Archive for the 'Coast Guard' Category
I honestly try not to dwell on the casualties of war. Not that I don’t have a heart; in fact, the exact opposite is true… I probably care too much. Nor have I given any serious thought to the wars beyond the current conflicts we’ve all watched unfold on the television since 2001.
However, this changed as of yesterday morning while I was listening to my wife try to explain to my daughters what a door gunner does; the job my father-in-law had as a helicopter mechanic in Vietnam. This came about when a vet walked past our van, which has a Virginia Coast Guard license plate, saying thank you for my service to which my wife and swiftly returned the thank you.
As we continued our day I continued thinking about what Memorial Day really was? Sure we know it’s the day we take pause and thank those who’ve given their lives for their country. Or perhaps it’s simply a three-day weekend for others. I’m guessing most outside of the military centric world of which I reside don’t give much thought as to why they are getting a three-day weekend. I don’t fault them though. The U.S. has fallen short on remembering our fallen. That, of course, is my own opinion.
I didn’t have to think too long though in terms of its meaning to Ryan. I didn’t lose any family members to the wars of past. I know of three family members who’ve fought in wars since World War II/Vietnam and they retuned. The combined U.S. deaths of these two wars alone was: 463,608. That equates to 463,608 people, and their families, I should be thanking for the safe return of two Grandfathers and a father-in-law. More so that is 463,608 people I should be thanking for the freedoms afforded to the people of the United States and other free nations of the era.
Memorial Day is not about the long weekend, nor the day itself. It’s about those who’ve died in battle to ensure you can live the way you do; to vote the way you do; to wake up knowing that you are in a free county- the way you do. I’m tempted to go on a rant as to how this county has seemingly given up on caring about those who’ve perished… but I won’t. Not today.
Monday, 28 May 2012 is Memorial Day. I’m not asking you to visit military grave sites to see the numbers yourself, nor am I asking you to go out and find a veteran who may have lost their best friend in battle. What I am asking, however, is that you and your family reflect for only a moment- whether in silence or discussion- as to what Memorial Day is and means. It doesn’t matter if you know someone who died or not… don’t let the reason for the day be lost on that fact that you don’t think it directly affects you today. Though you know it or not- it has.
To lean more about Memorial Day check out these links:
I began writing this during the 11th hour of Joint Warfighter, feeling like I had something of an information hangover. Coffee was having no effect. Concepts and ideas were jumbled into an atemporal mess in my mind–it has been a long couple of conferences.
After the last session a woman walked past me and remarked that the panel was uninformative. I’ve now heard this sentiment twice in the last two days. In terms of this, I can agree that perhaps the actual information given by panelists might not be new, novel, or insightful. But, at best such a reality is decided on a case-by-case basis, since those in the audience have each been privy to different types, amounts, and quality of data. What was not profound to you, could have very well been profound to someone else. In short, the fact that you might not have found anything new in the discussion is irrelevant. But, it does point my thinking towards a new paradigm for conferences is needed.
There is little information that will be given to you in person that could not have been read elsewhere. The volume of data and information availed online is huge–you want to know about the Navy, you can learn most everything online. You can be given nuance from blogs and context from history. However, it is in person is where you learn about what people are thinking, and what they haven’t decided on. You see the person and all those subconscious things that denote what they’re really thinking.
That is the power of panels, that is why it is worth traveling so very far and spending so much: Experience. My Boss says that nothing supplants meeting someone in person, and he’s right. You can share emotion via the Internet, but you cannot truly experience emotion with someone, not even the subtle emotion felt when one is posed with a difficult question–as is often done in panels.
The division between audience and panel needs to be broken down. I struggle to articulate how to do this short of some hippie-esq ‘let’s-circle-our-chairs-and-hold-hands’ nonsense. But, the answer must be in there somewhere between the connectivity enabled by the Internet and being there in person.
AirSea Battle is in trouble. I don’t really know what it is, and even with engaging with the panel today, I still don’t think there is anyone out there who has the whole story. But. What truly troubles me, is that from the question I asked today.
I asked how AirSea Battle Strategy (anyone know what the word ‘battle’ is doing in a strategy?) would affect the tactical level. From what I remember of the answer, almost nothing will change except that there will be more jointness (termed ‘interoperability’ if I remember correctly) and tactical units will be smaller and enabled to mass quickly if a concentration of forces are needed.
Additionally, the design for AirSea is such that it will be layered over the tactical and operational COCOM level. This is where I really get lost–and I need your help to make sense of.
Wasn’t one of the greatest critiques of COIN that it wasn’t a true strategy, but rather a collection of tactics jumbled together and called strategy? If we are overlaying this strategy on top our existing operational and tactical paradigms, aren’t we doing the same thing COIN is accused of? What I understand of strategy is that it is the larger goals and combination of ends, ways and means towards reaching those goals. In attempting to draft a strategy that does not perturb current tactical paradigms, are we creating a strategy that changes nothing?
I really hope we aren’t, but I will need to be convinced we aren’t.
Another thing is that the crowd drawn to such Conferences are more industry than strategist. The questions routinely posed to the panels concerned acquisition more than they did anything else. There’s nothing wrong with this, but I’m not a contractor and so I am more I am more interested in strategy and tactics. What’s more is that because of the majority of the questions it is now hard for me to separate the future tools for implementing AirSea from the strategy itself.
Is AirSea a collection of new capabilities rather than a strategy in its own right?
While I was told that AirSea was not to have any major impact on the tactical level, there is one area in which I do see it having a major impact. AirSea seems to support the notion of acquiring 5+ generation fighters, new comms gear, and making everything stealth. The fielding of such gear will necessarily drive the need for new tactics, and operational models. From what I understand of the F-22, the logistics and maintenance requirement are quite different from having 15s, 16s and 18s downrange. In addition, if the services are to specialize further in niche but vital capabilities, interoperability is going to demand another round of relocating units CONUS for training purposes. If the Army has an Electronic Warfare requirement for a mission the Navy will have to fill that role. But, odds are that EW Squadron is in Northern Virginia, but the Combat Brigade is located in North Carolina or Georgia. For these two units to train together to be fully interoperable, they will need to train together almost constantly. I struggle to see how this will be cost effective, in the age of austerity with sequestration looming.
There is way too much that has gone unsaid regarding AirSea. I appreciate OPSEC needs as much as the next guy. But, AirSea is starting to be discussed widely across strategy and military focused blogs. The Chief of Staff of the Air Force and the Chief of Naval Operations are appearing together to present this strategy to the American People, and the message is thus far garbled. As we’re in the opening stages of the messaging campaign, I can appreciate that there is tweaking that will be done to it towards answering the myriad of questions we all have regarding AirSea. But, it will be a struggle. My sense is that many bloggers, strategists, and journalists are suspect of AirSea. After nearly ten years of coin being vigorously debated, any new strategy will have an uphill battle.
I saw a lot of GOFO’s over the course of Joint Warfighter. Just about as many as are at SHAPE. But, what is important is that I got to listen to them, at some length. General Allen, COMISAF, VTC’d in for an hour (and it was roughly 2100L AFG). Despite weather delays GEN Dempsey was present for an hour. I don’t know how much experience everyone has will trying to get on a GOFO’s schedule. But, average availability is around 15 minutes. An hour is an insane amount of time.
GENs Cartwright, Allen, and Dempsey all spoke without the use of PowerPoint or notes. They were able to navigate through multiple topics, ensuring that key messages were hit and came across as relaxed. They were all polished and impressive. GEN Cartwright had the luxury of no longer being in uniform and so his candor was particularly poignant.
I asked a lot of questions, and the way I worded a lot of questions was not readily understood. I’m pretty sure I had to rephrase every question I asked. It sucks when you’ve got a minute or seven standing behind the mic, listening to the other questions being asked, answers that touch upon the one you’re about to ask, and you’re thinking of a myriad of permutations of how you could ask your question. It’s like roulette, you don’t know when the moderator is going to call on you, and where ever your mind is at when you’re asked is the question that comes out.
*Remember, identify your self and your affiliation.*
One question got me asked if I wanted to work on the Joint Staff, and the answer to that is still an emphatic yes (if you want to see how that went down, watch the video. I won’t elaborate further).
During one such evening, at the USNI Member Event, I turned a corner, and Mary stopped me and introduced me to John Nagl. Yes, that John Nagl. Amazing, right? I love the Naval Institute… For more than just this one instance.
In 2007 I attended my first conference. It was Joint Warfighter, and the day I attended ADM Stavridis gave the keynote at Lunch.
I became aware of the conference while I was underway, and emailed the Institute asking how I could pay for the lunches. I was told that the Institute saves a few tickets for Enlisted members, and that I needn’t worry about paying to attend the luncheon keynote. Because of this, I became aware of ADM Stavridis, and sought out everything I could find of his writing. Eventually I found him on facebook as well, and in 2010 this all came together in enabling me to come work for him at SHAPE. It is directly because of the Naval Institute that I am who I am today.
The last keynote of the Conference was from Google’s Chief Technology Advocate. He presented a number of fascinating things Google does as “hobbies”. Google is all about gathering real world information and organizing and availing that information through the internet. I consider this a noble and laudable goal. What’s more is that they are doing an exceptional job at all of it.
However, such a goal is fraught with challenges and disturbing implications. Arthur C. Clark has some very good words to this point
The Information Age offers much to mankind, and I would like to think that we will rise to the challenges it presents. But it is vital to remember that information — in the sense of raw data — is not knowledge, that knowledge is not wisdom, and that wisdom is not foresight. But information is the first essential step to all of these.
Google gets this, and they are actively engaged in finding the right answers to such dilemmas. They seek out expert advice from guys like GEN Colin Powell. They seek to understand the implications of the capabilities and technologies they develop–they seek to build wisdom as much as they compile information.
I think it is important for this conversation to take place, as well as for it to be transparent and done in public. If Google can develop technologies that have significant security implications, it does us no good to bury this fact, as it denies us the ability to develop the wisdom required to understand our new abilities. Further more, if Google can do it, then eventually anyone could do it, being quiet about it won’t prevent this from happening.
All Around It was an excellent conference, I was especially pleased to see so many of our Allies stationed at Allied Command Transformation in attendance. Seeing French, British, German, and Spanish uniforms in the crowd made me feel a little bit like I was back home at SHAPE. Going forward, I think it would be a good thing to try to engage with our Allies more in such conferences. With more focus on Asia being demanded, deepening engagement and ties with our European Allies in other ways is important. An easy, and smart way to do this is with conferences like Joint Warfighter. Plus, JCWC has a nice ring to it (Joint-Combined Warfighter Conference).
As a Coastie I can say I take pride in my seagoing duties. No, I’m not a sailor but I work in the coastal zones for a seagoing service (it’s an association thing). However, we have Coast Guard personnel stationed all over the world; though 95% of those are near, if not on, the water there are those who work in the midst of- well- a place I thought was too flat and dry when I went there: Oklahoma City. There is little, well actually no, coastline there. But we have Coasties there and wherever we have Coasties they’re always ready.
19 April 1995 – A rental truck filled with explosives blew up half of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Coast Guardsmen from the Coast Guard Institute and a Coast Guard reservist responded soon after the explosion and helped set up security zones, directed traffic, searched for survivors, and whatever else was needed. They also took over a church kitchen and opened what later became nicknamed “Cafe Coast Guard.” A rotating nine-person team worked around the clock to provide meals for the volunteer workers.
Cross-posted from [re] ryan erickson
Let’s get this list going.
As an observation and a nod, not a criticism (of course) of our Vice President Joe Biden – who observed that, “You can go back 500 years. You cannot find a more audacious plan. Never knowing for certain. We never had more than a 48 percent probability that he was there.”
Because this will be a list, compiled into one blog post, whatever you put in the comments (respectfully and to the point of the post) we will incorporate into the post – then delete. Please submit your comments to us here or via [email protected] or give us your submissions via Twitter or Facebook . And when the first 500 hits it, [UPDATE]: WE WILL MAKE A BRACKET COMPETITION.
Give us your best of the best who were audacious – winners or losers – those who dared. We will update the list daily, no repeats – so dig deep when your favorite has already been mentioned.
Listed in order of submission and raw commentary (and without attribution and to protect the innocent):
500. SEAL mission per Vice President Joe Biden: Audacious on the part of our Commander in Chief, President Obama.
499. Japanese attack on Pearl was an Orange/Blue war-gamer exercise 6 or 7 years before 1941.
498. Entebbe, anyone? Or one might even argue that the raid on Bin Laden’s compound would not have been possible without the lessons learned from the even more audacious (if ultimately unsuccessful) plan of Operation Eagle Claw.
497. Lets start early. 1519 Hernan Cortez landed 600 Spaniards and about a dozen horses at Cozumel. He BURNED HIS SHIPS so there was no way to escape, and he and his men had to fight to the death. He led his men to destroy the entire Aztec Empire something that no invader had done in over 6 centuries. In the process he actually convinced the Aztecs that he was THEIR GOD.
496. Henry V at Agincourt – Nope, too early.
496. (Do-over) ”Kedging“- How USS Constitution Sailors evaded 170 guns of HMS Africa, Shannon, Belvidera & Aeolus!
Dare I say George Washington before the Battle of Trenton? Christmas Day 1776.
George Washington Crosses the Delaware in the dark of night to attack the British in Trenton.
For me there is one and only one #1. Without it an army driffs away, an idea dies, a piece of paper signed at the greatest personal risk becomes meaningless. General George Washington’s decision to attack Trenton on the morning after Christmas 1776 with a night march of impossible proportions couples not only audaciousness, but the greatest risk. For me it is the single most important moment without even a close second in American history, and for the idea of freedom as the world knows it today, possibly. My own telling here: http://
494, Eben Emael and the raid to free Mussolini
493. CDR “Red” Ramage, USS Parche, Pacific, 1944: as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Parche http://
492. Col Robin Olds, Operation BOLO Mig Sweep, North Vietnam, 1967 http://user.icx.net/
491. Doolittle Raid Doolittle Raid, 1942…(while a japanese radio broadcast stated, almost to the moment of the attack, how Japan would never be attacked, with air raid sirens suddenly going off-a “baghdad bob” moment)…which in turn, caused grave consternation, and thus triggered rash action by the Imperial Japanese Navy, resulting in catastrophic loss at Midway, with which they would lose their offensive initiative for the remainder of the war…despite efforts to regain it at Guadalcanal and others.
490. Admiral David Farragut leads his ships into Mobile Bay, 1864. Approaching the mine field laid by the Confederates the USS Tecumseh (first in the battle line) hit a mine and exploded, shocking the entire fleet. The USS Brooklyn stopped dead in the water, and the Captain asked the Admiral for instructions. Farragut ordered his ship, the Hartford, to steam around the Brooklyn and take the lead, signaling his forces “Damn the Torpedoes…Full speed ahead!” The entire column of 14 ships passed safely through the mine field and took Mobile.
489. April 22, 1778. At 11 p.m. on this day in 1778, Commander John Paul Jones leads a small detachment of two boats from his ship, the USS Ranger, to raid the shallow port at Whitehaven, England, where, by his own account, 400 British merchant ships are anchored.
488. Captain Charles Stewart of USS Constitution taking on two warships simultaneously in February 1815.
487. Though unsuccessful, Desert One was audacious.
486. How USS Constitution Sailors evaded 170 guns of HMS Africa, Shannon, Belvidera & Aeolus!
485. Berlin Airlift
482. Market Garden (for a not-so-successful example)
481.Camp Century Greenland, 1959-1966.http://
480. Manstein Plan, France 1940 (replaced the original von Schlieffen plan), bait the allies into the low countries, cut them in half, and take the entire region in 6 weeks.
479. 1588, english channel, England vs Spain. English ships, more maneuverable, chipped away at the snds of the Spanish Armada’s ships (arranged in an arcing format) instead of taking them head-on. Forced the Spanish ships into disorder, and over a few days, whittled them down to near-insignificance…forc
Audacious to say the least.
478. 1970, USAF and Army Special operations crash land an HH-3 helicopter in the middle of the Son Tay prison complex in North Vietnam in an attempt to rescue 65 American POWs. The operation is carried out perfectly, but the prisoners were moved a few months earlier to different accommodations.
477. Operation Dynamo, the “miracle of Dunkirk” in WW2
476. Battle of the River Plate, 1939. One of the greatest psyche-outs in naval annals. Spee literally pulverized UK’s Ajax, Achillies(NZ), and Exeter. One’s fire control was out, another’s main gunnery was out, the third was mauled but intact. GS was also damaged, and thinking the UKs 3 were still coming after him (most would’ve broke off by then), he made for Montevideo…where he was told to leave within 72hours. GS was relatively intact, despite some damage, and could have re-engaged. Thinking there were more heavies coming (via the radio traffic of the 3, who remained, even though they would have been cut to pieces had the GS came out to face them), Capt Langsdorf scuttled the Graf Spee without a battle. 3 days later he shot himself. Sheer audacity, and well executed…using nothing but guile.(the truly genius strategist finds ways to war without battle-Sun Tzu)
475. The bayonet charge of Joshua Chamberlain on July 2, 1863 at Little Round Top during the Gettysburg battle.
474. Bridge at Dong Ha
473. 1918 Battle of Belleau Wood
472. June 1995 rescue of Scott O’Grady
471. Battle of the Bulge, with the Germans scraping up enough armor, soldiers and fuel to give the US and Allied Armies a real good scare
470. USS ENGLAND taking the bull by the horns, and sinking 6 Japanese subs in less than 2 weeks.
More information here
Many of the decision points in our lives can be sorted into four specific guiding questions. They provide an excellent means of evaluating our decision, our choices, and most effectively melding what we need with what we can afford. The questions can correspondingly apply to selecting a college, or to prospective employment. They work well when designing and building a house, or buying a car. Purchasing insurance. Even when deciding on marriage. What are these four questions?
- What can I live with?
- What can I live without?
- What can’t I live with?
- What can’t I live without?
Simple questions, really. But their answers require a good deal of thought.
They are also questions that should be asked when developing National Security Strategy, and its subcomponent, National Military Strategy. Those questions need to be asked as we determine the size, posture, and capability of our military and its supporting industrial base. Those four straightforward questions must eventually be asked of our Navy at a number of different levels.
The first is to address the size and capabilities/capacity of our Navy. What can we reasonably expect our Navy to do? For how long? In how many places at once? Hard questions that demand realistic and informed discussion. Currently, we have a Cooperative Strategy that cannot be executed under any but the most benign conditions on the world’s oceans. How long are we going to continue to make promises to ourselves and our allies that we cannot keep? What are we willing to have the courage to say openly that we cannot do with current capabilities?
Related to the above queries, but not identical, is to ask how big will our Navy be. Numbers tossed around in the previous decade and a half range anywhere from 340 down to the current 285-ish. (The disparity of 55 ships is equivalent to the strength of two Royal Navies, so it isn’t trivial.) Yet, the budget realities and the cuts made to shipbuilding projections point to a number closer to 260, if not lower, by the end of the decade. While it is true that 260 modern warships have tremendous combat power, it is also axiomatic that they cannot have the same global forward presence that 340 warships, some with somewhat less capability perhaps, can have.
The next level at which the four guiding questions need to be asked is the level of ship design and shipbuilding. This cannot be done in isolation, but must be informed by serious and exhaustive discussion regarding what Admiral Zumwalt called the “high-low mix”. How many capital ships of extensive capability are required for our missions, and how many of lesser but more appropriate capabilities does the Navy need? It is this level in particular that the Navy seems unable, in fact abjectly refuses, to answer. Not every ship needs every capability. When we believe it does, we end up with multi-BILLION dollar platforms chasing skiffs off the Horn of Africa, and a fleet so expensive that the risking of a single unit for a dangerous but necessary mission becomes all but unacceptable.
There has been much discussion of those issues in the pages of Proceedings, and among Naval Officers and strategic thinkers, Naval enthusiasts, and the legions of the Great Unwashed who blog the intertubes. One of the more interesting remarks in this regard was an assertion, perhaps rightly, that with its current philosophy and unwillingness to address the high-low question, the Navy is incapable of building a platform in between the under-gunned and unsurvivable LCS and an Aegis-capable Arleigh Burke.
So the question of the mix is not new. Captain Jerry Hendrix wrote of it with his Buy Fords, not Ferraris in the April 2009 Proceedings. Discussion at the last three USNI/AFCEA West conferences was rich with commentary. In this month’s Proceedings, Norman Polmar evokes Plan URR with his A Paradigm Shift, asking whether a much larger number of STOVL carriers would be more effective than a small and likely shrinking number of $15 billion dollar CVNs. (A hat-tip woulda been nice!) When I asked the question of high-low mix at this year’s Shipbuilding Panel in San Diego, the panelists all but admitted that there hadn’t been much discussion on the subject, and that the goal was still 313 ships.
The final level at which those four questions above need to be asked is in the experimentation with “Optimal Manning”. Anyone who even occasionally glances at this site knows my aversion to reducing crews of ANY equipment or weapon platform below what is required to drive, fight, fix, and maintain. The biggest decision for the Navy has to be defining “optimal”, and to whom the term applies. Is it “optimal” for the Navy leadership to show reduced manpower costs to our Congresscritters while our warships continue to experience serious maintenance issues and are not mission capable? Do we want crews so thin that there is only time for eating, sleeping, and operating? No time for training in the myriad skills and requirements of basic seamanship, damage control, or weapons proficiency? Do we want crews that have no ability to absorb any casualties without compromise of mission?
Again, difficult questions. Senior Navy leadership, and senior Defense Department officials, are going to have to make some hard calls. The answer is not to exhort our Sailors to do “more with less”. That bit of self-delusional platitude is the path to a head-on collision with the realities of combat, with usually catastrophic results.
The discussions must be informed, serious, and realistic. And they need to be soon. In May, USNI/AFCEA will be holding the Joint Warfighting Conference in Virginia Beach. The theme is “Joint and Coalition Forces; The Inflection Point. What to Hold and What to Fold?” Without these discussions, commentary will again be nearly blind speculation, akin to a hand of five-card stud, but deciding which cards to keep and which to discard without looking at them. If we continue to insist on playing our cards in such a way, we ought not to be surprised if the betting patterns of our potential adversaries change accordingly.
Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.
-Admiral Chester Nimitz
America lost 6,821 of her sons on Iwo Jima. More than 19,000 were wounded. Twenty-seven Medals of Honor and more than 200 Navy Crosses were awarded for heroism on that island.
Where is USS Michael Strank? USS Franklin Sousley? USS Harlan Bloch?
After a decade dominated by ground wars against insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, the drill dubbed Bold Alligator is “the largest amphibious exercise conducted by the fleet in the last 10 years,” said Admiral John Harvey, head of US Fleet Forces Command.
The American military, mindful that Marines have spent most of their time in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan since 2001, said the goal was “to revitalize, refine, and strengthen fundamental amphibious capabilities and reinforce the Navy and Marine Corps role as ‘fighters from the sea.’”
The lack of practice at a craft that is immensely complex (amphibious assault) and requires extensive planning and rehearsal has been a concern of the Marine Corps for most of the past decade. Many junior Officers and SNCOs have never been afloat, let alone had anything to do with amphibious operations. Landing plans, serial assignment tables, scheduled, on-call, and unscheduled waves are terms unfamiliar to most. Fire support planning in amphibious operations, challenging in the best of circumstances, must now be done in an environment of austere Naval surface fires.
The BOLD ALLIGATOR exercises, and the war games that reinforce them (EXPEDITIONARY WARRIOR, etc.) will introduce those younger Marines to the art of projecting power ashore from the sea. Shortfalls in capabilities and capacity will be identified, new methods developed to leverage modern platforms, and assumptions either validated or proven incorrect. The bugaboo of every amphibious operation, the command relationship between CATF/CLF, will be examined anew.
The addition of our French allies in this exercise is crucial, as the interoperability of international forces in a coalition operation is always a challenge. Lessons on doctrine, equipment requirements and capabilities, as well as the personal command relationships between seniors, make for more lethal and efficient combat forces.
The landings in North Carolina and Virginia are not being conducted in a vacuum, either:
The threat of mines, anti-ship missiles and small boats in coastal waters conjure up Iran’s naval forces, but the commanders overseeing the drill, Admiral Harvey and Marine Lieutenant General Dennis Hejlik, say the scenario is not based on any particular country.
When asked by reporters last week, Harvey acknowledged that the exercise scenario was “certainly informed by recent history” and that it was “applicable” to the Strait of Hormuz, as well as other areas.
Harvey also said the exercise incorporated lessons from the 2006 Lebanon conflict, when Iran-backed Hezbollah forces hit an Israeli navy corvette with an anti-ship missile.
This event was important enough to have CNO Admiral Greenert in attendance, and highlights a significant shift in the Navy’s views regarding its role in the amphibious power projection mission. While always publicly supporting the Navy-Marine Corps team, the unofficial position of the Navy toward this mission seemed decidedly luke-warm and was at odds with the Marine Corps over requirements and resources. This is good news for Naval forces whose focus will be the western Pacific. One can bet a paycheck that the USN and USMC will be scribbling furiously, taking copious notes. Lessons will be learned, training will be invaluable.
And best of all, an entirely new generation of Marines will be introduced to the smell of paint, exhaust fumes, crude oil, salt water spray, and vomit that are indelibly etched on every Marine who has climbed down the cargo net, ridden the tuna boats off the well deck through the surf, or splashed ashore from the LCUs. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
The above statement is a part of the comments from US Representative Randy Forbes, R-Va, who chairs the House Readiness Subcommittee. He made the remarks in July, but it hardly seems as if things have been on the upswing since.
Stars and Stripes is reporting that USS Essex (LHD-2), flagship of ESG-7, will not be participating in Cobra Gold. Seems, she is broken. That’s twice, inside of a year. BEFORE the coming Defense cuts.
Following the optimistic tone of the USNI/AFCEA West 2012 speakers and panels, VADM Burke, DCNO for Readiness, provides a somewhat less upbeat analysis:
Vice Adm. William Burke, deputy chief of naval operations for fleet readiness and logistics, told the committee that the Navy has “a limited supply of forces.”
“When you have these additional deployments, you sometimes impact the maintenance, or you impact the training, which will impact the maintenance,” he said. “So what we have is one event cascading into another, so we don’t get either of them quite right.”
While a TF 76 spokesman attributes the problem to “wear and tear”, and declares the 21-year old Essex “no spring chicken”, the true cause of the problems are systemic and not mechanical. To wit, Lt Anthony Falvo from 7th Fleet:
Lt. Anthony Falvo, 7th Fleet spokesman, said the Essex may have been impacted by missing maintenance.
“Pacific Fleet ships adhere to rigorous maintenance standards and maintenance periodicities per the Joint Fleet Maintenance Manual and other Navy directives,” Falvo wrote in an email to Stars and Stripes. “On any given day we have roughly 40% of our ships underway and we are meeting the requirements of the combatant commanders.”
Ya think? The absurdly shortsighted experiment with “optimal manning”, the deferring of maintenance because OPTEMPO is too high for the numbers of ships in commission, the idea that we can DO MORE WITH LESS, those are the problems. Wear and tear? It becomes a problem without proper maintenance of subcomponents and systems. “No spring chicken”? Remind me how old the Austins were?
Over on Nate Hughes’ excellent post is some significant discussion about the economics of maintaining a Navy and getting the most for the taxpayers’ treasure. This ain’t it. Some in the Navy or associated with it will tell you that the most “cost effective” course is to decommission and dispose of ships like Essex, even though they will not be replaced one-for-one. This lays bare the absurdity of that notion. The most cost effective course is to properly maintain the vessels in commission, and if capable vessels for their mission, keep them in commission to the end of their expected service lives, or even longer if viable.
Under Secretary Work, tell us again about the National Military Strategy that won’t stretch our shrinking resources past the breaking point?
Thursday morning, Under Secretary of the Navy (and more importantly, former Marine artilleryman) Robert O. Work skilfully executed his own “pivot”. Secretary Work had intended to deliver remarks regarding the program choices associated with the recently-released Defense budget. Well, you go to the podium with the speech you have, not the one you wish you had. It seems SECNAV was not going to publicly comment until later in the day, so Secretary Work chose not to publicly do so ahead of that, and instead delivered an enthusiastic and decidedly upbeat address on the challenges and opportunities facing the Navy-Marine Corps Team in the coming century.
Secretary Work referenced former CJCS Admiral Mullen’s talk of the previous day, and lived up to his well-deserved reputation for his grasp of history and its relevance to future events. Diverging from Admiral Mullen’s views of the uniqueness of the path ahead, Secretary Work outlined the challenges faced by President Eisenhower in 1953, an ongoing war far larger than the current and recent conflicts combined, an existential threat from a peer enemy about to detonate a thermonuclear device of their own, faltering allies asking for assistance in remote regions of the globe, and an electorate very tired of war. Indeed his example speaks to the tendency to consider present challenges as groundbreaking and unprecedented, when in point of fact, they are usually not nearly quite so.
Secretary Work proceeded to provide a Huntington-esque perspective on the history of America’s military eras, as defined by salient policy events. That perspective is worth summarizing here.
The Continental Era
July 4th 1776 to December 1, 1890
America’s Army was dominant, with an intermittent and largely coastal (with notable exceptions) Navy and small Marine Corps, no overseas bases, and a focus on western expansion across the North American continent. The era ended with the tragic events at Wounded Knee, which was the last of the frontier fights. During the Continental Era, for every month the United States was at war, she spends approximately six months at peace.
The Trans-Oceanic Era
December 1, 1890 to March 12, 1947
America becomes a two-ocean Mahanian maritime nation once and for all, and after massive military commitment to winning two world wars, is a world power with overseas bases, with far-flung interests, and security commitments to allies and former adversaries (whom we have to build up from virtual ruin) on almost every continent. The era ends with the announcement of the Truman Doctrine, and the beginning of the Cold War. For every month of war during the Trans-Oceanic Era, there are 5.2 months of peace.
The Cold War
March 12, 1947 to May 12, 1989
Containment of the Soviet Union, a peer adversary, which dominates Eastern Europe and makes serious inroads in Asia, southern Europe, and Latin America. Large wars in Korea and Vietnam, the respective growth and contraction of the US Military in the aftermath of those wars, and lots of little wars by proxy, and an existential threat of Soviet first strike. The Cold War is declared over on May 12, 1989, by President George H W Bush. Indeed, in 1990-91, forces from Europe are sent to Saudi Arabia for the Gulf War, more than a year before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. In this increasingly active era, aside from a Cold War for the entirety, for each month of hot war, the United States is only at peace for 2.67 months.
The Global Era
May 12, 1989 to December 31, 2011
Two wars in Iraq, 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, protracted and expensive efforts at nation-building are the events of the most active time for America’s military in her entire history. For every month at war during this Global Era, America will have just 1.08 months of peace. The Global Era ends, according to Secretary Work, with the end of the war in Iraq
The beginning of 2012 is the beginning of the “Naval Century”.
This era, says Secretary Work, will be one of global American sea power, focused on the western Pacific, always a maritime region, and the Middle East, which is becoming increasingly so.
Secretary Work asserts that this nation’s military, its people and equipment, are tired out. They need to be refreshed, revitalized, and allowed to recover from the strain of two protracted wars. And the military needs to shrink. Especially in manpower, the single highest cost category.
I reproduce Secretary Work’s perspective in near entirety because I believe it is cogent and well-thought, from someone whose grasp of history is superb, and because it is worthwhile. It also allows us to put current conditions in context. Some of his points are excellent, and provide an insight into how Mr. Work thinks of what he calls the Total Force Battle Network and its shape in the coming decades.
This Total Force Battle Network will be characterized by a Navy-Marine Corps team capable of forcible entry and power projection globally, and an ability to keep vital SLOCs open to freedom of navigation. This Naval force will be characterized by thoroughly networked platforms and weapons, unmanned systems in all three dimensions, with technology-enabled combat power second to none. An increased emphasis on SOF throughout the services, Navy and Marine Corps included, and a more capable maritime domain awareness using unmanned and manned platforms to cover vital areas nationally and globally. Forward presence in vital regions will be credibly maintained. This force will be maintained and sustained by personnel strengths equal to the task, a break from the “optimal manning” experiment that went “too far”.
This will also be a force that is used less frequently than were forces in the Global Era, allowing for time to train and maintain, and to test and experiment with new technologies and new methods of employment. And, passionately, Mr. Work reminded us that the people who make up our Naval forces, Sailors and Marines, will remain the single greatest asset the Total Force Battle Network can employ. They will remain the professional, motivated, educated young warriors that are exemplified by CDR Ernest Evans, who told his crew of Johnston (DD- 557) “This is a fighting ship, and I intend to take her into harm’s way!”. And at Samar, when eight Japanese capital ships appeared on the horizon, turned his destroyer toward the vastly superior force and interject his little ship in between the Japanese and the escort carriers of his task force. The decision cost him his ship and his life, but helped save the Task Force and possibly the Leyte landings further south. It also earned CDR Evans a posthumous Medal of Honor. Our people and our Navy and Marine Corps will do the things that are required to be the best in the world, because, as in the past, they will be “great by choice”.
Secretary Work’s words should be inspirational to any Sailor or Marine who takes pride in his service. The Navy Undersecretary is definitely on our side. He is a man who says what he means and means what he says. The coming cuts, the $480 billion in the next ten years, are challenging but workable. They represent a drawdown of some 24% of the US Military, which Mr. Work points out is rather less than that of other post-war draw-downs, including the years of the “Peace Dividend” following the Cold War and Desert Storm. His was definitely a tone of confidence in the future of our Naval forces.
I hope he is correct. I hope we have a strategy commensurate with our capabilities, and our reach doesn’t exceed our grasp. And that our focus on SOF and unmanned systems will not require the “Plan B” of conventional forces in great numbers, because they simply will not be there. Whatever the numbers of ships, systems, and personnel we settle on, that cannot be the starting point for the ill-conceived concept of further pinching of pennies by chasing temporary savings (“Optimal Manning”, deferring maintenance, retiring warships at half their service lives) that result in driving up long-term costs and reducing effectiveness.
And I hope he is right about sequestration. Because, as upbeat and slightly sanguine as Secretary Work’s words were, even he admits that the cuts that would come in that event will devastate our nation’s defenses and make any meaningful National Military Strategy impossible.