Comment and Discussion

—Commander Lane E. Napoli, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)

“Loss of carrier would severely impact the U.S. Navy’s ability and our nation’s will to fight,” the writer informs us. Missing is the least bit of fact-based evidence to support such claims. On the contrary, given the overwhelming national support of our military, pride in our country in spite of our divisions, and focus on defense from enemies abroad, the following three observations are closer to the truth:

• The loss of a CVN presumes that we are in a declared war against a nation state; in the age of nuclear weapons, no nation, even with the worst of leaders, is suicidal.

• Fortunately for our country, the Navy is able to fight in two wars concurrently and has more than enough capability to sustain any single loss, no matter what ship type.

• Anyone who believes that Americans would be sent cowering with no will to fight following the sinking of a CVN and the loss of its 5,000-member crew has only to look back at the reaction to attacks on the World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, the USS Arizona (BB-39) in 1941, or the USS Maine (ACR-1) in 1898.

—Captain Reg Michell, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)


The Webb Controversy: What’s Right?

(See K. Wolff; A. Goldstein; M. Collins; W. Brooks, pp. 45–47, May 2017 Proceedings)

Having served on the Naval Academy superintendent’s personal staff during the Class of 1980’s first two years at the Academy, I read with special interest the four commentaries relating to former U.S. Senator James Webb’s decision not to accept the Alumni Association’s Distinguished Graduate Award (DGA). I acknowledge Jim Webb is my Academy classmate. I also served as his military legislative assistant for six years when he was a senator.

To answer the section’s question, it is necessary to consider the issues that were in play when Webb’s Washingtonian magazine article was published in November 1979 and what has transpired subsequently. At the outset, it is important to emphasize that Webb’s perspective on women attending our military academies and serving in the military has changed since 1979.

H. Michael Gelfand’s history of cultural and social changes at the Naval Academy from 1949 to 2000 (Sea Change at Annapolis, University of North Carolina Press, 2006) is a useful reference. The book provides a detailed account of women’s experiences as members of the Class of 1980 and the achievements and continuing obstacles that women midshipmen faced during the last two decades of the 20th century. For women in the Class of 1980 it was, in Gelfand’s words, “Revolutionary change at evolutionary speed.”

During the mid-1970s, the legal and congressional debate over the repeal of the combat-exclusion law had steadily intensified. Arguments supporting the admission of women into the military academies (and often the repeal of laws prohibiting them from serving in combat or on combat ships and aircraft) were couched in terms of equal rights and equal opportunity. As Gelfand notes, “Women’s acceptance into the Brigade of Midshipmen was a significant step in getting females into combat and, therefore, helped them to fulfill their roles and responsibilities as American citizens.” For many alumni, some Naval Academy faculty and staff (including some former superintendents), and most male members of the Brigade, the Academy’s raison d’être throughout its history was to graduate officers to serve in combat.

Gelfand documents the resentment and mistreatment that many women in the Class of 1980 and subsequent classes experienced. He cites two surveys indicating that 72 to 80 percent of male midshipmen opposed their admission owing to perceived lower standards, ability to achieve the Academy’s mission, and exclusion from combat. Unlike their male counterparts, however, the disrespect and harassment that some women midshipmen sustained did not end with plebe year.

Webb did not write the Washingtonian article at the Naval Academy while serving as writer in residence and plebe English instructor (Webb left after one semester), and he alerted the Academy’s superintendent it was in the works prior to publication. Responding to an earlier suggestion from the editor of the magazine to write an article about women at the Naval Academy, Webb addressed the issue in terms of the ongoing debate over women serving in combat. As he told the San Diego Union Tribune in 2005, “The Carter administration had just ordered the Joint Chiefs of Staff to support a political policy that did not exist. They ordered them [the Joint Chiefs] to support removing the ban on women in combat. And the Commandant of the Marine Corps at that time, Robert Barrow, who is one of my all-time heroes, stood up to them.” As Webb explained, Barrow believed the order was not legal.

Webb’s opposition to women serving in ground-combat units reflected his experiences commanding a Marine rifle platoon and company in Vietnam when the intensity of the ground war was at its height. At that time, Americans killed in action averaged more than 400 a week. Over a three-month period, despite replacements, the strength of Webb’s rifle platoon was reduced by half owing to the number of his Marines killed and wounded.

Male midshipmen who oppose women attending the Academy have, over the years, used Webb’s Washingtonian article to justify their misguided actions against female midshipmen. This is no excuse, however, for the breakdowns in leadership at the Naval Academy that have failed at times to address more aggressively such instances of disrespect, sexual harassment, and mistreatment. Such acts are contrary to policies and regulations, violate core values, degrade personnel readiness and unit cohesiveness, and are prejudicial to good order and discipline.

Although Gelfand describes the Washingtonian article in some detail, he neglected to document how Webb’s views on women at the Naval Academy evolved as he returned to public service for four years during the Reagan administration in the 1980s. Webb addressed the issue during his Senate confirmation hearings to be Assistant Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Navy (affirming at the latter hearing: “I have no desire to roll the clock back,” with respect to women attending the Academy). In September 1987, in an address to the Brigade of Midshipmen, then–Secretary of the Navy Webb said: “I am not biased in any way on the issue of women here at the Academy or in the naval service, and in fact feel strongly that men and women should be treated equally in such matters.” While campaigning for the U.S. Senate in 2006, Webb said he was” fully comfortable” with the “roles of women in the military today” and “with women’s ability to lead men.”

During that campaign, Webb also issued a statement expressing regret for any pain his writing had caused, noting that times had changed, and that he should be judged by what he did in the intervening years to expand opportunities for women. In late March, after the Alumni Association informed him that some alumni opposed his DGA selection, he issued a statement that said, in part:

Thirty-eight years ago, during an intense national debate regarding the issue of women serving in combat, I wrote a strongly argumentative magazine article about women in combat and at the Naval Academy. Back then, emotions about the Vietnam War, in which I had fought as a Marine, were spilling over on both sides of this debate. Clearly, if I had been a more mature individual, there are things that I would not have said in that magazine article. To the extent that this article subjected women at the Academy or the armed forces to undue hardship, I remain profoundly sorry.

Webb concluded by saying,

Our military women have served with dedication and valor in Afghanistan and Iraq, with more than 160 killed and 1,000 wounded. The more than 4,600 women who now have graduated from the Naval Academy have achieved great success. I salute their service and like all Americans I look forward to their continued achievement.

Webb greatly expanded opportunities for women to serve in the Navy while Secretary of the Navy. On his own initiative, he directed the Navy and Marine Corps to complete a comprehensive examination of current policy on women’s service and the implementation of that policy. The study group’s composition was 50 percent male and 50 percent female. Members of the study group reported their findings and recommendations to the chiefs of the Navy’s warfare specialties, and then the senior uniformed leadership of the service reported to Webb.

The policy changes Webb approved in 1987 led to the greatest expansion of such opportunities in the service’s history. He tightened the definition of “combat mission” to open nearly 9,300 sea billets so women officers and enlisted personnel could serve on 26 additional ships of the Navy’s 37 vessels assigned to its combat logistics forces. In addition, women were authorized to serve with Navy shore-based reconnaissance squadrons. Webb also directed that vigorous corrective and preventative actions be taken to stop sexual harassment and to punish those found guilty of it and other inappropriate or unlawful behavior.

These new assignment policies increased the number of major command billets in which women officers could serve—a critical factor in their subsequent career progression. At the same time, they enabled the Naval Academy to increase the number of women in the Brigade because, upon graduation, they could be ordered to many more meaningful sea-duty billets.

As a U.S. senator from 2007 to January 2013, Webb supported policy changes that expanded opportunities for women to serve in the military (e.g., assigning them to submarines) and other legislative measures to stop sexual harassment. As chairman of the Personnel Subcommittee of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, he consistently supported the inclusion of legislative provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013 that required the Department of Defense to revise and improve its policies, programs, training, and oversight in this area. Of direct relevance to our nation’s service academies, Webb “firewalled” his academy appointments process, forming a small committee of retired officers to screen and recommend nominations to him. One member of this committee was a woman alumna of the Naval Academy.

Within just a few days during the last week in March, Webb needed to respond to what he was told by the Alumni Association’s retired flag officers overseeing the DGA program: that his “presence at the ceremony would likely mar the otherwise celebratory nature of that special day.” He issued a statement on 28 March to announce his decision to decline accepting the DGA.

So “what’s right?” The Naval Academy should ensure all members of the Brigade of Midshipmen have a more current, informed understanding of Jim Webb’s views on women in the military. Midshipmen should also be educated on the actions he took as a Secretary of the Navy and U.S. Senator to expand women’s opportunities to serve and to do so in a more wholesome command environment. The issues addressed on the pages of Proceedings could serve as a useful case study in the Naval Academy’s programs addressing sexual harassment and assault awareness, prevention, and response.

The Alumni Association should honor Jim Webb, one of the Naval Academy’s most distinguished alumni.

—Captain Gordon I. Peterson, U.S. Navy (Retired)


I was happy to see my Commentary published in Proceedings. Unfortunately, in the editing process, a typo changed what I was trying to convey originally with respect to what Jim Webb’s transgression was. My question should have read: “Is Webb’s crime that he held the beliefs, or that he wrote them down?”

—Midshipman W. Kirk Wolff, U.S. Navy, Class of 2018, U.S. Naval Academy


We Must Change How We Name Ships

(See J. Young, pp. 54–59, May 2017 Proceedings)

Every member of Congress should receive a copy of Mr. Young’s excellent article. He not only identified a problem that plagues today’s Navy, but he provides a solution. I have only one additional suggestion: Name a destroyer-type ship England. After the destroyer escort England (DE-635) sank six Japanese submarines in 12 days in 1944, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral E. J. King declared “there will always be an England” in the U.S. fleet.

The DE was discarded in 1945, having been crashed by a Japanese dive-bomber. The Navy commissioned the guided-missile frigate England (DLG-22) in 1963; she served until 1994 (having been reclassified as a cruiser—CG 22—in 1975).

There is no England in the fleet today. There should be a warship with that name.

—Norman Polmar, author of many books, including The Naval Institute Guide to Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet

What do a Marine rifle, an Army tank, a Coast Guard cutter, and an Air Force fighter have in common? None of them in the history of each of their armed services has ever been named after a politician or political figure with no direct and significant connection to the service. The Navy, on the other hand, has more than a half-century of naming ships in what apparently is an effort for personal advancement of senior Navy leadership or congressmen. It is certainly widely perceived that way and, I believe, with good reason.

Admiral Hyman Rickover’s admonition “Fish don’t vote” completely misses the point. Consider the F-15 Eagle, the F-16 Falcon, and the F-22 Raptor. Eagles, falcons, and raptors don’t vote either, but maintaining and flying them denotes a certain amount of pride. Consider also the names of Coast Guard cutters. They are named after seafaring places in the United States, or qualities such as Vigilant, Resolute, Valiant, Steadfast, and Dependable. Those characteristics don’t vote either, but they do display Coast Guard values. Contrast these practices with the Gabrielle Giffords. She is a fine person whom I probably would have voted for if she had been in my district, but—for better or worse—is known for being a tragic victim. Others for whom we have named ships often have had no connection with the Navy or were very critical of the service. The damage is worsened by the fact that Navy ships frequently last 40 to 50 years.

The Navy and Marine Corps both have the core values of courage, honor, and commitment. Is the Corps the only service that is serious about these values? I hope not.

It is unfortunate that it took a West Point graduate to articulate the need to address this problem.

—Commander Ed Griffith, U.S. Naval Reserve (Retired)


Depression, Anxiety, and Anger Are Treatable

(See K. Eyer, p. 16, May 2017 Proceedings)

Captain Eyer’s comments are spot on. The Navy does an excellent job of monitoring physical health with periodic exams, blood pressure and cholesterol testing, cancer screening, and regular physical readiness tests. In the area of monitoring and maintaining mental health, however, we’ve fallen behind.

I have encountered senior officers with obvious stress-, anxiety-, and depression-related symptoms who were receiving no care. As the author notes, and as I’m sure every officer understands, seeking mental health care—particularly as a senior officer, on whom the stresses are often greatest—cannot but place the individual’s billet or even career in jeopardy.

Aside from cursory self-reporting at the end of deployment, not much is done to monitor the emotional fitness of senior officers. For starters, I propose including a careful mental health evaluation as part of the selection criteria for command. In the long run, though, the Navy would be well served by detecting and treating these issues much earlier in every sailor’s career.

—Captain David Scott, MD, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)


Does the Navy Trust Its Senior Executives?

(See C. Werchado, p. 10, May 2017 Proceedings)

I was honored to have my article published in Proceedings. In an inadvertent process foul, the Proceedings staff edited my article but didn’t send it back to me for review. In my draft, I attempted to use a light tone to start a necessary conversation. Instead, the editors removed a humorous song reference and added declarative sentences at the end of several paragraphs, which made the overall tone more accusatory and less inquisitive.

—Commander Charles Werchado, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)

Editor’s Note: As Commander Werchado states, we failed to execute our standing procedure to send the edited copy of his contribution to him for his review prior to publication. We are committed to do our level best to assist authors to make their contributions as tight and as good as they can be. We also are committed to ensure the authors always have the last word by providing edited copies to them before publication. We apologize for failing to do so in this case.


Good Leaders Follow Golden Rule

(See W. Monk, pp. 78–80, April 2017; B. D. Cole, p. 160, May 2017 Proceedings)

All leaders should pause and consider deeply the implications of this contribution. While Lieutenant Commander Monk clearly comes to his conclusions from a religious point of view, I come to much the same conclusions from a secular point of view. And so we agree that the foundation of good leadership is good character. Having observed leaders for 40 years, I believe one can even define leadership as the “shadow of a great character on lives and events.”

We get in trouble when we think of leadership from a John Wayne point of view, where leaders are judged by their ability to take charge and get things done. You can just see the Duke strutting his stuff on the bridge of a ship, screaming “right full rudder” and “all back full” in order to save the day. But that trivializes the whole concept! All sorts of people “get things done,” including managers, directors, and, as Monk points out, more than a few ideologues, tyrants, gangsters, and the like. It’s so important, therefore, to dig deeper in fleshing out a good definition of the word leader, and I’m with Monk: it doesn’t start by being effective: it starts by having a worthy character.

In my universe, the leadership character is formed by traits such as integrity, humanity, steadfastness, boldness, poise, and humility. Such traits inspire a leader’s vision; reassure subordinates and create infectious bonds of confidence, trust, and mutual respect; ignite teams to pursue extraordinary achievements; and encourage leaders to listen to voices other than their own.

Today we have too many “leaders” who see their role as accomplishments without an underlying moral groundwork, or who pioneer without a worthy and unselfish sense of direction. We need to reverse this trend.

—Captain Chris Johnson, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Go Under the Antiaccess Wall

(See J. French, pp. 80–82, March 2017 Proceedings)

I am in complete agreement with Ensign French on the need for nuclear-powered cruise missile submarines (SSGNs) to provide a significant part of the huge volume of persistent missile fires necessary to break the nodes of highly capable antiaccess warfare networks. Going “under” the antiaccess bubble is definitely a capability that we need to deter major regional conflict, particularly as we have advantages in experience and technology in the undersea domain. In my original article, I suggest the alternative of converting more Ohio-class SSBNs into SSGNs. The issue is cost; a lower-cost surface launch platform with a comparable number of launch tubes (or more) could be procured in greater numbers than conversions of SSBNs. To destroy high-technology antiaccess systems, the Navy needs numbers.

If resources were not a constraint, developing a newer, smaller SSGN—specialized for the purpose—would be a plausible option. But resources are a constraint. Because the dominant costs are the reactor and propulsion plant, I do not believe smaller SSGNs could be produced much more cheaply than larger multi-mission-capable nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs), even if the Navy were to contemplate an additional new-start submarine program with all the program and budget risk that entails. If the Navy wants to cover the necessary targets in a possible Western Pacific warfighting scenario, the launch tubes of the current SSGN and SSN undersea force, as well as of the guided-missile destroyer (DDG) and cruiser (CG) surface force, are too few. The Navy needs a lower-cost “gap filler” if its conventional deterrence is to be credible.

I also would like to correct some of the points concerning previous proposals for arsenal ships. The arsenal ship is not a “canceled program”—it never was a program. It was a concept whose flag-rank champions retired or died before it ever got to the “program” stage. The concept was premised on devising a solution for getting more ordnance into striking range of a serious enemy without the high cost of building a prodigious number of Arleigh Burke–class DDGs, the only surface force alternative. Much resistance to the concept hinged primarily on the perception that it would end up being a budgetary alternative to aircraft carriers or multi-mission DDGs—a greatly exaggerated fear.

Survivability was not the issue that “sunk” the original concept—a low-cost arsenal ship would not be survivable in a high-intensity combat environment. Its purpose would be to launch its ordnance to be controlled by other surface, air, land, or even space platforms, before it took a catastrophic hit. Conceptually, it would be the equivalent of a Combat Logistics Force (CLF) ammunition replenishment ship that would not have to transfer its missiles one by one at anchorage to a vertical launch system (VLS) shooter. That is one reason for which, in its report to Congress on the Navy’s Future Fleet Architecture, the MITRE Corporation resurrects the concept under the term “magazine ship.” MITRE analysts grapple with the problem that the combatant force does not have enough offensive weapons for the “struggle for the first salvo,” in former Soviet parlance. To replenish the combatant force VLS launchers, the CGs/DDGs need to pull back to protected anchorages and laboriously reload from current CLF ships—which themselves will be targets of the enemy. The arsenal/magazine ship brings the additional magazine right onto the firing line. Is it a high-risk target? Of course, but so are all our other ships. The question is whether we can get the costs so low that the Navy can build enough to raise the potential enemy’s uncertainty and enhance deterrence, or, if required, have enough weapons present to take down the wall.

Ensign French gives an estimate of $3.1 billion for the first in a class of smaller SSGNs. The first John Lewis–class (TAO-205) CLF oiler was funded at $670 million, in FY16 dollars. I do not know if TAO-205 is the right hull for the arsenal/magazine ship, but that is the cost level that would make the concept successful.

Another alternative would be to put VLS launchers into the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) class as originally designed, or to convert the USS Whidbey Island (LSD-41) class or the USS Harpers Ferry (LSD-49) class at the end of their careers as amphibious warfare ships. Both actions would be in the true spirit of distributed lethality.

Stealthy SSGNs—whether big or small—or even more Virginia-class SSNs with additional missile payloads would be the optimal solution if costs were no consideration. Under real conditions, however, the issue is how to balance survivability against positioning the necessary number of weapons in range of the combat theater at the lowest cost. The logical solution is an arsenal ship—whether it submerges, steams, sails, or flies.

—Captain Sam Tangredi, U.S. Navy (Retired)


Keep Politics off Social Media

(See S. R. Moffitt, 10 May 2017 Proceedings Today)

I enjoy articles from Proceedings, both online and in print. The opinion pieces always stand out and are refreshing for the very fact that personal opinion is naturally suppressed among military members currently serving. Oftentimes that suppression in specific forums and venues is necessary for the mission or general good order and discipline. But a recent piece I read took a stand that parrots an increasingly common misconception: that military members’ ability to speak publicly on political or social issues is forbidden.

Lieutenant Moffitt’s contribution is well written, easy to follow, and filled with macro-level, lofty, aspirational declarations as to the proper conduct of military members. But it fails to address or understand the actual regulation and policy concerning the topic. It also conflates the author’s personal opinion on what the oath of office requires as being equivalent to what regulation expressly permits and demands. That’s like flying a plane without understanding the emergency procedures; it is contrary to regulation and misguided.

In today’s digital and regulatory age, critical reading by our junior officers is vital if they are expected to lead and solve complex issues. An important part of critical reading is “reading”— reading regulations, policies, and directives and effectively analyzing and communicating their requirements to others, presumably to those being led.

DoDD 1344.10 (19 February 2008) explicitly delineates what an active-duty military member absolutely can do.

A Member of the Armed Forces on

active duty may:

• Register, vote, and express a personal opinion on political candidates and issues, but not as a representative of the Armed Forces.

• Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper expressing the member’s personal views on public issues or political candidates, if such action is not part of an organized letter-writing campaign or solicitation of votes for or against a political party or partisan political cause or candidate.

Then–Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen discussed military members expressing opinions and their political participation: “I am not suggesting that military professionals abandon all personal opinions about modern social or political issues,” Mullen wrote. “What I am suggesting—indeed, what the nation expects—is that military personnel will, in the execution of the mission assigned to them, put aside their partisan leanings. Political opinions have no place in cockpit or camp or conference room.”

What is expected of military members is not that they erase their lives of all opinions about political issues or perpetually hide them from public sight. Rather, it is expected that military members do not endorse partisan political figures and issues as representatives of the military, and that political opinions and discussions do not invade the workplace and mission.

How, one might wonder, did DoDD 1344.10 and comments similar to Admiral Mullen’s become contorted to support the belief that expressing political opinion while being a member of the military is and should be banned? For many military members it is an understandable preference to refrain from publicly expressing a personal opinion (on any topic). But that preference should be held based upon knowledge that there is actually a choice and that choice is not automatically made for you once you join the military.

For those who claim there is no choice, however, their belief rests on laziness, just pushing the easy button. It is easier to tell everyone to shut up—on or off duty, in or out of uniform—whether an explicit representative of the military or not. For them, it is simply too hard to read a regulation, figure out the line, and exercise the rights granted to military members.

I have a particular interest in this topic because I have heard so many military veterans and active-duty member confuse the sensibilities and inferences made by the author with actual regulations. Public service takes many forms, but it does not relinquish all of one’s individual freedoms of speech and opinion.

Military leaders must read and understand the regulations that apply to them and their subordinates. More important, leaders must educate those in their charge and uphold the regulations, without regard for their personal views about political opinion posts on social media.

Leaders must not demean those who are capable of expressing their personal and political opinions in accordance with applicable regulations. Military leaders must not call into question others’ devotion to their oath of office simply because of their own inability to first read, then comprehend regulations to understand what is authorized.

Leadership by lofty decree and confidence occurs all too often. Leadership through knowledge and education, however, will withstand the test of time, tide, and formation. But that’s just my “opinion.”

—Christopher S. Burks, Naval Academy Class of 2007, U.S. Marine (2007-2015), U.S. Marine Reserve (2015-2017), deployed twice to Afghanistan


The Inefficiencies of Carrier-Centric Warfare

(See T. Meyer, p. 21, May 2017 Proceedings)

The author ignored two important issues.

• Sovereignty. Use of overseas bases can be shut down at the whim of the host country. In 2005, Uzbekistan shut down access to its airbase used for combat and humanitarian flights against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan did the same in 2009. In 2014, our NATO ally Turkey would not allow its airbase at Incirlik to be used by U.S. aircraft for 54 days for strikes in Syria. The only aircraft capable of dropping heavy ordnance on ISIS came from the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77).

• Over-flight rights. In 1986, our allies France, Italy, and Spain denied over-flight rights and possible emergency use of airfields for a raid against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya for retaliation against the Libyan 1986 terrorist bombing in Berlin. The circuitous flight over international waters through the Straits of Gibraltar added to the raid 2,600 nautical miles and multiple aerial refuelings.

So what is the value of the aircraft carrier’s ability to avoid sovereignty and over-flight issues? Priceless.

—Captain Talbot Manvel, U.S. Navy (Retired)


The Oath Is a Sacred Covenant

(See F. R. White, pp. 30–24, February 2017; J. Hyland, p. 161, May 2017 Proceedings)

Lieutenant (junior grade) Joshua Hyland is spot on in his observation about “a conflict of loyalties” when he insists that our oath should be to the founding document of our country. The oath that he quotes, however, is not the correct one. This is not meant to be a criticism of Lieutenant Hyland, as he has renewed my faith in the honor and moral integrity of junior officers; it is, instead, a criticism of the many versions of the oath that are floating around the Fleet.

The correct versions of the officer and enlisted oaths can be found on p. 214 of The Naval Institute Almanac of the U.S. Navy (2005).

—Captain Anthony Cowden, U.S. Navy, author of The Naval Institute Almanac of the U.S. Navy


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