Sunday, May 23, 2021


It triggered the long ago memories of working at a weird place. It revolved around the command pin I wore there. I was perhaps one of a 5 commanders in all of San Diego to wear the trident. I had no direct peers at SPAWAR. The half dozen men entitled perhaps to wear it there were the captains who were actual Program Managers Warfare. They were all captains or GS15/SES. Their deputies were all captains or SES. At SPAWAR I was unusual as a lowly commander wearing one, but unremarked.

I started out there on a whim in PMW 182. We were the Surface Towed Array Surveillance Sytem code. A program so black it took until the New York Times decided to let the Russians know that we could detect, track, follow, kill their submarines using nothing but their radiated sound. I think SURTASS vessels are still out there. They can listen to a million square miles of ocean and pick out things of interest. Well, maybe not the ships. It's the girls and guys working ashore with zillion dollar computers that do the discriminating. Those places used to be called ASWOCs and FNMOCs. God knows what they are now. I always thought the rating name was supreme. Yep, they were called Ocean Technicians.

While working under the Aegis of SURTASS we were a much smaller semi-black program. All that we did was in the white world but the funding from Congress was through OPN plusups from a former Marine turned Congressman from that part of PA that lost to a flood made memorable in Captains Courageous. Out of that obscure funding source, we were a black program that the old cong ran for decades in the dead black SCI world known as Office of Special Technology.

Down the hall was the old SOSUS as it closed out at the end of the Cold War. Beyond them was the green door where whatever replaced SOSUS lived. Up the hall was the Advanced Deployable System which couldn't decide if it was going with all optical arrays or shark food as they wondered who would be there to bite the bottom laid arrays because sharks and other undersea biters don't like them some electric current. Neither do other fish. They're death on electrically powered arrays in the ocean. We got shopped to PMW 157 which was Command and Control Warfare Systems and mostly featured spending $1 billion on something called GCCS which was taking over from the old system I remember but never really saw, WWMCCS. It became a little bit obvious that GCCS was an enormous boondoggle when their reps came back from Ul Adeid and said nobody at the Air War Command Center ever heard of it, used it or cared about it. It was the 'master' program that took and integrated information from over 500 other programs that kind of did fire control and intel gathering. Unlike the FDS, SOSUS and SURTASS, GCCS wasn't a black program. It was a billion dollar boondoggle in search of a problem/user. They might of had some sense of the failure of the idea if they actually went to 5th Fleet or 7th Fleet and enquired about their means of exercising control over battle groups. They'd have been shocked to learn it was mostly old time message traffic and POTS. Want to know what a POTS is? Plain Old Telephone System. Once INMARSAT went live the ability reach out to the fleet at sea went to a whole new level. I don't think it was a good thing but inevitable. One really didn't need to have at one's fingertips the ability to do oversigth and control over 600 million other programs that actually did the whole killing and control bit. They blinked when Noble Eagle bit them hard and nobody professed any need. It really hurt when OEF and OIF kicked off and they saw the super-trooper elite riding donkeys to war and started to think, maybe, they had misjudged things a little. They're still there and they still get probably as much a 1% of what Biden will send to the poor Palestinians.


  1. Acronyms people, acronyms.

    I know pretty much what all of this is because I spent my Navy career as an STS - Sonar Technician, Submarines. However, to anybody else outside of the "family", this entire post might as well have been written in abbreviated Latin, right up there on a monument in ancient Rome.

  2. You are absolutely right but sometimes I yield to impulse. I'll fix it in a bit.

    1. And to be honest I never even mentioned TPFDD.