More Comment & Discussion from August

I would like to propose a higher blasphemy than Ensigns Walker and Krusz, by suggesting that we look at diesel submarines for the third leg of the nuclear triad.

The country needs sufficient strategic missiles based at sea to deter nuclear adversaries. The Navy is currently building a dozen Columbia -class ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) at breathtaking expense, so much so that it is doubtful that the nation can afford them. I suggest that deterrence can be achieved more affordably by taking advantage of advances in non-nuclear propulsion.

The United States should take a lesson from the Soviet Navy and build its own version of the Golf-class boomers, powered by the latest air-independent propulsion (AIP)  power plants.

Consider, for example, the Type 209/ 1400 AIP boats, stretched to add space for two Trident ballistic missiles.

With true series production, the cost would be around $400 million each. The Navy could build 12 SSBs for the cost of one Columbia -class SSBN. Based at ports such as Holy Loch, Scotland; Guam; Rota, Spain; and Naval Base Kitsap, Washington, the SSBs would be capable of reaching all parts of Russia, China, or North Korea, even while in port.

The current plan is that ten Columbi as would be at sea continually, but that seems overly optimistic. And would only ten Columbia s successfully hide from the entirety of the Russian and Chinese underwater navies?

As the blaspheming ensigns note, a modern AIP boat is hard to find, even when it is on the offensive. An AIP boat deliberately hiding would be even harder to find. Any boat sunk would deprive U.S. strategic forces of only two missiles. With a large number of SSBs, a swarm attack from many points of the compass would complicate an enemy’s defense.

With more subs, command at sea would be open to more officers earlier. Without the missile tubes, it would be a boat we could make for our allies and friends. A large buy would lead to new builders, increasing competition, further driving down costs, while increasing industrial capacity.

All it will take is for the Navy to embrace blasphemy.

—Sean C. Colgan, Life Member

Pivot to Panay

(See C. Cash, pp. 52–55, July 2018 Proceedings )

Be Ready to Fight

(See K. Eyer, p. 10, July 2018 Proceedings )

Commander Cash’s article gives good historical context for rethinking U.S.-China relations, especially when the United States and China are dragged deeper and deeper into the “Thucydides’ Trap” (“Be ready to fight” by Captain Kevin Eyer). However, the second Alamy photo is from Nanjing! Nanjing— a Chinese film directed by Chuan Lu—but was not identified as being from a fictional telling of the story.

It is indeed unfortunate that, “Westerners have lost this larger story of China’s contribution.” At the same time, the Chinese people do not know the great contributions and sacrifice of the United States, and its Navy in particular, to defeat China’s greatest enemy in modern history. There is no mention in China that Japan signed its surrender on the USS Missouri (BB-63), for example.

Since neither the U.S. State Department nor any other agencies appear interested in introducing this important U.S.-China history to the Chinese people, I suggest that the Navy Department create a task force to do the job—and write it in Chinese, too.

—Jing Zhao, US-Japan-China Comparative Policy Research Institute

The Sea Services Must Engage the Public

(See J. Harts, pp. 18–19, June 2018  Proceedings )

I read and reread Commander Harts’ article, focusing on one paragraph “It isn’t the Sea Services’ ability to communicate with Congress or the White House. It is their inability to connect with the American people.”

This problem has been continual since the 1950s. The U.S. military has depended on its public affairs staff to spread the word about the military when, regrettably, public affairs hasn’t a clue about public relations.

The difference is simple. “Public affairs” is policy oriented. “Public relations” is marketing oriented. When I was a teen after World War II, everyone knew someone who had served in the military; therefore, the military concentrated on getting policy in front of the public. By the time I had been commissioned from ROTC in 1960, the public was focused on bigger questions about the military, yet the military continued its policy-oriented approach. The military has not changed its outlook.

Let me give you two examples of the military’s incapability at grasping the value of public relations:

In the early 2000s, Marine General Peter Pace was serving as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He was every Hollywood casting director’s dream—straight arrow, chest full of medals, well-spoken. One day I was in the Pentagon, and I asked why he was not appearing on Jay Leno, “Live with Regis and Kelly,” and so on. We were at war and I thought it would increase recruiting. The answer I got shocked me. Simply stated, public affairs didn’t know how to do it, and they couldn’t control the appearance, so it was a bad idea. What? 

We all remember the famous “wardrobe malfunction” at the 2004 Super Bowl. The networks were going crazy and the NFL was speechless. I asked an old friend how the NFL would react to an offer of the massed bands of the U.S. military accompanied by a pop music superstar. He practically fell off his chair and said that that was a marvelous idea that would be grabbed at immediately. I started calling people at the Pentagon, but the response I got was “Not my department!” No one would run with what could have been a public relations coup, including public affairs.

The military must learn how to promote itself as the keeper of democracy and freedom and a great career for young Americans. It must do so with sophistication and professionalism, but it must learn self-promotion and the value of celebrity.

—Robert M. Rosenthal

Break in Sailors, Don’t Break Them 

(See E. Rands-Howard, pp. 42–44, July 2018 Proceedings )

I never liked the 4-to-8 watch , but I also never viewed it as a harassment or punishment or anything other than a necessary evil. When I became Chief, there were more watch sections but as an early-era nuclear-plant operator, there was plenty of port and starboard watching, too. Until somebody figures out how to get more “traditional” 3-section watch bills, the Navy will have the same people on the 4-to-8s much of the time.

Petty Officer Rands-Howard presented a good argument in a well written essay. Putting a non-qual on permanent 4-to-8 watch should not be permitted. Qualifications should be done when a majority of the crew is up and about, to ensure a wide range of help for the non-qual sailor is available.

Sailors have always worked their occupational specialty tasks and have always stood watch; it’s what a sailor does. The 4-to-8 watch is critical and requires focused attention. It is not a good opportunity to teach and observe non-quals. Put the non-qual on the regular watch section rotation 

—Chief Warrant Officer 4 K. Lowen, U.S. Navy (Retired)

To see the Comment & Discussion from August's print edition, visit www.usni.org/magazines/proceedings/2018-08/comment-and-discussion .

 

 
 

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