Saturday, June 30, 2018

DepSecDef Work Is Right - Partly

Followers of this blog know that ComNavOps has nothing but disdain for former Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.  Work is responsible for the zealous promotion of the horribly flawed LCS, the stifling of opposition, the promulgation of the idiotic Third Offset Strategy, and a litany of other misguided actions.  I consider Work to be a grave threat to the security of the United States.  That said, I’m now going to turn around and give Work credit where credit is due.  Breaking Defense website has an article with several quotes from Work that are perceptive and wise and with which I agree completely.

Here’s a series of quotes from the article (1).  They speak for themselves.  The emphasis is mine.

“[The United States military] can’t build up war-ready forces to deter Russia and China while engaging in non-stop operations around the world, the way we have since 1991.”

“As the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon struggle to restore the US military’s readiness for war, Work said, they must avoid two great traps. First, he said, we can’t let the insatiable demands of the theater combatant commanders (COCOMs) siphon off forces from the vital task of deterring rival nation-states, above all Russia and China. Second, he said, we can’t let well-intentioned enthusiasm to build a bigger force – as President Trump and House Republicans have promised – come at the expense of readiness and modernization for the military we already have.”

“During the Cold War, Work said, US policymakers had clarity about the military’s missions. Deterring the Soviet Union by standing ready to fight it – primarily with conventional forces in Europe, but with nukes if necessary – was unambiguously number one. Readiness to respond to lesser crises such as Vietnam came second. “Shaping” operations to advance peace, stability, and democracy around the world came a distant third. In the years of US unipolar dominance after the fall of the Berlin Wall, however, those priorities reversed, until shaping become the dominant mission

“In fact, the way the Defense Department works, COCOM commanders could make unlimited demands without paying any of the cost, …”

Cut presence before cutting maintenance, for God’s sake!” fumed Work.”

Compare those quotes to ComNavOps’ statements in a recent post about the Combatant Commanders (see, “Combatant Commanders and OpTempo”).

“The entire Combatant Commander setup is geared towards inflated requests, reverse incentives, and leads to premature wear and tear on the military.  There is nothing wrong with having a CC as a regional subject matter expert but having them divorced from the budgetary, maintenance, and readiness ramifications of their asset requests is a flawed system.

Work’s observation about shaping having taken precedence over readiness is particularly astute.  We have forgotten that the primary mission of the military is to fight wars, particularly peer wars.  Deterrence, shaping, presence, or whatever other term you want to use is fine as a lesser adjunct to readiness but not as a priority over it.  By losing sight of that main mission, we have allowed Russia and China to make significant progress towards military parity and eventual superiority.

The various military leaders, uniformed and civilian, make the right noises about readiness (remember CNO Greenert’s “Warfighting First” tenet?) but their actions belie the words.  We have yet to make more than minor, half-hearted attempts at restoring combat readiness.

We must return combat readiness to preeminence over all other concerns.

Work also correctly notes the debilitating effect of the unbridled requests from the CoComs.  The Combatant Commander model of force allocation is horribly broken and is devastating the Navy.  We need to abolish the power wielded by the Combatant Commanders, say no to most of their requests, and return readiness to a higher priority than deployment.

Unfortunately, Work being Work, he then proceeds to completely misunderstand the relationship between size of the military and the costs of modernization.

“The US can’t afford to modernize its military and increase its size at the same time, said the former deputy secretary of defense , Bob Work.”

He’s dead wrong.  Of course we can increase size while also modernizing.  We have more than enough money if we would spend it wisely.  The Ford class was a gazillion dollar cluster-spend that gives us no more capability than the Nimitz class.  The LCS was a complete and utter waste – a throwaway of an entire class of ship.  The Zumwalt is an absolute embarrassment with no ammo to fulfill its designed intent.  The F-35 is an aerial train wreck that is decimating the entire military.  The Marine Corps is off the reservation with its insatiable desire to become a third air force.  We’re on, what, our tenth set of uniforms for the Navy in the last five years?  I can go on almost endlessly but you get the idea.  Spend wisely and we can modernize and increase numbers.

Compounding the bad, Work then lists the things that we need to invest in.  I won’t bore you with the list but, predictably, it’s almost all technology, little of it increases our firepower, none of it improves readiness or numbers, and most of it is highly questionable.

Former DepSecDef Work had at least a few good ideas.  We need to restore combat readiness to our top priority, largely abandon “shaping” efforts, and neuter the CoComs.  In short, we need to our military’s focus to its primary mission which is to defeat peer opponents.


(1)Breaking Defense website, “‘At War Next Week’: Bob Work On Readiness, Modernization, & COCOMs”, Sydney J. Freedberg, Jr., 7-Nov-2017,


  1. There is no stomach in the top brass. If they admit we are in peer competition they have to admit they blew our edge. Uncomfortable questions will be asked. Instead they sail around in circles and call it victory. Kick the can down the sea lane and hope nothing happens before the next promotion.

  2. Wasnt the keel laying of the first LCS was in 2005. Work became Under Secretary of the Navy in May 2009 and later DepSecNav in 2014. He had previously spent 27 years in the Marines and retired as a Colonel in 2001.
    There doesnt seem to be much doubt Work continued the flawed work on the LCS program

  3. Certainly agree about money not being the issue- it's simply been spent on the wrong things- F-35, LCS, Ford Class Carrier. That's around $450bn which could have been spent on so many other things.

    Had a thought about the independence class LCS the other day. Add b etween 3 to 7 57mm guns on it, and it can be a CIWS ship.

    Let me explain.

    I've chosen the 57mm since it's the calibre the USN seems to prefer, rather than 40 or 76mm.

    Add one more on the front "module" space, and then at the back, place some next to the hanger, but to the sides of the deck, port and starboard, so the guns form a "corridor" the drones or helicopters have to move through to get to the flight deck.

    The number of guns can be increased by superfiring them, so by eyeballing it, you could get three on each side, total of 8 x 57mm guns. There's no need for 30mm guns, you can put the hellfires in the two module compartments at the top where the 30mm guns usually are.

    An unexpected consequence of the design of the LCS is that it has the speed to keep up with a nuclear carrier. Of course it cant handle bad sea states, and it's range is lacking, but it has the speed. During the time it keeps up with the group, using x4 Indy LCS means there's 32 x 57mm guns around for CIWS.

    The LCS can still carry the unmanned mine hunting drone if need be.

    What about weight? each 57mm gun with 1000 rounds is about 14 tons, so x7 of them is within the 180 tons weight allowance the LCS has.


    1. "it can be a CIWS ship."

      I don't quite understand what you're suggesting. Do you mean a CIWS ship for defending a carrier? If so, there are several problems.

      -The 57 mm gun is not a CIWS weapon. The rate of fire and the guidance are insufficient. The Phalanx ROF is 4500 rds/min. The Mk110 is 220 rds/min. The Mk110 uses EO fire control which is woefully inadequate for CIWS accuracy. The Phalanx uses a self-contained, closed loop radar.

      -CIWS system work best when the target is approaching head on - crossing shots are very low probability of kill. Thus, a CIWS ship would have to be physically right next to the carrier which would be a very challenging navigational task.

      -LCS does not have the range to be an effective carrier group member. It would have to refuel on a near daily basis which is just not practical.

      Maybe I'm missing what you're trying to accomplish?

    2. Yes CNO, that is what I am suggesting. I know the guidance isn't enough- I've only seen dedicated software for the 40mm and 76mm oto melara guns for AA use, but the USN refuses to uses either of these, so I've gone with the 57mm gun.

      As for rate of fire, that's why I've added a bunch of them to the ship. At certain angles, the LCS can have all 8 guns facing approaching missiles. That's a lot a metal in the air, albeit at only 8km range, though that's better than phalnx's 2km.

      As for range- yes, it would only be able to keep up for a short distance, so it might have to rendevous with the carrier fleet, or arrange several LCS to meet at certain distances.

      Of course, a LCS with x8 57mm guns would be able to take care of speedboats with RPG's.

      I'm just making up a possible use for the LCS, should more ships be needed. Otherwise the LCS is just going to stay in the Caribbean. And we all know how dangerous countries like Columbia are. Almost as bad as Canada. (yes, I jest).


  4. I have a question: if the F-35 is an aerial train wreck, what is your answer to the thousands of aircraft in american tactical aviation that are averaging 30 years old?

    The youngest F-16 is 26 years old; the youngest F/A-18 is 17 years old, the youngest A-10 is 34 years old and the Super Hornet fleet is rapidly hitting the 6000 hour projected service life.

    1. "what is your answer to the thousands of aircraft in american tactical aviation that are averaging 30 years old?"

      Is this a trick question? The answer is to build new ones. We can have a brand new, state of the art aircraft in production in five years. I've described how in a previous post. See, How To Build A Better Aircraft

  5. Gen. Colin Powell was against having so many Combatant Commanders. He advocated there should only be four:

    1) Atlantic Command - Led by an Army General
    2) Pacific Command - Led by a Navy Admiral
    3) Strategic Command - Led by an Air Force General
    4) Contingency Operations - Led by a Marine General

    1. I'm against having ANY ! Let the Joint Chiefs handle the joint combatant decisions.


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