Risky Business–Tomahawk Style

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ross fires a tomahawk land attack missile while conducting naval operations in the Mediterranean Sea, April 7, 2017. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Robert S. Price

 

 

 

 


I just published an OpEd piece in American Military News after looking at the FY 2019 DoD Budget again.  I can’t believe we aren’t asking for more Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles.  The Reason? We are going to build a new Land Attack Missile by 2028…..that’s around 10 years folks!  Any bets on a 2028 delivery?     Anyone?     Bueller?   Anyone?    Anyway, I think the piece says it all, so I invite you to read it.  Here’s the link to the article…..Closing the Tomahawk Line is Risky Business.

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Power Counter-Point

Breaking News
  SECDEF Power Point Guidance.  Looks like he reads my blog!

 

Who loves Power Point?  Let’s see a show of hands….What?  No hands?big pp

Like just about anyone in government, Lord knows I’ve seen my share of Power Point presentations.  I remember the Granddaddy of them all from my first year as the Navy’s money guy.  It was time for the requirements folks to brief the Chief of Naval Operations on their budget proposal.  I should have suspected something when the calendar was blocked for three days, but what the heck?  I was a new guy and thought this was normal. We sat down in the PEC ( I can’t remember what that stood for, but it was the big CNO conference room where we discussed such matters) and girded our loins for the fireworks.  Now those of you who have ever attended a meeting in the Pentagon where money is being discussed know that there is literally no conference room in the Pentagon big enough to accommodate all of the Importants, the not-so-Importants, the strap-hangars and even one or two people who actually know what’s going on.  The 20 person conference table had 40 people around it.  The walls were thick with one and two stars and their civilian counterparts sitting in hard, folding chairs taken from the WWII surplus locker.  The EA’s, aides and Navy Hospital Corpsmen (in case someone had a heart attack after seeing the numbers) were standing wherever there was room.  Of course, being the junior Three Star, I had the honor of sitting right next to the projector….hot air blowing in my face and the fan so loud I could not hear what was being said (I always suspected they put me there to break me down so that I would agree to anything just to get out of the room!).  Nonetheless, I felt pretty good.  After all, I was BIG!  I had the $130 Billion checkbook……and I was sitting at the table!!!DoD Chart=

Then the first slide went up.  There was a collective groan when all eyes focused on the very small, 8-point numbers at the bottom right of the first slide:” 1 of 1329.” I remember the N4 leaning over to me and whispering YGTBSM!  “Maybe we’ll just zip right through them,” I naively said.  ” After all, if we look at each slide for just 10 seconds it will only take three hours and forty-seven minutes.”  Around 11 AM, I realized just how wrong I was as I heard the presenter say, “Next Slide” and my eyes were drawn to the lower right side of the slide—“6 of 1329.”  I did a quick calculation (after all, I used to be King of Ops Analysis for the Navy) and realized that at this pace it would take roughly a month to get through all the slides (not counting breaks).  What were they thinking?  How did they possible hope to get through all those slides? By the way, there were over 4000 back-up slides, just in case one of the 1329 didn’t cover all the bases.

That’s why over the years I’ve relied less and less on Power Point and more and more on one, well-designed visual aid whenever I have an important presentation to make (Don’t pay any attention to those PP presentations on my web site.  They don’t really exist). I am one of the original Power Point Rangers.  I remember when the presentation software suite of choice was Harvard Graphics (Whatever happened to HG?). As a newly-minted action officer on the Joint Staff I was sent to a one week course on the new software in use on the Joint Staff….Power Point.  It was certainly a step up from HG, but like all IT improvements, the Bosses expected miracles and demanded more and more sophistication.  Back then, in order to make a PP slide you had to first make it on the “Wang Computer”, then print it out on the ONE color printer in the Joint Staff on special, clear acetate sheets.  They were forever sticking to the hot parts of the printer and in general a pain to work with.  Once you got all that done, you still needed to tape the sheet to a cardboard holder that you could slap on the overhead projector.  My office was just down the passageway from the Tank (where the Joint Chiefs met) and our boss was always changing the slides at the last minute.  So I can remember a “bucket brigade” of PP slides moving from the office to the backdoor of the Tank just as the Boss was saying “Next Slide.”  No wonder I hate Power Point.

Of course, nowadays it’s a piece of cake.. Hook up the laptop and off you go!  Except there are always the inevitable “What button do I press?”, “Which way do I point this thing?”, “Can someone find my slides?” questions that the briefers always wind up asking.  (this is where your audience checks out and begins to check e-mail, write the grocery list, and go to the bathroom) So I’m not sure we are that much better of now than back in the day!  I guess my point is why detract from your presentation with slides and all the hiccups that come with them?  Pick one good  visual aid and go with it.  Give people copies of slides (best done after your brief) but don’t rely on them.

But, sadly, “we will always have Power Point “(apologies to Bogart), so I thought I would put out a few “Points about Power Point” (Damn, I’m clever!)

  • Keep them simple.  Pictures and graphs are best.  Use few words.  Remember people will be reading the slides and not listening to you if there are words on the them.
  • Make sure the words are spelled correctly.  Most Admirals and Generals spend more time checking the spelling on slides than either reading what the words say or listening to you. One misspelling and you are labeled an Idiot For Life and all future slides are null and void!
  • Have a time budget for your slides.  It’s hard to spend less than 5 minutes on a slide.  If you have to spend less that that, then you probably don’t need it.
  • DON”T READ THE SLIDES!! Guess what?  Everyone in the room can read.
  • Speaking of reading, make sure the material on the slide is large enough that it can be seen in the back.  I hate it when someone flashes up a slide with a 50 element spreadsheet and says, ” You probably can’t see this, but……..”  Why waste my time with something I can’t see?
  • Don’t read the slides!! (Did I already say that?  It’s worth repeating…..Don’t read the slides)
  • Don’t use Power Point.  I have found that speaking from a placemat-sized piece of card stock is far more effective that using slides.  Put the things you want your target to know on the placemat.  Force them to look at you and to listen to you by having nothing else for them to do.  If you need Power Point slides to be effective, look for another line of work.

OK.  Hope this helps.  Remember the source… A professional and seasoned Power Point Ranger, and someone who had suffered though more bad PP briefs than Carter has pills.

Oh Yeah, one final point: Don’t Read The Slides!

 

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Beware the Cyberwock

JabberwockyIn a previous article, Cyber-Too Big Not To Fail, I provided some comments on the recently signed Improving Cybersecurity and Resilience through Acquisition .  This document lists six recommendations for doing just that.  As I mentioned in the article, it’s very hard for a “cyber-outsider” to understand much of what it is saying (which is part of the problem IMHO).  It does however prioritize the recommendations and pushes for tackling Recommendation 4 as a first step.  Recommendation 4 is this: Institute a Federal Acquisition Cyber Risk Management Strategy.  Here is a link to the draft of the plan to implement Recommendation 4.  I had a chance the other day to have a look at a draft document which is in support of implementing Recommendation 4 entitled “Appendix I, Category Definition, Prioritization, and Overlays.”

This document is trying to show how Federal dollars are spent on cybersecurity and then provides a proposed structure on how to characterize the types of cyber acquisitions, based on Product and Service Codes.  I just have to provide a quote to demonstrate just how confusing documents like this are to me (and I suspect to most of us non-geeks). Here it is,”..[This document]..is intended to provide a starting point for the collaborative, stakeholder-centric development of a method for categorizing similar types of acquisition that achieves the goals of recommendation number four…..”  Can anyone tell me what the heck a “collaborative, stakeholder-centric development” means? (Now’s a good time to review my article on Self-Licking Ice Cream Cones.)  I know it’s a complex subject, but geez-louise can we at least use plain English?  It seems to me before we start diving into the pool we ought to see how deep the water is.  By that I mean, I strongly believe that we should spend some time first developing a set of principles to guide us through the process.  These principles should be simple, easily understood and brief.  Once we get the principles right, all the other stuff is easy.  So you heard it here first: Crenshaw’s Cyber Acquisition Guiding Principles.

 

  1. Government and Corporate data must be protected.
  2. Access to data must be controlled at all times.
  3. Risk to Government and Contractors should be considered.
  4. How the information is being used is as important as what hardware is being used to handle the information.
  5. Rules must be consistent with existing rules and regulations to minimize confusion.
  6. Leverage existing rules and regulations before inventing new ones.
  7. Rules must be executable by all, from  the smallest 8A, SDVOSB, Hub Zone firms to world-wide corporations.
  8. Contracting Officers must have enough knowledge in cyber to make reasonable judgments when drafting RFPs
  9. Rules and Regulations must be verifiable with reasonable effort and minimum time (In other words, no 5 year long DCAA audits)
  10. Incident response responsibilities must be clear and incentivized.

OK.  Now that we understand that, perhaps we can get down to putting something on paper that we can work with, not “a collaborative, stakeholder-centric approach”, whatever that means?

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Dinosaurs and Dead Reckoning

I’d like to think that I’m fairly open-minded when it comes to the use of technology.  As I mentioned a few days ago, the changes in lifestyle brought about by technology are mind-boggling.  The same is true for war fighting.  I was with a group the other day touring a US Navy guided missile destroyer and my ears perked up during a  briefing on the Bridge by the ship’s navigator.  This young officer was enthusiastic and obviously proud of her position as the Navigator.  I was pleased to see an electronic navigation system over her plotting table on the Bridge, but when she said that she was qualified to only use electronic navigation I took note.  She continued that her goal was to become qualified in paper navigation at some point.  I know that going to electronic navigation can save the Navy a ton of money by eliminating the need for lots of paper charts, to say nothing about the manpower needed to keep them up-to-date.  It brought back memories of my third-class year at the Naval Academy and the year I spent learning basic navigation and celestial navigation.  I even remember a brief section in the textbook, Dutton’s Navigation and Piloting, regarding the advent of LORAN-C, a new radio aid to navigation (you needed a degree in electrical engineering to make it work!).  I struggled through endless P-Works (navigation exercises) in the Navigation Loft of Luce Hall.  Luce Hall was also the place where we learned to read flashing light and signal flags.  I endured a whole semester of celestial navigation, sun lines, local apparent noon, and latitude by Polaris calculations.  As I recall, using planets to navigate was particularly difficult because those suckers were always moving around! Inevitably,  I would wind up with a fix that was a triangle that put me somewhere in a 50 square mile spot in the ocean ( or worse yet, a point fix 25 miles inland!)

As an A-6 Bombardier/Navigator I  experienced the same thing.  As a junior officer the best we could do was write down the ship’s position about 45 minutes before we took off and hope that the ship didn’t go too far.  Once airborne, the first thing you had to do was figure out where you were by finding a landmark on the radar.  Then you had to find your target,  hope the pilot could follow the steering directions and while you guide your bomb to the target (assuming you were using a laser guided weapon).  Then you had to go back and find the ship and land.   Now all that is done by GPS, the bomb guides itself to a target you never have to find.  How sweet is that?

USS LaMoure CountySo is relying on state-of-the-art electronics a good thing or a bad thing? One would think that using GPS has got to make things easier, yet ships continue to run aground even with GPS in working order.  I seem to remember that the USS LaMoure  County ran into the continent of South America using GPS several years ago. USS San FranciscoThe  submarine USS San Francisco was using an electronic map when it hit a seamount  in 2005.  So clearly, electronic systems are not infallible (although there’s always an element of human error).  One could argue had there been less reliance on technology and more reliance on the tried and true methods of navigation those events might not have happened.  On the other hand, using these systems reduces manpower requirements (and cost), saves time and can enhance safety when used properly.  Heck, without technology a pilot could never fly an F-18 and accomplish the mission because of the complexity of the aircraft and weapons systems.

So I’m not sure I know the answer to the question, “Should I rely on technology or tradition?”  This is a classic dilemma that Dr. Rushworth Kidder addresses in his book, How Good People Make Tough Choices.  Both choices are have merit and could be considered correct.  I think this one falls into the category of the “trilema” mentioned in the book, which suggests there’s a third answer and that is to seek a balance.  So when you are faced with deciding between technology and tradition, carefully consider the facts and seek a balance.  With that thought, it’s time to take the slide rule out of my desk.  I’m sufficiently comfortable with the calculator app on my iPhone that I think that piece of tradition is no longer needed.

 

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