Saturday, March 21, 2015

Forward, Engaged, Ready

Forward, Engaged, Ready

Those are the three words emblazoned on the front of the Navy’s guiding document, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”.  I don’t know if those words are intended as a slogan or motto or guideline or whatever.  Regardless, they’re not bad words to live by if you’re a warfighting organization.  I can think of better words but they’re not bad. 

However, are they true?

Are we forward deployed as a Navy?  Well, we’ve idled many of our ships.  Most of our carriers are idled along with their air wings.  We now generally only have a single carrier group and one or two MEUs deployed at a time.  Ship deployments are being cancelled.  That hardly adds up to a robust forward presence.  I’d say that one is not true.

Are we engaged?  I’m not quite sure what that refers to but we’re not engaging the Chinese in an aggressive campaign of counter-encroachment.  We’re not engaging the Russians in any way shape or form.  We’re not supporting the Philippines against the Chinese in any substantive manner.  We’re not engaging Iran.  We’re not engaging N. Korea.  I’d say that one is not true.

Are we ready?  Ships and air wings are sitting idled.  Air wings are barely flying enough hours to stay flight qualified.  We have a backlog of around a hundred Hornets lying in wait for depot maintenance.  Our ships have failed so many INSURV inspections that the results have been classified and the inspections have been reduced to advisory exercises.  Our Aegis systems are degraded fleetwide.  Ships are exiting drydock periods with significant amounts of incomplete maintenance.  New ships are being accepted with significant amounts of incomplete work.  Our main anti-ship weapon, Harpoon, has exceeded its shelf life and remaining functional weapons are being rationed out to deployed ships.  I’d say that one is not true.

Forward, Engaged, Ready?  More accurately,

Absent, Idle, Hollow


  1. As of Thursday, we have one carrier (Vinson) and one LHD (Iwo Jima) in the Mideast and one LHD (Bonnie Dick) in WestPac. We have one carrier (Teddy) and one LHD (Wasp) underway in the Atlantic, apparently on their way to relieve the two in the Mideast. We have one LHD (Essex) on what looks like local ops in the San Diego area. That's it.

    This has pretty much been the tempo of operations for quite some time now. We are neither forward, nor engaged, nor ready. We are punting.

    1. Oh that's weird Teddy R is here ? UK

      That doesn't happen often, nice to see you guys. bit off course tho ?


  2. If I became SecNav my first step would be to order all ships into port and have them stay there for 90 days. This would save billions of dollars, allow for needed maintenance, and allow crews some rest. Moreover, it would break this myth that the world will delve into chaos should Navy ships stop cruising the world's seas. This is absurd, because whenever the Navy is called to fight, it can only send 25% of its force because the rest are unavailable due to previous pointless deployments. I'd set up a 24-month cycle. Six months for rest and repair, six months for training, six months ready to "surge" deploy within 72 hours, and six months deployed. Admirals must stop abusing ships and crews with overdeployments to fight phantom threats to play budget games.

    1. Of course, if every ship were to suddenly put into port, we'd have nowhere near the pier or drydock space to accomodate them. Further, we'd have nowhere near the number of maintenance personnel or spare parts needed to provide the required work. I know you weren't being literal and I both grasp your point and agree completely. What I'm illustrating is how badly the Navy has allowed our maintenance capacity to slip. We have nowhere near the maintenance capacity to support even the inadequate amount of maintenance that we do attempt. Ships are routinely leaving drydock with long lists of unresolved problems. The Port Royal grounding was a good example of that.

      As I said, I agree completely with you but we must first change our priority from new construction at the cost of maintenance, training, and readiness to a priority of maintenance and readiness over new construction. We need existing ships that are well maintained, highly trained, and combat ready far more than we need a few more worthless LCSs just for the sake of saying we have hulls in the water.

  3. I suppose that one has to start with, what is it that we really need our Navy to do; not what we "want" the Navy to do; kind of like the subtle difference between a need and a want. If our Naval Leaders truly feel that this new strategy is what the Navy truly needs, debate it and get to the core of what truly needs to be done to get there. If that can be done, address the money piece, it has to be affordable. If it is not affordable, figure out what comes off the strategy and execute what you can afford.

    We are very much in a horrible cycle of what we buy, how we buy it and how we maintain it. There are good and bad examples of the what/how/maintain above, but overall, we fall short in many areas.

    Buy what you need and can afford, make a commitment to maintaining it and providing the appropriate training so competence and efficiency are there.

    Sounds simple, but that is where I would start; not with a wish list that I know is not affordable to buy or maintain.


    1. AJF, you make half of a great point. The half that you didn't make is that defense needs are not a function of cost or affordability in any way, shape, or form. Defense costs what it costs and the bill must be paid. By definition, failure to "acquire" defense needs runs the risk of loss of your country, freedom, and way of life. Therefore, defense is non-negotiable. Whatever it costs is what must be paid. It is affordable by definition.

      Now, the half of the point that you did make is brilliantly astute and that is the difference between wants and needs. Assuming one has a semi-competent military, they can elucidate a set of absolute defense requirements. Those are the needs. They may also have a set of wants but those are, again by definition, optional.

      Cost does not enter into meeting the needs. That bill must be paid at the expense of every other want of the country be it social programs, education, transportation, or whatever.

      It is up to the military to clearly and concisely make the case for the absolute defense needs and to convey that case to the political leadership, Congress, and the people.

      Wants are optional and do depend on available money. Some may be met. Some may not.

      You are correct. The US has fallen into the habit of approaching defense as a question of what we can buy, whether useful or not, whether needed or not, rather than approaching defense as strategic needs. Sadly, our military and political leadership can't distinguish the difference between wants and needs and too often attempt to present wants as needs.

      True defense needs represent an existential requirement. If you don't meet them, you risk losing your country.

      Excellent comment.

    2. Thanks CNO, always happy to contribute.

      It is the needs part that has to get better; as you say, if it truly is a need for the Navy, then the bill must be paid. But, does not seem that everyone agrees with the true need and therefore, funding does not match the need. Unfortunately, there generally needs to be a disastrous event to drive this point home, true needs must be funded, or accept the risk.

      It is some respects, very simple but also very complex.

    3. "... does not seem that everyone agrees with the true need ..."

      It is the responsibility of our professional warriors to articulate and convey the true defense needs. Unfortunately, our current military leadership has other priorities, as a general statement. I'm sure there are those whose only interest is service to, and defense of, the country but those few are vastly outnumbered by those who are lining up their post-service retirement job with a defense contractor or those who are simply incompetent. The apalling lack of focus on training, maintenance, readiness, strategy, and tactics indicates that our uniformed leaders are busy doing other things when, in fact, the list I just cited should be their sole reason for being. This is a sad commentary on our military leadership.

    4. Your opinion and perspective are respected, but I am sad to hear that is how you feel. I can not argue with some of the poor examples of people and programs that reflect a poor image on DoD, but will say that first hand experience tells me otherwise. I have had close experience with many senior leaders in DoD and where some have agendas, most are there for love of country; post retirement jobs are not their motivation. Things are a bit out of whack these days, we need to get back to grass roots of what our DoD is there for and what it can and can not do.

    5. My personal experience is that the higher the rank, the greater the likelihood of motivations other than love of country. That also suggests to me that our selection process is badly flawed (not exactly an earth shaking revelation). The endless stream of COs being fired is a good example.

      I have met many leaders who talk a good talk but fail the walk. Consider the LCS (to pick on an easy target). Any leader who supported that program, when it was obvious from day one how flawed both the concept and execution was, was either pursuing an agenda other then pure military need or they were incompetent. Seriously, not a single leader spoke out against the LCS. Even now, our leadership continues to pursue the LCS in its new but still useless form while training, maintenance, and readiness go down the drain. That speaks very poorly of our leadership as a whole. I know there are limits on free speech but there comes a point where one has to risk career for the good of the country (where is the modern equivalent of the Revolt of the Admirals?). Moral courage often requires that a personal price be paid.

      I can go on with endless examples but you know the litany as well as I do.

      As I said, there are a few good men but their numbers are dwarfed by the others and the good ones all too often refuse to speak up (a characteristic which almost excludes them from inclusion in the good list).

      I, too, am sad that is how I feel. On that we agree!


Comments will be moderated for posts older than 7 days in order to reduce spam.