Comment & Discussion

— Lieutenant Colonel Jay A. Stout, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired)

The Navy Needs a Modern PT Boat

(See A. Janigian, pp. 42–45, September 2017 Proceedings)

Lieutenant Janigan presents several well-reasoned and convincing arguments for adding a modern PT (patrol-missile, or PM) class to the fleet. I do take exception to the idea that the “highly capable” search radars of cruisers and destroyers provide over-the-horizon targeting capability for antiship missiles; the surface search radars are horizon-limited and cannot even take advantage of the maximum range of own-ship Harpoon missiles. While the mast-mounted radars on cruisers and destroyers will “see” farther than a similar radar mounted on a PM, they will not provide an over-the-horizon to any units operating with them. The only solution will come from off-board sensors such as the helicopters embarked on destroyers and cruisers, or assets controlled at the battle-group or higher echelons. Allowing the PMs to make use of the range of their missiles is a significant force multiplier.

—Stanley G. Kalemaris

Building the Navy Is Critical to National Security

(See R. Wittman, pp. 74–75, August 2017 Proceedings)

Congressman Rob Wittman’s

(R-VA) article calling for a 355-ship Navy has to be read with a high degree of skepticism. He represents a congressional district heavily dependent on defense spending and naturally will tend to be very parochial regarding the Navy and Department of Defense budgets. Unfortunately, Mr. Wittman, like most of his congressional colleagues, conveniently ignores the 600-pound gorilla in the room, the national debt that currently is approaching $20 trillion. This debt means every man, woman, and child in the United States has an unpaid tax bill of more than $60,000. The country does not have infinite resources, and has serious economic and social issues that will only exacerbate the difficulties we are facing.

The nation simply cannot afford a 355-ship fleet, and the Navy would be well advised to develop a sound naval strategy as advocated by Mr. Wittman that focuses on being leaner and meaner while strengthening our relationship with our maritime allies.

The greatest Navy in history is now a mere shadow of its former self, and should look to the Royal Navy to see where the U.S. Navy will inevitably find itself, for great nations usually go into decline not from external threats but through economic and social decay within.

Unless we first resolve the issues confronting these United States internally, the U.S. Navy will be forced to accept the reality of a declining fleet.

—George Walker, life member

Clinical Decision Support Can Save Lives

(See J. Forsberg, pp. 76–78, August 2017 Proceedings)

Doctor Forsberg elevates to a new level of sophistication the focus of the Military Health System’s raison d’être of providing peacetime readiness and support to the armed forces during military operations. His emphasis on modern clinical decision support tools as an operational capability to more rapidly and effectively diagnose problems and help design solutions has parallels with the situation of any warfighting community, especially information warfare where the doctor most closely connects. I’m glad he compares the medical and intelligence communities in particular, with their shared tasks of collection in an overloaded data environment and their analysis of ambiguous indicators in the face of enemies—whether they be diseases or opposing forces. The ultimate goal of collection and analysis for military medicine or intelligence is a recommendation for “precision medicine solutions,” as Dr. Forsberg describes it, or “precision fires,” as fleet operators describe it. It’s this type of critical self-assessment and integration of enabling capabilities that will ensure force multipliers such as military medicine are incorporated into our winning efforts, whether through readiness in peace and crisis, or in combat at and from the sea with other combined forces.

—Rear Admiral Paul Becker, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Coast Guard Issue

(See features, August 2017 Proceedings)

This bonus coverage was outstanding. Critical topics such as seamanship, deployable specialized forces, leadership, global fishing wars, and South China Sea patrols were both timely and thought-provoking. Suggesting that the Coast Guard expand its current responsibilities to take on even more roles, however, flies in the face of reality. Specifically, the fleet of cutters and most icebreakers are aging; these ships often spend weeks or months in dry dock for repairs.

When the Coast Guard was housed in the Treasury and Transportation Departments, this branch of the armed forces endured annual battles for adequate budgets. The same can be said for its status within Homeland Security. Fiscal Year 2017 has been a lean budget year, and the Coast Guard will likely face further cuts in FY 18.

The Coast Guard prides itself on its motto, Semper Paratus (always ready), but how can it fulfill its multiple missions when it must do more with less year in and year out? Coast Guard personnel can only accomplish so much with the limited resources that are appropriated per annum.

To be equipped to fulfill all its missions, the Coast Guard must receive the finances and support that it deserves. Reasonable funding would allow this proud service to upgrade its aircraft and ships to more effectively execute its core functions.

Enlarging its current duties without additional funding could jeopardize the missions with which the Coast Guard has already been tasked.

—Christian Milord

“There But for the Grace of God Go I”

(See K. Eyer, pp. 12–13, August 2017 Proceedings)

This outstanding article on the Fitzgerald should be reviewed carefully by all who stand officer-of-the-deck watches. Recalling my times on destroyers, I have what I believe may be one correction. He writes: “Also, the rules apply whenever ships are within ‘sight’ of one another.” My recollection of when the rules apply is not when two vessels are within sight of one another, but only when they are close enough that a departure from the rules will create a risk of collision. Of course, it is of paramount importance to take timely action by course change if needed to avoid getting into a situation where the rules apply.

When in a task group or other formation, you depend on the group or other commander to avoid a close encounter, but it is the responsibility of each ship’s commanding officer to take timely action to protect the crew and ship from a collision, even if it requires a course change while in formation.

—Captain H. F. Lenfest, U.S. Navy Reserve (Retired)

As an officer on the USS Everglades (AD-24), I stood watches as officer-of-the-deck (OOD) under way, combat information center (CIC) officer, OOD in port, and command duty officer (CDO). Our captain was Captain Steinbeck. If every ship had one of him, we would not be seeing these collisions today.

One mid watch while transiting the Atlantic, we experienced a meeting situation where the other ship was offset to our starboard. As CIC officer I recommended we turn to port to widen the distance. We turned to starboard, and the approaching ship did the same. We passed port to port at a safe distance.

At 0400, after turning over my watch to my relief, I was going through the chart room and found Captain Steinbeck waiting for me. He wanted me to describe my decision process in making my recommendation. When I finished, he said, “You just described the Andrea Doria and Stockholm collision.” He instructed me on the matter, and we both set off to get a couple of hours’ sleep before starting the next day.

He didn’t chew me out. He instructed me on the matter. He waited up to after 0400 to do so. He could have done it later in the morning, but it was important, and he did it when it would have the most impact. He didn’t storm into CIC and dress me down in front of the CIC crew; he waited until the end of the watch and used the situation to build my skills as a CIC officer and underway OOD. He was what a skipper was intended to be.

I have been concerned when the Naval Academy stopped teaching the sextant and then brought it back as several hours of lectures. Yes, we do have GPS. No need for updated paper charts and a sextant . . . right?

It isn’t only a matter of possible sabotage of our satellite system. An eruption on the sun directed just right could do the same. All those ships that can’t stay apart now will also not be able to find their way around the world. Captain Steinbeck must be rolling in his grave. If I were a skipper I would require a complete set of up-to-date charts, a well-used sextant, and well-maintained chronometers. At least one day a week, the navigator and first lieutenant would do a day’s navigation with the sextant and charts. But I’m of the old school. What school is it now? No school?

—Lieutenant Commander Leroy E. Jones, U.S. Navy (Retired)


(See K. Eyer, p. 12, September 2017 Proceedings)

Like all Navy veterans I was saddened to hear of the recent grounding and collisions resulting in loss of life involving Seventh Fleet ships. Having stood watch as an officer of the deck (OOD) under way on several ships and in a follow-on career as a merchant mariner, I am aware of the complexities of navigating in heavily congested waters at night. Hopefully the investigations into these accidents will lead to needed changes to improve upon the shiphandling capability of the Navy’s officers.

Reading Captain Eyer’s take on the CO-XO relationship, I couldn’t help but notice one area for attention. He explains that XOs often report to a ship with a woeful lack of recent bridge experience. What kind of system selects an officer in line for command at sea with little recent experience handling a ship? Surely this makes no sense.

The career progression for surface officers must change to allow them the opportunities to gain required experience on the bridge. The Navy is a seagoing service. That is where the majority of an officer’s time should be spent.

Having sailed as a civilian mariner, a mate or engineer without the experience to stand watch or work on deck is not tolerated. They would be replaced at the next port.

I hope the Navy leadership will once again consider splitting the surface community to engineering, deck, and combat systems so officers can gain the necessary experience in one field.

—Chief Quartermaster D. J. Michalowski, U.S. Navy (Retired), Master/Offshore Installation Manager, U.S. Merchant Marine

Sexual Assault: Not in Our Navy

(See B. Kennedy, p. 10, August 2017 Proceedings)

The incidence of sexual assault is very much in the public eye. On college debate teams, we learned to define our terms. So what exactly constitutes this offense? Is a suggestive wink from a female sailor sexual assault? The question is relevant because those who are falsely or inappropriately accused are also victims.

Ensign Kennedy states that 1,483 accused were brought before court-martial boards last year. Those were serious charges, and we must assume that competent boards were convened. They found 1,408 to be innocent and 75 to be guilty. According to Ms. Kennedy’s research, the former group were not merely acquitted, but found innocent. Shame on the latter 75! And, yes, they are too many for anybody’s navy.

The 1,408 falsely accused people, however, suffer as well. I have seen such accusations utterly ruin people’s careers—within and outside of the armed forces. When someone is falsely accused of sexual assault, our society, however unjustified this may be, tends to make an assumption of guilt. It is exceedingly difficult to maintain and to advance a career in anything from teaching to the clergy to the military after even a finding of innocence. It is to be hoped that those 1,408 are being properly mentored and encouraged to continue to honorably serve our nation’s Navy.

It is also notable in passing that the article’s illustration showing 4.5 destroyers, while more dramatic than half an aircraft carrier, is misleading. That graphic represents the total accused. What vessel would properly draw the reader’s attention to the 75 guilty ones?

—Lieutenant Colonel Kenneth E. Derringer, U.S. Army

Fight Fire with Fire

(See S. Tangredi, pp. 42–47, August Proceedings)

Captain Tangredi’s exhortation is laudable, but the characteristics and vulnerabilities of land- and sea-based systems put the latter at a disadvantage. Ships are mobile and might be difficult to find and hit, but when a maneuvering, terminally guided warhead scores, the result is a mission kill or worse. Ships sink, and even a destroyer takes more than two years to build. In contrast, a devastated land facility can be reconstituted in days on the same site or even relocated and replicated, dispersed, or reconfigured for greater survivability. Subterranean facilities would be difficult to restore but would also be more difficult for conventional warheads to reach and destroy. A dozen DF-21/26 transporter-erector launchers operating a mere kilometer apart would require the same number of conventional warhead intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) to neutralize, but the entire missile complement of a ship is lost if the ship is sunk, or neutralized if damage causes the ship to list or lose power.

Considering the recent Tomahawk cruise missile attack that expended 59 1,000-lb. warheads to temporarily disable a single Syrian airfield, it seems doubtful that multiple precision-strike 250-lb. conventional warheads launched from a single missile against dispersed targets would tip the scales in favor of the sea-based IRBM.

That said, it is worthwhile to explore possibilities to outrange and preemptively strike anti-access, area denial (A2/AD) systems from widely distributed surface assets before a cruise missile or carrier-borne air strike.

Instead of an updated Pershing II, why not an updated Polaris? Back in 1962, when the aging Italian light cruiser Giuseppe Garibaldi was converted to a Terrier-equipped guided-missile light cruiser (CLG), she was also fitted with four launch tubes for the Polaris IRBM and successfully test-launched dummy missiles, although none were deployed because the NATO surface ship program was terminated. With ranges of 1,200 to 2,500 nautical miles and capable of deploying multiple warheads, the cold-launched missiles in their compact 16- or 24-tube modules could go to sea onboard modified Zumwalt (DDG-1000)-class ships, trading their 155-mm guns for the modules. The peripheral vertical-launch cells and the capabilities they confer will remain intact.

Although exacting an unacceptable toll on their antiair warfare capabilities to be an attractive option, even the Arleigh Burke (DDG-51)–class destroyers are viable candidates. Their hull depth is insufficient to entirely accommodate launch tubes for the 32-foot-long missiles inside the hull, but an additional deck over the main deck would fully enclose an 8- or 12-tube module installed in lieu of one of the two Mk41 vertical-launch systems. Should analysis support non-nuclear warhead IRBM surface ship basing, 1 of every 6 or 8 Arleigh Burkes (for a total of 8 to 10 elderly Flight I ships) could be so converted at relatively little cost to provide each deployed carrier strike group or surface action group with the capability.

—George R. Gabaretta

Ethics Matter for Master Chiefs

(See R. Smith, Proceedings Today, May 2017)

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ethics as “Moral principles that govern a person’s behavior or the conducting of an activity.” These principles are not separated by age, gender, or rank. Therefore, waiting until a sailor is “donning the hat” is far too late in a career to address ethical conduct.

There has been little systematic training on ethical conduct for enlisted personnel. It is highly likely by the time an officer has been commissioned, ethics and expectations of conduct have been addressed many times and will continue to be. Furthermore, specialized training is provided upon selection to positions such as officer-in-charge, commanding officer, and promotion to flag rank. At the senior-most levels, annual refresher training is provided that command master chiefs attend with their respective commanding officers or flag officers.

Behavioral flexibility does not mean allowing lapses in ethical behavior and conduct. Leadership that allowed an ethical lapse in a sailor’s career to go unchecked would probably not be surprised to see more serious transgressions later in that sailor’s career, by which time it is far too late for reminders about proper ethical conduct. Such cases will likely be publicized and possibly involve general courts-martial, bringing discredit to the Navy. I am not advocating a zero-defect service, quite the contrary. All of us have experienced the results of that approach and have served with leaders produced in such an environment, which often creates indecisiveness that all but encourages coverups that can lead to tragic consequences. The zero-defect mentality tends to shape leaders fearful of taking risks when necessary.

It is an ineffective approach to discuss ethics upon reaching the pinnacle of a sailor’s career. Refresher courses, interactive training scenarios, position-specific and responsibility-focused specialized courses all constitute a better approach. Moreover, ethics and ethical conduct should align with the Sailor’s Creed for both officers and enlisted. Upon entry to the Navy all sailors should receive training on ethics, ethical behavior, the creed, and the oath of enlistment as well as being educated about the nation’s Constitution. All of this should be taught, stressed, reviewed, and evaluated throughout sailors’ careers. Expectations should be raised, especially for those entrusted with positions of great responsibility and leadership. Training provides all sailors with a foundation for taking appropriate actions in combat and general quarters. Therefore, it should also provide the foundation of ethical conduct and behavior. There is no room for error on this, and expectations are unrealistic if they are not accompanied by an equal commitment from the start.

Ethics is not a leadership-only responsibility, nor is it rank-specific within our Navy. Ethics is an individual responsibility. The Navy should acknowledge that every generation is unique, and that for generations, sailors have entered the service with their own perceptions of appropriate conduct. For that very reason, training is provided on mutual respect, proper sexual conduct, what constitutes sexual harassment, and a code of conduct. Every Navy specialty training pipeline aligns job-performance expectations in a gender-neutral manner. Ethics training should be instituted for everyone in a uniform and accountable way. Some of the Navy’s finest leaders made mistakes early in their careers. Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz ran a ship aground as an ensign. However, most historians concur that our success in World War II might have been quite different without his later leadership.

During my career, I have served with many master chiefs who had climbed up the ladder of growth. They were some of the strongest, wisest, and most decisive leaders I have known. A mistake such as a DUI, missing muster, or fighting with a shipmate is a far cry from cheating on a nuclear-power examination, falsifying watch logs, or misbehaving sexually. The latter are examples of ethical lapses, which represent character flaws versus mistakes. This is why there should be no distinction in rank when it comes to training in ethics. Finally, young sailors can identify hypocritical behavior, and the guidelines that apply to them should be the same for their leaders. When, after an ethical lapse in judgment, special consideration is given to a senior leader, whether enlisted or officer, the perception of subordinates and the public is simply that there is a double standard. All leaders, from petty officer to Chief of Naval Personnel, must embody the Navy’s core values. Honest evaluation has always been the key to ensuring that sailors who are promoted to positions of greater responsibility are ethical, and professional and personal performance should always be the linchpin to a long-lasting career.

It is up to the chief’s mess to set the example and cultivate honor, courage, and commitment as well as ethical expectations. This must be our foundation.

—Force Master Chief Jon Port, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Revolutionary New Ship for the Navy?

(See W. Stearman, p. 87, August 2017; and p. 86, September 2017 Proceedings)

Dr. Stearman’s comment, relaying a proposal by noted naval architect Kenneth S. Brower for an expeditionary ship (ES) based on a supertanker, demonstrates the kind of thinking we need to get the U.S. Navy moving forward again. We simply cannot wait 20-plus years for each new ship design to come to fruition. Like the proposal for an arsenal ship based on a converted supertanker, this idea merits further development. For example, perhaps a better idea might be to base the ES on a roll-on/roll-off ship, already configured for carrying vehicles and delivering them.

In any case, I’m sure many Proceedings readers, myself included, would love to see an article, including renderings, to flesh out this proposal.

—Mitchell R. Miller

British Aircraft Carriers Return

(See N. Friedman, pp. 90–91, August 2017 Proceedings)

The author mentions the raid on Libya in 1986, “when U.S. Air Force British-based FB-111 bombers struck targets . . .” They were not FB-111A models, they were F-111F model Aardvarks. The FB-111A was a Strategic Air Command–owned asset based at Pease Air Force Base until the 1990s. The F models were stationed in England and conducted the strike because they carried the Pave Tack targeting pod underneath their bellies to allow precision bombing at night.

—Technical Sergeant Christopher Dierkes, U.S. Air Force



Conferences and Events

WEST 2019

Wed, 2019-02-13 - Fri, 2019-02-15

Sharpening the Competitive Edge: Are We Ready to Compete, Deter, and Win Globally? Wednesday, 13 February - Friday, 15 February...

2019 U.S. Naval Institute Member Event

View All

From the Press

23 January - Book Talk

Wed, 2019-01-23

9 February - Presentation

Sat, 2019-02-09

Why Become a Member of the U.S. Naval Institute?

As an independent forum for over 140 years, the Naval Institute has been nurturing creative thinkers who responsibly raise their voices on matters relating to national defense.

Become a Member Renew Membership