Comment & Discussion

Second, regardless of the position each country takes on these matters, China's harassment of U.S. aircraft and ships is a violation of International Civil Aviation Organization rules and International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. These actions and reactions pose dangers of collision and loss of life - as occurred with the EP-3 in 2001 and nearly with the USNS Impeccable (T-AGOS-23) in 2009 - and escalation.

Neither country will likely change its position on intelligence collection; so the answer is for the most senior officials in Washington and Beijing to agree to disagree and move under the 1998 U.S.-PRC Military Maritime Consultative Agreement to adopt rules to prevent incidents at sea and in the air and review incidents that do occur - as the United States and Soviet Union did in the 1976 Incidents at Sea Agreement - still in force between the United States and Russia. The U.S.-PRC document can be crafted to avoid the reportedly unwanted implication that this is an agreement between adversaries. Emphasis can be placed on the cooperative, procedural, and advisory aspects.

This will not be an easy negotiation, but it must be done both to prevent confrontations and ensure that such incidents do not disrupt the efforts of the United States and China, arguably the two most important countries in the world, to overcome other differences and work together on North Korea, the global economy, climate change, terrorism, piracy, proliferation, and future problems.

'Get Off the Fainting Couch'

(See C. Hooper and C. Albon, pp. 42 - 47, April 2010 Proceedings)

Andrew S. Erickson, Associate Professor, China Maritime Studies Institute, Naval War College - I welcome the authors' forceful contribution concerning Chinese antiship ballistic missile (ASBM) development. They correctly underscore Chinese sensitivity, and vulnerability, to foreign prompt global strike systems. Respectfully, however, the following points warrant clarification:

  • Contrary to the assertion that recent research brings "very little new information to the table," such publications offer a tremendous amount of new data, particularly through analysis of authoritative, primary Chinese sources. Science of Second Artillery Campaigns, for example, reveals considerable new information about how China would plan to employ the ASBM as a deterrent and how it might use it operationally if deterrence fails.


  • Regarding the claim that "The hand wringing has, at a minimum, confused our regional allies and legitimized China's ASBM program," it is not the hand wringing that has legitimized China's ASBM program. Rather China itself has legitimized it through its well-documented processes of research, development, and testing (as reflected by public comments of Admiral Robert Willard, Scott Bray, and other U.S. officials).


  • The authors misinterpret Department of Defense reports when they write: "there are too few conventional antiship DF-21D variants available to pose an immediate hazard to U.S. carriers. Government estimates suggest the inventory of nuclear- and conventionally armed DF-21/CSS-5 missiles is still manageable, expanding from 19 to 23 in 2004 to a moderate-sized fleet of 60 to 80 missiles." They apparently refer to estimates of nuclear and conventional medium-range ballistic missiles. Because the ASBM is "developmental," as noted in the National Air and Space Intelligence Center's 2009 unclassified report, it should be clear that it's not even included in the estimate the authors cite.


  • "It is, today, hardly an inventory sufficient to defeat a well-defended U.S. carrier battle group." Again, the estimate they cite is for the inventory of other types of missiles. Moreover, how many do they think it takes to achieve a mission kill, and how long would it take China to field sufficient numbers ? Beyond misunderstanding DOD report numbers, they make assumptions without demonstrating any sort of serious operational assessment or even back-of-the-envelope calculations. And what about China's increasingly capable cruise missiles and other anti-access weapons, which Chinese sources discuss using with ASBMs to achieve a multi-access attack ?


  • The "distant question of supercarrier vulnerability" may not be so distant; they offer no supporting evidence. Here again, public statements from the U.S. officials mentioned above suggest gathering danger.


  • The authors' discussion of precision global strike capabilities appears to assume that mobile land targets are easily located. Certainly if an adversary can find them, it can strike them. The problem is that mobile targets are hard to find (the 1991 Gulf War Scud hunt), which the authors don't appear to acknowledge. Even if all targets can be found, striking them could be highly escalatory.


  • On the larger point that the hand wringing is somehow "embarrassing," that mischaracterizes our work, which emphasizes U.S. countermeasure capabilities and the need to develop them further. Moreover, serious discussion concerning vital national security issues isn't embarrassing. Some in the 1920s - 30s likewise opposed discussion of battleship vulnerabilities, with regrettable results. What would be embarrassing is the lack of such serious discussion.

More Henderson, Less Bonds

(See H. J. Hendrix, pp. 60 - 65, April 2010 Proceedings)

Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John Cataldi, U.S. Navy (Retired) - After reading Commander Hendrix's article, I had only one question: Why isn't the Navy scrambling to build and place one or more of these Influence Squadrons in every Navy homeport at home and abroad ?

The article clearly articulates a fact of life that Sailors on the deckplates could understand, but seems to elude the grasp of policy makers and procurement czars; that is, no matter how "high tech" a ship or aircraft is, it can still only be at one point on the globe at any given moment.

The beauty of the Influence Squadron (besides the low cost and increased number of combat assets) is that it is scalable. Is the coastal area to be patrolled extremely large ? Then combine two squadrons to increase the coverage. Is the squadron deploying on a humanitarian mission ? Add another joint high-speed vessel to move more relief supplies. Is the squadron going to battle Somali pirates on the high seas ? Leave the riverine boats on the mother ship and form their crews into armed guard detachments to be placed on merchant ships transiting the danger zone. Once the merchantman completes the transit, then the detachment is removed by one of the squadron's helicopters. I'm sure that Fleet planners can think of many more ways to use these squadrons, including mixing them in with larger high-tech ships.

Why not apply this out-of-the-box thinking to how these squadrons are manned ? Since these ships are low tech, there should be shorter training pipelines en route to the Sailor's assignment. For some jobs that require little or no schoolhouse training, such as gunners and deck crews, why not fill some of those billets with veterans and retirees who have been contracted to return to active duty for a specific deployment ? The Navy gets a fully manned squadron to deploy without the expense of having the Sailor on the payroll during the time between deployments.

New Naval Concerns for India

(See P. Das, pp. 60 - 65, March 2010 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Brian Boland, U.S. Coast Guard - Vice Admiral Das should be praised for his candid assessment of India's response to the attack on 26 November 2008. In it, he writes that "ten people came ashore in a small rubber dinghy designed to carry no more than six people" and that they "landed at a bustling fishing village."

The United States would do well to recognize that this same scenario plays out dozens of times a year, if not more, in south Florida. In the Florida Keys, these dinghies are thankfully overloaded with refugees rather than terrorists, but the potential certainly exists for this vector to be exploited by those wishing to harm Americans.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that these illegal migrants often land right under the nose of the nations' best maritime monitoring command center - Joint Interagency Task Force South. This is not to suggest that the task force is to blame, but rather to point out our vulnerability in the unlikeliest of places. Despite the best efforts of the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security - and despite near constant monitoring of the Florida straits - undocumented and unverified individuals are able to easily make landfall in a "bustling fishing village," much like terrorists did in Mumbai.

Vice Admiral Das makes several comparisons between 9/11 and 26 November 2008. Indeed both attacks dramatically and permanently affected each country. The admiral discusses the many changes his country has implemented in the wake of that terrible attack. There are many parallels, but one glaring difference remains: in the almost ten years since 9/11, the United States has yet to deploy a system that is able to thwart a small group of individuals and a rubber dinghy.

It's Time for a Sleet Fleet

(See P. von Bleichert, p. 8, March 2010 Proceedings)

Rear Admiral David Titley, Oceanographer of the Navy/Director Task Force Climate Change - The author succinctly captured the issues regarding greater access to the Arctic due to diminished sea ice in the region. His call for the establishment of an Arctic 8th Fleet, however, is premature.

In May 2009, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Gary Roughead established Task Force Climate Change (TFCC) to coordinate Navy policy, strategy, roadmaps, force structure, and investment recommendations regarding Arctic and global climate change. The Arctic Roadmap referenced by Mr. Bleichert was produced by TFCC.

The United States is an Arctic nation, and the Arctic is a maritime domain, so clearly the ability to project an appropriate level naval presence is required. Our assessment is that the risk of conflict in the Arctic is low. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea provides an effective framework for resolving sovereignty disputes, and although the United States has not yet acceded to the convention, we adhere to its principles.

While the extent and thickness of Arctic sea ice in the summer are diminishing at a significant rate, the region remains a very harsh and challenging environment for most of the year. Although we have significant experience in submarine operations in the region, the vast distances and frigid conditions make air operations challenging, and current surface ships are not constructed to operate in the ice pack.

Arctic-related security discussions should focus on addressing the consequences of increased human activity and the necessity to acquire the right capabilities, at the right cost and at the right time, to meet national requirements for the region. Before we change our current operational tempo in the Arctic, we need to first determine what level of naval presence will likely be required there. This will be based on an assessment of our roles and missions in the region, which will then guide our review of appropriate ship and aircraft designs and infrastructure support. These new requirements would then have to be balanced against existing objectives in the defense strategy. TFCC is carefully reviewing these issues, as they potentially represent a considerable commitment of funds during a resource-challenged time.

Arctic change requires a national response, immediate for some agencies, deliberate and measured for others. For the Navy, the region is a challenge, but not a crisis. In fact, the Arctic presents numerous opportunities for collaboration. We are committed to working with other stakeholders, both in the U.S. government and abroad, to increase human and environmental safety and security in the Arctic. Cooperative partnerships with joint, interagency, and stakeholder nations will be essential for effective operations and training in likely mission areas such as search-and-rescue, oil-spill containment, humanitarian assistance, and disaster response. We will also pursue partnerships to improve environmental observing, hydrographic surveying, scientific research, and computer modeling to enhance predictive capabilities regarding climate change. We do, after all, face a common enemy - the harsh Arctic environment.

Take the $ Out of Mentor$

(See J. Murphy, p. 14, March 2010 Proceedings)

Colonel Todd Fredricks, U.S. Army - I personally witnessed the public dressing down of a flag officer by one of these "mentors." This occurred in front of the officer's entire staff, and happened one week before he was to deploy with his command.

The ultimate irony was that this particular mentor had been a key player prior to his retirement in the operation that was being supported, and it was quite clear that his leadership during his command had been not only less than effective on many counts, but also counter-productive.

The sad reality was that the flag officer lacked the fundamental understanding of his position in the relationship. That is, as the commander he is solely responsible for success or failure of his mission and the mentor's self-serving comments only served to emasculate him in front of his command. Additional factors in the form of active-duty superiors to the commander having served in the mentor's prior commands did not help the flag officer "find his voice" to correctly put this over-paid civilian contractor in his place.

As the author illustrates, this program is not only broken, it is a waste of taxpayer dollars and perhaps worse, in some cases, a potentially dangerous distraction from a deploying warrior's need for focus and unity of command. The retired four-star officers, now civilians, are handsomely compensated for their service in retirement, and there is no reason why they shouldn't have reasonable expenses compensated for their deployments and teaching as mentors. However, before they are allowed to try and boost their own expertise at the expense of current commanders, they need to be heavily vetted as to what their place is in the relationship. They also need to be selected from outside any relationship with the current chain of command; and perhaps most important, they need to be reminded that because of the dynamic nature of combat, their advice and counsel ought to be less focused on operational specifics and more on leadership principles. All of this should necessarily be rendered with a still, small voice directed at teaching and not embarrassing their charges.

I applaud Proceedings for giving a forum for this issue. The political and fiscal pressures to ignore this abusive "gravy train" cannot be underestimated.

The Dream Machine: The Untold History of the Notorious V-22 Osprey

(See D. H. Gurney, pp. 75-76, March 2010 Proceedings)

Loren Thompson, Chief Operating Officer, Lexington Institute - I plan to follow Colonel Gurney's advice and read this book by Richard Whittle. It certainly sounds like an interesting read, and not only for the harrowing tales associated with development of a revolutionary rotorcraft. The V-22 Osprey story is also a parable about what it takes to survive and thrive in our unforgiving military acquisition system.

During the four years he was defense secretary, Dick Cheney terminated production or development of a hundred major weapon programs - everything from the B-2 bomber to the Seawolf submarine to the Abrams tank. The Cold War was over and Cheney was determined to reap the peace dividend in record time. V-22 is one of the very few programs from that era that managed to survive despite Cheney's best efforts to terminate it.

There are two reasons why V-22 is still with us as an active production program. First, the Marine Corps was determined to tap the transformational potential of an aircraft that combined the vertical agility of a rotorcraft with the speed and range of a fixed-wing airframe. Second, a handful of dedicated congressmen such as former Pennsylvania Representative Curt Weldon were willing to stand up to the formidable Cheney and fund a program he wanted to kill. Even Cheney couldn't undo the V-22 coalition fashioned by the Marine Corps and its congressional supporters.

As I type these words, news outlets are reporting the first combat loss of an Air Force CV-22 in Afghanistan. We will now undoubtedly be treated to lengthy post-mortems about how costly and complicated the Osprey supposedly is. The reality, however, is that it is a truly revolutionary aircraft that is intrinsically more versatile than any other rotor-craft the joint force has ever bought. Buying a conventional helicopter for missions like search-and-rescue when you could have had a tilt-rotor is the triumph of tradition over reason.



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