Comment and Discussion

I liked the Navy I belonged to, because it did something to alleviate suffering, instead of just causing it. So I didn't disparage my "gedunk" medal-because it truly does stand for something.

Colonel H. Larry Elman, U.S. Air Force Reserve (Retired)- I believe that Lieutenant Rees's thoughts were echoed in the 19th century by officers incapable of understanding Mahan; they echo the thoughts of officers who misdirected our two land wars in Asia in the 20th century, and most important, they run counter to the reason the U.S. Navy has existed for more than 200 years. In time of peace, the Navy earns its keep, doing diplomatic chores for the President, and it has been doing so since the days of the Barbary Pirates.

From about 1790 until World War I, it was common for naval officers to be more intellectual than their army counterparts. In part, this was because celestial navigation made sea service require higher levels of math and science skills than were required to become a horse soldier. In addition to the demands of emerging technology, the Navy's prime mission in that era was gunboat diplomacy. Naval officers often were the only U.S. official of any standing on the scene, and good judgment was demanded of them as part of their professional duties. This tradition continued throughout the Cold War, and military forces "showing the flag" or doing disaster relief often were the President's most effective diplomatic maneuvers, even in the 1970s.

The Navy of today must continue to train its officers in the ability to provide that type of on-scene judgment. Satellite communications often may take the ultimate decision out of the on-scene commander's hands, but communications can fail. The on-scene commander must have the competence and good judgment to represent the entire nation.

There is not likely to be a major war for anyone to play hero in for the next few years, so while we await that time, one of our primary missions will be noncombat employment of military forces in diplomatic and peacekeeping operations. Our deploying forces either must learn why this is so and learn to perform these extra missions well, or look for another profession.

"We Need to Understand"

(See T. Hirschfeld and W.S. Carus, pp. 65-68, February 1997 Proceedings)

Colonel Frank M. Schnekser, U.S. Air Force (Retired)- Mr. Hirschfeld and Dr. Carus said: "Repeated claims that the post-Cold War world has become more dangerous for the U.S. are hard to justify," and conclude that ". . the United States can meet most projected military challenges. And when challenges do emerge, few of them will require immediate response on a large scale."

It is difficult to relate these two conclusions to the present involvement of U.S. forces in various foreign operations that have stretched our capability beyond any credible deterrence value. The number and scope of our commitments have increased considerably during the past few years, with little or no congressional approval or objection. Public awareness has been almost nonexistent, even though the extensive use of reserve forces has become commonplace. Funding has placed an additional burden upon our forces since adroit accounting manipulations have drained monies from budgeted categories to meet immediate deployment demands.

The position of the United States might be compared to that of a large animal which has been cut out from the herd by wild dogs that then begin to harass it. None of the dogs is capable of inflicting fatal damage individually, but they continue to attack the victim as a pack - weakened and vulnerable - the large animal falls.

There doesn't seem to be any argument about the ". . . Need to Understand." However, the "understanding" proposed in the article is reminiscent of what we have heard so many times in the past. It is quite reassuring to tell each other that the bogeyman is really not there-but quite another thing to face him once we realize that he truly does exist. This line of reasoning seems to suit the present administration, in which the military has been treated as just another social service tool-to be discarded quickly once its purpose seems to have been served.

Joe Rychetnik -This piece is timely and a "must" read for anyone dealing with world problems today. I am afraid, however, that the article is akin to preaching to the choir. For example, the hazards of the Khobar Towers were well known by many different authorities, and attempts were made to design some safety for our troops, but politics got in the way. Our politically correct and gutless foreign policy - and our pussyfooting around the Saudis - precluded any real improvement there before the blast.

We have good people trying to do a tough job. Perhaps with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright they will have a new voice to express our concerns and needs. But it will take determined action to get what we want-and action must be taken.

"A Report from the Front"

(See J. Byron, ps 10, February 1997; W. Kovach, J. Lies, K. Doenges, pp. 12-14, April 1997 Proceedings)

Senior Chief Hospital Corpsman Paul H. Sayles, U.S. Naval Reserve -Captain Byron raises several interesting points, but his assertion that the military has removed itself from American life is the most disturbing, and should be more fully addressed.

All branches of the military have created a series of 19th century "Fort Apaches" that have endured throughout the 20th century. This may not be the best way to enter the 21st century. The military is not living in an isolated and harsh environment with poor communications and irregular supply deliveries. Do we still need to live like there are hostile threats just behind every hill in our own country? No. The key to having the military become more real to the nation is to integrate it into the fabric of the community. This means no commissary and exchange. Let Costco, Safeway, and Longs pick up the slack, with a percentage of the profits channeled to MWR. End the military housing system and let people live where they want. The saving in not having to run a housing system could be applied to basic allowance for quarters.

Fort Apache has outlived its usefulness. There may be some growing pains as military people learn about local elections for school boards, water and sanitation districts, even mayors and city councils. Yet, as Captain Byron is trying to show, not joining the community will continue to marginalize the military out of the mainstream of American society.

Lieutenant Commander Timothy P. Anderson, U.S. Navy -I was both amused and incensed by Captain Byron's commentary. It is obvious that he probably is support of the military people in his district; and most certainly, disappointed that he did not see very many military people during his campaign travels. Perhaps his choice of political parties may have influenced his experience.

I disagree that the military has removed itself from American life. I live and work in Northern Virginia and am involved in several different aspects of my community, including church and civic organizations. I have always been struck by the large number of military people that are involved in just about everything. No matter what organization I look at-church, scouting, civic organizations, I see military people heavily involved-and most often filling leadership positions.

I also disagree with his assertion that national defense is a zero-interest issue. Consider his audience during the campaign: major newspapers, environmentalists, educators, organized labor, and the Democratic party leadership. Check my six, but I believe that all of these traditionally liberal groups tend to think of national defense as a waste of money. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that the people he has befriended think of national defense as a non-issue.

Finally, I'd like to address his remaining swipes at his former comrades in arms. He "senses from his campaign experience that military people have less understanding and probably less appreciation of American democracy than is good for any of the parties involved. . ." and finds "one overriding lesson is that the military would benefit if it gave up its isolation and joined the American community." It sounds like sour grapes to me. Most military people I know have been deeply involved in the democratic process, voicing our opinion as strongly as we dare, given the rules that limit our involvement in political campaigns. Furthermore, most of the military people in his district probably are not local residents, voting instead by absentee ballot in their own home states.

The military is not isolated from the American community. If Captain Byron cannot see this, perhaps he is looking in the wrong places.

Major Michael J. Rentner, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve -This commentary sets a poor precedent. It would be a disaster if the armed forces were to become a politically active voting bloc. The apolitical nature of our military has been the reason the American people continue to trust it. Throughout history, most people in the world have feared their own nation's military because of its political power. Let's not follow suit.

Please leave political philosophy, pleas for votes, and such out of our fine magazine.

"Do-As-I-Say Core Values"

(See L. Melling Tanner, p. 68, January 1997; J.G. Dimmick, p. 12, February 1997; R.A. Lawrence, R.B. Pinnel, pp. 26-28, March 1997; R.S. Reade, p. 18, April 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Colonel Mansel E. Phillips, U.S. Army Reserve (Retired)- I find it quite hypocritical of Commander Pinnel to castigate The Citadel for pursuing practices which are common in the Navy, e.g., gender discrimination.

Ironically, the Navy discriminates in favor of females and against males. For example, physical standards at the Naval Academy are gender-normed. Female midshipmen do not have to perform to the same standards as the males.

Elsewhere, preferential treatment for pregnant sailors is the rule, not the exception.

You don't have to go to The Citadel to find gender discrimination; just look at the Navy.

"How Many Yards?"

(See T. Nikles, pp. 64-65, January 1997; T. Colton, J.E. Shepard, pp. 20-24, April 1997 Proceedings)

Commander David Lewis, U.S. Navy-Mr. Nikles makes several excellent points, and I concur completely with his article. However, the issue goes beyond just surface combatants and really encompasses the entire shipbuilding industry.

Since 1981, when the Reagan administration stopped subsidizing American commercial shipbuilding, the Navy has been the only source of orders for large, U.S.-built ships. Fortunately for the shipbuilders of the 1980s, this commercial shipbuilding policy was accompanied with an aggressive Navy shipbuilding program through the early 1990s. This literally drove all of the major shipbuilders out of business or fully into Navy shipbuilding. In 1993, the Clinton administration restored many commercial subsidies, and even enhanced some-but then went on to cut Navy shipbuilding dramatically.

These two conflicting shipbuilding policy decisions have had the effect of destroying all of the potential shipbuilding markets formerly available to major U.S. shipbuilders. Most have not built commercial ships for more than a decade, and now many cannot get enough Navy business to stay profitable. The current Navy shipbuilding plan builds an average of 6.5 ships per year including all combatant ships, from aircraft carriers through submarines, Aegis destroyers, amphibious assault ships, and supply ships. There are only six major naval combatant shipyards in the nation; either each yard will get about one ship per year, or some yards will go bankrupt. The Navy probably would not let a nuclear-capable shipyard disappear, so the choices for which major shipyards would "go away" quickly neck down to a short list which includes both of the critical yards that Mr. Nikles wrote about.

Mr. Nikles alludes to the fabled "bow wave" of shipbuilding required to maintain force levels in the next century. Given the current realities of the Defense Department budget, the chances that the Navy will receive significantly increased spending in the next decade are virtually nonexistent. The only choices left, in my opinion, are these:

  • Do nothing, and pay ever higher prices to keep building naval combatants at ever-weaker shipyards.
  • Let a major shipyard or two go bankrupt, and collapse the remaining Navy work into the survivors and give up some (or all) competition in the industry.
  • Actively export current Navy combatant designs (DDG-51, MHC, SSN, AOE) to build up orders for U.S. shipbuilders and keep them profitable and busy.
  • Actively export private combatant designs (such as the Sa'ar 5 design recently completed for Israel by Ingalls Shipbuilding) in order to keep the shipyards in business. The U.S. Navy should buy and operate some of these private-design ships to help the shipyards make overseas sales.
  • Rebuild the commercial shipbuilding capability the United States had before 1981, through aggressive subsidies and recapitalization funding, keeping combatant shipyards healthy and profitable at minimal cost to the government.
  • Design ships that are easier to build, thus opening the combatant market to the dozens of smaller shipyards that now are successful in the "low-end" commercial market. This will enhance price competition in the industry and make Navy ships much more affordable. Both the Arsenal Ship and the Navy's "Lean Ship" program represent first efforts in this direction.

The first choice represents our current policy. The second two choices are reasonable, but politically or militarily unacceptable. The last three represent the best choices available to the Navy for sustaining America's current shipbuilding capacity at the absolute lowest cost.

Without shipyards, we cannot build or maintain combatant ships. Without combatant ships, we cannot maintain our global naval presence. Without our global naval presence, we cannot support or sustain our global commercial market. Out global commercial market is the root of our power as a nation; without it we regress to being a third-rate power, in a world full of third-rate powers.

Harold N. Boyer -Mr. Nikles has underestimated national security needs by stating that the Navy must retain two surface combatant construction capable shipyards. Both U.S. national security and geopolitical realpolitik dictate that even the 19 first-tier yards currently available in the United States for ship construction may be inadequate.

History has shown that low shipyard capacity can retard the wartime expansion of naval forces and the merchant marine, as evidenced by the Roosevelt administration's last-minute scramble in 1940-41 to build suitable escorts for the Battle of the Atlantic, while simultaneously expanding the fleet for the Pacific conflict. More ominously, this lack of capacity can produce outright defeat-as seen in Japan's inability to replace merchant ship and aircraft carrier losses as the war progressed.

Resurrecting shipyard infrastructure and equally valuable skilled labor will not be difficult, as Mr. Nikles claims if the current trend continues, it will be impossible. The recent closure of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard bears testimony to this prognosis. Where the Delaware River area once supported New York Shipbuilding Corp., Sun Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard, all three are now gone and thousands of skilled tradesmen and women have been turned out on the streets. Would we be able to find, educate, and train such skilled workers in time for the next conflict? Hardly!

Unfortunately, the current euphemism for discarding workers and allowing infrastructure to decay-downsizing-has almost destroyed the private and government U.S. shipbuilding industry and the merchant marine. Ships and the crews that operate them cannot be produced overnight.

Decisions affecting shipyards and the ability of the United States to maintain an effective, modern navy and merchant marine should be based upon national security needs now and in the future-not on the bottom line of a corporate balance sheet!

"Monsarrat Was Wrong"

(See R.B. Hunt. pp. 30-32, February 1997; R.C. Hageman, p. 12, April 1997 Proceedings)

Captain William B. Hayler, U.S. Navy (Retired)- It is not possible to fault Chief Quartermaster Hunt's superb article. And you can't explain away any failures in command. Gross examples such as he described on the USS "Spotless" are horrible. Fortunately they are few and far between, but "few" is still too many.

The value of studying and discussing such cases is learning from them. In the course of five commands I saw several instances of failure, but none as glaring or as long-continuing as Chief Hunt described. One can only wonder about the unit commander.

My last command was a repair ship which was in Malta in 1966. A Forrest Sherman (DD-931)-class destroyer came alongside with three of her four boilers burned up-which required retubing. I thought of myself as the emergency-room doctor, whose job was to patch up the patient, not to inquire as to the reasons for the mishap that brought him to me. The inquiry was handled separately by someone else. It was my practice to invite the customer skipper and his chief engineer to lunch where we could chat in a relaxed atmosphere and I could get a feel for the aches and pains that they were experiencing. In one instance, a captain responded: "I accept with pleasure. Chief Engineer must regret due to press of work."

I was puzzled. What could be more important for the chief engineer than to meet the guy whose job it was to get him back in business? But after almost daily visits to his fire rooms it became obvious that the problems did not end with the engineering plant. Some months later, a grounding resulted in that particular captain leaving the Navy under a cloud. What makes this story particularly tragic is that when the skipper in question inherited his ship it had an outstanding reputation. Then it went downhill fast. This individual had spent considerable time on staffs and as flag lieutenant or secretary, but not so much with shipboard responsibilities. My father used to say:

"He can pitch, but can he catch?"

Evidently this officer couldn't catch.

I tend to think both Monsarrat and Hunt are about 90% right. There is no simple answer, but careful screening for command and attention by unit commanders cannot be overlooked.

"What to Say to a Naked Lady"

(See R. Bollinger, pp. 70-71, December 1996 Proceedings)

Master Chief Boatswain's Mate Ray Bollinger, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve- Seaman Apprentice Kelly Wright, the real life "troll retriever," has received the Commandant's Letter of Commendation and ribbon for her rescue of a deranged woman from under the Mandeville Street Wharf in New Orleans 14 July 1996. According to Seaman Wright, the final ploy that brought the woman on board was not an offer of food but an offer of a cigarette. Interestingly, the radio traffic I quoted was wrong. The woman actually was wearing a "thong and bra," into which she had actually stuffed her "smokes." The cigarettes were wet.

When she showed extreme frustration at her inability to light up, Seaman Wright saw her opportunity to end the ordeal and invited the woman aboard for a cigarette. Even crusty old master chiefs can learn from a seaman on occasion. The lesson? In the troll-retrieval mission, addiction works as well as food or maybe better. If your troll has one, use it. Once again I marvel at the unerring instincts that Coast Guard women, even the most junior ones, bring to this often perplexing and unpredictable mission. Thank you, Seaman Wright!

"The Silent Service Must Communicate"

(See K. Hart, pp. 75-77, February 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Commander Steve Kurak, U.S. Navy -Captain Hart correctly points to the success of the battle group information exchange system (BGIXS) as a means of integrating the submarine into carrier battle group operations. What he does not relate is that BGIXS was developed and implemented by submarine force operators, frustrated by the scarcity of C4 products being delivered by Navy engineering commands. When submarines first began operating with carrier battle groups, there was no reliable method for the two to communicate. This resulted in SSN participation being viewed as "too hard" and consequently submarines were marginal players in the battle group. An initiative begun by Commander, Submarine Group Five and Commander, Submarine Force, Pacific sought to exploit the already existing submarine-satellite information exchange system (SSIXS) subscriber-to-subscriber capability by installing ON-143(V)6s with SSIXS software on the carriers. This effort was successful but still cumbersome, and provided limited throughput. Enter BGIXS II, a personal computer-based, crypto logically secure system that uses commercially available software to achieve message delivery over UHF digitally assigned multiple access (DAMA) circuits. BGIXS II now is considered essential by battle group commanders.

In the area of submarine C4I, there is a notable shortage of products ready for delivery to the fleet that will operate as advertised. In 1987, mini-DAMA was being briefed as an initiative that would provide the submarine force with a compact means of increasing satellite communication (SatCom) throughput. Ten years later, it still has not been fielded and the prototype does not meet a Joint Chiefs of Staff requirement to operate in a 5KHZ bandwidth.

The submarine message buffer (SMB) which was to be one of the major developments for the next-generation radio room is in production and has been installed on some submarines. Nevertheless, SMB does not live up to its advertised capabilities and is considered by many technicians to be slow and cumbersome. To make matters worse, this computer runs on UNIX software and therefore cannot operate such standard Navy programs as message text formatter or distributed plain language addressee verification software.

An initiative to upgrade SMB to Pentium technology is rumored to be approximately $6,000 per terminal. Meanwhile Costco advertises a Pentium 200 MHz CPU for $3,499 and offers a foury ear on-site warranty to boot. Why can't the Navy get a similar deal?

Here is another example. The submarine force has a requirement to operate extra-high frequency (EHF) and super-high frequency (SHF) bandwidths but an affordable antenna that will fit has thus far eluded our engineering command. Frustrated by lack of progress in this area, a search on the Internet quickly found that Harris Corporation produces a 4x8-inch phased array antenna operating in both bandwidths, with a demonstrated throughput of 256kbps. An antenna of this size would mount easily on existing BRA-34 antennas. Why then, is Space Warfare Command (SpaWar) spending millions to develop a high data rate antenna?

Harris R-2368 VLF/LF receivers, intended for installation on submarines, have sat in a warehouse in Charleston, South Carolina, since 1994. The required ship alteration costs approximately $45K per installation, and the story is that the money was spent elsewhere. Instead, our sailors make do with aging R-1051 and antique vacuum-tube technology-WRR3 receivers. Frustration on the waterfront over this situation is so great that offers have been made to heist the Harris receivers from their hiding place and allow shipboard technicians to do the installation themselves, an option well within ship's force capability. But the receivers are still sitting there, gathering dust.

On the waterfront, the fleet repeatedly has demonstrated its ability to initiate C4 improvements successfully without systems command (SysCom) support. On Ohio (SSBN-726)-class, for example, installation of SMB has been consistently delayed. Ship's technicians have overcome the lack of automation in the radio room through innovative methods of preparing and storing messages on existing personal computers for the cost of wire and connectors. Many attack boats have made similar improvements.

Another successful fleet initiative that should be supported by the engineering community is the use of commercial off the-shelf radio-frequency modems that operate with existing, installed SatCom equipment on submarines. This concept has been demonstrated successfully to provide a throughput of 32.8kbps SatCom, and 1.44mbps line-of-sight, compared with the sub's present SSIXS capacity of 4.8kbps. Our sailors have shown similar ingenuity by increasing EHF throughput using STU-III secure telephones in the data mode.

Personnel working on these programs at SpaWar, Naval Sea Systems Command (NavSea), and their support commands are talented, motivated people who are trying to support the fleet. So why do submarine C4 programs fail to deliver? The engineering development process has not gotten inside the technology cycle. The bureaucracy associated with fielding systems to the fleet is unwieldy. Even relatively minor improvement can take years to get to the fleet because of the configuration management controls that are imposed. Putting a commercial off-the shelf (COTS) "box" on a submarine should not require the same degree of controls required for an alteration to the engineering plant.

The current temporary alteration (TempAlt) process stifles fleet initiatives and takes too long to test concepts of operations. TempAlt procedures need to support timely COTS purchases and platform testing. Once the concept of operations is proven at sea, SpaWar can proceed with a low risk, large quantity buy. Purportedly, acquisition strategies have been improved for the NSSN project, but this is no comfort for our sailors deploying today on 688Is and Tridents outfitted with 1970s technology systems.

The budget madness that is rampant in the Systems Command and Pentagon impedes, and often completely halts, the progress of C4 modernization programs. Programs are continually considered possible candidates to be "zeroed-out." Moreover, program managers spend as much time, or more, defending the program than advancing it. This budgetary Russian roulette results in unnecessary confusion, delay, and poor morale. Improvements in the acquisition process are required now to get the right products to the fleet.

"A Few Good Men . . . But Not Always"

(See T. Williams, pp. 72-73, February 1997 Proceedings)

Colonel R.D. Hamilton, U.S. Marine Corps, Promotions Branch Head, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps -My intent is not to rebut, point-by-point, Lieutenant Colonel Williams' comments. Rather, I want to explain, from my own perspective, what I firmly believe is right about our current selection system. Yes, I agree that it is becoming more difficult to select the future leaders of our Corps, and as Colonel Williams laments, the inflation factor in our Performance Evaluation System (PES) strongly contributes to this dilemma. Proposed solutions to fix the current PES are indeed suspect, but the good news is that our Corps is currently developing a new PES. With its approval and implementation, our selection boards should have better tools to assist in making very difficult decisions.

Competition in the Marine Corps at every selection board is very keen. I repeatedly hear from board presidents and members the cry for more selection allocations, and that many deserving Marines are not able to be promoted because of limited allocations. I have never had a unrestricted active duty officer selection board return an unused allocation. We have many high-quality officers eligible, but limited boat-spaces. Inevitably, many highly competitive officers cannot be selected. Colonel Williams recognizes this-but he also suggests that we are selecting the wrong officers. His solution is to adopt a system like that used by other services, of a numerical cutting score system for officers. By "weighting" the relative difficulty of officer assignments and receiving "numerical ratings" (read points), for a myriad of factors that include: field time, combat experience, awards, and professional military education and training, he suggests that the Corps will effectively eliminate board member bias and this, in turn, will lead to a better, more objective selection process.

Hogwash! Such a system simply will exacerbate the boards' current difficulties, by implicitly sanctioning "ticket punching" - and will further dehumanize the selection process.

Our sister services currently use a selection system similar to the one touted by Colonel Williams. For example, the U.S. Navy promoted 305 of 1,717 eligible officers through the FY-98 Unrestricted Captain (0-6) selection board and did it in only 11 days. The Navy probably was able to accomplish this because of the system that they employed-a system that uses the more "objective" approach favored by Colonel Williams.

Conversely, the FY-98 Marine Corps Colonel (0-6) selection board promoted 97 of 702 eligible officers and were in session for 26 days. Obviously, the Marine Corps has smaller eligible populations and reduced selection numbers, but routinely experiences a significant increase in the amount of time spent by the respective boards to accomplish their mission. This is the very reason that we should continue to embrace our current system. Our smaller size affords us the luxury (not enjoyed by the other services) of using a system that allows the board ample time to research, review, brief, discuss, and select our future leaders.

During the last eight months, my Branch convened nine statutory officer boards. The membership of each board has fairly represented the diversity of our Corps, with specific representation for various operational, garrison, and joint assignments, as well as the more important ethnic, gender, and racial factors. These board members, many of whom had never served on a promotion board, arrived at Headquarters Marine Corps with their own perspectives of how the Corps selects its officers. At the conclusion of their boards-whether only one week or up to two months long-they always were unanimous in their conviction that they had provided each eligible officer a fair and equitable opportunity for selection, and that jointly they had selected those officers considered best and fully qualified for promotion. They have this conviction because each member spends hundreds of man-hours personally reviewing all microfiche, reading every fitness report in careers that span up to 20 years or more, and carefully listening and recording information on every officer being considered. Their routine 12-14 hour days culminate in a secret ballot process, that continues over many iterations, spanning several days, in a joint and unanimous singular effort, to select the very best.

The cost of our system is very high. We take commanders and principal staff officers, each a "key leader" from their respective assignments, away from their primary duties to serve for a few weeks-or even months. But this high cost is integral to the success of our selection process, because quality begets quality.

There are many ways to select the future leaders of the Marine Corps. I am certain that the other armed services believe that their respective systems are most responsive to the needs of their service and officer corps. But-candidly-under which system would you prefer that your career be judged? A 15minute cursory review of your record, followed by the assignment of a arbitrary "score" to represent the many years of service and sacrifice that you and your family have invested? Or would you prefer a system that takes the necessary time to review, discuss and consider the performance and accomplishments that are behind those scores?

Our system is not perfect and neither are those of the other services. Each selection system has its detractors, each has its strengths and weaknesses. I believe that the current system is best for our Corps, and I want every Marine to have faith in that system.

Lieutenant Colonel Michael B. Kessler, U.S. Marine Corps, Executive Officer, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.- Lieutenant Colonel Williams's article is right on the mark. It would be interesting to see how someone relieved for cause-for documented professional incompetence-was able to energize the "bubba network" to get the damaging fitness report pulled, then go on to be rewarded for his professional incompetence with an 0-5 level command for which he was neither screened nor slated, followed by selection to 0-6, and then top-level school. For the unselected, there is no such road to recovery, because there is no routine way to find out why one has not passed the test. This is a particularly difficult pill to swallow, when one considers that we spend our entire career looking out for the welfare of those under our charge-only to find out that when we need help, members of the promotion boards are sworn to silence with regard to the reasons for our demise.

"The Case for Romania"

(See M.R. Shelley and J.P. Norris, pp. 68-70, March 1997 Proceedings)

Captain Michael L. Kanninen, Judge Advocate General's Corps, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)- Historically, whenever Russia has been weakened internally, her neighbors have been tempted to take advantage her. Inevitably, Russia regains her strength and punishes her neighbors for their temerity. Remember the Pilsudski government's assertiveness in the 1920s and Poland's suffering in consequence?

The current U.S. initiative to push NATO to Russia's frontiers is another example of this inability to resist the temptation to poke the weakened bear when it's down.

If only we could remember Field Marshal Mannerheim's response to Hitler when asked why the Finns wouldn't attack Leningrad: "When the war is over, we need to be able to tell the Russians that we didn't take anything that wasn't ours."

Attitude - It Can Make or Break You

Electronics Technician Third Class Connie Headline, U.S. Navy -When sailors join the Navy, they swear an oath that calls for obedience, support, allegiance, and fulfilling one's duty. Many people, however, do not fully understand the true meaning of this oath. If they did, they would not be so quick to point fingers at the Navy for their own problems.

I have heard shipmates badmouth the Navy, saying "I can't stand this place, I'm requesting an early out," or "the Navy isn't what I expected." Most of these sailors do not have legitimate complaints; they simply didn't get what they wanted. What did they expect when they took the oath?

I've known sailors who have taken drugs or claimed mental instability, to get discharged. Some have deliberately gotten pregnant to get off the ship, or become involved in fraternization, thinking that was the answer to their problems. By being so nearsighted, they just create more problems for themselves problems that will follow them for a lifetime.

The Navy is not an easy life, but for all its demands, it offers boundless opportunity. In addition to food, clothing, pay, shelter, and health care, it offers college education, specialized training, travel, VA home loans, the GI Bill, dependent benefits, tuition assistance, and special monetary bonuses. Self-discipline, character, confidence, and a sense of commitment are a few of the personal attributes also to be gained through time spent in the Navy.

In the big picture of life, a few years spent in the Navy can help you tremendously-or, if spent unwisely, can cripple you in the civilian world.

Life is a constant struggle, and if you do not master the way you view life, it will drown you. It is easier to fall into a negative mentality than it is to remain positive and stay on top of your problems. Once you realize this, the battle is winnable. You cannot blame the Navy for whatever life puts you through. It is a volunteer Navy, so the decision is yours. The decision to join neither should be taken lightly nor made in haste, but once made, it should be honored. If the Navy is not the bed of roses you were hoping for, then make your own bed. Deciding to take full advantage of all the Navy has to offer is the best gift you can give yourself. Challenging yourself to overcome the odds and viewing each experience-good or bad-as an opportunity to learn, will help you in the Navy and in life, as well.

"How About a Library Without Walls?"

(See R. Norris and D. West, pp. 78-79, November 1996; J.L. Buntzen, pp. 22-23, February 1997 Proceedings)

Captain B. W. Buckley, U.S. Navy, Commanding Officer, Navy Research Laboratory -Commander Norris and Captain West raise provocative visions of the seaborne and battlefield utility of a future library without walls.

The Navy Library community has made great strides already to provide centralized, one-stop access to mission critical information, particularly at the Ruth H. Hooker Library at the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL). For the last eight years the NRL library has been digitizing and storing NRL and other Defense Department agency technical reports for on-demand retrieval; licensing commercial databases and electronic versions of major technical journals; organizing and annotating relevant Internet resources; and providing unified desktop access to this complete range of resources through a worldwide web interface designed for a Navy audience.

Our efforts have been focused on three major initiatives:

  • Provide a campus-wide information system, providing laboratory scientists menu-driven access to databases from their offices, homes, or while on travel
  • Establish an imaging system for the storage and retrieval of technical reports, with more than 165,000 reports available at present
  • Implement TORPEDO (The Optical Retrieval Project: Electronic Documents Online), which makes those NRL-digitized reports and licensed journals available at researchers' desktops using common Web browsers

These information dissemination accomplishments are being thoroughly and widely documented in the information literature; our Chief Librarian, Ms. Laurie Stackpole, alone has authored 29 papers or oral presentations. In addition to the writings and presentations of the library staff, the library has hosted representatives from such organizations as the Defense Special Weapons Agency, NASA, the Library of Congress, the Army's Chief Information Officer, the American Physical Society, Elsevier Scientific Publishers, Cornell University, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Defense Mapping Agency, and Patuxent River Naval Air Station. These disparate groups thus have shared in NRLs substantial progress in the field of information storage and delivery, and in many cases have used them as a model for their own developments.

To build on these successes, a study team composed of researchers and information professionals, from inside and outside the Laboratory, recently completed INFOVISION/2000, a view of the library's future. One of their recommendations indicates our commitment to helping make the scenarios of Commander Norris and Captain West a reality.

The underlying vision, mission, goals, and objectives are available on the Library's home page (http:infoweb.nrl.

We are very proud of the Naval Research Laboratory library's digital library accomplishments and the steps it has taken to share that progress with others, both in the Defense Department and broader information communities. I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate to your readership how "real" the "virtual library" is here at NRL.

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

(See C. Myers and H. W. Howard, p. 8, January 1997; C.H. Depew, p. 19, April 1997 Proceedings)

"Salinger Misses on TWA 800"

(See D. Evans, p. 23, February 1997 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Commander Conrad M. Agresti, Supply Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired), who was on the bridge of the Vincennes (CG-49) on 3 July 1988 -Time and again, Proceedings has published unsubstantiated barbs, suppositions, and criticism of the 1988 incident involving the Vincennes (CG-49) and the Iranian airliner, while nary an exculpatory clarification has been aired.

Captain Howard and Mr. Myers, seeking to substantiate a pet theory, wrote that ". . . an Aegis combatant might be deployed on a lonely mission-as was the USS Vincennes (CG-49) when she shot down the Iranian Airbus." As a former Deputy Aegis Program Manager, Captain Howard must know that it was ambiguous and duplicated navy tactical data link track number information, provided by other U.S. Navy and allied ships, operating in Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf, that led the Vincennes to engage the contact which turned out to be Iran Air 655. Captain Howard also is undoubtedly aware that had Vincennes been operating independently "on a lonely mission," and therefore reliant solely on her organic sensors, that the Airbus would not have been shot down.

Then, Lieutenant Colonel Evans took a cheap shot at former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral William Crowe when addressing Pierre Salinger's contention that the U.S. Navy was somehow responsible for the loss of TWA flight 800, he revisits his own cause celebre by writing that ". . . one must remember that another Aegis cruiser, the USS Vincennes (CG-49), mistakenly shot down an Iran Air Airbus. . . a truly tragic incident marked by cover-up and obfuscation involving U.S. naval officers all the way up the chain of command to the rank of four star admiral."

This is simply not true! Needless to say, the only obfuscation of truth has resulted from the unwillingness of the Chief of Naval Information, apparently abetted by the U.S. Naval Institute, to challenge these notorious yellow journalistic claims.

"While England Slept"

(See F.G. Hoffman, pp. 45-49, February 1997 Proceedings)

Captain John J. Abbatiello, U.S. Air Force -Colonel Hoffman's assertions concerning the RAF-that its leader's overconfidence in strategic bombing almost cost them the war-were right on the mark. Were it not for the Inskip Decision to build more fighter aircraft, the Luftwaffe may indeed have won the Battle of Britain. I find Hoffman's attacks on the British Army and Royal Navy leadership less convincing, however.

Hoffman's asserts that the leadership of the British Army failed to innovate, lacked "vision," and ultimately caused the early defeats of 1940-42. This view is unfair, inaccurate, and ignores other factors critical to these defeats. In fact, many general officers in the British Army supported mechanization; only one Chief of the General Staff during the interwar period was overtly against modernization. The social and political climate of the 1920s and early 1930s simply made adequate modernization of the army impossible.

This was the age of the Ten Year Rule, where Parliament ordered the armed forces not to prepare for a major conflict for ten years. The Locarno Pact dictated that diplomacy, and only diplomacy, would replace military force in furthering national objectives. It was therefore not "politically correct" to build offensive weapon systems such as tanks and assault guns. As a result, the British Army simply was not adequately funded by Parliament. Can we blame the generals for this? By the time Hitler renounced the Versailles Treaty in 1935, the British were significantly behind, with little hope of catching up with Germany. Finally, the decision to send the minuscule BEF to France after the invasion of Poland was purely a political decision. If Britain was to be more than a junior partner in its alliance with France, it had to prove a solid resolve to its ally and to the world by sending ground forces across the channel. If any group is liable for the early failures in the British Army, blame surely must rest on the Cabinet and a fiscally stringent Parliament.

The same reservations apply to Hoffman's attack on the admirals of the Royal Navy. Inadequate budget outlays and Cabinet-mandated reorganization hampered Britain's primary arm of defense. The Fleet Air Arm received obsolescent aircraft-leftovers from the RAF-simply because there was no money to build better ones. Certainly the Royal Navy officers who planned the Taranto attack, a full year before Pearl Harbor, did not lack vision! The U-boat successes from 1940 to 1943 were a result of a completely unexpected events and not inadequate planning. The Royal Navy correctly assumed that they would be able to contain the U-boat threat in the North Sea through mine barrages, convoys, and ASDIC-just like the last war. The fall of France and Norway and the subsequent establishment of U-boat bases along these coasts greatly enhanced Donitz' capability to attack the North Atlantic sea lanes. Before the summer of 1940, on the other hand, he was only able to keep ten U-boats on station at any one time. Even if the Royal Navy expected France to fall, would it have been politically acceptable to plan for such a contingency?

Colonel Hoffman correctly asserts that the military leadership of interwar Britain lacked "joint vision" each service focused on different threats and they did not work together. However, the underlying problem here was an unrealistic foreign policy and strategic overextension in a time where the budget could not provide adequate numbers and quality weapon systems. Sounds familiar! I think the lessons of interwar Britain are a better warning for our legislators than the officers of our armed forces.



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