Despite its reputation as the most impressive naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy is in trouble, according to the author of this book, and systemic weaknesses could be its undoing. Here, military sociologist Roger Thompson provides a compelling, often scathing, assessment of the U.S. Navy and its learning disabilities and then presents a convincing argument for reform.
Thompson points to the U.S. Navy's "up or out" promotion system, massive personnel turnover, inexperienced crews, and drug and alcohol abuse as problems that make it difficult for the Navy to build cohesive, well-trained fighting units. In a review of the Navy's recent history, he finds that its ships, submarines, and aircraft are often outperformed in competitions and exercises with other navies—and its failures are either denied altogether or perfunctorily excused. Diesel submarines—so quiet that they are rarely detected until it's too late to prevent an attack—routinely surpass expensive U.S. nuclear subs and put U.S. aircraft carriers in danger. American naval pilots, whose weapons are often improperly tested, are frequently bested by military pilots from other countries. Because the U.S. Navy doesn't have enough surface ships to protect its capital ships, American carrier strike groups now use Canadian ships as escorts. Shortcomings like these, Thompson argues, undermine the Navy's potential and should be cause for national concern.
In presenting a side of the U.S. Navy that's rarely discussed, this book spells out lessons the Navy must learn if it is going to succeed in an era of asymmetrical warfare—of David-versus-Goliath conflicts. In his conclusion, the author puts forth a twelve-step program that calls on the U.S. Navy to rethink its naval strategy, to lose some weight, and to focus on the fundamentals.
Roger Thompson is an internationally recognized authority on combat motivation, military sociology, and military bureaucratic politics whose work has drawn praise worldwide, including an Admiral's Medallion from the chief of staff of the Italian navy. His book Brown Shoes, Black Shoes and Felt Slippers: Parochialism and the Evolution of the Post-War U.S. Navy was called "essential reading" by Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. and is now considered a classic. Many of his essays have been published in leading journals and his papers presented at international conferences. Currently Thompson lectures at Kyung Hee University in South Korea.
"The US Navy is among the most powerful fighting forces in the world, yet it has repeatedly been embarrassed in exercises with smaller and less technologically equipped forces. In Lessons Not Learned, respected military scholar Roger Thompson discusses the institutional biases, the outmoded strategic thinking, the use of the wrong technology at the wrong times, and much more. This book is a scholarly and perceptive study that delves into all of this, and more, and helps the reader understand why such a formidable force is not living up to its potential. This is a must-read for naval scholars, strategists, or anyone who really cares about the Navy and its sailors." - Andrew Karam, author of Rig Ship For Ultra Quiet
"Very good book indeed. A study of a classic problem: organizational ossification and cover up. I think the book is of real value." - Michael Parenti, author of more than twenty books, including Superpatriotism, The Face of Imperialism, and Against Empire
"Lessons Not Learned is more than a brilliant book. It's an irrefutable case for reform and change in the United States Navy, a service that maintains itself almost exclusively to fight. In the aftermath of America's misguided occupation of Iraq, the United States will rely more than ever on the reach and effectiveness of its naval power. Thompson points the way ahead. The question is will anyone in the Navy Staff listen?" —Col. Douglas Macgregor, (Ret.) US Army, author of Warrior's Rage
"I was in the Persian Gulf in 1990 as a reporter with the amphibious ready group aboard the USS Gunston Hall, and the World War I–era mines deployed by the Iraqis caused the mighty U.S. Navy to lose command of the sea. As for dealing with small, fast-attack boats, our vaunted Aegis-class cruisers have neither 30mm stabilized guns nor searchlights. The problem is not want of money but want of thought about the real threats facing our fleet. As Roger Thompson argues so eloquently in Lessons Not Learned, big carriers, big submarines, and the admirals who lead them are blocking funds and needed training for capabilities the Navy really needs." —Lt. Col. David Evans, USMC (Ret.), former defense correspondent with the Chicago Tribune
"Roger Thompson raises crucial questions about choices made by the United States with respect to national defense matters. While readers may not agree with every point made here, due regard for the truth demands that each be critically debated. Thompson questions whether investment in technology and sheer size has come at the expense of investment in tactics, strategy, and war-fighting skills—and shows that other navies are superior." —Guntram F. A. Werther, Homeland Security Defense University
"Thompson has written the most important military reform book in almost a decade and certainly the most important book for the post-20th century U.S. Navy, ever...This book is a slap-in-the-face to make the USN wake up before it's indeed too late since there is no internal constructive criticism taking place now." —Mike Sparks, 1LT, U.S. Army Reserve, editor of Air-Mech-Strike: Asymmetric Maneuver Warfare for the 21st Century
"For nearly a century, the U.S. Navy has been plagued by a self-imposed albatross, an approach to personnel management known as the individual replacement system and the 'up or out' promotion system, also hampered by a force structure developed for warfare of the past and an out-of-date doctrine of mobilization. This has created a culture where only the positive is seen, thus no learning takes place. It encourages a culture of corruption, where only 'yes-men' survive, and adaptation only exists on power point slides. Roger Thompson has conducted a masterpiece of research. Lessons Not Learned tells the story of this self-inflicted wound—how it prevents the Navy as well as the entire U.S. military from evolving and being prepared to fight in the 21st Century." —Donald E. Vandergriff, author of
Raising the Bar
"Professor Roger Thompson is a solid researcher and scholar whose speciality is naval operations and history…His latest book, Lessons Not Learned, is a gang-busters critique of the American navy. I recommended it to the guys at the Naval War College and the Canadian Navy." –Richard A. Gabriel, author of Military Incompetence: Why the American Military Doesn't Win