In answering the question of what needs to be done, Admiral Reason prioritizes the Navy's mission—and correctly gives top priority to sea control. Without the ability to control the seas and the air above, there can be neither forward presence nor power projection. Admiral Reason fails to point out, however, that being able to provide effective sea control and presence globally becomes a numbers game at some point—and a certain number of ships are needed to meet requirements. There is no free lunch, even in the information age.
Admiral Reason sees four methods of maintaining forward presence: forward basing, deployments, cruising, and sprinting. In his view, forward basing will be increasingly limited because of costs, political strings attached, and the realities of U.S. politics. Deployments are the way the Navy has met the majority of its forward-presence commitments since the end of World War II. Every Commander-in-Chief wants a carrier battle group in his theater continuously. The Navy has become 40% smaller, but the deployment process has remained essentially intact. Admiral Reason points out the disadvantages this has brought, through excessive expense in time, fuel, and the operating and maintenance costs of our ships and aircraft. He did not mention—but I know he recognizes—that the biggest drawback driving the need for imaginative change in this process is the drain on our people in peacetime. Admiral Reason seems to be offering as a solution the concept of "cruising" which he describes as "infesting the oceans" with large numbers of relatively inexpensive, slow, simple, lightly manned, high-endurance ships spread over the oceans in a broad network. It sounds like an expansion of the Maritime Prepositioning Ship concept of the Marine Corps. I must confess—if he is floating this idea seriously—he has lost me. To meet a developing crisis with something slow, though in relatively large numbers, fails to meet even his own preference for flexibility, agility, and speed. On the other hand, he plays down the concepts of sprinting and surging as lacking staying power, outrunning the logistics tail.
Interestingly, Admiral Reason suggests that we look to the operating environment of our carrier flight decks for the changes we need. Here, we operate successfully in the environment of the future. That is, our flight decks operate routinely at the edge of chaos while executing precise, complex procedures that require scores of decisions to be made rapidly—almost simultaneously—with confidence that all hands know the limits of their jobs. This is a decentralized decision-making environment, as opposed to the vertical, centralized organizational structure that predominates the majority of our Navy. The key to the operational environment of the flight deck is that every expert is focused on an aspect of the chaotic environment that is small enough to be controlled. The organization, on the other hand, must recognize that individual's instant decision making authority—regardless of rank. The key is extensive training, combined with timely and rapid transmission of data in useable format to the operator. Admiral Reason believes we must adopt this proven technique to the entire Navy if we are to be successful in the coming age, where simultaneous and dispersed application of rapidly delivered information will be the true warfare discriminator.
Admiral Reason argues that the Navy is currently too hierarchical and too fragmented to be agile. He believes that we cannot continue to organize and maintain the fleet through platform specialties such as ships, submarines, and aviation. Rather, we need to be organized by warfighting capabilities and support structure. He lays out a detailed outline (showing both his operational and support structures) of the way he would move out in this direction, if he were King for a Day. Basically, he would disestablish the current six type commanders (air, submarine, and surface forces, Atlantic and Pacific). The war-fighting and tactical application of forces all would remain under the naval component commander for the Pacific and Atlantic. All functional support would be assigned to a single ComNavUSA functional command, which would provide training, maintenance and logistical support to all U.S. based units. I may not agree with all his recommendations in total detail, but I do agree with the broad scope and direction of his thrust. There are distinct savings in people and efficiencies associated with the consolidation of legal, administrative, and public-affairs services—and other aspects of the existing type-commander structure. To his credit, Admiral Reason claims no pride of authorship or even clairvoyance. He does, however, place urgency on the need to change course and begin this voyage immediately, even if the ultimate course will require major adjustments. If we wait until we are certain that we are right—or until we satisfy everyone's rice-bowl interests—we will miss a boat that has already left the pier. I totally agree on this important point.
Admiral Reason completes his excellent book with an overview of how he would begin to attain such change, while leaving room for frequent course adjustments. He would start with the warfighting side of the house and the requirements process in particular. He correctly states that, today, requirements lie in the hands of the services when the process should be controlled and directed by the war-fighting commanders-in-chief. This is easier said than done, because the component commands of the commanders-in-chief are dual-hatted and their allegiance and support is tied to the service chiefs. Whatever requirement is established, Admiral Reason wisely points out that tactical development for the application of new technology must evolve simultaneously with the development process since software technology is being replaced or significantly upgraded every 18-36 months. Once again demonstrating his point that the Navy must get swifter across the board—not piecemeal.
Admiral Reason puts forth a prophecy that the Navy of the future must be quicker, smaller, smarter, and cheaper. To get there, we need to institute decentralized command and control at an unprecedented level. He sets forth his proposed reorganization to get started with the plea that what is required is action even in a sea of uncertainty. The time for change is now—and he believes we can not afford to wait for "perfectly safe courses to steer." I agree. This will take courage and commitment. Admiral Reason in fact is calling for action!
Is anyone listening?
The Coronado Conspiracy
Capt. George Galdorisi, USN, New York: Avon Books Inc., 1998. 500 pp. $6.99.
Reviewed by Vice Admiral Douglas Katz, U.S. Navy (Retired)
Captain George Galdorisi has written a spellbinding adventure that is a difficult book to put down. I'm not sure that Tom Clancy has anything on George when it comes to telling a riveting story, and there is no question that he has a solid handle on joint task force-type operations. As for the overall plot of the book—that a sinister Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff could bring down the President of the United States—is a stretch. But, it is feasible enough to seize anyone's attention and hold it to the end.
In the author's Afterword, he explains clearly that his book is about power —for good and evil—in our government, and he develops a masterful "military suspense/techno-thriller" plot to keep the reader interested. His basic premise is that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and his unified Commander-in-Chief, Southern Command, are dissatisfied with a President who, in their view, is trying to dismantle the finest military organization in the world. Together, they develop a ruthless plan to discredit him and have him impeached. The Joint Chiefs convince the President that he needs to bolster U.S. drug-enforcement resolve and raise his sagging poll ratings by sending Recon Marines to Costa Rica to break up a major drug operation. It was to be a surprise assault in a benign environment by a joint task force commander from the U.S. Navy flagship, Coronado . By design, the Chairman and CinCSouth set up the operation to fail—with the loss of most of the Marines involved. The author also spices up the intrigue by having the Chairman urge the President to select one of his hometown friends to command the operation. The Chairman works the entire operation to look as though it is being run from the White House, so when it fails, the President gets the blame for interfering, and talk in the press and the halls of Congress turns toward impeachment. All, of course, must be thwarted by the hero—a too-hot-to-handle CIA agent who is supposed to be keeping a low profile between missions by serving as a SEAL chief petty officer on board the Coronado —and the heroine, a Navy intelligence officer who is assigned in Panama to the CinCSouth staff. What they go through individually (and together) to sort out the facts and get back to Washington, D.C., to expose the plot under seemingly impossible odds—just as the impeachment vote is being taken—goes to the heart of the story. It is truly a page-turner.
As a retired senior military officer, I had problems initially accepting the characterization of my contemporaries—but as soon as I stopped taking it personally, I really got into the story and thoroughly enjoyed the nonstop action. At first, I found myself scrutinizing the military aspects of the operation: from communications to terminology, planning, and execution. But that was not even important—it's realistic enough! I never have met the author, but I certainly enjoyed his book and recommend it.
Report of Joint Fighter Conference NAS Patuxent River, Maryland, 16-23 Oct. 1944
Edited by Francis H. Dean: Atglen, Pa: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 1998. 356 pp. Notes. Graphs. Photos. $35.00 ($31.50).
Reviewed by Rear Admiral Ned Hogan, U.S. Navy (Retired)
As the title suggests this is the original verbatim transcript of the report of the 1944 Joint Fighter Conference. Its format is both austere and meandering. It opens with a three-page covering memorandum presenting a brief summary of the findings of the conference related to the basic requirements and desired characteristics of an optimum fighter aircraft design, circa 1944. This is followed by a listing of the conference members and then by the recorded minutes of the participants' conversations and briefings during a series of 12 sessions. This narrative is accompanied by sundry photos of the evaluated fighters and their cockpits in no particular order or reference to the discussions of the conference. An appendix provides additional data in the form of summary comments on the fighters flown (some 18 models in all, including the P-51, XF-8F, YP-59, Mosquito, and Zeke); the equipment evaluated (Hoover Horizon, Anti-G Suit); a rating questionnaire; data cards for each aircraft; and charts and photos related to several of the briefings. The report provides raw data—not a detailed analysis—of the conference, which give the narrative an authenticity that establishes the atmosphere of 1944 and fosters the impression that the reader is dealing with the right stuff .
The master of ceremonies at the conference was Paul Ramsey, ably assisted by Tommie Booth, both early pioneers in naval aviation and latter-day vice admirals. The cast of participants was a Who's Who of aviation—Charles Lindbergh, Peter Twiss, Mel Gough, Boone Guyton among many; and new legends in waiting, including two of my favorites, Jeeb Halaby and John Myers. The participants were peers of a unique caliber—pilots, engineers, designers, warriors—all credentialed by experience and performance in the war effort to beat the Axis powers in the new frontier of air power.
The venue of the conference was special and would be extraordinary today. The manufacturers and services brought a stable of airplanes and the pilots in attendance got to flight-test and rate them, without a great deal of formal indoctrination and checkout. Granted the airplanes were simpler in those days; but there also was a greater reliance on the responsibility of the test pilot to know his job—the obligation rested on his shoulders. Somehow, in the ensuing years, individual accountability seems to have become secondary to system compliance.
The content and focus of the conference bring back the nostalgia of the traditional fighter pilot job: to shoot down the other guy. Concerns about the viability of the bubble canopy, the preference for hand brakes over foot brakes by the British, the concept of breakable wing tips to avoid high "G" structural failure, the efficacy of jet propulsion in a fighter—all indicate that technology was moving, but that the imperative was on near-term: there was a war to win.
One of the main themes of the conference was to quantify the traditional qualitative assessment of aircraft performance and handling qualities, to be able to measure improvements on a realistic, standard scale and weigh characteristics by importance to the mission. Lieutenant Halaby was Paul Ramsey's principal protagonist to get the ratings meaningful and useful, so the design engineers could use them to identify those characteristics that could be enhanced on the basis of the test pilots' assessments. This was a theme that would see the establishment of the test pilots' schools at Patuxent and Edwards following the model established by the British in 1943 with Empire Test Pilots' School at Boscombe Down. The conference also was exploring the night fighter role and the fighter-bomber mission. And all of this was being done without the aid of lawyers, accountants, contract specialists, systems analysts, financial programmers, or equal-opportunity managers: A bygone era where combat readiness was sovereign over political expediency and societal reforms. I wish I could have been there.