Comment and Discussion

Concerning other performance characteristics, the B-2's flying-wing design makes it the most aerodynamically efficient military aircraft ever built. Rather than performing sluggishly, as Dr. Friedman contends, pilots say the plane has the agility and grace of a fighter-not to mention the ability to strike precisely anywhere in the world within a few hours.

Every system has its limitations, but on the issues Dr. Friedman raises, the B-2 is faultless. It genuinely is a revolutionary aircraft.


"No Premium on Killing"

(See A. Zinni and G. Ohls, pp. 25-28, December 1996; D.E. Auten, p. 20, February 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Colonel Drew N. Early, U.S. Army—Although well-written and cleverly packaged to encompass the latest politically correct fad in our nation's search for alternative uses for the military. General Zinni's and Colonel Ohls's article has several fundamental flaws.

First, "non-lethal" is a misnomer. By their very nature, the weapons discussed still inflict force on an opponent. These weapons are by no means "non-lethal." Israeli, British, and U.S. law-enforcement experiences are replete with instances of fatalities resulting from their use.

Second, the article addresses, but fails to refute the concern that the use of less-lethal technologies could send a signal that U.S. forces lack determination or will. The use of military forces ultimately has to revolve around the clash of wills between opponents. Granted, policy makers may choose to enter a measure of incrementalism into the use of this force. Yet, for this approach to be successful, it requires an opponent:

  • Sophisticated enough to realize that the United States has limited its actions voluntarily
  • Whose cultural background does not incorrectly perceive voluntary U.S. self-restraint as weakness or ineffectiveness

Third, the spirit of enthusiasm associated with the whole-hearted rush to embrace less-lethal technologies misses a key point—it's a zero-sum world out there. Every pound of sticky foam or super goo stuffed in a Marine's rucksack displaces a lethal capability. Similarly, training time and research-and-development dollars devoted to less-lethal weapons have to come from ever-shrinking resources.

The primary function of our military must be to fight and win wars. Anything that detracts from the core competencies associated with decisive victory should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism.

As Clausewitz said in his seminal book On War , "The fact that slaughter is a horrifying spectacle must make us take war more seriously, but not providing an excuse for gradually blunting our swords in the name of Humanity. Sooner or later someone will come along with a sharp sword and hack off our arms." We must err on the side of prudence and remain prepared for the sharp sword.


"Unshackling the Command Chain"

(See M. Parry, pp. 32-34, January 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Daniel J. Sander, U.S. Navy—Lieutenant Parry makes some valid points about the importance of information, and the need for it to flow very quickly on today's high-tech battlefield. He goes too far, however, in declaring that "position-related power must be redefined," and that we must "fundamentally rework our command structure" simply because our sailors need more information these days to do their jobs.

His argument is flawed in two ways. He assumes that what works in today's corporate environment will work for the Navy. He also bases a demand for changing our command structure on the assumption that our sailors don't have as broad an understanding of their work environment as their khaki leadership.

The Navy is structured the way it is because our commanders, using the wisdom which comes only with experience, will make the decisions that determine how we fight. That wisdom has proved that sometimes it is necessary to keep sensitive information from becoming public knowledge. Part of our role as naval leaders, and followers, is submitting to the authority of our superiors, and trusting their decisions.

Today's sailors are highly intelligent and motivated young people—capable of making sound decisions. Few sailors I have led have displayed a passive acceptance of only the minimum amount of information necessary to do their jobs, as Lieutenant Parry suggests. On the contrary, they are professionals who know the big picture—not just the "how-to," but also the "why."

Anyone who has served on board ship knows that although secrets are sometimes kept at the highest levels, often for good reason, somehow the crew has a way of finding things out anyway. They are almost without exception, thoroughly "gouged" and aware of the situation. Perhaps Lieutenant Parry should take a walk through berthing or sit down and play a game of spades with his sailors and find out just how well-informed they really are, even without a khaki in sight.


Charles Warren, Flotilla Vice Commander, Flotilla 11N-17, U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary—Tempo and information overload always have been critical. At Gettysburg, Confederate General Hood knew that he could turn General Meade's left flank by extending his line to the right. He sought permission from General Longstreet, who refused. The attack that Longstreet had envisioned was executed according to plan, but proved indecisive. Hood lost his arm in the battle, and knew in his heart that he had helped lose the battle itself—by following orders. Sometimes the army that makes the fewest, or least critical mistakes wins.

Nevertheless, in times of stress, hierarchic order has a place. Hypothermia victims who get beyond the cold and the nature of their distress to focus solely on survival manage to live, when the less-focused do not. In a damaged ship, control of flooding may be less important at first than control of stability. A diligent, independent damage-control team, plugging and shoring leaks, actually could be impairing the ship's chance of survival.

Balance is the question. Those who are best able to balance independence and hierarchy in a combat setting become known as great admirals or generals. Identifying the seed of greatness within a peacetime context, however, always has been problematic.


"Are We Sending Our Best and Brightest to the Naval Academy?"

(See S.P. Recca, pp. 85-86, January 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Brian Louis Banks, U.S. Navy—I agree with Commander Recca's assessment that a lasting fix for career-enhancing assignments to Naval Academy duty will require a lengthy process of shifting paradigms in the areas of selection and detailing. A more expeditious near-term option could be implemented even prior to his interim proposals. At present, only the company-officer billet carries an obligation for further service. Consequently, the very instructors teaching leadership to our "premier officer candidates" often are themselves on their way out of the service, while enjoying some of the Navy's finest shore duty.

Commander Recca's interim solutions are aimed at "increasing the flow of top officers through the Academy." But we can take even earlier action by reducing the number of junior officer short-timers whom we send to instruct and interact with the midshipmen—by instituting obligated tours for all lieutenants who are detailed to the Naval Academy in teaching positions. This is no panacea for the Academy's ills, but it is a simple, decisive, and an effective step in the right direction.


Commander James Stratton, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Commander Recca's article seems not to ask whether we are sending our best and brightest to the Naval Academy, but whether we are sending our most promotable. Under the current pressures of career progression and ticket punching, we definitely are not sending our most promotable to the Academy—but so what? The criteria for selection to captain, for example, differ somewhat from those required for a capable instructor who sets the example in leadership, character, and ethics. Many highly capable commanders don't make the cut for captain, especially in a downsizing environment. But writing them off as second-rate instructor candidates is a great mistake. The leadership problems we have faced in the last decade suggest that the best-and-brightest criterion might not be the optimum indicator of character and ethics.

Six months into my destroyer command, I knew that I would never make captain. I don't think that the fitness report "B" instantly made me incapable of discussing leadership, ethics, and character issues. Character often is shown by the officer who serves with honor, dignity, and diligence—knowing that there will be no extra stripe, and no choice assignment after a demanding tour. Character is sometimes shown by the officer who faces an ethical dilemma and acts in accordance with his—and the Navy's—standards, knowing that his action will have an adverse effect on his career. The biggest challenge such an officer has serving in the Yard is facing midshipmen who don't understand the "crunch-zone" mechanics of a selection board and who write off the comments of a passed-over officer as irrelevant. I strongly support Commander Recca's suggestion for more interaction with officers in the Washington area, because those perceived as the "best and brightest" can reinforce ethical tenets in the minds of midshipmen. But let's not sidetrack the hot runners, by assigning them to billets that can be filled by others capably.


"On Brave Old Army Team"

(See H.B. Thorsen, pp. 83-84, January 1997 Proceedings)

Colonel Thomas A. Julian, U.S. Air Force (Retired)—I am a Naval Academy graduate, a Naval Institute life member, and a former associate professor of history at the Air Force Academy, where I taught with one of the former football players named in the West Point book. I have known James Pfautz, the individual who broke the scandal, for 30 years, although I must add that I have not talked to him about this book—nor seen him in several years for that matter.

Admiral Thorsen's review of James Blackwell's book misses the point that his own lengthy and generally accurate description of the text lays out all too well. The potential for a similar distortion of priorities that Dr. Blackwell identifies as having occurred at the Military Academy also exists at the other service academies, and their athletic departments and admissions boards must constantly be on guard against lapses in standards. Notably, a member of the committee that investigated the 1992 cheating scandal at the Naval Academy is reported to have said that he found exact parallels between the situations that produced the 1951 West Point scandal and those that generated Navy's 1992 problems.

A winning football team for the Military Academy came to be seen (and rationalized by both cadets and some of the West Point staff) as more important to fulfilling the Academy's mission than the honor system. That meant recruiting football players and keeping them eligible even when it became obvious that they were incapable of handling the Academy's academic requirements.

Given Admiral Thorsen's extended exposition of the book's contents, his last two paragraphs appear oddly inconsistent with his description and its obvious implications. To say that it "promises much and delivers too little," because "there is... precious little of substance about the growth of dishonesty which permeated the Long Gray Line for too many years," is either to set an impossible standard, or to reveal a truly impressive naiveté. Does he really believe that institutional loyalty, if nothing else, would not preclude the personal interviews and survey of graduates necessary to just begin scratching the surface for an answer to such a question? Even now, I am told that the West Point bookstore refuses to stock Blackwell's book, even though he is a graduate and obviously is proud of West Point.

Fortuitous circumstances and the cooperation of two of the major protagonists have enabled Dr. Blackwell to write an exceptional book, one that reveals just about all we probably ever will know about the subject.

The tension between maintaining academic standards and recruiting talented football players who may not be able to meet those standards is an obvious constant at major civilian institutions of higher learning. The consequences of erring on the side of the latter for any of the service academies are so much greater for the country and the vitality of its military institutions that all involved with their operation must be dedicated to maintaining the right standards.

Far from being a "very disappointing book," I believe Dr. Blackwell's effort is both uncommonly interesting and useful. As a case study of how an Academy's culture can be distorted, it should be read by athletic department staffs and admissions boards, and might be a suitable subject for discussion in the new courses which Admiral Charles Larson has instituted to help shape properly the U.S. Naval Academy's culture.


"Do-As-I-Say Core Values"

(See L. Melling Tanner, p. 68, January 1997; J.G. Dimmick, p. 12, February 1997 Proceedings)

Roy A. Lawrence—Lieutenant Commander Tanner's article on core values brought both dismay, and déjà vu. During my first enlistment, more than 30 years ago, the core values spoken of—"honor, courage, integrity, and commitment"—were taught and reinforced often and through various means. The first leadership class I attended included the lessons of the Nuremberg trials: that every person in the military had the moral responsibility to decide when an order would not be obeyed, and that the ends do not justify the means. I was appalled at the negative responses of the commissioned officers in my class. It seemed that they were determined to attain their objectives regardless of the methods employed.

Still, the lessons learned during that first tour upheld the high ground of "duty, honor, country." Loyalty meant informing seniors if directions should not be followed, and allowing them to weigh all the information available before making a decision. Once all the information had been brought forward, and a decision was made, then it was to be followed.

But then came Vietnam. It seems that the character and the integrity of our country were destroyed during that debacle. The occasional character flaw seemed to become the norm. Values, standards of conduct, and the basic code of ethics all seemed to dissolve into a quagmire of do-as-I-say-but-suffer-the-consequences-if-anything-goes-wrong leadership.

For example, my last assignment was on board the Eisenhower (CVN-68) during her maiden shakedown. Being an antisubmarine warfare technician, I was assigned to the versatile avionics test (VAST) shop where I found that none of the systems was up and running. None of the integral pieces of test equipment was in calibration. Not one of the four systems could pass the self-check confidence diagnostics. I ran some equipment tests and the systems would report "UUT (unit under test) good" even when there was nothing attached to the VAST station.

I went to the VAST division officer, seeking assistance in getting the stations up and running, and was told there was no time to make the fixes and that I was to run squadron avionics through and keep from getting backlogged. When I refused to certify safety of flight items, I was intimidated into believing that a court-martial was imminent.

From my perspective, I was being ordered to violate my basic morality. When I brought this fact to the attention of the aviation intermediate maintenance department (AIMD) officer, he asked, "What difference does it make if the test equipment isn't calibrated?" In his view, my concern about the well-being of the pilots who would have to rely on his integrity—to ensure that all their airborne systems worked properly—was not a valid reason to question his orders.

This incident was the final straw; it convinced me that it was time to leave the Navy, after 12 years of service. The one consolation after so many years of faithful service was the unanimity of comments from pilots, the division officer, and the department head that my reputation for honesty and integrity had always preceded me.

Commander Tanner is right; we can't hold the enlisted people to published standards and allow the officer corps to follow a "what-works-for-me" ethic. Every officer must have a "follow-me" attitude and constantly ask "what kind of example am I setting?"

The Navy has to seek the brightest and best in all its people. Starting off with such high-caliber individuals, it is a travesty not to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct. There is nothing that could be a more fitting legacy of the U.S. naval service than the forging of exemplary character.


Commander Robert B. Pinnell, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Commander Tanner's article hit the point of leadership and values squarely on the mark. We perpetuate the values and behaviors that we exhibit, not those we espouse. A timely and very pertinent example is the Navy's response to the ongoing behavior problems among cadets at the Citadel.

Discrimination on the basis of gender was, and is, proscribed by the Navy Equal Opportunity Manual. Although the U.S. Navy has long maintained an NROTC unit at the Citadel, and the Navy's recently superseded Equal Opportunity Manual stated that ". . . Navy personnel are not sponsored by Navy funds while pursuing an educational program at a facility which discriminates," these words have not been supported by appropriate actions. The last-quoted provision has been deleted from the current Equal Opportunity Manual (OpNavInst 5354. ID). Apparently, Navy funding of educational facilities that discriminate is no longer considered inappropriate. Clearly, the Citadel and its NROTC unit discriminated against women until the recent Supreme Court decision directed it to admit women, and there is every indication that gender discrimination continues in other forms to this day.

Corrective action by the Navy or its NROTC unit has not been notable, nor did the Navy dissociate itself from the Citadel during the period during which that the college refused to admit women in defiance of its own equal opportunity directive.

Besides the obvious contradiction, we must wonder about the type of officer trained in this environment of sexual discrimination, disregard for Navy policy and directives, and perennial hazing. Important points that we have minimized or overlooked in discussions of hazing faced by women at the Citadel and the U.S. Naval Academy are:

  • Hazing is exceptionally poor training for future naval officers.
  • Hazing shows poor to nonexistent supervision by the responsible naval officers at a critical phase of cadet/midshipman training.

We must provide midshipmen and cadets with the best possible examples of Navy core values; otherwise, we can expect little of them as officers.


"New FitRep System Doesn't Cut It"

(See T.Q. Donaldson, pp. 54-56, November 1996; R.D. Kuhn, p. 12, December 1996 Proceedings)

Master Chief Fire Control Technician Douglas R. Simpson, U.S. Navy (Retired)—When I first started writing evaluations in 1965, the average sailor received a grade of approximately 3.2 on a 4.0 scale. By 1980, a 3.6 was consider by many to be a bad grade.

Efforts to curb grade inflation have met with little or no success because there are no consequences imposed upon the evaluator when an inflated grade is given. Considering that the evaluator usually is the supervisor of those being evaluated, what would happen if the assignment of grades became a zero-sum game? By whatever amount the grades are inflated for one person, the grades are lowered an equal amount for another.

For the sake of argument, assume that everyone is graded on a 4.0 scale once each year and that the evaluation cycle would last for two or three months. Evaluating everyone within a few months would not be an unrealistic goal if the system could be simplified and the emphasis returned to the grades rather than the prose.

The evaluation cycle begins with the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) who determines the average grade for the entire Navy, say 3.2. The CNO then assigns a grade to each subordinate command and the average of these grades must be 3.2. For example, Commander-in-Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CinCLantFlt), might receive a grade of 3.25 and Commander-in-Chief, Pacific Fleet (CinCPacFlt), might receive a grade of 3.10 and a major shore command might receive a grade of 3.15 and so on for each of the commands reporting directly to the CNO.

This process proceeds down through the chain of command. CinCLantFlt, with a grade of 3.25, assigns a grade to each subordinate command and the average of these grades must be 3.25. As we approach the bottom of the hierarchy, assume that a ship receives a grade of 3.4 from her squadron commander. The commanding officer assigns grades to each department and the average of these grades must be 3.4. On board a ship, this process finally comes to an end at the division level. If a particular division receives a grade of 3.5, a top performer within the division could still receive a 4.0, but the division officer must grade the marginal and average performers accordingly so that the final average for the division is 3.5.

Since everyone would know that the Navy average is 3.2, a grade of 3.4 or 3.6 would no longer carry the stigma of being a poor evaluation. That grade would clearly state that the recipient was above average. And a grade of 3.8 or 4.0 would identify the truly outstanding sailors.

In the upper levels of the military command structure, the deviation of each grade from the average probably would be small. It is quite possible that the CNO would find no justification to assign a different grade to each of his subordinate commands. But as the process worked its way down through the levels of the chain of command, the deviation should gradually increase. At the shipboard division level, the grades might cover the entire range of values.

One objection to this system concerns the situation where a squadron, ship, or division is considered to be an outstanding unit, but as a group cannot be assigned the appropriately high grade because that would mean that another group would be assigned a undeservedly low grade to ensure that the average was maintained. It is obvious that this system involves some tough choices, but this is the level where those choices must be made. This burden should not be passed on to selection boards that are far removed from the individual sailors.

The dispersal of the grades down through the chain of command should not take a long time. Commands and evaluators already should have a good idea of the relative standing of their subordinates. The time required to complete the evaluation cycle would be shortened because a lot of prose interspersed with code words and phrases would no longer be necessary since the grades would be the primary indicator of individual performance. This would shorten the time required to review and rewrite evaluations. It should be very easy for the Bureau of Naval Personnel to spot-check commands to verify that their average grade was equal to the grade assigned by their superiors.

My experience suggests that this system would work for the enlisted ranks, and I have no reason to believe that it would not work for the officers as well. Individuals or even certain units could still receive inflated grades but not without consequences and limits.


"It's the Best Thing Since Gunpowder"

(See P.T. Bingham, pp. 45-49, January 1997 Proceedings)

Captain Art Wagner, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired)—The JSTARS capabilities are truly amazing, and its high-resolution imagery provides information heretofore unavailable at any level of combat operation. Nevertheless, I kept reading Colonel Bingham's article expecting to see an explanation of how this invaluable platform will be protected—but to no avail. In night operations, the probing searchlight was a prime target. In the Battle of Britain, the German Air Force attacked the British radar. In anything but a clearly established air superiority situation, JSTARS would appear very vulnerable and a nonstarter.

In the same vein, our increased reliance on the Global Positioning System for virtually every navigation need raises a similar vulnerability issue. Alternatives, I hope, are in the wings.


"The Critics Were Right"

(See J. Record, pp. 64-68, November 1996: J.R. Collier, p. 19, January 1997 Proceedings)

Clyde W. Howard, III—I do not pretend to have been at the level Captain Collier attained during the Vietnam War (I was an Army captain when I went to Vietnam in 1968, and ultimately left active service at that rank), but I think he rather misses the whole point of Mr. Record's article. Specifically, I think Captain Collier misses the significance of a single adjective—acceptable.

I do not doubt that we could have carried out one or more of the suggested options, or others of similar "war-winning" effect. Whether they would in fact have resulted in the North terminating its efforts in the South (or whether the forces of the Republic of Vietnam could have carried its proposed burden) I don't know, though I have my suspicions. Since the proposals never were adopted, they lie in the "alternate history" field.

I do not think that the options he and the other action officers briefed were selected for implementation because they couldn't have been done, but because the costs involved were determined (rightly or wrongly—I think probably rightly) to be unacceptable.

I do find it curious that a senior officer is still playing the "if we had only been turned loose we could have won" record. I think that the entire history of our involvement—in not only Vietnam but a good many other places in the years since—suggests that we could not have "won" there on anything other than a very short-term basis. A long-term win would have required factors not present, nor likely to become present (e.g., unlike Korea, where a defensible boundary was present, there was no good way to isolate North and South Vietnam from each other so a free economy could demonstrate its superiority). The biggest problem was that the people of the Republic of Vietnam justifiably lacked enthusiasm for their government—which allowed the committed and supported (albeit totalitarian) Northerners to continue attacks on the South that the Southerners could resist only as long as they had our support. We ultimately would have withdrawn in any case, and the results would have been the same with the exception of timing.

Captain Collier seems to believe that the American public would have found the costs of his options acceptable, and this is a conclusion I question.

I have no apologies for our having chosen to resist Communist aggression in Vietnam, nor of my having served there, though I have come to the view that it was a mistake for the United States to have become involved. Indeed some letters home preserved by my mother suggest I had concluded that our efforts would come to naught during my tour (a conclusion vindicated by history, it seems). And the fact that I deem the war unwinnable at a cost we as a nation were willing to pay does not detract from the valor of my comrades in the endeavor. I find our involvement tragic and ultimately pointless, but there have been many lost causes. The fact that the cause was lost doesn't mean we lacked honor or honorable goals. Our goals in Vietnam were honorable indeed—just not attainable. But of all lost causes, perhaps the "lostest" is the attempt to prove that the American military could have won if the policy makers in Washington just would have untied its hands. I am convinced that we could not have won except at a cost beyond even the one we did pay. And despite the waste of lives, including those of many of my friends, I am happy that we did not have to pay the even higher costs that Captain Collier and his fellow action officers briefed.


"Keep the Best"

(See R.D. Fricker, pp. 50-55, January 1997 Proceedings)

Robert G. Bagian, M.D.—Mr. Fricker presents a compelling argument for the concept of assigning all billets by merit. However, as often the case, the devil is in the details.

This is not a new concept. My father, a World War II fighter pilot, was able to select a fighter (P-47) billet after flight training because of his class standing. Until recently, I understand, this was common in flight schools.

The fly in the ointment of this "meritocracy" is not hard to find, though. If the best get their choice, where do the worst go? Yes, the truly bad quit, but what about the lower 50%? Even the lower 70%? Do we have entire communities that are so unimportant that they can be manned entirely by officers from the bottom of the pile?

I felt sorry for Mister Roberts, but do we really think that the AK-601 would have run better without him? Wasn't the backbone that Ensign Pulver eventually developed largely a result of the influence of Mr. Roberts? It is the seeding of these "less-desirable" (or less-career-enhancing) communities with the best that keeps them credible. Less-qualified officers would tend to man these communities and duty stations in the scenario described by Mr. Fricker. In fact, even those "good" officers who might have considered going to a "less-desirable" posting will avoid it because of the taint at some future promotion board that would lump him with the underachievers who served there because they had no choice.

I don't have a solution to the very real problem described by Mr. Fricker, but having entire communities and duty stations manned by "those who couldn't hack it" doesn't seem like the prescription for a cure, either.


Captain William B. Hayler, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Mr. Fricker has written a very fine and thought-provoking article which should be read by anyone with an interest in improving the Navy's officer corps—or, for that matter, those of the other military services.

The author's statement that five years in a young officer's career seem to him forever does not merely ring true—it's an understatement! When I was an ensign, my destroyer spent three months operating around Bikini in 1946. I thought we would never leave, even though seeing two atomic bombs explode certainly was neither dull nor routine. Young officers are impatient and easily frustrated. That is why the commanding officer is so vital, and why the climate he creates is paramount in setting the attitude of his young officers. Known eight-balls do not get the job. And I have confidence that very few are not known.

I question the statement that the current method of firing substandard officers may take years. When I was relieving command of a destroyer, my predecessor took time out to sign fitness reports. I remarked that their contents most certainly were not my business, but if there was anyone who was a hazard on the bridge, I would appreciate being warned. He mentioned one. He was right. Later. the same young man came to me for assistance in replying to the previous skipper's fitness report which had been returned to him. Shortly afterward that year group came up for automatic promotion to lieutenant junior grade) and I had to confirm or deny the promotion. I could not—in good conscience and in fairness to the wardroom—recommend promotion. Within a week or so he left the ship and returned to civilian life. I hasten to say that he was a fine young man, but miscast on a destroyer.

Free-market detailing as outlined by Mr. Fricker sounds very attractive, but I question whether young officers have enough knowledge of the requirements or availability of possible assignments to do themselves justice. Knowing how much time and effort is involved on a job search makes one would wonder whether an officer embarked on a such a quest for his next assignment might have to shortchange his present one. Finally—and I hate to say this—it just might be that the friendly detailer is in a better position to know what might enhance a career than the young officer himself. In looking over some of my old preference cards, I realize that I was sometimes darned lucky I didn't get my first choice!

Mr. Fricker and I agree that the Navy has no room for sub-standard performers. I don't believe his statement that almost all the well-regarded officers were, or are, leaving the Navy. Visits to at least one ship show me that there are a lot of good men and women left.

Some 25 years after retirement I have to say that the Navy's fitness report system was better than anything I have seen since, and I trust that it only has improved.


"Razing the House that SAC Built"

(See R. Linnekin, pp. 56-59, January 1997; G. Porter, R. Hitchens, pp. 14-16, February 1997 Proceedings)

Vice Admiral Bernard M. Kauderer, U.S. Navy (Retired)—I might not have read Captain Linnekin's otherwise well-structured article had it not been for the eye-catching, but totally inaccurate opening phrase—i.e., "During the Cold War, Air Force heavy bombers were the principal U.S. nuclear deterrent to Soviet machinations." In fact, the force most feared and respected by the Soviets was our nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). Within the strategic triad of silo-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, manned bombers, and SSBNs, only the ballistic missile submarines commanded a survivability factor of "1." Only a small fraction of the silos and the bombers were expected to survive a first strike, while an SSBN in an alert status on patrol was acknowledged as virtually undetectable and ready to respond instantly to launch orders from the National Command Authorities.

Through some 3,000 successful patrols spanning 36 years, and through the evolution of the missile from Polaris to the highly accurate Trident, this remarkable weapon system, including the dedicated crews willing to make the sacrifice of long deployments, has commanded an ever-increasing share of the nation's nuclear-deterrent firepower. Today, more than 50% of our nuclear warheads reside in Ohio (SSBN-726)-class submarines.


"U.S. Navy Raisin Bread"

(See T.M. Allison, p. 43, December 1996 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Commander Howard D. Hickman, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)—I recall another "Raisin Bread" incident in 1944 when sailing on board the naval transport ship Santa Monica as second assistant engineer.

The ship had an Army base hospital staff on board, which was scheduled to set up facilities on Tinian Island. Upon arrival, we found the hospital site was still on Japanese occupied land. Since the primary objective of securing an airfield site had been achieved, and not wanting to repeat the Marine casualties sustained during the invasion of neighboring Saipan, the prudent decision was made to await starvation of the remainder of the Japanese troops.

During the next month of waiting, with a full complement of troops, we were scraping the bottom of our food barrel. The consequent serving of bread with weevils in the wardroom led to four classes of eaters:

  • Those who ate the bread without regard to the extra protein.
  • Those of the out-of-sight-out-of-mind type, who picked out the weevils made visible by the bread slicing.
  • Those who held each slice up to the light and picked out all shadows and therefore ate bread that looked liked slices of Swiss cheese.
  • Those who abstained from all breads.

After several days of this meal-time ritual, an Army officer casually mentioned he had never seen so many men who disliked caraway seeds!


"Do Photos Lie?"

(See D. Brack, pp. 47-49 August 1996; R.N. Smith, B. Tillman, p. 16 September 1996; T.M. Lund p. 90, October 1996; R. Egnor, p.18, December 1996 Proceedings)

Barrett Tillman—Russ Egnor's petulant response to my tongue-in-cheek note in the October Proceedings proves what I've long suspected: The first casualty is no longer truth, but humor.


"Time Is Running Out for Ship Low-Altitude Air Defense"

(See C. Myers and H.W. Howard, p. 8, January 1997 Proceedings)

Michael L. McDaniel—Mr. Myers and Captain Howard have brought up one of the biggest potential scandals facing the Navy—the tremendous vulnerability of warships to sea-skimming missiles, and the refusal of the Navy to use the most effective countermeasure—an airborne early warning (AEW) airship.

Existing Navy antiair warfare (AAW) capabilities are geared toward the Cold War outer air battle scenario-using deception to avoid attack, long-range fighters and AEW airplanes to destroy unmaneuverable bombers, and Aegis to stop whatever got through. This system is not well suited to littoral operations. Targeting is simplified, and missiles can be fired from inexpensive attack airplanes, missile boats, and trucks. Most of all, the space needed to set up the outer air battle is gone. The air-defense problem set up by littoral operations is like the one posed by the Oscar-class submarines-a barrage of antiship missiles delivered by surprise and at point-blank range.

Sooner or later, someone is going to take advantage of this AAW hole-and the resulting loss of men and materiel could wreck the Navy, and would provide a lot of leverage to the Air Force.

The good news is that there is a solution-take a large airship, stuff in an advanced AAW radar and missile guidance systems, and use it to give Aegis ships a 100-nm radar horizon against sea-skimmers. This was the solution developed to cope with sub-launched antiship missiles, and it's ideal for littoral operations,

What are the airship's drawbacks? There aren't any! Vulnerability certainly isn't an issue-not when commercial operators, flying airships one-tenth the size of a military airship patch 50-60 bullet holes at each biannual inspection. Speed? A military airship can do more than 70 knots. Supportability? One of the ground rules for the Naval Airship Program was "no ShipAlts"—and the goal of supporting an airship with portable package that could be strapped to any helicopter pad was quite feasible.

The bad news, as Mr. Myers and Captain Howard mention, is that mainstream naval aviation hates airships with a passion, but refuses to let anyone else take up the lighter-than-air banner. I spent a decade working on the naval airship program, and the hostility of the E-2 and P-3 communities was a major problem. Nor was the rest of naval air much help. Aside from a handful of admirals commanding battle groups (who were vocal advocates), almost everyone regarded airships as a pot of cash to raid for disasters like the A-12 and P-7. The great carrier admirals of World War II were naval officers first and aviators second. Aviators of the 1950s were aviators first and fighter/attack/antisubmarine aviators second. Today, loyalty is no longer to the Navy, nor to aviation, nor to a mission community. Loyalty today is to a platform—however old and outmoded it may be. New ideas need not apply.

Pentagon politics aside, the Fleet is at risk. Littoral operations and sea-skimming missiles are too serious a threat to leave unanswered-even if the answer is to swallow our pride and revive the naval airship.


"Who Will Answer the Chem/Bio Call?"

(See J. Osterman, pp. 37-40, December, 1996 Proceedings)

Major Shirley L. DeGroot, U.S. Army Reserve—Major Osterman refers to "a capability that currently does not exist" with regards to the incident management of terrorist use of Chem/Bio weapons, and he recommends formation of a specialized organization which responds to this situation, in order to solve a timeliness and coordination puzzle. I would argue that a response and management capability does exist within the Department of Defense, though perhaps not as a primary mission of any single unit.

Many changes in Chem/Bio response have transpired, most of them since the release of Sarin in Tokyo's subway system in 1995. Since then:

  • The U.S. Marine Corps formed a Chemical/Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) to support the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
  • The U.S. Army's 1I th Chemical Company also supported the Olympic Games and deployed to Fort Gillem, Georgia as a CBIRF to support the recent Paralympic Games.
  • The 25th Chemical Company deployed chemical reconnaissance assets to Bosnia to provide chemical detection and identification, as well as a new capability for detecting, locating and classifying environmental hazards.
  • The 310th Chemical Company was activated 5 October 1996. This company, an active/reserve component venture, provides the first biological detection and identification capability in any service. The Army's Technical Escort Unit conducted "Operation Safe Removal," the removal of World War I-era chemical munitions discovered in an affluent Washington, D.C., neighborhood.

In addition to these new developments, the DoD continually has increased the importance of NBC skills, both survival and mission continuance, since the increased threat awareness of the early 1980s and during the Gulf War. For example, every Army company has a master trainer, and every Army combat arms battalion, group, brigade and division-level headquarters has a Chemical Corps officer on staff to plan and facilitate command and control during NBC events. These skills carry over in planning and crafting a response to a terrorist incident.

In terms of coordination with outside agencies, others are not as far behind as Major Osterman suggests. Not only is there a strong joint DoD presence at the U.S. Army Chemical School at Fort McClellan, Alabama, but often, one observes civilians from Federal agencies outside of DoD attending specialized Chem/Bio Defense training at the Chemical School. For 1997, DoD will get $50 million to train civilian firefighters, police and medical workers to respond to terrorist NBC attacks.

As despicable as any terrorist release of Chem/Bio weapons is, the scenario is little different than that of a hazardous material or hazardous waste release in a similarly populated area. Most local and some Federal agencies practice and are prepared to deal with a HazMat disaster scenario. They regularly follow the "avoidance, protection, treat casualties, limit contamination spread, and decontamination" doctrinal tenets developed by the U.S. Army Chemical Corps.

To address specific urgency and coordination questions, I propose:

  • Use of trained local assets until Army or Marine Corps personnel arrive, solving the timeliness question.
  • The ongoing practice of response missions, such as those listed above, enhancing coordination of command and control at an event of this nature, and these training missions must continue.

Specifically earmarking one unit and one headquarters staff to fill a "ready brigade" niche is not practical in this time of budgetary constraints. The future calls instead for units able to multi-task. Selected Army chemical units provide both decontamination and smoke capability during war. The addition of a terrorist response mission to the existing environmental response mission is a natural fit for other units. These units will form the backbone of future CBIRFs and they will serve as the impromptu on-call response force just as various units are on-call for natural disasters. 



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