Naval Intelligence: End the Cult of Busyness
(See W. Melbourne, online, November 2019)
This article really spoke to me. As with physical exercise, I find myself forced to make time in my week for deep analytic thinking—careful reading, not skimming, of Arabic and English books and materials—amid the clutter and noise of the day. The most important commodity our community has is the intellect of our men and women. The expression “all war begins in the mind and in the intellect” is true. My compliments to Commander Melbourne.
—CDR Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN
Prolong the ‘Golden Hour’
(See L. Richmond, pp. 55–57, December 2019)
For anyone who has spent significant time as a medical officer with Marine Corps units, the points Lieutenant Richmond raises are familiar. The realities of combat medical care and its conflicts with limited manpower, training resources, and materiel must, however, be acknowledged. One small example from my own career: I worked for two years to get approval for our field corpsmen to carry and administer epinephrine for anaphylactic reactions (something schoolchildren are trusted to do). After I left that command, they stopped funding replacement of the EpiPens.
Special Operations medicine is not a good model for health care of the Fleet Marine Forces, however. Those missions are typically remote, far from medical support, and their resources for both training and operations simply cannot be matched by a Marine infantry battalion’s.
The photograph on page 57 shows blood being administered, for example. Saving a life with blood transfusions while awaiting transport invariably requires multiple units. To offer this resource at the platoon-corpsman level of care would require forward deployment of many units of blood, proper storage, and regular replacement of outdated units—not to mention training the corpsman when to use blood and the many potential risks associated with doing so.
Surgical airways, as a second example, are not required as frequently as some might think. While fairly simple to use, a number-ten needle is typically employed in the brief interval between initial care and surgery. It usually is not sufficient for many hours awaiting transport. Advanced airways and actual surgical airways require not only advanced training, but also frequent experience or relentless retraining. Even busy paramedics can have difficulty maintaining these skills.
I certainly agree that use of advances such as telemedicine are within our means and that every corpsman would benefit from better nursing skills. I also agree that pain control and sedation are highly desirable, to the extent Navy Medicine can get comfortable with junior corpsmen carrying and administering controlled substances.
Our Marines deserve the best care we can provide, but let’s focus first on high-probability events, solutions within our resources, and skills that can be learned and practiced outside a combat zone.
—CAPT David Scott, MD, MC, USN (Ret.)
Train Surface Officers as Naval Mariners
(See T. McCaffery, pp. 12–13,
‘Military to Mariner’ Program Bridges Merchant/Navy Gap
(See S. Henry, online, December 2018)
The entwined relationship between Navy and Merchant Marine is based on mutual dependence for trade and national security. The Military-to-Mariner (M2M) initiative is an ongoing effort by the maritime industry, the Coast Guard, Congress, and veterans’ organizations to improve the transition of Navy mariners from active duty to the maritime industry.
Military aviators earn FAA-recognized credentials that, accompanied by a logbook, allow them to obtain a civilian pilot certificate. There is not a comparable standard process for Navy mariners. Some noteworthy progress has been made thanks to M2M, including the introduction of logbooks for surface warfare officers (SWOs) to document training and watchstanding experience. And the Navy has adapted some of the International Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) into its maritime training curricula. STCW are the standards by which the Coast Guard’s National Maritime Center (NMC) grants Merchant Marine credentials.
This brings us to an executive order (EO) signed in March 2019, the Executive Order on Supporting the Transition of Active Duty Service Members and Military Veterans into the Merchant Marine. To promote employment opportunities for U.S. military veterans and to meet national and economic security requirements, the order directs that members of the armed forces receive appropriate credit for their military training and experience toward credentialing as a merchant mariner.
The secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security are directed to report training and experience that may qualify for merchant marine credentialing to the NMC within one year of EO signing. The order also directs that fees associated with credentialing be waived, veterans receive their “sea-service certification” within 30 days of separation, and the services continue to develop online tools for credential transfer outside the military.
The Navy should recognize the benefits of supporting credentialing to the maximum extent possible. There simply are not enough permanent employment positions in the maritime industry to be a threat to SWO retention. Strategic Sealift requirements demand a “surge” capability.
The EO forces the question. The Navy should ask the Coast Guard to validate what the Navy has in place for SWOs to receive licenses, and the Coast Guard should ask the Navy to conform to STCW and be done with it.
The Surface Navy Association’s annual meeting will include a “Military-to-Mariner Credentialing Panel” on 15 January. Please join us.
—CAPT Chuck Nygaard, USN (Ret.)
Military Communication Skills
An honest assessment of the military will reveal substantial room for improvement in our professional communication skills, both oral and written. Common culprits include jargon, overuse and misuse of acronyms, and nonexistent words. A telltale sign is when the speaker can’t define an acronym. Sometimes it’s like an addiction. Many military members use strings of acronyms, oblivious to their audience. For example, after a recent commander’s course session designed specifically for military spouses, a Marine wife told me she and others had given up trying to make sense of the litany of acronyms. These were wives of senior officers, not military neophytes. Worse, the classes were specifically intended to benefit them—not military members. It was a sad testament to poor communication and inconsiderate presenters.
Other examples abound. The laminated sign hanging over the water fountain reads: “Your not at home, don’t dump in this drain.” “Irregardless” (regardless), “acclimatize” (acclimate), and “orientate” (orient) are just a few of the cringeworthy terms that litter the military verbal landscape. And let’s not forget the common investigations faux pas: the one who “allegates” (alleges) wrongdoing. As in, he “allegated” that I took his canteen cup.
Some may dismiss this as mere pedantry. Yet how much of the military’s business today is conducted via email? Given the transition to the Information Age, shouldn’t military professionals take pride in spelling, grammar, and communication? As we transition from an Industrial Era mind-set, clear ideas and effective communication are paramount. Education for Seapower should emphasize communication skills as a key component of military performance.
A good place to begin is the renowned, slender book, The Elements of Style, by E. B. White and William Strunk Jr. Every Marine should study its clear advice, such as the unforgettable first rule: Omit needless words. Another helpful guide is On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser. This will help Marines develop voice and style without pretension. For thick-skinned readers ready to improve their grammar skills, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss provides a humorous, though somewhat condescending, introduction. There are dozens of other great books on both speaking and writing, but these are a few that will help most of us improve.
—LTCOL Dillon A. Fishman, USMCR
The Navy Is Losing the Missile Arms Race
(See J. Turnwall, pp. 58–61, November 2019)
Bravo Zulu to Lieutenant Commander Turnwall for the courage to address the most ominous issue facing today’s Navy—the growing antiship missile threat from China and Russia. Navy leaders seem disinclined to acknowledge the threat, but it potentially dooms future naval operations in peer warfare.
Despite the United States being the world’s leading technological innovator for generations, the Navy chose to spend the hard-won gains of the Cold War victory sentimentalizing the age of aircraft carriers rather than modernizing the fleet for future wars. No matter how successful carriers were in World War II, by the end of the 20th century they had become nothing more than the “gunboats” of U.S. foreign policy. Carriers were the go-to option for projecting power to intimidate a Third World nation, but in any future war against a peer, they will be more liability than asset when confronting a swarm of “Carrier Killer” DF-21 and DF-26 missiles—not to mention other cheaper and more numerous missiles.
Admiral John Richardson’s call to be able to sail the fleet into harm’s way was inspiring and motivational—shades of David Farragut. But how will the American public react if thousands of sailors die with the sinking of one legacy carrier in some future fight?
For that matter, how will the Navy react? Unlike the Marine Corps, a warrior culture that lives in expectation of death, the Navy is shocked and traumatized by it.
Instead of looking to new technologies to combat the Chinese missile advantage, the Navy is looking to expensive and few solutions that (even if capable) cannot effectively counter our adversaries’ numerical leads. It is time to seek the technological advantage our Navy once had, even if the price is forgoing some new legacy aircraft carriers.
Fortunately, new Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday merges the best of both the surface fleet experience and information warfare. Hopefully, he can convince Congress to allow him to sail the Navy into the 21st century with the adoption of kinetic (railguns) and directed-energy (lasers) weapons.
—CDR Michael Tomlinson, CHC, USN
Put Marine Corps Officer Competence to the Test
(See E. Reid, online, November 2019)
Colonel Reid correctly identifies that the Marine Corps suffers from a lack of professional competition among its officer corps and an inability or unwillingness to identify its best officers. However, competitive examinations for resident officer professional military education (PME) and command would do little to address the actual disease. Furthermore, he places a disconcerting emphasis on doctrinal knowledge, overlooks an officer’s ability to think critically, and attributes to the examinations an objectivity that would not exist.
The Marine Corps’ outdated, centrally planned personnel management system intentionally generates cookie-cutter career paths. The system is based on “Taylorism,” which breaks down complex production into simple, sequenced, standardized tasks and trains people to be interchangeable parts. That selection boards have difficulty differentiating between officers is thus not a problem; rather, it is the surest sign of success!
Eliminating standardized requirements such as PME, which minimize variation and foster a ticket-punching mind-set (wherein doing the minimum is viewed as “good enough”), is essential to incentivizing real competition. Embrace maneuver principles: Eliminate centralized boards and delegate manpower decisions to commanders and individual officers.
Colonel Reid’s emphasis on doctrine and objectivity raises additional concerns. Today’s increasingly complex environment demands broad problem-solving skills, increasing the value of thinking, imagination, cognitive diversity, and innovativeness. Not only does doctrine often lag experience, thanks to bureaucratic obstacles, but also—as Air Force Colonel John Boyd warned—doctrine can quickly become dogma. General Jim Mattis has similarly referred to doctrine as “the last refuge of the unimaginative.”
Colonel Reid compounds the doctrine problem by assuming examinations will be “objective.” First, no data point should be described as “objective,” since it is assumed to serve some purpose. By Colonel Reid’s admission, a Marine Corps examination would be biased in favor of the combat arms and aviation communities. Second, it isn’t clear how such an examination would be more “objective” than the fitness reports he laments, unless it will be a multiple-choice test. But such a format implies the same prescriptive solutions that early maneuverists, such as Colonel Mike Wyly, worked so hard to remove from Marine officer PME.
Test graders would ostensibly evaluate submissions against some “objective” rubric, make subjective judgments, and assign numeric grades, which Reid confuses with objectivity. This is exactly the fitness report process.
The ideas presented, if improved, could be marginally useful but do not address substantial institutional shortcomings. It remains to be seen how serious the Marine Corps is about comprehensive change. The Commandant’s planning guidance noted how the present manpower model is based on time and experience instead of talent, performance, or future potential. But following the guidance’s release, the service mandated increased time-in-service and time-in-grade requirements for promotion to sergeant and staff sergeant. Actions speak louder than words.
—MAJ Sean F. X. Barrett, USMC
The USS Grayback Found
I was very happy to learn that the remains of the USS Grayback (SS-208) have been found, as I am sure families of the crew members will be. In 1981, I was the commissioning commanding officer of the USS John A. Moore (FFG-19), named for the Grayback‘s skipper. The ceremony’s guest speaker was John’s brother, and also present were his wife and daughter.
As with all new-construction ships, the Inspection and Survey (InSurv) Board does sea trials and officially accepts the ship for the Navy. Rear Admiral John D. Bulkeley (Medal of Honor awardee and of World War II PT boat fame) was then the InSurv head and came to accept the ship. During the “meet and greet,” I passed along Mrs. Moore’s best wishes to the admiral, as she had asked me to do. This launched him on some sea stories, including the fact that John Moore had been his detailer and was the one who sent him to the PT boats in the South Pacific—that, and some salty thoughts about the assignment and his detailer!
—CAPT Alan Swinger, USN (Ret.)
The End of Deception
(See R. Kuzma and T. Wester, pp. 62–66, November 2019)
I am a proud member of the Naval Institute and a retired Navy veteran. I’m also a senior aerospace engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The image used for this article is the NASA/ISRO synthetic-aperture radar (NISAR) mission. I am the lead mission systems engineer for that mission and wanted to clarify that NISAR is a science-only mission and is not designed to be flown for signal intelligence (SigInt).
The image is captioned properly, but readers might wrongly associate NISAR with SigInt. NISAR will be jointly operated with the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), which makes any perceived SigInt operations clearly impossible.
—Charles J. Baker, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Can Sealift Deliver?
(See H. Lynch and J. Eady, pp. 54–57, August 2019; J. Marks and W. Frank, pp. 8–9, September 2019, G. Baird, p. 8, October 2019; and S. Palmer, p. 88, December 2019)
Our merchant marine capacity must be seen as a national security asset and not allowed to wither and die. I have thought for many years now that the United States should design a “New Liberty” or “New Victory” class of merchant vessels, sized to allow convenient use of the Panama Canal, double hulled to be resistant to mines or torpedoes, competitively built at multiple yards across the country at two or three per year, with standardized oiler, break bulk, roll-on/roll-off, or shiplift midsections, and with either slow diesel (15–20 knots) or fast gas-turbine (25–30 knots) engines. Helicopter facilities, bow sections optimized for slow or high speed, and “plug-and-play” options for various types of armaments also should be built in, including Q-ship-type configurations with Mk 41 or Mk 57 vertical launching systems, Mk 45 or 75 guns, Phalanx, etc. A smart financial package would encourage use of the vessels by U.S.-flagged companies and U.S. mariners, based perhaps on the Civil Reserve Air Fleet system.
When weaponized, the ships would necessarily require U.S. Navy crews. This might be a useful way to employ Navy Reserve forces, since the weapon options would not be needed except in specific, rare situations. But weaponizing mine- or torpedo-resistant ships will allow for a wide dispersion of strike capabilities. Commercial use of the vessels in peacetime would offset their costs. Government cargo, including relief supplies, food aid, etc., could provide much of the business.
These ships would be more expensive than normal commercial sealift, but we are already noncompetitive in commercial ship construction, so what’s the difference? We need our own sealift assets, under our control.
—MSGT Chris Dierkes, NYANG
Sailors Shouldn’t be in Shipyards
(See J. Saegert and K. Eyer, pp. 10–12, June 2019)
Captains Saegart and Eyer assert that sailors lose tactical proficiency during yard time. They further claim that only a small percentage of the crew is off the ship for training at any given time, referring to this period as a state of professional suspended animation. I counter that problems are not the result of a failed system but rather failed leadership.
I had the privilege of working for an outstanding commanding officer through a highly successful 16-month major overhaul, an overhaul from which we departed with a fully trained crew, qualified watchstanders, and almost no residual work deficiencies. Engineering and combat systems light-offs were achieved ahead of schedule. The key was the full engagement and employment of the crew and a well planned and executed training program.
First, months before entering the yard, we produced a detailed and prioritized list of all billets and associated training, including all Navy enlisted classifications and all required schools. We noted bureau fills and ship fills and where possible included with the sailors’ names any cost data. Confident in our plan, the commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, provided full funding for our requirements.
We departed the yard with the plan 100 percent complete. We employed an aggressive cross-deck scheme, placing future watchstanders on other ships for as much as a month at a time to maintain operational proficiency, thereby returning to sea with all our formal and watchstander training requirements met.
Second, every petty officer was assigned a space and responsibility for tracking all work in that space. At weekly production meetings, those petty officers presented the relevant work status and advanced the plan forward, with yard foremen by their sides. Each followed equipment removal, equipment installation, initial operation, and test and evaluation. The sailors knew every piece of equipment in their spaces—every button, valve, flange, and sensor, as well as the primary and secondary power sources. Just as muscle memory is critical to repetitive tasks, what we might call system memory is an enabler or even multiplier of good training and operational effectiveness.
Third, we had an aggressive leave plan permitting 15 percent of the crew on leave at any given time. This provided family time necessary for a morale boost and the opportunity to “sharpen the sword.”
When we left the yard, our sailors only had to learn how to function as a team. They did not have to learn the systems from scratch at the same time. We left with a sense of pride and ownership greater than anything I have seen since.
The author’s arguments seem to come from the “operator” mentality pervasive over the past 20 years. We are not just operators. We are leaders, maintainers, troubleshooters, trainers, personnel managers, and financial managers, too. Effective operation is the product of ownership. Full engagement of the crew in an overhaul is key to the long-term success of a ship and crew and for the long-term material life of the vessel.
—CDR T. P. Hekman, USN (Ret.)
Midwatch on Ocean Station Bravo
(See D. Clift, p. 102, September 2019)
I read with enthusiasm this article about my old ship, the USCGC Absecon (WHEC-374), that I was stationed on from April 1969 to July 1970. The skipper was Commander Paul Meyer and the executive officer was Lieutenant Commander Macon Jordan. I spent three patrols at Bravo on her and handled the helm many times in swells that got up to 45 feet in height.
There was a chief quartermaster named Huffman that we called “The Wheel” who could handle that 311 like it was a small boat in a tub. Thanks to him, we were able to have some hot meals, because most days, the seas were so bad we could only eat cold cut sandwiches.
Thanks for the good memories of those ocean station trips and crew.
—Robert L. Jester, Life Member
The Oregon and the Panama Canal
(See T. Cutler, pp. 94–95, November 2019)
Lieutenant Commander Cutler indirectly raises two points relevant to the broader discussion of naval presence and littoral operations.
Having established Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in 1891, the Navy needed a Central American canal to scale its West Coast and Pacific presence, especially after the Spanish-American War. However difficult its construction, the United States resolved the problem by building a literal and figurative critical path.
Today, to project force across the ocean, the critical paths involve electronic networks, transoceanic cables, and satellite communications. The Navy is winning the battle of bandwidth, but this can be decisive only if competitors do not have singular low-fidelity options that match future upgrades in domain awareness and control.
—Samuel W. Biddle