20 OCT 17 Weekly Wrap-up

Happy Friday! Thanks for checking out Bull-It Points…be sure to send your tips, criticism or compliments to chris@bullitpoints.com let us know what you like or how we can get better. — Chris Servello

Posting Saturday morning, BULL-It Points Podcast Ep3. This week’s guest is Defense reporter and author Mike Fabey. In a phone conversation with BULL-It Points, Mike discusses naval operations in the Indo-Asia Pacific, previews his new book Crashback  and talks about the need for transparent communication between reporter and subject matter expert.

Now onto this week’s wrap-up…

Key Points:

Repair and Rebuild: Balancing New Military Spending for a Three-Theater Strategy

  • The Pentagon must resolve near-term readiness issues, expand its force structure, and invest in technological breakthroughs to sustain simultaneous operations across three theaters.
  • The Army must be large enough to support stability operations in the Middle East and lethal enough to win decisively in any conventional conflicts in Europe and Asia.
  • Over the next five years, AEI’s plan would spend $672 billion above the Budget Control Act caps.

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

  • China is quickly growing into the world’s most extensive commercial empire. By way of comparison, after World War II, the Marshall Plan provided the equivalent of $800 billion in reconstruction funds to Europe (if calculated as a percentage of today’s GDP).
  • Now it’s China’s turn. The scale and scope of the Belt and Road initiative is staggering. Estimates vary, but over $300 billion have already been spent, and China plans to spend $1 trillion more in the next decade or so.
  • According to the CIA92 countries counted China as their largest exports or imports partner in 2015, far more than the United States at 57.

Contrary to Rhetoric, Military Mishaps Have Been Declining

  • Deaths from major noncombat accidents for forces on duty did not increase but have in fact plummeted since 9/11, a Roll Call analysis shows.
  • Eleven of the past 15 years were deadlier than 2017. And the deaths have declined at a rate that does not appear to be explained solely by the reduction in the overall size of the military or its pace of training.
  • What’s more, there is no evidence that any of the accidents would have been averted by a higher defense budget. Many of the planes and ships were not especially old.

Everyone should read John McCain’s speech

  • You can read McCain’s speech as a slap at Trump. And maybe it is. You could also read it as the musings of an old man near the end of a long, storied, heroic life — a man unburdened by the vagaries of electoral politics. And maybe it is that as well.

  • Although, to be fair, McCain has never been one to shy away from taking an independent stand.

  • I choose to believe he is appealing to who we know, deep down, we really are as Americans — even if we don’t want to admit it: Pioneers. Explorers. Innovators. Entrepreneurs.


National Security

Repair and Rebuild: Balancing New Military Spending for a Three-Theater Strategy

(AEI, 16 OCT 17…By MacKenzie Eaglen) Repair and Rebuild answers a simple question: What plans and priorities should new defense spending increases be geared toward if Congress endorses a three-theater force?1 What can actually be bought in the next five years with higher military spending? The binary construct of investing in either today’s readiness or future capability must be discarded. The military must stop looking for perfect weapons solutions to roll out in the 2030s and instead build in capacity for the inevitable international crises that will occur in the meantime. Link

Why I Went to North Korea

(New York Times, 14 Oct 17…By Nicholas Kristof ) Being on the ground in a country lets you see things and absorb their power: the speaker on the walls of homes to feed propaganda; the pins that every adult wears with portraits of members of the Kim family; the daily power outages, but also signs that the economy is growing despite international sanctions; the Confucian emphasis on dignity that makes officials particularly resent Trump’s personal attacks on Kim; the hardening of attitudes since my last visit, in 2005; and the bizarre confidence that North Korea can not only survive a nuclear war with the U.S. but also emerge as victor. Link

The World Once Laughed at North Korean Cyberpower. No More.

(New York Times, 15 OCT 17…By David Sanger, David Kirkpatrick and Nicole Perlroth)

When North Korean hackers tried to steal $1 billion from the New York Federal Reserve last year, only a spelling error stopped them. They were digitally looting an account of the Bangladesh Central Bank, when bankers grew suspicious about a withdrawal request that had misspelled “foundation” as “fandation.” Link

Behold the New Emperor of China

(Wall Street Journal, 16 OCT 17…By  Graham T. Allison) The Chinese Communist Party’s 19th Party Congress will convene Wednesday to select leaders for the next generation. Few events will have greater impact on the shape of world politics. Link

China Is Quietly Reshaping the World

(Defense One, 18 Oct 17…By Anja Manuel) China is quickly growing into the world’s most extensive commercial empire. By way of comparison, after World War II, the Marshall Plan provided the equivalent of $800 billion in reconstruction funds to Europe (if calculated as a percentage of today’s GDP). In the decades after the war the United States was also the world’s largest trading nation, and its largest bilateral lender to others. Link

Contrary to Rhetoric, Military Mishaps Have Been Declining

(Rollcall, 18 OCT 17…By John Donnelly) The summer of 2017 saw a rash of fatal military accidents — ships colliding at sea, planes crashing and vehicles catching fire — that were deadlier than attacks from America’s enemies. Still, major military accidents have been dropping, despite the spike in 2017. They are also not necessarily related to the size of the defense budget, which is at near-record levels, experts say. Link

The nature of warfare is changing. It’s time governments caught up

(Wired Magazine, 14 OCT 17…By Richard Barrons) Unless the private and public sectors start sharing ideas, the UK will be left behind in the new arms race says former Joint Forces Command chief Richard Barrons Link


Fleet and Marine Tracker

(by USNI News, Oct. 16, 2017)



Is the U.S. Navy Dying a Slow Death?

(The National Interest, 16 OCT 17…By Thomas Callender) Can today’s Navy meet the ever-increasing operational demands and deter aggressive regional threats? Assessing the fleet across three key areas—capacity, capability, and readiness—The Heritage Foundation’s 2018 Index of U.S. Military Strength evaluates our naval forces as only “marginally” up to the task. Link

The U.S. Navy May Not Be Ready for Future Fights (Think Russia and China)

(The National Interest, 17 Oct 17…By Dan Goure) For more than seventy-five years, amphibious assaults against hostile shores have had a successful record. Even when subjected to intense and protracted naval and air defenses and the nominal forerunner of today’s Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) threat, these landings were never turned back. During the Okinawa Campaign, Japan launched nearly two thousand sorties by kamikaze suicide planes, sinking 20 Allied ships, damaging almost 200 more and inflicting the highest number of U.S. naval casualties in any battle of World War Two. Once ashore, land forces often faced protracted struggles to complete the seizure of the Pacific island or break out of their beachheads in Italy and Northern France. However, no combination of air, sea and land defenses were able to prevent amphibious forces from coming ashore. Link

Why the United States Needs a 355-Ship Navy Now

(The National Review, 18 OCT 18…by Robert O’Brien and Jerry Hendrix) The failure to rebuild America’s fleet could not have come at a worse time. The world has grown increasingly dangerous, with a nuclear madman in North Korea testing an ICBM a month, mullahs in Tehran plotting the takeover of the Middle East, Russia engaging in “frozen conflicts” in Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, a very hot civil war in Syria, and China appropriating a vast swath of the Pacific to itself. The forgoing list does not even take into account the United States’ continuing wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and dozens of other remote locales where we are in daily combat with al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Taliban, and their assorted jihadi fellow travelers. Link

SWOs Need A “Flight School”

(Proceedings Magazine, OCT 17…by LCDR Tyler McKnight) What SWOs need is a surface version of flight school, a place where rising SWOs receive hands-on training from fleet-experienced instructors on the policies and procedures developed and agreed upon by SWO leadership. (Naval aviation has done this for decades, as has the submarine community.)  Link

Where will we be in 2030…The Future Belongs to Those Who Show Up

(USNI Blog, 18 OCT17…By CDR Salamander) Let’s talk a bit about a rising power who is primarily focused on establishing hegemony on their part of the planet – parts of which we have not been challenged on for most of living memory. Link


There are two-steps to two-way communications

(Tribe Inc, 17 Oct 17…By Elizabeth Baskin) The first step is asking for employee input. Whether it’s a formal engagement survey, a questions-and-comments feature on the intranet or employee focus groups on particular issues, people like being asked for their opinion. Link


Axios Weekly Media Trends

(Axios, 17 OCT 17…By Sara Fischer) Link


Everyone should read John McCain’s speech

(CNN, 17 OCT 17…By John Kirby) Accepting the prestigious Liberty Medal from the National Constitution Center, he recalled a moving speech by President George H.W. Bush that extolled the bravery of those killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He remembered America as “the land of the immigrant’s dream, the land with the storied past forgotten in the rush to the imagined future.” Link

Upswingers and Downswingers

(New York Times, 16 OCT 17, By David Brooks) The popular gloom notwithstanding, we’re actually living in an era of astounding progress. We’ve seen the greatest reduction in global poverty in history. As Steven Pinker has documented, we’ve seen a steady decline in wars and armed conflict. The U.S. economy is the best performing major economy in the developed world. Link

Podcast Episode 2…convo with Bryan McGrath

By Chris Servello

In our Navy Birthday edition of the Bullit Points Podcast, we talk with Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, retired naval officer and well known navalist Bryan McGrath (@conswahoo). Bryan makes the case for strong American seapower as a central component of the United States national security strategy.

Additionally, he discusses his concern that the American public doesn’t understand the value of seapower and the necessity for a strong Navy. Bryan suggests several ways to increase  and improve the Department of the Navy’s communication effort…seeing that success as central to growing a 350-ship Navy.

Key Quotes:

I came away from my six month speaking tour somewhat disheartened at the level of understanding in those rooms about anything other than a sort of a superficial patriotic appreciation for the Navy. The wasn’t much of an understanding how the Navy protects and sustains our economy.

“I come away from it thinking Navy leadership has a relentlessly and continuously educating the american public about seapower.”

“My pitch was that the security and prosperity of the United States of America was disproportionately reliant on strong American Seapower.”

“At the SECNAV and CNO level a relentless advocacy has to be the minimum standard that we demand of these decision makers.”

“The communication function in the department of the Navy could deal with a lot more rigor.”

It is the Department of the Navy’s job to create that case for why those additional ships are required…and why the Navy’s role is different than the Air Force and the Army because of the degree to which naval forces regulate a peacetime environment.”

My Navy Birthday Wish…

By Chris Servello

This Friday the Navy will celebrate its 242nd birthday. Like many of our own “off-year” birthdays, few people outside of the immediate family take time to mark the occasion. Please reconsider.

While many of us will spend this week enjoying the baseball playoffs, watching football or taking in the changing colors of Fall, an important group of young Americans will be far from the comforts of home. They will spend the weekend doing what Sailors have done for the last 242 years–helping to keep the United States safe and protecting American interests around the world.

Sometimes lost in headlines and commentary about mishaps at sea or on-going policy reviews is the awe inspiring work these men and women do day in and day out. From the Sailors conducting relief missions in the Caribbean, ships and aircraft beating back extremists in Syria and Iraq, to the units conducting missile defense off South Korea and Japan, the young Americans in your Navy are getting it done in a big way.

And so amidst the curveballs, kickoffs and color changes, please take a few minutes this week to think about these Sailors. Help celebrate the legacy of service and sacrifice to their fellow Americans that has gone for the last two and a half centuries. Don’t let their hard work go unrecognized, even if it’s only by a momentary smile or internal positive thought.

I am incredibly proud of the tens of thousands of Sailors standing the watch around the world this week…and hopefully you are too.