Please Stop Making Sailor-Soldiers

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By Lieutenant Zachary George, USN

Over the last 18 years, the Navy Reserve has served as the nation’s third land army, filling gapped Army billets in the War on Terror in the Middle East and Africa. Through its Expeditionary Combat Readiness Centers (ECRC) in Norfolk and San Diego, it has perfected the art of making Navy Sailors into soldiers. This includes stripping Sailors of their coveralls and giving them a sea bag’s worth of combat helmets, flak jackets, and desert boots, after which, they are sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina for three weeks of basic soldiering skills. As the Navy actively contests a resurgent Russia and an emerging China, both EUCOM and PACOM are calling for more Naval Reservists to fill sea billets, ensuring special missions and regular warships are fully manned and ready. Unfortunately, the ECRCs are not ready for this shift, being unable to send reserve Sailors back through fleet damage control trainers or even issuing them required firefighting coveralls. While the rest of the fleet is shifting to the high-end fight, it’s time for the CNO to radically change the ways the Navy sources, trains, equips, and sends out reserve Sailors to sea-going mobilizations.

Unlike the reserve naval aviation component that still operates and maintains actual combat and logistical aircraft, the reserve surface force decommissioned all of its reserve ships in the late 1990s, leaving coastal riverine squadrons as their only platforms. While some experience and in-rate training can be gained on small boats, those rates, such as Operational Specialists, Sonar Technicians, Electronics Technicians, require hands-on experience on the advance and complex systems found only on warships. Additionally, some reserve sailors in sea-going rates are pure reservists with no sea time, so they are have zero training outside boot camp in damage control and shipboard organization. Some might not know how to even read a ship’s bullseye, a placard that explains how to navigate a ship’s interior.

The solutions? First, add a maritime training week to ECRC after the initial administrative week. This week would include ship tours, wet/fire trainers, and classes about the 3M preventative maintenance system. Next, accelerate and expand the “Reserve Component to Sea Initiative” by shutting down large headquarters reserve units and instead, man the fleet. This ensures that the Sailors drill and train when not mobilized with their active duty brothers and sisters, and can squeeze into fleet training and specialized courses when available. This shift allows reservists to mobilize with their shipmates, vice just showing up to ECRC and then deploying to a thrown-together military detachment with no training or zero workup time.

It is time again to get the reserves back to sea. The CNO must direct the Chief of the Navy Reserve and the Chief of Naval Personnel to quickly make both the Reserve Surface Force and the greater global force management process a system that mobilizes Sailors into Sailors, and not Sailors into soldiers.

Lieutenant Zac George is a reserve surface warfare officer, currently mobilized as the Military Detachment Assistant Officer-in-Charge onboard USNS YUMA (T-EPF 8) in SIXTH FLEET.

Featured Image: BOSTON (Aug. 23, 2019) Chief petty officer selects, Sailors who have been selected for the paygrade of E-7, come together for Chief Heritage weeks aboard the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Casey Scoular/Released)190823-N-SM577-0053

Improve Mutual Cooperation with Small and Medium-Sized Navies

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week 

By VADM. (Ret) Omar Eduardo Andujar-Zaiter, DRN, President, CIMSEC Caribbean Chapter

“A good navy is not a provocation of war. It is the surest guaranty of peace”

President Theodore Roosevelt (Dec. 02, 1902: second annual message to US Congress)

To become more competitive in the new geopolitical reality the U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations can enhance the U.S. Navy’s relationship with the small and medium-sized navies of the “Third Border.” The U.S. Strategy for Engagement in the Caribbean names as the “Third Border” 26 countries that are part of the Great Caribbean Region.

The CNO should include in his working plan a desire to better understand and collaborate with small and medium-sized Navies of nearby democratic countries with the aim of earning bilateral cooperation for USN objectives.

For this the CNO may connect through person-to-person visits and calls to the leaders of these navies to earn a better understanding of how other international naval forces operate and contribute to regional security. This will foster mutual cooperation rather than unilateral activities and goals.

Strengthen Budgets for PME and International Naval Students

The importance of Professional Military Education (PME) as a multipurpose method to link with small and medium-sized navies can hardly be overstated. Unique institutions like the U.S. Naval War College (USNWC) and Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) are excellent means for fostering mutual understanding between American naval officers and officers from numerous other nations.

The CNO should consider increasing the number of enrolled international naval students from small and medium-sized navies to give them the opportunity to attend these world-class institutions that have longed forged future naval leaders. By opening more seats at these institutions the Navy will earn a great return in terms of international connectivity at strategic, operational, and tactical levels.

International Maritime Law

Finally, the new CNO should advocate for the United States to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Ratifying UNCLOS would build confidence within the international maritime community, and would strengthen trust and transparency among the private and public sectors and enhance enduring economic ties, among other vital aspects.

Vice Admiral Omar Eduardo Andujar-Zaiter served in the Dominican Republic Navy for 29 years. Ashore, he served as aide to several Chiefs of the Navy; Director of Public Affairs at the Ministry of Defense, as well as for the DRN. At the Naval Academy, he had several assignments including the position of Director, prior to becoming Vice Chief of the Navy in 2002. He has taken specialized courses at the U.S. Naval War College and the Naval Postgraduate School. He retired from the DRN in August 2007, immediately starting his current position as Executive Manager of CIRAMAR Shipyards in the Dominican Republic.

Featured Image: June 2019 – Navy and Coast Guard members from Canada, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico, and United States, stand for group photo after the final boarding drill during the Joint & Combined Exercise TRADEWINDS-2019, integrated by 22 countries, held at Las Calderas Naval Base, Dominican Republic. (Private Tori Lake Canadian Forces Support Unit [Ottawa] Imaging Services)

Don’t Forget Seapower’s Dry Foundation

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By J. Overton

It’s not all about the ships, the planes, or even the Sailors.

Every day, the majority of the U.S. Navy is spending its time on shore duty. It follows that shore installations are also where the majority of naval operations, strategy, and innovation are carried out. The Navy’s 71 remaining bases show amazing resilience. Some were first built in the days of sail, some were ravaged by wars, natural disasters, and political fluctuations, and yet still they ably sustain the modern Navy.

Ranging in size from the equivalent of a small village to a mid-sized city, some produce their own power, have malls, schools, airports, and wildlife refuges, all seemingly separate from their primary fleet support purpose.

But shore installations are the U.S. Navy’s most vital, complex, and resilient platforms, as close in form to a capital “ship” as we now have. However, they have their own unique critical vulnerabilities. Coastal areas tend to be the most populated, the most environmentally sensitive, most prone to disasters, and have the most desirable real estate. Multiple stakeholders share waterfront property with the Navy, and their interests will, at times, be at odds with a base’s operations or existence. 

Bases are also the centerpieces of the Navy’s most controversial issues, or at least those issues most relevant to those outside of naval policy and strategy circles. Most citizens and Sailors are unaware or uninterested in LCS variants or FONOPS but may have visceral opinions on issues like jet noise, mold in government housing, and hazardous chemical plumes. These feelings are easily and frequently converted into impactful actions by political decision-makers. 

Naval culture adds to base vulnerability by placing less value on bases than on mobile platforms. Ships, submarines, and aircraft elicit emotional attachments, are given personalities, and hold mystique far beyond that of any building, pier, or parking lot. 

But when damaged or decommissioned, the former can often be returned to action. However, once a base is gone, its prospects for coming back into Navy service are very slim.

Recent “Big Navy” strategic documents and designs, however, totally neglect shore installations, save one mention in “Design 2.0” which calls out their use in community relations. Important as that role is, bases’ size, location, and presence means they are continuously carrying out effective naval strategy. Some of that is direct and traditional – overhauling ships, fueling aircraft, training submariners. But much of that is better described as “collateral strategy” – using the means available through local presence to establish global ends. 

In the months ahead, the CNO will draft strategic documents – designs, white papers, or sailing directions – putting his orders down for how the Navy will “…be the Navy the nation needs now, and [how] we will build the Navy the nation needs to fight and win in the future.”  Shore installations will play an integral role in achieving these goals. Hopefully they will receive the explicit, substantive inclusion they merit, and in so doing will help ensure that the Navy and the nation don’t forget seapower’s dry foundation.

J. Overton is a civilian employee of the U.S. Navy, was previously an adjunct professor for the Naval War College and Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and served in the U.S. Coast Guard. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government.

Featured Image: An aerial view of ships moored at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for Rim of the Pacific 2016. (U.S. Navy Combat Camera photo by Mass Communication Specialist First Class Ace Rheaume/Released)

Kill the Darlings and Pet Programs

Notes to the New CNO Topic Week

By Lieutenant Commander Ryan Hilger, USN

For all the talk of being in great power competition, the OPNAV staff is not acting like it. The Pentagon is famous for slow rolling any senior officer who tries to disrupt the status quo, endangers pet programs, or pushes community-threatening systems. The lower echelons have a strong belief that their pet programs are exactly what the Navy needs to win a war, regardless of how over-schedule, over-budget, or incapable the systems are. They use arguments about great power competition and lethality to defend budget packages, but not to deliver capabilities rapidly. The capability of our fleet still largely looks like it did two decades ago.

Meanwhile, our adversaries are outpacing us in many areas. China will likely deploy unmanned systems in greater numbers than the United States, and far sooner than we can. China, in another example of intellectual theft, has stated that their stealth drone program, the CH-7, is on track for its first flight in 2019 and will reach Initial Operating Capability in 2021. By comparison, glacial acquisition processes and entrenched cultural resistance to change have reduced the U.S. Navy’s MQ-25 program from an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) to a humble refueling platform. MQ-25, whose X-47B predecessor conducted carrier flight operations in 2013, might reach the Fleet by 2024. The Chinese fleet of today is virtually unrecognizable from what it was two decades ago.

Should war break out, we must fight with the fleet we have, not the one we wish we had. In 1934, with global peace deteriorating, Congress passed the Vinson-Trammell Act to increase the Navy’s battle count to the London Naval Treaty limit—102 new ships in 8 years. This act provided the fleet that the Navy went to war with in 1941. Quantity matters. Under this act, the Pensacola-class cruisers were developed, optimized to the limits of the Washington Naval Treaty of 1920. 

The Navy had many Pensacolas in its inventory by 1941, but it had also continued iterating the platform, eventually arriving at the New Orleans-class. These two classes fought side-by-side in the Solomons. Yet the Navy would have been at a severe disadvantage early in the war had it waited to perfect a new large surface combatant in the 1930s. All ships were needed. A similar situation is playing out with the Large Surface Combatant program, and the Navy is making a mistake by waiting.

It is time to kill our darlings. We cannot deploy the Navy the nation needs with the many pet programs we have. Underperforming programs must go. Follow Secretary Esper’s lead and hold “Night Court” for the Navy—which freed $31 billion for major Army priorities. If the program manager could not articulate how his program supported the Army’s priorities, then funds were shifted elsewhere.

It is time to actually align our budget with our priorities, rather than allow dated legacy programs to dictate the conversation. CNO Gilday must sell Congress on his fresh priorities and make his signature on the Navy’s budget submission reflect them. The Navy and the nation desperately need it. 

Lieutenant Commander Ryan Hilger is an engineering duty officer with Strategic Systems Programs in Washington, DC. His views are his own and do not represent the Department of Defense. 

Featured Image: PHILIPPINE SEA (Sept. 17, 2018) The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads the Ronald Reagan Strike group, including the Ticonderoga-class missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Benfold (DDG 65) and USS Milius (DDG 69), during a photo exercise for Valiant Shield 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kaila Peters)

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.