Bombing the Test Ban
Dr. Friedman wrote that there were two purposes to nuclear testing. I am retired from the National Nuclear Security Administration and have participated in more than 40 underground nuclear tests (UGT) at the Nevada Test Site.
The UGT community generally recognizes four categories of tests. These include “stockpile confidence” and “weapons development,” as described by Dr. Friedman. Other purposes include “weapons effects” and “physics” testing. (I take liberty to include the obsolete Plowshare program to excavate the earth or fracture oil/gas formations in the category of effects testing.)
Effects testing was not about the device; it was about what the device did to stuff by means of shock, radiation, EMP, etc. Physics testing was for various scientific research purposes, such as to better understand the actual nuclear and material reactions taking place, to develop new diagnostic or monitoring systems, to validate computer programs, and to answer other questions, but not related to any existing or planned weapon system. In the effects and physics test categories, the nuclear device was usually a well-defined, tried-and-true design with a very consistent yield and well-known energy output spectrum of gamma, X-ray, neutrons, etc.
—CDR John M. McGrail, USNR (Ret.)
In Latin America, the Price of U.S. Neglect Is High
Lieutenant Kramer offers a robust argument for the necessity of renewed U.S. attention to the Latin American region. His analysis illuminates concerted efforts by adversaries to gain strategic advantage in an area typically considered our own backyard. However, his calls for a “New Monroe Doctrine” evoke a dated paternalistic tone.
Indeed, many partner nations might take offense at a policy of implied ownership of an entire hemisphere, evoking imagery of clumsy interventionism and the selective exclusion of outside influence in favor of North American economic exploitation. Rather than attempt to revamp an outdated exercise in hemispheric hegemony, we should instead seek to engage these nations as equals, opting to incorporate them as common partners rather than as a means to the end of improving our own security.
Perhaps a better approach would be a “New Good Neighbor Policy.” This would be a recrafting of an early 20th-century attempt to forge mutually beneficial bonds through a spirit of Pan-Americanism. This could play to our advantage as we share similar goals, interests, and in many cases a common heritage, something that other prospective competitors do not. Only by replacing outdating imperialistic concepts with an earnest desire to work with our neighbors can we hope to reinforce our vital relationships with the region.
—LT Benjamin Carrington, USN
Physical Fitness Programs Don’t Fit Today’s Fight
Colonel Sotos makes a somewhat tenuous argument that the physical fitness programs found in today’s armed forces “have significant faults that negatively affect readiness and human health,” citing “overly stringent requirements” as fault 1.
Navy physical fitness requirements set the minimum 1.5 mile run time for a male 17 to 19 years old at 12:15 minutes, and 14:45 for a female of the same age. I am 41 and a historically poor runner, yet the joke since I was commissioned has been you could walk most of the mile and a half to pass—and, as the author points out, the time to pass only goes up as you get older. “Stringent” these requirements are not, and they certainly do not set up service members for the “overconditioning” the article implies service members are falling victim to.
I do find common ground with Colonel Sotos on the need to reassess the way we measure body fat composition, and the implementation of some sort of assessment for the brain focused on sleep deprivation and/or health.
My experience in both operational and staff commands is that the majority who do not pass the physical readiness test fail out of sheer unpreparedness, laziness, or apathy, and this theory is supported by the very low bar we set to pass the test. However, some individuals get flagged on the body composition portion of the test despite clearly being within standards. This leaves many of us wondering what actually is being assessed.
A rash of recent and deadly collisions at sea combined with high operational tempo across the fleet in all communities have forced the Navy to reconsider how we execute watchstanding and how we view sleep. Testing for and enabling healthier mental states through this avenue would be something that all the services could benefit from.
Colonel Sotos also is spot on that despite the devastating effects of smoking, as a service we promote the habit in many different ways. This must stop.
Many rates and specialties in the military are moving away from traditional physically demanding requirements, but how could we intentionally and knowingly discourage physical fitness? It is not possible to make our testing any easier, and it is critical that leaders at all levels of the Navy promote and enable a force that is in good health mentally, spiritually, and physically. Forsaking physical fitness is not the way to accomplish that goal.
—CDR Mark Swinger, USN
Go Get Mahan’s Yardstick
As a geography educator, I am familiar with how the American educational system accords a low priority to geography instruction from kindergarten through college. There is no requirement to take a geography course in either junior high or senior high in more than half the states. Only about 10 percent of all four-year colleges and universities offer a bachelor’s degree in geography.
While Mr. Rhodes’ article should prompt increased awareness of distance as a strategic and tactical consideration among Proceedings readers, for lasting awareness of spatial thinking, U.S. military and naval personnel need enhanced opportunities to learn to think geographically as part of their formal education. The U.S. Military and Air Force academies offer a geography major; the Naval and Coast Guard academies do not. Geography courses, and possibly even a major or minor, should be available at all federal service academies. Officers earning commissions through other avenues should also be encouraged if not required to take geography as part of their precommissioning education.
Postgraduate institutions such as the Naval War College should add geographers to their faculties if there are none presently. If the civilian education system does not provide adequate geography education to future military personnel, then the U.S. armed forces need to provide this essential type of education to their future decision makers.
—Mark C. Jones
Corvette Carriers: A New Littoral Warfare Strategy
Blockade the First Island Chain
Expeditionary Advanced BOOM!
The small, fast, missile-armed craft Lieutenant Colonel Smith describes will be essential for future Marine Corps and Navy operations and are uniquely valued in the western Pacific. Such vessels would also be ideal platforms for enforcing the blockade suggested by Lieutenant Conners, or they could be employed as part of Captain Magyar’s Sea Control Battalions.
But I worry Lieutenant Colonel Smith has misunderstood the expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) concept and the nature of the threats such bases face. The small craft he proposes are important precisely because their small size and high speed make them hard to find—and harder to target by our adversaries.
The qualities that make them survivable inside an enemy area-denial network—the “blunt” and “contact” layers of the 2018 National Defense Strategy—do not extend to large carriers or motherships such as the USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3). Large transport ships, seabasing platforms, and even amphibs may have to stay hundreds or thousands of miles from enemy threats, significantly diminishing their ability to contribute to a fight in a contested littoral like the First Island Chain. Aggregating small combatant craft on a mothership in such environments—even for brief periods—is an unacceptable risk. A perquisite for effective seabasing is sea control, whereas EABO is a basing concept for contested environments.
The simpler answer is to base small combatant craft forward, either permanently or rotationally, following Lieutenant Colonel Smith’s recommendation of assigning them to Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Fleets in Bahrain, Italy, and Japan, respectively. These three locations would permit the boats to operate in the western Pacific, Persian Gulf, and Mediterranean, eliminating the need to surge them forward in a crisis. Such forward presence is precisely what we need in the blunt and contact layers—and to deter gray-zone operations.
—1stLt Walker D. Mills, USMC
Sailors Shouldn’t Be in Shipyards
Captains Saegert and Eyer hit it on the head with this piece. There’s nowhere worse for sailors than an extended stay in a shipyard, especially a commercial one.
In the mid-1980s I completed a tour aboard a Charles F. Adams-class guided-missile destroyer assigned to Seventh Fleet out of Yokosuka and as a second-class sonar technician, went to a refitting Spruance-class destroyer in a private San Diego shipyard. What a shock to my system.
I was used to high-tempo operations and an almost reverent regard for the ship, which—elderly though she was at the time—was in pristine shape and proudly kept that way as an elite member of the Navy’s “tip of the spear.”
I arrived at a command where the ship seemed almost forgotten; she had been in the yard quite some time and in the minds of too many sailors had become a building to be put up with, dirty and cluttered. The morale, attitude, and work ethic of the crew—living in a World War II–era accommodation barge that more or less matched the ship’s condition—was a complete disaster. Anything would have been better for that crew than what was happening to them.
It took what seemed like forever to get both ship and crew back into trim after finally getting out of there.
—Nikki Burgess (STG1[SW] USN 1981–91)
The Coast Guard Should Helm SouthCom
Lieutenant Commanders Pecora and Pecora present an interesting perspective, more about evolving the role of a geographic combatant commander rather than providing a solid justification for why a Coast Guard admiral should command U.S. Southern Command (SouthCom). The thesis advocates for taking a familiar, joint-interagency-task-force-like (JIATF-like) approach and expanding it into the combatant commander’s regionwide role in all manner of greater security and development efforts. In so doing, they:
- Excluded many statutory Title-10 missions of a regional combatant commander
- Conflated the military’s role in larger security and governance efforts with those under State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other agencies’ purviews
- Potentially created numerous conflicts of operational authorities that Congress has specifically separated across different departments
- Primarily focused on Northern Triangle of Central America littoral challenges driven by transnational criminal organizations and the related instability and secondary effects, to the exclusion of the remainder of SouthCom’s area of responsibility, both geographically and otherwise
- Missed how SouthCom fits within larger DoD planning, operational, and budgetary frameworks
To their credit, the article highlighted the excellent role the Coast Guard already plays throughout SouthCom:
- “Punching above their weight” in countertrafficking interdiction and apprehension at sea
- Leading JIATF-S
- Bringing the Coast Guard and broader Homeland Security perspectives to operations by means of a series of Coast Guard rear admirals serving as directors of operations for the command
This author had the distinct pleasure of serving directly under three of those directors and witnessed the benefits they brought.
The article is factually accurate, and it highlights the critical nature of security challenges in Central America and several of the associated, larger strategic issues. However, even recognizing the 2018 National Defense Strategy directive to seek new approaches for mission success, the authors regrettably ignore or discount significant portions of SouthCom’s uniquely military missions and requirements.
The net effect here is an argument to fundamentally change the combatant command’s structure, roles, and missions to seemingly justify why a Coast Guard admiral should command it—the tail trying to wag the dog.
—CAPT Rick Miller, USN (Ret.)
Asked and Answered:
Next month, Proceedings will launch a new section, “Asked and Answered,” seeking your answers to questions about the Sea Services. The debut question is, What is the best U.S. Navy/Marine Corps fighter aircraft of all time—relative to the fighter’s contemporary adversaries? Send your 50-word (or less) answer to [email protected].
USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) Joins the Fleet
The U.S. Navy placed the USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) in commission during a ceremony at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on 27 July 2019.
The Paul Ignatius is the first U.S. Navy ship named in honor of the former Secretary of the Navy. She was laid down on 11 September 2015 by Huntington Ingalls Industries in Pascagoula, Mississippi; launched 11 November 2016; and was sponsored by Mrs. Nancy Ignatius, wife of Paul Ignatius.
Ignatius was commissioned a Navy ensign in 1942 and later served in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations as Under Secretary of the Army and Assistant Secretary of Defense, before serving as Secretary of the Navy from 1967 to 1969. Ignatius, author of On Board: My Life in the Navy, Government, and Business (Naval Institute Press, 2006), lives in Washington, D.C.
According to the Commander of the Naval Surface Force, “DDG-117 is the U.S. Navy’s 67th Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer and will feature the Aegis Baseline 9 combat system that will allow the ship to simultaneously patrol for ballistic missile threats as well as combat traditional air and cruise missiles threats.” After the commissioning in Fort Lauderdale, the Paul Ignatius made her way to her new homeport in Mayport, Florida, with Commander Robby D. Trotter
In the July 2019 “Combat Fleets,” the draft of the amphibious assault ship Trieste was incorrectly listed as 91 feet. The correct draft is 23.7 feet.