Monday, September 16, 2019

Walking and Talking Disconnect

The Commander, US Pacific Fleet website had an article that I chuckled through as I read it. (1)  The disconnect between the talk and the walk was so blatant as to be funny.  What made it even funnier was the utter obliviousness of the subject of the article, VAdm. Richard Brown, commander Naval Surface Forces.

Here’s the good Admiral’s thematic statement: 

“Lethal and tough in today’s fight.”

What a great sentiment but let’s start with the obvious – there is no fight today and any confrontation that might occur, we back down from, as a matter of policy.  So, the immediate flaw in the statement is that the leadership – meaning the good Admiral – doesn’t walk the talk, himself, as evidenced by his policies.  Given that there is no fight today, how are we supposed to be lethal?

Let’s give the Admiral the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s talking somewhat generically and referring to the potential enemies we face.

So, moving on,

“During SWFOTS [Surface Warfare Flag Officers Training Symposium], we discussed establishing policies and providing funding to support our commanding officers’ efforts to build combat ready ships and battle-minded crews,” Brown said in his address. (1)

Hey, Admiral, a good start to helping your commanding officers build combat ready ships and battle-minded crews would be to stop replacing commanding officers for every picayune offense, real and imagined.  How’s that for a helpful policy?  So what if he had a drink?  Who cares if he said something that might be construed to be offensive to someone, somehow.  A little feistiness of spirit would be a good first step towards a battle mindset.  Let the commanders exert themselves without constant fear of being second guessed over nothing.  Stop kowtowing to the mothers of sailors who think their precious son or daughter is being worked too hard. Your Captains are scared to impose discipline because it will instantly be transmitted over social media and you’ll relieve them for “loss of confidence in their ability to command” because you, Admiral, won’t stand up to a bunch of mothers of whiny sailors.

Admiral, you created this lack of toughness by selecting for milksop commanders.  You have no one to blame but yourself.  Why don’t you start the process by toughening up yourself and not giving in to every politically correct (PC) impulse?

You want combat ready and battle-minded?  How about getting rid of women?  They, literally, can’t pull their weight or their shipmate’s in a casualty evacuation situation.  They can’t lift damage control pumps.  They can’t lift shells.  But you won’t do that, will you?  That would require standing up to PC, wouldn’t it, and you’re not mentally tough enough and battle-minded enough to do that, are you?  Is it really a mystery to you why the fleet and your commanders aren’t tough and battle-minded?

Adm. Brown went on to offer two real-world examples of why crews need to be ready: 

  • Oct-2018 a Chinese Luyang destroyer approached the guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur “in an unsafe and unprofessional maneuver in the vicinity of Gaven Reef in the South China Sea" while the Decatur was involved in Freedom of Navigation exercises.  When challenged, the Decatur veered off and went on its way, as Navy policy dictates.

  • Jun-2019 a Russian Udaloy class destroyer in the Philippine Sea made an unsafe maneuver near the USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), closing to about 50-100 feet and endangering the ship and crew.  Chancellorsville veered off, as Navy policy dictates.

Brown’s conclusion from these two examples?

“So we have to be lethal,” Brown said. “We have to be tough because we don't know when we're going to go into the fight.” (1)

That’s a nice platitude Admiral except for the fact that Navy policy is to meekly give way when confronted.  So, while ‘tough’ and ‘lethal’ are inspiring words, the reality is that, by policy, you’re forbidding our commanders from taking any action.  So, while you want to talk about ‘tough and lethal’ because it makes for a nice PowerPoint slogan, the reality is that our Navy is, by policy that you helped create and enforce every day, ‘meek and mild’.

Adm. Brown, you can talk the talk all you want but until you, personally, are willing to walk the talk, you’re just a hypocrite spouting slogans that mean nothing. 

Sir, you are talking but not walking.



  1. Taking the Admirals first quote, I asked the Commandant of the Marine Corps for his reaction.

    Commandant,"We too have decided to fund a program to arm our Marines and train them to fight" at this point the Commandant was laughing so hard further speech was impossible.

    My take is good Admiral considers the USN a cruise ship company with a humanitarian secondary role. May he should
    be seconded to the Carnival Cruise line ?

    1. What a great way to put it in perspective!!!(was laughing myself)

  2. The Navy could benefit by having some tough ships.

    Bring the Iowa's out of mothballs and modernize them, build a half-dozen, modernized Des Moines class heavy cruisers, and how about four-or-so modernized Alaska-class battle cruisers.

    Let the other navies try and play chicken with those things.

    1. No need to go back to 1940s designs- that cant be built anyway, although Zumwalt class are closest in size to Des Moines.
      Then there is this

      35,000 tons and slow to maneuver or stop. Would cut a chinese frigate into two and hardly feel the bump.

    2. I disagree completely with your comments that 1940's designs can't be built or your implication that they wouldn't fit the needs.

      Those are exactly what the Navy needs in their force mix.

    3. Doesn't matter what kind of ships we build. If the commanders have no backbone and run scared, a determined enemy will just use them as speed bumps. USN has a material problem for sure but I'm honestly more concerned about how much moral fight we are prepared to bring....and that includes the higher ups and civilian leaders too.

    4. I have to agree, that 40s tech, in the vein of ships built solidly, with armor, sturdiness, and redundancy is needed. The Iowa's will never return. But they or the post-treaty cruisers could serve as templates for new ships that would be vastly more effective by reintegrating survivability into the fleet.

  3. @CNO youve mentioned a few times in posts about mother's complaints... Is that really a thing now?? Are COs having to field these kind of problems? Is a social media availibility of COs a mandated collateral duty now??

    1. You may recall the great toilet incident with the carrier? The carrier (I forget which one - you can Google it) was having problems with their toilets and the sailors complained, whereupon the mothers took to facebook to complain and the Navy took a massive PR hit. I don't think the CO was canned (pardon the pun) in that case.

      You may also recall the CO that was fired for attempting to instill discipline? Again, some of the sailors complained to their mothers who took to Facebook and the Navy fired the CO to smooth over the PR uproar.

    2. No...I hadnt actually read any of that. Ugh now I see. Definitely a problem! A CO being at the mercy of moms is terrifying!!!

    3. It can work the other way. When I was an XO, I would see young sailors starting to go off track. I would first counsel them, and if they didn't correct course I would write their Mothers, laying out what the problem was. Worked at least half the time!!

    4. Times have really changed.

      I didn't even know if my soldiers had mothers, and I didn't care either.

  4. As we used to say in gunnery exercises: "AM".

  5. This is where media has failed us badly. I'm not sure questions were allowed or not but I'm sure the dear admiral gives interviews and somebody needs to find his or her journalistic backbone and ask legitimate questions.

    So Admiral, if a USN looks like it's going to be runover by a real aggressive Russia or Chinese DDG, what do you propose to do ?!? Why are all the aggressive moves started by Russia or China, what does your policy propose an appropriate response is? Why is USA allows responding and not be proactive?

    1. I nominate you for military reporter-at-large!

  6. " there is no fight today and any confrontation that might occur, we back down from, as a matter of policy."

    In the context of your two cited incidents I'm not sure I see a relationship. What would you have had the USN do shoot? As long as the US continues the underlying policy I'm not sure I see a need to provoke an indecent with fellow super power. I would say the USN should look first to its own sailing skills err spending on training that is. If it had no track record of poor navigation then an actual collision could be more easily placed at the doorstep of Russia or China and provide a firm grounds for different SOP, a more aggressive one.

    Again Russia plays the same game in the Black Sea and yet it seems to be the one feeling pressured in its own back yard. To the extent its chattering commenters are crying about the Montreux Convention (allowing to much access)

    In any case I don't disagree that the statement that
    “Lethal and tough in today’s fight.” is utter BS.

    But I propose a lack of hard drinking captains and having women sailors are not a problem or at least neither are critical problems nor will changing either fix the USN's real issues.

    I suggest ASW warfare is a case an point. Yes I know its been done to death here but new reporting deserves another round.

    Obviously it goes without saying the LCS does not work and is in all likelihood is to expensive and noisy to work even in the MC things magically showed with pink pony magic.

    Maybe the kit can tried on a British auxiliary ship:

    “Under that concept, American mine-hunting forces could deploy from any large U.S. or allied ship. They wouldn't need their own, dedicated minehunting vessels.”

    Err right because all our allies are always going to be up for any war we fight. Seeing as the UK can't even find enough ships to escort is tankers in the Persian Gulf I'm not sure where all the auxiliary ships are going to come from to used as stand-ins for the LCS.

    But it gets better

    "The exercise didn’t test the effectiveness of the systems to find mines," USNI News reported, "but rather tested whether a single task group could command and control all the people and platforms at once; whether the vehicles could be launched, recovered and operated together without getting in each other’s way; and whether their data could be combined into a single operating picture to allow the task group commander to make decisions about how to clear a minefield.

    "With helicopters trying to operate from the flight deck and two units trying to move their unmanned systems and boats around the well deck without slowing each other down or hurting any of the equipment – all while aboard a 'vessel of opportunity' that they hadn’t worked with before – that was no small task."

    yep 'lethal and tough in a fight' assuming we have a European auxiliary ship to use, an don't actually have to find any mines, and all we need to do is get everyone on board in a permissive environment and run a flight deck...

    Even more fun is a the latest look as the Avenger fleet

    1. "In the context of your two cited incidents I'm not sure I see a relationship. What would you have had the USN do shoot? "

      Um … you get that the incidents were cited by the Admiral who was the subject of the post, not by me, right? If you want to argue, your argument is with him.

    2. "As long as the US continues the underlying policy I'm not sure I see a need to provoke an indecent with fellow super power."

      Obviously the US/Western allies/Good guys should not go out of their way to ram/attack others, but when others do it to you? If someone else does it to you first, then you should respond.

      You won't stsrt the fight, but you will finish it.


  7. cut up - continued...

    So the USN has no working mine clearing vessels the crews have no credible amount of training and lack spare parts. The USN has no viable replacements. The obvious answer would be to stop any money being wasted on the LCS and buy 20 Gaeta MLUs (buy 20 more to be put them in storage and spare parts as well...) Or it could buy 10,000 cheap radio shack quality kit sea drones that simply are released into a exclusion zone (making that a pre announced policy alteration of course) and blow up themselves and everything from mines to cars on the sea bed.

    Either thing would be spending on real war fighting vs a photo op on a British ship.

    The other obvious answer is the USN should get no new ships or toys at all until such time as it proposes budgets that include spare parts, proper training, and spending on expensive testing (that might even break stuff) and exercises that approach real world uncertainty and realistic amounts of ammo usage.

    Hey look it terms of 'lethal and tough in a fight' the Truman Carrier Strike Group is sailing without its CV...

    I suppose that might be impressive but I'd be more impressed if the USN went to the wall and somehow got an America class ship configured for 'sea control' ready and sailing with them. Although that just might highlight the pointlessness of the America class seeing as w/o a ski jump and being too slow its not really able to be a CVL when the US needs some air cover for a CV group short a super carrier (from I dunno battle damage?)[also the America would lack the UK type helo EW platform and a navy plan to us the V-22 as a refueling plane].

  8. So we really haven't had a mine warfare capability since maybe the 1960s. Now we are losing our ASW capability. Our approach to amphibious operations is based on the concept of standing-off 25-50 miles and flying everything in, which leaves the landing force without heavy armor and artillery in the first stages of the landing, and which we never practice (probably because we don't want to admit that it won't work). And on our newest state of the art aircraft carrier, everything works great except the catapults, arresting gear, weapons lifts, radar, and main engines. But boy we have our political correctness down pat.

    To quote Zell Miller, are we going to fight with spitballs?


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