IOOS Is Taking the Ocean’s Pulse
(See D. Walsh, p. 86, July 2013 Proceedings)
Rear Admiral Richard D. West, U.S. Navy (Retired), and Dr. Scott C. Truver—Dr. Walsh was spot-on in his discussion of the value of the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) program to the nation. As he notes, “Coordination of national ocean research programs is not an easy thing. There are the traditional competitions between organizations, large and small, for limited funding. There are a great number of people who are stakeholders, and many dislike change. However, avoidance of duplication and waste is paramount to ensure that existing funding is used as efficiently as possible.” And therein lies the rub—and IOOS’ challenge.
In addition to the national program composed of 18 federal agencies and institutions led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, IOOS finds itself in a scrum of numerous overlapping Venn diagrams of local, state, regional, national, and international governmental and private stakeholders, whose interests and capabilities are crucial for regional and global success.
Such a kaleidoscope of diverse and sometimes competing interests, however, increases the potential for bad ocean management. Expanding collaboration among such an array of actors and bystanders is therefore crucial to the continued advancement of understanding our largest natural resource––the world’s oceans, seas, estuaries, and inland waters––vast regions of which have yet to be explored, much less “sensed.” In this regard, IOOS is America’s “best-kept secret” in a variety of ocean-science, national defense, and homeland security arenas.
IOOS contributions to the nation’s needs were tragically illustrated last fall, when Sandy came ashore in a broad swath of human misery and destruction. IOOS figured importantly in helping predict where one of the worst storms in U.S. history would go. IOOS partners’ buoys and sensors along the mid-Atlantic coast generated hourly updates of wind, wave, visibility, water levels, and air and water temperatures, all feeding into the National Hurricane Center. While it was impossible to divert the storm, IOOS-managed data gave timely warning of where the danger would be most severe, allowing for better first-responder execution.
As chairman of the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy, retired Admiral James D. Watkins incessantly urged his colleagues in government and the private sector “to get on with it!” A linchpin of U.S. and global oceans and coastal and estuarine communities, IOOS has been meeting that challenge head-on for more than a decade. In mid-2013 and beyond, however, the real challenge will be to continue “to get on with it” in the post-sequestration world.
It’s Called Uniform for a Reason
(See J. Murphy, p. 16, July 2013 Proceedings)
Colonel Todd Fredricks, U.S. Army—Hear, hear for Senior Chief Murphy and his column on the current insanity of our uniforms. As a soldier who experienced three combat-utility uniform changes in a single war, I am profoundly confused by our charge to honor the taxpayers and eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse contrasted with this absurd popular-culture mindset that suggests that one combat utility for all services is not sufficient.
Heraldry is important for our respective service traditions, but that is the realm of the service uniform, not the go-to-war clothes. On the ground, a Marine, sailor, soldier, Coast Guardsman, and airman are in the same environment and facing the same threat. The recent revelation that the taxpayers spent a fortune on suboptimal Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) uniforms for the Army should infuriate those who support the military and expect us to honor their support. Grand discussions and design competitions for service-unique combat utilities are demeaning, juvenile, and not befitting the trust emplaced in us by our civilian benefactors.
Aside from that, since when can a government agency, funded with tax dollars, patent anything for its exclusive use? As I see it, the U.S. taxpayers own the patent and can do with it as they see fit, including outfit the entire Department of Defense with it. This simplifies the supply chain and it reduces costs. Currently we can’t float enough ships to protect the commons or get our frontline fighters to work right, but in a time of deep financial crisis we think that we have the luxury of playing games with uniforms? Have we lost our minds?
I appreciate the Marines’ parochialism, but to that I would say, “Grow up!” A Marine who gets shot and needs the care of an Army or Navy surgeon isn’t going to much care whether or not that surgeon is wearing the Marine Pattern (MARPAT) or UCP, but if the surgeon is dead because his own service didn’t provide the best protection for him or her, well then that Marine will care very much. If the MARPAT works the best, then we should all be wearing it, because it is a matter of force protection and survival. If multicam is better then the Marines and everyone else need to wear that.
Ultimately this entire discussion begs for unified and mature leadership. I would implore the Secretary of Defense to step in, demand that every service adopt the single-most proven and effective camouflage pattern available, and end this entire fiasco right now. The uniform boards will have to find other things to do to generate bullet points for their fitness reports.
The Right Ship at the Right Time
(See D. Heinken and J. Miller, pp. 48–53, June 2013 Proceedings)
Douglas Branson—The controversial littoral combat ship (LCS) is not “the right ship at the right time,” as seen from a brown-water Navy perspective. Given a draft of 14 feet, a cost of $600 million, a displacement of 3,000 tons, and any commanding officer’s antipathy toward running aground, LCSs will seldom venture beyond depths of 28–30 feet or more, and advisedly so. The U.S. Navy has well-settled and pronounced animadversion toward grounding: It is a career-ender for ships’ COs.
Neither does the existence of a stern ramp on LCSs, for use in launching 36-foot rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs), change the picture. Commanders Heinken and Miller maintain that “[w]ith a RHIB or SOF RHIB on the stern ramp, the LCS can approach the beach at high speed, launching a small boat. . . .” A $600 million ship drawing 14 feet will not be able to close the beach, at high speed or otherwise. When used for coastal patrol (Operation Market Time) in Vietnam, the minesweeper (ocean), which at a 700-ton displacement was one-fifth the size of an LCS, and which drew 9 feet, could not enter many bays and inlets, having to stand some distance offshore in many circumstances.
Use of a 36-foot, open-cockpit inflatable craft, of which an LCS will carry two, is not suitable for the sustainable presence for which many inshore assignments call.
Whatever its merits for other missions, the LSC is a “green-water ship,” at best. Decidedly, the LCS is ill-suited for brown-water Navy missions, many of which will need to be revisited in the future.
Averting the Navy’s Tactical Aircraft Crisis
(See A. C. Robinson, pp. 54–58, June 2013 Proceedings)
Peter von Bleichert—I really enjoyed Ensign Robinson’s Capstone Essay. His assessment of the tactical aircraft crisis was well written and informative.
It is amazing how un-alike the three variants of the F-35 have become, and how this undermines the promised economies-of-scale and savings these “common” aircraft were meant to impart. The flaws with the carrier-borne variant are especially worrisome. Since the combined production numbers across the three variants will, seemingly, not result in savings for the Navy, a split buy of the latest Super Hornets and F-35Cs should be considered. Since stealth is the F-35’s claim-to-fame, it could be used to kick the door down on enemy air defenses, and once these defenses are weakened or sidelined, the Super Hornets could exploit with numbers. In such a scenario, the F-35Cs would be best suited as radar/SAM killers with a secondary aerial-combat maneuver (ACM) role, though where possible, initial ACM should be handed to the more capable Air Force F-22 Raptor—an idea in line with Air-Sea Battle doctrine.
Finally, one negative not mentioned in the article: The F-35 has terrible rearward-aviator visibility. Though an advanced helmet and distributed sensors are meant to mitigate this, nothing beats being able to look over your shoulder and have a relatively clear field of vision. The Super Hornet’s bubble canopy/cockpit position is far superior in this respect.
Senior Chief Aviation Ordnanceman John Cataldi, U.S. Navy (Retired)—Ensign Robinson’s recounting of the problems plaguing the naval version of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter reminds me of the last time the Department of Defense tried, and failed, to build a carrier version of a land-based fighter aircraft, the F-111. Back then the Navy version, known as the F-111B, also suffered fatal flaws. Among them, the aircraft was overweight and too large to fit in a carrier’s hangar bays. The Navy finally decided to cut their losses and dropped the F-111B in favor of a new design built from the ground up as a carrier aircraft: the F-14, which went on to a successful career with the Navy.
I understand that the Navy can’t just ditch the troubled F-35C, because the purchase of the Navy’s quota of airframes is needed to keep the F-35A affordable for our foreign partners. What I disagree with is the author’s proposal for the Navy to buy F-35As based solely on the fact that they are the most inexpensive version to buy. Outside of a few F-35As that could be used for adversary roles at Top Gun and during Fleet exercises, the Navy has no mission for land-based fighters.
Rather than the Navy buying “useless” aircraft, why not buy the vertical/short-takeoff/landing F-35B? Just imagine, the Navy would have an F-35 that is 100 percent compatible with the Marine Corps version, thus simplifying training and logistics support. The F-35B is already shipboard-compatible and it is about to enter service with the Corps. A Navy F-35B squadron could be added to the Marine F-35B squadron embarked on an amphibious-assault ship in situations where more strike aircraft are needed, making the ship into a modern “jeep carrier.”
The F-35B could even be flown from aircraft carriers. Since it does not require catapults and arresting gear, the F-35B could conceivably give the aircraft carrier a new capability: to conduct limited tactical flight operations despite combat damage to the carrier’s catapults or arresting gear. Best of all, the F-35B, although more expensive than the F-35A, is still less expensive that the troubled F-35C. It is a win for everyone: The Navy gets a usable aircraft for less money than the F-35C, the Marines see their cost per F-35B go down, and our allies get their F-35As at an affordable price.
Deterrence—Now More Than Ever
(See W. E. Hoeft Jr., pp. 26–31, June 2013 Proceedings)
Sid Trevethan—Captain Hoeft may be right. It may be that “A strong U.S. nuclear deterrent . . . is necessary, today . . . tomorrow. . . . It will be necessary for generations.” But if he is, the United States needs to withdraw from its formal obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and probably others as well.
Reading his article, as well as plans for a new generation of nuclear weapons, a replacement nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine (SSBN), and the return to manufacturing of nuclear-weapons fuels, I find no trace of recognition of an intention to honor our obligations under NPT. Nor the decision, taken in the Reagan era, that we would not need another generation of nuclear weapons—ending their design activities at the National Laboratories, ending the production of plutonium and fission fuels, and not planning a new generation of SSBNs.
References to NPT in the United States almost always refer to the obligations of other nations not to acquire nuclear weapons. The quid pro quo for the deal is generally omitted—that the existing nuclear powers pledged to reduce and then eliminate theirs. If our policy is not to honor the treaty, we have no right to expect other nations to do so. We took an excessively long time starting the build-down, so the original obligation to complete it by the year 2000 had to be extended. But it wasn’t extended “for generations.”
Captain Hoeft is right that “nuclear deterrence is about the ‘non-use’ of nuclear weapons,” also that “nuclear deterrence is hard to measure.” But I wonder why he thinks nuclear attacks can be deterred at all if the nation or organization is not rational? Al Qaeda, for example, seeks nuclear weapons. It may be we cannot un-invent nuclear weapons, but spending huge sums of money in the hope of psychological deterrence is not going to save us from what theory calls an undeterrable. Better to invest in real defensive capabilities, including intelligence, detection, and the ability to intercept inbound weapons.