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What's Eating America's Surface Navy? 11 Problems That Need Fixing Immediately
Editor’s note: The Long March will be closed for inventory the month of August. We regret any inconvenience this causes our loyal customers. In an effort to keep you reasonably content and focussed, we are offering re-runs of some of the best columns of the year. We value your custom and hope you will stick around for . . . the Long March.
It’s been a terrible time for the surface navy. Multiple collisions and a senseless grounding. Basic seamanship found wanting. Poor management and poorer oversight of the operating units by higher authority. Busted up ships. Cratering careers. Dead sailors. Terrible, terrible times.
What’s wrong? A lot:
- Readiness assessments: Loaded staffs and nearly 300 serving admirals and yet Big Navy just slept through it all. I was taught as an ensign that an officer’s job is to set standards and see that they’re met. When was that formula set aside?
- Training in the surface navy: It is stunningly inadequate. And the training pipeline for officers? Even with planned upgrades, it’s far too short when benchmarked against what submariners and aviators have to go through to be considered qualified and ready to do their job.
- Watch qualifications: Are you kidding me — a deployed ship operating in crowded waters had to borrow helmsmen?’ And their unfamiliarity with their new ship’s steering system led to the ship’s collision?
- XO-to-CO fleetups: Dumb program. A new commanding officer needs cold eyes and a clean slate.
- The mismatch between ships and sailors: Either simplify ship designs or upgrade the skills of their sailors so they are masters of the technology.
- Bloated wardrooms: 32 officers stuffed into 21 billets in a destroyer? That’s malpractice.
- Putting careers ahead of Navy needs: Now the best surface-warfare officers go to the safest jobs — the toughest jobs are filled by those least able to handle them. The surface navy eats its young.
- Ignoring symptoms and solutions: Ten years ago, surface ship readiness was bad enough that Admiral John Harvey, then Commander Fleet Forces, commissioned the Balisle Study to figure out what was wrong. It did. And died.
- Priorities and investment strategy: Build fewer ships and put the money into better crews. Hull count is not the primary readiness metric.
- Isolation and inbreeding: The surface navy lives in a stovepipe. It needs to find some humility and go ask the submarine force and naval aviation how they operate safely and skillfully in environments far more challenging than the surface of the sea.
- A narrow search for answers: We have the lame leading the blind, the Navy’s major study of the problem staffed almost entirely by people from the troubled area being studied. The situation demands a parallel and complimentary review by objective outsiders. Best way to get that? Push passage of the McCain-Wicker Surface Warfare Enhancement Act of 2018. And bring in some experts from the world of industrial/organizational psychology — these folks are really good at analyzing and fixing broken cultures.
Retired Navy Capt. John Byron is qualified in surface warfare and in submarines. He served in five submarines, commanding the submarine Gudgeon. He is a plank-owner of the cruiser Fox.
At least 4 American veterans among group arrested in Haiti with arsenal of weapons and tactical gear
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
Have you ever wondered what would happen if the employee behind a firearm company's Facebook page decided to goaded a bunch of Marines into destroying their brand new firearms? Now you know.
A top Senate Republican and fierce ally of President Donald Trump reportedly exploded at Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan recently about the U.S. military's plans to withdraw all troops from Syria by the end of April.
"That's the dumbest f******g idea I've ever heard," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) reportedly replied when Shanahan confirmed the Trump administration still plans to complete the Syria withdrawal by April 30.
Later, Graham told Shanahan, "I am now your adversary, not your friend."
If you are in the market for any size of military surplus vehicle, keep an eye on GovPlanet. The online auction house is about to start selling U.S. Navy and Marine Corps surplus M1161 ITV Growlers and seven-ton Medium Tactical Vehicle Replacement trucks.
The White House will keep challenging the Pentagon on the threat of climate change until it gets an answer it likes
The definition of insanity, the old saying goes, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result — a definition that applies perfectly to the Trump administration's response to the looming national security threat of global climate change.