Naval Intelligence Must Relearn Its Own Navy
(See C. Nelson and E. Pedersen, pp. 58–62,
As a former surface warfare officer turned information warfare professional, I could not agree more with Commander Nelson and Mr. Pedersen.
In my brief time in the intelligence community, I’ve discovered that many junior officers have a limited understanding of U.S. naval capabilities. This is troubling. It’s difficult to be an effective intelligence professional if you don’t know your customer—its capabilities and limitations. How can we, as intelligence professionals, prepare operators if we don’t know what constitutes a threat in their eyes?
The authors’ recommendation to include U.S. Navy warfighting capabilities in the IWO professional qualification standard is a great first step to bridging this knowledge gap. Our Navy fights best when we combine all our capabilities, acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses, and seek innovative solutions to tough problems.
I’m optimistic. This discussion is important, and I think it will continue among naval intelligence professionals.
I hope the service considers placing intelligence officers on cruisers and destroyers—I’ll be the first to volunteer!
—LTJG Gabrielle Fong, USN
Naming the Future
Doris Miller (CVN-81)
The announcement that the future aircraft carrier CVN-81 will be named for Navy Cross recipient Doris “Dorie” Miller brought tears to my eyes. I served in the Army not the Navy, but I understand the meaning of “hero.” A hero has no color, wears many uniforms, and always serves his or her country to the fullest measure.
Doris Miller served in a racially divided time, in a racially charged country, and in a racially conflicted military. We forget or ignore those times because of the pain inflicted. In those days, we discounted the contributions of men and women because of gender or race.
I have never been more proud of the U.S. Navy. I suspect that Doris Miller fought for his friends, his family, his shipmates, and his nation. He loved his country more than we know, because he fought as an African American in 1941 and had volunteered long before Pearl Harbor. Doris Miller is a legend who did not survive the war.
I am sorry that the future CVN-81 cannot transit the United States as it will the oceans. That ship needs to remind every American of the perseverance over struggle and injustice, the defeat of racism, and the meaning of equality and honor. There is no real romance in war, but there is now recognition of race and gender equality in the U.S. military. Harm’s Way had better steer clear of American men and women like Doris Miller.
To the U.S. Navy: Thank you.
—Ronald Alley Jr., Life Member
Exonerating the Port Chicago 50 Is About the Future
(See J. Hanacek, online, February 2020)
The Sinking of the Indy & Responsibility of Command
(See W. Toti, pp. 34–38, October 1999)
Lieutenant Hanacek is correct—the “Port Chicago 50” should be exonerated. But the language in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act brought me a sense of deja vu, and it comes at a particularly poignant moment, with January’s announcement that CVN-81 will be (rightly and justly) commissioned the Doris Miller. However, I can hear the Navy lawyers already reciting chapter and verse about how a posthumous “exoneration” is not technically or legally achievable.
As recounted by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic in Indianapolis: The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man (Simon & Schuster, 2018), I heard the same arguments from Navy lawyers in 1999–2000 regarding Captain Charles B. McVay of the USS Indianapolis (CA-35).
The details of Captain McVay’s case may not be similar to those of the Port Chicago 50, but I suspect the legal arguments against exoneration will be the same. Navy lawyers up to and including the Judge Advocate General himself argued vigorously that there is no legal remedy contained within current law that could result in a posthumous exoneration, and the convictions themselves were technically correct and supported by law; therefore, it was argued, it would inappropriate to rewrite history by taking any action that would seem to overturn them.
I am not a lawyer, but I argued in response that: A court-martial conviction could be technically correct and still unjust; The Navy derived no redemptive or instructional benefit from the court martial—on the contrary, the conviction exposed substantial inequities and injustices in the Navy’s juris prudence; A learning organization should be willing to admit when it has made a mistake and take action to correct same; And, the court of public opinion understood all of this, and in light of the Navy’s intransigence on a matter that seemed to be “simple common sense,” increasingly perceived the Navy as obstinate and tone deaf.
In the end, the compromise I proposed was not to seek an “exoneration” per se—since the legal team could provide no such solution—but instead to remedy the injustice by erasing any record of the conviction from Captain McVay’s service record and by adding offsetting language to the service record, in that case provided by Congress, establishing as fact and declaring Captain McVay’s innocence.
I propose the same could be done for the Port Chicago 50 by Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly today. Any record of the conviction could be removed from the service records of those convicted, and the offsetting National Defense Authorization Act language could be inserted into their records, making it clear that the men are considered innocent of all charges. In this way the wrong could be righted without having to dance around the inadequate remedies provided by current law.
—CAPT William J. Toti, USN (Ret.)
Fatigue Is the Navy’s Black Lung Disease
(See J. Cordle, pp. 26–30, January 2020)
As a nuclear-trained master chief and former destroyer command master chief (CMC), I wholeheartedly agree with Captain Cordle’s assessment of the need for a more holistic approach to fatigue mitigation, and hope that Navy leaders will seriously consider his ideas and recommendations. I understand his desire to find parallels in the medical field and institutional responses to them, but his inclusion of mold in the same sentence as Agent Orange and mesothelioma was inconsistent with current medical research.
While the latter two have been proven to have direct connections to significant life-threatening health issues, mold has not. As the website Medical News Today puts it, “Despite the commonly held belief that black mold exposure is a serious health concern, no convincing research suggests that exposure to this type of mold causes conditions such as cancer or lung disease.”
At Navy Region Mid-Atlantic, we oversee three different partners in the management of 8,761 housing units and are well aware of the challenges in maintenance and upkeep—and of systemic problems such as mold and mildew. But numerous studies have concluded that the only disease with potential linkage to mold infestation is chronic asthma, which can be improved by removing the affected individual—or the mold—from the environment. I routinely tour family housing occupied by sailors and their families with leaders ranging from the Secretary of the Navy to the Chief of Naval Operations to installation commanding officers and CMCs. Concerns are taken seriously and dealt with in an aggressive manner.
Listing issues with family housing alongside Agent Orange and mesothelioma implies that there are health effects that are known and actively covered up to avoid accountability.
Nothing could be further from the truth. First, there is no government regulatory specification for mold. It is present in nearly every structure and the environment at large. Second, if a family expresses health-related concerns they believe stem from their residence, my office will place them in contact with the Navy and Marine Corps Public Health office and assist them with education and—if necessary—identifying the correct providers to assess their medical issues.
The health of our sailors and their families is pivotal to our military readiness. I sincerely hope that this letter clarifies the medical facts about mold while not distracting from the important larger message in Captain Cordle’s article.
—CMDCM(SW/AW) Justin Gray, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic
I wish to commend Captain Cordle for his article, and I would like to point out a couple of things. First, data on the risks and problems associated with fatigue date to the 1930s. We know, for example, any shift that exceeds eight hours increases error rates, and after nine hours, industrial accident and death rates dramatically increase. These data have been replicated and confirmed many times.
Second, fatigue—especially chronic fatigue—affects mental performance, creating difficulty focusing on tasks, slow reaction times, forgetfulness, poor recall, flawed logic, increased risk taking, and performance errors. Emotionally, it increases depression, irritability, moodiness, and anxiety.
Third, we know that chronic fatigue is linked to weight increase, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and a host of other long-term physical problems.
After-accident reports show that sleep deprivation has been a major factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history, from the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island to the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, and many others. Why do we continue to insist on 12-hour shifts? Because senior leaders have the attitude, “If I did it, they can do it!”?
Senior leaders need to pay attention to this issue for the welfare of their sailors, other military personnel, and themselves.
—COL Talbot N. Vivian, DHA, USAF,
Innovate with Existing Technology
(See R. Brodie, pp. 75–77, January 2020)
I heartily agree with Commander Brodie’s recommendations. Our Navy has become locked into high-tech, high-cost systems while ignoring potential low-cost solutions that are available right now.
There have been “organizational and bureaucratic constraints” limiting disruptive technologies—both large and small—for a long time. I can think of several examples. At one time, the Navy was reluctant to provide surface ships with night vision/thermal systems—when we finally got a few, we were told they were only to be used to detect chemical attacks. Surface ships likewise were prohibited from possessing radio scanners that would allow them to monitor more than one VHF bridge-to-bridge radio frequency.
As Commander Brodie points out, today there are systems such as the ScanEagle that provide a ready, low-cost option for surveillance and communication links. Even simpler commercial quadcopters can give ships “flying binoculars,” easing the development of complex surface pictures. And there seems to be little interest in the possibilities of 3D printing, which has the potential to revolutionize our spare parts supply chain.
There are doubtless many other examples of systems that could significantly improve our forces at low cost. But without a “godfather” to promote them, such programs have no chance against inertia in a ponderous procurement bureaucracy that seems obsessed with developing the next wonder weapon. We need to open doors to allow recommendations from fleet operators to spark genuine innovation.
—CAPT Thomas Pinney, USN (Ret.)
Full Speed Ahead on Unmanned Maritime Systems
(See P. Small, pp. 14–15, November 2019)
I am the CEO of MARTAC—Maritime Tactical Systems, Inc.—an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) company that has been manufacturing USVs for a number of years. It is gratifying to see Captain Small’s excellent overview of the U.S. Navy’s plans to enhance naval combat power through the use of unmanned systems.
While the article focused on exciting developments on the requirements and programmatic side of the equation, equally important are the efforts of the Navy and Marine Corps to evaluate these technologies in an ongoing series of exercises, experiments, and demonstrations.
These events enable those of us who develop these technologies to put them into the hands of sailors and Marines who provide invaluable feedback, which enables us to apply user-centered design principles and make these vessels even better-suited for naval operations, especially in challenging expeditionary operations.
For example, over the past several years, MARTAC and our catamaran-hull MANTAS USVs have been invited to participate in a wide range of Navy-Marine Corps, events such as the Ship-to-Shore Maneuver Exploration and Experimentation Advanced Naval Technology Exercise, Bold Alligator, Valiant Shield, and others.
During these events, MANTAS performed missions ranging from intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to intelligence preparation of the battlefield, to expeditionary logistics support, and more. What we learned during these events was that Navy and Marine Corps operators are the true innovators who will accelerate the insertion of unmanned maritime systems into the fleet.
There are many excellent unmanned maritime systems in development as programs of record that will deliver good capabilities over time. However, we believe that the U.S. Navy can buy-down the inherent technical risk by using commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) platforms to leverage mature subsystems and achieve “speed to fleet” today.
The sooner sailors and Marines see what a COTS solution can provide, the sooner those of us who manufacture these platforms can evolve them to best meet the needs of warfighters, especially by letting autonomous USVs perform the “dull, dirty and dangerous” work war-fighters must do today.
Given the promising performance of unmanned surface vessels in support of expeditionary assault forces, the joint force should continue to experiment with larger USVs.
The Navy Needs Mariners
(See R. van Hemmen, pp. 14–15, February 2020)
Reading Mr. van Hemmen’s article motivated me to revisit a number of articles and letters in Proceedings. The common theme is the need to change the surface warfare officer (SWO) “generalist” philosophy to one that puts “mariners” (in van Hemmen’s words) back on board our ships.
It appears Navy and surface warfare leaders are making serious and concerted efforts to remedy the mariner/seamanship gaps in SWO training. Bravo Zulu! However, continuing a system in which line officers (mariners) stand watches in engineering main control and chief engineers stand tactical action officer and bridge watches will only exacerbate the current master-of-none issue that has resulted in at-sea incidents.
The opportunity cost in ship safety is clear, and it is hard to understand, investigations notwithstanding, how the bridge and combat information center watches with highly sophisticated equipment at their fingertips could allow their ships to get into extremis resulting in deadly collisions. Similar costs are or will be seen in warfighting performance and ship readiness.
So, I again recommend that the Navy emulate other navies that separate engineering and combat systems officers from the command path. Although not a quick fix, this action will morph the SWO generalist model to one that focuses talent separately on command (deck/seamanship), combat systems, and engineering, resulting in the long term in a more professional surface warfare officer corps and attendant improved Navy warfighting readiness.
—CAPT Alan Swinger, USN (Ret.)
Suppose There Was a War and the Merchant Marine Didn’t Come?
(See S. Mercogliano, pp. 48–54,
Thank you for the timely article on the critical role U.S.-flag commercial carriers and U.S.-trained mariners play in our nation’s defense. My U.S.-flag company, Schuyler Line Navigation, is one of the carriers that proudly supports our nation’s armed forces wherever they are deployed. Schuyler Line was not included in the list of U.S.-flag carriers in Dr. Mercogliano’s article, but it is a young dynamic shipping company trying to grow the U.S. Merchant Marine. From our shoreside staff to our U.S. mariner crews on board our vessels, we take great pride in serving the complex and even dangerous needs of the U.S. government to help secure our nation in peacetime and times of conflict.
As the author described, the dramatic decline in the U.S.-flag carrier fleet presents a serious vulnerability to national defense. U.S.-flag carriers and the merchant mariners who serve on their ships have never refused the call to support the Department of Defense when needed. That is unlikely to ever change.
As the author described, however, the current number of U.S.-flag ships that are militarily useful and meet the Defense Department’s requirements is insufficient to support operational needs during a great humanitarian crisis or conflict. For this reason, federal maritime stakeholders and Congress must adopt policies that directly increase the volume of cargo U.S.-flag carriers transport during peacetime to ensure they are available during times of crisis and provide incentives for us to bring new ships, including tankers for the Navy, into the U.S.-flag fleet.
Thank you for helping inform the public of the critical role private commercial U.S.-flag international carriers and their U.S. mariner crews play in protecting our great nation’s security and the soldiers who serve to defend it.
—Keith Zelinsky, Vice President,
Schuyler Line Navigation Company
Focus on Surface Warfare
(See January 2020 Proceedings)
No mention was made in this issue of the surface fleet’s most urgent need: a replacement for the Ticonderoga-class large surface combatant (LSC).
Zumwalt and Arleigh Burke Flight III ships can make a good starting point, but a new clean-sheet design is needed. Ship design and building have reached a level of sophistication that allows for one basic ship design to be optimized for different warfare areas. This LSC would have standardized hull, propulsion, sensors, armament, and superstructures from bow to the aft exhaust stack. It would be heavily armed, with centerline and peripheral vertical launching system (VLS) cells, as well as gun, laser, and canister-mounted antiship missile systems.
Antiair warfare ships would mount large numbers of VLS cells aft. Antisubmarine ships would carry large numbers of vertical-takeoff-and-landing drones in a magazine, like ordnance, under a long open stern lined with VLS cells. A large topside hangar would maintain the drones. Ballistic-missile strike ships would have a field of large-diameter launch tubes for conventionally armed long-range missiles.
Buying one basic ship design with multiple mission specialties provides for economy of scale in design, purchase, training, and maintenance. These powerful ships combined with inexpensive unmanned vessels could provide the surface navy the means to protect the carriers—or fight without them.
Military Communication Skills
(See D. Fishman, p. 9, January 2020)
I must reluctantly agree with Lieutenant Colonel Fishman’s comment on the need to improve military communications skills. A book he omitted from his list is Dreyer’s English: An Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style. Benjamin Dreyer is copy chief at Random House publishers—if there’s a way to bungle English, he has seen it and shows how to correct it.
It’s not an easy job. I taught grammar and composition for 14 years at Towson University, then gave up and went to medical school.
—Elizabeth R. Hatcher, M.D., Ph.D.
Reclaim the Coast Guard’s Military Roots
(See B. Runion, pp. 46–49, December 2019)
I fully agree with Mr. Runion that every Coast Guardsman needs to be a “star reporter.” But, how to achieve it? Someone has to convince Coast Guard leaders of the need so that a formal program can be established.
That program could focus initially on current achievements. For example, my 2006 office in Kabul, Afghanistan, had a Coast Guard legal officer upstairs. Most likely not a heroic story, but he was there and has a story. The Coast Guard needs to collect such stories and find the ones to tell.
I was familiar with maybe half the stories Mr. Runion mentioned, all from personal reading after I left the Coast Guard. How does someone like me (who doesn’t travel easily) get his hands on documentation and, after reading it and identifying everything of interest, get that information into the process that provides stories to every Coast Guardsman and the general population?
There are a lot of retired Coasties; many might be interested in helping with historical research. Perhaps the Coast Guard historian could institute a volunteer program?
—Dennis Morehouse, former AM2, USCG
Deception, Ubiquity, and Affordability
Among island communities, “connectors” are ubiquitous. For the most part, they are old and small (for example, the Taporo ships of French Polynesia) but carry the necessities and passenger trade of the Pacific. There are others that offer adventure/cruising accommodations as well as cargo service.
My modest proposal is to support such ships in places such as Indonesia, the Philippines, Micronesia, and Timor, possibly through the U.S. Agency for International Development. The “strings attached” would be that any such ships be able to carry shipping containers and be built in U.S. yards to U.S. specifications (including whatever input the Navy thinks appropriate). We build all sorts of similar vessels for the Gulf of Mexico oil industry.
The other string would be either a loan covenant that the United States could repurchase them or mandatory U.S.-flag registry status so the Navy could assimilate them in a time of need.
By design, these vessels are ubiquitous and cheap. A wartime loadout could come in boxes, somewhat like the mission-module plan for the littoral combat ships taken to a new, simpler level. The boxes could even be prepositioned, perhaps in Australia. (Australia might even desire some of the connector platforms.) Periodically, these could rotate into naval service and get loaded for training.
Some wartime loadouts might be purely deceptive, some might be purely logistical, but either way, the number of targets would create a problem for any adversary.
—Charles Warren, USCG Aux (Ret.)
Consequential Words: Ship Mottos
(See M. Ravnitzky, pp. 48–49,
Bravo Zulu to Mr. Ravnitzky. Ship mottos truly are “words of consequence and importance.” His article notes that Military Sealift Command ships and other commands also have mottos. Thus—and considering LCDR Collin Fox’s “Pair AI with Emerging Tech to Create Smart Convoys”—I call attention to the motto of the old troop transport General J. C. Breckinridge (T-AP-176 ): “Transportation for Defense.”
—Winn B. Frank, Golden Life Member