Events, News & More

Thinkin’ About McCain, Fitzgerald and Defense Acquisition

Posted: 1/18/2019

Very recently, I came across four articles that gave me serious pause:

  1. Worse than you thought: inside the secret Fitzgerald probe the Navy doesn’t want you to read
  2. The ghost in the Fitz’s machine: why a doomed warship’s crew never saw the vessel that hit it
  3. Reform panel warns Congress to overhaul Pentagon acquisitions, or lose technological edge
  4. The Pentagon needs a navalist as secretary of defense

I think that these four articles are related and provide a disconcerting picture.  I’ll throw out my thoughts and opinions for your consideration and ask you to bat them down.

The first article, Worse than you thought, provides an overview of some of the issues and problems uncovered during the investigation into the collision between USS Fitzgerald and ACX Crystal, a container vessel, in congested waterways off Japan. The picture provided in the article shows a very dysfunctional crew – one in which communication between the bridge and CIC hadn’t broken down – it didn’t exist.  Crewmembers were not paying attention to their duties and vital situational awareness information remained undiscovered.    I think that the article may be overblown in describing the condition of CIC since the investigation explored CIC long after the ship had returned to port.  Some of the conditions may not have resulted from actions of the crew – but some of them almost certainly did.  The problems seem, to me, to boil down to a complete failure of leadership, at multiple levels, to highlight and correct crew training and discipline problems.

The second article, The Ghost in the Fitz’s machine, looks at the ship’s systems, their operation and their reliability. If anything, this article provides a look at a situation that is more damning than the problems with the crew.  Training and education can be corrected reasonably quickly.  Systems problems take much longer to correct.  Many of the systems used to support SA on Fitzgerald were not, in the understanding of the crew, performing correctly or reliably.  Failures were not corrected and degraded system performance had come to be accepted as the norm.  System acquisition is a leadership and management challenge – one that must be taken on and overcome.  The acquisition professionals owe the fleet the best systems that can be delivered (this does not mean that I think we should spend whatever it take.  It means that program managers must execute within their budgets and deliver the required performance).

The third article, Reform panel warns Congress, looks at the efforts of the Congressionally mandated 809 panel to develop recommendations for the improvement of the Defense Acquisition System. I have no doubt that the panel will make good recommendations – just like the 200 or so previous looks at defense acquisition reform dating back to the Packard Commission in 1986.  In fact, the 809 panel will make many of the same recommendations. The systems on Fitzgerald certainly worked when they were tested by NAVSEA and OPTEVFOR.  The question is why they weren’t working when Fitzgerald’s crew needed them.  German tanks in WW II were technologically vastly superior (performance-wise) to the Soviet T-34, but the T-34 worked in the Russian winter, in the Russian mud, with Russian maintenance.  Simplicity and numbers crushed technological superiority.  If we’re going to base our warfighting capability on technological superiority, those superior systems must be reliable and deliver their superior performance in the fleet.

The final article, The Pentagon needs a navalist, makes the case for the selection of someone with a serious naval background as the next SECDEF. The United States is an island national although we seldom think of it that way and we need a Navy that is highly capable – superior systems operated professionally by crews who understand how and why.  Certainly, someone with a naval background would be valuable, but I don’t think that it is an absolute necessity.  Theodore Roosevelt wasn’t a Navy man when he was Assistant Secretary of the Navy (now Under SECNAV) and essentially ran the Navy since the Secretary was extremely passive.  He did a great job and an equally naval-oriented job is one of his subsequent jobs, President.

These articles resonate with me because I think they all highlight symptoms of a serious problem:

  • The US needs a strong Navy as a foundation for peacekeeping in the world’s oceans upon which we depend for the strength of our economy.
  • That strong Navy depends on leadership at the most senior levels of the DoD and the nation
  • That strong Navy needs systems that perform far better than the systems our Navy may face in the future – that means they must be affordable, reliable, technologically current, and capable of being operated by our sailors. We can’t afford system that take decades to field, that require special maintenance or cannot be operated by those men and women on whom we ultimately rely for our national defense.
  • Procuring such systems means that our Navy leaders – from the deckplates to the Pentagon – need to stand up and reject bureaucratically dysfunctional processes that don’t deliver usable and useful systems in a timely and affordable manner. They also need to pushback against tasking that denies time for routine maintenance and proficiency training.

Those are my thoughts.  It will take a great deal of leadership and courage to achieve that kind of a Navy.  Our sailors and Marines deserve it.  I am hopeful, but…

Guy ’69

Indiana University’s School of Education cites USNA as #1 of top 5 Most Prestigious Military Schools

Posted: 1/15/2019

Indiana University’s School of Education ranks USNA as the #1 of the top 5 most prestigious military school in the world.  Please see the posting at the following link:

Strong turnout supports Toys for Tots donation at Denver Army/Navy viewing party

Posted: 1/8/2019

Even though we didn’t win the game the Denver Area USNA Alumni knocked this years viewing party out of the park. The manager of the Sports Column reported that this was the largest crowd to date since we started hosting it at the venue 5 years ago. He estimated at least 350+ were in attendance with 274 confirmed RSVP’s from Eventbrite.

In terms of donations we raised $565 in cash donations at the door with additional online donations of  $317 to the USMA Society, $215 to our USNAAA Chapter and $530 to Toys for Tots. After subtracting the cost of the door prizes and event materials the remaining amounts were added to the Toys for Tots donation, which ultimately totaled $1,1171.10. We also filled a Toys for Tots donation box, helping to bring a little more Christmas cheer to those in need.

A big thank you and Brazo Zulu to Tim Tacl (USNA ’09) who spearheaded the organization of this year’s viewing party.  Well done!

Save the date for the annual Colorado Chapter spring dinner

Posted: 1/1/2019

Please mark March 29th on your calendar and plan to attend the Colorado Chapter’s annual dinner to be held in Denver.  Our speaker this year will be Admiral Michelle Howard USN (ret).

A 1982 graduate of USNA, Adm. Howard reached the highest levels of achievement across several operational sea commands and shore assignments over the course of her 35-year naval career, culminating with her service as Commander, U.S Naval Forces Europe-Africa and Commander, Allied Joint Force Command Naples.  Prior to this final tour, Adm. Howard served as the 38th Vice Chief of Naval Operations.  She retired from the U.S. Navy in 2017.

The formal invitation to our annual dinner with further details will be promulgated to the Chapter closer to the event.  Please plan to attend this evening of camaraderie and tribute to our shared military service, and enjoy what we expect will be a compelling presentation by Admiral Howard.

Save the Date for the 36th Annual Colorado All Service Academy Ball

Posted: 11/10/2018

The 36th Annual Colorado All Service Academy Ball (CASAB) will be held on Friday, December 28, 2018, at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs.  Generous room discounts, explicitly for this event, have been provided by the Broadmoor. Invitations will be sent out in November and reservations with the Broadmoor may be made once you have received your invitation.

This will be an exciting and memorable evening to honor Colorado’s cadets and midshipmen who are presently attending a service academy.  Please refer to the attached flyer for more details.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s CASAB!

CASAB 2018 Save the Date

Scholarship fund established for USS Colorado crew & families

The USS Colorado Commissioning Committee is proud to announce that they have established a $100,000 scholarship fund benefitting the crew and families of USS Colorado (SSN 788). This long-term goal of the Committee was made possible through the generous donations by citizens and companies of Colorado and others who contributed to their fundraising campaign. Each year two $ 2,000 scholarships may be awarded to crew members, former crew members or members of their families. The scholarship fund will be administered by the Dolphin Scholarship Foundation.

Please refer to the press release for more information.

USS Colorado Scholarship Press Release

Navy Women’s Basketball Team vs CU Buffs in Boulder on December 9th!

Posted: 11/6/2018

Now hear this! Now hear this!

Come out to CU-Boulder and support the Navy women’s basketball team as they take on the CU Buffs on Sunday, 9 Dec, at 1300.  Tickets in our reserved section behind the Navy bench are $10.  Order your tickets here:

Meet in the stands for the game or come for brunch beforehand at the CU Center for Community (C4C) dining center:  From the C4C its only a short walk to the Coors Event Center.  It’s an all-you-can-eat cafeteria-style restaurant.  Kid friendly.  Lots of different ethnic and American foods (from Asian and Persian to pizzas, salad bar, burritos and sandwichs). We are planning to meet around 1130 in a seating area just past the Asian Shi Pin and Persian Ghaza dining stations.

In case you haven’t been following the Navy women’s basketball team, be advised that the team is coming off its winningiest season ever and second straight appearance in the WNIT after last year’s 25-8 record and a 13-5 mark in Patriot League conference play. The Mids finished third in the Patriot League’s standings and advanced to the title game of the league tournament for the second year in a row and fifth time in the last eight years.  Navy’s first round WNIT contest versus Virginia Tech was its third WNIT appearance in five years and sixth post-season trip in eight years. The Hokies edged the Mids by one point in Blacksburg on March 16.

Navy and Colorado (15-16, 5-13 in the Pac-12) will go head-to-head for the first time in the programs’ histories.  Stefanie Pemper enters her 11th season as the head coach of the Mids.  She is a two-time Patriot League Coach of the Year and the winningest coach in Navy history.

For questions about tickets or the pre-game brunch, please contact Don Price ’73 at or 443-995-9055.

Come out on December 9th for a good Navy deal–an alumni get together, a Navy win over CU, cheap tickets.  Clearly a good deal you don’t want to miss!

Update on WWI Documentary “They Shall Not Grow Old”

Posted: 10/31/2018

A quick update to our notice about the World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old.  Warner Brothers has bought the international distribution rights and is contemplating a theatrical release before the end of the year.  Incidentally, the one-day release in theaters in the UK scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Fort Collins Area Viewing of the 119th Army-Navy Football Game

Posted: 10/30/2018

Fort Collins area Army & Navy alumni will gather at the The Biergarten in the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, Fort Collins, on Saturday, December 8, for the Second Annual Viewing of the Army/Navy Football Game!  The A-B Brewery is located at 2351 Busch Drive off of Mountain Vista Drive (I-25, Exit 271) in Fort Collins, Colorado.

A-B has seating for 100 people, and RSVP’s will be on a first-come, first-served basis. A final headcount must be submitted by 12/1/18, so reserve your place ASAP. Overflow beyond the first 100 people will be standing room only, up to an additional 85 people.  A-B will be hosting a 5K Sweaty Sweater fun run from 0800-1200 on the 8th. Reserved seating for the A/N game viewing will open thereafter at 1200. Food and drink will be off of a limited menu, with each group responsible for its own tab.  The first round of Budweiser or Bud Light will be on the house for all veterans in attendance. Likewise, A-B will extend a discount for The Biergarten (food and bar) and Gift Shop.

There are several activities to enjoy at the brewery alongside the A/N game viewing.  The last tour of the brewery is at 1600. A-B will also host its Brewery Lights from 1700 to 2100, which includes light displays, complimentary beer tasting, a lighted Christmas tree maze and $1 Christmas train rides for the kiddos, a life-sized Lite Bright, fire pits, and opportunities for the kids to make s’mores over the fire ($10 for two people)!

A-B supports Folds of Honor (, a non-profit charity that provides educational scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled service members. All attendees are encouraged to bring a donation for this worthy charity as a thank you to A-B for hosting our viewing again this year.

We hope to continue to grow our Ft Collins area group and to make this viewing an annual event we can be proud of.  To RSVP or if you’d like to make a donation toward the purchase of lanyards, decorations, and spirit gear, please contact the event organizer, Shannon Bican Sharrock, USMA ’97, directly at (970) 556-4089;

Denver Viewing of 119th Army-Navy Football Game

The Denver West Point Society and Colorado USNA Alumni Association cordially invite you to watch the 119th playing of the Army-Navy game on Saturday, December 8th, 2018. This year’s joint watch party will again be held at the Sports Column located at 1930 Blake Street, Denver, Colorado. Doors will open at 11:00am MST with kickoff at 1:00PM MST. Be sure to arrive early as the bar was nearly full last year. Due to generous donations from both alumni societies and the respective athletic departments of both academies, there will be door prizes given away throughout the game. All attendees will be eligible to win.

This year, for the first time, we will be using online registration so that we can better plan with the Sports Column as well as organizing our various prizes.  Please register your plans to attend at:

As in past years, we are partnering with the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program in an effort to bring some holiday cheer to less fortunate children in the greater Denver area. All monetary donations as well donations of new unwrapped toys will remain at our local Toys for Tots program. Donations of $5 or more will earn a free Coors Light draft courtesy of the Sports Column. Fans who donate $20 or more will be entered into a special drawing for Broncos tickets, Avalanche tickets, Nuggets tickets and other special prizes. An option to donate is available on the eventbrite registration site. If you prefer to donate in person, you can bring cash, check, or a new, unwrapped toy with you to the game. Game day donations of new unwrapped toys will also qualify for the free draft Coors Light.

Please direct general questions/comments to Tim Tacl, USNA ’09 at

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