(See K. Albaugh and J. Carriker, pp. 58–62, January 2012 Proceedings)
Remo Salta—Lieutenant Albaugh and Chief Petty Officer Carriker rightfully state that “Critics may argue that creating two new commands and the associated increase in manpower costs is impractical in the current budget environment.” But instead of creating two new commands, obtaining additional manpower, and incurring God knows how many more layers of military bureaucracy to go with it, why not give the job of boarding ships to the Marines?
Placing new naval boarding parties on every ship in the Navy could get expensive and may not be necessary, especially on some of the smaller ships in the Fleet (such as littoral combat ships). So why not give all ships a small contingent of Marines to act as boarding parties? The major difference would be that these Marines not only would be trained for boarding ships, but also used for other missions as well.
For example, in the November 2010 issue of Proceedings, Marine Captain Alexander Martin described in great detail in his article “Evolution of a Ship Takedown” how some Force Recon Marines from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and sailors from the USS Dubuque (LPD-8) boarded the motor vessel Magellan Star and rescued 11 hostages while apprehending 9 Somali pirates. This was a classic example of how Marines should be used, as sea-going troops to board and capture hostile vessels. True, the article indicates that some sailors assisted in the assault, but the bulk of the attack was accomplished by the Marines.
Why can’t every ship in the Fleet use Marines for boarding ships? It was a function of the Marine Corps to do this more than 200 years ago. Ideally, it would be nice to have more U.S. Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments on board all of these ships, but since that is not practical given the current size of the Coast Guard, why not give the job to the Marines? It would probably be cheaper and faster to place trained Marines aboard U.S. Navy warships rather than create a whole new command from scratch, and Marines already have a long working relationship with the Navy.
Those same Marines could be used for other purposes as well, such as boarding oil rigs, assaulting ships attempting to break a U.S. naval blockade, or for search-and-rescue and hostage-rescue operations on land. Most ships today have helicopters on board, so transporting the Marines to either land or naval targets should not be a problem. Each ship, therefore, would have its own small assault force, with the ship’s crew members playing a supporting role, if needed.
Our armed services are going to be forced to cut more money from their budgets than ever before. We should use options that are already available to us rather than creating new commands we may not need.
(See J. Schonberg, pp. 52–57, January 2012 Proceedings)
Paul L. Dragone—I read Lieutenant Schonberg’s article with great interest, not because it presented a new and commonsense concept, but because the Coast Guard has been “maximizing minimum manning” for as long as I can remember. I served on active duty in the Coast Guard for five years during the late 1950s and early ’60s, all sea duty with the exception of boot camp and electrician’s-mate (EM) school.
My first assignment was a 327-foot cutter. I went aboard as a fireman electrician’s mate. My first six months were spent standing watches in the fire room, engine room, and auxiliary engine room as well as my EM duties. I changed burners and stood throttle and evaporator watches. My general-quarters station was the auxiliary diesel, along with a machinist’s mate (MM). Either of us was capable of starting the engine and getting it on line, as well as maintenance and service of the engine, generator, and switchboard. I was familiar with all of the engineering spaces and equipment. The EMs also had everything electric except the electronics. The MMs were as capable in operating the generators and switchgear as the EMs.
My next assignment was a 95-foot patrol boat. We had a crew of 14 enlisted and a lieutenant (junior grade) as captain.We were required to have a commissioned officer as a commanding officer as we carried antisubmarine-warfare gear. Everyone did everything. As an EM3 I was electronic-warfare officer, stood bridge watches, helped overhaul the main engines, handled lines, assisted the supply officer, fired the 20-mm and, on occasion, cooked. The seamen could start the main engines; the quartermaster could get the shore power disconnected and the generators on line. The gunner’s mate was a utility man and helped out with everything.
My final ship was a buoy-tender. By then I was an EM1. Again, I learned the boilers, main engines, and all the mechanical as well as electrical functions on the ship. My EMs stood engine-room watches. My surprise was that the EMs were not responsible for the electrics on the buoys. Battery maintenance and change-out, automatic lamp changers, and wiring were the responsibility of the Deck Division.
Our cross-training was expected and necessary to the function of the ships on which we served. I enjoyed learning how all the parts of my ship worked together and felt responsible and empowered. It has been almost 50 years since the Coast Guard and I parted formal company, but I bet it still does it today. That is why it is so good at what it does. The Navy could learn much from its sister sea service.
(See J. A. Bosco, p. 10, December 2011 Proceedings)
Rear Admiral Eric A. McVadon, U.S. Navy (Retired), senior adviser and director emeritus for Asia-Pacific Studies, Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis; and Daniel Yoon—The December death of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il adds urgency to the rebuttal of Mr. Bosco’s intemperate assertion that China wants North Korea to have nukes. We find the author’s facts anachronistic at best, his arguments flawed, and his conclusions unsupported, including the assertion of pervasive Chinese duplicity. A more balanced interpretation of China–North Korea relations than Mr. Bosco presented is needed as a baseline for possible progress in dealing with North Korea under Kim Jong-il’s son Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Bosco blames hapless bipartisan American “credulity” for allowing China to facilitate North Korea’s nuclear emergence, indicting American irresponsibility or incompetence. Belief that China today surreptitiously supports a nuclear North Korea, despite public statements to the contrary and concerns about spread to Japan and Taiwan, epitomizes over-the-top credulity. Does Beijing’s refusal to join in condemnation of Pyongyang for the sinking of the Cheonan and shelling of Yeonpyeong imply tacit support for nukes for North Korea? Does Chinese wariness about severe sanctions following the nuclear tests equate to support for the nuclear program? Mr. Bosco’s reasoning falls both to the stroke of Occam’s razor and to the laws of logic, as he substitutes novel constructs for credible explanations.
While Beijing admits early inadequate concern about North Korean nuclear programs and may acknowledge a recent lessened intensity on the matter, the author asserts that Beijing never “restrained Pyongyang,” “consistently deflected international efforts to curtail the programs,” and “indisputably kept Pyongyang in the WMD business.” Are Beijing’s repeated rebukes over Pyongyang’s misconduct all feigned? China has warned North Korea that invasion of the South would not draw Chinese support this time and would be tantamount to suicide. Is China’s lead in the Six-Party Talks a huge hoax? Beijing now bites its lip over Pyongyang and has not described the China–North Korea relationship “as close as lips and teeth” for years. There is no love lost between the two neighbors.
Interaction with the Americans and Chinese—or any reasonable assessment of the North Korea–China saga—illuminates the flaws in Mr. Bosco’s conclusions. Tellingly, he mentions no exchanges with Chinese. We, in many conversations with the Chinese, have not detected the alleged subterfuge—despite new Chinese openness. They assert that Beijing most of all values stability on the Korean Peninsula and also fears its lever will snap or lose purchase if it applies excessive force (e.g., cutting off food and fuel). Is all this just more duplicity? A People’s Liberation Army general told us flatly in late December that “backing” nuclear weapons for North Korea would be “playing with fire.”
According to Mr. Bosco, a perceptive Pyongyang and a gullible Washington both rely “on Beijing as an indispensable partner in their competing national security objectives,” and North Korea has gotten the best of it. The prospect of a better outcome lies not in blaming China but working imaginatively with China and others to transform North Korea under new leadership. We are in the same boat—Beijing the coxswain, the United States the stroke, along with Seoul and Tokyo. North Korea is an urgent problem for all; it behooves us to quit pointing fingers and begin rowing together toward a common destination.
(See M. Cooper, pp. 60–64, December 2011 Proceedings)
Captain Stephen J. Coughlin, U.S. Navy, Deputy Commander, Destroyer Squadron Two, Norfolk, Virginia—Even though “men mean more than guns in the rating of a ship,” I think even John Paul Jones would agree with Lieutenant Cooper’s argument for outfitting our surface combatants with a railgun. When considering the cost savings alone for kinetic-only rounds when striking low-end targets compared with the enormous price tag for a substantial Tomahawk salvo for hitting everything on the target list outside of gun range, it seems we are forced to accept that the nature of the missile age is changing. And the inevitability of Department of Defense funding reductions for the immediate future will only expedite the sinusoidal evolution of technology driving our tactics, and vice versa.
The simple discussion about inverting the launcher-to-munition cost ratio is an excellent statement of the obvious, but one that is completely worth stating. Having already invested in railgun technology would suggest that placing the overall weapon cost in the launcher—and leveraging the gun-round economies-of-scale on the production line—is a viable strategy for building on the already-sunk cost of research and development. Once we reach that inflection point on the cost-benefit curve, the low-cost, high-capacity characteristics of the railgun system will be realized. Until then, we are operating way past the point of diminishing returns when planners have only expensive cruise missiles in their land-attack weapons inventory. The $174 million cost for the opening volley of attacks during Operation Odyssey Dawn proves that such weaponeering is far too costly for any kind of sustained combat operation.
If the cost advantages of the railgun are not enough to sway land-attack missile advocates, consider the necessity of pulling a warship into a port facility in order to rearm missiles. This should not sit well with any naval operator. Not only will magazine capacity essentially double by using powderless railgun rounds, but the adherence to replenishment-at-sea methods aligns well with the basic principles of self-sufficiency that make the U.S. Navy the greatest global force ever created. Therefore, anything that limits weapon capacity at sea should be eliminated whenever possible. Otherwise, by forcing shooters to depart the battlespace, we are either giving away the sea control that we’ve established, or we’re requiring twice the number of ships to do the job—an even more expensive proposition.
By striking a balance between expensive missiles and affordable long-range railgun rounds, the surface Navy has the opportunity to tip the scale back toward gunnery as the weapon of choice for a variety of targets in future conflicts. It sounds like the railgun has great potential to provide the means to that end. Lieutenant Cooper’s analysis/explanation of this system was excellent food for thought.
(See R. Belden, J. Hasik, and J. Soon, pp. 54–58, December 2011 Proceedings)
Lieutenant Commander Benjamin Armstrong, U.S. Navy—While the authors are surely experts in the field of unmanned surface vessels (USVs), and as manufacturers have obviously put a great deal of thought into the critical technical issues involved in the field, they appear to completely miss the point of the tactical- and operational-level difficulties in naval irregular warfare and counterpiracy operations. Experts in the naval field tend to embrace a mindset that is linked directly with our technology, a kind of technological determinism that loses sight of the human and interpersonal elements of the maritime domain and naval warfare. Because of this we frequently lose the ability to adapt lessons from other fights to our own.
The debate on counterinsurgency theory and its role in greater strategy and doctrine aside, there are lessons that counterinsurgency can teach navies as they face irregular challenges in the 21st century. We have learned in Iraq and Afghanistan that population security, which at a broad level can be used to describe the counterpiracy mission, requires people. Personal interaction and partnership with local forces, interaction with local populations (whether villagers in the Hindu Kush, or fishermen and merchant seamen off the coast of East Africa), and the vital ability to develop multidimensional situational awareness are all things that have been highlighted in irregular fights. Predator drones are no more capable of sharing a cup of tea with an Afghan village leader than a USV will be when it attempts to stop for a safety visit with a Somali fisherman and pass along an extra jug of water or spare personal flotation device. Maritime-security operations require the ability to interact with people.
“Inevitably, human intervention from a manned ship will still be needed for many operations—particularly counterpiracy—as crewmen on the water must board, search, and seize weapons and evidence,” the authors tell us. “An unmanned craft still cannot do this, but its ability to simply tag and track the suspect vessel makes the handoff to a manned vessel quite efficient. There is frequently nowhere for miscreants to hide from modern sensors on the open ocean.” Domain awareness means more than just a location, course, and speed. Most of the time, miscreants on the high seas (as opposed to warships) can easily hide in plain sight, in full view of modern sensors. Having the right platforms is vital to success in naval irregular warfare, but just as important is having the right people on-scene, and being able to develop maritime partnerships. We must beware of the technological panacea that doesn’t really address the tactical or operational challenges of the messy business of naval irregular warfare.
(See R. O’Rourke, p. 10, November 2011 Proceedings)
Captain James T. Rooney, U.S. Navy—Mr. O’Rourke is correct that “one [option] is to argue for a greater Navy share of the DOD budget.” As overseas contingency operations wind down, the efforts to execute the National Military Strategy in support of the National Security Strategy fall more to the Navy–Marine Corps team. The Army and Air Force are largely garrison forces that require strategic sealift to deliver them on station. Place most of their capabilities in the reserves to reduce defense costs because strategic sealift and mobilization timelines can be synchronized to deliver their capabilities. By the very nature of the Navy–Marine Corps team, it is either already on-station or close enough to successfully respond to a crisis.
If we really follow the planning, programming, budgeting & execution process, and budget for requirements that are ultimately determined by the National Security Strategy, then funding for the Army and Air Force should be reduced and funding increased for the Navy–Marine Corps team. “The Strategic Approach” of “Pursuing Comprehensive Engagement” and “Promoting a Just and Sustainable International Order” (key components of the strategy) are accomplished with partnership-station initiatives and ballistic-missile defense, both heavily dependent on ships with a Navy–Marine Corps team forward-deployed. I think the time has come to truly develop a DOD budget that supports the National Security Strategy and not simply divide the “means” somewhat evenly in the interest of fairness.
The U.S. Constitution, which we support and defend, states that “Congress shall have power To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years” and “To provide and maintain a Navy.” As the need for “Armies” diminishes, so too should their budget. However, “To provide and maintain a Navy” is much more constant, especially because we are a maritime nation in a global environment. To not adequately fund the Navy, to some, might seem unconstitutional.