Well, it’s about time for ComNavOps to indulge in a massive, “I told you so”, directed at the Navy and, to be honest, many commenters who have been apologists for the Navy. USNI News website has published an article that confirms virtually everything I’ve been saying since this blog started. Let’s check it out, shall we?
“The Navy took risk in many of its destroyer fleet’s mission sets during a period of uncontested operations at sea, and
Forces Command has now been tasked with regaining sea control and all-domain
Fleet Forces Commander Adm. Phil Davidson said Tuesday at the American Society of Naval Engineers’ annual Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium that strategy documents around the 2006 timeframe called for ships disaggregating and operating independently in an uncontested maritime environment. As a result, “we fundamentally decided to take risk on one of our main missions (sea control), and that risk was taken in order to source new missions.” (1)
The Navy knowingly and purposely abandoned its core mission and opted to put the nation at risk. Why? Why? Why would anyone do this? Why? I bet if we follow the money trail we’ll find out why.
“The Navy reduced destroyer crew sizes and instead devoted personnel to expand the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) and Seabees communities, take on new riverine and harbor patrol missions, and create a cyber force.” (1)
There it is. In a time of unchallenged maritime control, the Navy feared losing budget share and opted to compromise their core mission to keep budget money flowing. How? By expanding into non-core mission areas that could have, and should have, been handled by other services.
EOD? Explosives disposal on land? If that doesn’t sound like a Navy mission to you it’s because it isn’t. The Navy has no business putting sailors ashore in a role that doesn’t directly support the fleet. This was a budget grab, pure and simple.
The same thing applies to the Seabees. Their job is not to build deep inland, permanent structures. Their job is to offer construction support to expeditionary forces engaged in combat. Another budget grab.
Riverine and harbor patrol. I’d be inclined to go along with that one if the Navy had actually made an effort to field a competent force which, as we’ve seen recently, they didn’t.
Cyber force? That’s a function that should be handled at the DoD level or higher. Again, a budget grab.
What was the impact of all this rearranging of the Navy?
“In doing so, “we took risk in (anti-submarine warfare), we emptied the sonar shacks and we made boarding teams out of those guys,” he said of submarines.
“We took risk in (electromagnetic warfare), we took risk in (electronic warfare support measures). We took risk in sea control, gave up Harpoon (anti-ship missile) among some other things. That was all to produce that force that we needed over the last 15 years.” (1)
The Navy is now admitting that,
-in order to secure more budget, the Navy knowingly and purposely allowed ASW and EW to atrophy.
-in order to secure more budget, the Navy knowingly and purposely abandoned our only anti-surface weapon.
-in order to secure more budget, the Navy knowingly and purposely abandoned its core mission.
The Navy claims that all this was done to produce the force that we (presumably, he means the nation) needed. No it wasn’t. It was done to ensure the Navy’s continuing slice of the budget pie. In the Navy’s world, the worst possible thing that could happen is not putting the nation at risk by abandoning a core mission. No, the worst possible thing that could happen is to lose budget share!
So, now what?
“Davidson [Fleet Forces Commander] said he was tasked by the chief of naval operations to “enhance power at and from the sea” and undo some of the risk taken a decade ago.” (1)
“From the sea”? Are you serious? From the sea is the core mission. How can the CNO task someone with that assignment without immediately resigning in shame for having allowed the situation to occur? Remember Navy documents like “From the Sea” and “Forward … From the Sea” and “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower” and others? The Navy now confirms that those were absolute lies foisted on us by a Navy that cared more about budget than their mission.
Okay, well as long as we can simply undo the damage, I guess there was no harm done, right? Wrong! There was massive damage done. Possible irreparable damage.
Here’s the damage: the Navy has lost its institutional knowledge of how to even be a Navy. Witness this stunning statement.
“The admiral [Fleet Forces Commander Davidson] is still in talks with type commanders and numbered fleet commanders about how to design a fleet that can maintain sea control in any environment against any adversary …” (1)
The Fleet Forces Commander is in talks about how to design a fleet? Are you freaking kidding me? This is the top guy. The Fleet Forces Commander. And he’s asking how to design a fleet that can maintain sea control. We’ve lost our institutional knowledge of what a navy is and how to design a force structure to be an effective Navy!
Because we’ve so thoroughly forgotten what a navy is and how to design one, we’re now latching on to concepts that are badly flawed and utterly misguided: networking, data sharing, unmanned, limited explosiveness, lightness, mobility, distributed lethality, Third Offset Strategy, presence, humanitarian assistance, etc. Why? Because there is no one left in the Navy who has ever fought a war and, apparently, none who have studied war.
Many people criticize any alarm raised about Chinese or Russian threats by, in part, noting what they believe to be a huge quality edge that we supposedly have. We are, supposedly, an experienced Navy with hundreds of years of operational experience and run by leaders with the accumulated wisdom of the naval ages. Unfortunately, as this article makes all too clear, we have lost our institutional experience and knowledge. We possess little or no substantive quality advantage in experience or leadership (we may or may not possess some slight mechanical advantage).
The Fleet Forces Commander doesn’t know how to design a fleet? How did he get his job? Relax, I know exactly how he got his job.
Every criticism I’ve made of the Navy has been confirmed in this article. I’m now going to indulge myself. Hey, Navy, hey, commenters,
I told you so.
(1)USNI News website, “Navy Embracing Distributed Operations in Quest to
Control”, Megan Eckstein, Regain Sea 13-Sep-2016,