05 September 2012

Fair Winds and Following Seas, Shipmates

This entry is my final post on the U.S. Fleet Forces Command blog. As many of you are aware, I will turn over command of U.S. Fleet Forces on 14 September 2012 to ADM Bill Gortney and then officially retire from the Navy.

Before I leave my current position I want to take a moment to say “thank you” to everyone who followed this blog and took the time to contribute to the discussion. Your feedback has been very useful to me over the past three years and I believe that we’ve made some very positive changes for our Sailors in the Fleet.

As for the future of this blog, I intend to leave it up (for reference), but it will be completely inactive and unmonitored. I’ll be updating the “About” page before I leave to reflect the blog’s new status.

I have one final recommendation for you and it has to do with suggested professional reading.  In the Spring 2012 Naval War College Review are two exceptional articles well worth your time.

The first article is by Professor Mackubin Owens and is entitled “What Military Officers Need to Know about Civil-Military Relations.”  I am deeply concerned about the direction our civil-military relations have taken over the past few years and this superb article highlights many of the issues that have impacted those relations. 

At the end of the day it’s all about trust – as Owens writes, “The state of post-9/11 American civil-military relations also points to the issue of trust—the mutual respect and understanding between civilian and military leaders and the exchange of candid views and perspectives between the two parties as part of the decision-making process.”  This is an important article on an incredibly important topic, please read it and reflect on it.
The second article I recommend to you is “A Remarkable Military Feat,” by Professor Donald Chisholm.  The story of the amphibious withdrawal from Hungnam, Korea – a “planned, carefully staged massive redeployment of forces against enemy pressure” – is an extraordinary one with many lessons learned for the Naval force, particularly in the area of complex planning and C2 in a very dynamic environment.   Everyone knows about Inchon – no one knows about Hungnam.  We would all do well to learn what this successful operation has to teach us.

It has been a great honor and privilege to serve with you. I thank you for all you have done for our Sailors, our Navy and our nation and I wish you all fair winds and following seas.
All the best, JCHjr

16 August 2012

This is Our Time

When I started my tenure as a Flag Officer nearly twelve years ago (December 2000), it was a very different period for our Navy and our nation. USS COLE had been attacked two months prior (and would ultimately change the way our Navy trains and conducts ATFP), but we were still nine months away from one of the most significant events in our nation’s history – the 9/11 attacks.

The attacks on 9/11, and the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, required our Navy to rapidly adapt and bring new capabilities to a new fight in a new environment. Consequently, over the last decade we’ve developed new Irregular Warfare capabilities, reestablished our Riverine forces, and supported the land campaign in every way possible (including deploying our Sailors into combat ashore as Individual Augmentees alongside their Marine and Army counterparts). And we’ve done it all while executing our “conventional” missions (SSBN patrols, BMD, Carrier Ops, etc.) and developing the next generation of the Navy’s warships and aircraft. While our deployments and missions over the last decade have been heavily influenced by the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fundamental purpose of our Navy – to project power and influence from the sea – and our Title X responsibilities have not changed.

As we begin to wind down from the war in Afghanistan and continue the strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, we must be ready for a sustained, long-term global effort. This renewed focus on the Asia-Pacific does not absolve us of our responsibilities in other parts of the world and it certainly does not mean our enemies will stop trying to harm us simply because we have other work to do. Like it or not, the world is (and will continue to be) a volatile and violent place in which new threats to our national security emerge every day. And, like it or not, our Navy is the answer to these challenges. Whether it’s the violence in Syria that threatens the stability of the Eastern Med, Iran’s continued march toward developing nuclear weapons, or ensuring free and open access to the various choke points at sea that are absolutely critical for our nation’s commerce, our Navy is on station (24x7) and ready to protect our national interests.

And that’s why we must be ready. All of the initiatives on which we’ve worked so hard the past three years – raising the bar on our pre-deployment training for our CSGs, ARG-MEUs and independent deployers, revitalizing the Navy-Marine Corps relationship (and getting back to our core Naval roots!), reinvigorating and funding the programs to ensure our ships reach expected service life, increasing and improving waterfront training, and putting our Sailors back on ships – are absolutely critical for our Sailors and ships to meet the demands of our future. Because if history is any indication of the future, our Navy will be at the forefront of our nation's response to these challenges and it will be our Sailors and ships that will carry the might and mission of the United States forward. I believe we are indeed entering a uniquely Naval-oriented era.

While we certainly can’t predict where and when the next event will occur, we must be absolutely ready to respond because I can assure you we will be called. If you wear our uniform today, you must be ready mentally and physically, for this is our time…this is your time.
All the best, JCHjr

09 August 2012

Surface Ship Material Readiness Improvements

In July 2010 I testified to Congress that institutional risk to the Navy was moderate trending to significant. High operational tempo as a result of growing operational demand was consuming the Fleet at a higher than planned rate. Although there was no doubt that we were deploying units that were operationally ready, overall readiness trends were in the wrong direction, particularly in our surface force, putting at risk our ability to sustain operational readiness into the future.

Over the past three years, the Fleet and maintenance community have taken significant actions to reverse negative surface force readiness health trends, as documented in this memo. What we have accomplished is a good news story for our Navy and reflects CNO's very strong and enduring commitment to Fleet Wholeness. These negative trends (underfunding of surface ship maintenance and our manpower accounts), however, were twenty years in the making and will take constant pressure and daily attention from us over time to fully resolve. So, while we can say we’ve arrested the decline in surface force readiness, we cannot declare victory. And in January we face the strong possibility of Sequestration, either as currently enacted in law or in some other form.

In this environment, deploying ships/submarines/aircraft/equipment that perform to design specification with Sailors confident in their ability to accomplish all assigned missions means we MUST hold the line on time-tested, combat proven standards that govern how we operate, maintain, inspect, certify and command our units. We have already proven that resourced-based outcomes are detrimental to Fleet Wholeness and mission success. Achieving and sustaining Fleet Wholeness will require that we all apply constant pressure - up and down the chain-of-command - to achieve outcome-based resourcing.
All the best, JCHjr

03 August 2012

Thoughts on Blogging

It’s been a little over three years since I took command of Fleet Forces and started this blog. Throughout my tour, this blog has been an important way for me to share my thoughts and solicit feedback on various topics that I believed were important to the Fleet. I’ve learned about many issues of which I’m not sure I would have otherwise discovered, talked with and helped Sailors who needed additional information on certain topics or had experiences that required improvement to our policies and processes, and received a great deal of valuable feedback from readers who cared enough about the Fleet and our Sailors to sit down and type a meaningful response.

Throughout my time blogging, I’ve been very impressed by the hard work many of you in the “blogosphere” put into maintaining your blogs and producing quality content. And while we don’t always agree on our Navy’s “hot topics,” I want you to know that I’ve greatly enjoyed being an active member of this community and contributing to the discussion – whether on your blog or mine. With that said, I want to be clear that this is certainly not goodbye (not yet at least). I have a few more posts that I look forward to sharing over the next few weeks before I sign off for the last time. In the meantime, I want to share a few brief thoughts on blogging with those of you who are considering a blog as an additional way of communicating with your command/staff.

Understand the commitment
First and foremost, make sure you understand the level of commitment involved with posting frequently and following up on comments. We’ve all seen blogs that start with great promise and then quickly fade away because the owner did not fully understand or appreciate the level of commitment required. This blog has required a considerable amount of my time, but it has also been an extremely valuable tool for me (in my current position) and I’ve actually enjoyed every moment I’ve devoted to it.

Stay engaged
I believe this blog has been effective because of the meaningful two-way communication I established with my readers. There were quite a few times I was given the good, the bad and the ugly on this blog, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because of the open and honest dialogue, I’ve been able to help many of our Sailors understand and work through some of the more unique problems in our Navy (such as IA deployments). Quite frankly, I had hoped for more two-way dialogue directly from the Fleet, but I understand the many reasons for the reluctance of some to engage. It turns out my readership was an expanding group over time and I looked forward to reaching out to them even if I didn’t usually hear back from them.

There’s nothing wrong with starting a blog simply to transmit information to your people, but I personally believe a blog is most effective when you have an open and active dialog with your readers. But regardless of how you choose to run your blog, I strongly recommend that you never ask for feedback from your readers if you’re not willing to follow-up on the information you receive. There’s no quicker way to lose credibility with your Sailors.

Keep it in perspective
Finally, always remember that the blog is not about you, it’s about your command, your mission and your people. Whether you’re sharing your thoughts on a particular topic to ensure your intent is understood, highlighting the unique capabilities of a unit you recently visited, or soliciting feedback on a particular idea, the focus should always be on the command and the people and how you can help improve mission performance. Because at the end of the day, it’s our Sailors and our Civilian teammates who make our Navy great, and who accomplish the mission, day in and day out.
All the best, JCHjr

25 July 2012

CAPT Carroll LeFon, USN (Ret) – Preliminary Information

In an earlier post I told you I would update you when there was something to report on CAPT LeFon’s accident. As of right now, the NTSB investigation is still ongoing and we do not have an indication of when the final report will be released, but given the uncertain timeline (these investigations take time), I wanted to follow-up with you and post what we know as of right now and leave you with the link to the investigation so you can find the final report once it’s released. If the final report is released over the next month I’ll be sure to post an update here to let everyone know.
You can access the below information, and the final report once it’s released, by following this link.
All the best, JCHjr

NTSB Identification: DCA12PA049
Nonscheduled 14 CFR Public Use
Accident occurred Tuesday, March 06, 2012 in Fallon, NV
Aircraft: ISRAEL AIRCRAFT INDUSTRIES F21-C2, registration: N404AX
Injuries: 1 Fatal.

This is preliminary information, subject to change, and may contain errors. Any errors in this report will be corrected when the final report has been completed.
On March 6, 2012 at 0914 Pacific Standard Time, an Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) Kfir F-21C2 single-seat turbojet fighter type aircraft, registration N404AX, operated by Airborne Tactical Advantage Company (ATAC) under contract to Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) as a civil public aircraft operation, crashed upon landing at Naval Air Station Fallon, Fallon, Nevada. The sole occupant pilot aboard was killed, and the airplane was substantially damaged by impact forces and fire. The flight had departed Fallon at 0752 the same day, and attempted to return following an adversary training mission. The pilot initiated two Ground Control Approach (GCA) radar approaches to Fallon and then attempted to divert to Reno but was unable to land there as the field was reporting below minimum weather conditions. The pilot then turned back toward Fallon and stated to air traffic controllers that he was in a critical fuel state. The pilot descended and maneuvered first toward runway 31, then toward runway 13. The airplane struck the ground in an open field in the northwest corner of the airport property and impacted a concrete building on the field. Weather at the time of the accident was reported as snowing with northerly winds of 23 knots gusting to 34 knots, and visibility between one-half and one and one-half miles.