Monday, May 18, 2009


We are a nation, in a fashion, at war. We are a navy in a period of shrinking resources. We are a navy that still is not sure of itself, its place in this war, and are not sure how to get "there" to its mission after next - wherever "there" is.

There is nothing wrong with an organization deciding what it will and will not do given its mandate, resources, and will. All organizations must decide, through its leadership, what is of critical importance or not. You make those lines known through the priorities you set out. You resource your time, effort, funding, and intellectual capital towards those priorities and hope that expenditure of these finite resources will bring results towards your mission and responsibilities.

As a Mercantile Republic that relies on secure efficient commerce, there has been a clear growing threat over the last half decade to the free flow of goods at market prices - one that is not new, is well defined, and has proven methods of mitigation. On the High Seas through a well defined SLOC, piracy threatens unarmed merchant ships of US flag and others who carry the commerce and raw materials that in turn keep our society and way of life going.

Agree or disagree; our Navy can decide one way or another to enhance security of this nation's lifeblood as one of its priorities. As covered by Galrahn earlier, the CNO tossed out this nugget during hearings held last week.
Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the Seapower subcommittee, asked the CNO about Somali pirates, wondering whether a military security team could be placed on all American-flag vessels. Taylor urged that if a ship “has got an American cargo on it, it’s our stuff. We should put a team of trigger-pullers on there.”

Roughead noted that just hours before the hearing, a contractor security team aboard a ship in the Gulf of Aden had repulsed a pirate attack.

“I believe that that scheme is something that should be pursued as opposed to putting sailors and Marines aboard ships,” the CNO said.
OK, "it" is a scheme - and Sailors and Marines shouldn't defend American lives and property under a direct threat in international waters. We don't want to do it - we'll let civilian security companies (AKA in some places as mercenaries, which is fine) do it in some time line, method, and degree beyond our control - and when you talk to people in industry, the legality is such that they put themselves in significant legal risk by doing so.

But, I guess the US Navy does not see protecting life, limb and property of US goods and personnel in international waters as an important task in its list of priorities. After all, according to VADM Winnefeld's testimony on 05 MAY, there are between three to six US flagged ships transiting the piracy area a week. We only have a navy with ~330,000 Sailors ... we can't cover that, I presume.

Well, the CNO is the CNO, and with our civilian leadership he sets priorities. Good, honest people can argue that one way or another - and that is fine.

Obviously, defending unarmed merchant ships inside slider throwing range with Sailors and Marines isn't a Navy priority; accept that - it is a valid opinion and at this stage - stated policy. Yes sir, yes sir, three bags full. 51% of me is in alignment with him on this anyway. Maybe 50.1% - but I see the argument.

What then is a priority for a navy at war?
While visiting the Annapolis High School Navy Junior ROTC program yesterday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said his top long-term priority is increasing diversity in the officer corps.
The man largely in charge of the Navy's Annapolis seed corn is VADM Fowler. What is his priority in growing the leaders of Sailors and Marines for a period of persistent conflict with and existential threat to our nation?
"Diversity is my number one goal," Fowler said...
There you go.

I know - manning all those security teams for 3 to 6 ships a week cost billets. I know. So do many things. We have decided to fully man and support our branch of the Diversity Industry. Those billets are funded and that is fine. It is a priority. It also has an opportunity cost - we understand that. We have shifted billets to support our priorities - and that is fine - after all, your funded billets should reflect your priorities and those the taxpayer through their elected representatives expects the Navy to do; in theory.

Here we are; and to be a little more direct and less smarty-pants. We cannot tell Congress or the American taxpayer what size fleet we want and how we can get it - just look at the report from last weeks testimony linked to above and others. We cannot explain why we build ships that seem not to be able to do what they are designed to do - from DDG-1000 to LCS. We cannot define consistently their roles and missions. Our latest Maritime Strategy is 1/3 good stuff, and 2/3 shake-rattle-and-roll.

As a result, we are to a large measure a navy adrift; unfocused and unsure of its purpose in a time of war. Why? Look at what our nation expects its navy to do. Look at what the leaders of our navy state is the top priority.

Quod erat demonstrandum.

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