From a “disciple” of the famous Col. John Boyd, Chuck Spinney, comes Reductio Ad Absurdum, Navy Style:
An utterly convincing testimonial, from an expert witness with flawless credentials, regarding the benefits of quality over quantity for the fleet:
âThe U.S. commander in charge of the waters off Somalia, Vice Adm. Bill Gortney, told CNN on Monday that he thought it would take a force of 61 warships to safeguard the sea lanes just in the Gulf of Aden, compared with the 14 international ships now patrolling off the Horn of Africa. If the U.S. Navy alone had to provide a force that size, it would take every destroyer and cruiser in the fleet, plus three frigates. ( Navy Times, 12/09/08 )â
Pierre continues: In other words, the USNâs pursuit of ever more âcapableâ ships has provided America with a fleet that is incapable of handling the Somali pirates.
Spinneyâs comment: In January, it is my understanding that the Pentagon will request a budget of about $581 billion for its core budget, i.e., not including the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Department of the Navyâs share of this budget should be something on the order of $150-160 billion a year, yet Admiral Gortney is telling us that securing the Horn of Africa from a gang of rag tag Somali pirates will take every cruiser and destroyer in the Navy plus 3 or its Frigates. This means the Navy would not enough surface warships left over to configure the normal defense screen for even one carrier battle group. Since the United States is spending about as much on defense as the rest of the world combined, Gortneyâs confession raises a basic question about about the Pentagonâs competence to do its job.
‘Course, Mr. Spinney hasn’t studied at the Department of Crazy Ideas lately.
Let’s have a discussion.
UPDATE: Is quantity vs quality the real issue here? If we had 80 more Aegis cruisers wouldn’t the issue still be having the right force to meet the sort of threat posed by Somali pirates in small boats that look just like the normal fishing fleet? Is this a fire power issue or an issue akin to dealing with an insurgency ashore – (as in Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife)- somewhat like Market Time operations off Vietnam? (For those of you who don’t recall Market Time, here’s a quick look. How do we build flexibility into our Navy to allow such missions to be undertaken on the cheap? Or has the Navy become too bound to “big gray hulls” to think creatively about these small wars green water missions and how to win them on the cheap. For pirate monitoring activity, I argue the big cruisers, destroyers, LHA/LHD whatever are exactly the wrong vessels – where are the real “small boys” when we need them? A destroyer that is bigger than the old battleship Texas just doesn’t cut it.
The U.S. Coast Guard knows this – which is why they have so many small patrol boats for U.S. domestic waters. Can you imagine a Burke-class destroyer being used to tow a broken down pleasure boat? Or enforcing fishing laws?
Further, we need to get our young crews (officers/chiefs/junior petty officers) involved in small boat/ship operations. Is anyone seriously projecting that the next war at sea will be a totally blue water affair? History tells us that is really unlikely. Sea battles are fought for and near land. We need to prepare for battle in the littorals, the straits, the chokepoints and in green water. And to prepare we need to get experience for our future leaders.
As Captain Wayne Hughes wrote in Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat (p.290):
I have yet to find a rationale for sending large, expensive and highly capable warships into contested coastal waters unless they can take several hits and continue fighting without missing a beat … It is better to fight fire with fire using expendable, missile carrying aircraft or small surface craft.
We need to train those small surface craft skippers and crews now and develop tactics and skill sets. Why? You fight like you train: “You won’t rise to the occasion â you’ll default to your level of training,” as some wise head once wrote.
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- Midrats 21 Sept 14 – Episode 246: “When the short snappy war goes long, with Chris Dougherty”
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- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN