Monday, March 10, 2008

Maritime Strategy Monday: the Revolt of the Commanders

UPDATE: The author of the article quoted below sent out a ping in comments and is looking for your take. Weigh in.

Back home we have a phrase called "shoot'n up the horse." You can do that, the NFL does the same thing with their players as well. Like gun-decking - it looks good in the short run as long as you don't look too deep, ask too many questions, and transfer to your next set of orders before reality hits those who write your FITREP. The problem is - reality does his, and when it does she is a
mean, unforgiving, spiteful b1tch.

The horse has to be put down. The NFL hero is a pain-wrecked invalid, and wars are
lost. Closer to home, when the facade of of half-truths, bu11sh1t bingo Point Papers, and cascading best-case scenarios can no longer hide the mis-management of Senior Leadership - things happen.

You lose 25% of your Maritime Reconnaissance platforms.

You lose about the same percentage of your air-defense fighters.

Your affordable littoral "
Street Fighter" becomes a top-heavy, overpowered, white elephant whose core price even without warfighting mission modules breaks the $500 million a hull price tag.

DD-21 (because EVERYTHING must be "21") morphs into a $3-5 billion per hull of untested weapons in an ill-named and mal-numbered DDG-1000.

Your basic LPD costs what a CVL should.

Any objective appraisal tells you that you have an organization (us) that has lost its grasp on not just what its Strategy is (there is always the correct Strategy - the key is to find it and not follow a false or incomplete one), but also forgot how to build a balanced fleet of realistic, affordable and effective ships. It is also clear that its Senior Leadership is absent from the bridge and is instead giving rudder commands from its in-port cabin.

After years of danger signals and warning signs, I think all but the most entrenched sycophants will admit that the Navy is in a great crisis of its own creation. Though there is plenty of blame to be distributed to SES and political appointments, this crisis on balance rests in the lap of the uniformed Senior Leadership over the last decade+ who sold to the Navy and its supporters an ill-conceived failure of a policy based on intentional historical ignorance.

Encouraged by an industry that enjoys design payments as much as production and enabled by a Congress incapable of looking beyond the next election - our 3 & 4-Stars have left us with a shrinking fleet of unaffordable prototypes being built by under-capitalized, archaic shipyards being run by companies whose expertise lie elsewhere.

They had us sink and scrap our DD and FFG early to free-up funds for the "Transformational."

They had us castrate the remaining FFG to free-up money for the "Revolutionary."

They pay double the price for ships and then ask for more money because the pier looks empty.

They claim ships with powerful radars and visible sail areas greater than that of a WWII Pocket Battleship will be invisible Destroyers simply because the PPT says Destroyer and has a picture of a ship turning invisible.

Because it is easy to add a bullet to a PPT slide, they change requirements on ships, then are shocked that one bullet on a slide causes millions more due to the fact that it is difficult to fudge proper welded metal and the laws of Physics.

They ignored the hard, cold facts of Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare because they were Cruiser and TACAIR guys - and after all, if they simply call a Sailor a "Hybrid" then by-golly he is one - facts and lessons of the past be d@mned.

All for the love and support of Happy Talk. As the core of the Navy - its Fleet - finds its Senior Leadership unable to articulate, plan, and order a Navy that can exist in the physical and fiscal reality - the leadership, concept, idea, and self-criticism vacuum becomes overwhelmingly.

There have been many good Flag Officers in the last couple of decades, but on this subject many, each for their own reasons best known only to themselves, have held their fire from Newport, to Capitol Hill, to Chrystal City, to The Pentagon, to Pax River - and failed to address, advertise, and fix the problem.

As a result we find parallel universe ideas coming up - because in desperation, the need is out there for someone to come up with ideas, any ideas because the ones we have aren't working - and the Senior Leadership isn't saying a word outside more of the same.
Could a nuclear-powered version of the venerable Arleigh Burke DDG 51-class destroyer become the next missile cruiser for the U.S. Navy? That's the vision of at least one influential congressman.

Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., chairman of the seapower subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, said March 6 he is seeking to add money to the 2009 request to fund an effort to build a nuclear-powered warship that would supplant construction of the DDG 1000 destroyers.

The new ship would be a slightly larger version of the 9,200-ton DDG 51s, powered by one nuclear reactor of the type developed for the new Gerald R. Ford CVN 78-class aircraft carriers.

Taylor said he would end the DDG 1000 Zumwalt class at the two ships already ordered and cancel plans to build a total of seven of the ships.

"I'm more frustrated than most with the slow pace of rebuilding the fleet," Taylor said. "The answer [from the Navy] always is, 'We're studying it.' So we're going to turn the equation around a little bit."

The Navy is working to design a new CG(X) cruiser based on the 16,000-ton DDG 1000 tumblehome hull, but Taylor said he doesn't see the need for that effort.

"Rather than all this fooling around with a new hull design, the 51 hull has been a great hull. Everyone likes it. So if it works at that size, we want to make the calculations to grow it big enough to carry that power plant," he said.
I don't want to get distracted into a discussion of the DDG-51 hull - heck as the only no-kidding surface warship in production that can actually engage the enemy in three dimensions - I love it to. But ... I am in a word - gobsmacked - that this is where we have found ourselves.

In such an environment, what does the standard issue Fleet leader; the LCDR, CDR, and CAPT see? We see huge expenditure of leadership capital going towards the unending
Kabuki dance-fetish of the cancer of discredited "Diversity."

We see good, smart people publishing works that simply
do not stand up to the light of day.

We see
CNOs and SECDEFs openly prostituting themselves both while in office and immediately after to industry.

When was the last time anyone saw a challenging article or performance with follow-through (
Gen. Krulak an exception) in front of Congress from a senior active duty Flag Officer? Much of what you find in the traditional press mediums they use is re-hash of already Revealed Policy - and having done stuff like that for 2 through 4-Stars, much of that is written by one of their Staff Officers anyway.

Into this vacuum of leadership is where we get the ideas from the well meaning Rep. Gene Taylor (D-MS) and his ideas. The lack of an effective and cogent response from Flag Officers to the "nuke DDG-51" tells a huge story in itself.

We are in a crisis not unlike that which we found ourselves in the late 40s with the
Revolt of the Admirals, or the F-111B FOD-fest of the 1960s - but where are the 3 and 4-Stars? Sadly, they are UA. They are mistaking loyalty to men to duty towards their Navy and Nation.

In the Blogosphere, all you read are from CAPT on down; and that is probably for the best. However, the same gap can be seen in the traditional professional publications. There is simply no creative friction out there coming from Senior Leadership. We do not have a
Admiral Burke, or and Vice Admiral Connolly; - heck where is our shipbuilding Col. Boyd - their work is being done by others.

One such example is, IMAO, is CDR Henry (Jerry) Hendrix, USN. He is willing to put it out there and see who smells it; starting the conversation in the marketplace of ideas. He has a new article out in the Armed Forces Journal titled,
Dead Reckoning.

Remember, you don't have to agree with 100% of what a person says ... just soak it all in.
There is a lot to ponder and chew on.

He starts out by skewering the sacred cow of CVN numbers and use, but I think his more important points are in the supporting ideas and observations.

After my rather long and unnecessary preamble - let's give Jerry's bit a look;
The problem with this initiative, however, is that when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. The Navy’s hammer, which dominates its procurement strategy, is the carrier strike group. In a strategic paradigm that includes insurgencies, piracy, disease, natural disasters, rising regional competitors, increasing economic competition for shrinking mineral resources, drug trafficking and weapons proliferation, the Navy owes the nation a procurement strategy that fills the toolbox with gear capable of responding across the spectrum of engagement and conflict. Instead, more than six years into the post-Sept. 11 era, our budgets continue to emphasize carrier strike groups dominated by high-end technologies designed to meet Soviet surface action groups steaming through the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom gap and regimental formations of Backfire bombers descending from the polar north.
True, but as we see the byproduct of later, the Carrier numbers remain steady as the number of supporting ships (CG, DD/DDG, FFG, SSN etc) fall through the floor. We don't have enough of a bench (tools in the box), so to the hammer we go - but Jerry get to that soon.
However, ESGs, with their shortage of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets and the now-standard practice of stripping away their surface combatants at the onset of deployments to cover other missions, lack the capabilities to operate at their full potential.
Not just the ESG are getting stripped - so are the CSG. Speaking of which, Jerry brings up a good point; I miss Battle Group vice Strike Group as well. More accurate and more military. Enough of the distraction though, let's get back to the meat.
The NECC, largely funded out of wartime supplemental budgets, remains unsure of its future in a post-cost-of-war supplemental budgetary environment. What is needed is a new maritime procurement plan that firmly locks these innovations into place and forges ahead on a course that places the Navy in a stronger position to leverage its strategic influence ashore.
He hits on a nasty little secret. The Big Navy cube-liv'b Borg Collective is waiting for this pesty "war thingy" to get out of the way so they can get on planning the Navy they want, not the Navy they need. NECC is alone and unafraid - and will be the first to get killed at the first chance they get.

Jerry moves on and gives a full broadside to what I call "The Tiffany Navy," but he refers to "Gold Plating." Either one works.
We have not been helped by the Navy’s recent propensity to buy Ferraris instead of Fords when it comes to our ships. It seems that every time we enunciate a requirement for a new ship, we specify a requirement for a very basic design, and as soon as we get done with the initial press conference, we begin gold-plating the prototype. Ten years later, when the first ships are being built, we find that the unit costs have grown and realize that the Navy is not going to be able to buy as many as it would like, so additional mission requirements are placed on the few ships that are procured, driving up the costs even more. It’s a death cycle. Look at the recent travails of the Littoral Combat Ship if you need any evidence. If that example isn’t strong enough, one need look no further than the stories surrounding the development of a 25,000-ton Ballistic Missile Defense cruiser or a legislative initiative that requires new Navy vessels to be nuclear-powered.
In the 10-ring. On the next point, I have to say he is missing a bit on second and third order effects - but it starts the conversation in the right way about a Critical Vulnerability.
The West Coast strike carriers and their air wings would be forward based at Guam to cut transit times. In this scenario, we might be able to get by with fewer strike carriers in the inventory than what we maintain now, and send a percentage of the remaining carriers into a maintenance reserve status.
First, Guam couldn't/wouldn't be able to take all or most of the West Coast CVN and CVW. Physically and fiscally it is a non-starter. Some, perhaps. Second, it is madness to put all your offensive power in one location. Especially in the age of anti-ship Ballistic Missiles, dispersal is your friend. In WESTPAC we do have the tyranny of distance - but that is what it is and the challenge of empire.
The remaining carriers could be placed in semi-active status and reconfigured for other mission sets, namely to act as expeditionary sea-base platforms to embark Army and Marine Corps expeditionary brigades during crises.
Here and the last part of the previous, he misses a bit on the next problem in this concept - you cannot half-way a CVN and CVW, at lest not the way we do it now. The experience of the USS KENNEDY in the '90s and the "deployment" of the TAR-heavy (now FTS I know, but they will always be TAR to me) Reserve Airwing shows this as a flawed concept. If you thought are moving towards Sea-Basing and cost effective force projection, MPF(F) might be a better angle. That being said, we could do a lot better on having a more "operational" Navy Reserve - a subject for another day.

Here, as you would expect, is my favorite part,
...a new set of capabilities needs to be created if we are to be successful in implementing the new maritime strategy. We need frigates, or maybe not frigates. It doesn’t matter what we call them, but we need about 90 small, sturdy ships with enough basic capabilities to defend themselves, defeat local threats and uphold the interests of the U.S., and we need enough of them to blanket the increasingly unstable insurgent and pirate hot spots in the western Pacific, Asia and Africa. Great Britain, at the height of its power, kept its large capital vessels close to their homeports but covered the ocean with frigates to collect intelligence, counter its enemies and show the flag. Technology has not changed this simple precept of power; there can be no virtual presence, and you cannot surge credibility.
Spot on. This is the most important part of the article. Jerry has an Expeditionary/Amphibious POV, but being a TACRON CO that is understandable, but I don't find that coloring his article all that much. You should read it all as he has some solid points on budgeting and the cancer we have in procurement.

One point is especially dear to my heart and you have heard this point echoed here before over and over,
Difficult as it is to say, Dwight Eisenhower was right about the military-industrial complex, and now it includes the Pentagon, the defense industry and those delegations of Congress that view defense contracts primarily as jobs programs for their home districts. The result is that we have gold-plated ourselves out of the marketplace, and until we can get our acquisition programs under control, we should examine opportunities to work with shipbuilders in Norway, Germany and Australia who are building capable small combatants and submarines for pennies on the dollar. This is the only type of wake-up call that our home industries will listen to. There is, however, another alternative. We could ask again for an increase in the defense budget.
We could do more with what we have, but I would add as a partial cure to this problem, a 5-year waiting period for retired Flag Officers and senior DoD officials working post-retirement for companies involved in contracting with DoD.

The Fleet is our Center of Gravity in many ways - think of it in those terms and then ask yourself how we are doing WRT our Objectives, Decisive Points, Effects, and subsequent progress along our Lines of Operation. Happy with that? Think the Navy is being well served?
UPDATE II, Electric Boogaloo:

In a good, wide ranging discussion, check out Chap's round-up and Galrahn's take.

If any fellow bloggers out there have also brough it up, please send me the link or trackback here so others can follow.

You may also want to pay a visit to SailorBob for a nice comment, nice as in funny, is made towards Jerry - one spoken like a true DC pro.


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