News. Presentation "Ethical Control of Autonomous Unmanned Systems: A Practical Approach" 12 April 2017 at NPS as part of the annual CRUSER Technical Conference (TechCon) 2017.

The backdrop for this work:

  • Roboticists tend to build software systems in unique and dissimilar ways, but nevertheless share a common repertoire of directable capabilities.
  • A number of philosophers view unmanned systems as inherently uncontrollable, and therefore propose international protocols banning their existence.
  • Potential opponents are likely to use such systems as weapons of war regardless, and do not particularly care about ethical command and control.

The gist of our work:

  • Releasing uncontrolled robots at sea with potential for lethal force is not permissible under Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC).
  • Naval officers must act ethically and maintain supervisory control of such devices even if direct communications might be lost.
  • Formal mission orders can describe both tasking and constraints on action that are logically validatable and executable by a wide variety of robots.
  • Identification Friend Foe Neutral (IFFN) is much simpler on the ocean than it is on land.
  • A feasible path forward exists that allows Navy commanders to similarly task and trust unmanned systems to act - and appropriately avoid acting - just as they might with other trusted human partners.

Abstract.  Autonomous systems can be ethically supervised by humans without constant communications.  Ships have the potential to direct autonomous systems effectively, as trusted partners that do not require constant supervisory control, if robot mission orders clearly complement the mission tasking followed by humans.  Such a capability can make robot operations safer - and Network Optional Warfare achievable - for maritime unmanned systems.

  • Semantic coherence is the primary key for achieving success: consolidating a vast variety of robot dialects into a common set of C2 definitions for task orders and constraints. 
  • Efficient messaging is also necessary since maritime systems can easily lose communication links due to long ranges and severe environmental changes. 
  • Optical signaling can help unmanned systems avoid revealing presence, even acting as "data mules" when important messages need to be delivered covertly.

Adding constraints such as no-fly zones, time limitations, permission prerequisites etc. to mission orders allows operators to legally and ethically control mobile systems that have the potential for deliberate (or unintentional) lethal force. The following papers present results from many work-years of effort, showing that ethical control can be practically achieved by providing parsable (and ethically validatable) orders to diverse unmanned systems.  Continuing work intends to demonstrate such capabilities in full-fidelity simulations and at-sea experimentation.

Short-form and long-form papers, presentations:

short formDavis, Duane T., Brutzman, Donald P., Blais, Curtis L. and McGhee, Robert B., "Ethical Mission Definition and Execution for Maritime Robotic Vehicles: A Practical Approach," MTS/IEEE OCEANS 2016 , Monterey California USA, 19-23 September 2016, 10 pages.slides    (.pdf)
full lengthBrutzman, Donald P., Davis, Duane T., Blais, Curtis L. and McGhee, Robert B., "Ethical Mission Definition and Execution for Maritime Unmanned Systems: A Practical Approach," draft paper for IEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering , submitted 28 January 2017, 29 pages.slides (.pdf)

Abstract. Many types of robotic vehicles are increasingly utilized in both civilian and military maritime missions. Some amount of human supervision is typically present in such operations, thereby ensuring appropriate accountability in case of mission accidents or errors. However, there is growing interest in augmenting the degree of independence of such vehicles, up to and including full autonomy. A primary challenge in the face of reduced operator oversight is to maintain full human responsibility for ethical robot behavior.

Informed by decades of direct involvement in both naval operations and unmanned systems research, this work proposes a new mathematical formalism that maintains human accountability at every level of robot mission planning and execution. This formalism is based on extending a fully general model for digital computation, known as a Turing machine. This extension, called a Mission Execution Automaton (MEA), allows communication with one or more "external agents" that interact with the physical world and respond to queries/commands from the MEA while observing human-defined ethical constraints.

An important MEA feature is that it is language independent and results in mission definitions equally well suited to human or robot execution (or any arbitrary combination). Formal description logics are used to enforce mission structure and semantics, provide operator assurance of correct mission definition, and ensure suitability of a mission definition for execution by a specific vehicle, all prior to mission parsing and execution. Computer simulation examples show the value of such a Mission Execution Ontology (MEO).

The flexibility of the MEA formalism is illustrated by application to a prototypical multiphase area search and sample mission. This paper presents an entirely new approach to achieving a practical and fully testable means for ethical mission definition and execution. This work demonstrates that ensuring ethical behavior during mission execution is achievable with current technologies and without requiring artificial intelligence abstractions for high-level mission definition or control.

To learn more: NPS AUV Workbench: Ethical Control of Unmanned Systems provides additional references and related resources for ongoing work.  Feedback on these important topics are always welcome.

CRUSER TechCon 2017This work was presented during the CRUSER Technical Continuum (TechCon) at NPS 11-12 April 2017.  The Consortium for Robotics and Unamanned Sytems Education and Research (CRUSER) provides a collaborative environment for the advancement of educational and research endeavors across the Navy and Marine Corps. The Consortium seeks to capitalize efforts, both internal and external to NPS, by facilitating active means of collaboration, providing a portal for information exchange among researchers and educators with collaborative interests, fostering innovation through directed programs of operational experimentation, and supporting the development of an array of educational ventures.



Maritime Innovation

A Discussion with NPS Faculty and Students

Dean Emeritus Wayne P. Hughes, Jr.

15 December 2016

A better title than Innovation, the achievement of which too many people theorize about without success these days, would be the ossification seen in big organizations like the Navy and what to do about it.  But a talk about ossification, or rigidity, or calcification, or sclerosis, or intransigence would sound too petulant. So after a few words describing two aspects of the contemporary Navy’s problem, I’m going to flip to the other side of the coin and talk about two beacons of innovative success to inspire actions that may free us to get going with productive, affordable innovation. One is in the Navy at large, and one is here at NPS.

Since I came to NPS in 1979 I have seen the Navy become more and more frozen into inaction. Here are two reasons that don’t get the recognition they deserve:

  • Our latest IG inspection report exhibits a Navy-wide attempt to make no mistakes in the belief that the way to be perfect is to follow rules and regulations, instead of seeking new modes of effective teaching, such as distance learning. At the Naval Postgraduate School our number of lawyers, safety inspectors, examinations, briefings, and administrative staff to assure security, perfect record keeping, accounting, suicide prevention, equal opportunity for minorities, women’s rights, flawless energy conservation, and safe travel exhibit Navy priorities on compliance with rules better than my mere words can do. The first evidence of Navy ossification is that we promote people to positions of authority who take no risks, comply with the rules, and never make a mistake. It is a society that rewards doing nothing perfectly.
  • The second problem is one that all big organizations suffer from, but is worst when they are big government organizations. I call it diseconomies of scale. There is such a thing as critical mass. Until an organization is large enough to produce a product effectively it cannot produce one efficiently. Henry Ford and his mass production symbolize the beginning of large-scale, efficient production. He also symbolizes the diseconomies of getting so big that General Motors almost destroyed Ford with a more modern auto while Ford procrastinated and sold Model T’s for “just one more year.” Ford had become efficient but ineffective because its bureaucracy had destroyed its ability to innovate. Fifty years later the whole Detroit auto industry almost died when foreign builders of cars and trucks—aided by cheap transportation—stole our market with better vehicles than Detroit’s stodgy, complacent, auto designers were producing. A modern example is Google. Like the World Wide Web, Wikipedia, and other computer technologies, its critical mass is very big. Google has achieved a critical mass and is enjoying successful economies of scale. But Google, like Apple, must innovate to stay ahead of the competition. If government doesn’t interfere to bail out the losers, or inhibit start-ups who have better ideas, diseconomies of scale in the commercial world will be obvious when the competition forces innovation or death. The high-tech world is littered with corpses of big organizations that could not adapt.

But big government is different. Big government is a monopoly that wants to stay that way. DoD and the Navy are a special case because we won’t know when we suffer from diseconomies of scale until we fail catastrophically in war. Two years ago I wrote an essay called “A Business Strategy for Shipbuilders” that says you don’t have to predict the future to know changes have already happened that should have affected our Navy. We ought to be in a “catch up” mode to recover from five major things that have already happened during the past 20 years:

  • The foremost operational change is that the seas are no longer a safe sanctuary for U. S. fleet operations.
  • The foremost national security change is the nation’s growing debt that threatens to make the existing defense budget unaffordable.
  • The foremost national strategy change resulted from the rise of Chinese maritime interests and ambitions.
  • The foremost technology change was “the revolution in military affairs” with its precision missiles and accurate detection, tracking, and targeting.
  • The foremost impending change underway is the ever larger number of small, versatile, inexpensive, unmanned and increasingly autonomous vehicles.

 In the past we were timely enough in shifting from the battleship era to the carrier era of warfare at sea, but we have missed the transformation to the missile era that started with a successful missile attack on the Israeli destroyer Eilat in 1967. The Israeli navy quickly responded with small Sa’ar boats carrying Gabriel missiles and by 1973 was ready to fight and win the first sea battles with missiles. Israel did that in just six years. By contrast, until very recently the U.S. Navy hadn’t deduced that missile warfare is fundamentally different from carrier warfare because lethal missiles can be distributed in smaller and more numerous warships.

Now there is a new transformation going on. Call it the era of robot and cyber warfare. It is another factor that will make smaller fighting vehicles more valuable and swarm attacks more and more common.

A new book Ghost Fleet by Peter Singer and August Cole describes a big war when China attacks and nearly destroys the U. S. fleet with cyber-attacks and unmanned, sometimes robotic, vehicles. Unlike the surprise air attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Chinese conduct a successful surprise invasion of Oahu and seize the island. The story is all good fun, with the U. S. now in the position of the loser who, Islamist-like, begins our own terrorist attacks with Special Forces assassinating Chinese leaders on the island. But there is nothing imaginary about the Chinese cyber worms that destroyed our ships’ ability fight, or the unmanned strike vehicles that participated in the destruction of our forces defending Hawaii. Read the book to see what innovation has already wrought upon modern warfare at sea.

The 2015 movie called Eye in the Sky introduces the overdone question of robot ethics. It exaggerates the emotional side of unmanned vehicle attacks, but it is on target in exhibiting the advantages of Predator-sized attackers over manned strike aircraft, and the presence of very small, bird- and even bug-sized searchers that are here now (or almost here).

I won’t speak further about Navy innovation as a whole, because the bureaucratic goal of perfection—of never making a mistake—has crippled it. But I can point to an exception that I hope will have more and more influence on the future Navy. Swift progress in the Surface Navy is going on almost unnoticed in the press and on the blogger circuits.

A Real Innovation Underway

Our Surface Forces under the leadership of VADM Tom Rowden are setting an example for the rest of the Navy. In just over one year the Commander of our Surface Forces has accomplished three things that are changing how surface forces will fight effectively and affordably in the rest of the 21st Century. In a word, he has embarked on real innovation to achieve a big change in a short time.

First, Admiral Rowden published a framework called Distributed Lethality to unify all Surface Navy endeavors. Distributed lethality establishes an offensive mindset that will force the enemy to be ever-ready to defend against our sudden surprise attacks. This reverses the surface navy’s longstanding defensive role in CVBG, ESG, and convoy protection. Rowden is specific about creating a team that employs UAVs to detect the enemy so that surface warships can deliver ASCMs to attack the enemy first. He envisions the scout-to-shoot forces embedded in a moving deadly circle that is hard to detect out to a range of 100 nm or more and is designed to attack at a time and place of our choosing.

Second, Admiral Rowden is specifying actions to give his surface forces an immediate, more distributable offensive capability to achieve his intentions insofar as possible with existing ships and aircraft, manned and unmanned. He wants to show the way to achieve distributed lethality during his all too short tour as Commander of Naval Surface Forces. I don’t know everything going on, but a standout event is deploying what is called an ADP, an Adaptive Force Package, comprising an experienced task group commander, three DDGs, and enough UAVs and helicopters to test the performance of the deadly circle in one segment. This month the AFP task group departed on a long cruise to the Western Pacific with plenty of new tactics and tests to try out. 

Admiral Rowden has also tapped the NWC and NPS to achieve affordable distributed lethality in the immediate future.

Third, he is specifying actions to take now to make the future Surface Force more distributable. He wants to build a large number of small missile combatants with minuscule crews but lots of firepower. He wants them affordable enough that we can deploy many squadrons of them. How many squadrons? The Chinese have 80 Houbeis or soon will. I want to name our new littoral combatants MINUTEMEN because they will strike silently and unexpectedly and be small enough that when one is detected and put out of action the crew is saved and the ship abandoned. MINUTEMEN squadron tactics will be the opposite of our big expensive warships that must be saved when hit and incapacitated. And there will be many other things he can do to respond to the five changes I cited above that should have already affected how our navy is constructed and will fight in the future. The little MINUTEMEN must be inexpensive—“design to cost” has a bad reputation in the US Navy, but I think $100 million in series production is an absolute top construction cost under a concept that we will never send one through overhaul but instead replace the design after 5 to 15 years with a better one.

Doubtless you will have questions at the end and I will do my best to answer them, but the important thing to note is how quickly innovative thinking can change our Navy, as it did in the Israeli navy.

The Naval Postgraduate School’s Role in Innovation

 I close by pointing out how the Naval Postgraduate School is supporting innovative products. There is plenty of rigidity in civilian academia, which is now tolerating frivolous student protests, is abusing the tenure system, and is promoting based on publication by the pound instead of on usefulness, to name three. I am proud to say NPS has escaped many of these unimaginative academic standards even while overcoming the restrictions of Navy lawyers and the Inspector General. In anticipating Navy needs we have stayed a good five years ahead of the Pentagon in anticipating future opportunities and risks.

  • A standout for many years is unmanned vehicle development under Dave Netzer, Jeff Kline, and now Ray Buettner. NPS UAVs have been a near-perfect example of successful development and swift deployment to the fighting forces.
  • In 2001 our Total Ship Systems Engineering students designed a 400-ton small combatant called Sea Lance. Currently a new TSSE class under Fotis Papoulias and Jake Didoszak is designing a follow-on Sea Lance II, aptly named the MINUTEMAN class, to fill Admiral Rowden’s needs. If the Navy had bought Sea Lance and gained tactical experience, we would be much further along, and blending tactics, technology, and ship design for today, and very low cost in construction and manning.
  • The IT curriculum students under Dan Boger are ready now to give Surface Forces an immediate system of C2 that is reliable, adaptable, and hard to detect.  For the past two years, Network Optional Warfare (NOW) operational concepts have enabled students to explore alternative courses of action in support of Distributed Lethality.
  • The Warfare Innovation Continuum draws contributions from almost everywhere across campus to make the Navy aware of the technological and tactical future. It was testing distributed combat systems of many kinds five years before Admiral Rowden had a chance to do something about it. Come to think of it, the Naval War College faculty needs to follow the WIC, led by Jeff Kline, and join in its far-sighted research on campus.
  • Interdisciplinary studies and research are far more common at NPS than in other universities and undergird our uniqueness.
  • An underappreciated asset is our foreign student advantage. Again and again I have seen them bring perspectives that our faculty and students would not otherwise appreciate.
  • The Littoral Operations Center (LOC) has become well known internationally and is highly respected for promoting cooperation in tactics, technology, and operations to fight in the dangerous littorals.
  • The LOC has been valuable in combining different interdisciplinary skills. For example, experimentation with mesh networks for almost silent operations is going on here. In collaboration with Dan Boger’s IT students, the product can make Admiral Rowden’s moving deadly circle more silent and deadly and do it now.

In conclusion I leave with you with these thoughts. The recent IG inspection of NPS was about as good as it gets. Nevertheless if you read the residual criticisms, the inspectors left us with a list of further actions that are all administrative, and all are about following the plethora of rules and laws imposed in the desire for perfection over progress. The subsequent 2016 re-inspection report found excellent NPS compliance on a plethora of administrative issues, but did not say much at all about our fundamental mission serving Navy and Marine Corps needs.

I am reminded of a famous saying I first heard expressed by one of our finest Under Secretaries, Jim Woolsey, in 1975: The three most untrustworthy statements one can hear are, “The check is in the mail;” “Yes I’ll still love you in the morning;” and “I’m from Washington and I’m here to help you.”

Our challenges are clear.  The world is changing rapidly, and the nation needs the Navy to stay abreast.  Maritime innovation for the surface fleet is happening, and collaborative contributions by NPS students and faculty are perhaps more important than ever.  Trust your experience, instincts and knowledge to keep following that path of innovation together.


  1. Ya'ari - a Prophet for Our Times, Network Optional Warfare Blog, 8 May 2014.
  2. Peter Singer and August Cole, Ghost Fleet, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, June 30, 2015.
  3. Stephen Holden, ‘Eye in the Sky,’ Drone Precision vs. Human Failings, New York Times, 10 March 2016.
  4. Office of the Naval Inspector General, Report of investigation, Calhoun Archive, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey California, 21 November 2012.
  5. Professor Wayne Hughes, A Maritime Business Strategy for Shipbuilders, Department of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School, 28 July 2014
  6. Vice Admiral Thomas Rowden, Rear Admiral Peter Gumataotao, and Rear Admiral Peter Fanta, Distributed Lethality, U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) Proceedings, January 2015, vol. 141/1/1, 343.
  7. Consortium for Robotics and Unmanned Systems Education and Research (CRUSER), Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey California.
  8. Total Ships Systems Engineering (TSSE) Program, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey California.
  9. Littoral Operations Center (LOC), Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey California.
  10. Adaptive Force Package (AFP): Ryan Kelly, Distributed Lethality Task Force Launches CIMSEC Topic Week, USNI Blog, 22-28 February 2016.
  11. Scott C. Truver, Gaming Distributed Lethality, U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) News and Analysis - Opinion, 26 July 2016.

Also available: printable version



Insights from a Decade of Campaign Analysis, Wargaming, Fleet
Architecture Studies and Tactical Analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School

Professor Jeff Kline, Captain USN (Retired) and Professor of Practice

Friday 6 May 2016, Ingersoll Hall, NPS, Monterey California USA

Abstract. First given during April to the Washington DC Strategic Discussion Group, then again for Naval War College (NWC) faculty and students pursuing Joint Professional Military Education (JPME) at NPS.  This talk presents the methods used and major trends discovered of over ten years of warfare analysis from theses, capstone classroom projects, faculty research projects, wargaming, and seminars at the Naval Postgraduate School. It will discuss how the missile and robotics age provides enablers for both friendly and potential adversary forces and how “Blue” forces responded to an increasing challenging sea and air denial capabilities from “Red”.

Professor Kline served in the Navy for 26 years and is now a faculty member in the NPS Operations Research Department. His distinguished naval career includes commands of the USS AQUILA and the USS CUSHING. He has served as a naval analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and earned numerous awards for teaching and research while serving at the Naval Postgraduate School. He has degrees in Industrial Engineering, Operations Research, and National Security Strategy.

Available online: announcement flyer, presentation slideset, and annotated slideset.  Excerpts follow.

Slide 1.  Thank you for allowing me a stage to brag about what I think is one of the most unique institutions in America, the Naval Postgraduate School. Over the next few minutes I hope to provide evidence of this claim by showing how combining operationally experienced students with a world-class defense-oriented faculty provide both meaningful graduate education for our officers and real insights into today’s defense challenges.

For me to summarize over 800 warfare analysis papers, 200 classroom capstone studies, 300 theses and major research projects related to maritime warfare analysis is impossible to accomplish in detail, so I will do three things today:

  • Stay on script so as not to stray into a detailed discussion until the question period,
  • Provide an overview of how we integrate our graduate education with technology advancements in warfare, and
  • Cover the biggest trends our students and faculty have produced, many of which were originally quite new but are of little surprise today. 

Slide 4.  Each year we have a campus‐wide theme and scenario called the Warfare Innovation Continuum for faculty to apply in their classroom and research if they wish. This year, “Creating Asymmetric Warfighting Advantages” involves over 400 students, faculty and sponsors in capstone classroom projects, thesis work, and research initiatives. It uses a scenario titled Maritime War 2030 which addresses an expansionist Russia and adventurous China. The Continuum theme lasts in research threads for much longer than a year, many ideas going to field experimentation.

Slides 16-17, Big Trends Across Ten Years. Some of the trends I’ll address are listed here. The impact of the missile and robotics age can clearly be seen in the way we employ forces and those forces aligned against us. Almost all trends stem from technologies associated with miniaturization, computing power, speed, connectivity, energy, and advances in artificial intelligence. Innovative employment of these technologies (such as ISR sensors on self‐propelling surf boards) is the most frequent theme from our Warfare Innovation Continuum series.

Slide 18, Characteristics of Modern Maritime Warfare.

  • Offense is the stronger form of naval tactical warfare.  "Fire Effectively First" (Hughes).
  • Defense is the stronger form of naval operational warfare.  Sea Denial is easier than Sea Control.
  • We observe that the U.S. Navy is currently on the disadvantaged side in both these areas, in warfighting and procurement.

I want to remind us of an important perspective about naval warfare, which is reverse from the land warriors' view of defense being the stronger form of warfare. The maritime tactical offense is less expensive to employ, and more advantageous than the maritime tactical defense. Initiatives like distributed lethality are addressing the imbalance between offensive capacity and defense capacity in our force.

Relevance to Network Optional Warfare (NOW): in addition to showing the academic, technical and tactical contexts that have led to current development of NOW concepts, CAPT Kline's synopsis includes comments on "Who can best fight in the night? (EM night that is)," "Robots Forward!" and "Push C2 to lowest level."

Meaningful work over many years by NPS students and faculty is producing an compelling body of work.  Looking back and looking ahead, it is clear that diverse lines of inquiry are aligning along common directions.  Thank you Jeff for your continuing leadership in these critical arenas.

Article by David Larter, Navy Times, 13 JAN 2016, reporting on Surface Navy Association keynote presentation. Excerpt follows:

The US Navy in Europe is going dark.

The four destroyers in Rota, Spain, and ships operating in 6th Fleet are switching off their radars and sensors to operate with more stealth and train for fighting cyber and electronic attacks, said the Navy's top officer in Europe.

"We need to change the culture in the surface Navy," said Adm. Mark Ferguson, head of Naval Forces Europe and a career surface warfare officer. "As I tell the [commanding officers] in Rota all the time, it's not a decision of what you turn off anymore, it's a decision of why you are turning something on. Why are turning that radar on? ... It has spurred tremendous creativity."

Ferguson told the crowd at the 2016 Surface Navy Association's national symposium last week that forces in Europe are operating almost constantly in some degree of emissions control, turning off radars and reducing communications to prevent jamming and to better mask their location and profile. That practice was routine during the Cold War and is returning as the US faces a newly aggressive Russian military.

"We're having to think about how are we going to get information to the ship if the satellite isn't there, if GPS is down — and we are running exercises where we take those systems away," Ferguson said. "We need to be able to execute the [ballistic missile defense] mission and fight through a network or cyber attack."

Transcribed from video, minutes 19:30-21:20 in the talk:

"... The second piece that I talk about in this asymmetric environment is: we have to change the culture of the surface force.  I tell the COs at Rota that when you get under way, it's not a decision of what you turn off anymore when you get to sea, it's a decision of why you are turning something on.  Why do you have to have that radar?  Why do you have to have... Because in the environment we're in - the days of you get a cyberattack against the network - you can't shut down the network, because you have a mission to do in ballistic missile defense.  You have to execute the mission.  So maybe we isolate the rest of the GIG and we have to figure out how to fight through.  So it has spurred tremendous creativity.

For the folks in the first couple of rows who remember this in the old days...  The COs very much like getting mission orders, they like not having the chat rooms turned on to headquarters, they like being able to have the permission to - you know.  How do I get information to the ship when the satellite may not be there, when GPS may be jammed for example.  How do we start to work in that environment?  We are running exercises taking those capabilities away, and now investing in other systems that help us in the PK to operate in close to shore against advanced cruise missiles, to be able to execute the BMD mission, and be able to fight through the cyber or the network attack. 

This is the area when I look at the asymmetric piece that we have to be ready to move into.  It will be more unmanned, it will be more distributed, it will be more cyber focused as we go forward.  The ship has understand that it has to maneuver in this space. Weaving the asymmetric into our day-to-day operations is a big thrust of our operations in Europe. The young generation loves it and they're having a great time with it, and coming up with some really marvelous ideas."

ADM Mark Ferguson 


See the article online, and the full presentation video by Admiral Ferguson online with additional flag presentations at Navy Live.

DISA screenshot of network operations center

Software-Centric versus Data-Centric Security

Establishing total information assurance for computer programs is difficult.  Software certification & accreditation (C&A) is necessary and critically important, but it is also a costly and time-consuming process.  The Department of the Navy spends immense amounts of labor, funds, and personnel time to certify and accredit software.  Overhead includes significant “opportunity cost” of people who must live with tedious workarounds and reduced capabilities while waiting for new software programs to be approved.

For example, software certification prior to installing and running a new application on the Navy Marine Corps Intranet (NMCI) has typically cost sponsoring commands many tens of thousands of dollars - and many months - to accomplish.  The actual work is highly specialized and often performed by contractors, adding further distance and overhead to the overall process.  Once complete (if successful), adding future enhancements and correcting bugs becomes similarly onerous, since follow-on codebase changes must also be carefully examined and tested in order to ensure that new vulnerabilities (either malicious or unintended) have not been introduced. 

A.M. Turing Award History can be instructive – some lessons are timeless.  Here is one important lesson about the limits of software assurance that often seems to be forgotten.

The Turing Award is considered the equivalent of the Nobel Prize for computer science.  Since 1965 it has been awarded annually, with each recipient giving an eagerly anticipated talk describing their work.  The Turing Award Lectures are essential reading and show the evolving foundations of computer science.

In 1983, Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson jointly received the Turing Award for their development of generic operating systems theory, and specifically for the implementation of the UNIX operating system. Ken Thompson’s lecture was  Reflections on Trusting Trust, with the subtitle “To what extent should one trust a statement that a program is free of Trojan horses? Perhaps it is more important to trust the people who wrote the software.”  This talk can still surprise: he describes source code that looks like it does one thing, but actually performs things that are quite different.  Here are key excerpts, quoted from the original.

  • Figure 1, Reflections on Trusting Trust Stage I.  In college, before video games, we would amuse ourselves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing program. [...]
  • Stage II.  The C compiler is written in C. What I am about to describe is one of many "chicken and egg" problems that arise when compilers are written in their own language.  [...] shows a minimalist self-replicating code algorithm [...] This is a deep concept. It is as close to a "learning" program as I have seen. You simply tell it once, then you can use this self-referencing definition.
  • Stage III.  [...] Figure 6 shows a simple modification to the compiler that will deliberately miscompile source whenever a particular pattern is matched. If this were not deliberate, it would be called a compiler "bug." Since it is deliberate, it should be called a "Trojan horse." [...]
  • The actual bug I planted in the compiler would match code in the UNIX "login" command. The replacement code would miscompile the login command so that it would accept either the intended encrypted password or a particular known password. Thus if this code were installed in binary and the binary were used to compile the login command, I could log into that system as any user.
  • Moral. The moral is obvious. You can't trust code that you did not totally create yourself. (Especially code from companies that employ people like me.) No amount of source-level verification or scrutiny will protect you from using untrusted code. In demonstrating the possibility of this kind of attack, I picked on the C compiler. I could have picked on any program-handling program such as an assembler, a loader, or even hardware microcode. As the level of program gets lower, these bugs will be harder and harder to detect. A well-installed microcode bug will be almost impossible to detect.

Ken Thompson, Turing Award co-winner

So in effect, Ken Thompson chose his Turing Award moment to reveal to the world that he had superuser and user access for every Unix system and server on the planet.  Further he revealed that, even with a great many people scrutinizing and rebuilding the source code, and even despite users banging on Unix daily everywhere, anyone else might use a super password for each and every account.  Meanwhile no one else knew that the super password existed, much less that it quietly insisted on re-propagating itself in each fresh new copy of Unix.  

No kidding.

What an amazing reveal.  I’ve always imagined that some people in the audience that day might not have waited for the end of the lecture, instead rushing out and calling back to their offices, sounding the alarm to shut down all computer access!  

These fundamental principles and constraints about software testing remain unchanged.  Therefore it is quite  reasonable for anyone today to understand that, at best, an extremely rigorous software certification and accreditation evaluation still has limits nevertheless.  Strictly speaking, even the best evaluators can only conclude “we didn’t notice or detect anything bad happening when we tested the codebase.”  Even more worrisome are accompanying disclaimers like “the accredited software is only considered secure when run in a secure operating environment, on secure hardware... at all times.”

Perhaps considering a data-centric point of view can help us.  Dialog in the Data Dilemma MMOWGLI game clearly shows that the Navy has great dependence – and even greater potential benefit – deriving from data that might be shared broadly.  Data sharing can occur both “outside” with public and partners, as well as “inside” among Navy stakeholder communities.  Might that data-centric point of view help to improve our information assurance in ways that are beyond the expressive power of software to guarantee?

Data is simpler than software and a lot easier to check.  Data that is frequently used also tends be well defined. We ought to take advantage of those traits, in the large, across all of our information systems.  It is time to consider how Data Security might complement Software Security.  

  • Can we create data that is valid, signed, trusted, certified, accredited and secure at birth?  
  • Can we use, re-use, adapt and “mash up” secure data throughout its lifetime and lifecycle?  
  • Can we reduce code complexity and attackable surface within our software applications, by focusing on the full information assurance (IA) of the data they are producing and consuming?
  • Can the same security techniques be used for data in motion, data at rest, and data in use - across multiple applications and also within the cloud?

A good check question for any broad concept is “assume success – then what?”  Let’s apply that test to this potential approach.  If data security can indeed be accomplished to properly complement software security, then here is one possible cybersecurity scenario:

  • Incident: applications in a networked enclave are 100% penetrated by malevolent intruders, who are later detected and locked out.
  •   Impact: no unauthorized access to information occurs because all data sets remain secure.

Data-centric security presents worthy challenges… that are beginning to appear feasible.  Open international standards provide major building blocks to work with.  Pieces of this puzzle are getting pushed around right now, with contributions by many thoughtful players in the Data Dilemma game.  Much more expertise is available to provide help on every question… if we can find the right paths forward.  Simply perpetuating the current status quo and maintaining an unchanging course down an unsustainable path doesn’t scale to meet our growing challenges.

Thirty two years have passed since Ken Thompson's revelation... I wonder whether anyone is calling back to headquarters yet.

How does the Navy get beyond software barriers to reach the next level of capability: trust for shared data?

Don Brutzman, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS), Monterey California USA

Original publication

This blog post originally appeared in the Data Dilemma (dd) MMOWGLI game, 12 April 2015.

CC4913 Command and Control (C2) Capstone Class Project: report and briefing, April 2015

Point of Contact: Professor Dan Boger,, 831.656.3671

CC4913 Policies and Problems in C2 is a capstone course for NPS Command and Control students.  Study of the fundamental role C2 systems fulfill in operational military situations, including the full range of military operations. Topics include analysis of the changing role of organizational structures and processes, as well as technologies and impacts on C2 systems requirements and designs. Considerations include the complexities imposed on C2 systems as the force structure becomes more heterogeneous. Case study of selected incidents and systems provide a focus on current problems.

This year’s class was divided into RF and non-RF groups and asked to explore C2 issues in a scenario where we were trying to prevent conflict by “holding at risk” aggressors in a complex political and geographic situation described above. In last year’s scenario, high power jamming only originated from the mainland. Developments in the past few months caused a change in that assumption: all SATCOM uplinks are at risk within 300 miles of fixed bases and large surface ships. This was how our simple communications wargame transpired: Aggressive action by nation X; Send in UAV to support ROL (Predator-Global Hawk); Lose UAV SATCOM link; Send in missile boats; Missile Boats tracked via omni-MF and VHF; Send in UAV (Shadow-Scan Eagle); Lose UAV CDL; Patrol boats to visual range – all RF comm jammed; Patrol boats exfil to establish link; Picture gone. This led us to consider a combined RF/non-RF solution.

Network Optional Communications (NOW) is comprised of the following potential methods: lasers, flashing light in various bands, underwater/acoustic, QR codes, and data muling. What we rediscovered was this is not a question of RF vs non-RF. There is a spectrum of options, and we may decide to operate at some level of EMCON to avoid detection. Or the enemy and weather may conspire to reduce the availability of our network. We found situations where there did not appear to be a viable and elegant RF solution but a hybrid combination of techniques could meet user requirements. We refer to this as Mission Agile EMCON and is shown on slide 32 of the accompanying presentation. Slide 34 presents our recommendations.

Attached. Class Project Report and Class Project Briefing.  

This work was presented at the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Wargame Planning and Innovation Workshop hosted by the NPS Littoral Operations Center (LOC), 23-24 April 2015.

Disclaimer.  These sources represent unclassified, open-source work performed in an academic environment for the purpose of educating graduate students. The views in this document are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.


Steven Debich, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy

Thesis, Master of Science in Network Operations and Technology, March 2015

Advisor: Don Brutzman, Department of Information Sciences.  Co-Advisor: Scot Miller, Department of Information Sciences.  Second Reader: Don McGregor, MOVES Institute.

Abstract.  Navy afloat units become disadvantaged users, once disconnected from the pier, due in part to the high latency associated with SATCOM. Unfortunately recent gains in SATCOM capacity alone do not overcome throughput limitations that result from latency’s effect on connection-oriented protocols. To mitigate the effect of latency and other performance inhibiting factors, the Navy is improving its current WAN optimization capabilities by implementing Riverbed Steelhead WOCs. At-sea testing has shown Steelhead increases effective SATCOM capacity by 50%. Laboratory testing demonstrates that by encoding structured and semi-structured data as EXI rather than XML, compression ratios can be further improved, up to 19 times greater than Steelhead’s compression capability alone. Combining EXI with Steelhead will further improve the efficient use of existing SATCOM capacity and enable greater operational capabilities, when operating in a communications constrained environment. Not only does EXI improve compactness of traffic traveling over relatively high capacity SATCOM channels, it also expands net-centric capabilities to devices operating at the edge of the network that are restricted to lower capacity transmission methods. In order to achieve these substantial improvements the Navy must incorporate the already mandated DISR standard, EXI, as the single standard for all systems transferring structured and semi-structured data.

Received Outstanding Thesis Award from NPS Information Sciences Department.

Keywords: EXI, Efficient Xml Interchange, EFX, efficient XML, Riverbed, Steelhead, WAN optimization, compression, long fat network LFN.

Links: catalogslideset (.pdf), thesis.


Bruce Hill, Lieutenant, United States Navy

Thesis, Master of Science in Network Operations and Technology, March 2015

Advisor: Don Brutzman, Department of Information Sciences.  Co-Advisor: Don McGregor, MOVES Institute.

Abstract.  Current and emerging Navy information concepts, including network-centric warfare and Navy Tactical Cloud, presume high network throughput and interoperability. The Extensible Markup Language (XML) addresses the latter requirement, but its verbosity is problematic for afloat networks. JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) is an alternative to XML common in web applications and some non-relational databases. Compact, binary encodings exist for both formats. Efficient XML Interchange (EXI) is a standardized, binary encoding of XML. Binary JSON (BSON) and Compact Binary Object Representation (CBOR) are JSON-compatible encodings. This work evaluates EXI compaction against both encodings, and extends evaluations of EXI for datasets up to 4 gigabytes. Generally, a configuration of EXI exists that produces a more compact encoding than BSON or CBOR. Tests show EXI compacts structured, non-multimedia data in Microsoft Office files better than the default format. The Navy needs to immediately consider EXI for use in web, sensor, and office document applications to improve throughput over constrained networks. To maximize EXI benefits, future work needs to evaluate EXI’s parameters, as well as tune XML schema documents, on a case-by-case basis prior to EXI deployment. A suite of test examples and an evaluation framework also need to be developed to support this process.

Received Outstanding Thesis Award from NPS Information Sciences Department.

Keywords: Extensible Markup Language (XML), Efficient XML Interchange (EXI), JavaScript Object Notation (JSON), Compact Binary Object Representation (CBOR), Binary JSON (BSON), data serialization, data interoperability.

Links: catalogslideset (.pdf), thesis.

US Naval Institute on Naval Tactics  Wheel Book: U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Tactics

Edited by CAPT Wayne P. Hughes, USN (Ret.)

U.S. Naval Institute (USNI) Press, Annapolis Maryland, January 2015

In the U.S. Navy, “Wheel Books” were once found in the uniform pockets of every junior and many senior petty officers. Each small notebook was unique to the Sailor carrying it, but all had in common a collection of data and wisdom that the individual deemed useful in the effective execution of his or her duties. Often used as a substitute for experience among neophytes and as a portable library of reference information for more experienced personnel, those weathered pages contained everything from the time of the next tide, to leadership hints from a respected chief petty officer, to the color coding of the phone-and-distance line used in underway replenishments.

In that same tradition, the new Naval Institute Wheel Books will provide supplemental information, pragmatic advice, and cogent analysis on topics important to all naval professionals. Drawn from the U.S. Naval Institute’s vast archives, the series will combine articles from the Institute’s flagship publication Proceedings, selections from the oral history collection and from Naval Institute Press books to create uniqueguides on a wide array of fundamental professional subjects.

Naval tactics were described by Vice Adm. A.K. Cebrowski, a brilliant thinker on the subject of naval warfare, as “the sum of the art and science of the actual application of combat power.” Renowned naval tactician Capt. Wayne Hughes called the study of naval tactics as striving “to bring whatever order and understanding is possible out of the chaos of battle.” With those words of wisdom serving as the “commander’s intent,” this collection sheds a bright light on this sometimes dark and mysterious but unquestionably essential realm, illuminating the principles and concepts of tactics that serve the warrior at the most critical moments.


  1. "Anchorage" (Selection from chapter 12 of Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat) by Captain Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret)
  2. "The Marines Will Have to Walk" (Selection from chapter 16 of One Hundred Days) by Admiral Sandy Woodward, RN
  3. "Tactical Development" by Commander Frank A. Andrews, USN
  4. "From 'Futuristic Whimsy' to Naval Reality" by Abraham Rabinovich
  5. "William B. Cushing" by Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler, USN (Ret.)
  6. "Toward a New Identity, 1882-1888" (selections from chapter 2 of Home Squadron) by James C. Rentfrow
  7. Selections from "American Naval Policy" by Commander Bradley A. Fiske, USN
  8. "Time is Everything" (Selection from chapter 15 of Black Shoe Carrier Admiral) by John B. Lundstrom
  9. "Illustrative Battttles" (Selection from chapter 12 of A History of Naval Tactical Thought) by Admiral of the Fleet Giuseppe Fioravanzo, Italian Navy
  10. "Creating ASW Killing Zones" by Lieutenant Commander James Stavridis, USN
  11. "A Poor Man's Naval Defense" and "Anti-Landing Defense and the Implications for Future Amphibious Operations" (selections from chapters 11 and 13 of At the Water's Edge) by Theodore L. Gatchel
  12. "Effect of the Marines on the Navy" (Selection from chapter 9 of Battle Line) by Thomas C. Hone and Trent Hone
  13. "Missile Chess: A Parable" by Captain Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN

Capt. Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret.) is Professor Emeritus at the Graduate School of Operations and Information Sciences of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. Author of Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat Second Edition, as well as numerous articles, he is renowned as one of the foremost authorities on naval tactics.

Back to the Future: The Danger of Overconfidence in the #FutureOfWar by LCDR Jack Curtis, 15 March 2015, published on Medium.

Abstract.  From Operation Desert Storm to Operation Enduring Freedom, the United States Navy has enjoyed an asymmetric technological advantage over its adversaries. Uncontested command and control dominance allowed American commanders to synchronize efforts across broad theaters and deliver catastrophic effects upon the nation’s enemies. These years of uncontested command and control dominance birthed a generation of commanders who now expect accurate, timely, and actionable information. High levels of situational awareness have become the rule, not the exception. The Navy and its strike groups now stand in danger of becoming victims of their own technological success. An overreliance on highly networked command and control structures has left carrier strike groups unprepared to operate effectively against future near-peer adversaries.

  • Data Links Are Our Achille's Heel
  • Unjustified Overconfidence
  • Back to the Future
  • Recommendations and Conclusion
  • References

LCDR Jack Curtis is a graduate of the University of Florida and the Naval War College. The opinions expressed are his alone, and do not reflect those of the U.S. Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.


Wanted: An Agile, Low-Cost, Irregular-Warfare Surface Combatant

Lieutenant John Goff, U.S. Navy

Abstract.  The destroyer originated as a torpedo boat destroyer, which stemmed from the need to defend large heavy warships from motor torpedo boats. They were small (400 tons), fast, and maneuverable.  Today  the primary warship of the Fleet is the destroyer, and a significant threat comes from small boats. The need for a small boat destroyer is real, relevant, and can be accomplished through small, fast, and well-armed missile boats.

The U.S. Navy’s current Fleet consists of “blue water” multi-mission platforms capable of conducting strike, air, antisubmarine, and surface warfare.  The Arleigh Burke–class guided-missile destroyer, for example, is a valuable asset prepared for an open-ocean fight against a large conventional force, such as the former Soviet Navy. However, in recent years, there has been a shift in emphasis toward the Asia-Pacific region.  The fight is no longer in the open; it is in littoral, shallow sea, anti-area access denial (A2/AD) environments where the Navy’s main power-projection capability, the aircraft carrier, can be threatened and the means to conduct anti-surface warfare through aircraft rendered impotent.  Because of this, the Navy must develop a small, agile, and well-armed combatant that uses irregular-warfare tactics to project U.S. interests throughout the world.  [...]

Abilities.  Another major step would be empowering boat or boat-group commanders to operate independently from a higher command. In the era of communication inundation, naval leadership must continuously deny itself the tendency to drive the ships for the commanding officers, and instead issue parameters and lateral limits as opposed to specific commands. These boats would operate in an emission-controlled environment to improve the likelihood of remaining undetected. Again, this would require trust and dependency on sound decision-making by ship captains and squadron commanders.

The missile boats, operating in groups, would use network-optional warfare to communicate between one another to coordinate attacks. The reduction in the “conventional” communication capability would mean a reduction in communication equipment. This in turn would reduce the size and profile of the missile boat as well as the crew size. Some examples would be as simple as semaphore (flags, hand signals, lights), low-power voice communication, bullhorns, etc. Future ship-to-ship communication possibilities could include advanced techniques such as QR codes and laser communications. Ships would receive all Fleet Commander Guidance via a passive communications path and only burst communications would be transmitted from the missile boat. What must be fully realized is a required paradigm shift away from how ships and shipboard operations are currently conducted in order to ensure successful missile boat employment in the future.

The future of the U.S. Navy (and the military in general) may lie in large measure in its ability to fight—and win—small asymmetrical sea battles in the littorals. These conflicts may be against large state adversaries such as Iran, China, or North Korea. However, other antagonists could include non-state actors with groups such as al Qaeda, pirates, Hamas, or Hezbollah. The U.S. Navy has been accused of preparing to fight the last war by creating and maintaining a large conventional blue-water force, which was initially constructed to defeat the Soviet threat. To have success in the future, the military must enter the hybrid realm.


Goff, John, "Wanted: An Agile, Low-Cost, Irregular-Warfare Surface Combatant," Operations Research Department, Naval Postgraduate School, 8 September 2014.  Accepted for publication under Professional Notes, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 140 no. 10, October 2014.

A Business Strategy for Shipbuilders

Professor Wayne Hughes, Department of Operations Research, Naval Postgraduate School, 28 July 2014

Abstract.  We don’t need to predict the future to know the actions the U. S. Navy needs to take now. The past and present provide enough clues.

The top priority for U. S. shipbuilders is to anticipate the Navy’s most important need, design small, affordable vessels for littoral operations, and be ready when the Navy accepts the existing strategy, operations, technology, and affordability evidence that compel a new fleet composition. There are two reasons: (a) Such ships are simpler to design on contractor dollars, and (b) There are plenty of examples to draw on, from Chinese Type 022 Houbeis and Type 056 Jiangdongs, to many MCM vessel designs, to Swedish Visbys, to Israel Sa’ar ships of many generations, to a plethora of vessels of all sizes around the world.

Full-length version available as HughesMaritimeBusinessStrategy2014July28.pdf

Observation:  Yogi Berra said "In theory, theory and practice are the same.  In practice, they're not."  Network Optional Warfare (NOW) is best suited to mobile groups of small stealthy vessels and aircraft.  If we are going to achieve a force mix that can take advantage of asymmetric operational concepts favoring the United States, some variations in our long-standing business strategies are necessary.

Related links:

  • Hughes, Wayne P., "A Business Strategy for Shipbuilders," Sea Power magazine, vol. 57 no. 9, pp. 6-7, November 2014.
  • Stew Magnuson, "Navy Ship Numbers for Asia-Pacific Shift Don’t Add Up," National Defense magazine, April 2014.  Excerpts:
    • Retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes, professor of practice at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said, “If the surface Navy is going to be a player, it has to be in a position to sail there in crisis situations.”

    • China is building and modernizing its navy and bullying its neighbors, some of which are U.S. allies, he said. There’s no talk of bombing mainland China or a ground invasion, so that leaves the U.S. Navy to act as a deterrent, he said. “We don’t want to fight China. We want to influence China and persuade them to back off. And influence our allies by saying, ‘We are sturdy soldiers, and we don’t want to abandon you,’” Hughes said.

    • If China is going to deny access to the South China Sea, then the United States can demonstrate to the nation that it can deny access to the same waters. “And submarines are an impressive way to do that,” Hughes said.

    • Aircraft carriers are too valuable to lose, he said. “We can’t send a carrier in and have it put out of action, or a $2 billion destroyer,” he said.

    • The Chinese navy in March blocked two Philippine ships from delivering supplies to a disputed island in the Spratley chain, which sparked a diplomatic rebuke from the United States. The Philippines by treaty is an ally of the United States.

    • Hughes said if friends and allies such as the Philippines, Japan and Australia want the United States to be in the Pacific, one way to boost ship numbers is to lean on them to supply more vessels. This was once called the “1,000-ship Navy” concept, although that term has not been heard in a while, he added.

    • “We can tell China, ‘If you interdict our friend’s shipping in the South China Sea, then we will interdict your shipping.’ That is a calibrated capability,” Hughes said. It would be difficult for China to react far from its shores in the areas such as the Singapore Strait or Sunda Strait in Indonesia, he said. Almost all the ships in the U.S. inventory can be used for interdiction missions, including the new littoral combat ship, he said.

  • Stew Magnuson, "When It Comes to the Navy’s Destroyers, It’s a Numbers Game," National Defense magazine, April 2013.  Excerpts:
    • Retired Navy Capt. Wayne Hughes, professor of practice at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., said numbers matter.  “Not mathematically, but logically. If one ship is sunk, it loses its offensive capability, its defense capability, and is no longer there to serve as a target, which is part of its role,” he said. 
    • The shift to Asia-Pacific is appropriate, he said. “But we aren’t actually moving very quick in that direction. We need a maritime strategy.” If the Navy doesn’t have the necessary number of ships to cover the region, then they simply don’t. There isn’t anything it can do to make up for the shortfall. “That means we are going to really struggle to have an appropriate presence in places around the world,” he said.
    • Hughes advocated simpler, less expensive destroyers. Modern destroyers have moved beyond their first roles in World War II when they were primarily escorts for aircraft carriers, convoys in the Atlantic and amphibious assault missions. They evolved at the tail end of the war into small, lethal night combatants during the Solomon Island campaign. Over the years, they have taken on more roles, he noted. The Navy now uses them for anti-air warfare employing the Aegis system, open ocean anti-submarine warfare, and, lately, ballistic missile defense.

    • Although there hasn’t been a sea battle since World War II, Hughes doesn’t rule one out. “We have gotten in the habit of not being attacked,” he said. The rise of China and Iran makes this a possibility, which is why he believes the destroyers should be simplified, and their numbers boosted, he said. “If my ship is three times more potent and three times as sturdy, [and] if you have three times as many of the cheaper ships, you have parity with me. If the two fleets fight, it will be a draw,” he said.

    • “The more single purpose destroyers the better … if you lose one capability, you don’t lose it for all missions,” he added.  Meanwhile, destroyers are being used for anti-piracy missions, he said. “We should be using Coast Guard ships. But the Coast Guard is too busy doing what it is supposed to be doing.”

Defense Imagery (Douglas F. Mooney) - Pegasus-class hydrofoils, fast-attack patrol boats used between the late 1970s and early 1990s, travel in formation as they head to the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Virginia, for decommissioning in June Jeff Kline

9 February 1993  0550. USS AQUILA (PHM-4) lurks at slow speed just south of Onslow Bay, North Carolina awaiting the blue force amphibious forces’ approach to their landings during Fleet Exercise 2-93.  As an orange force ship with two other patrol hydrofoil missile ships, AQUILA had earlier attacked two unprotected blue MCM ships with her guns and made a missile attack on the carrier battle group. She stumbled upon them at night while both groups were in total restrictive electronic emissions control. 

AQUILA survived four days of the exercise by operating close to shore at night, moving with fishing boats in the early morning, maneuvering slowly to position for attacks, and using visual and blue force electronic bearings to attack while she  remained electronically silent.   Today was the last day of orange naval force participation and the three PHMs were ordered to disrupt the “invasion” of their country.  Instead of remaining together and risking discovery by a single searcher, the senior Captain on AQUILA directed the other two PHMs to the north and east so the small force would be distributed and less vulnerable to blue force discovery.  Since the ships remained in complete electronic emission control, this made a real-time coordinated attack impossible.   Instead, AQUILA’s Captain visually passed a desired weapon “time on top” after computing time for the others to transit and obtain firing solutions. 

There was little chance of all three PHMs independently meeting the "time on top" requirement.   The primary objective, however, was  to execute any successful attack on the blue three-ship amphibious readiness group, not a necessarily a coordinated multi-axis “best attack.”  AQUILA’s Captain was willing to accept the risk of not having all 24 missiles arrive at the same time if it meant increasing the chance of at least one PHM surviving blue force defenses and conducting a successful attack.

And so AQUILA waited.  At 0630 she began receiving passive lines of bearing from the approaching LHD’s SPS-48 radar.  Her Harpoon missile fire control team began to plot these bearings and their rate change to estimate the blue ship’s minimum and maximum range.  A rough firing solution was created by 0710 but the agreed-upon orange force "time on top" had not been reached.  At 0750 AQUILA’s Captain ordered the missiles released and her MK92 Fire Control System energized to indicate an orange force attack.  She also transitioned to foils and egressed from the operating area at high speed. Within a half-hour she was targeted by blue forces and “sunk” by a U.S. Navy A-6.

Post-exercise summaries indicated umpires recognized eight orange missiles attacking the amphibious force, who had to make approach in mined waters because of their loss of the MCMs earlier in the exercise.  The other PHMs had either been discovered and destroyed while approaching the target at high speed, or not been able to make a fire control solution.

AQUILA’s lessons from the five-day fleet exercise were simple.  Use the littoral to go slow, covert, concealed and quiet into an attack.  Attack the undefended first.  Target by “listening.”  And, when possible, use pre-plans to allow dispersion to achieve increased force resilience, coordinated action where possible, and empower individual initiative to better the likelihood of mission success.

Jeff Kline, CAPT USN (Ret.), Professor of Practice
Operations Research (OR) Department, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS)

CAPT Wayne P. Hughes Jr., USN (Ret.) has written his latest (and perhaps most straightforward) explanation of why the Navy needs small combatants.

USS Cushing DD797
USS Cushing (DD-797)

 "Single-Purpose Warships for the Littorals" (U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, vol. 140 no.6, June 2014).  Also unabridged copy, 21 March 2014.  Relevant excerpts:

  • In this cost-constrained era, when it comes to responding to threats in dangerous coastal waters, a single-purpose ship is best suited to the task.
  • Today, the ever-more-capable missile threat is even more demanding. The precision tracking, targeting, and homing capabilities of modern projectiles have enhanced the value of small combatants because they can distribute offensive power more widely than a DDG or an aircraft carrier too big to launch and recover modern combat aircraft. When ships must sail in dangerous waters, a single-purpose vessel is far superior to an open-ocean multipurpose one.
  • New Tactics and Methods. [...] The details of every littoral operation are different, but it is obvious that each requires new and flexible Fleet doctrine and tactics. New methods of command and control will be important to naval tactics. CSGs and ESGs cannot function and fight without detectable electromagnetic radiations within the ideal of “network-centric warfare.” But command-and-control of flotilla operations can exploit new ways of fighting under what might be called “network-optional warfare,” a term coined by Professor Don Brutzman, who is pursuing a variety of technologies to enhance semi-silent and undetectable operations at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS). We can become adept at infrequent, hard-to-detect emissions to conduct sudden attack in the littorals. Achieving proficiency and cooperative action will take tactical development and training, done most usefully in the waters where fighting may ensue, and in collaboration with the countries with prior experience that we are supporting with a combined “1,000-Ship Navy.”

It looks like Professor Hughes's insights are two or three steps ahead of everyone, once again.  I think that he is right to say that NOW offers the opportunity to rethink command and control (C2) for maritime littoral warfare, which is not entrenched in current practice, and must be agile in order to impact (and also deter) future threats to freedom of the seas.  But he still gets credit (from me at least) for the term.  I still remember -- clear as a bell -- sitting in his office last fall, briefing him on our latest progress with Optical Signaling.  Suddenly he interrupted to declare, "You're not talking about Network-Centric Warfare, you're talking about Network-Optional Warfare!"  That seed crystal of an idea has been clarifying and refactoring many tactical possibilities ever since. 

Lots more work awaits, we will keep charging ahead with Network-Optional Warfare (NOW).  Thank you sir!

Wayne Hughes has written a short essay regarding an influential 1995 article which describes the hazards of operating on the surface in littoral waters. The message from Admiral Ya'ari is that ships fighting in littoral waters must expect to suffer attacks and casualties.

Captain Hughes' analysis specifically calls out Network Optional Warfare (NOW) as relevant to this arena.  Introduction excerpt:

It is appropriate for the Naval War College Review to reprint the superb essay by Admiral Ya’ari, because the things he foresaw nearly twenty years ago are all coming to pass—an analytical performance worthy of any Old Testament prophet.

The growing hazards and deadliness of the littoral  seas are something all navies must take into account, but particularly the U.S. Navy, because it is only just beginning to grasp the uniqueness of the littoral environment, the need for new tactics, and the value of warships better suited to fight in its clutter. For example, with Professor Don Brutzman of the Naval Postgraduate School, I have reached the conclusion that the goal of “network centric warfare” (NCW) is appropriate only for operating an aircraft carrier battle group, an expeditionary strike group, or a surface action group, none of which can perform its function without radiating almost continuously. But NCW is ill suited for more numerous, distributable, smaller, and less expensive ships intended to fight in the demanding environment described by Admiral Ya’ari.

A better image for inshore operations is one of “network-optional warfare” (NOW) that supports tactics of stealth and surprise, so we can attack effectively first. Such tactics take advantage of the many forms of clutter and concealment. They allow vessels to operate under doctrine that greatly reduces the need to radiate. In the 1973 war at sea, the Syrians found themselves outclassed tactically by the Israeli Sa’ar boats, so their missile ships attempted to hide behind shipping off their own ports. Appropriately, they called the merchant ships “sandbags.” NOW is also well suited to exploiting the advent of unmanned and robotic systems for search, deception, and attack. (full article)

These are important challenges with historic "lessons learned," providing immediate opportunities for deeper technical, tactical, operational, and strategic thinking. 

Stand by for ongoing activity.  The ratcheting sound you hear in the background is further work under way!  Additional efforts and contributions to NOW are welcome.