Comment & Discussion

Had Comey not acted as final arbiter, the immediate legal results probably would be no different from what they are. But the remediation of our current clearance system might well be getting the attention Admiral Brooks so aptly points out is required for a radical course correction.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

(See K. Eyer, p. 16, August 2016 Proceedings)

Chief Operations Specialist Robert (Bob) Stockton, U.S. Navy (Retired)—The kumbaya-ed riverine boat section and crew who surrendered to the Iranian Navy—or whatever they call themselves—seems to me to be the perfect embodiment of today’s Navy. The commanding officer, an O-3 who graduated from the Naval Academy, apparently behaved just as he has been conditioned. When the Iranians showed up with AK-47s, he immediately rationalized that an apology and capitulation would save his crew and himself from being wounded or killed. Instead of introducing the Iranians to the reality of the .50-caliber machine gun, he threw up his hands, said he was sorry for having entered their territorial waters, and told the two crews to stand down and be taken prisoner and humiliated. In fact, it would appear that the one boat captain gave the order to move forward, and his coxswain refused to follow the order!

Sound familiar? How many times have we seen our Commander-in Chief apologize to foreign “leaders” who crawl out of the woodwork for a photo op with the President of the once-powerful United States?

What are the Department of Defense and the Navy doing to address shabby training, poor navigation skills, and equipment that breaks down? Apparently not much. They are too busy developing politically correct regulations. It appears my Navy has become a large bureaucratic social experiment.


Lieutenant Dan Daly, U.S. Navy Reserve; former officer-in-charge, PCF-76, Vietnam 1967–68—Captain Eyer’s column on the Iranian capture of the two U.S. Navy riverine crews brought back vivid memories of my own service in Swift Boats. I understand this is an ongoing story, and a formal investigative report only recently was released. Therefore, I will try to keep my comments comparative rather than judgmental.

With considerable pride, I say that the men who made up the crews of Swift Boats during my deployment, both officers and enlisted, are some of the finest men I have known. This would encompass my brief three years in the Navy along with 48 years in business.

Before I wrote this commentary, I contacted several Swift Boat skippers with whom I served in combat. Their responses were quite similar. There was no question about who was in charge. We were the officers-in-charge. It was the description on our fitness reports and embroidered in gold on our blue baseball caps.

In terms of organization, each Swift Boat division usually had a lieutenant responsible for personnel, admin, patrol assignments, and maintenance oversight—not operations. There were units called Coastal Surveillance Centers. They provided current intelligence and weather, and coordinated other unit support such as that from the Air Force. We checked in with them on an hourly basis with the message “Operations Normal.” They did not manage patrol operations. Most were not familiar with the boats and never rode in them.

In I Corps, during my tour, the Marines were the dominant activity. We maintained separate radio contact with them for fire missions and other support. On our own initiative, the boat officer-in-charge could call in air strikes and utilize our 81-mm. mortar for direct gunfire support of the Marines. We were independent with all the authority—and most definitely the responsibility.

On routine patrols, our three .50-caliber machine guns were loaded but with no round in the chamber. AR-15s were loaded and usually laid out nearby on a bunk. Shotguns and M79 grenade launchers were in a gun case nearby. Mortar rounds were stored in a locker on the aft deck ten feet from the weapon. In bad weather, outside weapons were covered. At general quarters, every weapon was uncovered and manned. On PCF-76, anyone could put a round in the chamber but was required to announce, “Round in the chamber.”

We knew what to do and when to do it. Activities were coordinated directly by radio with the units involved. Reporting usually was after the fact, covering rounds expended, damage assessment, and current status. You knew who was patrolling in the sector north and south of you and their minimum and maximum time to reach you. Competence was expected from your peers, and lives depended on it.

We took our mission seriously along with the welfare of our crews, the condition of the boats, and the safety of any units we supported. Comradeship and humor were always nearby. We were proud of our service then and remain so today.

In this most recent incident, a .50-caliber warning burst across the bow may have been appropriate, but surrender and capture never would have been acceptable in Swift Boats. It was that simple.


Robert T. Zavala, Jr., PhD—Captain Eyer’s comments on the capture of the riverine boat crews by the Iranians rightly point out the leadership failures that contributed to the capture of RCB-802 and -805. These failures extended throughout the chain of command as noted in the investigation. As an example, the report states that, in relation to a heat casualty sustained by the crews after arrival in the northern Persian Gulf, “The circumstances contributing to the heat stress casualty are symptomatic of the CTF 56 and CTF 56.7 leadership’s disengagement from overseeing mission planning and execution.” One hopes this report serves to strengthen leadership across all levels of command. And, as Captain Eyer notes, this should include the levels above CTF 56.

In the process of detailing these leadership shortfalls, Captain Eyer’s comments include statements that seem to diminish the expectations placed on small-unit leaders. When he writes, “These ‘commanders’—if we can call a junior lieutenant and a chief petty officer commanders,” he implies an inherent lack of ability on senior enlisted or junior officers to perform well in demanding situations. The counterpoint to this statement is former Marine Corps Commandant General Charles Krulak’s notion of the “strategic corporal”: a relatively junior service member on whom great responsibility is placed. Of course, such strategic corporals, petty officers, ensigns, et al. are grown by the support and guidance of the high-quality leaders under whom they serve. Superior small-unit leadership will not exist in an environment such as that described by the sobering investigation report of the capture of the riverine command boats. We only can hope that in future crises, dedicated, professional leaders are in place so that small-unit leaders are prepared to succeed.

Employ DOD’s Sexual Assault & Response Weapons

(See T. P. McGeehan, pp. 42–47, July 2016 Proceedings)

Michael R. Shevock—I recently retired after 28 years in federal law enforcement, approximately seven of which I spent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. I also spent seven years as a commissioned Coast Guard officer. My experience with sexual assault investigations is intimate and extensive. As such, I’ve learned to be skeptical of pronouncements from those whose primary experience is either academic or bureaucratic. For example, Commander McGeehan points out that most sexual assaults are perpetrated by military members in the 20–24 age bracket and concludes, “If the problem were a result of immersion in military culture, one would expect the most frequent offenders to be those who had spent the longest time in uniform.”

Actually, I wouldn’t. Even in those armies and militias where mass rape is an instrument of subjugation, the majority of sex offenses always are committed by those individuals with the most testosterone, which is a function of age. Biology matters. So does common sense.

What qualified as disturbing was Commander McGeehan’s suggestion that the Department of Defense screen out potential violators by adopting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s identified risk factors as criteria for rejection. Let’s examine some of these.

Delinquency. Just how is that to be determined?

General Aggressiveness and Acceptance of Violence. We want Marines and soldiers who will run into a ditch through a hail of gunfire and carve out the guts of ISIS fanatics, but we don’t want service members who are aggressive or accepting of violence. Got it.

Early Sexual Initiation. This means the federal government is going to solicit and archive data on members’ intimate lives, including restricted records of juvenile assaults. This information of course will be compromised, and everyone will act surprised.

Coercive Sexual Fantasies. Collecting info on people’s sexual fantasies is full-blown Orwellian. Is downloading Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Shut Up and Kiss Me” evidence of a coercive fantasy? How coercive does the fantasy have to be? How many coercive fantasies a month are acceptable? For those who assume any coercive sexual fantasy is an aberration, take note that a recent mega-blockbuster book and movie focused on dark sexuality, with most of the readers/viewers being female.

Preference for Impersonal Sex and Sexual Risk-Taking. This used to be called promiscuity, and it qualifies as a lifestyle. This lifestyle happens to be wildly popular with many of our highest-performing young service members.

Adherence to Traditional Gender-Role Norms. Are we looking for rapists or purging the politically incorrect? Will we make this criteria retroactive to eject senior officers with traditional families?

Exposure to Sexually Explicit Media. That’s right: A prestigious journal published a proposal to exclude men from military service if they like looking at pictures of naked women.

Hyper-Masculinity. We might not win the war, but we’ll have great floats for the parade.

Prior Victimization or Perpetration. This is over the top. We are going to reject a potential recruit because he or she was a victim of a sexual assault. Never mind the inevitable lawsuits, this clearly will yield the perverse effect of inhibiting some young victims from reporting assaults because doing so will limit their career possibilities. As for prior perpetrators, I wasn’t aware we were enlisting or commissioning convicted sex offenders. If so, yes, we should stop that.

I apologize for the caustic tone of my response, but the proposed absurd solution to a serious problem represents an outrageous attack on privacy and personal freedom, and would derogate the warfighting ability of our armed forces. I am disappointed the editor deemed this a proposal worthy of discussion.

Focus on the Marines

(See T. Grell, pp. 18–22, July 2016; W. G. Smith, p. 83, August 2016 Proceedings)

Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired); former Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Air Warfare—Mr. Smith complains that while Marine Captain Grell’s article “gave valuable insight into Marine aviation readiness” even though his remarks were based on a 2002 master’s thesis. Mr. Smith then suggests that using more advanced computer graphics has since changed the flight simulator world. Unfortunately, Mr. Smith seems to have been captured by his own company’s advertising. The problem with flight simulators for tactical aircraft is not with computer graphics, although they almost always can be better, but with several other realities, particularly as pertains to carrier crews.

First, simulator time does not count as flight time, nor do simulated carrier landings count in an individual’s total. Beyond bragging rights, actual flight time and carrier landings are important criteria in squadron command screening and promotion, let alone morale. Second, modern simulators—including operational flight trainers—cost as much as the aircraft they simulate. Thus, when it comes to procurement in tight budget times, the selected option almost always is an actual aircraft over a simulator.

While it’s true that simulator training has proved to be important and saves flying-hour dollars in familiarization, instrument training, NATOPS checks, emergency procedures in all aircraft types, and tactics and crew coordination training in multi-crewed aircraft, it’s a different story when training is necessary in spatial orientation, high-speed/high-G maneuver, and coordination with wingmen such as with Navy and Marine tactical aircraft.

While it’s true that simulator fidelity and the capability to simulate multi-aircraft tactics have grown almost exponentially, and more complex skill training such as air-to-air combat, cockpit resource management, mission rehearsal, formation flying, and the capability to network simulators and team training is on the horizon and may one day enable simulator training to take the place of airborne training, none of it depends on better scenery.

What really is needed are less expensive simulators and more of them.

The Fat Man Sang . . . But the DOJ and Media Keep Playing

(See K. Eyer, p. 16, July 2016 Proceedings)

Tom Corboy—Derailed by Fat Leonard? No, there always will be a Fat Leonard to prey on those derailed by a permissive society and the permissive culture in the U.S. Navy. It starts at the U.S. Naval Academy, where a little bit of lying, cheating, or stealing is likely to be excused and the culprit given remedial training, or perhaps delayed graduation, and then sent on to the fleet. When confronted with a decision over what is right and what is wrong, the answer all too often becomes, “What can I get away with?”

Captain Eyer decries the slowness of the Department of Justice (DOJ) in investigating and prosecuting individuals or referring them back to the Navy for potential discipline. That’s a lot like the mother saying to her children, “Just wait until Daddy gets home,” to apply discipline for the day’s transgressions. The DOJ “system” grinds very slowly as the Navy waits for others to solve its problems. Meanwhile, the Navy can and should clear this up on its own.

In reference to the 200 senior officers whose careers are in limbo (derailed), Captain Eyer asks, “when will someone in a position of authority take responsibility for systemic failure . . . ?” Any systemic failure lies not only with the current DOJ imbroglio but with the Navy, where the most recent Naval Academy Superintendent was censured for his relationship with Fat Leonard. Resolution of systemic failure will take everyone realizing that there is no magic “someone in a position of authority” to set things straight. It will take everyone realizing that they, personally, are that someone who can cause “the system” to either thrive or fail. Stop the culture of “What can I get away with?” The differentiation between “right” and “wrong” is not a tough concept.

Why the Milk?

Whitney Galbraith, U.S. Navy Reserve Intelligence Division 5-2; U.S. State Department, 1966–72—I would like to call everyone’s attention to U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus’ reported attempt to name a U.S. Navy vessel after gay activist Harvey Milk. (See S. LaGrone, USNI News, 28 July 2016.) As an erstwhile U.S. Navy officer, I object to this blatant effort to impose a radical political agenda on the Navy. This decision is part of the deliberate and continuous effort by the Obama administration to use the armed forces as a political target for redesigning society and is further evidence of the administration’s open contempt for the armed forces and anyone within the ranks who opposes such an effort.

The naming of U.S. Navy vessels traditionally has reflected the personal contribution of the individual or individuals to the U.S. Navy’s combat history, generally sensed to be heroic. The name of Harvey Milk connotes none of this and is by no means that of an individual whom the U.S. Navy should honor with its proud legacy. Public accounts of his personal history reveal a squalid profile, one with which the U.S. Navy should not be associated.

LCS Delivers

(See S. H. Swift, pp. 34–38, July 2016; R. Salta and M. J. Clowes, pp. 8–9, August 2016 Proceedings)

Captain Anthony (Tony) Cowden, U.S. Navy—Admiral Swift has written the most balanced article we have seen yet on the littoral combat ship (LCS) in these pages, and he makes some excellent points. I am committed to making use of these ships, but I have concerns:

Build, Test, Operate, Learn. Projects like Sea Shadow can have value. Committing to 22 hulls of two different types with two different combat systems and two different sets of logistic support and training requirements when there still are serious concerns about armament and mission modules stresses this model beyond its limits.

Engineering Plant Design. The engineering casualties suffered by the USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) and Fort Worth (LCS-3), while different in cause, point to a common and serious problem with the design of the Freedom-class main propulsion hydraulic systems. The required complete redesign of the main propulsion system likely is unaffordable.

Room to Grow? For cost reasons, the Spruance-class destroyers originally were built without the weapon systems that the Navy wanted, but in short order were equipped with the SQQ-89 combat suite and a vertical launch system. They were designed for antisubmarine warfare (ASW), were extremely quiet platforms—which LCS is not—and were built with room to grow. You will find that LCS-1 cannot take significant additional weapon systems/equipment without its speed being severely affected.

Speed. Except for running away from a limited number of short-armed threats, none of the uses for high sprint speed envisioned during LCS development has proved necessary, or even possible. In the case of the USS Freedom (LCS-1), fuel consumption limits its available operational speed (repositioning within an area of responsibility [AOR]) and its strategic speed (repositioning between AORs). Except for short ranges, LCS has little speed advantage over a Ticonderoga-class cruiser.

Basing. LCS is more reliant on forward bases than any other major U.S. Navy class of warship. Forward basing is great during peacetime in providing forward presence, but forward bases often are not available during conflicts. LCS needs an afloat forward-staging base (AFSB) to be operationally useful in almost any AOR, but especially in the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) AOR because of the great distances involved.

Shallow-water Operations. Admiral Swift contends that “LCS can go places in the region larger ships cannot.” In terms of port visits, this is true and of great engagement value. An analysis of water depth in the PACFLT AOR, however, shows that there are few places LCSs can operate that Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers cannot.

Warfighting Ability. Today, eight years after commissioning, what warships can LCS defeat in battle? What mines can it clear? What submarines can it detect and sink?

Answers to these questions need to be worked through. Here are some starting points:

LCS Basing. PACFLT should exercise deploying LCSs from an AFSB. This would demonstrate the ability to operate LCSs independent of a fixed forward base, and also might move us closer to reestablishing a destroyer tender capability, something that would be sorely needed in time of conflict.

LCS-2 to the Pacific. Building on the current USS Independence (LCS-2) deployment to PACFLT, deploy the LCS-2 variant in PACFLT AOR, and the LCS-1 variant in the U.S. 5th Fleet AOR. LCS-2 has a greater fuel efficiency and cruising range than LCS-1 and is better suited to the distances found in Indo-Pacific region. Deploying two different LCS types to the same AOR makes no logistic sense, as they require two different support infrastructures.

Vertical-Launch System. For all LCSs, replace the 57-mm. gun with as many VLS cells as possible; upgrade the combat system to be able to control SM-2 Standard missiles and the Evolved Sea Sparrow missile (ESSM); and commit to fielding a vertical-launch antiship cruise missile as soon as possible. For example, the long-range antiship missile recently demonstrated the ability to launch from a VLS cell at sea.

Replacement Gun System. Add two 30-mm. mounts to all LCSs, not just ones with the antisurface warfare (ASUW) module. The 30-mm. is nearly as effective as the 57-mm. gun, so LCS would not be losing any gun capability. This also would reduce the logistic dissimilarity across the fleet as the Zumwalt (DDG-1000) program also has adopted the 30-mm. gun over the 57-mm. gun.

Network Connectivity. Increase LCS’s connectivity so it can participate in a networked fight.

LCS Numbers. Cap LCS acquisition at the current 26 hulls, focusing them on the mine-countermeasures and ASUW modules. Discard the idea of an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) module. These ships never will be effective ASW platforms. Both LCS variants are noisy, the variable depth sonar (VDS) system intended for them cannot be used in the shallow waters of the littoral, and neither hull form is well suited to open-ocean ASW escort duties.

Frigates. Pursue a true multimission guided-missile frigate (FFG) that can perform ASW and limited antiair warfare (AAW) duties. Select an existing hull design (two U.S. candidates are FFG-7 and the National Security Cutter), add VLS, a 76-mm. gun, a flight deck, hangar for at least one MH-60R helicopter, and the CAPTAS 4 towed VDS with multifunction towed array sonar.

I have a final word on LCS. Admiral Swift and others have stressed the value of LCS in the PACFLT AOR in conducting theater security cooperation (TSC). As a former U.S. 7th Fleet Assistant Chief of Staff for TSC, I am a big fan of engaging with allies, partners, and friends. Navies do not build warships, however, to conduct TSC engagements. Navies build warships to be able to defeat other warships in battle, something the current LCS­—and even the currently planned up-gunned frigate version of this ship—cannot do.

 

 
 

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