Showing posts with label U.S. Navy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label U.S. Navy. Show all posts

14 September 2022

Fat Leonard

Fat Leonard is the worst U.S. Navy scandal since Tailhook.  And while Tailhook was about sex – not sex, per se, but the toxic fratboy, locker-room culture of carrier aviation – Fat Leonard is about greed, with a side order of espionage, and general embarrassment all around.

Leonard Francis headed up Glenn Marine, a Singapore-based maritime services contractor.  Over a period beginning roughly in 2006 (but probably earlier) and lasting until Leonard’s arrest in 2013, Glenn Marine and its subsidiaries provided port security and other infrastructure support to the U.S. Seventh Fleet.  During that time, NCIS, the Navy’s criminal investigators, opened twenty-seven separate inquiries into Glenn Marine, and then closed every single one, without result.  It’s probably impossible to calculate how many millions DoD and the Navy got burned for. 

The fraudulent billing, and the ongoing security failure, continued for all those years because Leonard and his team infiltrated and compromised Navy chain of command.  Defense industry procurement is ripe for abuse.  No-bid contracts are common.  Leonard bribed admirals.  Cash, travel, luxury gifts, escort services.  What he got in return was inside information about ship deployments and naval maneuvers, much of it classified.  He was able to redirect Navy vessels to ports controlled by Glenn Marine, and overbilled for fuel, food, water, and sewage removal.  

To date, five naval personnel have been court-martialed, and twenty-eight have pled guilty in federal court.  This number includes eleven admirals, thirteen captains, a Marine Corps colonel and an NCIS special agent, and a few hapless lower ranks.  Logistics, operations, systems, supply, the entire food chain.  The point being that it wasn’t just money leaking through the cracks.  These guys gave away the U.S. defense posture in the Pacific - the Order of Battle, generally – but more specifically, ship positions and readiness, an enormous intelligence advantage to any potential adversary. 

Now, whether Leonard was or is under the discipline of Chinese state security is speculation, but information is currency.  Leonard was lining his pockets, and maybe saving for a rainy day.   

Leonard had been in custody in San Diego, awaiting sentencing.  He was under house arrest and wearing an ankle monitor.  He was subject to round-the-clock surveillance.  A week ago Sunday, he discarded his ankle monitor and slipped away.  He was missing for seven hours before the U.S. Marshals Service was alerted.  Not to belabor the obvious, but San Diego is a forty-minute drive from Mexico.  You do the math.  Fat Leonard’s in the wind.

23 July 2022

Women in the Military: From History to Mystery

 Okay, this post isn't really by moi.  I'm merely fronting for my good friend here.

It is my pleasure to introduce Alison Bruce to all you SleuthSayers!  Alison is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada (yes, she took over from me a few years ago, bless her!)  With a dad who was in the Canadian Navy, and a British mother who was in the Royal Observer Corp during WW-II, her take on using history to embrace story-telling is particularly inspiring, I think.  Take it away, Alison!

Women in the Military:  From History to Mystery

by Alison Bruce

My favourite teacher of my favourite subject knocked the academic wind out of my sales in grade thirteen.  He told me, "You'll never be an historian."

I was hurt, angry, and determined to prove him wrong.

It turned out he was correct.  After graduating with a double major in history and philosphy, I finally got it.  I write stories, not history.

I decided to do my undergraduate thesis on women in the military in World War 1 and 11.  The focus would be World War 11 because my aunt was in the British Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS).  I grew up listening to the war experiences of my aunt, mother (Observer Corps) and grandmother (first time in the workforce.)  Unlike Nana and Mum, however, my aunt kept in touch with the women she served with. With their help, the bulk of the paper was going to be based on the stories of women in the military.

They were able to reach out to friends of friends and post my call for volunteers locally, something I couldn't do in Canada.  (This was the 1980s.  No World Wide Web to access.)

If I'd had enough time to gather more stories,I might have written a good popular history book.  But, as my academic advisor pointed out, I didn't have enough primary research other than stories.

That was okay.  By this time I had added Philosophy as a second major, and had given up on the idea of teaching because of the horror stories I was hearing from friends.  (What do you mean I would be expected to wear  pantyhose and a skirt or dress?) I had also started my second novel.  (I lost the first one in the woman's washroom at college.)

Fast forward a quarter century.  I still love to research history, or almost anything else, but prefer to write stories.  I've used research to write a mystery set in the old west, a romance set in the American Civil War, three mysteries set in Canada, and one in the Arctic Ocean involving the US and Canadian Navies.  Now I'm going back to the stories that put me on the road to becoming a writer.

I don't know of any author who has written about being in the Royal Observer Corps.  If you do know of such a book, fiction or nonfiction, please let me know in the comments.  It was made up of volunteers except for a few naval officers who ran the outfit.  My mother's tales of her service were largely self-deprecating, but that just makes them tailor-made for storytelling.  And all those stories I listened to when I was writing my paper?  Grist for the mill.  I only wish my professor was still alive so I could send her a copy of the book...when I finally finish it.

Alison Bruce is the Executive Director of Crime Writers of Canada. She writes history, mystery, and suspense.  Her books combine clever mysteries, well-researched backgrounds, and a touch of romance. Four of her novels have been finalists for genre awards.


In her role as ghostwriter, Jen Kirby joins a Canadian Arctic expedition to document and help solve a forty-year-old mystery involving an American submarine station lost during the Cold War. The trouble is, there are people—living and dead—who don't want the story told, and they’ll do anything to stop her. 

26 October 2016

Beam Me Up, Scotty

We had a lot of sailors in town earlier this month. It was Fleet Week, here in Baltimore. Saturday and Sunday, events were capped off with an air show featuring the Blue Angels. I don't know about you, but F-18's doing 600 knots, right down on the deck? There's something purely atavistic going on, the warrior gene, maybe, all that brute hardware, so disciplined and graceful.

The really big deal, though, at least from the Navy's point of view, was the commissioning of the USS Zumwalt. It's a stealth warship, the first of a new destroyer class. There have been some issueswhich leave room for discussion.

First, some background. People of a certain age might remember Elmo Zumwalt, who was Chief of Naval Operations in the early 1970's. Zumwalt did his best to drag the US Navy, kicking and screaming, into the 19th century - with mixed results. He wasn't universally admired at the time. You have to realize the Navy has always been the most traditional, not to say hidebound, of the services. The admirals resist systemic change. They've probably waxed nostalgic on occasion for press gangs, rum, and flogging. Bud Zumwalt seriously tried to alter course, and combat the Navy's institutional racism and dogged resistance to women serving in billets previously restricted to men. His other major legacy is the Perry-class guided missile frigate.
Back to the destroyer Zumwalt. These are larger ships than the conventional destroyer, displacing half again the tonnage - sorry for the techspeak - but designed to have a very low radar profile. You can see how different the hull shape is, looking at pictures, and the inverted bow. The superstructure's unconventional, no visible bridge or even antenna array. It's built to be frictionless in the electronic sense, with no recognizable signature. They say its footprint on a scope is the size of a torpedo boat.
As you can imagine, the R&D wasn't without problems. Much of the modern battlefield is digitally rendered, and we have the example of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, whose development has been characterized as "acquisition malpractice." USS Zumwalt followed a path originally charted back in 1994, for a new class of surface combatant ships. The goalposts moved, budgets were cut, different war-fighting doctrines found or lost favor - in other words, there was twenty years of whose ox is gored. Given the necessary compromises, it's some kind of miracle that the Zumwalt was built (although there will only be three of them, in the end), and launched, and went through sea trials, and is actually entering service. It is, everybody admits, a real Space Age vessel.
It's a nice irony, I was taking pains to point out, that Elmo Zumwalt, a CNO who was so vigorously opposed on so many levels inside the Navy (not too many old salts pissed off Hyman Rickover and lived to tell the tale), gets the ship of the near future named after him. It's appropriate, though. He would have gotten a kick out of it.

Also appropriate. USS Zumwalt, the ship of the future, is skippered by a Navy captain named James Kirk. I kid you not. The guy has a sense of humor. At the Zumwalt's commissioning ceremony, Capt. Kirk said to the crowd, "Live Long and Prosper."

That's him.