Iron-Fist Leadership Is Not Leadership
(See T. Schmit, pp. 74–76, July 2020)
As a former Drill Instructor, I fundamentally disagree with CWO-3 Schmit’s premise. He opines that the initial training Marines receive in boot camp and Officer Candidate School is “intimidation, not inspiration,” and suggests that this negatively affects their ability to lead in the future.
Although the author acknowledges that the “Marine Corps is a warfighting organization,” he forgets that becoming a Marine is a fundamentally life-changing process that must occur in just 12 weeks. The short and intense rite of passage known as boot camp is not designed to develop the next generation of Marine Corps leaders. Its purpose is to instill Corps values and pride, and to educate and then test an individual’s mettle and worthiness for combat.
Step one is to break down individuals from all walks of life and forge them into a disciplined team, immediately responsive to orders. Survival and mission success depend on this. “Iron-fisted leadership” is necessary in the beginning. Step two is leadership, which can be taught and then exercised—once recruits are transformed into Marines.
The author laments that “a significant number of leaders—even in positions of great responsibility” with more than 20 years in the Corps have not transitioned into exercising the art of leadership. He offers three recommendations to “do leadership better.”
I agree that training in leadership, performance evaluations that enhance accountability, and leading by example are key. But these also should occur post-transformation into Marines. Believing one can “entice” recruits to obey an order by quietly asking “Can’t we all just work together?” is not leadership. Relying on this kinder, gentler approach flies in the face of all that is necessary to prepare Marines for today’s dangerous world. The Marine Corps is a war-fighting organization, not a social media company run by millennials. The Corps has done well for 244 years—I pray it continues.
—CWO-4 John B. Carr, USMCR (Ret.)
(See J. Portzer, pp. 18–23, July 2020)
Lieutenant Commander Portzer’s prize-winning essay attempts to explore the implications of Russia’s autonomous nuclear torpedo (nuclear-powered, with a fusion warhead). This essay is certainly noteworthy for its novel take on the subject, but it gets the weapon’s purpose wrong, while the implications for deterrence and arms control are equally misconstrued. The author makes claims about norms, primacy, and the current strategic nuclear balance to paint Russia as unreasonable and the weapon as some terrible new invention. Kanyon changes little for arms control, the strategic balance, or U.S. thinking on deterrence. The Navy need not be “horrified” by a boutique capability developed to hedge against U.S. missile-defense programs.
To begin with, Kanyon (its Russian name is Poseidon) is a “countervalue” weapon, meant to target coastal economic infrastructure in a retaliatory strike. Russia hopes to develop systems that would allow this weapon to be guided toward a carrier strike group or other high-value targets at sea, making it a truly multipurpose system. But these are aspirations.
Poseidon is no different from other countervalue, second-strike nuclear weapons, except that it is much slower and can obviate missile defenses. The essay strangely implies that efforts by adversaries to counter U.S. investments or develop nuclear weapons of types different from those in the U.S. arsenal are a violation of (unspecified) international norms and evidence of Russian unreasonableness. Kanyon does not violate any norms. Russia has not become unreasonable by virtue of having a nuclear arsenal different or more variegated than that of the United States. It has always had such an arsenal.
Russia developed the weapon in large part because the United States withdrew from the ABM Treaty in 2002. For Moscow, this created the risk of a costly missile-defense arms race alongside a qualitative competition in strategic nuclear weapons. Thus, Poseidon—along with hypersonic boost-glide weapons—represents a Russian hedge strategy to ensure it can retaliate against a U.S. first strike, even if the United States has a technological breakthrough in missile defense.
The essay’s main flaw centers on the notion that Kanyon is undetectable—which is probably untrue, but also irrelevant. Poseidon is not a first-strike weapon, because it is unable to execute a disarming attack or decapitate nuclear command, control, and communications. It is a strategic nuclear torpedo, but nuclear torpedoes are currently deployed across Russian naval forces and have been since the early years of nuclear weapons. The argument seems to be that a nuclear-torpedo attack is normative, posing no problems for detection or accountability, but a long-range nuclear torpedo upends this to create some terrifying new problem for deterrence.
The author also alleges that Kanyon undermines U.S. primacy in nuclear weapons, but such primacy does not exist. One can infer that the use of “primacy” and “unipolarity” is an effort to discuss nuclear superiority, but Kanyon has no effect on this, and the notion that marginal nuclear superiority has any significance remains hotly contested. In short, it doesn’t matter, and U.S. nuclear superiority, even if it exists, would be unaffected.
The essay suggests that a first strike by Kanyon would be accompanied by accountability issues. But the origins of such weapons can be discerned, most likely tracked, and accountability is ultimately what you make of it. Furthermore, it would be simpler for Russia to deliver a counterforce first strike with weapons that are faster, more precise, and inflict less collateral damage. For example, a Russian Yasen-class submarine could launch 32 nuclear-armed cruise missiles off either U.S. coast today—and by 2027 those missiles may be hypersonic.
The United States can deter this weapon in the same manner it currently deters the use of any other nuclear weapon, and Kanyon is arguably the least worrisome Russian capability in that department. U.S. missile defense does not offer a viable defense against longstanding Russian nuclear capabilities. Hence, Kanyon changes nothing, and the proposition of a surprise strategic nuclear attack with an incredibly slow weapon that only targets coastal areas does not bear out under scrutiny.
Finally, the impact for arms control is almost nil. A handful of strategic nuclear warheads added to Russia’s arsenal changes nothing in the overall balance, and the New START treaty has provisions for including new strategic nuclear weapons. That is, it can be accounted for under the current treaty, simply ignored, or included in a follow-on treaty. Kanyon is a program worth tracking, but hand-wringing over its implications is much ado about nothing.
The author responds:
Shortening a research paper into an article always risks losing some of its argument’s strength. However, in response to Mr. Kofman’s letter, there are a few points worth elaborating, given our differing viewpoints.
Unquestionably, my correspondent and I diverge on several things. I still hold that Kanyon is a markedly novel weapon with which to be reckoned. To be sure, Russia has numerous tactical (i.e., lower yield) nuclear torpedoes that presumably would target naval units at sea. This is very different from a strategically sized nuclear weapon detonating inside a U.S. harbor. There is a lack of clarity surrounding the actual size of Kanyon’s nuclear warhead.
Using the online “Nukemap” tool to estimate damage shows that a 1 megaton nuclear warhead detonated at the surface would decimate Naval Station Norfolk. It matters little if it is considered a boutique weapon—it would cripple the Navy all the same. Further, unlike all other strategic nuclear weapons, this one remains entirely underwater through the kill chain. There is room for debate on this fact’s importance, but it indisputably changes the nuclear kill-chain options available to Moscow, compared with those available to Washington.
We also fundamentally disagree on the difficulty of detecting Kanyon. A speed of 100 knots is indeed slow compared with a hypersonic missile’s speed. However, in terms of antisubmarine warfare, it is lightning fast. And if an operator did detect it, would they even know what they were seeing? I do not share the writer’s optimism here. Nor do I possess any optimism about a public consensus regarding retaliation in the event of even slight doubt about an attack’s origins.
Mr. Kofman and I appear to disagree fundamentally on what the most important underlying question is. His appears to be: “What is true today, given yesterday?” Mine is: “What could be true tomorrow?” Each stems from the nature of our jobs. My job is to consider what war looks like with another country. To be sure, that hypothetical question should be informed by both history and today’s policies.
But history reminds us that audacity is what wins a war. The Department of Defense praises innovation, particularly where it increases lethality. It risks falling victim to exceptionalism to think that Russia does not do the same—regardless of a weapon system’s original intent. Military planners cannot wave away questions on how adversaries might attack the United States. U.S. success depends on our ability to think critically about all the possibilities.
Suffice it to say: I do not think Norfolk is going to be blown up by a nuclear torpedo any time soon. Nevertheless, Kanyon is not nothing, and it deserves at least some ado.
—LCDR J. M. M. Portzer, USN
(See E. Wertheim, pp. 92–93, June 2020 and E. Wertheim, p. 91, July 2020)
June’s Combat Fleets describes the Jiangkai-II frigate as having a single Type 003 sextuple antisubmarine rocket launcher, when in fact it has two.
Also, it seems an important point to leave unanswered, but the propulsion system is not mentioned. A quick look on various websites describes the ship as having a combined-diesel-and-diesel arrangement of four engines. Despite the fact that most navies use the high power-to-weight capabilities of gas turbines in their surface combatants to generate higher speeds, it is unsurprising that China has fallen back on to a purely diesel powerplant because of that country’s known weakness in gas-turbine technology.
—MSGT Chris Dierkes, NYANG
The U.S. Navy’s future frigate is described as an antisubmarine warfare (ASW) ship with a dearth of ASW ordnance. There will be a million reasons why the helicopter is not available. The cheap Mk 32 torpedo tubes with Mk 46/54 torpedoes provide an urgent attack capability, and, by placing ordnance in the water, shifts the submariner from a hunter to the hunted.
—RADM Morton E. Toole, USN (Ret.)
Mortars for Sea Control
(See B. Andornato, pp. 92–93, July 2020)
The author suggests using mortars on Navy ships, citing their use in Vietnam on Navy and Coast Guard vessels as precedents.
Even earlier, however, was the employment of mortars on ships in World War II. Of the more than 300 steel-hulled, 173-foot, 450-ton patrol craft built to combat U-boats in the Atlantic, 24 were converted to gunboats, designated PGMs.Their armament consisted of twin 40-mm guns, six 20-mm guns, one twin .50-caliber machine gun, and a 60-mm mortar. Eight “submarine chaser” ships also were converted to PGM gunboats, carrying one 3-inch gun, two twin 40-mm guns, one twin 50-caliber machine gun, and one 60-mm mortar.
In his enthusiasm, Lieutenant Adornato suggested they be installed on “every ship in the fleet.” Including carriers? Retrofitting many ships would be unreasonable, with every square inch of deck space already devoted to essential devices, their operation, and their maintenance—as well as crew mobility. Then, too, the space for mortar ammunition is limited.
—LT William J. Veigele, USN (Ret.)
The Proceedings Podcast
(Episode 171, Original airdate 20 July 2020)
Admiral Winnefeld notes the defense budget is likely to be no better than flat over the next several years, and asks what the armed services might do to make best use of the restricted funding.
Clearly, very expensive programs such as 100,000-ton aircraft carriers and the nuclear deterrent must be reviewed from first principles.
But I can suggest one immediate change that would save many billions of dollars. As we review and modernize the nuclear deterrent, it should be clear that the land-based intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) force is no longer needed. When the fleet ballistic-missile program began more than 60 years ago, the Polaris missile was limited in range, payload, and accuracy. No longer. Sea-based missiles can completely replace the land-based ICBMs with no loss of deterrent or warfighting capability and with the advantages of reduced cost and reduced exposure of the United States as a target.
The Schoolhouses of the Fleet
(See M. Lawrence and W. K. Wolf,
pp. 52–57, July 2020)
The shipboard officer training program the authors described should be implemented fleetwide.
It is easy to get caught up in the fray of everyday duties on board a ship. Completing maintenance, working through administration such as evaluations and awards, and studying for qualifications quickly pile up for a junior officer. A dedicated and concerted effort in expanding training to include strategic learning and the current geopolitical climate is essential to creating more well-rounded and knowledgeable officers.
With the release of NavAdmin 137/20, the Navy has clearly stated the importance of learning, innovation, and personal and professional development. However, this NavAdmin misses the mark, simply adding a new block to fitness reports rather than fomenting change. The onus has been placed on the individual officers and commands. Leaving this new requirement and how to implement it up to them will certainly create uneven implementation and suboptimal results.
If we are serious about the importance of innovation and personal and professional development, specific fleetwide guidance and coordination must be provided from the top down, using the framework the USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) has laid out. As described, this program would be a fantastic place to start.
—LT John Golden, USN
The Navy Must Prioritize Shipbuilding for the Future Force
(See J. McGrath, pp. 58–61, July 2020)
Captain McGrath discusses the Navy’s current inability to find the funding to build a 355-ship fleet. He also points to the need to sustain the nation’s shipbuilding industrial base. Existing shipbuilding facilities are concentrated on the East Coast, while the shift of Navy assets to the western Pacific would seem to call for more shipbuilding and repair capacity on the West Coast, where, at present, there is only one naval shipyard (not counting Pearl Harbor).
The Navy should consider building a modern new shipyard at Long Beach, California, adjacent to the site of the former Los Angeles Naval Base and Long Beach Naval Shipyard complex. That can be done by filling in the undeveloped and essentially unused Long Beach Harbor from the existing mole southward to the existing middle breakwater, an area about one-and-one-half miles square. Water depth averages 50 feet. The area is readily accessible to existing rail and freeways and would provide ready access to open ocean.
—Stanley W. Lintner, retired assistant chief design engineer, Long Beach Naval Shipyard
What Would Ernie King Do If He Were CNO Today?
(See H. Ullman, online, August 2020)
I have never been an admirer of Fleet Admiral Ernest King, because of his arrogance and take-no-prisoners style of leadership. Good leaders groom people for success, not toss them aside when they fail to meet some arbitrary standard. So, I fear Ernie King would have trouble recruiting and retaining people to the larger-than-355-ship Navy he would undoubtedly build.
I prefer to imagine how Arleigh Burke would lead the Navy out of the dangerous waters it finds itself in—by defining how the Navy is uniquely suited to defend the United States and ensuring everyone wearing a Navy uniform understood how they contribute to that capability.
That said, I believe Mr. Ullman is correct that what the Navy needs to right itself is a Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) who is empowered by the President and understands the Navy is our nation’s frontline force to deter, contain, and thwart Chinese military adventurism. Such a CNO would need to understand that naval capabilities of the industrial-age Cold War are ill suited for today’s information-age style of conflict.
For me, the Navy needs to start understanding and acting as if our nation’s security depends on it, rather than seeing itself as dependent on the nation for more resources so as to meet what are in many cases self-levied requirements.
—CAPT Joseph Mazzafro, USN (Ret.)
Shortfalls in the Marine Corps’ EABO Concept
(See B. Ho, pp. 30–34, July 2020)
Congratulations on publishing another great article that questions grand plans in a way that invites further dialogue. Through such dialogue, the efficacy of expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO), a somewhat asymmetric approach to warfare against a peer adversary, can be developed.
I wish to add another perspective, supporting the author’s skepticism concerning the use of “small unpopulated islands” to serve as presumably hard-to-locate bases. Many of us who have been in combat zones, often far from any ongoing activity, can attest to the fact that a tactical planner’s designation of “unpopulated” areas may differ remarkably from the local citizenry’s designation.
How many military operations have been covert—by basing in “unpopulated” areas—right up until unexpected civilians compromised them? While driving through barren “unpopulated” areas in the middle of Nowhere District in Afghanistan, I frequently had the experience of some locals (well-meaning or otherwise) mysteriously showing up within minutes of stopping. For historical examples, consider Operation Eagle Claw at Desert One in Iran in 1980 (fuel smugglers); the “Bravo Two Zero” British SAS patrol in Iraq in 1991 (shepherds); the SEAL recon team of Operation Red Wings in eastern Afghanistan in 2005 (goatherders), and many other such operations that will never be known to the general public.
Small islands in the Pacific are not necessarily any different. On 5 August 1943 in the Solomon Islands, Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy and another survivor of the sunk PT-109 swam ashore on the “unpopulated” island of Naru, a remote speck of land just 1,000–feet square. There they were surprised to find two island natives, who spotted them and then fled. In this case, the unexpected locals eventually helped in the rescue of all of Lieutenant Kennedy’s surviving crew. Had these islanders been other than sympathetic to the Allied effort, it could have led to a tragedy that would have significantly changed the course of U.S. history.
Peer adversaries do not have to rely on such chance encounters, even though they are likely to occur. With just a few days of training, a few thousand willing civilians can become modern-day coast watchers. Two observers with a satellite telephone, a man-portable solar/wind-powered generator, and basic supplies can be left on each of thousands of islands under threat of U.S. takeover. One phone call made or even missed can alert an adversary and allow him to deploy assets to find and fix the intruding forces.
In our current world of almost 8 billion people, there is no longer any location that should be depended on to be “unpopulated.”
Here’s What to Do about the Naval Academy’s Confederate Names: Change them
(See J. Winnefeld, online, July 2020)
Not only does Lieutenant Winnefeld make a specious argument for renaming the Buchanan and Maury buildings, but worse, at its core it is a de rigueur cultural-Marxist argument—Stalinist rewriting of history to support his thesis. He posits that a decision to rename “rests on the question: ‘To what degree do good deeds eclipse subsequent failures?’” His “good deeds” versus “subsequent failures,” makes no sense. Character cannot be quantified—e.g., MacArthur was 60 percent good and 40 percent not so good (although President Harry S. Truman might have reversed those numbers).
It seems to me those buildings were named to honor the men who made notable and significant contributions to the U.S. Navy. That we have come to be conditioned not to value what they accomplished because we see it through the current cultural sociopolitical prism is quite another issue.
President John F. Kennedy and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover were disreputable in their own ways, yet there are no plans of which I am aware to rename buildings or airports because we’ve since discovered their less than noble aspects.
It is good to remember that the fashion of the moment—this virtuous Woodstock mass consciousness raising—is to trash anything Confederate. (Will supplicating Stalinist show trials be next?) But the real issue I have with the essay, besides its misplaced virtue-signaling, is its use of the word treason: “These men chose to commit treason.” Really, is that what happened? How was their behavior treasonous? So, the Northern states were “the nation” and the Southern states were what, fields of cotton? Can one commit “treason” against a country that is no longer recognized as one’s country?
So, did all those many thousands of soldiers who fought and died ignobly for the South commit the sin of treason, too? Do states have no rights? Has the author not read the Bill of Rights? Is he not familiar with the political and economic history leading up to the Battle of Fort Sumter—i.e., nothing so simple or cut-and-dry as the author implies?
Though I don’t have a dog in this fight, aside from being a citizen and a veteran, may the buildings’ names remain as they are and may midshipmen learn about the whole of each man and appreciate what was good and what was noble in that man while recognizing that we are all uniquely flawed.
Where We Were
September 1920 Proceedings—In an issue focused on engineering, Commander H. R. Greenlee, U.S. Navy, wrote on “Short Range Battle Practice for the Engineers of the Navy.” “There should be a competition in the engineering department on which to base awards of prize money and extra compensation corresponding, in effect, to short-range battle practice. The competition might well be held semi-annually, furnishing a stimulus to personnel to get all machinery in its most efficient physical condition and its most effective operating condition as well as to study the method of how to operate most efficiently.”
September 1970 Proceedings—In “The Sea of Okhotsk: USSR’s Great Lake?” Deam W. Given quotes Soviet Major of Justice G. S. Gorshkov, who notes the Sea of Okhotsk’s economic and defensive importance to the Soviet Union. “This sea penetrates deep into the territory of the USSR. . . . No international waters or air lanes pass through or over it; no American territory adjoins it. Nevertheless, U.S. military ships and aircraft turn up time after time for intelligence purposes.”
September 1995 Proceedings—Looking ahead in “Tomahawks Make Lousy POWs,” former Defense Deputy Under Secretary for Tactical Warfare Programs C. E. Myers Jr., writes: “In 2000, what is the likelihood that the U.S. National Command Authorities will send air crews instead of missiles on strikes against prominent, fixed, and heavily defended targets? The last time the United States launched an air strike from sea against a foreign country, we opted for Tomahawk missiles. Analyses show that the life-cycle cost of the missile option is lower than for equivalent manned strike forces, and, of course, Tomahawks make lousy prisoners.”
A. Denis Clift
Golden Life Member