Tuesday, January 15, 2013

LCS and the Audacity of Hope

Oh goodness. I really don't want to make it a habit of Fisking Flag Officers, but if you are going to put your by-line out there, well, welcome to the scrum of the marketplace of ideas.

VADM Copeman, again, "With all due respect ... but ..." - you brought up the subject. Out of nothing but love ... we must engage on  ... the Little Crappy Ship.


The alternative universe of the Potomac Flotilla!

Sigh. Here we go, paragraph by paragraph.
By Vice Admiral Tom Copeman
I'll afford you the same benefit of the doubt as I do all VADM, I really don't think you penned it all, someone on your staff got it started and you got a chop on it. Well, I don't know, maybe you did.  If you did, I don't think your Staff served you well if you let them chop on it.
Twenty-five years ago, then CNO Admiral Trost looked into the future and began our shift from a Cold War focus to dealing with regional and littoral conflicts in the years to come.  So we started down the path to where we are now—working through various iterations, starts and stops, and plenty of ideas on ship types and classes to deal with unknown future threats.
25 years ago was JAN 1988. I'm sorry, no one in 1988 was seeing the end of the Cold War, much less shifting away from it. We were both JOs then ... come on, you remember. Heck, Hunt for Red October wasn't even in movie theaters yet.

Future without the Red Banner Fleet as our primary threat? Future where we would need more smaller ships? (actions of the next decade+ tell a different story as the legacy Riverine forces in the reserves were killed in the late '90s, PHMs were sent packing, PG gone, OHPs castrated, etc). I don't see 1988's Admiral Carlisle A. H. Trost, USN (PBUH) having any of the LCS stink on him.

As a matter of fact, dig around the good Admiral's tenure as CNO and most of what will be found is about physical fitness, the IOWA turret explosion, spanking Lehman, women at sea (he was not a fan). Here is the WSJ from OCT of '87. Lots of talk about the meeting of the Supreme Soviet and their next 5-yr plan.

You brought Admiral Trost in to it ... so ... what was he writing about in 1987? Here, read it yourself from JAN 87's Proceedings;

Let's go to 1989, 24 years ago. What was Admiral Trost saying?

Oh, hey .... let's let the newspaper of record tell us.  From the DEC 89 NYT;
Despite rampant revisionism in Washington on the changing scope and nature of the Soviet threat, he continues to base his analysis of the Navy's needs on a belief that the Soviet Union is just as dangerous as ever.
I'm sure I am missing something. Can anyone here give me something with a '87-89 date stamp where Admiral Trost sees the decay of the Soviet Union and the need in 2012 to have a corvette that can't even get its 57mm and 30mm guns to work right?

Sigh. VADM Copeman; you need a historian on your Staff ... pronto, if for no other reason than to say, "You may want to reference that comment." Now, back to the article.
Now we have assets in place to operate in the littorals and we have new ways of delivering troops and equipment to the beach.
OK, soooooo ..... the gun line off Vietnam was not in littorals? 5-inch Friday off Al-Faw in 2003 was not the littorals? LCS is actually and asset we can, in 2013, fight in the littorals?

"Now"? No we don't. Not now.We have a lot of "hope" and "will" and "plan" but no there-there. It will be years until we know if LCS will be able to do squat ... and until then the best thing to do is to keep it far away from any possible threat until we figure out exactly what it can or cannot do.  Right now, we know mostly what it cannot do - which is all of its primary mission areas.
How many of us saw the expansion of C5ISR? Or, who knew in the late 1980’s that there would even be UAVs, much less see the ubiquity of their use? Which is the sticking point about the future—it is wholly unknown. And for those who say past is prelude. That may be, but the past isn’t a plot.
Well, only the cynic would have said, "Oh, come on. We went from C2, to C4I, to another NCM for C4ISR. What more can they do - make it C5ISR? Please, everyone will think it is an old air-force cargo plane doing ISR ... no one will make that acronym .... we'll be stuck with C4I or C4ISR ... you can bank on it."  Oops. That is what you get for not being cynical enough. By 2020, what more can we add to it?

But yes, a lot of people saw the future of UAVs .... the military had been using them for decades and as technology, communications, and everything else advanced, so did their utility.  Good googly moogly .... don't engineers read science fiction if not their own history?

The past isn't a plot ... but it is the best reference point to the future. Only a few thousand years show us that. I'm still not sure what "...past isn't a plot." is trying to address. While I nood'l that, let's get back to VADM Copeman;
The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is an important addition to the Battle Force and is exactly the ship we envisioned 11 years ago to fill a capability gap in the Littorals in Surface Warfare, Mine Warfare and Anti-submarine Warfare. It is here now and we fully expect it to be an important an integral and substantial part of our future force. 
Exactly? Define soon? Not that important right now ... or in the next few years. I'll take that bet. Well, that mention of a year is fun. 11 years ago was what .... 2002. What was being said in 2002?
The Defense Planning Guidance in May 2002 directed the Navy to pursue a new class of small, stealthy "Littoral Combatant Ships" to support troops ashore and to conduct anti-mine, intelligence and reconnaissance operations. The Navy planned to build two "Flight Zero" LCS vessels to refine the new class' concept of operations. More detailed mission modules are to be developed for the Flight One LCS that was hoped would appear soon after 2007. The Navy wanted to buy eight of these ships through 2009, with the first in 2005.
No, go back to RADM Don Loren's 2002 article; nothing has changed. It is still think'n, hope'n and plann'n.  In twice the time it took to fight WWII, LCS isn't PMC in any of its primary mission areas. One could argue ASUW. One could, but I wouldn't. Back to VADM Copeman;
It’s a high speed, shallow draft, multi-mission workhorse full of technology that is our future.  As we decommission different ships of various classes, LCS will step up and fill multiple roles.  It is far more automated than previous class ships, and with lower manning, requires us to adapt our training and operations to meet that reality.
A ship that cannot deploy for more than 4-months due to crew burnout and habitability issues is not a work horse. Show pony, perhaps .... but not a workhorse. 

It is not multi-mission. It is at best uni-mission. You cannot take a training time out and swap out mission modules when a brace of Houbei come around the inlet you are hunting mines in. 

Also, you cannot use the present tense. I like optimism ... but that is for the future when all the pixie dust takes root. Not now. It cannot today, tomorrow or until at earliest mid-late decade even partially fill in for anything.
So, let me get to my priorities:

1.  Warfighting. It’s what we do – A large part of that will be with LCS.  LCS must get into the Fleet and fully integrated where we will use both variants and the mission modules to their best effect.
2.   Readiness. The world is a dynamic place and the Navy has to have the best trained Sailors who will operate the best equipment possible. In many ways what we operate will determine the number, type and training of Sailors needed. That support trail begins now for what we will require in the decades to come.
3.  Building the future fleet. What will the world look like in another decade. That’s a question which forces us to make assumptions about future resources, alliances, bases and strategies. The concepts, design outlines, support requirements—training, simulators, supply chain and dollars—required to operate in 2025 have to get underway soon.
No, we won't do much warfighting with LCS. Its best utility will be presence operations in peacetime. Warfighting will be with DDG and up. LCS will be kept far away from significant warfighting, if it can avoid it. It simply is not ready, and won't be for awhile.

The points about readiness and the future fleet are spot on. VADM Copeman is also spot on about the need to focus on 2025 now (where have we heard that before .....).

This is the point of the article where I am actually starting to pay attention and am leaning in to read what he has to say. It sounds right and reflects sound reasoning one would expect from a USN VADM.

Looking to the next paragraph;
No matter what news you see or hear about our budget, as of today, we get to steam around the world as part of the most powerful Navy in history. We have the best people, representing the best nation, with the best ships ever known. Let’s keep it that way… tell the Surface Navy story wherever you go. The oceans aren’t getting smaller and the world isn’t getting safer. A maritime nation needs a worthy maritime capability.
NOOOOOO! Tease! I feel robbed. Ending the article with output from the Random Flag Officer Speech Generator? I feel like for most of the article I was reading a press release from industry and then the start of an actual article of interest starts .... only to be cut off at the knees by a paragraph by the RFOSG. 

If I may humbly make a request to VADM Copeman .... take Priority 3, flavor it with Priority 2, and flesh that out to about 3,000 words or more. Submit it to Proceedings and use that as a conversation starter.

Heck, do that and I'll extend an apology for being a snarky and immature smarta55, and offer you a full hour on Midrats to discuss it.

UPDATE: Interesting thing. Re-read the above .... and then read this from AOLDefense;
Ultimately, (Copeman) warned, "if you don't want to get hollow, you have to give up force structure."
"Resources are going to drop. They're going to drop significantly," the admiral said.
VADM Copeman just went Salamander circa 2008. Therefor, he is correct. It took a half decade, but welcome. One day soon, they will all go Salamander in their own way. It has been written.

I actually got a kick out of this as well.
"If it were my choice," Copeman said, "I'd give up force structure to get whole. But it's not always my choice."
Admiral Greenert; call your office.


Anonymous said...

Since it was discussed that ADM Trost did not bring up the transition from the soviet era threats to a focus on littorals, I'd note with interest the first sentence at the following link. VADM Copeman has good company with the history.navy.mil website. see link here ====> http://www.history.navy.mil/library/bios/trost_cah.html

Anonymous said...

In addition to a historian, I would argue that the VADM needs an English major on staff as well. The misuse of punctuation is rampant, and it detracts from the message. Two independent clauses must be separated by a conjunction AND a comma. At least let the staff proofread it!

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