Archive for the 'Navy' Category
For those who have seen the Great Carrier Debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath, one thing was clear – both gentlemen had only scratched the surface of their thoughts on the topic.
At about the same time, the concept of “distributed lethality” had seeped its way in to the conversation. To examine both topics and to review the national security issues you should expect to see in 2015 will be returning guest, Bryan McGrath.
Bryan McGrath is the founding Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC (FBG), a niche consultancy specializing in naval and national security issues, including national and military strategy, strategic planning, executive communications, strategic communications and emerging technologies.
Prior to starting FBG, Bryan founded a national security consulting line of business for Delex Systems, where he directly supported a number of senior clients in the Navy and the Army. Additionally, he provided critical insight on Navy policy and acquisition preferences to commercial clients, including major defense contractors and small technology firms negotiating the “post-earmarks” era.
A retired Naval Officer, Bryan spent 21 years on active duty including a tour in command of USS BULKELEY (DDG 84), a guided-missile destroyer homeported in Norfolk, Virginia.
In his spare time, Bryan is a well-published commentator in the fields of national and maritime strategy, with policy papers published at major think tanks, and articles placed in nationally marketed periodicals. He is a frequent panelist at symposia that deal with naval issues and is frequently quoted by major press organizations.
Bryan earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia in 1987, and an MA in Political Science (Congressional Studies) from The Catholic University of America. He is a graduate of the Naval War College.
By Mark Tempest
Well inside an officer’s career arch, we saw the American Navy move from the Great White Fleet, The Spanish American War to the age of the Dreadnought. Our Army, from ad-hoc volunteer units to a professional army going head-to-head with the finest professional army on the planet.
How did our military and our Navy build up to WWI, and how did that experience inform the evolution of our national defense infrastructure?
Our guest for the full hour will be Dr. John T. Kuehn , the General William Stofft Chair for Historical Research at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College CGSC). He retired from the U.S. Navy 2004 at the rank of commander after 23 years of service as a naval flight officer flying both land-based and carrier-based aircraft. He has taught a variety of subjects, including military history, at CGSC since 2000. He authored Agents of Innovation (2008), A Military History of Japan: From the Age of the Samurai to the 21st Century (2014), and co-authored Eyewitness Pacific Theater (2008) with D.M. Giangreco as well as numerous articles and editorials and was awarded a Moncado Prize from the Society for Military History in 2011. His latest book, due out from Praeger just in time for the 200th Anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is Napoleonic Warfare: The Operational Art of the Great Campaigns.
“Let us dare to read, think, speak, and write.”
-President John Adams
If John Adams were a junior officer in the Navy today, his admonition to his fellow officers might read something like this:
Let us [not] dare to read [lest my own beliefs be challenged], think [lest my perceived truths be shown as falsehoods] , speak [lest my commanding officer notice me], and write [lest my FITREP result in an MP].
As junior officers, we recognize this attitude in ourselves, our peers, and our superiors. Yet if today’s junior officer is to have any lasting legacy on the Navy or Marine Corps, it will be by recognizing and acting upon an essential truth:
The health of the service is more important than your career.
We need junior officers willing to stick their necks out and write. Our service and our country are dealing with serious challenges, many of which may have non-traditional solutions. This generation of junior officers will be judged for our courage to stand up and work to solve those problems. The nation can no longer afford our silence.
At the turn of the 20th century, a young naval gunnery officer couldn’t get anybody to listen to his revolutionary ideas on gunnery. Unwilling to be silenced, he stuck his neck out. In what he later termed “the rankest kind of insubordination,” he wrote a letter to President Theodore Roosevelt. This young officer, William Sims, would later use the pages of Proceedings to challenge his peers to be wary of the dangers of a lack of innovation or honest introspection, asking, “which of us will be quoted in the future as example of dangerous conservatism?”
In 1894, another author wrote scathingly about the lack of introspection in the British Empire’s naval culture. The parallels to today are striking: the world’s dominant maritime power for three generations, unchallenged in might but facing an increasingly complex and globalized world. Entitled “The Children of Nelson” and reprinted in the pages of Proceedings, the article lambasts British naval leadership, saying:
“The Admiralty … sternly refuses to permit junior officers to write or speak on questions of speculative strategy and other subjects which involve neither criticism of things that are, nor betrayal of official secrets. Junior officers are thus restrained in their usefulness and discouraged in their legitimate professional ambitions; and the impression has taken root amongst them that the man who endeavors to elbow his way out of the crowd, to bring forward a new theory, or to do any kind of serviceable work beyond the minimum which his position requires of him, is a fool for his pains… Thus discouraged on all hands, the British naval officer, with a few brilliant exceptions, resigns himself to living and moving in deep and well-worn grooves. He thinks little; he speculates less; he almost fails to realize, save in a dull and general way, that some day the storm of battle will again rage around him, and that he will be expected, by an unreasonable country, to repeat the triumphs of his ancestors.”
One hundred years later, the US Navy seems to have institutionalized and incentivized intellectual conformity in both strategy and policy through a culture that discourages professional intellectual dissent in favor of promotability. Navy Captain Jay Avella said it best in 1997 when he wrote, again in Proceedings, that the problem, “is about the culture change that seems to be pervading the sea service—a change that says, ‘don’t rock the boat, it will cost you your career.’”
The US Navy is in a perplexing situation: we pay lip service to buzzwords such as “innovation” and “transformation,” but will only act if ideas don’t upset entrenched interests or institutional inertia. Nevertheless, junior officers today are the scions of generations of transformative men and women who came before us—those like Mahan, Sims, and countless others. These officers never accepted the status quo just because “it’s the way we’ve always done things.”
As organizations such as naval aviation’s Tailhook Association prepare to name 2015 the “Year of the Junior Officer,” it is important for the thousands of junior officers in the Navy and Marine Corps to engage in some serious introspection. What will be our enduring mark on our service?
From a rank and file perspective, junior officers can drive change in their divisions and departments, and if lucky with supportive commanding officers, within their ships, submarines and squadrons. But what ultimately set Sims apart from many junior officers who have driven innovation on the deckplates was that he wrote about it. Had Sims not put pen to paper, unrelentingly, institutional change might never have happened. Today, we must pick up our tablets and laptops, just as those before picked up their pens and typewriters, and write, regardless of the pressures on our careers.
There is a disturbing trend among some that equates intellectual dissent with outright insubordination and disrespect. One recent Proceedings article went so far as to suggest that today’s millennial generation is derelict in their adherence to time-honored naval customs and courtesies, simply for asking “Why?” This belief blithely ignores examples like William Sims, that show us one of the most time-honored naval traditions is that of innovation driven by the junior officer ranks challenging the status quo.
Again, this sentiment is not new; one need only consult Alfred Thayer Mahan’s FITREPs to appreciate its longevity. CDR Rich LeBron, Commanding Officer of the USS Benfold, put it this way: “In this vertically stratified setting, the boss can find isolation behind the closed door of authority and good ideas can be transmuted, crushed, or simply dismissed on their way to the top as spirits and morale are driven into the ground.” Today’s navy, facing a staggering array of complex geopolitical, fiscal and technical challenges, cannot afford to keep thinking that all the answers reside with senior leadership.
Yet we cannot wholly blame a cessation of intellectual development on this entrenched culture; fault lies within the junior officer corps as well. Writing is hard, and quite often, after a long day aboard ship or in a cockpit, the last thing we wish to embark on is a quest to articulate on paper a problem and solution that we would simply prefer to move past. It forces us to defend our ideas, to take a stand, and perhaps even to be wrong. But it is a duty that lies squarely on our shoulders, and we must rise to the occasion.
At the junior officer level, we have a responsibility not just to put complaints to paper, but to constructively identify issues or highlight positives, defend our views and promulgate solutions. This improves our professional knowledge, and enables senior leadership to take their pens to paper to engage in dialogue where we can actually leverage and learn from their experience. Simultaneously, it is particularly important for naval leadership to closely examine the quality and content of their own writing, because we as junior officers look to them to provide for both context and inspiration.
Some junior officers are already making positive contributions to our great naval debates. Through projects such as the Defense Entrepreneur’s Forum (DEF), Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), and CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC), junior officers write, share ideas, and set the tone on issues from future ship design and innovative apps to geopolitics and strategy. Yet more is required — we must fight to forge a culture of writing without trepidation, establishing a groundswell of professional discussion in our service.
Furthermore, we do not simply need more people writing – we need more people writing about the issues that matter. Somewhere along the line, much of naval writing, even in the pages of Proceedings, has devolved to a bland party line. Writing must incorporate substance.
Importantly, we should not solely focus on writing the “next big article,” but also on inscribing in record the grassroots innovation and effective procedures observed and implemented in our divisions and squadrons. We have nearly ceased discussion of the important, often mundane issues and ideas of daily naval life: strategy, operations, tactics, and procedures. Glancing through the pages of Proceedings and similar journals, a majority of material comes from senior officers who have long since moved beyond the realities of division level maintenance and deckplate challenges. Junior officers should remember our roots and reclaim proclivity in this arena, promulgating instructive tips for our brethren and observations on daily naval operations. In the same Proceedings issue as “The Children of Nelson,” there was also an article on the relationship between barometric pressures and ocean currents, a discussion of rustless coatings, and articles on naval reform. By recording these conversations in printed word, junior officers were able to share solutions from around the fleet.
Ultimately, the Navy must be led by the constant ingenuity and engagement of its junior officers and driven by the strategic thought and innovative perseverance of its seniors. Therefore, officers of all levels must write substantive pieces of all types: the mundane but useful, the transformative, the well-founded, the controversial pieces, and we must write without fear for our careers. The currency of institutional change available to the junior officer today, just as with William Sims and Alfred Mahan, is in writing. And so, regardless of the barriers we face, write we must.
Much has been written about the institutionalized pressure on junior officers to “get on board, or get out.” This is manifested in discussions, both in print and in individual counseling sessions, about the narrow, cookie-cutter paths to commanding officer; junior officers that deviate even slightly from “the pipeline” risk abandonment.
Many factors play into the issues of junior officer retention, and for some, the pressures to leave the service are strong. Not surprisingly, few officers want to remain in a service where “ducks pick ducks.” Success in our service often seems to be determined by how well an officer’s career mirrors the prescribed path, while intellectual curiosity gets one a pat on the head or maybe even an adverse FITREP.
Yet these challenges to us as individuals are not insurmountable. It doesn’t matter what we face: we need officers willing to stick their necks out. So what if it’s frowned upon to challenge entrenched ideas that can be improved? So what if your career may be shortened? Most of us joined to sacrifice to serve our country. Perhaps some of us may need to sacrifice our perfect FITREP for the greater good.
The kind of change needed cannot be driven from outside the service. Paradoxically, though we may feel that getting out is best for our individual careers, it is harmful to the service overall. The future of the Navy and Marine Corps will be driven by the strength of the positive insurgency forming in the junior ranks today. We must dare to think, write, and speak–and also to stay in the service, despite the financial and psychological benefits of the private sector. We must join our thoughts and words with the courage required to forge the type of leadership our Navy and Marine Corps deserve.
To be sure, there is a time and a place for opinions and disagreement. Respect must continue to be the rule of the day: respect for rank, experience, and naval culture. Junior officers must continue to master their craft, get qualified, and above all, care for their Sailors and Marines.
Likewise, our generation cannot solve these problems simply by shifting our verbal complaints to paper. We must write with substance, bring forward ideas–even contentious ones–and help each other through the writing process. How and when junior officers write is also important; even William Sims acknowledged the inappropriateness of his letter to the President. Thankfully, the commander-in-chief was able to see past Sims’ youthful follies and identify the intellectual substance present behind his actions.
But these requirements should not preclude junior officers from actively engaging in discussions on the tactics, operations, and strategies they will be called upon to execute, on the culture of the institution that we love, in support of the country that we serve. We should not wait to attend the War College or Postgraduate School to consider who we are, what we are doing, where we are going, and why. We should not allow discouraging leadership and administrative burdens to choke our Navy and muddle our Marine Corps.
Many of our brothers and sisters in arms today and in decades past have paid the ultimate price for protecting our freedoms. They sacrificed their lives in defense of this nation. We can only hope to match their dedication by being willing to put our careers on the line, to “stick our necks out,” to make the service and this country better.
It is an often quaffed line, ‘British Defence Spending is the 5th largest in the world’ – inferring therefore that everything must be fine. The trouble is this the amount spent is not the issue; as % of GDP Britain ranks joint 7th with Turkey, and this is all before the current strength of the pound in relation to over currencies is factored in, or the costs of wages in Britain compared to those of other nations. Nor does it account for the success or failure of projects, for projects cancelled or reduced after billions of £s have been spent because a new government or minister changes their mind. In reality though none of this matters, as the reason for defence spending is not position on lists, but for a nation to be able to protect itself and its interests as best it can when necessary. In recent years, the service most visible in carrying out these task has been the British Army, but even its visibility hasn’t be a sure security.
In 1994 the British Army had 42 line battalions, by 2014 it had 25 regular and 14 reserve battalions – after five reviews decided that more could be done with less; Front Line First (1994), the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, Delivering Security in a Changing World (2003), and the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review. During this time the British Army was not sitting idle, it was deployed on many operations by various governments – including fighting two Gulf wars, the second of which, like the war in Afghanistan fought at nearly the same time, resulting in long-term commitments in those theatres, as well as these of course there was a eighteen year commitment to the Balkans. Yet still those four reviews have seen a cut to the regular army by 40% over ten years. The army though has at least been granted a reserve, which is being emphasised, the RN doesn’t even have that, and its escort strength has shrunk by 51%.
The RN in 1994 had 39 escort vessels, frigates and destroyers, in service. These are the vessels which provide Task Forces with their anti-submarine capabilities, many of the air defence layers, the naval gunfire support for ground forces, and perhaps more importantly; much of the global presence and maritime security capability that Britain’s place in the world is secured by. This meant that in 1994, at any time, the RN would be able to guarantee at least 13 vessels to meet its commitments (based on the standard of 1 deployed, 1 returning/going to deployment and 1 in either training/maintenance). Whilst there was no ready ‘slack in the system’, the RN was still far more able to absorb emergencies, accidents, and the sheer random events of international relations. In 2014 the RN has 19 escorts, it has no reserve ships – it hasn’t since 1967, there are ships in extended readiness but these are regular vessels which are being kept at reduced operational status to save money. Now there has been talk that even the current strength, that can guarantee just 6 ships to meet commitments (which include at least 9 ongoing escort level missions, a number which of course doesn’t include things like HMS Daring being sent to the Philippines in November 2013), might be cut with the next generation of frigates, the Type 26 class. Successive governments have been building a navy for peace, but forgetting the RN’s own, well proven, motto “Si vis pacem, para bellum”, which in English translates to “If you wish for peace, prepare for war”.
So what is the reason for this? Well, ships are expensive, and for a nation which has seemingly lived by the motto “economy & treasury first” since before the First World War, they can make easy targets to cost/cut minded governments. This is due their high individual unit cost – something which actually increases by fewer being built, due to research costs largely staying the same and economies of scale not being achieved. The trouble for Britain, is that there have been cuts sold to government and public alike on the ideas of a more peaceful future, and collective security. The latter of course is an insurance scheme which only works if a country can pay into it, as well as draw out – and money alone just isn’t enough. The more peaceful future, hasn’t emerged, threats that were presumed to have been put to bed, have awoken, and threats which were never foreseen are now front and centre of strategic reality. So this is the problem, but in the climate of deficit reduction, short term at least there will be no radical reversal.
This is bad though because Britain is the definition of a nation with Global Interests – i.e. it’s economically, politically and culturally, linked to a huge port of the rest of the world; partially as a legacy of Empire and Commonwealth, but also the way we have to forge, and interact with it to this day, the global economic system. This means that Britain, like nations with similar levels of interests, in order to secure those interests, has to maintain both Global Presence and Global Reach.
Presence matters, because international events, like voting elections, if you don’t turn up you don’t count. Presence can also have big advantages in building local relationships, and increasing understanding/information available on a region. It’s often easiest to accomplish from ships, as they don’t tie a nation to another like bases do, they allow you to visit as many of the states in the region that have ports, they are self-contained, often carry extensive sensor equipment that enables them to gather information and can also be used to drop off ‘gift packages’ for embassies. The ships used for this role, are often of course escorts.
Global Reach is the ability to fight, whereas Presence is usually a single vessel ‘wandering around’, reach is about aircraft carriers and amphibious ships, the ability to wage war or conduct other major operations far away from home. If the presence ships are the equivalent of the bobby on the beat, these are the riot police, water cannon and aerial support. They of course though depend upon escorts as well, a concentration of them in fact, to provide the inner and middle layers of defence, to provide naval gunfire support. The roles which provide the back bone of a Task Forces capabilities. All of this is what is being undermined by the cuts, the reduction of 12 Type 45 Destroyers, to 9, then 8 and eventually 6 might have seemed only small cuts at the time but they have had long term ripples. If 8 had been built, then the RN would have been able to guarantee 7 ships to meet commitments, if 12 then it would have been 8 – still not enough to fulfil all the ongoing escort level missions, but it would have been a good start. Unfortunately this hasn’t happened, and now there is a situation which must be addressed.
The solution to this situation therefore comes from pursuing a core and offset strategy – much as the Army has done with its new reserves. Somehow the money must be found to at least maintain the future frigate numbers, only this can keep the core strong enough to hopefully provide for what needs to be done, when it needs to be done – as well as the basis for expansion should economies provide. An offset must be sort to make this more viable, to allow for the necessary concentration of force to enable adaptation to events. An increase in smaller, cheaper, patrol and presence assets such as Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), so that these craft can take on a great part of the maritime security and presence missions – freeing the escorts to concentrate on war fighting, and higher risk missions.
In addition to this, the most must be made of assets available, even if the F35 suffers no more delays, the HMS Queen Elizabeth will not receive fixed wing aircraft for years. It may therefore be sensible to enquire about the procurement of Sea Avenger UAVs (an advanced version of the Reaper drones, which can make use of the same infrastructure as that aircraft) in order to provide an interim fixed wing carrier capability (if they are suitable to Short-Take Off & Landing/Ramp carrier operations), that can in time provide a suitable partner to the F35s, while in the meantime giving the fleet a long range strike and intelligence asset to enable it to maximise capability.
Finally, and possibly the hardest change to make, for a nation which prides itself on always having its forces equipped with the best, in 2020, instead of being sold to other navies or scrapped, some of the Type 23 Frigates (a class in which some units have served over thirty years) must be kept for reserve. This would have been the sensible course of action with the last four Type 22 frigates, but they are now gone forever. Of the 13 Type 23 vessels, 6-8 would need to be kept. This force would provide the RN with what it has so needed for nearly fifty years, slack – the ability to mobilise more strength when numbers are required. In time, or perhaps even before 2020, over vessels, patrol ships, and mine warfare vessels must also be put in reserve. This reserve will not be rusting hulks, tied to the quays, they will need small caretaker crews of regulars, and the reserve personnel which will be called upon in times of need to man them, shall have to be given regular opportunities to practice. Infrastructure wise this would not be a difficult thing to facilitate – the difficulties will be psychological, national, government and service, perspectives will need to adapt.
This work began with the British Army, and it will finish with it, the British Army is an army which has always been tempered by the fires of conflicts – in recent years, with ongoing commitments and falling strength it has been forced to rely upon, and prove, the necessity and viability of reserves. This has not been accomplished without trepidation, in fact it is still an ongoing transition – but ultimately it is what will be. If this is to be the new reality for the Army though, why can’t it also be the reality for the RN? Why can’t the RN also draw more than just piecemeal strength and succour from its reserves? Why can’t the RN Reserves have their own ships, as the Reserve Army has its own battalions, to rally around?
It is always a good time to back up and review where we are with the LCS. Now that we have doubled down on both hulls with their transmogrification in to a FF, it is especially important to see if we are reinforcing success or reinforcing failure.
Before we do that, let’s look at what was done with the last class of sub-DD/DDG sized ships. Let us look back at what previous generations brought to the fleet prior to the computer systems and superior technology of today.
Let’s keep it focused on one area in particular; just the timeline, milestones, and performance. For our benchmark, let’s look at the FFG-7 class, the OLIVER HAZARD PERRY (OHP), a run of 51 ships, compared to where we are with LCS, a planned run of 52 ships (32 LCS and 20 FF).
OHP Hull-1 was commissioned in 1977.
LCS Hull-1 was commissioned in 2008.
Roll the clock forward roughly six years.
OHP by year six, through the end of 1983: 37 ships commissioned, 34 for the USN, 3 for the RAN.
LCS by year six, through the end of 2014: 4 ships commissioned.
We should note as well the operational history of the OHPs by 1983. FMC in all mission areas, full deployments with all Fleets. By the end of 2014, LCS is little more than creeping through further developmental testing … yet, we are committed to seeing the class through to whatever end it will have.
Why the optimism that this is the ship we want to send our Sailors to war in? Let’s jump to page 195 of the Pentagon’s Director, Operational Test & Evaluation 2014 Annual Report.
Further commentary on my part is not necessary. Some very cold, quiet, and self-reflective moments are needed by all to ponder why we are still here going there. For those responsible for this decision, perhaps ask yourself this; is there really anything wrong with others who measure your decisions and to still find them wanting?
What is there to gain by critics in to continuing to beat the undead?
Perhaps, if nothing else, to keep reminding future leaders that when it is their turn, that they can do better. Other generations have, so can theirs.
Below are just a few of the, ahem, highlights. There are many more.
The 2014 operational testing identified shortcomings in air defense, reliability, and endurance, and significant vulnerabilities in cybersecurity. When equipped with the Increment 2 SUW Mission Package, LCS 3 was able to defeat a small number of Fast Inshore Attack Craft under the particular conditions specified by the Navy’s reduced incremental requirement and after extensive crew training and tailoring of the tactics described in Navy doctrine; however, testing conducted to date has not been sufficient to demonstrate LCS capabilities in more stressing scenarios consistent with existing threats.
The core combat capabilities of the Independence class variant seaframe remain largely untested.
The MCM Mission Package has not yet demonstrated sufficient performance to achieve the Navy’s minimal Increment 1 requirements.
… end-to-end mine clearance operations have been limited by low operator proficiency, software immaturity, system integration problems, and poor Remote Minehunting System (RMS)/RMMV reliability.
… the Airborne Mine Neutralization System (AMNS) did not meet the Navy’s requirement for mine neutralization success. Failures of the host MH-60 aircraft’s systems and its associated Airborne MCM kit severely limited AMNS availability.
LCS is not expected to be survivable in high-intensity combat because its design requirements accept the risk that the ship must be abandoned under circumstances that would not require such an action on other surface combatants.
While both seaframe variants are fast and highly maneuverable, they are lightly armed and possess no significant offensive capability without the planned SUW Increment 4 Mission Package or Increment 2 Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Mission Package.
… (LCS-3) Based on fuel consumption data collected during the test, the ship’s operating range at 14.4 knots is estimated to be approximately 1,961 nautical miles (Navy requirement: 3,500 nautical miles at 14 knots) and the operating range at 43.6 knots is approximately 855 nautical miles (Navy requirement: 1,000 nautical miles at 40 knots).
The ship’s Mk 110 57 mm gun system performed reliably during operational testing, and the ship was able to demonstrate the core capability for self-defense against a small boat in two valid trials. The Navy attempted to collect additional data from swarm presentations, but the data were invalid. The 57 mm gun failed to achieve a mission kill during one swarm presentation, and the target killed by the 57 mm gun during a second swarm presentation had previously been engaged by 30 mm guns.
…The LCS 3 anchoring system could not securely anchor the ship in an area with a bottom composed of sand and shells. Despite repeated efforts, the ship was unable to set the anchor. It appears that the anchor and chain are too light and there are too many friction points along the anchor chain’s internal path from the chain locker to the hawse pipe to allow the anchor and chain to pay out smoothly.
DOT&E still has no data to assess the core mission capabilities of the Independence class variant seaframe.
LCS reliability problems also forced the ship to remain in port for repairs instead of conducting at-sea RMS testing as planned. … the Navy had not yet demonstrated that it could sustain operations of more than one 14-hour RMMV sortie per week (i.e., 10 to 12 hours of RMS minehunting per week). Unless greater minehunting operating tempo is achieved, the Navy will not meet its interim area clearance rate requirements.
So much personal and professional capital has been invested in this ship – and in this timeframe, what utility does this have for the Fleet commander? Even more importantly, what are we putting our Sailors in and deploying forward?
Yes, it is always a good time to look at LCS/FF and ask, “What hath we wrought?”
“Why is the Naval Academy Museum hosting a debate on the future of aircraft carriers?”
It’s a question I was asked earlier this week about the debate between Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath at USNA’s historic Mahan Auditorium. So let’s break down that question and answer it.
First, why is the Museum hosting this? Part of the Naval Academy Museum’s mission is to educate Midshipmen and the general public on the history of the Navy. While this debate is about the future of aircraft carriers, both debaters and the moderator are extremely well versed in the utility of carriers for much of the past century. In addition, the event was promulgated with additional information about the historical debate on aircraft carriers from the pages of Naval Institute Proceedings since 1922. In conjunction with the debate, the museum also has a special exhibit during January on the history of aircraft carriers. We’ve also produced through LTjg Christopher O’Keefe, the History of the Navy in 100 Objects which includes many videos on aircraft carriers. Our mission also includes demonstrating to the public the contributions of Academy graduates. It would be difficult to imagine today’s utility of aircraft carriers without the contributions of graduates such as Admirals Halsey, Mitscher, and others during World War II or nuclear propulsion guided by Admiral Rickover. This debate is open to the public.
Second, why a debate format? That’s simple. We are very fortunate at the Naval Academy to host a number of informed and recognized guest speakers and lecturers. The Museum, for examples, has a regular lecture series throughout the academic year. Although it may have happened in my ten years teaching at the Academy, I don’t recall a debate about a national security issue. It’s a great format to get to issues a single presenter might not. And, historically, there’s a real periodic tradition of debating naval issues among officers and civilians at least as far back as the Naval Lyceum and Naval Magazine in the 1830s. Both Jerry Hendrix and Bryan McGrath are well-versed in our naval history, articulate, and serious informed navalists whose voices are important in our greater concepts about national security. I, for one, look forward to learning from each side.
Third, why is the Museum involved in a debate on the future? That’s simple. We’re a teaching museum. Ideas about the future, whether they’re about operations, platforms, or strategies, simply don’t occur out of a vacuum. As they say, you can’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been. At the museum we’re trying to bridge the gap between our naval heritage and the future. For example, we try to integrate our artifacts in applied history projects with the midshipmen such as with the recently-acquired Mount Suribachi field glasses. In addition, our moderator is Captain CC Felker, USN, Chair of the History Department at the Naval Academy. He’s the author of “Testing American Sea Power” and holds a doctorate in history.
Finally, I owe mention to our partnership with the United States Naval Institute on this event. For those interested and unable to attend, the United States Naval Institute is livestreaming the event. The Museum and the Institute have a long history going back to when Preble Hall was built in 1939 and housed both the Museum and USNI. USNI left the building in 1999 for Beach Hall at Hospital Point but we have an excellent working relationship. We rely heavily on their photographic archives for some of our exhibits and they take photos of some of our collection for their book catalogues and Naval History Magazine.
Members of the Naval Institute will be familiar with the phrase for “To provide an independent forum for those who dare to read, think, speak, and write.” Now it’s time to debate. We hope you’ll listen and join in on the discussion in the pages of Proceedings, elsewhere, or on Twitter (#CarrierDebate).
This Sunday join us for our 5th Anniversary Show. No guests, no agendas – just us talking about what 2014 had to teach us, and looking towards what 2015 may have in store for everyone in the national security arena. This is a great time if you ever wanted to call in to ask either one of us a question on a topic you wish we would address … or just to say “hi.” Just be warned, we might ask you a question back. It’s what we do.
5pm EST. 4 Jan 14.
First, let’s set the stage. Most of you have already read this;
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Michael Stevens today said the Navy is revoking Bill Cosby’s title of honorary Chief Petty Officer, originally presented in 2011. The Navy is taking this action because allegations against Mr. Cosby are very serious and are in conflict with the Navy’s core values of honor, courage and commitment.
Cosby enlisted in the Navy in 1956 and served for four years as a hospital corpsman before being honorably discharged in 1960 as a 3rd Class Petty Officer.
Let us put aside the sordid stories and unpack this a bit.
The Navy is taking this action because allegations against Mr. Cosby …
As far as we know, these are simply allegations, yes? So, we do not wait for justice, we do not wait for much of anything. The accusation is enough, I presume.
In isolation of the case at hand, I hold no brief for Bill Cosby, fully hoist onboard the reasoning and precedence we are accepting, and over the last few decades have accepted with a numbingly regularity – there are larger issues at work.
Where else does this habit manifest itself? We all know about the abuse of the IG system and the habit of firing senior leaders simply on the basis of an accusation. When we do that, we destroy careers decades in the making and even worse, besmirch the name of good people who, once found innocent, cannot reclaim their good name.
When truth, justice, and fairness are replaced by emotion, spin, and narcissistically therapeutic emoting in synch with the political mob’s Zeitgeist of the news cycle – what message are we sending to the Fleet, to our Sailors?
If thinking, feeling, and believing are now trumping what we know – then exactly what kind of organization are we? What are our Core Values again?
What are we honoring by presuming guilt, executing punishment, and then using that presumption to preach to the adoring public about our “honor.”
What courage is it to immediately throw someone under the bus before they have had a chance to address the charges against them? Why the hurry? Are we serving justice, or are we only out to protect ourselves, truth – unknown – be damned.
What are we showing a commitment to? Not to a Petty Officer Cosby who served our Navy at not the easiest time for a man of his background to serve. I’m not sure we are showing commitment to the values of justice as outlined in the Constitution we are sworn to uphold. I’m not sure we are even showing a commitment to the UCMJ. It seems that we are mostly concerned with a commitment to damage control against the Zeitgeist.
These public sacrifices to Vaal serve nothing and no one but the person who does the firing, to remove a irritation, to remove a distraction – not for any other higher purpose. That is a clear message; a message that is received.
What is our official Ethos? Let’s pull from the juicy center;
Integrity is the foundation of our conduct; respect for others is fundamental to our character; decisive leadership is crucial to our success.
We are a team, disciplined and well-prepared, committed to mission accomplishment. We do not waver in our dedication and accountability to our shipmates and families.
We are patriots, forged by the Navy’s core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment. In times of war and peace, our actions reflect our proud heritage and tradition.
Are we showing respect for the assumption of innocence of Cosby? Are we being dedicated to our Shipmates? Is punishing people by removing honors based simply by accusation part of our proud heritage and tradition? Really?
Is that the standard we are going to set? Is that the message we want to send to our people? You will be punished without evidence, simply because of accusation? We will crush you, and if innocent or the accusations are unproven – then that is your problem, as long as we are protected?
We are looking for reasons why our most experienced leaders are leaving after Command. We are wondering why we have so many refusing command that is offered to them.
Want to know why there is such an erosion in trust in senior leadership? Wonder why there is so little confidence? Want to know why a growing number of mid-grade officers don’t want that job?
Look at messages. Look at actions – not words – actions. Is truth a habit, a feature, or an inconvenience. Is not all honor we have set on a foundation of truth?
If we undermine that value of truth, does not the entire structure above it fall in to danger?
Here is a data-point to consider – an example where the actual ethos set on high drifts down to every layer of our organization. Even down to the keepers of our official memory. The chronicle keepers. Those keeping the bridge log.
They feel that there is nothing wrong with deleting history; ripping pages out of the chronicles; changing the bridge log.
Here is a screen shot from Thursday night of the URL: “http://www.navalhistory.org/2011/03/03/chief-cosby-front-and-center” read the address. Here is what you see.
What is missing? Well, with the Internet – nothing is deleted. Here is the cache:
Was this done by bad people? No. This was done by good people taking action based on the signals they are getting from higher up. That is where my bet is.
In the opening, I stated this problem started decades ago, for clarity sake, let’s draw a sharp mark on the calendar – one that is in living memory for anyone Year-Group ’91 or older, and legend to younger. We can draw that line 23 years and three months ago to the second week in September 1991; Tailhook.
That is where we saw senior civilian and uniformed leadership – who were there and active participants – shrink and cower while pulling the uninjured bodies of the innocent over them to protect them from the political frag pattern. Countless good junior officers’ careers were strangled in the cradle to protect those already past their prime.
For those who lived through it – that was the first break in the trust in leadership and our system many of us experienced. Following events have just emphasized that break in a bond that should be there, but isn’t – a break we see, talk about, and even do surveys trying to figure out.
This episode of memory hole utilization is just another data-point of an entire organization that has allowed this malignancy to take hold from bottom to top. Though modest, it cannot be discounted. It is the shaking rear-view mirror that is the result of the engine mount that is slowly giving away. You can ignore the shake and dismiss it as minor – which it is – but, you are also ignoring the cause of it; a growing problem that will eventually lead to catastrophic failure.
I have had a few people mention to me that this action is a response to an organizational circuit breaker popping in DC over a Petty Officer’s horrific Peeping Tom activity towards his ship’s female officers. If true, then we are letting the criminal actions of a 2nd Class Petty Officer indict the entire Navy as an organization tries so hard to be seen doing something, anything – and Bill Cosby, already abandoned my most, is an easy, defenseless, target of opportunity.
Again, is this in line with the truth, justice, or fairness? No. It is the reactionary result of thoughts driven by feelings of fear, believing that in some way, the organization you lead is as bad as its critics say it is.
Not the finest example of the human condition is our actions towards Petty Officer Cosby. One thing this episode has made clear; we have yet to recover from the leadership failures we saw in spades after Tailhook.
UPDATE: A point of clarification was brought up in comments. That website is not hosted by the U.S. Navy. It’s hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute. NHHC was invited to be equal partner on our site, and others as guest bloggers, among them Navy TV. It is at their discretion to delete/make private the posts.
How do we build the future surface fleet to ensure our forces maintain the ability to access to all regions of the world’s oceans that our vital to our national interests?
Our guest to discuss this and the broader issues related to our surface forces will be Bryan Clark, Senior Fellow at Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).
A basis for our conversation will be his recent study for CSBA, Commanding the Seas: A Plan to reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare, where he articulates the operational concept of “offensive sea control” as the new central idea to guide evolution of the U.S. surface force. This idea would refocus large and small surface combatant configuration, payloads and employment on sustaining the surface force’s ability to take and hold areas of ocean by destroying threats to access such as aircraft, ships and submarines rather than simply defending against their missiles and torpedoes.
Prior to joining CSBA in 2013, Bryan Clark was Special Assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Director of his Commander’s Action Group.
He served in the Navy headquarters staff from 2004 to 2011, leading studies in the Assessment Division and participating in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. His areas of emphasis were modeling and simulation, strategic planning and institutional reform and governance. Prior to retiring from the Navy in 2007, he was an enlisted and officer submariner, serving in afloat and ashore including tours as Chief Engineer and Operations Officer at the Navy’s nuclear power training unit.
Mr. Clark holds a Master of Science in National Security Studies from the National War College and a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry and Philosophy from the University of Idaho.
Please join us at 5pm EST on 9 Nov 14 for for Midrats Episode 253: “The Fleet we Have, Want, and Need – with Jerry Hendrix”
What is the proper fleet structure for the USN as we design our Navy that will serve its nation in mid-Century?
Join us for a broad ranging discussion on this topic and more with returning guest, Henry J. Hendrix, Jr, CAPT USN (Ret.), PhD.
Fresh off his recent retirement from active duty, Jerry is a Senior Fellow and the Director of the Defense Strategies and Assessments Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
A Naval Flight Officer by training, his staff assignments include tours with the Chief of Naval Operation’s Executive Panel (N00K), the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (Force Development) and the OSD Office of Net Assessment.
His final position in uniform was the Director of Naval History.
Hendrix also served as the Navy Fellow to the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. He has a Bachelor Degree in Political Science from Purdue University, Masters Degrees from the Naval Postgraduate School (National Security Affairs) and Harvard University (History) and received his doctorate from King’s College, London (War Studies).
He has twice been named the Samuel Eliot Morison Scholar by the Navy Historical Center in Washington, DC, and was also the Center’s 2005 Rear Admiral John D. Hays Fellow. He also held the Marine Corps’ General Lemuel C. Shepherd, Jr. Fellowship. He authored the book Theodore Roosevelt’s Naval Diplomacy and received a number of awards, including the United States Naval Institute’s Author of the Year and the Navy League’s Alfred T. Mahan Award for Literary Achievement.