast, a swath of defenseless pirate infrastructure was often in view of my own vessel. I remember SUVs brazenly shadowing us along the shore as we maneuvered close to the land. Small vessels were clearly visible transiting to and from shore with supplies for anchored pirated vessels. Pirate skiffs were propped up in clusters above the tide near supply shacks and rows of vehicles. Pirates came to rely on these facilities to coordinate their operations at sea while simultaneously maintaining a large stable of captured vessels and hostages. With rare exception, these shores were left alone, covered in equipment ripe for destruction. Again, military leaders were naturally worried about hostage collateral damage. Yet naval gunfire can be used to great effect against safe targets at pirate anchorages. UHF towers, clusters of empty vehicles, supply vessels, unattended skiffs, and the assorted support facilities onshore are all easy targets for naval gunfire. This is not only less expensive than leaving the pirates alone, launching 1.5 million dollar Tomahawks, or drone strikes, but terrifying for pirates realizing they could be bombarded at any moment with a ship offshore. This scorched-earth policy for pirate shore facilities should be common practice.

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger (and smaller) Boat

America’s military counter-piracy medication comes in the form of ships-of-the-line, namely DDGs and a few FFGs. While versatile craft, these are inherently conventional, centralized combatants designed for confrontations with modern navies. They are expensive, complicated blue-water craft weighed down with anti-submarine, anti-surface, and anti-air capabilities unsuited for the task of counter-piracy. VLS, AEGIS, torpedoes, Harpoon, towed arrays, sonobuoys, etc. have little to no use here. These platforms have a limited aviation capability and little room for detainees caught while on patrol. There are even FFGs deployed to Somalia without helicopters, making them next to useless when it comes to responding to calls for help outside of 20nm. Additionally, unlike the conventional warfare areas, there is no formal training regimen for these ships that deals with piracy specifically, their assigned mission.

Amphibious platforms, on the other hand, have the supplies and space to contain detainees for long periods without impacting crew effectiveness. Amphibious platforms also bring vital improved air assets/compatible flexibility not sufficiently present in CRUDES. The USS Oak Hill’s certification to carry riverine boats last summer demonstrates amphibious ships’ versatility with the ability to deploy patrol boats in concert with multiple air assets. Rather than a single ship and helicopter covering hundreds of miles of coastline, a whole swarm of air and sea assets, bolstered by a large detainee space and afloat support facility, become available in a single platform. These kinds of coastal patrol operations were executed to great effect during Vietnam using Landing Ship Tank (LST) vessels as bases to deploy Patrol Boats-Riverine (PBRs) and helicopters. A similar concept would be a far more effective counter-piracy force structure off Somalia.

Andromeda Strain: Not Walking Away Empty Handed

As regional entities take turns carving out pieces of the vacuum in which pirates operated, we will naturally let out a sigh of relief and enjoy a chance to walk away from the piracy issue. We must not, however, allow our efforts to be for naught; we must at a minimum take with us the important lessons from our failed efforts. Piracy is a crime of opportunity. It can only be deterred by changing the cost-benefit analysis and removing the chances to commit the crime. The United States’ incomplete capture strategy, backed up by weak actions/ROE, only taught pirates that, with a little innovation, the usual result of a run in with an American vessel was a free ride home.

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.