Archive for January, 2011
Seems like a simple enough premise. Anyone that has shopped for a car with Yours Truly will have heard the same sentiment. Apparently General Amos, Commandant of the Marine Corps, feels the same way.
Today the Secretary of Defense announced the termination of the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) program. I support his decision. After a thorough review of the program within the context of a broader Marine Corps Force Structure Review, I personally recommended to both the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of the Navy that the EFV be cancelled and that the Marine Corps pursue a more affordable amphibious tracked fighting vehicle.
Despite the critical amphibious and warfighting capability the EFV represents, the program is simply not affordable given likely Marine Corps procurement budgets. The procurement and operations/maintenance costs of this vehicle are onerous. After examining multiple options to preserve the EFV, I concluded that none of the options meets what we consider reasonable affordability criteria. As a result, I decided to pursue a more affordable vehicle.
Our Nation’s amphibious capability remains the Corps’ priority. In the complex security environment we face, the execution of amphibious operations requires the use of the sea as maneuver space. A modern amphibious tracked vehicle is the means towards this end. It enables the seamless projection of ready-to-fight Marine rifle squads from sea to land. It is thus the key to allowing ship-to-shore operations in permissive, uncertain, and hostile environments; assuring access where infrastructure is destroyed or nonexistent; and creating joint access in defended areas. It is also central to the entire Marine tactical vehicle strategy for operations ashore. Once on land, an amphibious armored fighting vehicle provides the Marine rifle squad with the protected mobility and firepower to maneuver to a position of advantage to rapidly close with, engage, and defeat the enemy.
The Marine Corps remains committed to develop and field an effective, survivable and affordable amphibious tracked vehicle. To bring this capability to the force sooner rather than later, we intend to capitalize on the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s recent efforts to streamline procurement and to rapidly accelerate the acquisition and contracting processes in developing our new amphibious tracked vehicle requirement.
Shortly, we will issue a special notice to industry requesting information relative to supporting our required amphibious capabilities. We look forward to working with industry in meeting this challenge to field a modern and affordable amphibious tracked vehicle that will support our Nation’s needs.
A replacement for the LVTP-7 family of amphibious vehicles is long overdue. Introduced in the early 1970s to replace the venerable LVTP-5, the P-7 is slow, indifferently protected, and despite upgrades, relatively weakly armed, and showing its age. Marines not only rely on their AMTRACs to get them from ship to shore with fighting unit integrity, but as de facto APCs, for which the P-7 is hardly optimal. The EFV would be a significant, and in some cases dramatic, improvement over the “tuna boat”.
BUT…. the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle had some strikes against it. Despite its surf speed of 25 knots (a BIG DEAL) and its far superior protection and armament (30mm cannon), there were reported reliability issues. But the deal-breaker, as the Commandant noted above, was cost. Cost of procurement, cost of maintenance. An upgrade that allows OTH amphibious capability will do little good if we can only afford a dozen EFVs when a hundred are needed.
So, here’s hoping that something can be developed leveraging EFV technology to shorten the lead-time (EFV/AAAV has been in development since the 80s) and make the next candidate more affordable. As General Amos alludes, just because you can’t afford the 2011 Lexus doesn’t mean the 1984 Oldsmobile doesn’t need replacing, or that you don’t need to get to work. Buy something that does the job, but doesn’t break the bank.
Perhaps NAVSEA could try to do the same? What’s true of itty-bitty green hulls is at least partially true of big gray ones.
While Navy get lots, and lots, and lots of press when Commanding Officers get fired accountability doesn’t always extend as high as some believe it should.
But, it appears that the Air Force, of all places, has taken recent high-level woodshed visits to heart.
“The bad marks are piling up for generals. Thirteen Air Force general officers — from four-star commanders to brigadiers in staff assignments — have been handed letters of admonishment since Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz and Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley took over in the summer of 2008. One lieutenant general received a letter of reprimand.
“This is unprecedented,” said Charles Dunlap, who retired in June as a major general and deputy judge advocate of the Air Force. “It certainly seems that the Air Force is applying a tougher standard than anyone else in the Department of Defense.”
With the investigation continuing into “who knew what and when” in regards to “XO Movie Night” it will be interesting to see if any action is taken towards senior officers – and to what degree juniors will be held accountable for participating in the foibles of their leaders.
As the fleet shrinks—here, the ex-Joseph Hewes (FFT-1078), leased to Taiwan—and operations tempo rises, Navy leaders have been unable or unwilling to argue the case for a larger force. It is time to stand up and say that what has happened is not right, and what is left is not enough.
My current professional endeavors offer me a great vantage point from which to observe the forces that are shaping the world. I travel a lot, and often I find myself in discussions with people of widely varying backgrounds regarding the turbulence within our society, how other countries are reacting to us, and what has happened to leadership within our government. Sometimes these exchanges assist me in my trade as a writer. At others times they help me when I pursue business opportunities. And always, because of my own life’s journey, they bring me to think of the U.S. military. Where is its place in this changing world? Where does it stand among its own people? How do those on the outside view it? Where are current defense leaders taking it? And how are its leaders honoring their sacred duty to preserve the standards handed down through the generations?
The world has seen many changes since my time in government. Borders and regimes have fallen. Crises have come and gone. Political positions have ebbed and flowed. The nature of the threat has become vague, and the military has shrunk and become less visible to public debate. But through it all, the basic requirements of leadership, strategy, and tactics remain constant, just as they have over the ages. And so I feel comfortable offering you a pair of eyes that watch from the outside, whose interest in these matters is nothing more than the well-being and proper functioning of the U.S. military—an institution into which I was born, which brought me into manhood, which tested me under fire in combat, and which, when all the rhetoric is stripped away, is the ultimate guarantor of this nation’s way of life.
How Does the Rest of the Country View You?
Among all the world’s nations, the United States is the most diverse in terms of ethnicity, of longevity of citizenship, and, ultimately, of viewpoint. It is impossible to know from aggregate numbers in polling and public opinion surveys exactly how our military is viewed, and how those views affect an understanding of and respect for what you are doing. But I would like to address three separate components, each of which presents the military and the nation with a different set of challenges: the elite policymakers (including the media), the general public, and the “new Americans.”
First, and most important to the formulation of military policy, are the elites. At the outset, I would offer you an important touchstone: The greatest lingering effect of the Vietnam era on our society is the notion that military service during time of war is not a prerequisite for moral authority or even respect. This idea has been accorded a quiet affirmation among our elites, usually whispered to one another, that some lives are worth more than others, that it is right and proper for the so-called best and brightest by virtue of an elite education to be excused from the dirty work of our society. Think of the disproportionate loss to society, the logic goes, if a future Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison is killed in some fruitless foreign engagement. Or, as an old Chinese saying puts it, one should never use good steel for nails or good men for soldiers.
I, like the majority of this nation, subscribe to a different view, because when it comes to leadership—as opposed to law or medicine or engineering—the logic is the reverse: the hotter the fire, the tougher the steel, and the more reliable the leader. And also because in a democracy, the more one has benefited from the fruits of our nation, the greater is one’s obligation to serve. It is important to recognize that our elites abandoned this position during the Vietnam War, and it has affected policy for an entire generation. To illustrate: Harvard lost 691 alumni in World War II; in Vietnam it lost 12 out of all the classes from 1962 to 1972.
This notion of special privilege has spread over the decades following the Vietnam War. For most elites who make policy or provide commentary on it, you are little more than an intellectual issue. Just as the crisis in public education is for them a matter to be worried over in removed policy terms rather than one to be directly experienced by their own privately schooled children, almost no one in a position to affect policy has a direct human stake in the outcome of a military engagement.
It also has created a vacuum of true understanding in the highest places. Today, for the first time since the United States became a major world power, none of the principals in the national security arena—the President, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of State, or the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency—has served in the military. This problem might recede when the Clinton administration leaves town, but it is unlikely to go away. Twenty years ago, when I was a committee counsel in Congress, a clear majority of senators and congressmen were veterans, although most of their staff were not. Similarly, a majority of the editors at the major media outlets had military service, although their reporters did not. Today, those staff members and reporters are the congressmen and editors. In Congress, veterans are a distinct minority, and in the media almost no one has served.
In terms of attitude, the elites fall into three categories. Many have a sympathy and respect for what you do. But with few exceptions, they lack a referent—in their own experience, among their peers, and in their families—to place what you are doing in an understandable context. A second category, despite their public rhetoric, views you to be merely firemen and policemen of a different order, hired for a job, however dangerous, and expected to do it without complaint. This notion was reinforced during the Gulf War, when the Bush administration often pointed out with pride that the war wasn’t costing the United States anything because other countries were footing the bill. What does it make you when a national leader places your wartime service in the context of a bill for services rendered? And finally, there is a small but very powerful minority that believes you are dangerous, that you must be continually humiliated and subdued, that militarism is an American disease, and that the more empowered and respected you become, the more you threaten pet political issues and even the fabric of society. Do not underestimate these people. Despite the absurdity of their views, they are intelligent, well positioned at the power centers of our culture, and intent on marginalizing your sacrifices.
This bifurcation of our society causes some otherwise well-meaning people to put modern military service into a false context. Recently, William Bennett gave a lecture on ethics at the U.S. Naval Academy, in which he compared the World War II and Vietnam generations by focusing on the twin events that took place in 1994: the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing at Normandy and the 25th anniversary of Woodstock. One celebration, according to Mr. Bennett, mirrored a generation that understood sacrifice and service. The other illuminated an age group consumed by drugs and self-absorption. To Mr. Bennett, who in 1969 was a student at Harvard Law School, this probably was an apt comparison. But for those who graduated from the Naval Academy during that era, this speech bordered on insult.
If Mr. Bennett had wanted to reinforce the value of service and the notion of sacrifice in front of that audience, he could have compared the two elements of his own generation, and discussed what each was doing during the summer of 1969. I was leading a rifle platoon in the An Hoa Basin of Vietnam, and spent part of that summer in recuperation after being wounded. And I was hardly alone. Five hundred thousand other Americans—far more than turned out for the party made famous for its drugs, sex, and rock and roll—were serving there with me. But who on the national scene saw this, or remembers it, even among conservative commentators? And who truly understands what is means to deploy to sea again and again in the 1990s, leaving family and friends behind for months at a time?
Next, there is the general public. In the aggregate, they like you, they support you, and they respect you. In reality, however, they know less and less about what you are doing, and fewer and fewer among them have a human stake if what you are doing goes wrong. When we had the draft, families throughout the nation paid close attention, because nearly all of them were at risk when troops were sent into harm’s way. In addition, a constant stream of veterans was returning to communities throughout the country, and despite persistent media reports to the contrary, they were bringing home a positive story about military service and the challenges of wearing the uniform. Veterans still are able to communicate these messages, but with a smaller military, longer enlistments, and higher retention, the veteran population is dwindling. A thousand World War II veterans are dying every day. Read the rest of this entry »
By now, everyone in the Navy community should be up to speed on what is going on with the Commanding Officer of the USS ENTERPRISE (CVN-65). I am not going to go into play-by-play details of the video, discuss the nature of TACAIR culture, or opine one way or the other. If you want background and opinion, I would invite you to visit Galrahn, Lex, or my homeblog for that.
No, there are much larger issues at play here – and they have everything to do with time, place, and personnel.
Before CAPT Honors was CO of ENTERPRISE, he was CO of the USS MOUNT WHITNEY (LCC-20) after his stint as “Big XO” of the “Big E” when these videos were taken. That was over four years ago. His prior Command tour was with VF-211. You can review his full bio here if you want.
CAPT Honors is not new to Command. He is a known quantity in style, intelligence, and temperament. One board can miss something – but multiple boards usually do not. All this is in the open – especially on a Carrier that is thick with COs from squadrons, ships and CAG/DCAG – not to mention STRIKE GROUP Staffs loaded with post-Command CDR and CAPT.
Surface and Sub Commanding Officers can hide issues if sly – in aviation, nosomuch.
As “Big XO,” his videos and the nature of his videos were not a secret. Not to his Shipmates from E-1 to O-8. Anyone who has deployed on a CV/CVN knows this.
That is the issue.
Let’s not tell each other small untruths on this. Don’t insult each other’s intelligence and don’t insult the taxpayer.
While the videos were made, the Commander of the ENTERPRISE STRIKE GROUP was Rear Admiral Ray Spicer, USN (UPDATE: other sources have it as VADM Daniel Halloway, USN. Perhaps an and/or – but not critical to the story). CAPT Honor’s Commanding officer was Rear Admiral Lawrence Rice, USN (Ret.). Again – just to be clear – nothing on these videos were unknown to the STRIKE GROUP Commander (embarked ENTERPRISE) or the Commanding Officer. I make a declaritive statement such as that because I have been deployed on Carriers and I can also declare that water is wet. If I am wrong … then … well … wow.
Moving on; after a day of churning through the news cycle – MSNBC is reporting this;
The Navy officer who aired lewd videos for crew of an aircraft carrier will be temporarily relieved of his command as early as Tuesday, Navy sources told NBC News on Monday.
Capt. Owen Honors commands the USS Enterprise and produced the videos while second in command aboard the aircraft carrier.
He is to be relieved while the Navy investigates the incident.
There can only be three answers by the Navy concerning these videos. “We” refers to the Flag Officer Community that leads our Navy – just to be clear.
1. We had no idea.
2. We knew and didn’t care.
3. We disaproved, counseled our Shipmate, corrective action taken with remediation, and we moved forward.
At the start of the weekend, the official Navy reaction was sound, logical, and pointed towards what makes sense – #3.
The Navy released a written statement late Friday in response to The Pilot’s inquiries.
“The videos created onboard USS Enterprise in 2006-2007 were not created with the intent to offend anyone,” the statement said. “The videos were intended to be humorous skits focusing the crew’s attention on specific issues such as port visits, traffic safety, water conservation, ship cleanliness, etc.”
That is why over the weekend I didn’t post on it at my homeblog at all until Sunday night. Something changed since Friday – something that violates a good truism – go with your first instincts. Navy went PAO-wobbly and this went viral.
For reasons best known to senior leadership, we now find ourselves looking at #1 or #2. As we know that #1 is an impossibility – that leads to #2.
Really? No – not in the Navy of 2010. I don’t buy #2 either. Well, wait – a 5% chance. I’ll give you 5%.
That brings us back to #3 – which is greatest problem of all if we are now going to take CAPT Honor from Command. If it were #1 we could all just facepalm and call stupid. If it were #2 or #3 then we don’t have stupid – we have malice and betrayal by an officer’s Chain of Command.
It is the height of moral corruption to tell someone what they are doing is OK one day, and then the next – to protect yourself - act as if it were horrible. It is just as morally corrupt to reprimand a person, provide corrective action, accept remediation – and then at a later date punish him again for the same act only harder; submit that person to double jeopardy for your own self-preservation.
That last paragraph isn’t what is going on here, is it? If it isn’t – and it can’t be #1; then what is it?
By our actions, what are we teaching tomorrow’s leaders? Many of us saw what the bloodbath of self-preservation and bonfire of the innocents that took place after Tailhook did to trust between junior and senior officers. The culture of cynicism and mistrust that it begat continues to cloud our relationships.
Is that where we are going – really?
As the “Big E” gets ready to deploy and if she goes without CAPT Honors – good people can disagree if he is a problem or not. Either way though, we in the Navy have a larger one to deal with.
1, 2, or 3 – take your pick.
UPDATE: Via WAVY, CFFC Admiral Harvey has announced CAPT Honors’ relief,
A few minutes ago, I permanently relieved Capt. Owen Honors of his duties as commanding officer of USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65) for demonstrating exceptionally poor judgment while serving as executive officer of that ship, from 2006-2007.
While Capt. Honors’ performance as commanding officer of ENTERPRISE has been without incident, his profound lack of good judgment and professionalism while previously serving as executive officer in ENTERPRISE calls into question his character and undermines his credibility to continue to serve effectively in command.After personally reviewing the videos Capt. Honors created while serving as executive officer, I have lost confidence in his ability to lead effectively, and he is being held accountable for the poor judgment and inappropriate actions repeatedly demonstrated in those videos.
It is fact that as naval officers we are held to a higher standard. Those in command must exemplify the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment which we expect our Sailors to embrace. Our leaders must be above reproach and our Sailors deserve nothing less.Capt. Dee Mewbourne will be permanently assigned as the new commanding officer of ENTERPRISE. Capt. Mewbourne most recently commanded USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and while in command he completed two successful combat deployments supporting Operation Enduring Freedom. Capt. Mewbourne is currently serving as the Chief of Staff for Navy Cyber Forces – he will assume command of ENTERPRISE later this afternoon.
From a Congressional Research Service report filed at the end of November:
LCS was designated by the Navy as a Level I survivability combatant ship, but neither design is expected to achieve the degree of shock hardening as required by the CDD [Capabilities Development Document]. Shock hardening (ability to sustain a level of operations following an underwater explosive attack) is required for all mission critical systems, as required by a Level 1 survivability requirement. Only a few selected subsystems will be shock hardened, supporting only mobility to evacuate a threat area following a design-level shock event. Accordingly, the full, traditional rigor of Navy-mandated ship shock trials is not achievable, due to the damage that would be sustained by the ship and its many non-shock-hardened subsystems.
The LCS LFT&E [Live Fire Test and Evaluation] program has been hampered by the Navy’s lack of credible modeling and simulation tools for assessing the vulnerabilities of ships constructed to primarily commercial standards (American Bureau of Shipping Naval Vessel Rules and High Speed Naval Craft Code), particularly aluminum and non-traditional hull forms. Legacy LFT&E models were not developed for these non-traditional factors, nor have they been accredited for such use. These knowledge gaps undermine the credibility of the modeling and simulation, and increase the amount of surrogate testing required for an adequate LFT&E program.
The LCS is not expected to be survivable in a hostile combat environment as evidenced by the limited shock hardened design and results of full scale testing of representative hull structures completed in December 2006.
The whole document is here. Read it and weep. H/T to sid.
So, we have a warship design that is not expected to fight and survive in the very environment in which it was produced to do so. Poorly-armed, poorly-protected, with an over-abundance of speed that will eat through a fuel supply in half a day.
Yet, the Navy leadership on whose watch this abomination was delivered is hypersensitive to criticism of either their performance or the LCS itself. That such a questionable and limited capability will cost taxpayers UNDER $500 million per copy is a seeming source of pride for them.
Warships remain the single most expensive combat system a nation can buy. Has been so since the beginnings of the iron warship. Those who run the United States Navy (not just NAVSEA) are entrusted with billions of this nation’s treasure. And this is the result. A half-billion dollar counter-drug and counter-piracy platform.
Combat in the littorals is characterized by fierce and unexpected engagements, from small and fast surface vessels, submarines, shore-based weapon systems, missiles, mines, and aircraft. Putting US Navy Officers and Sailors on a platform such as LCS borders on criminal. It is an act of sheer folly, or one of desperation.
The lessons of littoral combat were learned and written in the blood and sacrifice by the thousands of our Sailors and Marines in the Solomons, New Guinea, the Admiralties, the Gilberts and Marshalls, off the beaches of Italy and France, the Philippines, and Okinawa. They are there for all to see, on the old pages of damage reports, battle reports, and combat histories written by survivors and shipmates.
The result of those lessons were classes of tough, powerful, fast, survivable units capable of dishing out and absorbing tremendous punishment. These lessons were reinforced in Korea, Vietnam, and the Falklands, where ships that did not possess those qualities paid dearly.
All of which makes the Littoral Combat Ship so inexplicable. Unable to do precisely what its name implies. Risking the vessel, the Sailors, and the mission.
The mission of the Navy is to maintain, train and equip combat-ready Naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression and maintaining freedom of the seas.
Not Diversity, not social experimentation, not being an Employer of Choice, and not far-flung Humanitarian Missions at the expense of combat readiness and forward presence. There will be screams of protest regarding that last sentence, to be sure. But none of those peripheral distractions mean a hill of beans if the US Navy cannot execute the words printed in bold above. When Navy leadership ignores those words, and fails to heed them, the result is the LCS, and an emperor with no clothes.
Littoral Combat Ship is not a part of a combat-ready Naval force capable of winning wars. Perhaps those who championed and continue to champion it shouldn’t be, either.
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- On Midrats 14 Sep 14: Episode 245: “The Carrier as Capital Ship” with RADM Thomas Moore, USN, PEO CVN
- Five Enduring Lessons from Arabian Gulf Patrol Craft Operations
- Solution to the Russian Mistral’s Conundrum: NATO Flagships
- Expanding the Naval Canon: Fernando de Oliveira and the 1st Treatise on Maritime Strategy