Wednesday, February 1, 2017

U.S. Navy Ship Runs Aground Off Japan

USS Antietam (CG54). U.S. Navy file photo
USS Antietam (CG54). U.S. Navy file photo

The U.S. Navy's guided missile cruiser USS Antietam ran aground off the coast of Yokosuka, Japan on Tuesday, damaging the ship's props and causing hydraulic oil to spill into the water. 

The incident was first reported by the Navy Times. The report, citing two Navy officials familiar with the incident, says the ship grounded after dragging anchor in high winds near its home port of Yokosuka. The grounding caused the ship to dump some 1,100 gallons of oil into the water, the officials said.

The extent of the damage and grounding is unclear, but the U.S. Navy did confirm that the ship damaged during anchoring in a statement obtained by

In the statement, the Navy confirmed that the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) damaged its propellers while anchoring in Tokyo Bay in the vicinity of Yokosuka, Japan, Jan. 31. The ship was towed back to port following the incident.

"The ship safely returned to Fleet Activities Yokosuka with the help of tugs. There were no injuries to U.S. or Japanese personnel. The incident did result in the discharge of hydraulic oil into the water," the Navy statement said.

"The Navy is cooperating with the Government of Japan and Japanese Coast Guard in response to this issue and is taking appropriate measures to minimize impacts to the environment," the statement added.

The Navy has launched and investigation to assess the full extent of the damage.  

The USS Antietam is homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

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Philippines Asks China to Patrol Piracy-Plagued Waters

International Maritime Bureau map showing reported incidents of piracy in southeast Asia during 2016. Image: IMB Piracy Reporting Centre
International Maritime Bureau map showing reported incidents of piracy in southeast Asia during 2016. Image: IMB Piracy Reporting Centre

ReutersMANILA, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday said he had asked China to help in the fight against Islamic State-linked militants by sending ships to patrol southern waters plagued by raids on commercial vessels.

Speaking to newly promoted army generals, Duterte said he had sought China's help in dangerous waters in the south to check the activities of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim rebel group sustained by piracy and kidnap-for-ransom activities.

A surge in piracy off parts of the Philippines is forcing ship-owners to divert vessels through other waters, pushing up costs and shipping times.

Duterte said piracy in the Sulu Sea between eastern Malaysia and the southern Philippines would escalate to levels seen in Somalia, and raise insurance costs for firms and increase prices of consumer goods and services.

"We would be glad if they have their presence there … just to patrol," Duterte said, adding that China could send coastguard vessels, not necessarily "gray" warships.

"In the Malacca Strait and here in Sulu Sea remains to be a big problem," he said. The Malacca Strait, between Malaysia's west coast and the Indonesian island of Sumatra, has over the years also been plagued by pirates.

He did not say if China had responded.

The Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia had an agreement to patrol and tackle the Abu Sayyaf in the Sulu and Celebes Sea after they kidnapped the crew of Indonesian and Malaysian tug boats and South Korean and Vietnamese merchant ships.

Philippine Defence Secretary Delfin Lorenzana last week said cooperation might be expanded to include Brunei and Singapore. The United States has also expressed concern about the security problem and held exercises with Malaysia and the Philippines last year.

Lorenzana said on Tuesday the military had intensified operations on land with the aim of defeating Abu Sayyaf within six months. (Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017.

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Bath Iron Works Lays Keel for U.S. Navy’s Third and Final Zumwalt Destroyer

The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials, April 21, 2016. U.S. Navy Photo
The guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) transits the Atlantic Ocean during acceptance trials, April 21, 2016. U.S. Navy Photo

General Dynamics Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine has laid the keel of the third and final ship in the U.S. Navy's Zumwalt-class of high-tech and high-powered destroyers.

Luci Baines Johnson applauds Timothy Trask, a Bath Iron Works welder, after he helped her authenticate the keel plate of DDG 1002, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, January 30, 2017. Photo: Bath Iron Works
Luci Baines Johnson applauds Timothy Trask, a Bath Iron Works welder, after he helped her authenticate the keel plate of DDG 1002, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson, January 30, 2017. Photo: Bath Iron Works

The future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG 1002) is named in honor of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the 36th president of the United States. President Johnson's daughters, Lynda Johnson Robb and Luci Baines Johnson are the ship sponsors. A special steel plate containing the initials of the sisters was prepared for the ceremony. Assisted by Timothy Trask, a 30-year Bath Iron Works welder, the sponsors authenticated the laying of the keel by striking welding arcs onto the steel plate.

The DDG 1001, to be named USS Michael Monsoor, is more than half completed at Bath Iron Works. Earlier this winter the keel unit, a 4,000-ton module, was moved onto the building ways from the shipyard's Ultra Hall construction facility, signifying the start of hull integration and the pre-cursor to integration, test and trials.

The USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000) was delivered to the U.S. Navy in May 2016 and is currently undergoing Mission Systems Activation at her new homeport in San Diego.

The Zumwalt-class is described as the U.S. the Navy's next-generation of multi-mission surface combatants. The 610-foot ships feature a wave-piercing tumblehome hull design and reduced radar cross section, making the ship less visible to enemy radar at sea. Including research and development costs, the three Zumwalt destroyers are estimated to cost about $22.5 billion.

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Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Reviewed by Bryan Alexander

Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Through German Eyes

Germany's High Seas Fleet at Its Kiel Anchorage
I've read a great deal about the land war, politics, espionage, and technology of the First World War, but not about the naval war. So it was high time I got up to speed, and where better place to start than the war's greatest naval event, the Battle of Jutland fought 31 May–1 June 1916.

Gary Staff's Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Through German Eyes is a challenging place to start. Information rich, engaged with the battle's historiographical controversies, it is a fine book for those already studying the battle. It's not the best first book.

Staff follows Jutland in meticulous chronological order, at times literally minute by minute. The opening two chapters cover the months leading up to Jutland, starting with a German change of command, which led to some daring raids on British units and ports. Then Skagerrak kicks off the main event and remains there until the last chapter, which addresses interpretations of the battle.

Along the way we follow the initial German probe, which wanted to lure out a segment of the (bigger) British navy, in order to quickly destroy it with superior gunnery and local force concentration, but ended up triggering a response from the larger force. What followed was a famously complex struggle, with both sides grappling with dim intelligence. German admiral Scheer charged forward boldly, hurling torpedo boats into the British lines, then commanding titanic salvos from his battlecruisers and battleships. British admiral Jellicoe was more cautious, agonizingly nervous over German mines and torpedoes, holding back when he could (at least according to Staff), but still using his greater numbers to assault enemy ships. Over an afternoon and evening the fleets pounded at each other when they could find each other, the British suffering more losses in tonnage and sailors. Confused engagements spattered overnight, then both sides gradually disengaged in the following morning. Afterward the Germans claimed victory, with some justice, as Staff argues, and I agree. The British initially considered Jutland/Skaggerak a defeat, then spun it into something more positive, and have been arguing about it ever since. Staff's final chapter points out that while some historians think the German fleet hid in port for the rest of the war, they actually sallied forth repeatedly, amphibiously conquering Russian Baltic islands in 1917, then shipping troops into Finland in 1918 to successfully support the anti-Soviet side in that country's bitter post-independence civil war. Staff consistently praises German leadership:
Admiral Scheer
Vizeadmiral Scheer...had maintained independent initiative and had held the numerically superior [British] Grand Fleet at bay.(130) And to the battle's immediate outcome:

[The German] High Sea Fleet had inflicted twice as much damage and casualties as it had received. The British suffered 14 ships sunk for a total loss of 112,920 tons, and 6094 casualties, whilst the Germans lost 11 ships sunk for a total of 60,314 tons and 2552 casualties. Unambiguous statistics.(240)

Skagerrak: The Battle of Jutland Through German Eyes does what it sets out to do, emphasizing the German perspective. We do get dollops of British viewpoints, but only to explain quickly what the enemy is up to. And this perspective is fascinating. Staff carefully explains the command decisions, from Scheer down to torpedo boat captains. Best of all are plentiful accounts of the battle written by sailors, either after the war or from their battle diaries. These stories are richly informative, sometimes very well written, and often exciting or disturbing. I was fond of Kaiser getting ready for battle (74), a great scene of being under fire (139), a tense battle in the dark (183–4), one account of the Wiesbaden's fighting death (119–121), the explosion of Black Prince (201), a scary scene about being trapped below decks (78–80). And the metal fan in me cannot help but love one captain's description of an attack as "THE DEATH RIDE OF THE BATTLE CRUISERS" (yes, all caps in the text) (145).

Throughout the book Staff dives into the deepest details. At times I felt I was reading a database, or ledgers from naval staff. For example, page 110 is nothing but a list of hits on the British vessel Warspite, hit after hit without relief, like a spreadsheet. Or:

At 1716hrs Moltke was [hit] by a 15 inch shell from Barham on the citadel armour below the V casemate 15cm cannon, which penetrated the upper coal bunker, where it detonated. The explosion put the V casemate 15cm cannon out of action and killed the 12 serving crew...At 1723hrs a 15 inch shell struck near the water line beneath the forward funnel and detonated on the side armour. Although the armour was not penetrated a place was displaced and the hull skin below the waterline was torn so that some wing passage and protective bunker compartments were flooded. A few minutes later at 1726hrs there was an underwater hit aft, which passed transversely across the ship before detonating and causing further flooding right aft. Finally at 1727hrs a 15 inch shell... (63)

Not being a regular student of naval war, these passages were thick to wade through. Moreover, Staff does not frame or organize events at a larger level. That is, he spends so much time on these minutiae that he offers little in the way of showing the reader what they mean, especially for the battle as a whole.
British Battlecruiser Invincible Explodes During the Battle
Indeed, Skagerrak presumes a certain level of knowledge on the reader's part. Many terms appear without explanation: straddling, casement, "boot," and other German vocabulary. It's not clear why Horn's Reef is an important ground to reach. There is no introduction setting the battle's scene or context in the broader war. No history of the British-German naval race appears, nor a sketch of naval tactics and technology at the time. When Staff does take up the British side, he is very critical. He condemns naval strategy as being too centralized and doctrine-based, not allowing commanders much flexibility (24), and echoes another author's slam at Beatty for missing a key part of the battle (89–91). Staff especially criticizes Jellicoe for cowardice, inaccurate assessments of the enemy, and lame spinning attempts after the battle (128, 156, 172, 207). He also offers an interesting theory about why British ships tended to explode (202–3). While obviously cheering on the Germans, Staff does offer some criticisms. He points out several times that the British cryptographic edge boosted their intelligence and gave them a lead on Berlin's plans (24). He dings one commander for shying away from fighting (101). He quietly admits that the Germans put themselves in an awful place at dusk on the 31st, west of the British, and therefore silhouetted against the sunset while their opponents were invisible (162).

When I read most history I expect good maps, and will criticize bad mapping bitterly. Skagerrak is actually quite good on the cartographic front. Every chapter has several schematics of fleet movements, precisely identifying which ship is where, headed in what direction, and at what time. These illustrations are also perfectly placed in the text, right where they are needed. The fonts can be too tiny, however, and I actually used a magnifying glass to make out some text. Elsewhere on the non-textual front the book offers a nice selection of photographs. I wish they were larger but understand press costs.

On an editorial note, there are some mistakes, usually wrong words that certainly passed spell check. For example, "A grove was produced in the roof to a depth of 15mm"—should have been "groove", I think (118). Overall, if you're a student of the subject, this is a good four stars. As an introduction for the general reader, three

Bryan Alexander

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January 1917

January 1917 – Selected Sources and Recommended Reading

Contemporary Periodicals:

American Review of Reviews, February and March 1917

New York Times, January and February 1917

Books and Articles:

A. Scott Berg, Wilson

Britain at War Magazine, The Third Year of the Great War: 1916 Winston S. Churchill, The World Crisis 1911-1918 John Milton Cooper, Jr., Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

John Milton Cooper, Jr., The Warrior and the Priest: Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt

Patrick Devlin, Too Proud to Fight: Woodrow Wilson's Neutrality

John Dos Passos, Mr. Wilson's War

David Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace: Creating the Modern Middle East, 1914-1922

Martin Gilbert, Churchill: A Life
Martin Gilbert, The First World War: A Complete History

Martin Gilbert, A History of the Twentieth Century, Volume One: 1900-1933
Martin Gilbert, Winston S. Churchill Volume III: The Challenge of War, 1914-1916

Richard F. Hamilton and Holger H. Herwig, Decisions for War, 1914-1917

August Heckscher, Woodrow Wilson: A Biography

Godfrey Hodgson, Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House

Paul Jankowski, Verdun: The Longest Battle of the Great War

Keith Jeffery, 1916: A Global History

Roy Jenkins, Churchill: A Biography John Keegan, The First World War David M. Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society Ian Kershaw, To Hell and Back: Europe 1914-1949

Nicholas A. Lambert, Planning Armageddon: British Economic Warfare and the First World War

Arthur S. Link, Wilson: Confusions and Crises, 1915-1916 

Arthur S. Link, Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era, 1910-1917

G.J. Meyer, A World Undone: The Story of the Great War, 1914 to 1918

Robin Prior and Trevor Wilson, The Somme

Merlo J. Pusey, Charles Evans Hughes
Jonathan Schneer, The Balfour Declaration: The Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict 

J. Lee Thompson, Never Call Retreat: Theodore Roosevelt and the Great War
Adam Tooze, The Deluge: The Great War, America and the Remaking of the Global Order, 1916-1931

Barbara W. Tuchman, The Zimmermann Telegram   
Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History

The West Point Atlas of War: World War I

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USS Antietam Damaged During Anchoring

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) sails alongside the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93).

160306-N-MJ645-032 SOUTH CHINA SEA (March 06, 2016) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) sails alongside the guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG 93). Antietam is underway in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Marcus L. Stanley/Released)

March 7, 2016

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Stephen King Joins Library in Announcing Applications for the 2017 Literacy Awards

Award-winning author and literacy advocate Stephen King helped the Library of Congress today launch its call for nominations for the 2017 Library of Congress Literacy Awards. The annual awards support organizations working to promote literacy, both in the United States and worldwide, and are made possible through the generosity of David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group.

According to UNESCO, 757 million adults around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence, and 61 million elementary-age children are not in school.

These awards, which were created and initiated by Rubenstein, encourage the continuing development of innovative methods for promoting literacy and the wide dissemination of the most effective practices. They are intended to draw public attention to the importance of literacy and the need to promote literacy and encourage reading.

The Library of Congress Literacy Awards program is administered by the Library's Center for the Book. The Librarian of Congress will make final selection of the prizewinners with recommendations from literacy experts on an advisory board.

Three prizes will be awarded in 2017:

  • The David M. Rubenstein Prize ($150,000) is awarded for an outstanding and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels, to an organization based either inside or outside the United States that has demonstrated exceptional and sustained depth in its commitment to the advancement of literacy.
    Last year's Rubenstein prizewinner: WETA Reading Rockets
  • The American Prize ($50,000) is awarded for a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels, or the national awareness of the importance of literacy, to an organization that is based in the United States.
    Last year's American prizewinner: Parent-Child Home Program 
  • The International Prize ($50,000) is awarded for a significant and measurable contribution to increasing literacy levels, to an organization that is based outside the United States.
    Last year's International prizewinnerLibraries Without Borders

The application rules and a downloadable application are available hereApplications must be received no later than midnight on March 31, 2017, Eastern Time.

More information about last year's winners and other literacy leaders is available at "Library of Congress Literacy Awards."

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GAO-17-174, Nuclear Waste: Benefits and Costs Should Be Better Understood Before DOE Commits to a Separate Repository for Defense Waste, January 31, 2017

What GAO Found

The information that the Department of Energy (DOE) provided to the President about whether a separate defense waste repository was required did not quantify cited benefits, when possible, show how these benefits could be achieved, or show the risks if certain benefits could not be realized as planned. In the information provided to the President, DOE stated that separate repositories for defense high-level waste (HLW) and commercial spent nuclear fuel (SNF) would produce certain benefits. DOE cited benefits in each area required by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act (NWPA)—cost efficiency, public acceptability, regulation, transportation, national security, and health and safety—in concluding that there is a strong basis for a defense HLW repository. Federal guidance states that benefits must be quantified when possible, and that the risk that a benefit may not be realized as planned should be factored into the cost-benefit analysis. DOE officials said their plan was still conceptual and the guidance did not yet apply. Nevertheless, DOE did not show that benefits outweighed costs in recommending to the President that the nation should depart from its longstanding nuclear waste strategy.

DOE's preliminary cost and schedule estimates for the two-repository approach that it provided to the President are not reliable because the estimates do not meet industry best practices. DOE's cost estimates excluded major costs, such as site selection and site characterization costs that could add tens of billions of dollars. Regarding its schedule estimates, DOE did not provide information on how its schedules would be achieved. GAO found that DOE's estimates leave little time for major activities and that DOE's schedule appears optimistic, given its past repository siting experiences. Without reliable estimates that reflect best practices, DOE provided information to the President that supported a decision that could commit the nation to expending undisclosed but significant future resources and to a time frame that appears optimistic.

DOE is planning to develop a process to obtain consent for an eventual repository site; however, DOE faces significant public opposition and certain prerequisites have not yet been established. These prerequisites include updated health and safety regulations, which are necessary for the public to consider as part of a consent-based siting process. Without updated health and safety regulations, which establish radiation exposure limits, the public cannot provide meaningful input into a consent-based siting process and local communities cannot effectively be engaged in hosting potential repository sites. DOE officials acknowledge that health and safety regulations—which were developed in the 1980s—need to be updated and revised for any future defense HLW or mostly commercial SNF repository. Revising such regulations is the responsibility of other federal agencies. Experts and stakeholders told GAO that updated health and safety regulations are a precondition for having discussions with the public and for screening potential sites. An internal project management requirement directs DOE to perform key "preconceptual" planning activities to enhance front-end planning. In proceeding with siting activities without ensuring key prerequisites have been established, DOE runs the risk of increasing public opposition and potentially wasting resources.

Why GAO Did This Study

DOE had long planned to store defense and commercial nuclear waste in a single repository at Yucca Mountain, Nevada, funded largely from commercial power fees. In 2010, DOE terminated this plan, and then considered developing separate defense and commercial repositories. This approach requires a Presidential finding under the NWPA. In 2015, DOE provided information to the President supporting separate repositories and cited several benefits, including cost efficiencies. On the basis of this information, the President in 2015 reversed a 1985 presidential finding and determined that a separate repository for defense waste was required, setting DOE down the path of developing separate repositories. Taxpayers would likely fund a defense waste repository rather than industry fees. GAO reviewed DOE's efforts to develop a separate defense waste repository. This report assesses (1) the information on benefits DOE provided to the President; (2) the reliability of DOE's cost and schedule estimates; and (3) DOE's efforts to site a defense HLW repository. GAO reviewed DOE documents and interviewed more than 50 experts.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends that DOE (1) assess benefits, costs, and schedule estimates, and (2) reassess its decision to conduct site selection activities. DOE agreed on the need for a more thorough assessment, but disagreed on the need to reassess site selection activities, citing benefits of its approach. GAO continues to believe its recommendation is valid, as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact David Trimble at (202) 512-3841 or

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GAO-17-40, Coast Guard: Most Training Providers Expect to Implement Revised International Maritime Standards by the Deadline Despite Challenges, January 31, 2017

What GAO Found

Most training providers (80 percent) who responded to GAO's survey reported that they were satisfied with guidance the U.S. Coast Guard (Coast Guard) provided to assist them in implementing the revised International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) requirements. However, 58 percent of respondents, including state maritime academies, private for-profit colleges, and others, reported that the lack of timely Coast Guard guidance for developing a quality assurance process—Quality Standards System (QSS)—affected their ability to implement the revised STCW requirements. A QSS is intended to ensure that training providers have a documented quality system in place to monitor training activities. Coast Guard officials said the agency plans to meet with industry stakeholders in March 2017 to discuss whether additional QSS guidance is necessary.

Most of the training providers (81 percent) who responded to GAO's survey reported that they plan to meet the January 1, 2017, deadline to implement the revised STCW requirements, but also reported some challenges in doing so. For example, over half of the respondents (54 percent) reported that interpreting the revised STCW requirements was a challenge. To address this issue, Coast Guard has ongoing outreach efforts to obtain feedback from training providers, help them interpret Coast Guard's regulations, and determine what additional guidance is needed. Almost half of the respondents (46 percent) reported that recruiting qualified course instructors was a challenge. However, Coast Guard stated that the revised requirements related to instructor's qualifications have not changed substantially; therefore, the challenge experienced with recruiting instructors may be related to specific training providers, rather than to the revised STCW requirements. Training providers not expecting to meet the deadline for implementing the revised STCW requirements (19 percent) provided various reasons, such as a lack of funding to address the requirements, needing additional Coast Guard guidance, or lacking the time to complete the required documentation.   

Coast Guard evaluated the costs and benefits of the revised STCW requirements, and training providers who responded to GAO's survey reported related impacts of implementing the revised requirements. For example, Coast Guard evaluated the average costs to training providers for developing a QSS and the costs for conducting STCW audits. About half of the surveyed training providers expected their costs would be similar to Coast Guard's estimates. About one third anticipated incurring costs higher than the Coast Guard's average estimate due to needing more time for administrative tasks than Coast Guard allowed or purchasing additional training equipment. Coast Guard officials said they estimated average costs, and therefore did not consider specific items that particular training providers may need. Over half of training providers agreed with Coast Guard's assessment of potential benefits from the revised STCW requirements, such as increased vessel safety, with most of the remaining providers expecting no effect from the STCW changes.

Why GAO Did This Study

Merchant mariners operate U.S. commercial ships and support national defense in emergency and war. Coast Guard issues regulations and policies to ensure merchant mariners are credentialed and meet minimum international standards. To incorporate changes made to the international STCW Convention in 2010, Coast Guard issued regulations in December 2013 that training providers must implement by January 1, 2017, to ensure mariners meet the revised requirements. These changes are intended to help reduce the risk of accidents in U.S. and international waters.

GAO was asked to review Coast Guard and training providers' implementation of the revised STCW requirements. This report addresses (1) the extent to which Coast Guard provided sufficient guidance to training providers about the revised STCW requirements; (2) the progress training providers report in implementing the revised STCW requirements; and challenges reported in doing so; and, (3) the extent to which Coast Guard evaluated costs and benefits of the revised STCW requirements, and impacts training providers report about the costs and benefits of implementing the revised requirements. GAO conducted a web-based survey from March 2016 to June 2016 of all 167 Coast Guard-approved STCW training providers. Eighty-one percent responded, although response rates varied for individual questions. GAO also reviewed Coast Guard's guidance and reports and interviewed officials.

GAO is not making recommendations.

For more information, contact Jennifer Grover at (202) 512-7141 or

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

100 Years Ago Tomorrow: Germany Notifies U.S. of Unrestricted U-boat Warfare

I command that unlimited U-boat warfare begin on February 1 with all possible vigor. You will please take all necessary measures immediately but in such a way that our intention does not become apparent to the enemy and to neutrals in advance. Basic operational plans are to be laid before me.

Wilhelm II, 9 January 1917 

The decision to initiate unrestricted U-boat warfare, implemented by Germany on 1 February 1917, was one of the most fateful of the 20th century. In hindsight, it was clearly a grave error by Kaiser Wilhelm II and his advisers. The decision followed a long and acrimonious debate involving all sectors of German society. There was great disagreement down to the final hour, especially regarding breaking existing international law and potentially provoking the United States into joining the war on the side of the Allies. 

It was an end to the war through military victory and a German-directed peace (Siegfrieden). The key to their ambitions lay with U-boats loosed to pursue unrestricted submarine warfare. Better to play all or nothing in a single decisive action. The U-boat would win the war. 

RMS Carpathia Goes to the Bottom, 17 July 1918

The decision was kept secret and America was not notified until the last day of January, the eve of the start of the new strategy. The government-to-government note read in part: 

Since the attempts to come to an understanding with the Entente Powers have been answered by the latter with the announcement of an intensified continuation of the war, the Imperial Government—in order to serve the welfare of mankind in a higher sense and not to wrong its own people—is now compelled to continue the fight for existence, again forced upon it, with the full employment of all the weapons which are at its disposal. 

Sincerely trusting that the people and the Government of the United States will understand the motives for this decision and its necessity, the Imperial Government hopes that the United States may view the new situation from the lofty heights of impartiality, and assist, on their part, to prevent further misery and unavoidable sacrifice of human life. Enclosing two memoranda regarding the details of the contemplated military measures at sea, I remain, etc.

Delivered to Secretary of State Lansing

31 January 1917 

Source: Over the Top: Magazine of the World War I Centennial, November 2016 

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Only Total Naval History Nerds Should Even Try This Quiz

Buzzfeed has a quiz for naval history nerds. I got 11 out of 13. The modern naval questions gave me some problems. How well would you do? Click on the link or the image below.

Only Total Naval History Nerds Should Even Try This Quiz

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Sinking of the Cutter Alexander Hamilton — the USCG First Loss in WWII

Seventy five years ago today, the USCG Cutter Alexander Hamilton was the first United States Coast Guard ship to be be lost in World War II. The cutter was named after the first Secretary of the Treasury, often referred to as the "Father of the US Coast Guard."

On January 29, 1942, the 327′ long Treasury-class United States Coast Guard Cutter Alexander Hamilton was patrolling the Icelandic coast near Reykjav√≠k when she was torpedoed by the German submarine U-132. The torpedo struck on the starboard side between the fireroom and the engine room. Twenty sailors died in the initial explosion and six more subsequently died from burns.  The ship's wartime compliment was 221 officers and crew.

The cutter Alexander Hamilton capsized on January 30th and sank 28 miles (45 km) from the Icelandic coast. The wreck was discovered in 2009 in over 300 feet of water. In 2013, an expedition was mounted to place a memorial plaque in honor of the those who died on the ship.  The video below describes diving on the wreck.

Alexander Hamilton Expedition by OCEAN REEF

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Russia in Biggest Arctic Military Push Since Soviet Fall

Yamal icebreaker
File photo: Pinkfloyd88/CC BY-SA 3.0

ReutersBy Andrew Osborn

MURMANSK, Russia, Jan 30 (Reuters) – The nuclear icebreaker Lenin, the pride and joy of the Soviet Union's Arctic great game, lies at perpetual anchor in the frigid water here. A relic of the Cold War, it is now a museum.

But nearly three decades after the Lenin was taken out of service to be turned into a visitor attraction, Russia is again on the march in the Arctic and building new nuclear icebreakers.

It is part of a push to firm Moscow's hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.

Interviews with officials and military analysts and reviews of government documents show Russia's build-up is the biggest since the 1991 Soviet fall and will, in some areas, give Moscow more military capabilities than the Soviet Union once had.

The expansion has far-reaching financial and geopolitical ramifications. The Arctic is estimated to hold more hydrocarbon reserves than Saudi Arabia and Moscow is putting down a serious military marker.

"History is repeating itself," Vladimir Blinov, a guide on board the icebreaker Lenin, which is named after communist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin, told a recent tour group.

"Back then (in the 1950s) it was the height of the Cold War and the United States was leading in some areas. But we beat the Americans and built the world's first nuclear ship (the Lenin). The situation today is similar."

Under President Vladimir Putin, Moscow is rushing to re-open abandoned Soviet military, air and radar bases on remote Arctic islands and to build new ones, as it pushes ahead with a claim to almost half a million square miles of the Arctic.

It regularly releases pictures of its troops training in white fatigues, wielding assault rifles as they zip along on sleighs pulled by reindeer.

The Arctic, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates, holds oil and gas reserves equivalent to 412 billion barrels of oil, about 22 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas.

Low oil prices and Western sanctions imposed over Moscow's actions in Ukraine mean new offshore Arctic projects have for now been mothballed, but the Kremlin is playing a longer game.

It is building three nuclear icebreakers, including the world's largest, to bolster its fleet of around 40 breakers, six of which are nuclear. No other country has a nuclear breaker fleet, used to clear channels for military and civilian ships.

Russia's Northern Fleet, based near Murmansk in the Kola Bay's icy waters, is also due to get its own icebreaker, its first, and two ice-capable corvettes armed with cruise missiles.

"Under (Soviet leader Mikhail) Gorbachev and (Russian President Boris) Yeltsin, our Arctic border areas were stripped bare," said Professor Pavel Makarevich, a member of the Russian Geographical Society. "Now they are being restored."


The build-up, which echoes moves in Crimea and Kaliningrad, has been noticed in Washington. U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis told his confirmation hearing this month it was "not to our advantage to leave any part of the world" to others.

Mattis, in a separate written submission, described Moscow's Arctic moves as "aggressive steps" and pledged to prioritise developing a U.S. strategy, according to Senator Dan Sullivan.

That poses a potential dilemma for President Donald Trump, who wants to repair U.S.-Russia ties and team up with Moscow in Syria rather than get sucked into an Arctic arms race.

The build-up is causing jitters elsewhere. Some 300 U.S. Marines landed in Norway this month for a six-month deployment, the first time since World War Two that foreign troops have been allowed to be stationed there.

And with memories of Russia's 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea still fresh, NATO is watching closely. Six of its members held an exercise in the region in 2015.

The Soviet military packed more firepower in the Arctic, but it was set up to wage nuclear war with the United States not conventional warfare. Arctic islands were staging posts for long-range bombers to fly to America.

But in an era when a slow-motion battle for the Arctic's energy reserves is unfolding, Russia is creating a permanent and nimble conventional military presence with different and sometimes superior capabilities.

Sergei Shoigu, the defence minister, is presiding over the re-opening or creation of six military facilities, some of which will be ready by the year's end.

They include an island base on Alexandra Land to house 150 troops able to survive autonomously for 18 months. Called the Arctic Trefoil, officials have said they may deploy military jets there. MiG-31 fighters, designed to shoot down long-range bombers, or the SU-34, a frontline bomber, are seen as suitable.

Moscow's biggest Arctic base, dubbed "Northern Shamrock", is meanwhile taking shape on the remote Kotelny Island, some 2,700 miles east of Moscow. It will be manned by 250 personnel and equipped with air defence missiles.

Soviet-era radar stations and airstrips on four other Arctic islands are being overhauled and new ground-to-air missile and anti-ship missile systems have been moved into the region.

Russia is also spending big to winterise military hardware.

"The modernisation of Arctic forces and of Arctic military infrastructure is taking place at an unprecedented pace not seen even in Soviet times," Mikhail Barabanov, editor-in-chief of Moscow Defense Brief, told Reuters.

He said two special Arctic brigades had been set up, something the USSR never had, and that there were plans to form a third as well as special Arctic coastal defence divisions.

"Russia's military activity in the Arctic is a bit provocative," said Barabanov. "It could trigger an arms race."


In Murmansk, home to Russia's icebreakers and just an hour from the Northern Fleet's headquarters, the prospect of an Arctic renaissance is a source of pride.

The city is steeped in Arctic and military history. The conning tower of the Kursk submarine, which sunk in 2000 after an explosion, looks down from a hill above the port.

And in central Murmansk, scale models of dozens of icebreakers crowd the halls of the Murmansk Shipping Company, while sailors, wrapped in great coats, barrel along its streets.

"These Arctic bases are on our territory. Unlike some other countries we are not building them overseas," said Denis Moiseev, a member of the Russian Geographical Society.

"Other countries are also very active in trying to push their borders towards the North Pole. Our army must be able to operate on all our territory in extreme conditions."

One country regularly mentioned as an unlikely Arctic rival is China, a close Moscow ally, which has observer status on the Arctic Council, the main forum for coordinating cooperation in the region, and is starting to build its own icebreakers.

Politicians are keener to discuss a commercial Arctic push.

New roads and a railway are being built and ports overhauled as Moscow expands its freight capacity and, amid warmer climate cycles, readies for more traffic along its Arctic coast.

It hopes the Northern Sea Route, which runs from Murmansk to the Bering Strait near Alaska, could become a mini Suez Canal, cutting sea transport times from Asia to Europe.

But while the route's popularity inside Russia is growing, relatively high transit costs and unpredictable ice coverage means it has lost some of its lustre for foreign firms.

Grigory Stratiy, deputy governor of the Murmansk Region, told Reuters there was strong interest in sea route from Asian nations however and that new icebreakers would allow for year-round navigation in the 2020s.

"Whatever the weather, the Northern Sea Route will be needed. Its use will definitely grow," said Stratiy, who said Russia was keen to attract foreign investment to the Arctic.

When asked about his country's military build-up, he smiled.

"There's no reason to be afraid I can reassure you," he said, saying it was driven only by a need to modernise.

"Russia has never had any aggressive aims and won't have them. We are very friendly people."

(Editing by Janet McBride)

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2017. 

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Maritime Monday for January 31st, 2017: Death in the Gulf Stream

Glass Negative discovered in an attic; The Museum of Found Photographs See also
Old Salt Blog (more) – If you have been reading yachting magazines over the years, his cartoons probably brought a smile to your face. British cartoonist Mike Peyton, who died on January 25th at the age of 96, was described variously as "the world's greatest yachting cartoonist" and as the "Picasso of sailing." (image source)

more: A Tribute to the "Picasso of Sailing" – Mike Peyton on

German Liner St. Louis in Havana Cuba – In 1939, Both Cuba and the United States turned back a ship full of German Jews, 254 of whom were later killed during the Holocaust

Haunting Twitter Account Shares the Fates of the Refugees of the St. Louis – In honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day, ceremonies remembering and mourning the victims of Hitler's "final solution" are happening around the world. One of the most sobering remembrances is taking place on Twitter.

Software engineer Russel Neiss and Rabbi Charlie Schwartz are using the medium to share the manifest of the MS St. Louis, a passenger ship full of German Jewish refugees turned away by Cuba and the United States and forced to return to Europe in 1939, a time when officials were aware of what sending Jews back to Europe meant.

Many of the passengers were later murdered during the Holocaust.

Keep reading

Times of Israel: Survivors of the SS St. Louis urge the world to treat today's refugees with compassion
ANDRIA & ALSATIA Cunard's Forgotten Beauties on Maritime Matters

Cunard Line is widely recognized for having some of the most famous ocean liners in history. Largely overlooked is their vast fleet of cargo liners which reached a pinnacle of sorts in the 1950's and early '60's. keep reading

"The East India Company which, throughout the 19th century, was the equivalent of the CIA, the NSA, and the biggest, baddest multinational corporation on earth, all rolled into one self-righteous, religiously-motivated monolith." See the trailer for Tom Hardy's new tv series airing on FX (USA) and BBC One in the UK

Taboo is a British television drama series set during the War of 1812. The eight-part series, set in London, begins with James Delaney (Miss Monkey's newest crush, sizzling hot British movie star Tom Hardy) returning to Britain after twelve years in Africa, where he seems to have picked up some very strange habits.

He assumes control over his recently-deceased father's shipping firm and takes on the monolithic East India Company. Started by a Royal Charter from Queen Elizabeth I in December of 1600, the company was originally tasked with acting as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London trading into the East Indies". They soon rose to account for half of the world's trade, particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, salt, saltpetre, tea and opium.

EICo Gallery
Governor's Palace and Garden, Kolkata, India; The East India Company in pictures on BBC

They went on to rule large areas of India with their own private armies; exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 and lasted until 1858.  more on wikipedia

The series stars Hardy in the lead, (and is based on a story written by him) Oona Chaplin (granddaughter of English silent film star Charlie), Michael Kelly, (House of Cards) Franka Potente (Run Lola Run) as a German brothel keeper, and Jonathan Pryce as a very disturbed Sir Stuart Strange, Chairman of the East India Company.

How true is Taboo? The real history behind the Tom Hardy drama on The Telegraph

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

The East India Company on Pinterest

Now, without further ado, an introduction to Falkor's Mappin' the Floor Transit-Cruise

A research cruise as depicted by a high-seas adventure cartoonist? YAAASSSS

It has now come to our attention that EVERY cruise needs a high seas adventure cartoonist. Lucy Bellwood's comic on her three weeks at sea with the Schmidt Ocean Institute is just perfection. As the artist-at-residence on the R/V Falkor (a 272-foot former German fisheries protection vessel purchased from the German government in 2009) she describes the ship, the science and the techs/technology/scientists behind the science. Read on Deep Sea News

chief's bedroom in a nor'easter
chief's bedroom in a nor'easter 

Steven Hermansen posted this photo to Facebook's Tug Boating Group

aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov; 2 August 2012 – Ministry of Defence photo

British and Russian Navies Trade Insults

British Defense Ministry Michael Fallon launched the first salvo on January 25th saying that the Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov is the Kremlin's "ship of shame."

"We will keep a close eye on the Admiral Kuznetsov as it skulks back to Russia. A ship of shame whose mission has only extended the suffering of the Syrian people," Fallon said.

A Royal Navy warship escorting a Russian aircraft carrier reportedly "watched [its] every movement" as it passed through the English Channel. The Russian Defense Minister fired right back belittling the Royal Navy for providing "escort services" and suggesting that Fallon's statement was a way to deflect attention of British tax payers away from "real problems of the state of the Royal Navy". keep reading on Heatstreet

Flayin' Alive, Flayin' Alive; From the Harvard Art Museums' collection "Flaying of Marsyas"

13 Gory Details About What It's Like To Be Skinned Alive

Being skinned alive has got to be one of the most horrifying forms of torture imaginable. It's a bloody, painful, and slow process, and you'll be conscious the entire time. Still, maybe you're morbidly curious about exactly what being skinned alive feels like. Since we don't recommend you try it first hand, let us take you through the experience, step by grueling step, right up to the bitter end.  Keep Reading

what was supposed to be the original blurb, but I got sidetracked:
The 14 Most Gruesome Ways Pirates Have Killed People Throughout History

Legend says that Grandma Ppong made the parting of the sea parting possible, just like Moses 3,000 years ago. Image Source

Parting of the Sea in Jindo

The Jindo County is an archipelago of 250 islands, of which Jindo Island is the third largest in Korea. Every year at the end of February and again in mid-June, extremely low tide causes a natural land pass 2.9 km long and 10–40 meters wide to appear connecting the main Jindo island and a small Modo island to the south of Jindo.

The pass stays for about an hour before being submerged again. The event is celebrated by a local festival called "Jindo's Sea Way" when visitors and tourists gather to watch the phenomenon and walk the path in the middle of the sea.

More on

Silentworld Foundation volunteers Renee Malarios, Peter Illidge, Jacqui Mullen and John Mullen, with one of the newly discovered wrecks [Credit: Julia Sumerling/Silentworld Foundation] More on archaeologynewsnetwork

Maritime archaeologists find four 150-year old wrecks off Queensland coast

A collaboration between the Australian National Maritime Museum (ANMM) and Silentworld Foundation has discovered four 19th century shipwrecks off the Queensland coast following a week-long expedition to the Coral Sea. While diving in water depths ranging from one to ten metres, the expedition team found more than a dozen iron anchors, several copper-alloy fasteners and examples of copper-alloy ship's hardware, and at least a half-dozen cannons.

Silentworld Foundation is a not-for-profit foundation established to further Australian maritime archaeology and historical research, and to improve public awareness of Australia's early maritime history.  Keep reading

Old steamer close to beach; Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's LADY OF MANN (I) departing Fleetwood for Douglas, Isle of Man (Museum of Found Photographs)
With All Despatch by Geoffrey Huband, painter of the covers of Alexander Kent's Richard Bolitho novels. More.

Master Storyteller of the Sea, Douglas Reeman, a.k.a Alexander Kent, 1924 — 2017

KentReemanOld Salt Blog; Obituary Week: Writer Douglas Reeman has died at this home in Cobham, Surrey, at the age of 92. Reeman, perhaps best know for the novels written under the pen-name Alexander Kent, wrote close to 60 books and has left an indelible mark on the literature of the sea. keep reading

The Bolitho novels – Wikipedia

Shit week? Yeah, me too: Ernest Hemingway's cocktail recipe for bad times


___monkeysigMaritime Monday Archives

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GAO-17-114, Military Personnel: DOD and the Coast Guard Need to Screen for Gambling Disorder Addiction and Update Guidance, January 30, 2017

What GAO Found

Department of Defense (DOD) data show 514 DOD and Coast Guard (CG) active-duty servicemembers and 72 Reserve Component servicemembers—less than 0.03 percent of the average number of servicemembers in each year—were diagnosed with gambling disorder or were seen for problem gambling in fiscal years 2011 through 2015 in the Military Health System (MHS). The MHS provides health services to beneficiaries across a range of care venues, such as military treatment facilities and civilian facilities through TRICARE. DOD bases this prevalence of gambling disorder and problem gambling on MHS data and does not include other sources of information, such as DOD-wide surveys and records of treatment provided outside of the MHS. The Defense Health Agency compiles these data in the MHS Data Repository, which includes data on clinical interactions between servicemembers and health-care professionals. The MHS Data Repository does not include data on DOD and CG servicemembers who received treatment or counseling for gambling disorder or problem gambling outside of the MHS.

DOD and the CG do not systematically screen for gambling disorder and, according to medical officials, both DOD and the CG use the 2013 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders criteria to diagnose servicemembers with gambling disorders, and they employ the same evidence-based treatments. Clinicians who GAO interviewed stated that financial counseling is also an important part of gambling disorder treatment. However, DOD's and CG's medical professionals do not incorporate medical screening questions specific to gambling disorder as they do for other similar medically determined addictive disorders, such as substance use. DOD officials stated they do not screen for gambling disorder because they focus on mental-health disorders that are high risk to overall readiness, high volume, and have validated measures for assessment. While gambling disorder is not a frequently diagnosed condition, the preoccupation with gambling, financial hardship, and increased risk of suicide can pose a risk to individual readiness. In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has indicated that screening is important because few seek treatment directly for gambling disorder. Without proactively asking gambling disorder questions as part of screening to help detect gambling disorder, DOD and the CG risk not identifying affected servicemembers and providing treatment or counseling.

DOD and CG nonmedical personnel do not have clear guidance addressing gambling disorder. Neither DOD's nor CG's guidance for substance-use disorders explicitly includes gambling disorder. DOD health officials stated that their substance-use instruction "implicitly" covers gambling disorder; however, it refers only to problematic substance use. The Coast Guard has three documents that provide guidance and policy to both medical and nonmedical personnel on substance abuse, but these documents do not specifically discuss gambling disorder as an addiction. Without explicitly including gambling disorder in DOD and CG guidance on substance use, DOD and the CG may not being able to identify and provide appropriate treatment and counseling to DOD and CG servicemembers afflicted by gambling disorder and mitigate or prevent individual readiness issues.

Why GAO Did This Study

The American Psychiatric Association's 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines gambling disorder as persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress.

Public Law 114-92 included a provision for GAO to review gambling among members of the armed forces. This report (1) describes what is known about the prevalence of gambling disorder among servicemembers in DOD and the CG; (2) assesses DOD's and the CG's approaches to screening, diagnosing, and treating servicemembers for gambling disorder; and (3) evaluates the extent to which DOD and CG guidance address gambling disorder in a manner similar to substance-use disorders. GAO analyzed DOD's most recent data related to gambling disorder prevalence (fiscal years 2011–2015) and DOD and CG policies.

What GAO Recommends

GAO makes eight recommendations, including that DOD incorporate gambling disorder questions in a systematic screening process and DOD and the CG update guidance to include gambling disorder. DOD concurred with five recommendations focused on updating guidance, but did not concur with incorporating gambling questions into a screening process due to the disorder's low prevalence. GAO maintains that this recommendation is still valid because, among other things, DOD's prevalence data are limited. The CG concurred with the two recommendations focused on updating guidance.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or

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This Week in Military Justice – January 29, 2017

This week at SCOTUS: I'm not aware of any military justice developments at the Supreme Court, where I'm tracking two cases:

This week at CAAF: The next scheduled oral argument at CAAF is on February 10, 2017.

This week at the ACCA: The Army CCA will hear oral argument in two cases this week:

Thursday, February 2, 2017, at 10 a.m.:

United States v. Bishop, No. 20150441


Friday, February 3, 3017, at 10 a.m.:

United States v. Robinson, No. 20150088



This week at the AFCCA: The Air Force CCA's website shows no scheduled oral arguments.

This week at the CGCCA: The Coast Guard CCA's oral argument schedule shows no scheduled oral arguments.

This week at the NMCCA: The next scheduled oral argument at the Navy-Marine Corps CCA is on February 15, 2017.

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