So, we’ve made it – 2020 is about done.
It is cliché to go over all the things that will make this year stand out more than any other, but for the navalists out there, perhaps we should take a moment to ponder the Top-5 events that come to mind.
1. Captain Crozier, USN and USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71): it would be difficult to write a screenplay – and I am sure we will see one after the book – of the circumstances in the 1QCY20 as COVID-19 appeared on the scene. This will be a study in leadership for a long time. I think with time and distance that my original take, with sympathy towards Crozier, will become the standard. As more is found out about what happened up the chain of command from him, that will become the major part of the story. Sure, in hindsight there is a lot to criticize, but none of us were there at that specific time with that specific information with that level of support receiving that specific advice. In the end, two things can be both correct at the same time; Crozier did the right thing, and firing him was correct. Perhaps.
2. Public shaming of USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43) and USS Gravely (DDG 107): everyone by now should understand the cumulated deferred maintenance of our warships. This is something that has been with us for decades. The condition of the SPRUANCE DD in the early 00s was an early warning that was ignored. Substandard has become the standard. That being said, this year saw enough pushback that there may be enough traction to get the funding and mindset back to where it needs to be in order to be proper stewards of the nation’s navy. Perhaps.
3. The burning of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6): I am waiting for the full investigation, but even months later, the initial observations remain. As they did after the collisions of the FITZ and MCCAIN in 2017, our Sailors responded in the finest traditions of our navy to the crisis. Also like the events of 2017, the weakest part of the story is the senior leadership – mostly absent, hiding from the press and people, and hoping someone else will take the PR hit. Just horrible.
4. Callous disregard for the lessons of 2017: of the many bold-faced lessons we thought we took away from 17 Sailors drowning in berthing in the summer of 2017, I though we agreed that we cannot over-deploy and under-support our fleet without negative results to follow. However, we are double-pumping CVN on pointless deployments and extending already exhausted ships at sea for … what?
5. The Culmination of the 355 Ship Navy: navalists, whether they were Trumpists or not four years ago, were excited that the 2016 election was won by a candidate that had a 355 ship navy as an above-the-fold priority. For reasons that are his as the Chief Executive, Trump failed to put the civilian leadership in place and promote the uniformed leaders who would follow through. We failed. It took the National Security Advisor – of all people – to take the point of leadership on this issue. The 2020 election pushed that on to the off ramp. A new administration is coming in, and there are no navalists or mandate from the Biden supporters for a larger navy. There are some good, right-thinking people coming in to the Biden administration … but none at this point who will fight and act towards a larger navy. Will have to wait. Hopefully navalists will take the time in exile to do the intellectual work, and build the right network of like minded people who will take action, so when the next opportunity presents itself, action can take place on day-1.
So my good friends of the Front Porch – and I do consider <most of> you friends, we come to another year. Though I don’t jump in all that much, I do read the comments section for every post. Many of you are much smarter and have greater experience than I do and you help make CDRSalamander what it is. I look forward to reading the comments section here, I don’t fear it.
I wish everyone the best as we go forward, and peace in dealing with any weight 2020 has placed on your shoulders.