A 1941 Yale NROTC graduate, Jerome H. King Jr. would rise to regular Navy vice admiral in a career marked by a love of sea duty and tours with both Admiral George Anderson and Admiral Thomas Moorer when they commanded Sixth Fleet. He also served as executive assistant to Admiral David McDonald and Admiral Moorer when they were Chiefs of Naval Operations (CNOs). In these edited excerpts from his oral history, he looks back on life in the CNOs’ office dealing with Secretary Robert McNamara and his systems analysis “Whiz Kids.”
The issues that were of greatest concern to the CNO in 1966-67 were procurement and personnel recruitment—and such issues as McNamara’s demand that we not produce more ammunition than we needed. “What Mr. McNamara has told us, ’’Admiral McDonald said, “is to be certain that the ending of the war in Vietnam will occur, and we will then look around and find we have just shot the last bullet. ”
There were many other aspects of McNamara’s policies that made about as much sense. There was the pilot-to-seat flap: How many pilots we should have per seat. That was the first thing that his right- hand man Alain Enthoven got into. “Hey, you have too many pilots. You ’re training too mam pilots. You don’t need more than 1.1 or 1.2 pilots per seat, max. ” There was a long hard battle over that.
Then suddenly Enthoven said, “Well you have too many aircraft for the number of aircraft carriers. "And so he wanted us to get rid of aircraft because obviously we did not need them all.
Those kinds of issues were very time consuming for the CNO. Both Admiral McDonald and Admiral Moorer were so frustrated. OP-96, the Systems Analysis Division, was established to try to deal with the Whiz Kids in their own language. Admiral Tom Smith, who had been wonderful as Chief of Staff of Carrier-Division 6, headed the new operation. He walked into my office one day absolutely dejected.
“You know, ” he said, “I have to say we simply aren’t ready, haven’t been ready, and are still way behind fighting these systems analysis people. Because we don't know the language, and we don't know the direction from which the attack is coming, or how. They ’re too damn clever by half, and it’s our fault that we weren’t ready. ”
Vice Admiral King continued:
I was involved with a couple of other people in putting together for Admiral Moorer when he was CNO a one-page summary of each issue on which the Joint Chiefs of Staff had made a recommendation to the Secretary of Defense. The summary identified where the Secretary of Defense had either taken the advice or adopted the recommendation of the Chiefs in toto; had adopted part of the recommendation of the Chiefs; had denied the recommendation; or had not responded at all.
In its final form on the typical green JCS paper, it was two and one-half inches thick! The thinnest section was where he adopted, in toto, the recommendations of the Chiefs. Hardly any had been adopted. The thickest one was where he hadn't reacted at all. It was a national scandal really that the military advisors to the President and Secretary of Defense were so treated.
Our new OP-96 improved matters. They spoke Enthoven s language, which was the key, of course. It was long overdue in the naval officer s education to have that kind of systems analysis expertise at hand—to be able to task them, and to read and understand their output. It took time and took some education in itself to do that.