Comment and Discussion

Richard T. Baldwin —If Lieutenant Butler thinks life is hard above decks, she should have been below in the days of hammocks, mess tables, and rocks and shoals. I went from second class to seaman under the old silent contempt rule. Lesson learned. But it was the life I liked. Patriotic, perhaps—but I have seen many foreign countries, and the United States still smells the best when entering port.

For what it's worth, Lieutenant, unpack your seabag. Give it your best shot. Study hard, know your area thoroughly, and as hard as it may be at times, bite your tongue. One day, you may be asked your opinion—then expound briefly on your narrow area. (Unfortunately, I never could follow this advice.)

You can make a difference when one day a subordinate says to you, "Thanks, I learned from you." Be a teacher; they are the best. I hope you stay.

Captain Jane McWilliams Hardman, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy (Retired)— It is both refreshing and sad that Lieutenant Butler's complaints about the Navy are the same ones that my husband and I had when we were junior officers.

As a Vietnam-era female officer who was denied the opportunity to attend the Naval Academy or even to participate in the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps, I consider the fact that Lieutenant Butler did not complain about harassment or lack of opportunity and that she is contemplating a department head tour real progress.

It is sad that Lieutenant Butler has lost her enthusiasm because of uninspiring leaders more concerned about career advancement than mission. Unfortunately, this is old news, but it needs to be readdressed constantly. Perhaps the officers who had potential left in despair—just as Lieutenant Butler is contemplating.

I am sorry that the Navy no longer is an adventure for Lieutenant Butler, and if it no longer gives her a thrill when she salutes the ensign on the gangway, perhaps she should give civilian life a whirl. But I must warn those contemplating leaving the Navy that that civilian world is not mission oriented. Most of those folks are not used to working together as a team, and the idea of sacrifice for one's shipmates or country is not even imagined. The years of adjustment since retiring from the Navy six years ago have been difficult for me personally, rivaling medical school, residency, and deployment as the Navy's first female flight surgeon in an operational billet.

"The A-12 Legacy: It Wasn't an Airplane, It Was a Train Wreck"

(See H. Fenster, pp. 33-39, February 1999; R. Dunn. p. 12, March 1999; J. Wilkinson, pp. 1214, April 1999 Proceedings )

Alan Withers, Avionics Service Engineering, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group —These is a larger story of which the A-12 is only one chapter. Compare the track record of Navy and Air Force airplane programs since the 1980s. The Navy began many programs (A-6, EA6B, F-14, and F-18 variants; and A-12, AX, AFX, P-7, and a new utility airframe), but only a few variants—no new designs—became rubber on the ramp. The Air Force deployed several variants and new programs (F-15E, F-117, F-22, C-17, B-2, JSTARS).

Since the 1980s, the Air Force has deployed stealth, synthetic aperture radar, LANTIRN, the JSTARS radar, and precision-guided munitions. Navy deployment of these breakthrough technologies has been much less aggressive.

Navy air wings' utility airframes (tankers, antisubmarine warfare, early warning, and delivery) are getting old and have no replacements in sight. The Navy shooters (F-14, F-18) clearly are less capable than their Air Force counterparts (F-22, F-15E, F-117). The Navy gave up the long-range attack mission when they retired the A-6, and has no equivalent to JSTARS or Rivet Joint. Navy-unique capabilities, such as airborne antisubmarine warfare, are degrading.

In my opinion, the air wing is losing its ability to go in harm's way without land-based tanker and other support, and thus risks becoming irrelevant. Have carriers become obsolete, just like battleships? Are they still uniquely capable assets? Ponder these points:

  • Did the Navy keep 15 carrier battle groups too long, starving airplane development for funds?
  • Does the Navy have a problem maintaining political support for programs long enough to deploy them?
  • What can carriers do uniquely well? Is it worth the cost? The answer was easy in World War II.

Captain Howard C. Cohen, U.S. Naval Reserve —I have often wondered how choices are made to illustrate the articles or comments appearing in Proceedings . Mr. Fenster doubted the fate of naval aviation and weapon system development in general and questioned "the unchecked major investment in the old order of Naval Aviation." Accompanying his article was a photograph of the USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). The illustration depicts the Stennis backing down, the flight deck devoid of aircraft.

Either the photograph was chosen very cleverly as an illustrative analogy to Mr. Fenster's argument, or, if chosen as an example of a carrier under way during operations, was a poor archetype.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The editor selected the photograph published with the feature to illustrate the author's point-not to be clever.

"Educating the Navy for the Long Haul"

(See P. Long, pp. 26-28, January 1999 Proceedings )

Lieutenant Commander Andrew D. Wanamaker, U.S. Navy —The Navy has developed "one of the finest training and technical education systems" in the world. I was an engineering major at the Naval Academy, and I have completed nuclear power and two submarine training pipeline schools. I have found few situations throughout six years of sea duty for which I was not prepared technically. The Navy invests a great deal in the superb training and education required to meet the demands of the fleet. But what about the "education which is nice to have if you get the chance ?"

I heard two questions from other junior officers when I received orders to graduate school. Why not pursue a technical curriculum, because that is what you have been doing as a submariner? And, won't this be detrimental to your record as seen by future screening boards—in reference to "not observed" evaluations?

But I have been amazed at how much I am able to learn beyond the engineering world. One of the most important aspects of my education is the interaction with other students and professors, both U.S. and foreign, who hold views that oppose mine. Having to debate a military policy with a foreigner who has no experience with the U.S. military gives one an appreciation for other, contradictory viewpoints. An education in nontechnical disciplines, combined with technical skills and training, can lead to a more competent officer corps.

I certainly hope this education will not be detrimental in screening boards. I don't think anyone can predict the outcome of selection boards, and officers who let their career opportunities be driven solely by perceived effects on future selections are not focused on the right things. Officers should do the best they can at every job, and not worry about things over which they have no control.

I encourage other junior officers to take advantage of any potential horizon broadening educational opportunity that presents itself, and seek out those that do not. Skills such as placing a weapon on target and understanding the complexities of the engineering plant are essential, but there is much more that can be learned about being an officer and leader in our military of today and tomorrow.

"Military Virtue & the Future of the Naval Service"

(See M. Dunaway, pp. 76-79, December 1998; J. Callaway, J. Hayek, D. Adams, pp. 10-12, February 1999; A. Mclean, E. Oyer, p. 22, March 1999 Proceedings )

Ambassador Rodney Minott, former Ambassador to Sweden —I, for one, did not find Captain Dunaway's article self-serving or self-pitying.

I think one of the points Captain Dunaway was attempting to illustrate was that in a peacetime military, there is a tendency to "play it safe" and "go by the book."

I have served in both a peacetime and a wartime U.S. Army, and they are as different as night and day.

The former emphasizes routine; the latter, constant innovation. I have no idea if Captain Dunaway served in a combat zone, but I suspect that he wished his crew and especially his executive officer would be able to react to the unexpected.

I have a vivid memory of what peacetime routine did to both the Army and the Navy at Pearl Harbor and how brilliantly the Navy responded by throwing routine to the winds as a result.

As a young soldier in 1950, confronted by ramshackle, ill-trained, and often demoralized peacetime soldiers suddenly facing war, we threw peacetime procedures away and confronted our personnel with more unexpected situations that we could devise to sharpen them. It worked, and just in time after a shabby start.

It seems to me that Captain Dunaway might be more appreciated in a combat zone or wartime fleet.

"Honor in Uniform"

(See T. Scott and T. Greenwood, p. 4, March 1999 Proceedings )

Lieutenant Matthew C. Miller, U.S. Navy —This is one of the most contradictory and condescending commentaries I have seen in Proceedings . If the overall sentiment of these authors came to fruition, Proceedings no longer would be the magazine military and civilian leaders turn to for open expression of ideas on national defense and other issues affecting the men and women of the uniformed services. While the authors' three rules for "Good Officers" probably would have stood on their own, the article included an insidious argument to quell much free expression by military officers.

This article and others like it make no distinction between political issues such as impeachment or voter influence by the military and political issues such as the military use of force to achieve political objectives or military policy in general. It also assumes military officers and enlisted personnel somehow are not capable of compartmentalization and therefore cannot separate personal and political issues from mission accomplishment.

The U.S. Constitution is specific on how our government is formed. But many aspects of the Constitution are political. As one who has sworn to defend the Constitution, like the authors, I also am a champion of it. When I am in a foreign country, I want to convey what a really good system of government we have, and that might mean expressing my views on some potentially very political issues.

The true course for a military officer is apolitical, but not at the expense of subordinates or our own personal morality. This often is the case with many "political" issues, from acquisition of new technology to involvement in military conflicts. The authors use Vietnam as an example to support their silent obedience or resign argument, but I am sure the families of more than 50,000 Americans would have liked to see more Generals and Admirals to debate the effective use of force in Southeast Asia. The services are the experts on the use of the military.

If the authors had come out of the think tank to take a quick peek at the serious retention issues facing today's armed services, they would have discovered the same thing Congress has—that flag and general officer leadership might be a retention issue. The only way to get to the bottom of some of these issues is respectful criticism, through the chain of command or professional fora like Proceedings , of some policies that may or may not be supported by military and political leadership. Congress now circumvents—on a regular basis—the chain of command to assess what is going on in the military.

Please give us "Good Officers" credit for being able to accomplish the defense of the Constitution and have political thoughts. We can listen to partisan news broadcasts but not use our access to power to usurp the democratic political process of the United States. There are many times when the discussion of politics is not appropriate, but often there are times when it is imperative that military officers speak out to discuss important issues facing the military that also are political issues.

"DD-21's Fatal Flaw"

(See M. Fitzgerald, pp. 42-45, February 1999; J. Carnevale, p. 16, March 1999; S. Keller, p. 14, April 1999 Proceedings )

Captain Edward B. Hontz, U.S. Navy (Retired)— This is the latest in a number of recent articles claiming that advanced damage control and reduced manning are incompatible. Several factors have not been considered in this argument.

From a historical perspective, our very high ship-manning levels in World War II were not effective in stemming the loss of ships from battle damage. Our 10,000ton light cruisers of SO years ago had wartime complements of about 1,200, compared with complements of 400 for the 10,000-ton Aegis cruisers of today. Ship design and quality of materials were such that infinite manning could not save ships doomed from an initial hit that exploded sensitive munitions or ignited volatile low-flash-point aviation fuels, resulting in uncontrolled fires or flooding.

The USS Princeton (CG-59)'s mine strike in 1991 probably would have sunk any like-sized ship in World War II. The heroic efforts of the Princeton's crew notwithstanding—to which I can attest as the ship's commanding officer at the time—the determining factor in her survival was ship design, which limited the damage to a level where the crew effectively could control the progression of the damage. Using shock standards—including a very aggressive shock test program—and high-strength steels in the construction of the hull, our Aegis ships are tougher than any equivalent-sized ships ever built. When the USS Yorktown (CG-48) was shock-tested shortly after commissioning, her generators shut down. The engineering change to prevent generator shutdown was designed, along with fixes to dozens of other shock vulnerabilities. These engineering and design changes were validated during a second set of shock trials in the USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), and those modifications and changes were built into the Princeton and the other new-construction Aegis ships, with backfits into the in-commission ships. Without those fixes, the Princeton would have had no electrical power after the mine strike, and thus would have had no fire pumps or fire main pressure and no ability for high-capacity dewatering. Although the mine damage broke Harpoon missile restraint latches, was directly below aft fuel tanks and magazines, and almost broke the fantail from the rest of the ship, there were no ordnance explosions or fires.

If there is a fatal flaw in DD-21, it does not have to be low damage-control manning. The solution at least in part lies in the continued development and application of advanced concepts, designs, materials, and training, plus detailed systems engineering to determine the best functional allocation among equipment, computer programs, and people. After all that is done, augmenting the crew during combat with a few well-trained reserves, as suggested by Commander Fitzgerald, seems like a good idea.

"Masters, Martyrs & Spectators"

(See C. Harris, pp. 30-34, April 1999 Proceedings )

Theodore Buyniski Jr.— I agree with Commander Harris's observation that "notably absent [from the volunteer military] are the sons and daughters of industry, academia, media, and government." This, the commander believes, will lead increasingly to his society of "masters, martyrs, and spectators." In fact, this places us in a position similar to many others in our history—the period between the World Wars and the period between the Civil War and World War I, to name two examples. During both these periods, the military (an all volunteer force) did not, in the main, recruit "the sons [no daughters at the time] of industry, academia, media, and government," except in periods of perceived national danger. During these periods, the vast majority of soldiers and sailors would have seen and acknowledged Commander Harris's comment that "facing hardship and danger abroad would remain the responsibility of the underclass." Such has been the case in this country, with two exceptions—when there was a generally perceived threat to the nation, or when the coercive power of the government was turned against its own citizens.

It is here that I take issue with Commander Harris on philosophical grounds. The draft is predicated on the notion that the life of the individual belongs to the state, to dispose of as it will—in short, we are slaves to the government. The fact that a draftee is paid is inconsequential—if there were no draft, the pay would not be sufficient to attract the unwilling draftee. If, instead of military service, 18year-olds were conscripted by the government to clean the streets, provide AIDS education, or act as auxiliary police, would Commander Harris still advocate the draft's reinstatement? There is no practical difference. In both cases, the state is taking a portion of a youth's life and using it as the state sees fit.

Commander Harris is so concerned with the symptom that he does not see the consequences of the cure. If we are to maintain the military establishment at its current size, the problems of attracting, retaining, and motivating talented individuals to the armed services is critical. But I would suggest that the answers already exist—and have been postulated in other issues of Proceedings .

First, we need to address retention. We are hemorrhaging talent from the services that we cannot afford to lose, even though the services officer rewards both tangible (including pay and benefits) and intangible (including both development opportunities and a renewed focus on the mission and purpose of the services).

Second, if we are to attract the "best and the brightest" (not in the McNamaran sense, but truly those people who will reflect the greatest credit on both the services and themselves), we must focus on both the explicit and implicit rewards the service can bring. In terms of the explicit, we are, to some extent, on the right track—more competitive pay, opportunities to take on responsibility early in one's career, learning opportunities. But we are falling short again in terms of implicit rewards. The armed services have, to a greater or lesser degree, depending on the service, ceased being "warriors" (Lieutenant Butler's term; see p. 2, April 1999 Proceedings ) and have become "employees." If the service is a "job" instead of a "career," there will always be "better" jobs available—cleaner, better paying, and less chance of getting shot during the day. But if people are imbued with a sense of purpose, a mission, then the stresses of the job become a badge of honor—whether it is as a Marine or as a programmer who has worked 48 hours straight debugging the next "killer ap" from Microsoft.

Unfortunately, the services can do only so much. We are in an era without a truly frightening enemy such as Hitler, the Kaiser, or Johnny Reb (or Damnyankee). As always happens to democracies in these times, the military becomes an unwanted stepchild.

The draft is not the answer, either as a source of military manpower or a form of national service. It is another means whereby the government redistributes our wealth to goals which, given individual preferences, would be happily left unmet.

Robert A. Heinlein (U.S. Naval Academy Class of 1934) wrote, "No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops, and in the long run, no state ever has. Roman matrons used to say to their sons: `Come back with your shield, or upon it.' Later on, this custom declined. So did Rome."

I hope we will not follow the Roman model. At least not for a few hundred more years.

"Nuclear Weapons in the Info Age: Who Needs 'em?"

(See W. Holland, pp. 45-47, January 1999 Proceedings )

Captain George R. Farfour, U.S. Air Force —While I agree with the tone of this article, Admiral Holland concludes with a comment that does not seem to be drawn from the same reasoned thought used in the body of the article. His concluding paragraph begins, "Now that the Air Force essentially has abdicated its role in strategic forces. "

I am not sure how he draws that conclusion. His article neither defends nor supports the comment except in perhaps two rather weak instances. First, the Admiral spends some time reviewing and to some degree, refuting Air Force General Lee Butler's recent opinion—but to assume a retired officer is making official policy for the Air Force is unrealistic.

Second, to conclude the supposed abdication "to the extent that the Air Force has shifted its bomber fleet from almost totally nuclear capable to almost totally conventional roles" is not the full picture. The Air Force has shifted its bomber fleet responsibilities, but more to reflect a realism for the massive decrease in manned bombers since the end of the Cold War. Admiral Holland omits the Air Force's intercontinental ballistic missile leg of the triad, which, though downsized, still is a powerful, viable deterrent.

If we carry his argument further, the Admiral may well have written of the same "abdication" by the Navy as it has shrunk from 40 ballistic-missile submarines to today's 18, but that doesn't follow, either. He then adds the confusing comment, "General Butler's argument restates positions espoused by Navy leaders in the 1980s."

I do not believe either service has abdicated any role in the strategic arena. As the world changes, so do threats and responses.

As we on active duty grapple with implementing the policy and direction of our civilian leaders, the nation needs logical, consistent, and reasoned debate that will help guide our nation into the future—safely and securely.

"The Silence of the Admirals"

(See J. Webb, pp. 28-34, January 1999; K. Oliver, T. Marfiak, H. DuMond, pp. 6-8, February 1999; L. Wells, A. de Laurier, p. 17, March 1999 Proceedings )

Captain J. R. Avella, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired), Executive Vice President, The Graduate School of America —The title of this article makes a none-too-veiled call for a turn of the millennium version of the late-1940s revolt of the admirals. Secretary Webb never has been reluctant not only to articulate his thoughts on any issue, but to back them up with action. Sadly, his exhortations will go unheeded because his article stopped short of the real solution. The problem is more than the silence of the admirals; it is the system that generated them.

As an ensign, Chester Nimitz ran a ship aground. His career did not suffer in the long term, as he went on to well documented greatness during World War II and later. Today, Nimitz would have been thrown out of the Navy, perhaps not in disgrace, but certainly under embarrassing circumstances.

Why? Because our system focuses on things and events, and not on the individual qualities and characteristics that produce those things and events. Nimitz survived because a perceptive senior—a real leader in my book—recognized the potential in this junior officer, and assisted him in getting through his troubles and moving on. Today's system does not allow this.

The futility of Secretary Webb's plea also can be related to the differences between the cast of characters involved in the revolt of the admirals and today's flag community. Those were combat-hardened veterans, to whom the prospect of taking on the Secretary of Defense, Congress, and perhaps even their Commander-in-Chief paled in comparison to facing a kamikaze or U-boat. Today, we have no such individuals.

Instead, we have products of a system that rewards conformance and punishes innovation. We have a system that cares more about what "tickets" were punched than whether an individual went to the mat for his or her people for a principle or belief.

While damning the system that produced them, I do applaud today's flag community for having the foresight to learn what the Navy expected of them and then delivering it in order to achieve their career goals. While they may not be the ones who answer Secretary Webb's call, they should not be faulted. The system that produced them is sick and needs to be fixed.

"Moving the Navy into the Information Age"

(See M. Loescher, pp. 40-44, January 1999; B. Cole, p. 17, March 1999 Proceedings )

Rear Admiral David M. Cooney, U.S. Navy (Retired), former Navy Chief of Information (1977-81) and CEO of Goodwill Industries —This article moves from an analysis of the handling of information in a changing environment, through some unoriginal generalities about intellectual capital, then launches—via an egregious non sequitur—into a diatribe against the restricted line communities concerned with information management. We are startled to learn that the public affairs community is responsible for the world knowing about the Tailhook debacle, the sexual misbehaviors of midshipmen, the tragic death of a Chief of Naval Operations, and other unspecified crimes and misdemeanors.

In the best tradition of "shoot the messenger" thinking, the author confuses cause and effect while demonstrating, through specious comparisons, a deep ignorance of the laws, purposes, and policies controlling the practice of public affairs in the Department of Defense.

While the Navy has had more than its share of bad stories, it also has suffered from more than its share of un fortunate behavior. This behavior has occurred at a time when the general population evaluates the social performance of its agents.

Most elements of that population value compliance with their expectation of responsible behavior more than they value the warrior image. Neither the restricted line nor the news media caused the coverage. It was, rather, the boobs who ignored their social responsibility and jeopardized the reputations of all Navy people in selfish moments of astonishing idiocy.

If it weren't for the long-term superior performance of the professional public affairs community, the Navy's significant and important efforts to solve its problems would be neither known nor believed. If that were true, the capacity of our leadership to move forward with sympathetic support to make necessary changes and apply needed discipline would have been impaired by activists in Congress and a hostile public.

As recent events in the political arena have demonstrated, positive coverage of bad performance does not happen, irrespective of the power and influence of the persons involved. Likewise, positive coverage of good outcomes comes from the knowledgeable presentation of the pertinent information from a respected and consistently credible source. That is not something the Navy can outsource.

There is a vast difference between establishing attitudes and influencing the more transient elements of public opinion. That is one of the reasons polls indicate that service officers are considered more trustworthy than senior business executives. It is those very executives who, typically, take the Madison Avenue approach to issues management suggested by the author.

Let's correct or discipline poor performers and solve our real problems, not try to hide our needs through some slick public relations campaign.

"Does the Navy Need the 1700 Community?"

(See J. Graham, pp. 48-50, February 1999 Proceedings )

Ensign Trishette D. Hall, U.S. Naval Reserve —I found this article very interesting but also somewhat disturbing. I am a 1997 U.S. Naval Academy graduate who did not know of the 1700 community until I was told that it was my career destination. This article shed light on how the community came to be and the feelings other communities have toward 1700 officers.

My concern is that coming straight from the Academy to my duty station with no community-related training, no sea time, no anything, what are my chances of making a successful career in the Navy?

I would hate to think that after five years at the Academy (including a year at the Naval Academy Preparatory School) and being told that I could not fulfill my dreams of being a Marine, that I was spinning my wheels and could never give anything back to the Navy or have the option of making a successful career in the Navy.

What do I and my seven 1700 Academy classmates do?

Captain Diane J. Diekman, U.S. Navy —Thank you, Ms. Graham, for your excellent article. You expressed my opinion better than I could.

A small group of technical specialists accurately would reflect the meaning of "restricted line." The current parasitic community should be pared down instead of fighting to take jobs from others.



Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Mon, 2016-10-03

You are cordially invited to: Maintaining Maritime Superiority A discussion with Admiral John M. Richardson, USNChief of Naval...

2016 Coast Guard Academy Conference

US Coast Guard Academy

WEST 2017

San Diego Convention Center, San Diego, CA

View All

From the Press

Guest Speaker

Wed, 2016-09-28

Guest Lecturer & Book Signing

Sun, 2016-10-02

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 135 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership