Comment and Discussion

Regarding the Ohio replacement’s capabilities, the Chief of Naval Operations signed the program’s classified Capabilities Development Document (CDD) in August. This document ensures the Ohio replacement meets U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM) requirements and stabilizes requirements before finalizing ship design. Within this CDD, we specify demanding capabilities for survivability—including stealth—for the ship to meet its mission into the 2080s. In the CDD we also dictate requirements for material and system reliability to ensure the Navy can maintain the right number of SSBNs at sea to meet STRATCOM requirements. The submarine force is drawing on decades of experience with submarine systems in the Ohio replacement design. By reusing systems from previous classes that meet assessed needs, we are leveraging this experience while keeping costs down. This includes integration of the D5 missile and strategic-weapon system into the 16-tube Ohio replacement design. The program is currently executing its technology-development phase that will address requirements that cannot be met with existing systems. Rest assured, the SSBN delivered in Fiscal Year 2028 will have the right technologies to ensure its survivability for its entire 42-year service life, and will be delivered at the most responsible price.

Mr. Polmar discussed alternatives for the next generation SSBN to include using a “plug” on the existing Virginia class and restarting production of the 1970s-era Trident I (C4) missile. As part of the defense-acquisition process, the Office of the Secretary of Defense cochaired the Ohio replacement’s formal Analysis of Alternatives (AOA). Completed in 2010, the AOA considered, among several others, the options Mr. Polmar discussed. They either did not meet warfighting requirements or cost more than the option selected. The AOA concluded the best way to meet current and future warfighting requirements was to design a new submarine.

For the past four years, the Ohio replacement program has made progress toward developing the next-generation SSBN that will be the cornerstone of U.S. strategic deterrence for most of this century. With the first Ohio replacement scheduled to begin construction in 2021, the Navy looks forward to a continuing dialogue on this important program.

The Coming Maritime Insurgent Century

(See P. A. Povlock, pp. 28–32, December 2012 Proceedings )

Captain Raymond J. Brown, U.S. Coast Guard (Retired) —Mr. Povlock touches on a number of insightful points that are studied too little. His statement that “Irregular groups, insurgents, criminals, and a host of other bad actors are trying to learn the lessons as quickly as any nation state” is fraught with truth.

One item not discussed in the article is that the capacity for an adversary to hide in the sea as a tactic is as old as time and as new as tomorrow. I recall when Caribbean drug-runners moved from hidden compartments to hiding in the sea—low-profile fiberglass or wooden boats colored blue. Then came the go-fasts that when dead in the water are often imperceptible at night by eye or radar. Add some weather on the surface or aloft, and the problem is multiplied. On one occasion in Martinique I compared the problem with a French commodore in his tracking of diesel submarines. Not an easy endeavor either one, though there were some similarities of interdiction tactics we discovered—not to be made public here.

Some other items Mr. Povlock’s wise words might lead us to consider:

• The government of Sri Lanka used a degree of violence to prevail that would be unacceptable in Western democracies.

• There is an easy market, and an experienced criminal market, to provide navigational equipment, electronic-warfare support, jammers, and communications that were undreamed of only 20 years ago—maybe five years ago in some cases. And such profiteers exist inside the United States, too.

• Terrorism has its business arm. The Tamil Tigers and al Qaeda have done business together in training and supply.

• The sea is a big place, and not only do armchair strategists and tacticians not realize it sometimes, but some blue-suiters who should know better occasionally forget it (perhaps a Washington-induced disease).

Engagement at sea against the United States, or its interests, in unconventional warfare, smuggling, terrorism, and related surveillance will be quite selective, and not at all on terms for which we are prepared. The stupid enemies do not last long, but those prepared and dedicated do.

Cause for Alarm

(See J. Drennan, pp. 52–57, December 2012, and J. H. Orem, p. 8, January 2013 Proceedings )

James M. Dempsey —Lieutenant Drennan discusses a complex topic and has distilled the cause of the rash of cases of commanding officers being “detached for cause” to a lack of integrity. While this may be part of it, I think it would be difficult to find an officer who didn’t believe he or she possessed a high level of integrity. I agree that a solution should involve increased education, probably to include prospective commanding officers, but that education should also consist of an honest study of human nature and the part that ego plays in our actions and decisions.

The Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle taught that if a man has perfect knowledge, he will always choose to do the right thing. Later, Christian philosophers pointed out that this does not take into account the fact that human nature is weak, and that evil exists in the world, and knowledgeable men sometimes do evil things. Saint Paul put it this way: “For that which I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate.” (Romans 7: 15.)

Ego is an element of pride. There is both a good form of pride and a bad form. As we get older and wiser, our ego tends to expand, but when it expands beyond a certain point it can cause problems and sometimes turn into arrogance. We tend to develop blind spots and become overconfident in our decisions and actions, often ignoring the advice of others and sometimes also ignoring regulations or the law. This blindness seems to be particularly common in matters involving the opposite sex. The offsetting virtue to the bad type of pride is humility. Humility should not be viewed as a weakness. Indeed, many successful admirals and generals in our history were basically humble men. Humility is, in part, an awareness that despite our personal accomplishments, much of the reason we are in our present position has nothing to do with anything we did, but rather is due to us being alive and healthy, having the right parents, living in a great country, having the opportunity to join a powerful navy, etc.

The position of commanding officer of a naval vessel is unique, even in the military. Nowhere else do we see this absolute level of authority. While the Navy has always been aware of this fact and has taken steps to ensure the quality of commanding officers, something has changed, either in the Navy or in society. As Lieutenant Drennan points out, the Navy tries hard to preserve the standards to which it holds its COs. It must continue to do this while at the same time making its officers aware of some of the basic truths about human nature, which seem to have been forgotten or ignored.

Haze Gray (Variegated), All the Way

(See R. L. Crossland, p. 12, November 2012, A. T. Dunn, p. 8, December 2012, and G. L. Johnson Jr., p. 85, January 2013 Proceedings )

Master Chief Petty Officer Jim Rhodes, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired) —Until now, the debate over the blue-gray variegated “urban camouflage” working uniform has centered around its appearance and utility. It has been argued, convincingly in my opinion, that the point of camouflage is to mask the wearer by blending into the background, and in virtually any ship combat scenario, camouflaging individual sailors with a variegated pattern serves no useful purpose.

Now we learn that not only are the NWUs ugly and purposeless, they are unsafe as well. The Virginian Pilot reported, “The Navy’s standard-issue blue camouflage uniforms are highly flammable and will melt onto the skin when burning, a recent Navy test revealed.” (“Sailors’ uniforms are flammable. Navy: We know,” 8 January 2013.)

That’s bad. It gets worse.

A flag-rank U.S. Navy spokesman was quoted by the newspaper as saying, “We knew when we designed this uniform that it wasn’t flame-resistant.” He went on to make the astonishing claim that most sailors do not need flame-resistant working uniforms. “Not every sailor aboard a ship on a daily, normal basis is at the same risk for fire.”

On the contrary, fire is a very real and ever-present danger on board a naval ship. That’s why we have constant daily fire drills at sea and in port. All hands are exposed to the danger of fire, and not just designated damage-control teams. When a fire erupts suddenly and violently on board ship, there’s no time to rush back to your locker for a change of clothes. Often, the sailors in the space have to fight the fire on their own. Initial action is what saves ships and lives. It takes valuable time for damage-control teams to muster at their repair locker, don their firefighting gear, and work their way methodically to the scene.

In the 1970s I experienced a fire at sea, and I will never forget the sound of the alarm followed by “This is not a drill . . . Fire, fire.” It was an oceangoing minesweeper. We were steaming under way in normal peacetime conditions. A crankcase exploded, and the engine room burst into flames. The chief engineman courageously led the engine-room watch in fighting and extinguishing the blaze in close quarters before it could spread. They saved the ship, which with its wooden hull would likely have burned to the waterline. Naturally, they were all wearing their regular work uniforms.

This is not the first time the Navy leadership has indulged in ill-advised uniform experimentation. I was a petty officer third class in the ’70s when the Navy abandoned the “crackerjack” dress blues in favor of a coat-and-tie uniform for all ranks. A few years later, we gave up cotton dungarees for dark blue shirts and black straight-leg trousers, which incidentally also proved to be flammable. I saw no tears shed when sailors happily returned to traditional dress and working uniforms.

It’s time for the leaders who make uniform decisions to do the right thing and get rid of these unsafe and unwanted uniforms. We don’t need more studies and focus groups. Fix it now.

G. R. Gabaretta —I wish Captain Crossland had headed the team that worked on what emerged as the “Blueberry” uniform. The cut and design features of a working (as opposed to dress) uniform should be decided by the users (I wonder how much deckplates input went into the Blueberries) and the color scheme should be as simple as it is practical.

Why prints? Nurses used to wear monotone white or pastels, but I am told that the now-common prints help make blood, spills, and smudges less conspicuous. If that consideration were to apply to naval uniforms, they should all, from ages back, have sported loud patterns in red, black, and brown but that obviously wasn’t the case, and the Blueberry pattern is less than ideal for that purpose.

Are they really camouflage outfits? Unlike in land warfare, the enemy’s target is not the individual sailor but the ship on which he/she serves. Unless you want to stand the concept of camouflage on its head and give the naval vessel a Blueberry paint job and further project a Blueberry image around the ship, like a permanent smoke screen or chaff-and-flare cloud, the Blueberries serve no camouflage purpose. So what is it?

I don’t have a problem with being corrected by someone intimately involved in the decision to adopt the design, but I think it was a statement by the U.S. Navy that it firmly believed in the idea of jointness. It would not let interservice rivalries, parochial interests, and unique procedures and traditions stand in the way of joint operations, joint planning, joint execution with the other services, and joint staffs working in the same spaces blending.

This desire, if true, is understandable, as the Navy is the only service with its own nuclear deterrent, full-fledged air force, army, and navy, so its commitment had to be pledged with a tangible symbol. But if so, why blue? A sop to navy-blue diehards? Since every service member has several uniforms to wear in accordance with the occasion and climate, let sailors assigned to joint staff duty dress exactly like soldiers and Marines but don’t extend it, with a disconcerting color twist of dubious value, to the shipboard environment.

Marines or Marines*?

(See C. and J. Haynie, pp. 46–51, November 2012; and B. Weronko, T. Fredricks, and B. Carr, pp. 8–9, 84–85, January 2013 Proceedings )

Chief Operations Specialist Mario T. Majors, U.S. Navy (Retired) —While the article by Majors Haynie makes many valid points, it glosses over some fundamental issues. While I am certain there are women who can perform at levels that are suitable for any military specialty, in today’s politically correct climate it has become dangerous in certain quarters to acknowledge that men and women are inherently different and that it is not a gender stereotype that the male body can carry a lot more muscle mass that that of the female of the species. However, physiological differences are not the biggest issue when it comes to integrating women into combat units.

The single biggest problem when it comes to women in the military, and not just the U.S. Marine Corps, is that we do not treat women like soldiers, Marines, sailors, or airmen; we treat them like women. We have different uniform requirements and, more significant, different physical-fitness requirements for women. This policy, whether we choose to admit it or not, is ultimately detrimental to good order and discipline.

In the case of uniform standards, the differing uniforms are the product of an archaic thought process more in tune with the 19th century than current realities. To put it simply, a male service member still looks like he is in the military even in civilian clothes, while women revert back to a look that is 100-percent civilian the minute that they put on civvies. That is unfair and misses the entire point of sending all the boys to get a subpar haircut: You still look like you are in the military even if you are wearing a pair of jeans.

The biggest and most detrimental issues in combat specialties are physical-fitness standards that clearly are more relaxed for female service members. The last time I checked, if you are a sailor on a warship in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and a class-Bravo fire breaks out in the main engine room, that fire does not have differing physical-fitness requirements for women than it does for men. The crew either puts out the fire or treads water until rescued. In the case of Marines, if you are in a firefight with Taliban insurgents, the physical requirements inherent to combat will be the same regardless of one’s gender.

Why, then, do we have different physical-fitness standards for women? I can appreciate that military women want to be afforded the same opportunities as their male counterparts, but if you are a woman and allow yourself to be held to a watered-down standard based on your gender as opposed to the realities of your military profession, then you are a part of the problem just as much as that misogynistic troglodyte that you work for. My advice to you: Go to the barber, get a high-and-tight, and work on your pull-ups, then your insistence on being assigned to an infantry unit will have a greater degree of credibility. For you men, stop treating your uniformed women like ladies; they can open their own doors, carry that 60-pound sack of rice during that vertical replenishment, and pull lines alongside their male shipmates during that replenishment-at-sea evolution.



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Defense Forum Washington 2015

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Defense Forum Washington will take place 7 December 2015 at the Newseum - Knight Conference Center in Washington, DC.  

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Thu, 2015-12-03

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Mon, 2015-12-07

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