Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Navy's Leaders Step Off the Bridge While Conning

From the Chief of Naval Operations to the Secretary of the Navy and even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the priorities have shifted from fielding and training a fleet and winning battles at sea to environmentalism, social issues, and the federal budget at large.

Former Mississippi governor and current Secretary of the Navy Ray Maybus(D), stated in his swearing in ceremony that his number one and two goals would be to eradicate sexual assault in the Navy and to push green technology initiatives. Noble efforts for certain, especially for a nation at peace, flush with cash and secure in its financial and security outlook--Except the nation is embroiled in two large wars with a global conflict against terrorism (not to mention a resurgent Russia and looming China). So what gives? The SECNAV is taking on issues that he feels most comfortable with. Despite having served in the Navy as a junior officer, Mabus has had precious little interaction with the military since his youth. His ability to weigh in on policy, shipbuilding, strategy, or tactics is extremely handicapped. His selection as SECNAV was a reward for his early-on support of the Obama campaign in the south (back when Obama was trailing Clinton). He has been quick to get on board with the Obama administration's primacy on advancing the democrat agenda, even at the expense of the service that he is supposed to champion. It was no surprise, then, that Maybus was selected to lead the federal government's recovery effort from the still ongoing BP Oil Spill. The sad part is that his (temporary?) absence from his job as SECNAV will not be missed.
Former Pacific Fleet Commander and current Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead, stated during his change-of-command ceremony that his top goal for the Navy was, in a word, "Diversity." Since that watershed moment, Roughead has gone about undoing the meritocracy of the Navy in favor of a box of crayons approach where you must have "all the right colors" in "all the right proportions" in order to consider yourself whole. Gone is the color blind service where performance equates with promotion (or officer / naval academy selection). During his time as Pacific Fleet Commander, Admiral Roughead's primacy concern was the exponential Chinese military buildup. Since his departure from the Pacific Fleet, media outlets began widely publicizing the proliferation of anti-surface ballistic missiles (capable of targeting navy aircraft carriers and other vessels), the proliferation of anti-surface cruise missiles by non-state actors, piracy in waters all over the world, Iranian ballistic missile capabilities, and Axis of Evil nuclear weapons development. Since his time at PACFLT, ships have gotten even more expensive, maintenance has gone down, training is a joke, we have no executable thirty-year shipbuilding program, and our largest shipbuilding program--the littoral combat ship--is putting out ships capable of neither littoral operations nor combat.
Former Chief of Naval Operations and current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, has shown an unusual interest in economics as of late. From his profiles on the Huntington Post, Fast Company, Time Magazine and others he has routinely stated that he considers the national debt to be the single largest national security threat facing the United States today. And, in a move that has shocked insiders and observers of the Department of Defense, he has advocated offering up his own department for slaughter to help pay it down. This is a far cry from the transformational navy that Mullen has advocated back when he was Director of Surface Warfare and Chief of Naval Operations. Mullen was the key driver behind the low manning number Key Performance Parameter (requirement) for the next generation destroyer, the DDG 1000. By reducing manning, a reliance was being built in to conduct all maintenance (both preventative and corrective) by contractors and or civillian / military pier based personnel as well as developing automated systems that could be operated by 1/3 of the crew of a traditional destroyer. This effort was and continues to be cost intensive, and its half-assed resourcing (due to sticker shock) has led to the rampant failure of concept of the DDG 1000 and its cousins: the Littoral Combat Ship, and the LPD 17.
When did these Navy Men stop being Sailors? Where is the advocacy of the sea services as something other than as a Global Force for Good? Where is the commitment to training, to maintenance, to a sustainable shipbuilding program that is both affordable and capable of producing and maintaining quality ships capable of fighting and winning battles at sea? For all the years at sea and operations they have taken part in, the surrender of salt in our Admiralty and the complete void of salt in our SECNAV has led to a Secretary of Defense who questions the very existence of core Navy capabilities, namely the capability to assault a beachhead and prosecute objectives inland using the Navy-Marine Corps Team. Our own marketing campaign describes us as an international relief agency that also stands by to shoot down Iranian ballistic missiles or errant satellites.
Beyond Battle of Midway celebrations, Fleet Weeks, and Conversations with the Country, our Navy leadership needs to commit itself to the Navy itself, and recognize that history has shown us what happens when we take our eyes off the waterfront (Carter administration) and start looking elsewhere, be it to business lingo or social engineering. It is hard enough to resource and maintain a fleet when your leaders are committed to it; it is impossible when those leaders are distracted.

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