Comment and Discussion

Going in, I knew this meant a deployment on my "shore tour," but I was led to believe that taking this demanding job would give me a better chance to stay in Norfolk for two tours in a row (what a concept). At the completion of this tour, and an additional five-month separation from my family, I graduated first in my class at Submarine Officer Advanced Course.

I was ready to tackle my first department head job as engineer on a fast attack submarine—but unfortunately, this submarine will be shifting to home port to inactivate only five months after my arrival, making my engineer tour not count and making another six-month (or more) geographic separation from my family likely.

So my only request to the detailer was a Norfolk-based submarine, operational if possible. Again, my detailer led me to believe that there would be no problem sending me back to Norfolk at the completion of inactivation.

So now I'm at the point where I'll need a follow-on department head tour, and my new detailer is unable to assure me about my next job.

When will I reap the benefits of taking the tough jobs and performing well? With almost ten years in the Navy and obligation into my 14th year, there is little chance I will opt out before 20—and the people assigning me know that.

What does all this whining have to do with junior officer retention? The junior officers who work for me see the position I'm in, and I don't think a single one of them aspires to follow my career path. They must be asking themselves the same question I do: If I make a commitment to the Navy, will the Navy make a commitment to me—and keep it?

Captain John L. Byron, U.S. Navy (Retired)— Let's see if I've got this right: The junior officers are pissed and they're leaving in droves. They see shipboard life as bureaucratic drudgery and command at sea as a mindless pursuit. They are trapped in a system of scant reward and mindless adminutia. That's not a pretty picture.

And who is to blame? Gee, I guess no one. Certainly not Rear Admiral Natter, the article's senior whiner. Certainly we shouldn't expect flag officers to actually run the Navy—perceiving problems, pursuing forehanded policies, and generally making the right things happen.

But wait, says the article. Solutions are at hand! The Chief of Naval Operations's four-star conference is on the case and has proposed a modest adjustment! Wow! But aren't these the guys who cause the problems in the first place?

It's true that admirals do not have fitness reports written on themselves. But they do get graded, nonetheless. Junior officer retention rate is a flag-corps fitness grade. If the grade is low, flag officers such as Admiral Natter are better advised to use their leadership to fix the problems while they serve rather than kvetching in public lament after they punch out.

"Private Ryan Educates a Nation"

(See T. Greenwood, pp. 74-75, October 1998 Proceedings )

Colonel W. Hays Parks, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)—While I have great respect for Lieutenant Colonel Tom Greenwood, I do not need antimilitary Hollywood personalities such as Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks to tell me—or the nation—what combat is like.

Applauding Saving Private Ryan on the pages of Proceedings makes about as much sense as endorsing a Hollywood movie starring Jane Fonda that portrays the North Vietnamese treatment of U.S. prisoners of war as "humane" or supporting Ted Turner's CNN "news" report on Operation Tailwind.

"Air Detachment or Air Department?"

(See M. Lisowski, pp. 80-84, October 1998 Proceedings )

Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey B. Barta, U.S. Navy, HSL-47 —Hallelujah! Someone finally has brought to light the bane of many LAMPS detachments-the classic "us-versus-the-shoes" syndrome.

Despite the fact that the surface Navy in no small part bought and paid for LAMPS MK III, tactical ignorance or disregard of embarked helicopter operations runs rampant. In the past 11 years, I have heard everything from the inane ("Can you tow my RHIB [rigid-hull inflatable boat] with 12 people aboard?") to the downright criminal ("I don't see the admiral who wrote that out here, so you'd better do things my way").

Unfortunately, the lack of integration of an air department into the fold of a shipborne combat system is just as often as result of the classic aviation mindset that looks down upon anything incapable of flight as the "don't tell me how to drive my ship and I won't tell you how to fly your helo" attitude found among so many surface warriors today.

The key to integration is training and a better understanding of each other's capabilities. In the days of LAMPS MK I, it was not uncommon to find an aviator on the bridge during critical flight evolutions. Perhaps by doing something as simple as this, we could begin to solve some of the problems enumerated by Lieutenant Lisowski. Without it, we may not attain the complete potential of the LAMPS MK III weapon system.

"Network-Centric Antisubmarine Warfare"

(See J. Fitzgerald, R. Christian, R. Manke, pp. 92-95, September 1998 Proceedings )

Captain Robert H. Smith, U.S. Navy (Retired)— Alas, another article on the presumptive wonders of network-centric warfare—especially when applied to antisubmarine warfare (ASW). As if swifter transmission and dissemination of antisubmarine warfare information, cutting in more and more would-be players, can cure the primary fault: that ASW information, which is overwhelmingly acoustic, is 99.9% misleading and mostly worse than worthless because it gets in the way. The art of ASW is to identify and cull those few nuggets of truth from mountains of ore. However you slice it, dice it, digitize it, speed up and spew out raw data, you still are magnifying the muddle, not clarifying the picture.

Antisubmarine warfare remains a terribly difficult, tedious business. Successes are the fruit of persistence; the product of hard work and relentless training. And as antisubmarine warfare training becomes a casualty of the times, our frustration heightens the temptation to grope around for magic wands.

The authors include references to "longer detection ranges" and "near instant target classification," which apparently must be the sine qua non of successful network-centric ASW. But as submarines grow quieter, passive-detection ranges shrink. Noisier oceans make classification ever harder. Improvement in active-detection ranges below the layer come up against the stone wall of physics—the downward bending of sound in its travel. The authors' final sentence shows a there is a hint of understanding: "First, however, there must be adequate sonar sensor improvements to ensure that contact can be generated at reasonable ranges to provide meaning to the concept of network-based ASW."

You bet—along with many other bonnie things that must also take place along the way to give meaning to network-based ASW. But why was that indispensable concession not placed at the start of the article, instead of being slipped in at the end?

"Don't Trade on the Uniform"

(See C. Graham, p. 79, July 1998; M. Maglin, p. 12, August 1998 Proceedings )

Sonar Technician First Class Kevin McMullen, U.S. Navy —Lieutenant Commander Graham writes, "I do not think it is wrong to pose nude for Playboy or for adults to look at those photos. But it morally reprehensible to pose nude as a representative of the Navy."

My question is this: While serving in the Navy on active duty, when is a person not a representative of the Navy? While in civilian clothes—or none at all? Are we to assume that if Ms. Spilman had not used her uniform as a prop, she would not be faced with "conduct unbecoming"? What about members of her division who happen to see her in Playboy ?

We shouldn't have to shift the terms of debate from morality to broadly accepted civil norms just to get through to civilians that the military narrows the range of acceptable behavior. Throughout U.S. history, it is morality—the ability to distinguish between right and wrong—that has shaped and formed our military and civilian standards of conduct. What our nation so desperately needs right now are leaders, both military and civilian, who are not afraid to speak out on the moral issues of today. It is impossible to think that we can separate behavior from morality. And to quote America's first commander-in-chief, "It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible."

"End the Zero-Defects Mentality"

(See B. Craft, pp. 65-67, July 1998 Proceedings )

Lieutenant Elliot Avidan, U.S. Navy, U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1994 —Ensign Craft claims that recent changes implemented at the Naval Academy "seem to have successfully caused a paradigm shift in the proper direction." I remember no survey revealing a radical shift in the moral condition of the fleet's junior officers. Wouldn't the performance of such properly instructed graduates be the truest indicator of success or failure of the Academy's reforms? And haven't the midshipmen brought up under that system just begun to enter the fleet?

I am proud to have won my appointment to Annapolis, to have graduated, and to serve in my nation's armed forces. Does Ensign Craft contend that I somehow am less of an officer than she is—and all of her classmates, who profited from right thinking? I am confronted constantly with accusations concerning alumni and charges of arrogance leveled by sailors and officers commissioned from other sources. A newly minted ensign who claims to understand the Navy's dilemmas and can propose solutions demonstrates more than arrogance and less than excellence.

"Don't Blame the Politicians"

(See C. Clawson, p. 118, September 1998 Proceedings )

Eric C. Olson—Of the articles I've read on retention, this is closest to the mark. The author notes the lack of public mandate for a large Navy and the lack of military experience in civilian leadership.

The public, politicians, and the news media do not know about the military, so the military must educate the public. Other than ads on television during the Super Bowl, the public sees nothing about the military. Since 1972 and the end of the draft, we are seeing fewer and fewer veterans. In my current place of employment, some of us served in the military—but most are more than 50 years old, and only one is a combat veteran.

Colonel Clawson is correct in warning about becoming an elitist military. Military service members must quit pouting about drawdown and base closures. It is up to the military to make its case to the public, and to encourage young men and women to view military service as a career.

"Will Our Forces Match the Threat?"

(See R. Callum, pp. 50-53, August 1998 Proceedings )

Captain Jeffrey S. Kojac, U.S. Marine Corps-This is one of the most relevant articles I have read in Proceedings in the past decade. The thesis is that advanced weapon and information systems do not make us omnipotent or omniscient, and that we must adapt our weapon and information systems to meet asymmetrical threats as well as the complexity and ambiguity of post-Cold War operations.

Interservice rivalry and threat capabilities have been the catalysts for innovation and adaptation within the U.S. military. Today, these elements are restrained. There is considerable emphasis on interservice cooperation, and we face uncertain threats; the degree to which we truly can innovate is questionable.

Going beyond Mr. Callum's call to adapt our technology to "low-intensity" contingencies, it is important to note that, similarly, we must adapt our organization, doctrine, tactics, and training to meet subnational or nonmilitary enemies—in addition to conventional threats. In such a reformation of our organizational and operational concepts, we need to examine the assumptions, perceptions, and characteristics of the cultures resident in the unstable regions of the world so we can more ably confront them. Otherwise, we may miscomprehend the political and culture attributes of a nation or nonstate actor we are attempting to combat or to protect, and misjudge the appropriate means of responding to a crisis.

Ultimately, our ability to innovate and adapt is related directly to our institutional mindset. Thus, it is questionable whether we can adjust to the low-intensity missions and asymmetrical threats of the post-Cold War world. But if Proceedings is a reflection of our naval force's mindset, then perhaps we can adapt.

"You Can't Fool the Troops"

(See O. West, pp. 52-54, September 1998 Proceedings )

Commander Mike Dubik, U.S. Navy, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences —Captain West's article is a thoughtful critique of officer performance evaluation systems. Although I think it is possible to "fool the troops" (and the boss), his recommendation to include peer and subordinate input is right on target.

The problems with evaluations solely from the top down are neither new nor limited to the military and business worlds. Similar issues arise in the medical academic arena. At a medical school, top-down-only evaluations tend to get you good researchers and administrations, while the goal of the institution—teaching—can fade to an afterthought, because it is relatively easy to measure grants awarded and articles published, and much harder to measure good teaching (as it is to measure good leadership).

Similarly, military evaluations solely from the top down run the risk of selecting good managers but not recognizing strong leadership, and rewarding loyalty up the chain while neglecting loyalty downward. As at the medical school, we avoid peer and subordinate input when we try to gauge leadership, because we fear the process will degenerate into a popularity contest.

I think the current officer performance evaluation systems generally work well. But the present system does not measure a leader's effect on peers and subordinates well and thus misses that significant effect on operational capability.

There always will be careerist gamesmanship, but we ought to make the game resemble reality more closely. Computerized databases, of course, will make this much more feasible. The improved feedback to officers with the wealth of insights it would provide them alone would make it worth the effort.

"Is American Military Professionalism Declining?"

(See T. Ricks, pp. 26-29, July 1998; P. Pierce, p.17, August 1998; S. Lynn, S. Lintner, R. Freeman, pp. 18-22, September 1998 Proceedings )

Brigadier General John Kirk, U.S. Army (Retired)— My compliments on your courage and foresight in publishing Mr. Ricks's speech. It was a pointed, overdue challenge to contemporary leaders of every grade and persuasion. "Rightness" or "wrongness" of his opinions is far less important than raising the issues and opening debate.

"A soldier or family never discusses politics, religion, or sex officially, socially, or publicly, or uses his personal standards to judge others" was early paternal advice to me. I followed it closely during a modestly successful career. Similar values guided past generations of senior soldiers, sailors, and airmen well through four often politically, spiritually, and morally difficult wars, including the cold one that thankfully never got hot.

Leadership by example—rightly—is one of the most often-recommended, effective, honored, practiced, and fragile techniques available to leaders. Its use must be body guarded by mature judgment and ability to mark clearly the often wafer-thin differences between education, inspiration, and intimidation.

In that context, political correctness and righteous apostolicism have no place among our uniformed leaders. Individual political and religious views belong in families, polling booths, pews of choice, and the values applied to one's own conduct. To suggest the correctness of—or to allow broader activism by—leaders or organizations is denial of human nature, and potentially harmful mischief to individuals and group readiness. Conduct or support of organized, sanctioned, or spontaneous expressions of politics or faith in organizational (or business) common-use areas invariably results in subconscious roll-calling and often wrongful "Johnny wasn't singing" conclusions—by leaders, peers, or subordinates. Johnny may have been singing okay—just not their song.

Military and common law and service regulations establish the parameters of performance and behavior. Unshared personal or group value systems, stated or implied, which are explicitly, implicitly, or inferentially used to judge performance beyond those dictates often are the opposite of our forefathers' intent.

The armed forces were founded to serve the people, as represented by their elected President and Congress. As such, they must remain apolitical, nondenominational instruments of national will and power. No more, no less.

"The Asian Anchor"

(See D. MacKinnon, pp. 62-66, September 1998 Proceedings )

"Cracking the Nuclear Club"

(See R. Khanna, L. Sethi, pp. 64-65, September 1998 Proceedings )

Carl Jakobsson —For the foreseeable future, it will be important for the national interests of our country that elected governments in Asia and the Western Pacific region should survive and thrive. That means that we have a strong interest in the survival and health of the elected governments of Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Taiwan, India, and Pakistan.

If we are to enter into any kind of strategic partnership to shore up the elected governments of India and Pakistan, we must address the sectarian conflict between Hindus and Muslims, which has caused frequent warfare between those countries since they became independent. Without taking immediate steps to defuse that conflict, a strategic relationship with India and Pakistan at the same time could prove to be impossible.

To find a model for resolving the conflict between Hindus and Muslims in Southwest Asia, look to the successful effort to establish nonracial, nonsectarian democracies in South Africa and Namibia. In those two countries, the old apartheid system had created the threat of ethnic warfare, which if it had happened would have brought about loss of life on a massive scale, along with destruction of the infrastructure and the economy. The solution in both countries was to create a nonracial, nonsectarian democracy, in which all people are considered equal under the law and are guaranteed equal protection under the law.

If there is to be a resolution to the conflict between Hindus and Muslims in Southwest Asia, the best hope lies in the application of the fundamental principles of nonracial, nonsectarian democracy in India, in Pakistan, and in the disputed territory of Kashmir. It has been proved in the United States that Hindus and Muslims can get along, and with democratic institutions; hard-nosed, community-based policing; and community participation, there is no reason Hindus and Muslims could not get along in India, Pakistan, and Kashmir.

To prevent the spread of totalitarianism in Asia and the Western Pacific, it would be very helpful to build an active strategic partnership with India and Pakistan in Southwest Asia, along with a similarly active strategic partnership with Taiwan, the Philippines, South Korea, and Japan in the Western Pacific. 

 

 
 

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