After a decade of lip service to the vital importance of an antisubmarine capability to our Navy, there appears to be substantial agreement among knowledgeable circles that we are in many respects weaker today than when we started. Our ASW forces, having run the race with all their might, find themselves on a treadmill of futility, while the nuclear-powered submarine jauntily and without apparent effort shows them a clean pair of heels. If this is so, a re-examination of the ASW problem and our effort to find a solution for it is clearly in order.
Such scrutiny must be directed not just to the superficialities, but to the very heart of the matter. Is there really a strategic ASW mission? If so, what is it? Is it truly the number one problem that so many state it to be? What is the real effectiveness of our ASW weapons systems, current and projected? Do we need an ASW czar, as many claim, or are our problems all under control, as others insist?
As a beginning, let us agree that there is an obvious, prima facie, submarine threat. It exists in the shape of 300 to 400 Soviet and Satellite Undersea craft, ranging from obsolete coastal types to nuclear-powered missile-armed craft whose technical and operational excellence presumably rivals our own. There can be no question of the existence of this force. Khrushchev has publicly boasted of it, and time has proven that in such pronouncements the Kremlin does not bluff. How far openly announced estimates and analyses have been confirmed by solid intelligence information, we are not privileged to know. Suffice to say that responsible leaders who do have the benefit of such information are unanimous in their unclassified testimony in declaring the existence of a most serious threat. Finally, we have our own experience to draw upon. We know the capabilities of our submarines, and we have had ample demonstration in recent years that the Russians can generally equal us, and in some cases nose us out, in whatever races 27 they choose to engage us.
Although the existence of a submarine threat can be accepted de facto, its nature is actually far from clear to many segments of the American community. That this is so should not be considered unusual. Understanding of the realities of sea power is not possessed by many outside of the armed services and is, unfortunately, lacking even within the ranks of the Navy itself. While the press and arm chair analysts, accustomed to a sport scoreboard or statistical type of comparison, may see things in a “one for you, one for me” relationship in which the team with fewer points is obviously behind, international power struggles are not won or lost by such methods of accounting, nor are points so easily assigned to the teams. Two world wars have demonstrated repeatedly that front runners in the betting can be ignominiously chopped down like Goliath by little David, or forced to sprint to catch up with some surprising long shots. Team-scoring methods of the baseball world do not take account of many of the basic rules of war. Before we can start adding up the points, we must settle some basic questions: what is the nature of the real submarine threat against the United States; what constitutes control of the seas; why is such control of fundamental strategic importance to the Free World?
Nowadays, it is commonly accepted that our destiny is conjoined with that of a rather nebulous and controversial grouping of nations (which for purposes of this analysis fortunately need not be more specifically defined) known as the “Free World.” These free, non-Soviet countries, recognize even more so that their future is inextricably bound to ours. Any retreat to a “Fortress America” or static defense posture would be universally recognized as a major, probably decisive, defeat for our side. A Free World strategy demands that we be ready, willing, and able to render material aid and support to our allies, and they to us. Our failure or inability to do this would properly be viewed by our friends as abandonment. Whatever game these countries may be playing, it is not one in which they are going to accept the role of an expendable pawn or an obvious sacrifice to a hopeless cause. But mutual support within the Free World requires as its prime condition unbroken seaborne commerce, and this in turn requires control of the sea—the endless wastes of its surface, the air over it, the black depths below, and the ports and beaches where ocean meets land. From our point of view, a Free World and control of the sea are simply two sides of the same coin. But, even from the most reactionary “America-first” viewpoint, we would still need control of the seas simply to keep an enemy at bay and maintain essential Western Hemisphere commerce. Let there be no mistake, seaborne transport of bulk raw materials and manufactured products is not about to be replaced by air lifts or nuclear-propelled rockets. There is no aircraft today whose lift is sufficient to carry its own continuing fuel and logistic requirements in addition to an effective pay load. Operation “Big Lift” could not have been carried through without the tankers which shuttled in the millions of gallons of aviation gas required by the thirsty airplanes.
By national strategy, then, we are committed to maintain control of the seas. Since this amounts to maintenance of the status quo, our over-all naval aims are strategically defensive vis-a-vis any present potential opponent. Chairman Khrushchev’s aims are entirely different. Territorially speaking, his only immediate threat is against adjacent land masses which contain the natural and man-made resources (including population) needed by both sides. Two general paths to world domination are open to the U.S.S.R. It can take the “strike to kill” approach, aiming its blows to knock out the United States directly and letting the rest of the world fall naturally; but this, of course, commits it to total war at the start, with all the risks that there might be no victory for anyone at the end. Or it can “divide and conquer,” nibbling away at the Free World across the entire spectrum from political subversion and economic penetration to conventional or limited nuclear war, perhaps even chivying us into such a corner that we would be goaded into initiating a thermonuclear holocaust. The Soviet Union has the capability of exploiting either approach as the opportunities of the moment might dictate. In either case, a major source of strength is its submarine force.
First, consider the strategic missile submarine threat, since this is the one most in the eyes of press and public. The specter of these craft lying undetected off our coasts and rising one night to wipe our great cities off the map while their inhabitants sleep can easily be grasped as a direct and personal threat to millions of Americans. A Soviet submarine force armed with either ballistic or cruise- type missiles may be loosely likened to our own Polaris system, with this profound difference: Polaris is a deterrent or second-strike force. It exists solely to demonstrate that any first strike against us can and will be answered by a retaliation so destructive that aggression Would not be worth the cost. For reasons inherent in our open society, we are effectively barred from striking first. The Communists are under no such restriction. If they choose to adopt a first-strike strategy, they can select from a wide variety of delivery vehicles—submarines, aircraft, and long-range land- based missiles. In fact, given the high degree of security in their closed society, they could line up missiles on open pads in some remote, screened-off area of their vast lands and wait Until the moment for firing arrived.
Oddly enough, our studies would appear to show that a hardened land-based (Minute- man) system can be produced at a lower cost than the submarine-based Polaris. If such is actually the case, one might well ask why the Russians have developed missile submarines at all. Among possible reasons are the desire to have several alternates in their bag of Weapons, the psychological advantages of an obvious “scare” weapon, or simply a hedging of bets in the development stage before making a final commitment. Then, too, the Russians may have settled on a simpler and less costly system than our own. The price of a several- hundred-mile missile ought to be substantially less than one whose range is several times greater—smaller size, less-complex guidance and control systems, and other such factors. Finally, if this type of missile were mounted in a conventionally designed submarine whose other weapon capabilities were not substantially reduced thereby, such a system might actually be comparatively cheap. But whatever the reasoning behind the Soviet missile submarines, the fact remains that their missile capability is not the main threat against us. This may be inferred from at least four considerations: first, in point of numbers, the threat is not large; second, short-range missiles can cover only limited target areas; third, the Soviets, in mounting a missile threat, have a number of equally good or better methods of warhead delivery at their disposal; and fourth, the system could be employed under only one of the two grand strategies open to the Soviet Union, i.e., a direct strike against the mainland of the United States. The other and greater threat posed by their submarine force is applicable over a much wider strategic and tactical spectrum of warfare.
What is this second threat which is strong enough to outweigh the obvious menace of a submarine-launched guided missile attack? It is, of course, the challenge to our control of the seas, which is presented by a large and aggressive submarine force. The fact that this is a traditional, even a conventional, type of threat does not lessen its danger. We are becoming so enamored of ultra-new weapons and concepts that we are in danger of ignoring the older and greater menaces, with which familiarity tends to breed apathy or contempt. A publicly acknowledged example of this tendency was our neglect of conventional fighting forces in favor of a strategic air force. Almost too late, we awoke to the realization that brushfire war in Laos or insurrection in Lebanon could not be controlled by massive retaliation any more than a swarm of mosquitoes can be dispersed by rifle fire. There are no strategic targets in Vietnam. Do we therefore let such lands slip away without a struggle? Or do we retaliate on Moscow and make a world war out of each incident? The situation had become patently absurd, and we can be thankful that a more proper perspective has been restored. But would we not make the same mistake in ASW by concentrating on a strategic war threat while neglecting the vital “conventional” area of protecting our sea lanes against straightforward attack? The situation which existed against Japan in World War II, where our submarines ripped Japanese commerce to shreds, now faces us. The potential enemy is no longer a traditional sea power, but we are and are committed to remain so.
If it is accepted that there is a “traditional” submarine threat against our sea commerce and that this threat has been greatly intensified, though not basically altered in character, by the advent of the true nuclear- powered submarine, then it is clear that the problem is not receiving the effort and attention that it deserves. There are well-known qualitative and quantitative deficiencies in our ASW arsenal, most of which are matters of public record. Tactically, we are still thrashing around in search of a system which is effective against the nuclear submarine. The problem is fundamentally what it has always been—detection, classification, localization, and kill. We have systems and techniques which will accomplish some of these functions under most conditions, or most of them under some conditions. Diesel-powered submarines with their limited underwater speed and endurance could probably be controlled simply by harrying them until they were forced to surface—if we had large enough numbers of ASW ships and aircraft. Other systems might be effective against nuclear submarines if we could pinpoint them and deliver the weapons in time. But we cannot know for sure until we provide enough ships, enough sonobuoys, enough practice torpedoes, enough submarine targets, and enough trained ASW crews to really find out. Submarine killing is a matter of probabilities, and probabilities cannot be determined without statistics. The effectiveness of various methods can be measured only by the results of hundreds of tests, not by mere handfuls of artificial exercises which are so infrequent that even when the same ships participate repeatedly, their crews have often turned over in the interim. Remember, a ship cannot acquire ASW experience; only her crew can. Our situation today is such that the ASW effort is split among a goodly number of weapons and support systems—carriers, destroyers, escorts, killer subs, and shore-based networks of various kinds. None are capable alone of doing the whole job, and none are really funded adequately to do their portion of the job with full effectiveness. Fully integrated or co-ordinated operational procedures have not been developed far enough to make any real headway against an all-out submarine assault. When measured against an opposing force of 300 or so undersea craft—even conventional ones—our antisubmarine forces show up as little more than prototype organizations, qualitatively unproven and quantitatively inadequate. ASW has always required a ganging up of surface and air forces against each individual submarine, while the use of submarine against submarine has not really advanced much beyond the game of blind man’s buff in which World War II submarines blundered unwittingly into each other. As long as we are limited to such tactics, how can our defensive forces be expected to counter an attacking fleet many times as numerous?
Current doctrine recognizes that war will demand several rather different ASW missions. The tactics of convoy protection differ from those of a hunter-killer group free to pursue subs wherever they may be found. The problem of guarding an amphibious landing perimeter against coastal or midget-type submarines has little in common with the hunting down of silent missile-launchers hovering deep in unfrequented waters. Maintaining an antisubmarine air barrier across critical ocean passages differs markedly from all these. Yet if a showdown comes, which will be the key task? Will it not be the unglamorous shepherding of large bodies of cargo, transport or amphibious ships to their destinations? In the last analysis, we are again forced to recognize that ASW is important only as a means of assuring our ability to accomplish the primary purpose of our control of the seas, namely, maintaining our logistic pipelines across the oceans. If this could be done without killing a single enemy submarine, we would still have accomplished our strategic objective. In other words, sinking submarines per se is no more than a secondary mission. Yet by all standards of measurement, too much of our effort is still being concentrated outside the main arena. While spectacular battles between our killer forces and individual enemy submarines may draw the crowds in the sideshow, the war can be lost in the big ring, as so nearly happened in both World Wars I and II.
This brings us to a consideration of our current ASW effort and its effectiveness. The proficiency of our select prototype units is undoubtedly high. There are excellent men, ships, and task groups engaged in the ASW business today, but their numbers are inadequate to hold the line against the forces we know would be deployed against them. Consequently, many criticisms have been leveled against our ASW capability from within as well as without the services. But what has the response been? Instead of pressing for an adequate number of adequately equipped ships, we have charged off on two tangential tracks. One is a scattergun research and development effort involving a great variety of projects. Some of these represent a mere grasping at straws, while others are leading to prototypes which will require completely new ships to carry them. The latest sonars have to have their ships’ hulls built around them. How many such ships will be in service five years from now? Will existing carriers be able to handle a new generation of ASW aircraft, or existing destroyers a new generation of missiles? We have seen several hundred “jeep” carriers—the backbone of our World War II ASW forces—thrown on the scrap pile in the last 17 years because of technological obsolescence. One wonders whether the small number of new ASW carriers, with their improved aircraft, will be an effective substitute.
A recent magazine column noted that 41 destroyers converted to handle drone helicopters (DASH) would be unable to accommodate the currently projected version when it reaches the Fleet in quantity. Fortunately, the other ASW improvements built into these ships far outweigh this one miscalculation, but I think there is a significant lesson to be learned from such an instance. What does it profit us to develop beautifully sophisticated weapon systems when the vehicles to carry them will not be available in the necessary quantities for a decade or longer? Ships stay with us for 20 years or more. If we can neither fit our new weapon systems on board them, nor afford to build enough new ships to replace them, it appears that something is wrong in our planning. Our Fleet today is made up of a collection of ships whose armament is actually spread over three or four generations of development. Would it not be more reasonable to settle on one system long enough to produce it in effective numbers, by a mass building or conversion program, than to continue our present constant-funding trickle of a few ships a year?
In addition to this sidetracking of effort (which might be characterized as a violation of the principle of concentration of force), there is another which is little better than self-deception. In reaction to outside criticism of inadequate ASW emphasis, we have piled a miscellaneous lot of junk onto the scales under the label of ASW. A look at the contents of the so-called “ASW package” in recent years will illustrate the point. One common practice is to credit any ship with a hull number starting with D as being per se an ASW ship. To be sure, destroyers (DD), escorts (DE), and frigates (DL) all have ASW capabilities. So do all other types of ships. The bow of an ocean liner, if it rammed a submarine, would be a mighty ASW weapon. This does not make merchant ships into an ASW force. Is a guided missile destroyer (DDG), or a radar escort picket (DER), any more an ASW craft? The point is that an ASW capability is a peculiar thing, not directly comparable to the single-purpose functions of inter-continental ballistic missiles or indeed of most of the vehicles and weapon platforms used by either the Air Force or the Army. An army tank is not worth a rap as a truck, nor is a jet interceptor much good as a bomber. But ships are different. They are inherently multi-purpose, even when efforts are made to specialize their functions. The versatile destroyer, our traditional ASW surface craft, can and does serve as anti-air screen, advance radar picket, torpedo boat, weather beacon, and even as an emergency power plant for a good-sized city. It even makes an effective transport and cargo ship, as the Japanese demonstrated when they kept Guadalcanal supplied with troops and munitions brought in largely on the decks of destroyers. The peculiarities of the ASW capability can be summed up in two rules: first, almost any weapon becomes an ASW weapon when it is directed at a submarine; second, a ship which is not assigned to an ASW mission is not an effective ASW ship. In the effort to prove that ASW is not being slighted, these two rules have gone by the board. Into the “ASW package” (lately broadened into something called undersea warfare, or USW) have gone a hodge-podge of ships, without regard as to how much of their time and capability is actually devoted to other missions. And a potpourri of projects have been labelled ASW, including such things as mines and mine detectors, noisemakers and deception devices, submarine machinery, test barges and calibration ranges, hydrographic and oceanographic surveys, long-range basic programs which may pay off somehow 15 to 20 years in the future, bathyscaphs, freak midget craft, and studies of the vocabulary of porpoises. I do not question the intrinsic worth of most of these projects, but I think charging them off 100 per cent to ASW is highly debatable.
The big publicity drive on ASW has produced another side effect. Even as the scales are being loaded with every fringe project which can possibly be stretched to show an ASW application, more outsiders attempt to crowd in for a slice of the ASW pie. Every basic research program tries to stress its value to the ASW effort. Strategic bombers become ASW vehicles by planning to drop their bombs on submarine construction yards, inflatable rubber airplanes are touted as a cure-all, and every new electronic device is peddled for purported ASW applications. Top level managers, dazzled by the size of the ASW gold pile created by their own self-deceptive efforts, tend to commit increasing amounts of money to fringe or crackpot projects. We must support industry in these ingenious long shots which just might pay off, they reason. Remember how people couldn’t see the value of radar, or the atomic bomb? And so the merry- go-round spins—the bigger we make the ASW pie look, the more pressure we come under to serve slices of it, for surely in such a great pie, there is bound to be plenty for everyone.
Why do we allow our ASW effort to be dissipated in this way? The answer is a complex one and should not be ascribed to incompetence or evil intentions. As in so many of our institutions, the efforts of good men are sometimes hopelessly snarled in the taffy of administrative procedures or expended in fighting their own organizations instead of solving the problems.
First—and I think the point worth repeating—is the fundamental difficulty of treating ASW as a clear-cut, single purpose type of warfare. Where Polaris clearly stood outside of the Navy’s pre-existing mission and structure, ASW is woven inextricably into the fabric of all the Navy’s forces and operations. Protection against submarines is as basic to the mission of every ship as the preservation of watertight integrity, or the need for a propulsion plant. This does not mean that the organization cannot and should not be improved, but it does mean that we should not waste time and effort trying to cram ASW into too neat a pigeon hole. Recent efforts to strengthen the ASW organization have tended to take the form of creating additional advisory committees or new layers of program review. Seats in the ASW councils have now been given to every axe grinder in the country, and the results are what might be expected. The potential situation resembles that of a zany fire department. In the center of the picture is a raging fire, the submarine threat, which burns at the very underpinnings of our Free World structure. Surrounding the fire are many crews of firemen, each with its own hose, seeking to put out the fire from different directions. The hoses run back to a great budgetary reservoir whose capacity and pressure are more than adequate. But between each nozzle and the reservoir are a series of stop valves and manifolds. Each stop valve is manned by an individual known as a “program manager,” “co-ordinator,” or “review authority.” Some are concerned only with technical considerations, others only with budgetary matters, a few with both. At the manifolds are stationed review boards and committees. Their responsibilities are sometimes peculiar—to encourage small business, resuscitate depressed areas of the economy, maintain balanced workloads between government and private institutions, enforce contract and procurement regulations, and eliminate waste no matter what the cost. Some cannot even see the fire.
None of these people are held accountable for putting out the fire, yet all have authority to shut off or divert the water. While some hoses aimed at the center of the fire trickle or are dry, others blast away at flying embers. The hose crews do not even seem to be particularly concerned, because their orders are to hold the nozzles, not to put out the fire. But where is the fire chief? He is trying to soothe a few thoroughly alarmed citizens. In his catalog of wonderful new fire equipment, he points to a shiny custom-built engine complete with two-way radio and closed-circuit television. This engine is on order. When it comes, it will surely put out the fire.
This picture is, of course, exaggerated. But it is not without applicability within our defense establishment. The proliferation of “managers” is a matter of organizational record. The preoccupation with equipment which is only on order is a little more subtle. Let us look at the causes of what can be called the “R&D Syndrome.”
As everyone knows, people in high places pride themselves on keeping abreast of new things, and people who make new achievements like to keep their bosses aware of them. But also in Washington, there exist complex Procedures and strong safeguards to insure that the public funds are not committed to unwise or half-baked programs. Before any major development can be started, it must go through a full technical and cost analysis and be defended at innumerable levels of program and budgetary review.
Thus, each new program is presented as a suitably code-named entity complete with bar charts and clever functional diagrams before it ever really starts. Furthermore, it must be based on certain assumptions regarding funding, manpower, progress, and the like. Let us suppose someone comes up with a program we will call GRASP (for GReat Antisubmarine Panacea). The higher echelons will have been briefed on this program for a year or more before budgetary approval has been obtained. At this point, prototype completion may still be five years in the future. Each year at budget time, new presentations must be given to justify continuing GRASP. To keep up interest, progress films and “hot sheet” reports are kept flowing up the line. Each dummy firing is recorded as a “milestone” in the progress of the new system. But after a few years, newer programs begin to occupy the spotlight, and people begin to think of GRASP as rather old hat. By the time its first prototype goes into evaluation, GRASP, in the minds of the budgeteers, is finished business. These people, actually hurt, simply cannot understand when Fleet commanders complain of their unsatisfactory material capabilities. Don’t they have GRASP now? Doesn’t that do the job? And there is the new WASP-C (Wonderful AntiSubmarine Predictor-Computer) now under development which will do ten times as much. Why should we spend millions on obsolete torpedoes, or on modifications to obsolescent sonars, or repairs to worn- out ships? One budgetary watchdog is actually quoted in the January 1962 issue of Armed Forces Management, as having “taken it upon myself to protect the taxpayers against the unwarranted spending of funds for hardware which will eventually be superseded by a great technological breakthrough.” In similar vein, rumor has it that, at one time, all new escort ship (DE) construction was in jeopardy because of the belief in Defense Department budgetary circles that the PCH, an experimental hydrofoil patrol craft of about 100 tons displacement, would make larger escorts unnecessary! These are some of the people who have authority to shut off the hose lines.
While I certainly would not accuse our operational leaders of being ignorant of or unresponsive to current Fleet needs, I think a substantial case can be documented proving that Washington is more strongly oriented toward the developments of the future than to the deficiencies of the present. Emphasis on R&D is not undesirable, but if key people in control of plans, programs, and budgets are deceived even slightly into believing that the antisubmarine war can be won with developmental prototypes or one-of-a-kind vehicles, it could be a nefarious influence indeed. As to whether or not such a bias actually exists, I can only point out that our Fleet is approaching mass obsolescence, that alteration and repair funds are chronically inadequate, and that plans for the construction of adequate numbers of ASW forces and weapons do not appear to exist. I should also like to give an example of how seemingly innocent decisions can load the scales on one side or the other. A few years ago in one of those budgetary or accounting changes which are made annually in the interests of “economy and good management,” the appropriations for research and development (R&D) were joined with those for test and evaluation (T&E) in what appeared to be a logical combination of related functions. The new RDT&E “line item” was placed under the managers of the old R&D funds, and as an economy measure, the new total was restricted essentially to the ceiling formerly allocated to R&D. What was the practical effect of this minor paper work change? It resulted in the withering of the effort which formerly went into the unglamorous “product improvement” area encompassed by the old T&E function. Funds which used to be available for thorough evaluation programs and the “fixes” resulting from them, for field changes and modifications, and for upgrading equipment, were opposed by their own program managers who were still operating under the original R&D orientation. Such projects as are authorized find themselves perpetually on the defensive or cut back to make up the deficit or over-runs of the big research and development programs. Prototype equipment are brought to the evaluation stage and then dropped for lack of budgetary support to “de-bug” them, or left to be supported in catch-as-catch-can fashion by the operating forces as single ship installations inadequately backed by logistic or training facilities.
So far, this analysis has emphasized what is wrong, not what is right; what is not being done, not what can be done. Let me make it clear, I do not presume to have the answers to all of our ASW problems, but I think I can distinguish between programs which are aimed at obtaining solutions and those which disperse most of their energy on peripheral matters.
To begin with, the nature of the ocean, its underwater characteristics even more than its surface behavior, precludes the possibility of a simple, single weapon solution. No single mode of detection—sonar, electromagnetic or exotic; no lone weapon—torpedo, rocket or atomic depth charge; no one vehicle—helicopter, submarine or hydrofoil; no single magic fence or barrier; can guarantee the detection, classification, localization and destruction of a submarine, considering all the combinations of speed, depth, sea state, geographic location, oceanographic conditions and enemy counter-action in which submarines can be expected to operate. Therefore, we must dismiss resolutely the temptation to commit all our efforts to single-system solutions. Zealots will be carried away by the imagined merits of inflatable aircraft, hydrofoils, huge passive detection systems or swarms of midget submersibles. These ideas may indeed have some merit, and it is necessary that they be investigated dispassionately but no one of them can be allowed to pre-empt so large a share of the Navy effort that the success or failure of ASW will hinge on the outcome of a gamble on a single solution. Yet not a few of the proposals put forth by industry or by individuals within the services would require the commitment of more men, ships and dollars than can possibly be allocated to the entire Navy, let alone its ASW mission.
Secondly, and on the other hand, we must concentrate on systems and techniques which offer a realistic chance of pay-off against the real threat. For instance, in the field of classification or target identification, the real problem is to distinguish enemy submarines. Therefore, the effort should not be excessively diverted to schemes which will only identify whales, wrecks, tide rips, or marine life. A catalog of all the ocean’s noises would be of great scientific interest and might help, by the process of elimination, to separate real targets from false ones. But basically, we are interested in finding a way to identify submarines, not non-submarines. Consider another example. Would we be justified in spending several millions to develop a television device to detect motionless submarines in a calm sea, but incapable of locating one under the conditions which could be expected to prevail all the rest of the time? Should we champion systems which will work only as long as the opponent co-operates by following specified transit routes or operating procedures, or fixed barriers which, like the Maginot Line, can be avoided simply by not going where they are?
Thirdly, having put the one-shot panaceas and the peripheral boondoggles into their proper perspective, we should face up to the necessity of deploying adequate forces and resources into developments which offer a practical chance of success. Here we need more effort on methods which utilize here- and-now capabilities. Aircraft enthusiasts on one hand and submariners on the other are convinced that their kind of forces could do the job. Perhaps other combinations would be better. The important point is that none have ever been given the scope necessary to prove their claims. The time of our nuclear submarines is still devoted as much to glamorous public relations cruises as to developing effective antisubmarine tactics. For lack of sufficient quantities of ASW weapons and forces, our exercises are characterized by so many artificial assumptions that everyone is able to interpret the results as proving his own preconceived notions. Let us subject our ASW tactics to the test of several hundred realistic exercises in which each side can really get the feel of the other, instead of charging off like zealots on the basis of a few isolated encounters.
Fourthly, we must accept the fact that, when and if the need for ASW comes, it will be immediate. In two world wars, this country and its allies have had their backs pushed to the wall by submarine forces of lesser menace than those existing today. Other factors gave us the time to build entire fleets of ASW ships practically from scratch. Is there any likelihood that such time will ever be granted to us again? Most of us are only dimly aware that the equipment in the bulk of our ships, even quite new ones, is three or four generations behind our foremost R&D systems. While R&D leap-frogs ahead, many ships with half their useful lives yet before them will go to the boneyard with equipment of World War II design still aboard. In the missile race, there was full realization that we had to build a functioning system in effective numbers. We should have done this even more in the ASW race. Instead, we do not even have plans to start such a system short of actual war.
But most of all, we must provide the fifth and foremost factor—organizational responsibility for the accomplishment of results. Today in ASW, we have only people responsible for performing functions. Different people are responsible for across-the-board aspects which split every Navy program except Polaris. We have Navy-wide managers for research and development, equipment procurement, shipbuilding, alterations, maintenance, training, facilities, communications and many other functions. How does this affect the attainment of a specifically stated operational requirement? Let us consider, as a specific example, providing our own submarines with the capability of evading enemy ASW contact, and let us suppose that we make a single project officer solely responsible for meeting this requirement.
As the Navy Department is organized today, this officer would not have the authority or the wherewithal to make even a dent in the problem. If he should conclude that the most pressing immediate need was research, he would have to go to the managers of the research budget and convince them of the validity of his requirements in competition with all the other research requirements of the Navy. If he wanted to procure several thousand devices to fill the exercise allowances of the Fleet, he would have to vie for funds against the lumped requirements—for completely unrelated equipments—of many other programs. Perhaps he might recognize an immediate need for a personnel training program. He could obtain it from the personnel managers only by competing with the training requirements of all the rest of the Navy. So it goes for a dozen other functional aspects of his program. He might have a temporary excess of research and development money, but this could not be used to train operators. There is no way in which he could cancel an alteration on one ship and use the money to correct deficiencies in equipment coming off the production line. Even his ability to travel, or make long distance telephone calls, is hindered by arbitrary restrictions placed on the funds for these functions.
In every case, the needs of a specific program are forced to compete against the needs of all the rest of the Navy. And the arbiter is always a functional manager or co-ordinator who cannot possibly know enough about all programs to make an effective judgment as to their relative priority. In desperation, our program manager can choose between two alternatives: he can fight a constant series of crises with appeals to higher authority for support against the functional demands of the rest of the Navy, or he can submit his routine budget requirements for fiscal 1966 or 1967, shrug his shoulders, relax, and enjoy a quiet tour of duty. And so, just a dribble comes out of the end of the hose line.
The reaction to this distressing situation is constant agitation to appoint an ASW czar with Polaris-type authority. A Special Projects organization is able to achieve results primarily because it is allowed to control its funds without major interference from the functional budget managers. It can put its effort where the immediate need exists, and it is responsible for delivering an operational capability as its end product. In the case of ASW, however, with its multi-purpose implications, too powerful a project organization could easily disrupt a great number of other vital Navy programs. It would certainly run into head-on conflict with many major commands. Suppose the ASW czar decided to subordinate all other destroyer missions to his own, or to eliminate all submarine capabilities which did not directly contribute to ASW? There ought to be some alternative method of organization, and there is. Sorely needed throughout the management echelons of the entire Navy, it is a reduction in the functional stratification which is smothering the operational needs of the Navy under layers of inertia created solely for the imagined convenience of accountants and review staffs. As military analyst Hanson W. Baldwin editorialized a few years ago, we need more people who can “approve and expedite” and fewer who can “negate and delay.” The irony of it is that we are asking for nothing more than an implementation of the Navy’s traditional principles that responsibility and commensurate authority must go hand in hand, that planning and logistics cannot be divorced from operations, and that effectiveness is measured in terms of results.
“Program packaging” appears to offer hopes of daylight ahead, but the promise is far from fulfillment. The ASW package is still little more than a loose bundle of projects which have been hastily stenciled with a common label. Too many essential functions are still packaged under the purview of other managers. RDT&E is now defined as a package self-sufficient unto its own ends, in denial of the fact that development, test and evaluation are by definition applied to the attainment of specific end objectives. The basic checks and balances written into law have been so reinforced by restrictive procedures and unresponsive organizational channels that most of our energies are expended in struggling against our self-imposed strait- jacket.
An effective antisubmarine capability is too vital to the interests of the United States and the Free World to permit any further aimless drifting. The destination may not be in sight, but the course is clear. For the sake of our very future, we must get on with it. END