Friday, July 20, 2012

CNO's Tenets - Walking or Just Talking?

CNO Greenert has proudly established his three tenets, as he calls them, for the Navy.  In order, they are:

Warfighting First
Operate Forward
Be Ready

Hmm … Not very catchy as slogans go but that’s okay.  If those principles actually guide the Navy, the Navy would be fairly well served.  So, the question becomes does CNO walk it or just talk it?

CNO - Walking or Talking?

Warfighting First.  This certainly seems like an incredibly obvious tenet for a military organization, doesn’t it?  I’ll give CNO full marks and credit for making it first on his list.  He got that part right.  Warfighting, in the absence of an active war, as now, means being fully prepared for war at all times.  Is the Navy fully prepared, right now?  Not even close!  INSURV failures are so frequent that the Navy has classified the reports in order to avoid embarrassment.  Conversations with serving techs reveal chronic spare parts shortages and not just for non-essential equipment.  Many Aegis parts are in short supply and Aegis is the backbone of the Navy.  If there was any system that ought to be well supplied, that’s it, and yet it’s not.  Ship maintenance has gotten so bad that the Navy commissioned special investigations.  The Aegis cruiser USS Port Royal pulled out of a drydock period and promptly ran aground due, in large part, to unfinished maintenance and parts shortages.  Manning is insufficient to properly maintain and operate equipment let alone engage in combat.  Aircraft are running through their arrested landing limits and flight hours at rates that are causing shortages in the squadrons.  Training quality has been steadily reduced.  New ships are being accepted in woefully incomplete states.  An entire class, the LPD-17, is deemed unsuitable for its designed purpose.  Another entire class, the LCS, has no purpose and less capability. 

Warfighting First also refers to priorities.  What should the Navy be spending its time and budget on?  According to this tenet, it should be all about warfighting.  The budget should be directed towards warfighting.  Personnel time should be devoted to preparing for war by high quality, realistic training.  Fleet activities should be focused on one thing only – warfighting.  In reality, the Navy is far more focused on monitoring drinking, conducting sensitivity training, investigating sexual harassment, promoting diversity, pursuing co-ed ships, and providing humanitarian assistance.  None of these activities promote warfighting.  One, in particular, should be totally dropped from the Navy’s mission list and that is humanitarian assistance.  While it sounds harsh, in a time of severely limited budgets and overworked ships, aircraft, and personnel, this is a mission that does not further the Navy’s warfighting readiness.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Budget funds that could go towards maintenance are being used to conduct humanitarian missions.  Entire carrier or amphibious groups are being devoted to it at enormous daily operating cost.  Precious airframe flight hours are being expended on food distribution.  Thousands of man-hours are being used to distribute supplies instead of training for war.  The Navy simply can’t afford to conduct humanitarian assistance at this time.  In a time of limited budgets and resources, warfighting has to be the priority, just as CNO says but fails to abide by. 

The litany of problems can go on but this illustrates the current state of readiness of the Navy.  The Navy is as unprepared for war as I’ve seen it in my lifetime.

Operate Forward.  This tenet is less obvious in intent.  I don’t know what CNO means by this but I’ll take it at face value.  He’s referring to forward presence, presumably.  Show the flag, gunboat diplomacy, policeman on the corner – that type of thing.  For a nation with a sense of global responsibility as well as global interests, this too seems obvious.  This tenet comes down to two things:  numbers and, to a somewhat lesser extent, quality.  Forward presence can only be achieved by having a sufficient number of ships forward deployed and that requires a critical number of ships.  To a lesser extent, the quality of the ships forward deployed matters.  For instance, a few forward deployed LCSs (Singapore) aren’t going to provide nearly the results that a carrier group would.  No foreign country, friend or enemy, respects or fears an LCS.  Honestly, not knowing what ships are deployed where, I can’t really evaluate CNO’s success in implementing this one.  All I can do is note the trend towards a smaller fleet and a less powerful and impressive one and be concerned that we’re not on a good path moving forward.

USS Port Royal - Ready for War?

Be Ready.  Again, this seems obvious and is strictly the readiness aspect of the fleet and to that extent it overlaps some of the factors and concerns listed above in the Warfighting First section.  Readiness is at a low point with systemic problems in manning, maintenance, parts, and training.  Training, in particular is suffering badly.  We’ve previously discussed various aspects of training and, in particular, realistic training.  Where are the exercises against actual swarms of small craft (Meggitt Hammerheads)?  Readiness also deals with doctrine and the Navy is badly lacking in this area.  Doctrine is a set of pre-determined behaviors and responses to tactical scenarios.  When a missile boat swarm attack is coming what will each ship do?  Every Captain should know what the other Captains will do without having to waste time communicating.  It’s analogous to a well trained athletic team where each player knows what the other players will do at a any given moment.  This point has been discussed on the USNI blog, among others, and the overwhelming consensus is that the Navy is badly lacking a coherent doctrine.  Of course, doctrine must be paired with realistic training to be effective and the Navy is deficient in both.  So, it would appear that the CNO’s Be Ready tenet is not being put into practice.

In summary, then, CNO Greenert is saying the right things but the Navy, under his leadership, is failing to act on those things.  CNO is talking it but not walking it.  This is a failure of leadership at a moment when the Navy desperately needs strong leaders.

1 comment:

  1. I agree they are pretty absurd. One would assume those in any military.

    I would like to point out a couple items:
    1) He said that the San Antonio Class is a proven platform! Really!?

    2) I found the first bullet of "Be Ready" laughable: "Seek a maximum return on our readiness investments by establishing a sustainable deployment schedule that affords sufficient time for maintenance and training."

    3) Several of the points in his third section, "Be Ready", reminded me a lot of welfare. Are we trying to provide everything to sailors and their families?


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