Captain Pagano’s thesis is that a class of light aircraft carriers (CVLs) based on the America-class amphibious assault ships—equipped with an air wing that includes F-35Bs and MV-22 variants—would be a viable approach to meet many of the Navy’s future war-fighting requirements at reasonable cost.
The Navy should consider a few additional points:
The CVL should operate as the core ship of a light carrier strike group (LCSG) consisting of one CVL, one Flight III guided-missile destroyer (DDG), one Flight IIA DDG, one Zumwalt-class destroyer, one guided-missile frigate, one nuclear-powered attack submarine, and one logistics ship.
The CVL air wing should comprise 16 F-35Bs, 4 MH-60Rs, 2 MV-22-derived tankers, 2 MV-22-derived airborne early warning aircraft, 2 MV-22 airborne command/electronic warfare aircraft, and 1 CMV-2 resupply aircraft. The America-class amphibious assault ship can accommodate about 60 UH-60-equivalent deck spots. The proposed CVL air wing would demand about 55 UH-60-equivalent deck spots.
By 2030, the Navy could deploy three LCSGs while retaining the ability to deploy nine expeditionary strike groups (ESGs). This force level could support two amphibious task force/Marine expeditionary brigades (ATF/MEBs) in independent forcible entry roles. Each ATF/MEB transport group would contain four amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary units in its transport group, with one LCSG hosting the amphibious advance force.
Two LCSGs and two ESGs would be routinely forward deployed in Perth, Australia, and Rota, Spain. The third group would be in routine maintenance overhaul. The forward deployment scheme would allow 100 percent forward presence in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia against moderate threats and rapid reinforcement of forward-deployed CSGs to form a carrier strike force in two adjacent theaters. Note that a second CSG could join within two weeks.
The LCSG air wing could provide airborne security for the strike force, allowing the CVN’s wing to focus on strike. Each forward-deployed CVL would host a Marine Corps air-control squadron capable of planning and controlling a 1,000 sortie-per-day effort (including supporting land-based air). An America-class CVL has sufficient space to host both the proposed air wing and the command element of a carrier strike force.
The Department of the Navy has ordered 360 MV-22 assault transport aircraft to support a primary authorized inventory of 180 MV-22s in squadrons. After more than 500,000 flight hours in the past decade, it is clear the required inventory is about 270 aircraft, implying 90 extra MV-22s. These can be modified to support the proposed roles using F-35 combat system components. The already-funded Common Aviation Command and Control System would facilitate this endeavor.
The events of 6 January on the steps of the Capitol struck at the nerves of our society and initiated a period of self-reflection in the military. Political commentators, social media personalities, and ordinary citizens variously declared the actions constitutional and unconstitutional. Few seemed to demonstrate a clear, comprehensive understanding of the founding document. For military personnel who swear an oath to defend the Constitution, how do we rate ourselves on this topic?
The oath we take to defend the Constitution rings hollow if we do not know what we are defending. A simple reading of the Constitution without detailed understanding of case law is not sufficient for comprehensive understanding. Religiously observant people can maintain their faith without a comprehensive understanding of their religion’s texts, but most organized religions regularly gather to discuss their faith and have honest dialogue about their beliefs.
So, if the officer corps has not read the Constitution or attended routine discussion of it, how is our oath any different than clicking “I accept” on an app we download? In the aftermath of 6 January, the military underwent training to identify extremism in the ranks that concluded with a reaffirmation of the oath. Even then, only the First Amendment was discussed—but not included in the discussion was that amendment’s guarantee of the right to petition the government. The opportunity to discuss the Constitution was lost.
Section 0821a of the Navy’s Commanding Officer Instruction states: “The commanding officer shall [increase] the specialized and general professional knowledge of the personnel under [his or her] command by the frequent conduct of drills, classes and instruction, and [through] fleet and service schools.” Every command that I have been a part of has sought to improve specialized professional knowledge in the pursuit of warfare devices.
Yet, how often have our commands conducted legal, ethical, and constitutional training that would support our understanding of our oath? Even if commands do not have perfect resources, they are led by dedicated professionals who are more than capable of sharing their experiences, engaging in collective self-improvement, and leading discussions on legal, ethical, and societal challenges that are present in our lives.
Let us improve our understanding every day, every week, and every oath. Instead of “I accept,” let us click, “I will learn.”
—LCDR Paul Deren, USN
A lack of civic literacy is a problem throughout American society, and general military training could help improve civic education throughout the military. What is lacking from one’s formal education can be addressed while serving, but I do not think this effort will return enough veterans to stimulate civic education.
One problem is only 25 percent of eligible youth can qualify for military service. Considering that approximately 1 percent of the population serves, even if every veteran becomes a teacher, I hesitate to think that will have enough impact on society to improve civic literacy. Military members and veterans are a reflection of society. Unless we overhaul our education system, little will change.
—CAPT James T. Rooney, USN (Ret.)
Commander Johnson nailed the identification of systemic racism and institutional pushback. I have heard many “Yeah, but . . .” arguments and have used many myself, being an old white guy with a 1960s ethos. Commander Melbourne made me aware of my white privilege. I suspected I had it but didn’t know what “it” was. His comments made me think of my privileged career.
However, Commander Johnson’s recommendations were weak. Just like “thoughts and prayers” have done nothing to stop gun violence, “talking, reading, listening, identifying, and visioning better racial relationships” will do nothing to end racism. Leadership and good citizenship are better approaches.
Lieutenant Colonel Fishman offered some great views on leadership, military ethics, and good citizenship. Although he recommended more training specific to citizenship, I’m from the old school of “lead by example.” Leadership from chief petty officers and senior officers sets the right example. They must know what is right and what is wrong well before they pin on their ranks.
Perhaps it’s time our senior leaders stop pacifying our junior people. Again, from my historical Navy past: “Shape up or ship out.” Our military does not have time to placate anti-vaxers, sexual harassers, or white nationalists or tolerate any action that does not fully stand by the oath of allegiance to the Constitution, protecting it from foreign and domestic threats. Good citizenship means you do not have to defend your actions.
Finally, stop broadcasting Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC on the TVs in the galleys and waiting rooms. DoD facilities should only air the American Forces Network (AFN) or other official government news outlets. No news outlet is totally free from bias, but at least the AFN news broadcasts are vetted and fact-checked for some level of truth and accuracy.
—CDR Tom Boyer, USNR (Ret.)
While Colonel Peterson and Mr. Boroughs highlighted many advantages and improvements of the all-volunteer military, they failed to address the problems this system has brought about.
Outside the areas near military bases, the average American has very little contact with those who serve. Nor has the general public been required to pay a personal price for the wars since 9/11. When one’s children are not at risk of being sent to fight in faraway places, it might not matter that others have been sent into combat multiple times. “They knew what they were signing up for” encapsulates the prevailing public view.
New enlisted recruits also come predominantly from the middle class. For various reasons, recruits from conservative “red states” are overrepresented, while fewer come from liberal “blue states.’’ Despite polling numbers that indicate the public thinks the military contributes a lot to society, a more accurate evaluation would be that support for the military is a mile wide and an inch deep. There is a troubling disconnect developing between civilians and the military.
Because such a small percentage of Americans do the fighting and dying, it has become far too easy for Presidents from either party to send Americans into combat and some politicians to casually talk about “forever wars.” There are far too few outraged parents or students demanding either a valid and truthful reason for starting a war (Iraq) or for continuing one (Afghanistan). Without the pressure of massed public opinion, it took 20 years to extricate the United States from the “Graveyard of Empires.’’
The all-volunteer military, which created the conditions for this to occur, remains in place. If left unchanged, a similar disaster awaits the nation in the future for exactly the same reasons.
The focus of the U.S. military has shifted from counterinsurgency to the possibility of a near-peer conflict. Should this ever come to pass, could an all-volunteer force actually supply the numbers required for a protracted conflict with a near-peer rival? It never has before.
A solution would be to reinstate a limited draft (approximately 50 percent of annual recruiting requirements) for both women and men, with no exemptions (other than a medical condition determined by a military doctor) and no deferrals. The obese (roughly 40 percent of the population) would undergo an additional regimen (on top of a two-year enlistment) to bring them to a “fighting weight.” The public would again make itself intimately aware of foreign policy and defense matters because everyone’s child could potentially be at risk. Geographic and class diversity would be enhanced in the enlisted ranks. And a staffing system would be in place and operating, if it should ever be needed, in a conflict with a near-peer rival.
On 20 September, I celebrated my 81st birthday. I retired after a 30-year (15 October 1958 to 1 November 1988) career as a Marine Corps sergeant major, a Vietnam combat veteran with a 100 percent disability rating.
As August 2021 ended, the United States ended its longest (20 years) active combat engagement. Afghanistan has been a very costly combat endeavor and nation-building exercise—in terms of people, money, time, and results. It has been reliably estimated that 800,000 U.S. military personnel served there; some 2,450 were killed (including 13 military personnel in the Kabul airport suicide bombing: 11 Marines; 1 sailor; and 1 soldier). More than 20,000 were wounded, and almost 3,850 U.S. and foreign contractors have died. The 20-year costs have been estimated at more than $2 trillion; care and treatment for Afghanistan veterans could cost another $2 trillion or more.
Somehow, we must learn from our mistakes, mishaps, and misfortunes in this 20-year fiasco. We must never put our military members in harm’s way fighting for unattainable goals and unrealistic outcomes. Those are never worthwhile reasons for service members to be injured, killed, or damaged for life.
Yes, it is true the United States has an all-volunteer force, whose members signed up for whatever the country assigns. However, our sons and daughters deserve much better. They deserve unvarnished truth and competent civilian and military leadership in these matters. There is plenty of blame to go around—Presidents, Congress, the Pentagon (civilian and military), the military-industrial complex, financial institutions, and so on.
There have been temporary successes, but there also have been major debacles and significant defeats. Meanwhile, China, Russia, and other countries are gaining (permanent) footholds in Afghanistan, especially, when it comes to extracting and owning priceless rare-earth minerals and natural resources: lithium, uranium, copper, gold, oil, gas, opium, and other untapped valuable resources. If we are honest and unbiased, I truly believe these are the major reasons and primary objectives for our 20-year Afghanistan war and other Middle East endeavors.
—SgtMaj John Horton, USMC (Ret.)
Captain Cordle’s thoughtful and humane article brought up memories of my great-grandfather, Christian Xavier Klitgaard, who was a ship captain in the Danish Merchant Marine for more than 50 years in the 1800s. He commanded sailing ships, whalers, and oceangoing steam ships. He set speed records under sail, and he loved the United States.
In the 1890s, great-grandfather Klitgaard was in command of the Danish cargo carrier Turrett Bay when she ran aground in the Saint Lawrence River near Quebec. He notified his company by telegram that he had “gotten my ship off the rocks.” The shipping company replied: “Captain Christopher Columbus Klitgaard, please accept our congratulations having escaped from the rocks stop. Now beware of the piles.”
The captain responded by telegram: “You will be glad to know there is only one hole in my bottom.” The Danish company replied: “Captain Christopher Columbus Klitgaard get a substantial plug and fill it!” Problem solved!
The Danish merchant marine had confidence in its captains.
I went to sea after college for a short time as an ordinary seaman and wiper on oceangoing tugs. One of my ships ran aground on Canton Island in the central Pacific but escaped with minimal damage. The captain remained in command.
Dr. Wells’ article was worth reading. I absolutely agree with what Benjamin Ferencz says: The United States should lead the world by example and by becoming a formal member of the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
Ordinary people from small countries believe international courts are political ones. If the rules are not valid for all, then there is a lot of injustice. In such countries, the leaders are often criminals. When this happens to too many governments, the corruption leads to global chaos. It is not too late for the United States to become again the light of freedom, justice, and better life—and a shining example for each country in the world.
—Ivica Tijardovic, Life Member
Colonel Doolittle’s raid was launched from the USS Hornet (CV-8), not the USS Enterprise (CV-6), as Captain Teska’s letter noted.
—CAPT Hal Raper, USNR (Ret.), sailor on the USS Hornet (CVS-1)