Lessons Not learned

The U.S. Navy's Status Quo Culture
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Published:July 10, 2013
By Roger Thompson (Author)

Despite its reputation as the most impressive naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy is in trouble, according to the author of this book, and systemic weaknesses could be its undoing. Here, military sociologist Roger Thompson provides a compelling, often scathing, assessment of the U.S. Navy and its learning disabilities and then presents a convincing argument for reform.

Thompson points to the U.S. Navy's "up or out" promotion system, massive personnel turnover, inexperienced crews, and drug and alcohol abuse as problems that make it difficult for the Navy to build cohesive, well-trained fighting units. In a review of the Navy's recent history, he finds that its ships, submarines, and aircraft are often outperformed in competitions and exercises with other navies—and its failures are either denied altogether or perfunctorily excused. Diesel submarines—so quiet that they are rarely detected until it's too late to prevent an attack—routinely surpass expensive U.S. nuclear subs and put U.S. aircraft carriers in danger. American naval pilots, whose weapons are often improperly tested, are frequently bested by military pilots from other countries. Because the U.S. Navy doesn't have enough surface ships to protect its capital ships, American carrier strike groups now use Canadian ships as escorts. Shortcomings like these, Thompson argues, undermine the Navy's potential and should be cause for national concern. In presenting a side of the U.S. Navy that's rarely discussed, this book spells out lessons the Navy must learn if it is going to succeed in an era of asymmetrical warfare—of David-versus-Goliath conflicts. In his conclusion, the author puts forth a twelve-step program that calls on the U.S. Navy to rethink its naval strategy, to lose some weight, and to focus on the fundamentals.

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Product Details
  • Subject: U.S. Navy
  • Hardback : 272 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (July 10, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 1591148650
  • ISBN-13: 9781591148654
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 17.12 oz

Roger Thompson is an internationally recognized authority on combat motivation, military sociology, and military bureaucratic politics whose work has drawn praise worldwide, including an Admiral s Medallion from the chief of staff of the Italian navy. His book Brown Shoes, Black Shoes and Felt Slippers: Parochialism and the Evolution of the Post-War U.S. Navy was called "essential reading" by Adm. Elmo R. Zumwalt Jr. and is now considered a classic. Many of his essays have been published in leading journals and his papers presented at international conferences. Currently Thompson lectures at Kyung Hee University in South Korea.

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Lessons Not learned
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Customer Reviews

8 Reviews
Average Customer Reviews
4.63 Stars
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
By: Tom Miller, Columnist
Besides the Guide, I've been reading Roger Thompson's recently-released and provocative Lessons Not Learned: The Navy's Status Quo Culture. In detailing what he sees as the Navy's shortcomings?from expensive ships and aircraft that often don't perform up to expectations to serious personnel problems?and offering a twelve-step program for fixing the problems, Thompson opens an important debate on an issue that's crucial to national security in the twenty-first century. The Naval Institute Press regularly publishes such titles. To read this www.Military.com review: http://www.military.com/features/0,15240,133343,00.html
A bold, provocative critique
Monday, May 28, 2007
By: Steve Cook
Roger Thompson's thoroughly researched new book fires a warning shot across the Navy's bows. It's a wake-up call for senior military officers and DoD officials. Insightful and thought-provoking, this book provides much food for thought. U.S. Navy officers should heed the problems pointed out by Professor Thompson, and take the necessary corrective steps to set the USN back on course. The USN is the tip of the spear in U.S. military power, and must focus on personnel excellence and combat readiness if it is to survive in the rugged environment of littoral warfare.
The U.S. Navy is in big trouble
Saturday, June 16, 2007
By: David Pears
Thompson cuts through the Navy's massive ego like a knife through butter. He goes back sixty years and points out how luck and the mistakes of adversaries are the main reason why this overrated force has somehow managed to become the world's largest navy. He tells how the U.S. Navy is routinely outclassed, outfoxed and outperformed by other navies and how the Navy has failed to learn from its many mistakes. This book is essential reading for all USN officers, especially those who are more concerned with military effectiveness than their own careers.
A book that should be required reading for all
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
By: Cdr. Kerry F. Gentry, USN (Ret.)
I have just finished reading Lessons Not Learned: The U.S. Navy’s Status Quo Culture and highly recommend it to anyone who truly cares about the Navy’s present and future ability to support and defend our nation's interests. I wish I could say that I enjoyed the read, but, as is often the case in confronting unpleasant reality, it was a disquieting experience. And, reality it is. I can vouch for the accuracy of the author’s observations and the validity of his conclusions. I was a first hand witness during my own career that spanned destroyer, diesel submarine, and nuclear submarine service. Whether we can ever change the culture of the U. S. Navy from one characterized by institutionalized parochial self interest to one that rewards commitment to the national best interest based upon enlightened prediction of future warfare requirements is, at best, an open question. Certainly, it cannot happen unless the highest levels of the Defense Department and the Navy recognize and understand the Lessons Not Learned. I thank Roger Thompson for producing a book that should be required reading for all those incumbents from the Secretary of Defense down to Navy Junior Officers.
I urge those who think we enjoy now and will enjoy in the future some sort of superiority on the seas to read this book.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
By: Winslow T. Wheeler, Director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information
I recently finished reading Roger Thompson's Lessons Not Learned (Naval Institute Press, 2007). I urge those who think we enjoy now and will enjoy in the future some sort of superiority on the seas to read this book. You will find tidbits that you contest, but you will also find overwhelming evidence that the biggest, most expensive navy in the world has hollowed itself out thanks to its own rampant hubris and careerism. This has been the case for a long time, and there is nothing on the horizon to indicate any real improvement. I encountered exactly the kind of behavior Thompson describes when I worked at GAO. I was assigned to look at the Navy's operational testing of its vaunted Aegis air defense system on CG-47-class cruisers. I found that in cooperative, even fudged testing (as described by inaccurate and incomplete test reports) Aegis performed at a mediocre level against the easier targets and extremely poorly against the most stressful targets--such as the extremely low, extremely fast anti-ship cruise missiles that today populate the inventories of Iran, North Korea, China, Syria and others. The Navy was incensed, convened a kangaroo-court hearing at the Seapower Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee and declared the problem solved because it won a superficial public relations battle over GAO with the porkers and Navy boosters who densely populated the subcommittee. The Navy proved itself much more adept at PR struggles than it has in anti-mine warfare in real combat since World War II and in anti-submarine exercises over the same period, as Thompson explains in painful detail.
I recommend the book as essential reading for anyone interested in or professionally involved in naval matters
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
By: Pierre Sprey
For a comprehensive, thoughtful and independent-minded critique of today’s U.S. Navy, I know of no work better than Professor Roger Thompson’s Lessons Not Learned: The U.S. Navy’s Status Quo Culture. I recommend the book as essential reading for anyone interested in or professionally involved in naval matters, whether officer, civilian analyst, contemporary historian, defense journalist or navy buff. It is of particular value and importance to those who are courageous enough and patriotic enough to be committed to military reform. The military reform literature is well endowed with strong critiques of American air and ground forces, but is relatively weak in insightful writings on the Navy’s ineffectiveness and waste of men and money. Thompson’s book fills that gap. Lessons Not Learned is particularly hard-hitting in documenting the evidence for the U.S. Navy’s ongoing and shocking vulnerability to diesel subs and mines. As he makes clear, both weapons systems are nearly ubiquitous in the maritime Third World and the presence of either turns U.S. control of the seas into a delusion. Equally valuable are Prof. Thompson’s blunt comparisons of the strengths and weaknesses of American naval forces vis a vis the strengths of smaller allied forces. Unsurprisingly, these disparities in combat readiness, tactical skills and exercise outcomes prove to be greatest in anti-mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare—though sadly declining American aerial tactical skills are certainly not glossed over. But Thompson’s most valuable contribution of all is the thread that runs throughout the book: the most crucial weakness of the U.S. Navy is not materiel or money. It is, plain and simply, the closed-mindedness, hubris and rampant careerism of the Navy’s leadership, greatly magnified by a mindless up-or-out personnel system. That leads to an enlisted force with inadequate skills, morale and training plus an officer corps more focused on promotion and plush retirement jobs than on building a navy competent to win wars.
Headmark:Journal of the Australian Naval Institute
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
By: Dr. John Reeve, Reviewer
"Expertise, independence, and intellectual courage... Roger Thompson, a respected scholar of military and especially US Naval organisation, has all of these things, and the outcome is a thought provoking, and occasionally sobering, contribution to current naval literature... This is a book which will infuriate many people for different reasons, but it is scholarly, well meaning, obviously written by someone who cares, and is therefore hard to dismiss lightly. It is to the credit of the Naval Institute Press that it has been published. May it encourage constructive debate. Recommended."
The Waterline / www.dcmilitary.com
Thursday, June 14, 2007
By: Lt. Cmdr. Youssef Aboul-Enein, USN, reviewer
"Roger Thompson has spent decades thinking about military culture and the bureaucracy that hampers effectiveness. He has reduced his commentaries, questioning aspects of how the U.S. Navy conducts itself, into a single volume. This book is not for those with delusions of invincibility. It takes a realistic look at adversaries both conventional and asymmetric that could undermine if not defeat U.S. Navy combat platforms. The book ends with 12 suggestions that include learning from best practices of other navies and restoring mine counter-measure warfare capabilities to a level commensurate to a great power. One may disagree with Thompson?s observations and recommendations, however, for those passionate about our Navy, it is necessary to read criticism that is constructive and offers readers a way to reflect on how to solve problems that undermine the United States Navy."


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