By Mark Tempest
Howdy! Glad to be here myself, hope you will enjoy a dialogue of sorts with each other and the few of us silly enough to raise our hands when volunteers to be guest bloggers were called for. Now, I’m a long-time fan of Proceedings but it always seemed too remote, too stilted, too brown-nosy to me. I’m thinking this blog ought to allow a little more connectedness, a little more wildness into a discussion about our Navy, our Marines, our Coasties (may they all be 6 feet tall!), our country – our world.
Now, I’m just a retired reserve guy who never served an hour in the Pentagon, but spent some time on deck plates and lots of time working with people who take a very pragmatic attitude toward the tools of their trade. By which I mean people who consider some of Murphy’s Laws of Combat Operations to be a business plan. Worrying about getting the job done is big with them, holding committee meetings – to discuss “leveraging … best practices for a paradigm breaking six-sigma best business case in the global commons, rightsizing the core values supporting our mission statement via the 5-vector model” or whatever the heck Salamander has above his blog – not so much. In short, they don’t like fancy tools that aren’t reliable, and they fully appreciate Murphy’s Rule #6:
“6. If it’s stupid but it works, it isn’t stupid. “
Now, there ought to be a corollary to Rule 6: “Sometimes things appear to work, but are stupid anyway.” This would include setting up anti-elephant garden protection devices in Connecticut (“Look, no elephants!”) or Ron Popeil’s spray on hair product.
Along the lines of the “Connecticut Elephant Protection System” (“CEPS” for the acronym lovers among you), I add the concept of using billion dollar ships to keep an eye on a merchant ship already captured by Somali pirates. Using an Aegis cruiser and a few other expensive ships seems to work – the pirates haven’t moved that ship or its cargo an inch, but . . .
Yeah, I know, Abraham Maslow got it right:
“It is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.”
Maybe we need more than hammers. And we need the other tools now, not when the proposed bevy of $300,000,000 – $600,000,000 (each) Littoral Combat Ships will be available with their full package (which reminds me of another Murphy’s Law – #56. Interchangeable parts aren’t. but that’s for a later discussion).
So, as previously revealed at my blog, but now exposed here for your consideration, a Crazy Idea:
- Take $250 million dollars and put it aside;
- Of that $250 million, use $100 million to buy or lease 50 to 100 offshore crew boats as currently used in the offshore oil industry (many of them are reaching the end of their expected useful life in the industry – you might be able to pick up some bargains).
- Invest $50 million in refurbishing the boats and in getting weapons for their decks. Turn them into “navalized” vessels. Make 22 knots the minimum acceptable speed.
- Do not try to make these low cost littoral combat ships into battleships for all conditions. Talk to the LCDRs who will be squadron commanders and the LTs who will be the commanding officers about what they would need to provide a presence, fight in a low threat environment against modestly armed pirates and the like, support occasional missions ashore and interdict drug smuggler semi-submersibles. Give them what they need in terms of state of the art comms using COTS (heck, load put a communication van on board so that no time is wasted trying to rewire the little ships more than needed). Put in some comfortable berthing suited for the sea states in which these things (I call them Special Purpose Vessels or SPVs) will operate.
- Under no cirmcumstance should the total U.S. Navy investment in any single SPV exceed $2 million, excluding the cost of adding weapons systems (adding a M-1 Abrams, for example) and the personnel costs.
- Make the project a 12 month “emergency” – and kill the bureacracy that would ordinarily take on this job – find a hard charging Captain, make him or her report directly to SecNav and tell them what the mission and the budget will be. Then get out of the way except for monthly status reports.
- Find a group of O-3s who are ready for command and who can think for themselves and train the heck out of them by letting them go to sea in the type of ships that you are acquiring, let them learn from the masters of current offshore supply and crew vessels. Find some O-4s who can take hold of the idea of being a squadron commander of a 5 ship squardron and train them in mission like that being conducted by the Africa station.
- Borrow some Army Rangers or fleet Marines and train them in the ship boardings, small boat ops, shipboard firefighting and ship defense. Treat them like the Marines of old. Stress people skills appropriate for counterterrorism work.
- Lease some ships to be used as “tenders” for the SPVs – small container ships on which the containers can be shops, supply warehouses, refrigerator units, etc. Bladders for fuel. Use the Arapaho concept to set up a flight deck for helo ops.
- Be generous with UAV assets – use the small “net recoverable” types.
- Don’t limit the small boat assets to RHIBs. Experiement with M-ships, small go-fasts captured from drug dealers, whatever. The idea is to have boats that can operate in one sea state worse than the pirates, drug smugglers, etc.
- Use the MIUW van concept for adding some sonar capability. TIS/VIS is a necessity.
Start with a couple of squadrons, tell your O-6 that you want them ready in 6 months for operational testing. Unleash the budget dollars. For op testing, send one squadron off to the coast of Somalia for anti-pirate work. Send the other off Iraq. Put those expensive great big cruisers and destroyers currently in the area to work doing blue water stuff.
Paint a Coast Guard like stripe on the hull of the SPVs – but make it Navy blue. If the Coasties want to join in, give them a boat and paint the stripe orange. Make the SPVs highly visible. Nothing deters crime like a visible cop on the beat.
Show the flag.
See also here.
Now, let’s have a discussion.
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- A Defense of the Millennial Officer from an Old Guy
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- Live on Midrats 17 August 2014: Episode 241: Personnel Policy and Leadership, with VADM Bill Moran, Chief of Naval Personnel
- The Virtue of Being a Generalist, Part 1: A Day in the Life of Sub Lieutenant Snodgrass