Are There Just A Few Good Men?
See K. Hunter, p. 10, April 2017 Proceedings)
Ms. Hunter excoriates the Commandant for taking “nearly three days” to issue a formal condemnation of the “Marines United” scandal. Apparently only immediate action, without time to investigate and make an appropriate response, is permissible. She would have her idea of social justice take precedence over addressing issues such as the Corps’ personnel shortfall of 3,000 Marines or the 60 percent of F/A-18s that are unusable for combat. Is the primary objective readiness or social justice?
Ms. Hunter writes that she “will fight with my dying breath for my Marine sisters.” The fate of her Marine brothers goes unmentioned. Surely many photographs on Marines United were taken by mutual consent, so both parties are accountable for their existence. If female Marines are hesitant to disclose “intimate and embarrassing details,” perhaps they should consider their conduct ahead of time.
Since both Marine/Navy leadership and the author seem oblivious as to why this incident of blatant disrespect toward female Marines occurred, I’ll lay it out. You disrespect people for whom you have no respect.
You can’t mandate respect. Respect is earned, and the female Marines are not earning it. Female Marines are accorded preferential treatment throughout their entire careers. Is a male Marine going to respect the female who only has to hang from a bar for a few seconds while he has to pump out pull-ups? Is a male Marine going to respect females who get preferential postings and assignments? Is a male Marine going to respect a female who can leave a forward-deployed duty station because of pregnancy and pull light duty for months? (Pregnancy is a choice.) Until female Marines demand unconditional adherence and accountability to male standards for themselves, they won’t earn respect from males.
Worse, this article was an egregious example of the worst kind of political correctness and female victimhood. Is what the male Marines did right or excusable? No. But where is the leadership’s outrage over the incredible lack of judgment exhibited by the “thousands” of female Marines who took or allowed nude photos of themselves? Where is the female response condemning their fellow females who exhibited such poor judgment? There isn’t any.
The response to this scandal has been all one-sided. This political correctness has been compounded by a lack of courage by Marine leadership to equally criticize the female Marines’ behavior.
In the case of Marines United, one brave individual stood up against thousands of his peers. That individual realized he had a duty to say, “This is wrong.” The deplorable conduct of Marines United likely will continue elsewhere, to be reported in some way in the future. But where we have created a culture in which people speak up in defiance of disrespect, we are triumphant. Self-policing is a hallmark of a healthy profession. As professionals of warfare, we must encourage and reward self-policing behavior. We cannot lose this success in the noise as we prosecute Marines United.
Military leaders at all levels must serve as examples of good values and judgment. Values-based leadership requires living by a strong moral compass that reflects service values. Our leadership centers of excellence, including the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center, the Coast Guard Leadership and Development Center, and the Marine Corps Lejeune Leadership Institute are working diligently to tackle the problem.
Terrorists Attack: Port of New York
(See J. Skinner, pp. 22–25, April 2017 Proceedings)
The biggest threat to New York or other seaports not specifically mentioned is that an adversary would ship, via normal channels, a standard container with a nuke in it. Captain Skinner specifically mentions that only 3.7 percent of all shipping containers are checked. Setting off such a “weapon” would take out not only the port but also its associated city.
Let’s recall that our adversaries were clever enough to turn airliners into kamikazes. Other clever enemies may be able to build a weaponized container and learn all the ways it could be quietly dropped, tracked, and controlled in the worldwide logistics system. The containership becomes a delivery system!
Let’s not let an attacker strike the homeland due to our “failure of imagination.”
76th SecNav Will Lead Resurgence of Naval Forces
(See P. Bilden, pp. 74–75, April 2017 Proceedings)
Mr. Bilden is on target to call for an increase in the size of our fleet and provide better support to our ships. From an operational standpoint, the Navy continues to be stressed with continuous deployments to the Persian Gulf.
I remember my first deployment to the Gulf, in November 1979 in command of a frigate. We departed Norfolk just after the Iranian Revolutionary Guard seized control of the U.S. embassy. In addition to our flagship, a converted amphibious ship, we and another frigate patrolled for days, then weeks, then months on end in the northern Gulf. Aircraft carriers followed after the Iraq-Kuwait war played out in 1990–91. (A carrier’s presence has not stopped since.) In 1994 I made my second deployment to the Persian Gulf as the battle group commander on the maiden deployment of the carrier USS George Washington (CVN-73).
Some things never change. The heat and the dust go on forever. Ship systems were not, and probably still are not, designed to handle the high heat or seawater temperatures. And to get carriers and destroyers on station in the Gulf takes forever. It’s a long haul from Norfolk or San Diego to the Gulf.
The nation needs many more ships than it has, because the current deployments are simply too long. With the Persian Gulf acting like a ship magnet, we simply do not have the numbers to support the correct rotation in the Gulf and in other areas of the world. And we should!
Regarding Mr. Bilden’s comments on budget disinvestment, such resource reductions have occurred longer than the past decade. It started in the early 1990s with the first Clinton administration. The collapse of the Soviet Union was considered by our political leadership as the end of a major threat. As a result, the second Clinton administration imposed major reductions in defense. Just when the Bush administration prepared to invest in defense again, the nation was attacked on 11 September 2001. First we responded in Afghanistan. Then came the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. These actions refocused the defense budget. The resource expenditures were extensive, but they were not for new ships or support for existing ships. Then the Obama administration arrived and introduced us to “budget sequestration,” automatic cuts to federal government spending that included extensive reductions to defense spending. To meet the budget numbers, the Navy gave up ships. Instead of a “decade of disinvestment,” I suggest it’s been two-plus decades.
President Donald Trump recently submitted a call for a $54 billion increase to the defense budget. Let’s divide by three (Navy, Army, Air Force) and say each service will get about $18 billion. A good part of that increase for the Navy Department must be divided between sailors and Marines. Let’s assume the Navy side is $14 billion. Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, recently said $150 billion was required over current budget plans to “jump-start” shipbuilding to meet the 355-ship total recommended in the Fleet Structure Assessment. To achieve 355 ships means closing an 80-ship gap (275 to 355). An increase of $14 billion to the Navy budget simply will not close that gap. If we are going to build up our combat power—aircraft carriers, destroyers, and submarines—we need to embrace the right number. Admiral Moran’s $150 billion for the Navy makes more sense than $14 billion.
I will be the first to admit that you cannot close the gap in one or two administrations. You can establish the correct change rate so we can reach 355 ships inside a decade. Such a plan must first include at least one additional Gerald R. Ford–class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. We can horse around with all the right words to state the correct number of carriers the nation needs, but my math says it’s an even dozen. The number of additional Arleigh Burke–class destroyers and Virginia-class nuclear attack submarines should total about 35. The remaining 44 ships to close the gap can be new frigates, amphibious warfare ships, or support-type ships.
To get the most bang from these new dollars, the new ships should come from current building plans. We want the shipbuilders to use existing production lines to generate cost reductions that should and must occur from the added volume of work.
Finally, while the 76th SecNav must lead the Navy to close the existing combat capability gap, the service’s three-star leaders for naval air, naval surface, and submarine forces must spearhead keeping the goals to increase the numbers, maintain a tight building discipline, and ensure that both the Navy and its contractors stay on the new course.
Embracing the Dark Battle: Electronic Warfare, Distributed Lethality, and the Future of Naval Warfighting
(See D. Stefanus, pp. 26–31, April 2017 Proceedings)
The author articulates that a critical aspect of distributed lethality is the execution of “more warfighting decisions down to the unit level with well-understood commander’s intent.” With the widespread incorporation of high-speed communications satellites and advanced computing capabilities into military operations, well-intentioned senior leaders have usurped the autonomous authority and spirit of the on-scene commander by meddling in the commander’s affairs while he or she is executing combat operations or assigned duties.
As Lieutenant Stefanus sagely elucidates, “The veil of ambiguity will be the key to victory in future conflicts.” I proffer that the Navy embraced this mindset quite fully during the Cold War. Emissions control (EMCON) skills atrophied after the fall of the Soviet Union in December 1991, as the Navy shifted its focus from sea control to precision power projection.
As a tactical-level solution, electronic warfare warfighting tactics instructors (EW WTIs) represent a step in the right direction, but the concept of this billet is still far from the solution for naval supremacy. Operating in the “lethal shadows” means everyone—not just the EW WTIs—needs to focus on attenuating electronic emissions to the barest levels as the normal way of doing business. We must use every tool and tactic to discommode our adversary’s ability to locate our forces and interrupt our command and control of our forces.
The astute use of WTIs still falls short of addressing the 800-pound gorilla in the room—i.e., shifting the Navy’s larger strategic mentality back to emphasizing sea control and doctrine first. Our power projection and sea basing will fail if we lose effective control of the high seas. A tactically solid EMCON posture is worthless without a common baseline knowledge of doctrine, which provides a common, well-vetted approach to handle enemy threats while integrating lessons learned from history.
Leaders and watchstanders should view doctrine as a starting point from which to deviate based on the tactical situation, rules of engagement, laws of armed conflict, and commander’s prerogative to pursue the enemy. Subordinate commanders should be empowered with sufficient latitude and appropriate means of accountability to act independently with sound discretion, thus reducing the temptation to unnecessarily or accidentally break EMCON.
Good Leaders Follow Golden Rule
(See W. Monk, pp. 78–80, April 2017 Proceedings)
The first amendment to the U.S. Constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Lieutenant Commander Monk’s emphasis on “Jesus” as the ideal leader certainly brings that amendment to mind.
Monk’s statement that the “U.S. Sea Services have a strong tradition of character based leadership founded on a world view rooted in Judeo-Christian values” is not only unproven, but flies in the face of President Abraham Lincoln’s second inaugural address, in which he noted that both Blue and Gray “read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. . . . The prayers of both could not be answered.”
The author describes effective leaders as “modeling their leadership philosophy and principles after Jesus Christ.” One wonders how many senior officers—such as Admiral Ernest King (“I don’t care how good they are. Unless they get a kick in the ass every six weeks, they’ll slack off”)—would qualify.
Monk emphasizes the “Golden Rule,” to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” But this ideal is incompatible with the strongly hierarchical military system of command; leaders following the Golden Rule would have difficulty ordering personnel to perform dangerous duties, which may well involve extreme peril, perhaps death. Military leaders, after all, are often tasked with breaking things and killing people.
The author poses but is unable to explain the interesting statement “It is important to differentiate moral leadership from effective leadership,” implying that military failure is acceptable if it is “moral.” The idea that “good leadership is the courage to stand up for what is right regardless of the consequences” avoids the crucial issue of effectively defending one’s personnel and succeeding in the mission. A military leader is judged by his or her success in combat, not by succeeding or failing “morally.”
Admiral Chester Nimitz may have said “good always trumps evil,” but more important, he understood the “principle of calculated risk” and did not hesitate to act ruthlessly when subordinates failed in battle. Moreover, who is the judge of “good” and “evil” on the battlefield? The author’s emphasis on being “a leader of character” does not include a definition of character. Who defines “the right moral character” and decides whether personnel have developed it? Do effective military leaders such as General George Patton or General William Tecumseh Sherman fulfill the author’s unexplained definition of “moral” leadership?
Educating officers to become effective strategists and leaders is a longstanding issue confronting all the services, which address the task throughout the professional military education system. It is a constant, if generally unspoken, element of training and educating officers in the field and on the deckplates.
Monk offers no practical, applicable “solution” to developing effective military leadership.
—Captain Bernard D. Cole, U.S. Navy (Retired), is the author of many Proceedings articles and Naval Institute Press books. In 2014 he was the Naval Institute Press Author of the Year.
Solve Tomorrow's Problems Today
(See J. Cordle, pp. 16–21, April 2017 Proceedings)
Break Out or Fail
(See J. A. Winnefeld, pp. 60–65, April 2017 Proceedings)
There is no shortage of innovative ideas coming from members in uniform, enlisted or officer. From simple deckplate-level work process improvements to bigger strategic innovations, the ideas are relatively abundant and can be found just by asking around.
As pointed out by Admiral Winnefeld in his article in the same issue, the fundamental challenge is not to get new ideas into the military; the bigger challenge is to get the old ideas out of the military. Entrenched program offices focus on a specific platform or product acquisition and the established and relatively rigid budget process—from the Future Years Defense Program or Future Years Homeland Security Program, followed by departmental and administration top-line allocations and budget development, followed by the annual congressional appropriations process. All this mutually reinforces the stability and enduring quality of the status quo. Once established, old ideas, program offices, or acquisition projects are next to impossible to eliminate.
Innovation will continue to only germinate within the military services until some sort of stable and supportive incubator with top cover can be sustained. It can get these new ideas to develop healthy roots, backed by reliable and predictable funding within the existing budget process. Good ideas and innovation will continue to wither on the vine, as Captain Cordle describes, unless these changes can be instituted.
The Oath Is a Sacred Covenant
(See F. R. White, pp. 30-34, February 2017 Proceedings)
In contrast to what Lieutenant White writes, the oath administered for naval officer promotions today uses the following language: “I, A.B., do solemnly reaffirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will continue to bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution and the Country whose course it directs, and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation. So help me God.”
The pledge to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic requires a jealous defense of our loyalty against undermining, substitution, or adulteration. Elevating anything else, even our country, to equal status with the Constitution reduces the clarity of this imperative. Unlike the Oath of Office, the promotion or “reaffirmation” oath swears allegiance to the Constitution and to the country, introducing a conflict of loyalties if our country goes adrift of its constitutional moorings. It is of paramount importance that we swear allegiance to our founding document, the supreme law of the land, and not to any executive, party, administration, or indeed, to the current direction of our country.
Paint Them All Yellow
The U.S. Coast Guard painted 14 aircraft in “throwback” colors to celebrate the Centennial of Coast Guard Aviation in 2016. The MH-60 helicopter paint scheme recalls the chrome yellow livery used by Coast Guard helicopters in the 1950s and 1960s. The MH-60s painted for the centennial will remain yellow until their next planned depot maintenance in approximately three years.
Instead of looking forward to repainting the centennial aircraft in their next depot cycles, what if we considered moving in a completely different direction? Why not go all in and paint the entire Coast Guard helicopter fleet yellow?
Adopting the chrome yellow paint scheme across the MH-60 and MH-65 fleets opens up many interesting possibilities. Standardization across the two fleets simplifies the paint procurement and the actual painting process. There is also potential in realizing additional efficiencies in the overall depot maintenance process as a result of a shorter paint periods because the aircraft are a single core color.
Bright yellow was the standard color for all U.S. military search-and-rescue aircraft through the early 1960s. It also is a workable paint scheme for all ocean weather environments, from the tropics to the polar regions.
As proven during the numerous public outreach events during the Centennial of Aviation, chrome yellow is a fetching livery. It is a great starting point for conversations with the public and government decision makers regarding our history, the Coast Guard’s missions, and the exceptional value the service provides to the nation.
Going to the chrome yellow paint scheme for the entire helicopter fleet calls attention to the Coast Guard’s missions, has the potential to make our internal maintenance processes more efficient, and shows the country that we are striving to provide them with the world’s best Coast Guard for an affordable cost. If anything, we should consider doing this for the kids; because, as the Coast Guard Aviation Centennial year proved to me, kids love a yellow bird.
Navy Delivers Message
On 6 April 2017, President Donald Trump faced the first foreign-policy crisis of his administration, ordering the Navy—the USS Ross (DDG-71) and USS Porter (DDG-78)—to launch 60 Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles against Syrian military targets. Only one did not reach its aimpoint. This strike was in retaliation for Syria’s use of chemical weapons—perhaps assisted by Russian forces—against civilian targets, killing at least 100 people, including women and some 25 children. The U.S. operation killed at least six people and severely damaged several Syrian aircraft and airfield infrastructure.
Syrian President Bashar Assad “choked out the lives of helpless men, women, and children,” the President remarked. “It is in the vital national security interest of the United States to prevent and deter the spread and use of deadly chemical weapons.” U.S. intelligence sources said they believed with “high confidence” that a deadly gas attack on Syrian civilians was carried out by government aircraft at the military air base, southeast of Homs.