(see J. D. Butler, pp. 22–28, June 2011 Proceedings)
Troy S. Kimmel—Rear Admiral Butler’s article makes some great points about what is needed for acquisition success in a major shipbuilding program today. However, the overall enabling factor in this success is overlooked: the absolutely critical need for a dedicated organizational approach and dynamic leadership that continues through the life of the program and is responsible for all the pieces.
In the case of Virginia SSN, this structure and leadership was provided by the Navy Program Office and the Program Manager—Rear Admiral Butler himself. Without this factor, none of the other achievements—block upgrades, contractor teamwork, and cost reductions—would have been possible. Only this integral structure has proven capable of allowing a program to prosper, planning and implementing new capabilities in forward and backfit as well as combat-system and shipbuilding efficiencies. Does anyone really believe that industrial rivals such as Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics Electric Boat could have worked so well together without that structure, and the leadership provided by Rear Admiral Butler and his program office?
The Virginia class isn’t the only recent shipbuilding program to have such a structure and success. Aegis, a program that delivered its lead ship on time and on budget, had a similar structure. The project had cradle-to-grave responsibility for Aegis ships for 20 years. Now, 27 cruisers and 62 destroyers later (with more in planning), Aegis also has had major cost reductions and capability enhancements similar to those of the Virginia class. The submariners had the clarion call of “2 for 4 in ’12.” Aegis had TOTS (“take off tons sensibly”) to focus the reduction of weight and cost in the CG-47 class. Both took years to achieve.
None of this is easy, and professionalism and technical acumen within the Navy’s program office are necessary conditions as well. The program should be responsible for the whole life cycle of the ships, and have champions with influence. So far, the attack-submarine structure has never been split apart, with results as documented by Rear Admiral Butler. However, we first weakened the Aegis program-management structure and then disbanded it in 1998 or 2002, depending on how you count. For ten years the program continued, running on the fumes from its integrated past.
But now the results of the disbanding have become apparent in appalling Board of Inspection and Survey reports and Commander Fleet Forces Command (CFFC) memos on our cruisers and destroyers. Not only that, but the first “restart” destroyer, DDG-113, gave everyone sticker shock, and no one below the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition (ASN/RD&A) could fill the role Rear Admiral Butler played for the Virginia class. There are indications that Navy leadership in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, CFFC, and ASN(RD&A) may be considering consolidation of the current disintegrated Aegis program piece-parts. I hope they do. If so, they will have learned, hopefully not too late, the most important lesson of all—what a proper program structure can deliver. Submariners take heed: Do not make the same mistake. You have done great thus far.
Bob Carr—If this is success, what does failure smell like? The Virginia class was intended as a more affordable replacement for the Los Angeles class, which cost $741 million each. Compare that with the Virginia’s original target of $1.65 billion each (a 120 percent cost increase), which at some point grew to $2 billion each (total obligation authority of $60 billion over 30 ships), according to the authors, and then to $3 billion each (total obligation authority of $90 billion over 30 ships). Eventually, according to the article, $400 million in cost reduction was realized, which, in some non-mathematical way (how do you get from $3 billion to $2 billion by subtracting $400 million?), resulted in a savings that arrive at a cost of $2 billion each (“2 for 4 in ’12”). Regardless of the inconsistent numbers in the article, how does a 170 percent increase in cost from the Los Angeles class to the low-cost replacement Virginia class constitute the sweet smell of success? How does a $400 million savings applied to a $1 billion increase constitute the sweet smell of success? Another sweet-smelling program or two like this and the Navy won’t be able to afford any new ships.
(See J. Holwitt, pp. 36–41, June 2011 Proceedings)
Commander John D. Alden, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Lieutenant Holwitt’s warning against buying smaller and less-effective submarines because they are cheaper is well advised, but he seems to advocate much the same course of action: “We need to buy more submarines for less money.” And by deciding “what missions and capabilities we absolutely require . . . we can . . . produce an innovative and cheaper submarine with a minimal loss of capabilities.”
The author misses another lesson in the origin of the Mackerel and Marlin: the prejudices of a strong personality in a position of power. In those submarines, the judgment of the Submarine Officers Conference was trumped by Admiral Thomas C. Hart from his controlling position on the General Board. To obtain the range and endurance of the fleet boats, the conference members compromised and accepted Hart’s smaller and simpler favorites. “They were my pet babies,” he declared. The Mackerel and Marlin proved unsuccessful because they were capable only of strategically defensive short-range patrols from Coco Solo, Pearl Harbor, or the Philippines.
Two more recent attempts to build small, cheap submarines were made with the Navy’s original antisubmarine SSKs. Designed to meet the perceived need for hundreds of boats to counter Soviet attack submarines modeled on the German Type XXI, they could make only 13 knots on the surface and carried just eight torpedoes. Originally named simply K-1 through K-3, they were recognized as failures even before completion, because they lacked the sound-isolation technology essential to an effective listening platform. When their BQR-4 passive sonar was installed in converted World War II Gato-class hulls, an effective SSK resulted.
The Navy’s smallest nuclear submarine, the Tullibee (SSN-597), also was conceived as the prototype for a class of small, inexpensive antisubmarine SSK(N)s. Although she proved successful in that role, she was slow and more costly than expected. The SSK classification was abandoned in 1959. Since then, all U.S. attack submarines have included the SSK role among their other capabilities.
The current usage of SSK to designate any non-nuclear submarine is misleading in that it obscures the intended purpose of the particular type. Some indeed are general-purpose attack submarines, especially those equipped with air-independent propulsion systems, while others are essentially coast-defense types. However, even the best-armed and most capable non-nuclear submarines cannot approach the speed, range, or endurance of an SSN. Strategically they are limited to defensive roles and therefore unsuited to the foreseeable needs of the United States Navy.
Probably the last capability Lieutenant Holwitt would give up is the speed and endurance provided only by nuclear power. With that, there are few other missions that his ideal submarine could not also perform.
(See N. Polmar and S. C. Truver, pp. 86–87, June 2011 Proceedings)
Rear Admiral Charles F. Horne III, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Mr. Polmar and Dr. Truver have very well articulated how over the past several decades our Navy’s mining capability has seriously atrophied. Over the years a lack of appreciation of the “game-changer” capability of mining and a lack of priority and resources, as their article so well depicts, have caused this serious demise in our Navy’s current mining capability.
As we proceed into the 21st century with its new adversaries and unique confrontations, we need to again make mines one of our Navy’s strong capabilities soonest. As brought out so well in the column, mines can be a great conflict-winner as well as very humane and controllable via remote control that our Navy already has developed over the past years.
The good news is that over the last several months, our Navy leaders have, in many key fleet and share commands, put offensive mining back high on their priority list and are now pushing forward to obtain the needed funding to return mining to the Fleet as a show-stopper whenever and wherever needed. Mr. Polmar and Dr. Truver’s timely article emphasizes so clearly why this critical resurgence of funding and acquisition of modern mining is so important for our Navy and our nation.
Senior Chief John Cataldi, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Mr. Polmar and Dr. Truver bring to light the sad state of the U.S. military’s mining capability. They specifically point out the lack of variety in our mine inventory and the fact that the U.S. capability for high-volume, long-range aerial mining is limited to Air Force strategic bombers. The authors failed to mention the considerable long-range mining capability that resides in the Navy’s maritime-patrol squadrons. The P-3 Orion can carry up to 18 500-pound mines and deliver them to a minefield more than 2,000 miles away. With a little out-of-the box thinking, that same P-3 could deliver an additional 72 mines over the same distance. How is this possible? By designing mines that could fit in the P-3’s sonobouy launchers and stowage racks.
A standard sonobouy case, approximately 5 inches in diameter and 3 feet long, could house the components needed for a small acoustic or magnetic moored mine. When the mine detects the target ship, it cuts its mooring cable and an electric motor drives the mine toward the hull of the ship. On contact, a 5- to 10-pound shaped-charge warhead would punch a hole in the hull or damage the ship’s screw or rudder. Such a mine would be a mission kill for a submarine or patrol boat, and would at least get the attention of the crew of a larger ship. The sonobouy mine would not require any modifications to the launching aircraft and would be adaptable to any patrol plane or ASW helicopter. A large number of sonobouy-size mines could be sown into a minefield with a few 500- to 2,000-pound mines, thus creating a larger minefield and complicating an enemy’s mine-sweeping efforts.
(See S. F. Kime, pp. 40–43, May 2011; and J. H. Schuyler, p. 84, June 2011 Proceedings)
Colin Cooper—I disagree with Captain Kime’s article urging a return to the “American way of war.” He criticizes the all-volunteer force by claiming, “There is a temptation to misuse volunteers in prolonged conflicts . . . that cannot be sustained.” I see no evidence that this “temptation” is any different now than it was in Korea and Vietnam with conscription.
The United States did not make war on Iraq and the Taliban, as Captain Kime asserts, in order to “make them over into our image” any more than we made war on Japan and Germany for that purpose. The objective was to eliminate a threat to our security. The postwar goal was to promote democratic governments that would obviate having to fight them a second time.
Making war without formally declaring such is not the “moral failure” that Captain Kime contends. War is taking on more and different forms: terrorism, cyberwarfare, piracy, and nuclear blackmail. These threats require a response of varying degrees of force, sometimes quick, sometimes preemptive, and sometimes in secret. The days of drafting a million citizen-soldiers to fight the American way of war against the Kaiser are over.
J. B. Friderici—Having been a student of military history for most of my life, I believe that Captain Kime’s article is the best short statement of how the United States fights wars that I have seen in a very long time.
The author has nailed the subject, and his conclusions are directly on point. The article should be required reading for all of our political leaders and those who seek office. I just wish our current leaders would take it to heart.
The only disturbing part is that the article is written by a retired officer, not an active-duty one. It is apparent that in this era of political correctness one cannot speak the painful truth while on active duty. I hope our senior military leaders are advising the civilian leadership of these concepts in private even if the officers do not write for the public.
(See J. R. Holmes, pp. 34–39, May 2011 Proceedings)
William A. Heidecker—While not disagreeing with anything Dr. Holmes wrote in his article, some words of defense for Alfred Thayer Mahan are in order.
When comparing Rear Admiral Mahan with Sir Julian Corbett, it is important to be mindful of the audience each was addressing. While Corbett’s primary audience was the professional naval audience, Mahan was writing for a much wider readership. In the introduction to The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783, Mahan states: “Writing as a naval officer in full sympathy with his profession, the author has not hesitated to digress freely on questions of naval policy, strategy, and tactics; but as technical language has been avoided, it is hoped that these matters, simply presented, will be found of interest to the unprofessional reader.”
Although a member of the U.S. Naval Institute, Mahan frequently chose periodicals in the popular press (e.g., Scientific American, The Atlantic Monthly, The North American Review, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, etc.) to publish his articles. The title he chose for his magnum opus, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660–1783, is significant. While Americans were wrestling with the concept of Manifest Destiny, Mahan was writing to focus the attention of the American public and political leaders of sea power’s historical role. In that effort, he succeeded. Among his most important converts were Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy; Henry Cabot Lodge, chairman of the Senate Naval Affairs Committee; and Theodore Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Vice President, and President. Mahan provided the intellectual foundation and encouraged the public support that was essential for building a world-class navy.
While it may be fair to criticize Mahan’s writing style and perhaps some of his strategic concepts, what he accomplished through his writings for the United States and for the U.S. Navy was of monumental importance.
Others may argue about the relevance of Mahan’s teachings to naval strategy in the 21st century, but there should be no question about the relevance of Mahan’s writings to the history of the U.S. Navy since the late 19th century.
Commander John T. Kuehn, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Well done, Professor Holmes, on your article about the value of the writings of Alfred Thayer Mahan! It is nice to know that there is commonality of opinion about Mahan’s value in the intermediate service colleges. I have long taught the topic in precisely this manner—specifically, that one must understand what is broader theory in Mahan’s writing and what is more limited to his era. Also, I have read extensively through his correspondence, and he of all people makes the same point that you and I do. Corbett and Mahan are complementary. One quotation is all that is needed: “…so far as they stand the test, my own lectures, form a desirable preparation for works such as those of Corbett.”—Mahan, in Naval Strategy (1911).
As for the confluence of Mahan’s ideas about war and policy, they were independently arrived at rather than derived from Clausewitz:
“War is simply a political movement, though violent and exceptional in character.”—Mahan, writing in 1896 (he did not read Clausewitz’ On War until sometime around 1910), and:
“An Officer should have political courage. Political courage, to be well based, requires political knowledge as well.”—Mahan, writing in 1909.
(See J. Murphy, p. 18, May 2011 Proceedings)
Captain Ted Davis, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Wow. This is one of the best articles I have read in Proceedings. Senior Chief Murphy says volumes, in a single page, in an almost magical manner. Sailors are different and hard to explain. Some are leaders, some followers, but they are all part of teams wherein they all depend on each other. A successful leader reads his success “On the Faces of Others.” Take care of your men and they will take care of you. Love your shipmate. It is all written on their faces and no matter what the circumstances, you can see exactly where you stand.
This is a thoughtful article born of a thoughtful person’s mind. It depicts how sailors think and how they become so successful in their careers. The article explains the foundation of leadership and where empathy plays such an important part. Senior Chief Murphy nailed this one at a very appropriate time. We needed it.
(See M. A. Khan, pp. 42–47, March 2011 Proceedings)
Ensign Kenneth G. Hagner, U.S. Navy Reserve—I read with great interest the remarks by Commander Khan, and could not help but feel a sense of sadness and foreboding. His observations on the role of the U.S. Navy in maintaining stability in an increasingly fluid and unpredictable security environment are prescient. He is correct, and as nature abhors a vacuum, someone surely will fill the void if we reduce our presence within the Asian sphere of influence or the Indian Ocean region. Will it be China, India, or a newly resurgent Russia?
Commander Khan writes that “the presence of the U.S. Navy has been the most compelling factor in restraining and cooling frequently exploding tempers” and that a “shrinking U.S. Navy” will lead to a “reduced presence, along with a weakening ability to project power.” This scenario is one that will take years to fully appreciate, and is one that is not foreseen by a war-weary public nor readily acknowledged by politicians looking at re-election.
Every major military action undertaken in our history is followed by a period of reduction in force, and in some cases a mothballing of certain assets. Those assets are not immediately available for reactivation, although on paper it would seem that they are. Resurrecting a fleet of old ships or a squadron of aircraft takes time, coordination, and skilled labor. There is no shortcut; there is no breathing space when a cold war becomes hot.
Rarely will an elected official today openly state in bold terms what a nightmare we could face later on if we trim our defense budget too much now. It is not politically expedient, for to do so would be to risk being branded as a naysayer or a hawk. But to be any less honest with the American people is also just as unacceptable. Voters need to understand the trade-off, and what a chop in the defense budget today can mean years from now.
That is not to suggest there is no waste in current defense programs and funding. There is, and careful non-partisan review and in-depth studies can show where and when we can effectively remove or reassign funding yet maintain security for the nation. Commander Khan’s article shows how others see our role and understand the impact of altering our ability to respond in times of crises. At the same time, within our own country very many people either cannot or do not want to deliver the stark facts to our populace.
Asia and the Indian Ocean regions only will increase in their relevance to the United States in the next couple of decades, not least because of energy requirements and important strategic partnerships. These factors demand constant attention, and if we fail to consider the full range of future possibilities resulting from a diminished U.S. Navy presence, then we do so at our own peril.
CORRECTIONS - The wrong photo appeared with the information about Rear Admiral David W. Titley on page 135 of the May 2011 issue of Proceedings. The correct photo can be seen in the online version of the flag list; visit www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2011-05.
On page 137 of the May issue, Rear Admiral Monahan is listed as a Medical Service Corps officer; the correct listing should read “Medical Corps.”
On page 150 of the May issue, an out-of-date address was shown for Naval Services FamilyLine. The current address is: 1043 Harwood Street SE, Suite 100, Washington Navy Yard, DC 20374-5067.
In the June issue, the caption on page 47 lists the USS Bremerton’s hull number as SSN-658; the correct number is SSN-698.