RougheadSeptember 29th marked the second anniversary of Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO of the Navy. I have only shared about 30 words with the CNO. It was a brief introduction of myself and my wife at one of those famous free beer gatherings with sailors, and 30 words was about all I was able to manage before being rushed over by the CNO to meet the public affairs folks on his staff. Hardly surprising, 10 minutes later I was told by one of his staff members that my blog is seen as part of the modern Navy insurgency. In 10 years we will find out if the Navy blogosphere as the insurgency was a good thing or not.

September 29th passed without any discussion on the internet of the CNOs anniversary, except on the CNOs own Facebook page where he mentioned the anniversary in passing. Two years later, it is time for a review of where the Navy was before Admiral Roughead became CNO and where the Navy is now.

It should be noted that the Chief of Naval Operations for the US Navy is one of the toughest jobs in the world. My job description for CNO of the Navy is: the primary leadership position of the organization responsible for defending the global economic system. Unfortunately, successful execution of the job relative to strategy during maritime peace does not influence the perception of how effective the CNO is, because in today’s economically driven political environment the CNO is a job defined by budgets.

Let us review where the Navy was on September 28th, 2007. In 2007 the Congressional Budget Office was estimating the Navy 313-ship fleet plan shipbuilding budget would cost roughly 35% more per year than the Navy was estimating in budget submissions to Congress. The direction of the Navy in 2007 was being driven by Seapower 21. The Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, signed by all three maritime service leaders, was less than a month old. The 313-ship shipbuilding plan (PDF) of the Navy, as laid out by the previous CNO Admiral Mike Mullen, was dependent upon the achievement of all 5 of the following goals:

  • The Navy’s overall budget needed to remain more or less flat (not decline) in real (inflation-adjusted) terms.
  • Navy Operation and Maintenance (O&M) spending needed to remain flat (not grow) in real terms.
  • Navy Military Personnel (MilPer) spending needed to remain flat (not grow) in real terms.
  • Navy research and development (R&D) spending needed to decrease from recent levels and remain at the decreased level over the long run.
  • Navy ships needed to be built at the Navy’s currently estimated prices.

The plan left to Admiral Roughead was unrealistic and impossible to execute. In 2007, the Navy had 279 ships, 40 fewer than the beginning of 2000, and that was after the Navy had already shrunk by 230 ships in the 1990s. Shipbuilding was a complete disaster when ADM Roughead became CNO. When you factor in the cancellations to the Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy procured only 4 ships in FY 2006, 5 ships in FY 2007, and 3 ships in FY 2008 in the three budget cycles before ADM Roughead became CNO; an average of only 4 ships a year. When taking a historical view, Admiral Gary Roughead became Chief of Naval Operations when the fleet was the smallest it had been since 1916.

So what has ADM Gary Roughead achieved in two years?

During his first testimony in the House as CNO on December 13, 2007, Gene Taylor looked at ADM Roughead when discussing the Navy’s new maritime strategy and said:

“It’s a nice, really slick brochure — at the end of the day, it didn’t do so much for our country.”

Later, according to Gene Taylor himself in a late July 2008 hearing, it was revealed that ADM Roughead had a private meeting with Gene Taylor (probably that same day) with the suggestion to truncate the DDG-1000 and build DDG-51s again. In a nutshell, you can sum up the first two years of ADM Gary Roughead by these two events. On the public side, ADM Gary Roughead has been publicly taking it on the chin for all the things people get frustrated with the Navy about, and on the private side ADM Gary Roughead has been working behind the scenes, constantly making very difficult and always controversial decisions, to put the Navy on a solid foundation to build forward from.

My assessment is that ADM Gary Roughead has completely changed the Navy in just two years, and that action has made him a lot of enemies. The Navy rejects any changes as an instinct. ADM Roughead has completely blown up the DDG-1000 program, the centerpiece program of the 21st century surface combatant program and one of the cornerstones of Seapower 21. Truncating the DDG-1000 program to three ships, he has restarted the DDG-51 program to insure cost certainty and stability in high end surface combatant shipbuilding. Under his watch the Littoral Combat Ship program has been under constant stress and change. Not only have at least 5 LCS hulls requested in previous budgets been canceled, but the acquisition plan for the LCS has changed every year since construction on the first ship started. The plan for 16 Maritime Prepositioning Force (MPF) ships has been canceled, wiping out the Sea Basing industry driven concepts that emerged in 2006, and formed another cornerstone of Seapower 21. The Future Cruiser Replacement program known as CG(X) has been pushed out several years to insure design maturity and reset the requirements for the ship (both DDG-1000 and LCS have been criticized primarily due to the requirements planning process, which drove the cost of both programs for questionable capabilities like stealth and speed respectively).

The Expeditionary Strike Group concept, another Seapower 21 cornerstone, has been tossed out – primarily because it never worked. In just two years, ADM Gary Roughead has erased poor decisions by his predecessors; truncated, changed, and even eliminated poorly executed programs; and is on the verge of revealing a completely new direction for the Navy at the very end of a decade that will be remembered in Navy history as the lost decade.

As Chief of Naval Operations, Gary Roughead has already stood up one numbered fleet, the 4th Fleet, and is expected to stand up a second numbered fleet, the 10th Fleet, in October 2009. Under Gary Roughead, the US Navy has implemented Combined Task Force (CTF) 151 and has developed a joint coordination center in CENTCOM that has brought together one of the largest international naval cooperation in history to join most of the worlds major military and economic powers in fighting the shared threat of piracy, a process that unquestionably represents precision execution of the Navy’s new maritime strategy.

All four of the Navy’s new SSGNs have made their first deployment under Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO. The Navy now provides nearly half the total strike airpower for close air support of troops in Afghanistan under ADM Roughead, and there are more uniformed Navy personnel on the ground as individual augmentees supporting forces on the ground in CENTCOM than there are sailors on ships at sea. The Navy has not experienced a single major scandal since ADM Roughead became CNO.

What is really amazing, to me anyway, is that ADM Roughead has done this with a Secretary of Defense who, despite numerous speeches and articles, has never once indicated he is even interested in the Navy from a strategic perspective. Just as amazing, ADM Gary Roughead has successfully changed the Navy under a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who is legitimately partially responsible for the mess the Navy was in when ADM Gary Roughead took over the job.

ADM Gary Roughead took over as CNO under impossible conditions and circumstances on paper, and has executed his plan to put the Navy on a solid footing heading into the second decade of the 21st century. I have no idea what the new administration or the Secretary of Defense thinks of Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO, but I do know one thing: Gary Roughead was handed an impossible situation and has guided the Navy through the minefield to make the future Navy look a lot more possible, and whether one approves or disapproves of how he has done it, or the direction he is steering the ship…

He has earned the chance to execute his vision now that the Navy is finally emerging from the failed vision of his predecessors.




Posted by galrahn in Uncategorized


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  • Cap’n Bill

    Sharp analysis. I believe it to be overdue. It seems clear that the CNO is adept at private, back room cnversations that can prove helpful for his Navy.
    I do wish that we citizens could get a better appreciation of this CNO who seems to have the Navy on track. I don’t look for a shining halo but it would be helpful to have access to a greater background for this important person.

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    Mmmm, at this point in time referring to a raucous little column of comments in a history and current events site run by an organization of fans and former players of the USN/USMC (AKA this scurvy crew of cutthroats) as the naval INSURGENCY says something.

    It says the horseholders and straphangers at the USN head shed are, at least in part, thin skinned and intellectually unilluminated.

    It’s also a very pretty backhanded complement to we few, we happy few, we scurvy band of cutthroats. Somebody thinks our foolishness matters.

    Congratulations to ADM Roughhead from a fossilized and out of touch kibbitzer. So far all the dead bodies on the deck had it coming, programatically speaking. They also serve who have to clean up what’s on deck after the pipe broke, before they can put in the pretty new tile, terrazzo, stainless steel and formica. So to speak.

    He’s made a good start. Just keep the refurbishment durable, functional and efficient. We can’t afford and don’t need any plastic flowers in gold painted tin wall sconces, or false bulkheads over the fire main valves. Metaphorically speaking.

    Sorry if we seemed too impatient. Happy dragon slaying for the rest of your term.

    We await your arrival in our merry band, after your retirement.

  • Prof Gene

    In his CNO Guidance of Nov 2008, ADM Roughead said (third para) “As we execute the imperatives of the Maritime Strategy, we must continue to stimulate innovation, encourage confident risk-taking, and inculcate the culture of command that has been the foundation of our Navy’s sucesses for more than two centuries.”

    Clearly, the hardware issues the Navy faces have overwhelmed the people issues, as both the Nov 2008 CNO Guidance and the Sep 2009 CNO Guidance are seriously lacking in action items to execute this vision for 21st Century Navy leaders. But building future leaders of the force is a critical task, and it’s worth asking where we stand on stimulating innovation, confident risk-taking and inculcating a culture of command going forward. Those are essential elements of our heritage from “Six Frigates” through the war on terror. How are we doing?

    Action items completed so far on this CNO’s watch:
    – Re-aligned Senior Enlisted Academy under the Naval War College to strengthen enlisted professional military education and allow SEA to further benefit from its cross-base relationship with NWC.
    – Disestablished Center for Naval Leadership and folded its functions into Center for Personal & Professional Development (saved a dozen billets or so).
    – Transitioned enlisted leadership courses for PO1 and PO2 from week-long (formerly 2-week long) classroom courses to command-delivered training (saving a hundred or so billets by shifting the training load to individual commands).
    – Shortened the JFMCC/CFMCC course from seven days to five (the Flag students no longer need to be in class on the weekend).
    – Stood up the 5-week Maritime Staff Operator’s Course to teach planning and joint operations to officers and chiefs rolling to fleet staffs without completing JPME I (over 300 students in the first year).
    – Achieved preliminary accreditation for a Maritime Operations Center at each numbered fleet HQ.
    – Issued a Navy Ethos statement to help bind all Navy personnel together in a culture of selfless service.

    The issues of innovation, risk aversion and culture of command clearly require more focus. This seems like an appropriate venue to discuss what the CNO can do over the remainder of his term to strengthen the Navy in those areas.

  • Cap’n Bill

    I just read the October 2009 MILITARY OFFICER published by MOAA. It contains a feature interview with CNO. He speaks to accomplishments of first two years and plans for final time as CNO. Altogether a pretyy good read. Mentioned in passing is that “Congress backed us” when Navy changed its plans to build more DDG-51 ships and truncate DDG1000.
    Interesting there was no mention of the LCS and its part in growing the Navy to 313 ships from the 283 cited in the MILITARY OFFICER piece.

  • UltimaRatioReg

    Here’s a lesson ADM Roughead might share with the civilian leadership:

    Stop whining to the world and blaming your predecessor for the mess you say you inherited when you put your hand in the air.

    Just sayin’.

  • USNVO

    While I admire ADM Roughead and believe that he has been a good CNO, the praise is a little over the top. To provide a slightly less complimentary counterpoint.
    – Truncating the DDG-1000 program began long before the current CNO, and the comments on DDG-51 boil down basically to “We have no other plan, so we will build DDG-51s until we do have a plan”. I would note that under the current CNO the Department of the Navy has not submitted a 30-year shipbuilding plan with its budget request in the last 2 years despite being required by law to do so. The ongoing LCS, MPF-F, and CG-X saga is just another example of not having a workable plan yet. Everything has been cancelled or moved to the right, but no vision has replaced what was there before. It is a do nothing plan to date. A working plan may be coming soon, or it may just be more wheel spinning. Not all is ADM Roughead’s fault, but then not everything was his predecessors fault either.

    – As for his decision on the ESG, he did not so much throw out the concept as recognize that we currently have no real requirement to deploy ships in this way. The potential of using a ESG is retained, we just will normally deploy ships as a ARG. Nothing new here, this is just recognizing reality and, more importantly, using the basic framework provided by ADM Clark that we will only deploy the types and numbers of forces required. He may be on the verge of revealing a new direction for the Navy, but it is important to note that he hasn’t done so yet. The proof will be in the product produced, not in what was wrong with what came before. The new direction may be toward shoal water or toward open sea, only time will tell.

    – Standing up new fleets largely means nothing. Have they revolutionalized anything or just changed someones title. 4th Fleet sounds better than something like Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command, but really, what did it do? Seems like a UOPH vs. BOQ argument to me. As to the CTF 151 standing up, since that is Operational chain of command stuff, it rightly falls under the COCOM (CENTCOM) and not the CNO. Some could argue since more ships where captured in 2009 than in 2008, that it has largely been a failure to date.

    – on a few specific points,
    “All four of the Navy’s new SSGNs have made their first deployment under Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO.”
    Lets see, began in 2002 under ADM Clark and a big thanks to Congress for 4 as opposed to only 2. Not holding water. Should you give ADM Roughead credit for the E-2D and EF-18 as well? How about the MH-60R? F-35C?
    ” The Navy now provides nearly half the total strike airpower for close air support of troops in Afghanistan”
    What did the CNO do? Should ADM Clark and Mullins get credit for providing a huge part of the TACAIR as well as precision strike for Iraq and Afghanistan before ADM Roughead. Comment is nothing more than fluff at its worst.
    “there are more uniformed Navy personnel on the ground as individual augmentees supporting forces on the ground in CENTCOM than there are sailors on ships at sea.” Some might argue this is bad, but even allowing that IAs are good and needed, so what? There were large and growing IA populations under ADMs Clark and Mullins.
    “The Navy has not experienced a single major scandal since ADM Roughead became CNO”. What exactly qualifies as a scandal? Preventable fires at Sea sidelining CVNs? CGs running aground on known navigational hazards? How many under other CNOs?

    IRT Prof Gene, I would add the following to his specifics on the leadership continuum action items:

    “Re-aligned Senior Enlisted Academy under the Naval War College to strengthen enlisted professional military education and allow SEA to further benefit from its cross-base relationship with NWC”
    What has been the results? You changed ISICs, so what. Any change in mission? change in focus? Makes sense geographically.

    “Disestablished Center for Naval Leadership and folded its functions into Center for Personal & Professional Development”
    Saving billets is always good, especially when you marginalized them by,

    “Transitioned enlisted leadership courses for PO1 and PO2 from week-long (formerly 2-week long) classroom courses to command-delivered training (saving a hundred or so billets by shifting the training load to individual commands)”
    This is good? We pushed a new training requirement onto the fleet, eliminated any ability to maintain quality for either the instructor or the instruction standards across the fleet, and went back to the same way that was failing before (or why did we change it). Don’t see anyway that this requirement might now be gun-decked. That is sure to improve leadership

    “Shortened the JFMCC/CFMCC course from seven days to five (the Flag students no longer need to be in class on the weekend).” What was wrong with the Flag students going on weekends? What did they toss out to go to five days? Why is it better now?

    “Stood up the 5-week Maritime Staff Operator’s Course to teach planning and joint operations to officers and chiefs rolling to fleet staffs without completing JPME I (over 300 students in the first year)” Sorely needed, BZ. Did the current CNO approve it or was it in motion before he was CNO?

    “Achieved preliminary accreditation for a Maritime Operations Center at each numbered fleet HQ”
    Same as above, when did this start?

    “Issued a Navy Ethos statement to help bind all Navy personnel together in a culture of selfless service”
    OK, I have the card on my desk, but I am not sure that will accomplish anything more than the core values of Courage, Honor, and Commitment. The Ethos of the Navy comes from within, not from some writing. Either you read the Ethos and said “Duh, What did we waste our money on this for” or you just don’t get it. Not having an Ethos did not make much difference in the last 200+ or so years, not sure it will make one now.

    I am not criticizing the CNO. I feel his performance to date has been extremely good, and I look forward to good things in the future. However, it is important to realize that the impact of any CNO is largely felt after he leaves his post. As with any large organization, what happens in the first two years is largely a result of the collectve efforts of those who came before him.

  • Prof Gene

    Just to clarify, my list above is “actions taken” and not “accomplishments” – I’m not certain that those action items do much to advance CNO’s avowed purpose of continuing to stimulate innovation, encourage confident risk-taking, and inculcate the culture of command. Indeed, some of those actions seem to be at cross-purposes to those objectives.

    The realignment of SEA under NWC makes more than geographic sense. It puts SEA, the CPO version of the NKO-based Primary PME course and the NKO-based Basic PME (PO1) and Intro PME (PO3) courses under one hat, creating an enlisted PME continuum for the Navy. Or it would if that course sequence were a requirement, which it still isn’t more than two years after it was launched. Since SEA’s six-week course for SCPOs is primarily PME, the shift has given SEA a curriculum provider (NWC now has two profs, one a retired SCPO, who are working enlisted PME curriculum) and aligned SEA’s international program with NWC’s international college. That one’s a win (though more should be done).

    Saving billets (mostly E-6/7/8s) by closing the Leadership Center and shifting training to fleet commands hasn’t netted us much from a resource perspective (those billets aren’t that expensive, and good shore billets are important for career balance) and hasn’t improved the quality of the product. USNVO’s point about gundecking is on target. That’s a loss in my book.

    Shortening JFMCC/CFMCC (which should be at least two weeks long and include a war game that the RDML/RADM students can lose) is a step backwards. We kept the briefs from other Flags and reduced the time with Senior Mentors, in peer interaction, and in class with experts. I chalk that up as a loss.

    MSOC and the MOCs are wins, but the big decisions on that were made under CNO Mullen. CNO Roughead has been a major supporter of these, however, and deserves some significant credit for keeping these initiatives moving when the bureaucratic friction has been high.

    I’m disappointed on the Navy Ethos project. I was part of one of the groups consulted in advance, and argued that a “fire and forget” statement that went on wallet cards and posters would not achieve any of the CNO’s objectives. And that the ethos must be based on core warfighting and operating functions, rather than attempting to include every staff corps community, reservist and civilian – they should focus on how what they do supports warfighting. The result has had little follow up, is mostly on wallet cards, and is so broadly inclusive of every Navy function that it lacks focus. I’d grade that a missed opportunity.

  • Senior Chief Master-at-Arms

    Many changes since I retired in 1995. I often wondered if the Navy would ever get on board and take security of its assets and personnel seriously. I actually had a former CO of the IKE tell me that there are no criminals in the Navy, just misguided Sailors. Even though the Norfolk Brig housed several murderers. The thinking of officers like that is what stifled the Navy for so long. Thank God the CNO has the foresight and common sense to put the Navy into the future and increase the fleet. Security of this nation depends on Naval officers who aren’t afraid to state their opinion. If he steps on congress’s toes what can they do to him except force him to retire. Wish I was still at Sea.

  • USNVO

    Prof Gene,
    Thanks for the clarification, I will give the SEA realignment a plus, based on the fact it was more than just a re-alignment and clearly leverages synergies beyond the geographic convenience of NWC and SEA being in Newport.
    I was disappointed that we killed the schoolhouse versions of Leadership training. The benefit of having people in a classroom environment with senior mentors is extremely important. The shared experiences of the students was a major part of what the course was supposed to be about. I’ll chalk that one up to being another casualty of the “Revolution in Training” or the “Dump everything to the fleet, it will save money and the wheels won’t fall off on my watch initative”. But the current CNO isn’t the main culprit.

    In my mind ADM Roughead has done a good job, but to say that

    “ADM Gary Roughead took over as CNO under impossible conditions and circumstances on paper, and has executed his plan to put the Navy on a solid footing heading into the second decade of the 21st century. I have no idea what the new administration or the Secretary of Defense thinks of Admiral Gary Roughead as CNO, but I do know one thing: Gary Roughead was handed an impossible situation and has guided the Navy through the minefield to make the future Navy look a lot more possible, and whether one approves or disapproves of how he has done it, or the direction he is steering the ship…”

    is just a little bit over the top. It sounds more like a campaign commercial from the last election than a serious attempt to assess the relative merits of the current leadership of the Navy.

  • Prof Gene

    USNVO –

    Agreed. And giving up those classroom days prevents us from plugging other (better) development into those time slots going forward. PME requirements continue to increase as we become more and more joint and seek to better leverage interagency and coalition partner relationships. And the leadership challenges of minimum-crewed ships like LCS and DD-1000, riverine squadrons and Maritime Operations Centers require more and better development, not less. Smaller wardrooms and CPO messes means more load on individuals and less opportunity to learn on the job from experienced peers – that deficiency isn’t going to be made up for online.

    And thanks to galrahn for opening this thread. The CNO is in Newport this week hosting CNOs and reps from over 100 navies around the world – his opening speech urged greater cooperation among navies in dealing with piracy and building regional security cooperation networks. It appears that he merits significant credit for building relationships and developing trust with his peers around the world.

  • Squiddly

    ADM Roughead’s tenure hasn’t been all beer and Skittles. He’s gone whole hog for the ‘diversity’ cancer that’s eating up the Navy from the inside. Quotas for minority officers, women on board submarines and the Naval Academy scandals that continue on his watch. You would never know that we’re a Navy at war, considering the area of concern at the top of the chain.

  • http://www.navycaptain-therealnavy.blogspot.com Mike Lambert

    I am a fan of the CNO and agree with Galrahn for the most part. But, I make a course change at the same point Squiddy does. CNO’s approach to diversity is over the top. I look to my friend RADM Arthur Johnson and wonder what he thinks about this mess. He NEVER had the benefit of affirmative action – NEVER. I remember his days in high school in Germany where he was a standout varsity athlete (wrestling/football), high ranking officer in AFJROTC and an incredible academic. He was 2 years behind me. I next saw him a few years after his graduation from USNA on the flight line at Barbers Point preparing for a 3 a.m. acft launch. And then again at the Pentagon after he was selected for Flag. The diversity program in an AFFRONT to his athletic, intellectual, operational and strategic prowess. I am sure he expects his Sailors to progress on their own merit. That should be the CNO’s approach to diversity. In this day and age, we make our own opportunity. None of my ‘minority’ Sailors needed or expected a helping hand. It’s offensive.

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