Category Archives: Defense and National Security

Strategic Insanity Off the Coast of Virginia

by James C. Sherlock

As I warned in three columns in late December, the Pentagon has now objected to Department of the Interior plans to develop offshore wind farms along the central U.S. coast.

It has warned that almost all of the areas planned for development of the huge turbines conflict with current military operations.

That is the public pronouncement.

DOD also knows that, because the wind farms are designed to provide a high percentage of the electric power on the East Coast grid, it will be charged to defend them against attack.

And it knows that defending those sitting ducks clustered together in fixed positions in international waters against modern weapons is not just a problem, but as a practical matter impossible.

But DOD apparently won’t admit that publicly. Yet. It is not clear that the Department of Homeland Security, with oversight of the Coast Guard, has even thought about it.

But if the turbines are built, DOD and the Coast Guard will be tasked to try to protect them. Their defense can’t even be attempted without a cost to the defense budget that will dwarf both in acquisition and ongoing operating costs the cost of building and operating the fields themselves.

The Navy and Coast Guard will need far more ships and the Navy more submarines, and the personnel to operate them, than they currently have.

The additional resources will need to be used for defense of the wind farms, not to meet our under-resourced national defense obligations overseas.

And the attempt will still fail against modern weapons. Continue reading

Naming Commission is Stripping History

by Donald Smith

The week of January 16, 2023, was a big one for Virginia heritage issues in the Richmond area. Connor Williams, the chief historian for the Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) came to the American Civil War Museum to explain and defend the commission’s sweeping recommendations toward, and its disparagement of, Confederate memories on Department of Defense installations.

That week also saw the announcement that the Hunter Holmes McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Richmond would be renamed as part of a campaign to strip “racist history from military facilities,” according to a story in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

In the article, Sen. Mark Warner (D), a former governor of Virginia, praised the renaming. “Naming decisions should honor the patriotism of our veterans,” he said.

So, by highlighting that particular part of Warner’s statement, the Stars and Stripes apparently thinks that, in Mark Warner’s eyes, Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire and the Virginia soldiers he treated during the Civil War were neither patriots nor veterans.

It is time for the General Assembly to act. The GA needs to convene a hearing to explore the CNC’s recommendations and let the CNC justify them. Continue reading

The Naming Commission’s Diktats

by Donald Smith

The Congressional Naming Commission (CNC) was authorized as part of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Its eight commissioners included two retired Army generals, a retired Navy admiral and a retired Marine Corps general. It also had academics with imposing credentials. One commissioner is a professor emeritus at United States Military Academy West Point and another is a senior official at the American Enterprise Institute. The commission’s chief historian, Connor Williams, took a leave of absence from his faculty position at Yale to serve on the CNC. The CNC even had an elected federal official — Austin Scott, a Republican congressman from Georgia.

The CNC recommended — among many, many other things — that all active U.S. Army bases named for Confederate generals be renamed. And, in the Preface to Part 1 of its report, it appears to pick a fight.

This is how the CNC report’s Preface characterizes monuments erected to Confederates and the Confederacy in the years following the Civil War:

Most importantly, during the end of the nineteenth century and the start of the twentieth century, the South and much of the nation came to live under a mistaken understanding of the Civil War known as the “Lost Cause.” As part of the “Lost Cause,” across the nation, champions of that memory built monuments to Confederate leaders and to the Confederacy, including on many Department of Defense assets. In every instance and every aspect, these names and memorials have far more to do with the culture under which they were named than they have with any historical acts actually committed by their namesakes. (Preface, page 3).

The obvious implication of this statement goes well beyond changing some base names. The commissioners presume to pass judgment on (a) what these names and memorials meant to everyone and (b) what the “real” motivations for those statues were. Think about that. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Turbines in International Waters Raise Big Defense Issues

By James C. Sherlock

Courtesy U.S. Navy

The Department of the Interior (DOI) is unlikely to be expert in the diplomatic issues and defense vulnerabilities inherent in building wind turbine farms in international waters.

The DOI is, however, greatly concerned with “viewscape” – whether the turbine blades can be seen from shore.  By the wealthy who live there and those who visit.

DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which will issue or deny in March a construction permit to Dominion Energy to build its Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project in international waters, may understand the fact that the United States is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

They may or may not be aware that the U.S. has done more to enforce UNCLOS than any other nation on earth.

They may or may not fully understand that UNCLOS will severely constrain U.S. rights surrounding wind turbine projects in international waters in ways that will bedevil us constantly, drive up national defense costs and threaten the long-term viability of the projects.

If they do understand the implications, they may consider that the business of the Departments of Defense and State.

So do I.  Those two departments have dropped the ball.

DOI may not understand that all of those issues are greatly mitigated if the turbine farms are within 12 miles from the coast.  But DoD and State should.

And Congress should.

The House Armed Services Committee should hold hearings before the CVOW permit is approved.

Continue reading

Dominion’s Planned Offshore Wind Farm Need Not – and Must Not – Be Built Where Planned

by James C. Sherlock

I am referring in the title, of course, to Dominion Power’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project to be located in the hatched area below.

It is planned for one of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DI) Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) offshore wind farm lease areas. Lease areas that have been rendered obsolete by operational modern floating turbine technology.

The area for which CVOW construction is proposed is overlaid below on an operational graphic of Atlantic international maritime vessel density. Red indicates highest density.

There are only a half dozen expanses of water that reach that international vessel density on the entire U.S. Atlantic coast. They are, of course, the approaches to the East Coast’s major ports.

See the Atlantic Coast Port Access Route Study Final Report Appendix III Fig. 18 below for an operational rendering of international shipping flow at the location proposed for CVOW.


See the coastal shipping traffic chart below.

The nearest point is 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach and the furthest 42 miles offshore. The lease area occupies 112,800 acres. One seventh the size of Rhode Island.

Undersea noise propagation characteristics will not be known unless and until it is built.

CVOW, if built, will threaten:

  • the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay;
  • the point at which international maritime traffic funnels to and from the ports of Norfolk and Baltimore;
  • the point at which coastal maritime traffic on the east coast is most dense; and
  • the point at which Navy warships and logistics vessels enter and depart the world’s largest naval base.

You might reasonably ask “Of the entire Atlantic Coast, why there?” Or you might put it somewhat less gently. Net of all the risks and rewards, there is no reasonable answer to that question. Never was.

But the facts have also changed. Continue reading

Offshore Wind Turbines and Submarine Warfare

Courtesy U.S. Navy

by James C. Sherlock

Upon investigation of open source literature, I find that offshore wind turbines are less noisy than I imagined. But they present obstacles nonetheless, both physically and acoustically.

United States submarine and anti-submarine efforts, operationally, in Navy labs, and in industry are led by some of our best and brightest.

That is true also, unfortunately, of most navies, including those of China and Russia.

The primary vulnerability of submarines is the noise they make, however minuscule. Submarine and antisubmarine technical and operational efforts are a constant cat-and-mouse game to minimize noise on the one hand and exploit it on the other.

The frequencies of the noise in the water from sea life, from shipping, from submarines and now from enormous turbine blades and the vibrations they cause in their supports are relatively discrete. That can help, or hinder, both submarine and anti-submarine warfare.

Weapons use against submarines presents other challenges. Attacks require targeting quality solutions, often from brief active-sonar transmissions. Again, noise.

Offshore wind turbines have complicated both offensive and defensive submarine operations.

Turbines are typically grouped about 500 meters apart in wind farms and generate noise in the water from individual turbines and group effects. As a rule of thumb, the bigger the turbine blades, the higher the noise generated. Bad weather exacerbates noise conditions.

The waters off of Norfolk and the nation’s other major commercial and military ports are of primary concern here. We expect and hope that the Navy is at the table in the design and location of each turbine field. Continue reading

Junior ROTC – Important to Students, High Schools, Society and the National Defense

Cadet Andrea Ellerbe, Richmond N.C. Senior High School JROTC

by James C. Sherlock

Richmond Senior High School (RSHS) is a 1,200-student grades-10-to-12 school in the Sandhills Region of North Carolina.

Its mission, vision and belief statements genuflect at none of the shrines of progressive dogma. Not a single one.

Minority enrollment is 57% of the student body (majority Black), which is higher than the North Carolina state average of 54% (majority Black).

RSHS is ranked in the top 10% of high schools in North Carolina for math proficiency. That is after, as is a practice in the North Carolina system, the best students have been skimmed off to Richmond Early College High on the same campus, but whose school is graded separately.

All RSHS students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Nearly 90% of students and parents surveyed agreed the school was competitive. That still, at least to those parents, seemed a good thing.

The school features its Army Junior ROTC program.

It is a source of pride, as is highly awarded and accomplished scholar and athlete Cadet Major Andrea Ellerbe, pictured above.

Ellerbe’s future plans include attending East Carolina University in fall of 2023 as part of the ROTC program majoring in business and accounting.

The New York Times (NYT) literally cannot imagine any of that.

Dismayed by JROTC and playing to its base, The New York Times published an article headlined “Thousands of Teens Are Being Pushed Into Military’s Junior R.O.T.C.”

Cue the progressive rending of garments. Tears were shed on the Upper East Side for the micro aggressions suffered both in the research for the article — and in reading it.

They don’t get it. Never will.

They have never met Cadet Major Ellerbe. Continue reading

Virginia Needs Better Information Sharing to Provide Mandated Public Services to Illegals Efficiently and Effectively

by James C. Sherlock

I am on record as a persistent advocate of improving the quality of both schools and medical services for poor and minority citizens. It has been the main focus of my work for years.

In a directly related matter, we read, with different reactions depending upon our politics, of the struggles with uncontrolled immigration on border states on the one hand and D.C, New York City and Los Angeles on the other.

We are treated to the public spectacle of the mayors of sanctuary cities deploring massive new influxes of illegal border-crossers and asking for federal assistance. It provides one of the best object lessons in being careful what you ask for in recent public life.

All of that is interesting, but Virginians know that the problem is increasing. They know Virginia can’t fix it, and they want to know how Virginia will deal with it.

By law we owe illegals services. And we need to provide them efficiently and effectively both for humanitarian reasons and to ensure that citizens are not unnecessarily negatively affected.

There is work to do. Continue reading

Virginia Republican Congressmen Do It Again

Rep. Bob Good (5th District)

Rep Morgan Griffith (9th District)

Rep. Ben Cline (6th District)

Virginia’s Republican representatives in Congress have again embarrassed the Commonwealth.

The House of Representatives recently approved a resolution supporting the applications of Sweden and Finland to join NATO.  The vote was 394-18.  Three of those 18 “no” votes were from Virginia Republicans:  Morgan Griffith (9th District), Ben Cline (6th District); and Bob Good (5th District).  The other Republican member of the delegation, Robb Wittman (1st District), supported the resolution.

Virginia had more members opposing the resolution than any other state.  Griffith, Cline, and Good joined such luminaries as Matt Gaetz (Fla.), Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.), Madison Cawthorn (N.C.), and Lauren Boebert (Colo.) in what Charlottesville’s The Daily Progress has dubbed “the crackpot caucus”.

Good explained that his “no” vote was “a ‘no-confidence’ vote in the Biden Administration’s failed foreign policy.”  It is hard to see how strengthening NATO in the face of Russian aggression is a failure in foreign policy.  Griffith said that he was not opposed to Sweden and Finland joining NATO, but he thought the House of Representatives was “overstepping its bounds.”

Even 176 of their fellow Republicans in Congress disagreed with them.

America’s Petroleum Refining Capacity in the News – What is Going On?

By James C. Sherlock

This is a note about perhaps the highest profile national inflation issue, the price of gasoline and diesel.

The President is demanding more supply from U.S. refineries.  Headlines like this one blare at us today:

Biden threatens oil companies with ’emergency powers’ if they don’t boost supply amid inflation spike.

The letter behind such headlines, which is exactly what it seems to be, was sent to the largest refiners in the country.  Among other things, the President wrote:

My administration is prepared to use all reasonable and appropriate Federal Government tools and emergency authorities to increase refinery capacity and output in the near term, and to ensure that every region of this country is appropriately supplied.

I looked up the data on oil refining that Mr. Biden’s Energy Information Administration has published.

From the numbers on American refinery input and capacity, Mr. Biden will need more than “emergency powers” to increase refining output.

He will need a a genie.

Continue reading

The Defense Production Act as a Political Tool to Boost Solar Farms

Courtesy Dominion Energy

by James C. Sherlock

We have had multiple discussions, good ones, on the issues surrounding solar farms in Virginia.

Jim Bacon wrote an excellent column about it in February of 2021 titled “The Political Economy of Solar Farms.” It was good then and prescient as of yesterday.

He wrote another one two days earlier.  From that piece:

With the enactment of the (Virginia Clean Economy Act) VCEA, Freitas wrote in the press release, Virginia is experiencing extensive land leasing and acquisition by solar developers. More than 180 solar projects accounting for 140 million solar panels are in various stages of approval or construction. Full implementation of the ACT would consume 490 square miles of Virginia’s forests and farmland, an area twenty times the size of Manhattan.

Thanks to President Biden’s new political/industrial policy, those solar farms just got cheaper. And Chinese solar stocks just got more expensive.

Both of which were made to happen because the President removed the tariffs on Chinese solar panels. Readers rationally can be for that action or against it. But the left has settled on the Defense Production Act as a favored service animal.

So, the President, in addition to removing the tariffs, invoked that act as a national emergency response to mandate additional domestic production of solar panels.

Let’s try to pin down the nature of the emergency and the unintended consequences. Continue reading

Virginia Snags Another Fortune 500 H.Q.

Raytheon Technologies manufactures components of the Boeing F/A-18 “Super Hornet” multi-mission strike fighter aircraft featured in “Top Gun: Maverick”

by James A. Bacon

Waltham, Mass.-based Raytheon Technologies has announced that it will establish its global headquarters in Arlington. Following the recent decision of The Boeing Company to relocate its headquarters from Chicago to Arlington, the move cements Northern Virginia’s standing as the leading defense/aerospace cluster in the United States.

“The location increases agility in supporting U.S. government and commercial aerospace customers and serves to reinforce partnerships that will progress innovative technologies to advance the industry,” stated the company in a brief press release. “Washington, D.C. serves as a convenient travel hub for the company’s global customers and employees.”

The announcement was unusual for not emanating from the governor’s office, as would be typical with news of this magnitude. It contained no quotes from Governor Glenn Youngkin, Arlington officials, or Virginia’s economic development officials; no citation of the number of jobs created (if any); and no mention of how much the company will invest in making the transition. However, the press release did make a point of saying, “Raytheon Technologies has not accepted or sought any financial incentives from any state or municipality to support the establishment of the global headquarters office in Virginia.” Continue reading

The Boeing Announcement Is a Vote of Confidence in Virginia

Boeing Advanced F-15 jet fighter

by James A. Bacon

The Boeing Company’s decision to transfer its official headquarters location from Chicago, Ill., to Arlington gives Virginia significant bragging rights. The move will have little detectable short-term economic impact. The more consequential news is a promise to “develop a research & technology hub” in the area “to harness and attract engineering and technical capabilities.”

Plans at this point are vague. I’m guessing a big winner will be Virginia Tech, which last year unveiled a $248 million project to replace Randolph Hall, which houses the aerospace engineering department. Randolph Hall is connected to one of the largest university-owned stability wind tunnels in the United States. Mitchell Hall, which will replace it, will accommodate the wind tunnel and partially enclose it. Tech also is developing a major campus in Arlington in collaboration with the Amazon project there.

With $66.2 billion in annual revenue in 2021, Boeing will rank as the second largest Fortune 500 company headquartered in Virginia. The first is Freddie Mac, which had $80.6 billion in revenue and logged in at No. 47 nationally. If Boeing recovers to the $100 billion-plus level of a few years ago, it would be the largest company based in Virginia. Continue reading

National Security, West Virginia Natural Gas and Hampton Roads – A Proposed Federal Law

Senator Manchin

by James C. Sherlock

This is the fourth in a series of columns recommending bringing West Virginia natural gas to Virginia and from there to our allies.  

The only way to do get that done with any assurance and speed under the energy emergency in which we find ourselves and the world is for a federal law to be passed that:

  • strips jurisdiction from federal courts over this specific pipeline because of national security requirements;
  • includes and similarly protects from lawsuits a new LNG terminal on either federal land or in the Port of Virginia or, helpfully, one or more floating LNG (FLNG) facilities offshore;
  • directs federal regulatory agencies to work in partnership with developers to ensure the work meets environmental standards; and
  • authorizes the costs as an expenditure for the Department of Energy.

I have made that recommendation to Sen. Manchin’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Read Chairman Manchin’s opening remarks yesterday to his committee yesterday. You will consider Sen. Manchin to be a potential yes on the proposal.

Committee attorneys can figure out the jurisdiction stripping language. They can also determine whether a federal law that strips jurisdiction from federal courts will also protect the project from state courts under the Supremacy Clause or additional language is needed. Continue reading

Virginia’s Greens Need an Epiphany

Green Party leader and German Economy and Climate Minister and Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck

by James C. Sherlock

Headlines from the war in Ukraine have raised exponentially the interest in natural gas and the extreme price volatility caused by supply constraints.

It is perhaps useful to understand the uses of natural gas, the prices Virginians pay relative to West Virginians, the decline of production in Virginia, and the costs and risks of supply constraints by the actions of green energy absolutists.

Not the enthusiasts, but the come-hell-or-high-water absolutists, who get way out in front of the thoughtful left. In Europe, greens let slip the dogs of war.

Putin thought Europe, with its far too early and thoughtless response to green pressure, too dependent upon Russian energy to oppose him.  He proved wrong, but now both free Europeans and Russians will suffer. Ukrainians and Russians are dying for that miscalculation.

Virginia greens need to reconsider the value of natural gas and the risks of insufficient supply. And, like the German Green Party this week, get over their opposition to gas until real renewable alternatives at the scale of the economy are, well, real.

Continue reading