One of the authors of that document, retired Navy Commander Bryan McGrath, returns to our pages this month and tries to answer some of those questions. In “The Necessity of Dominant American Sea Power” he notes that global commerce hinges on the world’s sea lanes like never before, and American naval superiority remains essential to the nation’s health and well-being. He hopes the Pentagon and Capitol Hill will continue to recognize this vital fact in the face of fiscal constraints. Bryan is an unabashed advocate of sea power and a sea-based grand strategy. He’s also not afraid to name names, as he points to China and a still-nuclear-armed Russia as potential threats, while listing Iran and North Korea as future flashpoints (with possible nuclear capability to increase the tension).
Some of our other contributors try to tackle the question of ship types in this month’s surface warfare coverage. Former Chief of Naval Operations Admiral James Holloway III also looks to China and says that while that nation clearly aspires to assert itself as a maritime power, it has no reason to consider the presence of U.S. Navy carrier forces a provocation. The question he asks is whether the United States will react to any Chinese adventurism on the Pacific Rim with an appropriate level of response. It can only do so, he adds, if it maintains a significant deterrent force of large-deck aircraft carriers to provide theater air superiority.
Unaffordable. Too complex. Inefficient. Vulnerable—these are just some of the criticisms being aimed at the troubled, top-heavy Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. As retired Navy Commander John Patch compellingly argues in “The Wrong Ship at the Wrong Time,” the Navy needs to rescue the LCS from “mission creep” before it’s too late or seriously think about canceling it. Clearly it will not be able to do many of the missions for which it was originally designed.
Perhaps we should ask who will command these ships should the Navy get them. The past year saw a large number of ship COs relieved. Retired Captain Kevin Eyer tries to determine the real reasons for the high incidence of surface-ship commander firings in 2010. The winner of the Surface Navy Association’s literary award for past articles in Proceedings , Kevin delivers here perhaps his toughest assessment yet. In his opinion, the main culprit is a series of unintended consequences coming home to roost, most notably the failure of previous policymakers to allow for the inevitable gender factor when they decided to integrate women in ships. He says that women in ships is not inherently a bad thing, but no one considered what the move would require to succeed—and to keep otherwise competent ship captains in their jobs.
This is a topic that few dare to broach in the open forum, although we know it is of ongoing concern to the community. We look forward to the ensuing discussion.