(See C. Hooper, pp. 60–65, October 2010 Proceedings)
Captain Stephen J. Coughlin, U.S. Navy—Dr. Hooper has masterfully articulated a Fleet-wide concern that sometimes gets little attention when considering the Navy’s overall shipbuilding strategy. Our aging force of just 31 replenishment vessels may not share the limelight with our fast-running greyhounds, but any seagoing officer would agree that they are certainly the most fundamental elements of our surface force. And without new oilers very soon, it will get harder and harder to accomplish the increasing requirements for global presence and sea-control operations.
With that in mind, the mounting emphasis on ballistic-missile-defense missions in multiple theaters where shooters will remain on alert for extended periods adds credence to the argument that we have a growing need for fleet oilers. To say that our current replenishment force is too small, too old, and too environmentally vulnerable really got my attention. Honestly, I did not know that these workhorses pumped over 710 million gallons of fuel to our warships last year and averaged more than six months of the year under way. That is some backbreaking work and I salute it.
Like many of us who began our careers in the Cold War era, when the oilers were always guaranteed to be on station when needed, it is easy to take them for granted. So Dr. Hooper’s analysis and apprehension should serve as a wake-up call to Fleet planners.
Also, I appreciate the other well-thought-out points that become worrisome if we do not have a better inventory of fleet oilers: no guarantee of host-nation resupply options in places where diplomacy hangs in the balance, the potential for skyrocketing shipbuilding costs if we do not leverage existing hull-commonality now, and the enormous liquid-fuel appetite for future electric-centric weapon systems. This in-depth scrutiny of the situation should cause trepidation and begs the question about where our priorities are.
Finally, as I have advocated in the past, there is a place for small surface combatants in the U.S. Navy. Our Cyclone class is a testament to such ships, and for many reasons there is a growing body of naval strategists who believe that a follow-on class of corvettes should be considered. Those ships would multiply our sea-control capacity by an exponential order of magnitude at an affordable price. But there will be immense logistics requirements needed to support their unique tooth-to-tail ratio. That tail begins with a Fleet oiler class of considerable size and strength to support our expanding global influence. Dr. Hooper has enlightened us, and we should heed the call.
(See G. Galdorisi, A Siordia, and S. C. Truver, pp. 16–21, October 2010 Proceedings)
Steven Hertz, Master Mariner (Retired)—The article by Captain Galdorisi et al. is encouragingly relevant to the resource questions the United States must now answer. The authors provide the proper place to start that discussion, and the two-hub alternative is the intuitive conclusion. It is a naval force structure that Americans will understand and with which the Navy can fight if it must. Integrating joint, civilian, and allied forces can make it possible.
As the article states, the issue will be how to pay for a strong two-hub operating concept. It must include providing a coherent, affordable combination of platforms and tactical doctrine in the hubs and along the sea lines of communication connecting them. There must be sufficient scouting, striking and staying power (including enough littoral/amphibious and logistic strength) to operate as a deterrent throughout the chosen areas.
Doing so within our budget, and without provoking unintended asymmetric consequences, will tax the Navy’s ability to plan for different platforms in the air and afloat. Maximizing relevant existing as well as developing technologies will be central to success.
(See J. C. McKay, pp. 46–50, October 2010 Proceedings)
Lieutenant Brian Boland, U.S. Coast Guard—Colonel McKay brings attention to an issue that certainly needs to be addressed. The situation in Mexico is a crisis of epic proportions and threatens our national security. Yet even he may understate the problem. Colonel McKay calls for “reform and training of Mexico’s local and state police officers on par with the vetting and training that Mexico’s Federales receive” and removal of Mexico’s armed forces from law-enforcement roles. There are areas of Mexico, specifically those near the U.S. border, that are barely controlled by the influx of Mexican military troops, let alone local law enforcement. Removing what limited law-enforcement presence exists will not solve the problem, nor will increased training or the restructuring of leadership.
At military installations inside Mexico, troops conduct weekly drills in which they arm themselves and dig in to fortified fighting positions around their base to ward off possible attacks from cartels. As the photo on page 50 shows, law-enforcement personnel cannot allow their faces to be seen in public for fear of lethal retribution. The cartels routinely carry out barbaric attacks against military, law-enforcement, and government officials who refuse to cave in to the cartels’ outrageous demands. It is difficult in the United States to imagine a scenario where our troops must be drilled to defend their own installation from attacks. We know nothing of the emotional toll of not wearing our nation’s uniform outside our installations for fear of kidnapping, torture, and death. Before we judge Mexico’s law enforcement and military, we must ask ourselves what we would do in a similar situation where our families are not just in jeopardy, but also well within the range of daily attacks.
Uncorrupted local and state police along with military troops would no doubt strengthen the fight against the cartels, but this is at best wishful thinking. Cartels in Mexico are executing both low- and high-level opposition on a near-daily basis. The cartels are not an external or foreign threat to the Mexicans; they are next-door neighbors, cousins, brothers, and fathers who have been drawn into the illegal narcotics trade. Other avenues must be pursued to reverse the alarming developments. For the United States, increased education to reduce demand is a start. More aggressive law enforcement within our borders, on our borders, and on the high seas is needed as well.
The cartels’ tactics are escalating; so must those of the United States. No amount of reform will remove the rampant corruption from Mexican law enforcement. For those police officers whose families are threatened by the cartels, it is a life-or-death decision, and sadly there is little incentive to side with the state. Furthermore, while in theory the military should not play a role in internal law enforcement, Mexico has run out of options. The ball is in our court.
Robert G. Bagian, M.D.—I was very concerned that in the second sentence of this article, Colonel McKay perpetuated a popular but incorrect myth primarily promoted by the anti-gun-rights establishment. The Mexican cartels do not get “sophisticated weaponry” from the United States. As has been seen on many occasions of confiscations, these criminals frequently use fully automatic weapons, RPGs, hand grenades, etc. These “sophisticated weapons” are not items purchased at the local sporting-goods store. These weapons (except the RPGs) may have been made in the United States, but they were obtained from the Mexican Army, Mexican police departments, etc. (The picture on page 50 shows two such weapons—what appear to be a German MP-5K and an American M16/M203. Not exactly Walmart items!) Just as Bonnie and Clyde equipped themselves from police and National Guard armories, the Mexican drug cartels have no reason to make straw purchases of semiautomatic rifles in the United States when they have a steady supply of fully automatic assault rifles and rocket launchers on their own side of the border.
Such disinformation not only is fuel for the anti–Second Amendment elements in our own country, but also causes resources to be diverted from effective countermeasures to efforts that will not have an impact on the problem at all.
(See C. Deluzio, p. 10, October 2010 Proceedings)
Commander Jeffrey B. Barta, U.S. Navy—Is this what our Navy has come to? Junior officers are now more concerned with “compete[ing] with battle-hardened peers from other services for challenging joint assignments” than with developing their own warfighting skills at sea? The very last thing a junior officer should be concerned with is his or her career progression. If deckplate leadership and development of core competencies as warriors are taking a back seat to getting an individual-augmentee (IA) billet to outdo their “traditionally career-minded peers,” we are truly in danger of running aground as a service. I highly doubt whether the commanding officer of an enemy submarine in our next conflict will really care if his target has had an IA tour or is “joint competitive,” however personally rewarding such a tour may be to an individual. It’s time to get out of the “boots on ground” game and get back to what is really important—being able to fight at sea.
(see J. T. Kuehn, pp. 66–71, October 2010 Proceedings)
Rear Admiral Chuck Horne, U.S. Navy (Retired)–Commander Kuehn’s excellent article highlights how our former Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Tom Hayward, created the Strategic Studies Group in 1981 and how effective it has been ever since in guiding our great Navy. This timely article also features a color photo on page 71 of Admiral Hayward visiting Charleston, South Carolina, “to speak to the Mine Warfare community.” This outstanding image says it all in how supportive a CNO can be, as other CNOs have been, for making mine warfare a winner in our forthcoming 21st-century challenges.
Three cheers to Proceedings for featuring this great photo, which I in turn have had forwarded via email to several hundred active and retired mine-warfare supporters who are thrilled by this picture of “the Mine Warfare community” front and center in a powerful article on naval leadership.
(See M. F. Cancian, pp. 40–44, September 2010 Proceedings)
Stephen Dunham—One factor not mentioned in Colonel Cancian’s article is the lack of declared wars in recent decades. He notes that “recent U.S. wars have all begun with highly visible expressions of political support” and says that “the political establishment fully endorsed going into those conflicts.” No, not fully. The United States didn’t declare war on North Korea, North Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. Maybe the public support that seemed to evaporate within three years was never fully there to begin with, and maybe that’s why Presidents didn’t ask Congress for a declaration of war. The War Powers Act gave Presidents the authority to enter or even begin wars without full, formal public concurrence in the form of a declaration of war. Returning to that formality might help the United States avoid entering wars that lack full public support from the outset.
(See M. Eaglen, pp. 18–23, September 2010 Proceedings)
Captain Jeffrey W. Funderburk, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)—After several pages of rationale including the need for air-superiority aircraft to counter the threat of Chinese antiship cruise missiles, and a paean to the F-14 Tomcat (by Ms. Eaglen’s analysis a better fighter than its replacement by virtue of its greater, 160-mile ferry range), the author gets around to the actual numbers of the gap we must mind. She quotes Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as stating the United States will have about 1,700 fifth-generation fighters by 2025. As repudiation of this number, she cites the Navy-Marine concern over a fighter shortfall in the intervening years, but not the goal year of 2025. She points out that the Chinese may have as many as 120 fifth-generation fighters by 2025. Using worst-case scenarios, assume here that the United States may have half its projection, and double the Chinese inventory in 2025. That results in a 850-to-240 aircraft fighter gap, or a 3-to-1 advantage to the United States, in aircraft piloted by well trained and extremely experienced aircrew, maintained by our dedicated and superb ground troops.
At the end of the article, the author shows concern for shortcomings in the budget for modernization, an amount that is a second decimal-place percentage of the Department of Defense budget, but offers no sources for this funding. Indeed, implicit in her article is a desire for more defense spending, in a budget that approaches $1 trillion annually. She believes that a mere one-for-one asset-replacement strategy is insufficient, despite the increase in price of the replacement units, be they aircraft or ships. While this lack of greater numbers has merit with some platforms, we must remember that advanced capability through increased technology is indeed a force multiplier.
With her concern for U.S. ocean primacy, Ms. Eaglen seems to have her vision focused on the last war. We must balance our desire for more new gadgets with the need for a clear-eyed assessment of the next generation threat and prepare for it adequately and appropriately.
J. J. Cooper—One can definitely argue that there is a coming fighter gap facing the United States, but Ms. Eaglen’s article relies on several instances of faulty or incomplete logic to explain the problem.When comparing the F-14 and F/A-18, it is fair to say that cost considerations (namely the large number of maintenance hours per flight-hour for the F-14) was a significant reason for retiring the Tomcat. But in comparing the two planes, it’s sophomoric to cite the F-14’s higher top speed as proof of the F-14’s superiority over the F/A-18. That mindset was proven obsolete sometime not long after the F-14 first flew—which is why most fighters produced in the nearly 40 years since then have not gone to the extra expense of building the adjustable inlets necessary to obtain the rather useless ability to fly beyond Mach 2. In the history of air combat, there has never been a dogfight conducted above Mach 2, and that is unlikely to change in the forseeable future. In the air-superiority arena, the F/A-18’s superior manuverability and electronics explain why the F-14 had been relegated to a role as a bomber before it was retired.
And in mentioning the possible threat of fifth-generation fighters, it is technically true that Russia could sell the PAK-FA to China, but to do so would fly in the face of recent trends. After the Russians sold the Su-27 to the Chinese, the Russians were angered by the Chinese decision to produce the nearly identical J-11, which the Russians saw as an illegal copy of the plane. Since then, Russia has been unwilling to sell carrier-capable Su-33s to China because of fears that the Chinese would simply copy them. Even without the sale, the Chinese have done just that with the carbon-copy J-15, thanks to an Su-33 they obtained from the Ukraine. Considering the Russians’ unhappiness with China’s copies of their fourth-generation fighters, it’s unlikely that the Russians will quickly sell their fifth-generation fighter to the Chinese, then running the risk of having to compete against a less-expensive copy of their own fighter on the open market.
Finally, while the article does explain the cost spiral that affects almost all current military procurement, it doesn’t offer any reasonable explanation of how to solve it. The projected production per-unit cost (not counting research-and-development costs) of the Joint Strike Figher has already nearly doubled in the past eight years, and will likely go up further as the rising costs leads to cutbacks in the number purchased by the United States and its allies. Even the United States has limits to how much it can spend on defense. Ms. Eaglen’s article offers no explanation of how the United States can solve the quantity problem while continuing to buy weapons whose costs are rising significantly above the cost of inflation. Saying something’s imperative without explaining how it’s possible doesn’t add to the conversation.
(See P. Stillwell, pp. 60–65, September 2010; and D. Buell, p. 84, October 2010 Proceedings)
John D. Crecca Jr.—Mr. Stillwell’s fine article on the USS Missouri (BB-63) mentions that then-Senator Harry S. Truman’s speech was cut short. Margaret Truman joked that the admiral cut him short as revenge for her father’s investigations. The real reason the speech was cut short was my father, Captain John D. Crecca (U.S. Naval Academy class of 1918).
My father was hull superintendent at the New York Naval Shipyard at the time. As such, he was in charge of the launching. I lived in the yard and was able to be at the command post for the launching. The shoring had been removed by early morning, and the ship rested on the sliding ways. The only thing holding the Missouri in place were the triggers on each side. The tide had almost reached the time when it stopped coming in and began going in the other direction. It is critical that the ship be launched at this slack time, or else one could be faced with the current hitting the large area of the ship with enough power to cause major problems. At the narrow section of the East River, where the ship would hit the water, the tide ran very strongly.
With this as a background, I watched the slack tide approach and the talking went on and on. My father finally telephoned the admiral (the yard superintendent) and told him that if he did not shut up the speaker, the ship was going to go without the christening.
The speech stopped, the bottle was broken on the ship’s bow, and away went the Missouri to a very successful service to the country.