2946-11-12 - Editor's Loudspeaker: The Great Purge

The pundits are calling the fallout from the New Rheims scandal "The Great Purge of the Admirals," and it seems at this point the term has stuck, despite its overwrought hyperbole. To date, barely five percent of the Confederated Navy's staff-level officers have been affected as of this writing, and among the captain grades, the number affected is more like one in four thousand; it is only the vast size of the naval edifice that makes the "Purge" seem so massive.

It is true however, and quite concerning, that a number of the most experienced admirals are choosing now to make their exit from military service, and that this includes a number of well-known names who probably didn't have anything to do with Block A50. Most of the senior officers who served in the Brushfire War have been implicated (likely having, as Samuel Bosch did, returned from the brief conflict with a favorable impression of war-fighting automatons), and many of the older senior officers still in the service who served in the conflicts in the aftermath of the Terran-Rattanai War have decided to take early retirement, likely sensing that their relative freedom of action up to this point is to be constrained by increased Congressional oversight.

All of these officers surely have personally groomed favorite subordinates to succeed them, as is common practice in the Navy, so the brain-drain is not likely to prove as disastrous as some of the doom-sayers prefer to lament. It is possible that some of these successors may also fall in time to the continued revelations around Block A50; of more concern than the first-wave resignations is the frenetic pressure around the issue which encourages the officers involved to save a fragment of their own reputations by providing lists of others who were more important to the secret project than themselves. With these revelations moving so quickly, it's far too likely that some innocent men and women will be named and forced out as well.

I fear Delegate Nisi-Bonn is beginning to overstep badly, though I sympathize with her reasoning. A populated world was fired upon by an automated warship during the incident; it is only by good fortune that the world the rogue vessel targeted was a thinly populated colony. Still, in its zeal to root out every officer who put Confederated civilians at risk, it is possible the committee will smear the names of officers who were not involved, especially at the middle-seniority levels. In the long run, this is a minor tragedy compared to what might have happened if New Rheims were a more populous world, but I hope Ms. Nisi-Bonn treats every accusation in successive waves of testimony with a healthy degree of skepticism.

Interestingly enough, Samuel Bosch seems to have weathered the storm so far, despite seeming to be involved on both sides of this issue. His ship, the light cruiser Arrowhawk, has been in the Naval Yards here at Centauri since a few weeks after the New Rheims incident, and is scheduled to be out for trials with its supporting squadron in a few days. If he's still captain during trials, it's likely he's going to emerge from this largely unscathed. I'm still not sure whether he deserves any blame for Block A50, but since the committee isn't screaming for his head, the political class doesn't seem to have any of the same doubts I do.

2946-10-22 – Editor’s Loudspeaker: New Rheims Fallout, Supplemental Report

Sylja Nisi-Bonn’s committee in Congress released an expanded report earlier today which reflects her staff gaining access to the records of the Navy’s research projects, secret and otherwise. I found it sufficiently interesting to summarize here, but I encourage our readers to locate and look it up themselves.

According to this report, Block A50, the project which resulted in a rogue prototype and the destruction of New Rheims was run by one Colonel Papke, of whom I can find no public news record or profile on the Centauran datasphere. The project was initiated in 2931 with two ships otherwise fit only for surplus: a light cruiser and a frigate whose hull numbers I cannot find.

The objective was at first to produce a full-scale warship which could be operated at full capability, including combat, with only the bridge and command deck crews. Repair and maintenance automation were the focus of the project until early 2940, at which point it seems that there was a change in focus, and the project began to experiment with a fully automated design with, at first, only a lone crew member – the commander. Later, even this onboard control measure was made optional; the ships were configured for full autonomy. It was these 2942 changes which began to violate the Treaty of Scherer, and it seems the Block A50 staff were aware of the illegality of their efforts, and increased their secrecy.

The vessel which caused the catastrophe at New Rheims was evidently the project’s cruiser prototype, which suffered some sort of technical fault while being moved under its own power to the Navy’s Cajetan evaluation range, charged its star drive, and disappeared. This was four days before it appeared off New Rheims, for its ultimately fatal confrontation with a Naval Survey Auxiliary training unit and Samuel Bosch’s patrol squadron. For four days, large portions of the Navy hierarchy knew that they had lost a fully-armed, AI-controlled warship, and no attempt to raise the alarm was made.

It was to prevent exactly this sort of accident for which the automation provisions of the Treaty of Scherer were drafted; as such, Colonel Papke and anyone else who can be linked to the project’s later phase could legitimately be called war criminals, if this were not a peacetime incident.

The Treaty has, until now, largely had no effect on the Navy; the ability of well-trained human personnel to repeatedly change the terms of engagement in order to fool the most optimally configured automated weapon has been a universally acknowledged fact at least since the Corona Wars of the 26th century. Early 2942 would be shortly after the end of the Brushfire War; I can only conclude that the actions of the automated flotilla of Cold Refuge (who obviously are not signatories to the treaty) during the final battles of that conflict might have suggested to some military minds that fully automated warships had a place in the Navy’s line of battle.

I did some independent research on the Navy’s interactions with the Cold Refuge flotilla, and discovered a familiar name – Samuel Bosch. Evidently, Bosch, who served in the Brushfire War, wrote a very favorable report on the military usefulness of the Cold Refuge flotilla, and recommended research into adopting some of their methods in Navy service. He did acknowledge the limitations of the Treaty, of course; his recommendations were carefully written to fall within treaty restrictions.

I now wonder whether my analysis on the fourteenth (Editor’s Loudspeaker: New Rheims Fallout, Events in Yaxkin City) regarding Bosch’s role in the whole scandal was not accurate; it’s likely his report was part of the reason for the change in focus for the Block A50 effort.

2946-10-17 – Editor’s Loudspeaker: New Rheims Fallout: Admiralty Council Resignations

This morning it was announced that all three members of the Navy’s Admiralty Council have announced their resignations following recent revelations about the New Rheims Disaster. Whether this is a tacit admission that they knew all along about the project in violation of the weapons-autonomy provisions of the Treaty of Scherer, acceptance of the fact that the Navy went too far in attempting to cover up the fiasco, or the victory of one faction in the Navy over another, we may never know.

Several other high-ranking officers, including Madara Kruse, the director of the War College who happens to be the last veteran of the Terran-Rattanai War to remain in Navy service, have also announced their resignations. It is being speculated that not all the resignations are of the perpetrators and enablers of the illegal project which destroyed New Rheims; faced with the prospect of a move for Congressional oversight of more of the Navy’s activities in the wake of this scandal, this is probably seen as a good time for senior officers nearing retirement to bow out of the service.

The Naval Survey Auxiliary, reasonably kept completely in the dark about the Navy’s black projects (after all, you don’t even have to be a citizen of one of the Confederated Worlds to join the Auxiliary), has been exempted from the Congressional military funding freeze, as of a measure passed this morning, and its normal activities are resuming. This is a good thing (there are many members of the Naval Survey Auxiliary among this audience, and they provide plenty of content for both Sovanna’s Feedback Loop shows and my own Tales from the Inbox), as it means that the process of opening new Frontier worlds for colonization does not need to wait for the rest of the political process here on Planet to work itself out.

As I mentioned a few days ago, it seems likely that a minority faction within the Navy broke with their chiefs to side with the civilian government over this issue; the coming weeks will show us whether the faction responsible for the whole fiasco retains sufficient power to retaliate against the officers who defied them.

2946-10-14 – Editor’s Loudspeaker: New Rheims Fallout: Showdown at Congress

What just happened in front of the Congress building in Yaxkin City was nothing short of amazing. It’s the middle of the night here, but Sovanna, Ashton, and I have been in the studio since the end of our usual day, watching the goings-on at Congress from the beginning. Congress was not suspended, the Navy’s budget has been withheld pending a proper house-cleaning, and all three members of the Admiralty Council are said to be preparing letters of resignation. I suspect that the rest of the story is being swept, in order that the Confederated Worlds presents a united front.

Prior to the vote, a few dozen Navy troopers, fully armed and armored, arrived in Yaxkin City and took up defensive positions. Flipping between camera drone feeds, we determined from the unit patches on the troopers’ armor that they were the Marine compliment of Samuel Bosch’s Arrowhawk. Some time later, as the motion to cut funding was being read out in Congress, a much larger force of similarly equipped Navy troopers entered the city, bearing the unit insignias of the battleships Mercia and Koresh. They were halted by the Arrowhawk Marines and met by Bosch himself. After a long and obviously tense conversation which seemed at times almost to devolve into fratricidal gunfire, the new troops fanned out to form a second defensive ring around the city center until the Congressional session ended several hours later.

The official story is that, because of the risk of unrest, Confederated Navy troopers were dispatched from several of the warships in the yards and in orbit to keep the peace around the capitol complex, and it seems that most of the news feeds that are going out along the HyperCast Relay network have adopted this narrative. For those of us on Planet who were watching live, however, it’s clear that this story is not a complete description of what happened.

Nobody in the Navy will ever corroborate this, but what I suspect we witnessed was nothing less than an attempted Naval coup (using the excuse of the Navy’s Article 6 powers) foiled not by civilian officials, but by a faction inside the Navy, represented by, though probably not led by, Captain Bosch.

Ashton is trying to get an interview with Bosch, but I don’t expect him to be successful; it’s only too apparent that it would be career suicide for the man to go to the media with his version of recent events.