Stolen Valor Act on Trial
What Would General Washington Think?
(See G. D. Solis, pp. 52–56; and J. Garcia, pp. 54–56; November 2010 Proceedings)
Commander John M. Yunker Sr., U.S. Navy (Retired)—The recent legal setbacks to the Stolen Valor Act, as covered in the articles by Lieutenant Colonel Solis and Secretary Garcia, reflect a serious issue. The Secretary of the Navy should issue instructions prohibiting the sale of U.S. Navy rank and designation insignia by organizations representing Navy historical exhibits from within their organizations via affiliated gift shops and catalogs. Such rank and designation insignia should be available only to military personnel through official, ID-card-required outlets such as exchanges and uniform shops.
To generate supporting revenue, museum gift shops are offering badges of military rank for sale to the public. At some naval museums, the insignia of every current officer-and-enlisted rank up to flag are for sale. In addition, current, actual insignia worn on the uniform—for example, the wings of the naval aviator or the SEAL warrior designation—are available for purchase. If one raises an objection to this practice, the justifications are that “everyone else does it,” or “you are the only one who has objected,” or “this breaches no protocol,” or “this serves the collector/aficionado.” Astoundingly, there is no acknowledgement of the contradiction between the (sometimes ultimate) sacrifice and achievements of those whom museum organizations purport to honor, and the indiscriminate sale of the very symbols of their honor.
It is outrageous to see even flag-officer-level insignia thus trivialized as trinkets for the sake of a vendor’s $9.95 revenue. Moreover, we encourage violations of the Stolen Valor Act through the easy availability of such items to those who would purport to be what they are not. The situation is an insult and a disrespect to those who serve, past, present, and future.
The Forgotten Threat
(See J. Howe, pp. 34–38, October 2010 Proceedings)
Lieutenant Commander Brian LeFebvre, U.S. Coast Guard—Captain Howe accurately describes the disappointing level of America’s current maritime security effort. I agree there should be a formal, unified implementation plan to fulfill the 2008 Small Vessel Security Strategy. But deep cultural and organizational factors are frustrating progress. Despite the alarming examples of recent failed terrorist attacks, we must recognize that when it comes to counterterrorism policy-making, the majority of Americans draw predominantly from their experiences and memories related to the 9/11 attacks. Simply put, we were attacked by foreigners on airplanes, and thus our national psyche tends to focus on preventing that threat scenario from recurring.
On the premise of the 9/11 attacks, it is easy to justify the Transportation Security Administration’s hiring of more than 40,000 airport screeners or Customs and Border Protection’s nearly 50-percent increase of border-patrol agents since 2004. But what about the Coast Guard? The nature of the maritime environment highlights the exceptional challenge the Coast Guard faces. As a result, Homeland Security leaders are unlikely to overcome the inertia inhibiting the acquisition of people and the development of implementation plans necessary to support the Small Vessel Security Strategy.
As a former program analyst in the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Program Analysis and Evaluation, I struggled along with my colleagues to implement a cross-cutting program review focused on integrating services toward common objectives. We toiled in the face of bureaucratic in-fighting and backdoor deals focused largely on short-term outputs and political gains. The department’s inability to integrate programs and objectives will continue to hinder the type of unified plans Captain Howe described for the immediate future.
These circumstances make the Coast Guard’s maritime-security job incredibly difficult. Competing missions muddle the service’s ability to articulate a style that fits neatly into Homeland Security’s prevailing objective: border security. But even more striking is the Coast Guard’s limited ability to achieve its existing maritime-security plan. Personnel shortages combined with an outmoded unit-staffing model thwart the service’s desire to provide near-continuous waterside presence in the spirit of a “cop on the beat.” To accomplish this goal the Coast Guard frequently relies on nationally deployed Maritime Safety and Security teams. But this model conflicts with the principle of sustained presence and exceedingly drains funds. Making those teams regional assets, similar to Coast Guard aircraft, would optimize their employment.
On 9/11 our adversaries clearly demonstrated their willingness to take extreme measures to achieve an objective. To develop plans and acquire resources commensurate with combating small-boat terrorism scenarios, the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard must be willing to break from traditional norms. Unconventional ideas—such as integrating Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Division into the Coast Guard, or implementing a police-station model at Coast Guard small-boat units—must be cultivated. In the meantime, our performance suffers and vulnerabilities persist.
Put Naval Officers on the Ground
(See C. Deluzio, p. 10, October 2010 Proceedings)
Commander John T. Kuehn, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Lieutenant Deluzio’s statement, “With some notable exceptions (SEALs, explosive ordnance-disposal personnel, and Seabees), naval officers are mostly absent from the fight,” is wrong—wrong on the facts, wrong in its recommendations, and wrong in its understanding of the primary purpose of the U.S. Navy.
First, the United States has been in a state of continual war since 2001. To say the Navy has not chipped in, when in fact it has accepted considerable institutional and manning risks, contradicts the facts and marginalizes the service of tens of thousands of Navy individual-augmentee (IA) personnel who are not SEALs, EOD, or Seabees but who have also served on the ground in Iraq, Afghanistan, and many other places as well. And what about those in aircraft over Iraq and Afghanistan, flying from the floating nuclear-powered airfields in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea, who have logged tens of thousands of hours supporting these operations? What about their maintenance and deck crews on the ships?
The IA program is a well-intentioned program, but the recommendation to beef it up even more at the expense of seagoing billets or critical education and training is misguided. I understand the need for the Navy to pitch in and help ashore because of manning shortages, especially in the years after 2003 when combat manning and op-tempo issues overwhelmed the Army and the Marine Corps. But shouldn’t the Department of Defense and the land components by now have solved these personnel-shortage challenges?
I do agree with Lieutenant Deluzio that IA folks should not suffer in their assessments and careers. Combat experience, whatever the environment, should always be valued. The solution to this problem is to eliminate the IA program, while at the same time not punishing people who have found themselves filling these billets due to what can only be described (after nine years) as bureaucratic mismanagement and a loss of vision and core missions. The lieutenant’s arguments about not being competitive for “joint” and “prestigious” jobs do not hold water. This sort of reasoning smacks of a narrow, careerist mindset. The Navy exists to execute the foreign policy of the United States—not to enhance the career opportunities of officers. If we need a smaller Navy and smaller numbers of flag officers (gasp), then Congress (and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates) will tell us.
The Navy’s future is not in serving as an auxiliary land force for counterinsurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan. The handwriting is on the wall for scaling back these conflicts. Recommending that more Navy officers go to IA billets for conflicts that are winding down makes no sense. Nine years is more than enough time to have solved manning problems—end the IA program now.
Mind the Gap
(See M. Eaglen, pp. 18–23, September 2010; and J. W. Funderburk, p. 81, November 2010 Proceedings)
James D. Perry—Captain Funderburk argues that using “worst-case scenarios,” the United States would still be able to bring 850 of its 1,700 fifth-generation fighters to bear against China in 2025. This is far from the worst-case scenario. In the worst case, use of air bases on Okinawa and Taiwan would be denied through missile attack, and host governments would forbid U.S. operations from air bases on Japan’s home islands and in South Korea. This would force U.S. land-based aircraft to operate from Guam. Only a limited number of aircraft can operate from Guam, and the distance from there to the Taiwan Strait would further limit the number of aircraft we could sustain on-station available for combat.
Similarly, the number of aircraft that can operate from Navy carriers is limited, and Chinese air, missile, and submarine threats would force the carriers to operate at greater distance from the Taiwan Strait. At “worst-case” distances, a force of 1,700 fighters—even under the improbable assumption that sufficient bases and tankers were available to support them—would likely be able to sustain not 850 but 170 aircraft (one in ten) over the Taiwan Strait at any given time. Meanwhile, the Chinese, who have nearly 60 hardened air bases within 500 nautical miles of the strait, could bring their full force of aircraft to bear.
Furthermore, limiting the argument to the fifth-generation fighter balance is misleading. Chinese fourth-generation fighters like the Flanker are extremely capable, especially when equipped with the latest radars and a large load-out of advanced air-to-air-missiles. China likely will acquire these aircraft in sufficient numbers to offset our fifth-generation fighters despite their higher quality. Of course, the United States would bring fourth-generation aircraft to the fight as well. But they would suffer from the same distance and basing problems as our more advanced fighters, and only a small fraction of the available force could be sustained over the Taiwan Strait at any given time. In addition, our fourth-generation fighters would have little capability to penetrate the advanced Chinese air defenses that now cover most of the strait. Thus, the prospective future balance in fourth- and fifth-generation fighters together, in terms of the ability to generate effective combat power over the strait under anti-access conditions, is even more unfavorable to the United States than the balance in fifth-generation fighters alone.
When one takes into account the tyranny of distance, Chinese anti-access capabilities, and the vastly unfavorable asymmetry of basing options into account, the future air-power balance in the Western Pacific is grim. If we wish to offset the emerging negative trends, then, as Ms. Eaglen states, we need sufficient numbers of advanced aircraft with the range and stealth to reach the combat zone from distant bases and to survive in the face of advanced air defenses.
The Battleship Missouri and the Trumans
(See P. Stillwell, pp. 60–65, September 2010; D. Buell, p. 84, October 2010; and J. D. Crecca Jr., p. 83, November 2010 Proceedings)
Douglas Pauly—There appears to be much heartache, then and now, over the decision to hold the surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri (BB-63) to end the Pacific portion of World War II. To me, this controversy is petty and insignificant, regardless of when the discussion is, or was, held.
As Mr. Stillwell’s article points out, Admiral William F. Halsey chose the “Mighty Mo” to be his flagship of the Third Fleet, which was, at the time of the surrender, off Japan’s coasts launching attacks against the homeland. On that basis alone, it made sense that General Douglas MacArthur would hold the ceremonies on her for, among other things, the communication and staff facilities that the ship possessed because she was the flagship. The Missouri was U.S. “territory,” and a land event was obviously out of the question. But other criteria no doubt played out as well. Harry Truman was the President, after all, and if he wanted to have the scene held on her, he had every prerogative to do so.
But the arguments presented in recent issues about which alternative battleships supposedly were more deserving of the surrender-location honor do not make a compelling case. That the USS New Jersey (BB-62), though highly decorated, was slated to be Admiral Halsey’s flagship at some future point after the surrender makes her selection a moot point. The Missouri represented the latest in battleship technology and design for the U.S. Navy at the time. She was of the absolute largest of our Navy’s battleship classes, and that class was undeniably the most advanced and capable of them. And again, she was Halsey’s flagship.
But if the argument is going to simmer based on various ships’ contributions in battle, then other classes of ships would certainly be more deserving than a battleship, anyway. As we all know, the aircraft carrier supplanted the battleship as the true “sword” of the fleet when it came to the campaigns that brought invasion to Japan’s doorstep. Perhaps even more deserving was the submarine, which took the war to Japan’s home waters very early in the war, and despite often-ineffective weaponry (mainly defective torpedoes) in that early period, U.S. subs literally starved Japan of the materials and supplies needed to maintain and administer such a huge empire. Based on all that, I ask one and all who have a vested interest in this controversy: Which class of ship is thus most deserving to have held the ceremonies?
As we all know, there was to be but one ceremony only; they could not hold several to make sure all egos were assuaged. The choice of the Missouri was a good one, and the right one, and given all else, the only one. Case closed.
We Need More Tooth, Less Tail
(See C. B. Forkner, p. 10, September 2010; and B. Hanley, p. 7, October 2010 Proceedings)
Colonel Jim Kuzmick, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (Retired)—Commander Forkner’s column revisits several issues that have been raising hackles across the services at least since the passage of the National Defense Act of 1947. Arguably the most frequently studied and debated of those is that of air power spread across the service branches; are such “multiple air forces” redundant?
In 1992 I was a young O-6 serving at Marine Corps Headquarters in the Aviation Plans office, when we received yet another “CongrInt” (congressional interest request) to explain why, as Senator Barry Goldwater might have put it, “the Navy’s Army has an Air Force.” Our view was the same as it had been in previous debates: The Marine Corps is a combined-arms force, and the raison d’etre of Marine aviation is to support the Marine ground element.
Being tasked to write the response to this Congrint, I combined cost-driven arguments similar to those of Commander Forkner with a few others (using a slightly wry tone), and the paper was sent to Capitol Hill. Many of the arguments in 1947 for creating the U.S. Air Force as a separate service independent of the Army were built on the notion of strategic air power, which, especially given the new power of nuclear weapons (at the time only deliverable from aircraft) could supposedly win a land war (or even retake conquered land by causing the invaders to surrender) without ever engaging ground forces. It was argued that Japan’s surrender conclusively proved this point, and thus air power was now and forever an independent force of arms. The Marine Corps and Army felt then (and now) that the overall Allied victory in World War II was achieved through combined-arms warfare.
I wrote that not only were aircraft no longer the sole means of delivering nuclear weapons (let alone most survivable and effective), but in every armed conflict since World War II we have (a) been unwilling to use nuclear weapons, (b) engaged ground and naval forces, and (c) supported those forces with combined conventional arms. The need to carry out the combined-arms fight from both land and sea can justify maintaining both an Army with an air element and a Navy and Marine Corps with air elements—but what justifies an independent Air Force? Commander Forkner has reignited the debate. Maybe we will soon restructure the U.S. military air role, missions, and forces, this time as a cost-saving measure, but I’m not holding my breath.
The Climate is Changing, the Navy is on Course
(See R. Parsons, p. 8, June 2010; L. G. DeVries, p. 9, P. C. Wider, p. 10, July 2010; and S. Johnson, p. 83, August 2010 Proceedings)
Claybourne C. Snead—Mr. Wider, in his belief that human activities are not changing the climate, calls climate science “junk science.” His comments, therefore, require a response.
Much of the research into climate change does involve using computer models, as Mr. Wider points out. Computer models can be very complex and do involve in many cases using assumed or calculated values of some variables. This in no way invalidates their results, however. Computer models have been applied successfully in many areas—chemistry, weather forecasting, and economics, to name a few. In a recent well-publicized example, use of computer models by the National Hurricane Center enabled it to predict several days in advance that hurricane Alex would not threaten the BP oil spill site in the northern Gulf of Mexico.
The consensus of the climate-change models is that the Earth’s atmosphere is warming up and human activities are playing a significant role in this. There are also experimental data available—analyses of ice-core samples from Greenland and measurements of atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii, being examples. In climate science, one has to look at long-term trends, not at short-term changes (such as the apparent stabilization of the mean global temperature in the past dozen years) nor at isolated events such as the heat waves occurring last summer in the eastern United States.
Mr. Wider is correct in stating that the amounts of water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere are vast, reflecting the fact that 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. However, because of the vast amounts of water vapor naturally present in the atmosphere, the amounts of water vapor we humans have put into the atmosphere have had only a negligible effect, if any at all, on this reservoir of water vapor. This, however, is not the case with carbon dioxide. The amounts of carbon dioxide naturally present in the atmosphere are very small, and because they are small, they are affected by carbon dioxide that humans put into the atmosphere. Mr. Wider is also correct in pointing out that plants use carbon dioxide in photosynthesis. Despite this, however, carbon-dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are still increasing, suggesting that there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than plants can currently use.
Questioning the impartiality of climate scientists who report that human activities are changing the climate because some receive funding from governmental and private (corporate) sources is in itself questionable. Many corporations (such as oil companies) are climate-change skeptics. The American Chemical Society (ACS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS), professional organizations for chemists and meteorologists, respectively, have concluded that global warming is occurring and that human activities are a major contributor. These conclusions were based on a critical review of the published research. Neither the ACS nor the AMS are governmental organizations, they receive no funds from corporations, nor do they have any stake in the outcome of the climate change debate. Furthermore, neither organization is in the business of making alarmist predictions.
It is unfortunate that the debate over climate change has become so politicized and ideologically driven, particularly from the political right. The sooner this stops the better.