31 July 2009

Sustaining Our Essential Warfighting Capabilities

I share AW1 Tim’s and Heretic’s concerns regarding our ability to sustain ASW capability; we are investing heavily in systems as well as tactics, training, and procedures to ensure our ASW capability keeps pace with the proliferating and improving threat, but ASW is just one very important piece of the broader warfighting picture facing us.
For the past 60 years, our Navy has been the most technologically advanced, well-trained, and most complete and capable naval force in the world.  Since the end of the Cold War, other nations have not been able to compete with us militarily or economically.  But as Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a-changing.”

We are now in a time where a terrorist group like Hezbollah can not only acquire a cruise missile, but also train, launch and hit an Israeli Sa’ar 5 corvette – a capability once possessed by only a handful of militaries.  This type of capability (once the purview of the nation-state, now within the reach of many non-state extremist and criminal organizations) requires us to take a hard look at all of our warfighting capabilities and how we man, train, and equip. It is no longer just about ensuring that we do not allow our traditional warfighting capabilities to atrophy - we must be able to deter and when necessary, fight and win against ALL those who seek to do us harm, including those that do not fight under a nation’s flag like terrorists, cyber-hackers, and pirates.

What are some of your ideas concerning how we ensure our warfighting capabilities like ASW / BMD / Strike, etc. keep pace with the threat, while we also ensure we are prepared to combat “irregular” threats like terrorism, cyber-hackers, and piracy?  And how do we best accomplish all this during a time when the great pressure on our budgets will not allow us to just “buy our way” out of the problem?


Mike Burleson said...

Sir, I just have one simple question:
20 years after the end of the Cold War, why are we using ships meant to fight that war, meaning 10,000 ton Burke destroyers, to fight pirates in speedboats in the Gulf of Aden? I know the littoral combat ships are expected to come in service eventually, but we have so few ships, so many enemies, and so much can happen while we wait and debate.

C. said...


Why not allow anyone in the Navy to submit ideas on how to combat these irregular threats and reward them with medals, advancements, etc? For too long we've been ignoring the lonely E-3 that may have the answers in his head on how to prevent some form of cyber attack. These days many of the younger generation have more valuable information on these threats than even the highest 4-star. They grew up with this stuff and, frankly, the highest ranking officers of all our branches did not. You are the experts in most forms of warfare and I am sure you know a lot about the irregular threats, but are each of you proficient enough to launch an attach on the Windows kernel or to use a packet sniffing program to capture the supposedly secure traffic between an NMCI workstation and it's destination? No, but the reason that the irregular forces of the terrorist organizations are able to do such things is because it doesn't take 25 or 30 years to become an expert hacker.

Many of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines probably have this knowledge in their heads right now and even their platoon commanders and division officers don't know it. In my career (only a few years) I have met dozens of junior enlisted that could easily outpace even a formally trained computer scientist at his own game, and I am sure that there are others out there that have novel ideas on how to solve other problems that we have before us and would be willing to do so with the right rewards and respect. The problem is that when SN Timmy comes to ENS Butterbars with an idea, either the ENS has no idea where to send him or he dismisses him immediately.

In short, my idea is this: publish some of the problems we face as a military on a special web site that allows access to anyone with a CAC (like NKO) and request that anyone with the knowledge in a certain area submit detailed ideas and plans on how to solve it. Classification can be dealt with in various manners, but I am sure that any problems can be overcome easily. Not only that, but if someone sees a problem that no one else does, they could submit a description of it and ideas on how to solve it.

Thank you for your time.


swogo said...


The obvious answer to most of the questions about how to get effective training without the required expense of putting ships to sea for extended times is embedded training, and I completely agree. The problem is that the simulations that we use now artificially tilt the favor to the 'defender'; real world aircraft, submarines, and surface ships are not as easy to detect, much less classify and engage, as we pretend they are, and even white shipping and air contacts are not as cooperative as we pretend they are in simulators. Ultimately we need an effective fleetwide opposition force that also 'pushes' out to ships, subs, and squadrons to enhance training. Aggressor squadrons, but on a fleetwide level. Senior personnel with real-world experience to share their experiences and to make our simulators and embedded trainers better. The ideal answer would be to extend COMPTUEX and JTFEX, and to schedule real world services for all unit level training events in SURFOR, SUBFOR, and AIRFOR, but in the absense of that option (fuel restrictions and limited flight hours/underway days), shouldn't we make our simulations better?

Very respectfully,

Byron said...

Burke class DDGs can peform multiple tasks: surface search, basing for helo's, refueling helos, berthing for Marines/Seals, the ability to launch and control UAV ISR assets. They have the sea legs to stay on station much longer than another asset like an offshore boat of Eagle1s or an LCS (which burns fuel like an oil field wildfire when running at high speed). And before you go there, a Burke is NOT a battleship. Burke DDGs perform all the classic roles of the destroyer, and rightfully should be classed a destroyer. Economics in the modern battlefield does not change the role of a warship, no matter how much you'd like it to do so.

ADM Harvey: Sailors need to take more ownership of their ships. They need better training on their systems, how to fix them, how to keep them operational. They need to go back to the days of needle gunning bilges. This is all directly related to operational costs. Yardbirds like me cost you a lot of money to go in and clad weld thin hull areas that wouldn't be there if sharp-eyed petty officers were looking for corrosion and getting rid of it. Knowledge of shipboard systems is a must also. I recently had to tag out an SSTG for structural repairs to it's intake. It took a day and a half of confusion on the part of ships company, even after much explanation on my part to get the right systems set up for the tag out process. Last, but not least, eSOMs did NOT reduce the time it takes to perform tagouts; rather, it has doubled it. Part of this is lack of familiarity with computers (file structure, admin access, navigation through the different fields) and the actual ships systems themselves. Believe it or not, the best ship I've seen so far that's ready for eSOMs was a 26 year old FFG.


ex-EM1(SS) Tugboat said...

ASW has been declining since the cold war was hot. I can recall several exercises in the mid 90's in which the destroyers protecting a battle group knew everything about a submarine's operating schedule... which stovepipes were allowed, at what times we could come to PD, etc. We (as an opfor sub) were required to run the diesel for specific periods of time and dork about doing many things that sailors aboard neither an SSN nor SSK would ever do (banging on the hull with hammers comes to mind). On a few occasions, we had to transmit our position in the clear.

That is why surface ship ASW is where it is today. I know full well that stovepipes have their purposes, but there must be a way to maintain safety without giving the game away to the ASW guys who need realistic training.

Thanks for the opportunity to communicate. Have a good one!

G-man said...

Thank you for the amazing opportunity you present.
What we need:
1. Accountability. Needed from the top down. $700 million LCS? Why? WHO? Can we afford? 30% shortfall in strike-fighters by 2015? Why? WHO? Pregnant midshipmen allowed to graduate. Why? What happens when a plebe becomes pregnant? Only difference is time-frame. Rules can be bent, but not broken.
2.Ship's maintenance: why don't they do corrosion control like aviators do? As an aviaotr on one det on an Aegis CG I went around with the captain and we made a PMS deck for topside corrosion control. Gave them the supply list, they ordered, and that ship looked great.
3. Green flare ASW will not work in the real world.
4. Develop a mindset that we are in this war/overseas contingency operation for the long haul - years and years ahead of us. Set up Guam for second forward deployed CVN.
5. Practice economic warfare - it has been said that Saddam Hussein would have taken $50 billion cash to leave Kuwait and forget that "misunderstanding". Instead we spend $100 billion and still have to go back a decade later to fix it - with an additional several hundred billion still being spent. Piracy can be stopped if the people had a viable economic alternative. See poppies in Afghanistan.
6. Cultivate our most important resource - our people. We all know the pyramid gets real skinny at the top, but let the top performers that don't advance know that their contribution is still solicited. When I was a young flag aide at NavSea, the admiral used to bring in retired admirals and select captains on a regular basis for briefings on ship and sub programs. Some had been retired for 20 plus years but the Admiral still valued their insight and told me that the fundamentals of good seamanship and warfare, and in my case aviation, never changed.
7. Go to sea every chance you get. Not only to see your people but to revive the spirit. You've been blessed, enjoy the journey.

T.C. said...

Run AirWing Fallon with a simulated network attack; create a red cell for cyber-warfare. Commission letters of marque for friendlies to take down terrorist net sites.

Steeljaw Scribe said...


CNO has stated BMD is a core mission - which is all good, necessary and needed. While there is a plan to expand BMD capabilties to a wider population of the Burke-class DDGs, there is still the (as yet, unchecked) growth in numbers of ballistic missiles, especially the short- and medium range versions that present a threat to our deployed forces and regional friends, partners and allies. Current estimates (see, for example, here put the numbers thus far at around 5900 deployed. That numerically outstrips our projected inventories of SM-3/SM-2 interceptors, let alone the tax it places on ships and crews being pulled in many directions mission-wise.
With this in mind, I would be intersted in hearing what Navy is looking at beyond just Aegis BMD in terms of:
1) Alternate intercept platforms: E.g., we figured out a way to bring a (albeit crude at times) AAW self-defense capability to a wide-ranging number of non-traditional AAW ships via NATO Sea Sparrow, RAM, and BPDMS - have we thought about working with/leveraging off USAF's Airborne Hit-to-kill studies in similar fashion?
2) Contributing to persistent ISR/targeting via platforms like E-2D, BAMS, P-8 even SCAN EAGLE? MDA is looking hard at use of predator in the "early" phase of a ballistic missile's flight. In many areas of the world we may have the only deployed ISR capabilities.
3) Considering that BMD is more than just active defense, are we investigating other venues in areas like attack operations using UCAV-N or electronic attack from sea-based platforms?
Bottomline is this - when we were going up to hit the Bear's lair, if you weren't going over the beach with a silver bullet, then you were devoted to AAW (or counter ASCM/SCM/SSCM) from the Tomcats throgh the A-7's, and anyone who had a rudimentary shot against the volley of incoming cruise missiles we were (and still should be) expecting. Seems to me in a future conflict where our foes - and not even necessarily the "near peer" everyone is fond of talking about - have pretty well figured out the utility of a massed balistic missile attacks and for all our ground-based missile defender's talk, the platforms most able, most capable of providing area and point defenses are going to be our sea-based ones.

T.C. said...

Apologies sir, hit send a little early.


MR T's Haircut said...


Basic ASW is a theory. It is then transmitted to a Tactic and Warfare area of expertise. It is expensive to develop and costly to maintain. I liken a well trained ASW force to that of a Fire Station. Pretty Trucks that cost the tax payer a lot of money but required to perform when called.

Find a core and pay for it.

If this is a free pass on ideas to pay for it, here are some:

Tactics over Tech.

1. Start by NO NEW PROGRAMS for 5 years. Fight the system you have on your ship and fight it well. Learn to maximize tactics isntead of relying on technology. ACDS Block 1? No problem. Use it to the best capabality and only pay for inter-operability/comms.

Strip Ship Bill

2. Cut the Baby. GET RID of anything not adding value to our material readiness, tactical training, or warfighting capability.

this means:

- KILL any Pers office above the 4 series...
- Kill any program on everybase that does not contribute to direct mission of that base.

3. Personnel.

Cut FLAG Billets by 40%. Review bottom up structure and bring back LCDR Command of Destroyers and lighter. LCDR Command of sir squadrons. Why pay for all these 0-5's if we can cull the number of Flags.

- Start with the unholy "navy region" concept. this will net GS-12-14 level staff, cut a butt ton of CAPT and CDR billets and reduce the numbers of Flags by at least 10.

- It is OK to not transfer every 2 years to a different PCS location. If a service member can serve is and ready yo contribute wherever he is located, allow him to serve. If he is willing to forgo career milestone, LET him. He is still a viable Officer and still can perform. We don't all want to make Admiral

- Bring Back the O Club and CPO clubs.

- Stop trying to enforce state laws on federal installations.

1. GET Rid of Computer Based Training

- Hands on works.
- Rote memory works
- Man your schoolhouses before the fleet.

1. Small tonnage vessels in the 2500-4000 ton range. Just Build the damn things... stop the 40 percent solution crap.

1. Stop confusing Covey training with leadership.

Lean Six Sigma, who cares? Good for supply guys and aquisition dudes, but wrench turners? Bomb droppers? Really?


FastNav said...

The number one thing the Navy can do, sir, is stop trying to make revolutionary changes in designs.

If there's one thing that 688 class, DDG-51s, and F/A-18s can show us, it's that the Navy benefits when we pick a platform design. Build it. And then make incremental changes to it, introducing new technologies slowly.

Building entire new ships, subs, or planes with too many new systems leads to delays, cost overruns, and general dissatisfaction with the management of resources on the part of Congress as well as the OPNAV staff.

To link this idea to your original question... the money saved from these cost overruns could be placed into the O+M accounts of the fleet. Allowing for more training time out at sea. All of the simulators in the world are no experience for going out and doing the job because no simulator can get the full experience of a surface ship having to do the multiple missions going on at any given moment.

There is simply no substitute for hands-on experience.

You want to be able to maintain our edge in warfighting? Go practice.

My experience is that kids who rock at Madden 2010 suck at real football.

sailor79 said...

Sir, From the desk of a former Coordinated ASW Lead Instructor (FLEASWLANT 91-95) and Tactical DesRon staff officer (89-91), the effective and relatively inexpensive solution is training-related. The former Scene of Action Commander COI, Battle Groups Operations & Plans COI, and Coordinated ASW COI were effective tools teaching and reinforcing basic but proven tools from "the white books" -- Allied Tactical Pubs. One must know the procedures, pro-words, tactical signals as basic tools for inter-operability with allied navies. We don't need to re-invent the wheel with technology or tactics, we need to re-learn what works and enforce it.

Byron said...

And if you want to really practice ASW, use a real submarine. And don't put silly restrictions on the sub, tell 'em to do it like it's real. If it's embarrasing to the ship, so be it. Better to be embarrassed in traing than to be dead in war.

ex-EM1(SS) Tugboat said...

I agree with Haircut on several issues... I was looking at a set of shipyard prints of a WW2 destroyer escort. Like Haircut mentioned, many inexpensive, reasonably capable ships can provide a LOT of ASW ears and torpedoes. Reasonably inexpensive networking between them can also yield big gains. Not too fancy nor expensive; heck, use the old hull plans of a DE and put a modern diesel or CODAG plant in them. If you don't have them on file, I had them scanned at 300dpi and I'd be happy to provide them :)
Having worked at NRL in D.C. before, I don't fully agree with Haircut on the ceasing development work idea. I do believe he has a point in getting gear onto ships and letting it mature in place, letting the sailors using it be familiar (dare I hope for being outstanding on it?) with it. R&D is essential, but every new development doesn't have to make it to the fleet ASAP.
I agree with FastNav & Sailor 79 on training, so I will not repeat their excellent posts here.

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Some excellent and thought-provoking responses so far - thanks very much for the inputs.
I'm on the road this week checking in with two of the COCOMs I work for (STRATCOM and NORTHCOM) en route to San Diego to visit SURFOR, 3RD Fleet and SNA.
While on the plane I've been reading through the responses; I will have some comments/questions to post when I get to San Diego. All the best, JCHjr

Sim said...


With regard to "give the OPVs away as a softpower building move."

The Pacific Patrol Boat program:

- 12 nations
- 22 ships
- 32 classes a year to train sailors to man them.

The boats will go 2500NM or go 20 knots, with overhauls they'll last 30 years.

Just an example of that sort of thing from the past.

Quatermaster said...

Ending R&D is a very bad move. It seriously hamstrung Germany's Air Force when Hitler ended all R&D that did not support dive bombing. It would seriously hurt any military force to end R&D.

EM1 is correct about the Old DEs. I served on one of the Dealey class (~1900 tons), Courtney (DE-1021) and can certainly see the merit of ex-EM1 on this one. They were relatively cheap to build, man, and operate. They played a large part in winning the battle of the Atlantic in WW2, and with modern Sonar, and other sensors could contribute greatly to our efforts at sea. Failng that, the Knox class DEs would be quite good as well, and allow room for an embarked Helo detachment as well.

The question I have is about using Diesels in ships meant to carry the load in ASW. Like it or not, Diesels are not quiet, although they have very high endurance. I may be wrong, but I don't think you can isolate the hull sufficiently from the vibration of a Diesel to make them quiet enough to prevent them from radiating enough noise to send the "here I am, come sink me" message to an enemy sub. It's always been a question I've had about the Hamilton Class High Endurance Cutters which are motor ships. By contrast the Courtney was a quiet ship with steam propulsion, and with masker systems, could be extremely quiet.

Another nice thing about DEs, they would make a good LCS for a lot less money. Sometimes you need to back to the future to get your answers. I'm not sure the current group thinking through ship requirements really understand what Naval warfare is all about and are simply thrashing around before settling on something with a lot of flash.

Byron said...

QM, you could always replace those diesels with LM2500 gas turbines. Lot quieter, too, if they're rafted.

Fleetwarrior said...

Are you going to allow the staff at USFF to wear the NWU? I know a lot of staff members would like to wear them to work. Curious as to what your policy will be for wearing the NWU at USFF

Fleet Warrior

ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr said...

Quick response for Fleet Warrior - I'm open to reviewing the current policy. I've asked the DCOM and Fleet Master Chief to review the current NWU wear policy at USFFC in light of exisitng Navy guidance and the wear policy previously promulgated by the Regional Commander.

I'll get the facts and recommendations from VADM Daly and Fleet Howard, discuss them with my USFFC leadership team and take it from there. All the best, JCHjr

antoine corbin said...

The ASW topic is very important especially in regards to training and personnel. Our Navy is constantly updating technology, but we are failing to train our sailors. We have forgotten the most important assest in the fight, our people. Some of the systems do not have any formal training in place, most which affect several ratings not just one. We have failed to address proficiency levels across the board, so what we have is many enlisted leaders who can not train the sailors below them in the specialty. Senior Surface ASW Specialist, are more likely to leave our service, because there has been no room for advancement. If we could take the same approach with personnel, and training as we have with increasing technology we would be much better off this warfare area. I also see we have made steps to comabt "irregular" with CYBER COMMAND establishment.

Quatermaster said...

Admiral, The more I look at it, the more LCS comes across as a waste. I realize the Navy does not have limitless resources, it has never had that even with a two ocean war going on. That was, as you acknowledge, why those DEs were built. The Dealey and Knox classes were excellent follow on classes that preformed the same leveraging of material and manpower the originals did.

The LCS seems slick, but in combat it will be revealed as a weak reed. Its automation is that week link. As an Engineer, I would never consider the degree of automation in the LCS as an option for a combat ship, particularly with the low manning level of the ship. Raising the complexity of the ship is generally not a good idea if you are going to place it in harm's way. While the basic idea of the LCS is something that appeals to the Engineer in me, the sailor is quite wary. The Engineer also knows that trying to use the same tool for differing tasks requires compromise, the result of which will be born by the sailor that takes that ship into combat. Compromise can only go so far without failure, and LCS gives me the shivers.

Byron, the problem with gas turbines is endurance. Very quiet, yes, and safer than steam. Also, yields better ship handling. I spent a short time on a PG during my reserve stint, and really liked the idea. They are just fuel hogs compared to Diesels. I'd buy Diesels for ASW ships if the noise problem could be solved simply for their endurance.

Byron said...

Concur on LCS. A question I've never had answered to my satisfaction is what happens when LCS has a beloow waterline hit letting water into a people space, along with a fire (very plausible if you think on it) and it's either fight the ship out of the bad situation you're in, or save the ship. With minimalists manning, you can do one or the other, but not both. And that automated DC? Can it slam a DC plug into a hole? Jam shoring in place? Handle a break in a critical lube oil or fuel oil line? Man power intensive work, all of it.

QM: put the diesels in shrouded modules like they do the GT engines?

AW1 Tim said...


My apologies for being late to the thread. It's all that darned real-world stuff. :)

My concerns with ASW are not just related to our capabilities, but whether we have ENOUGH assets to meet potential situations in a future large scale war. It all comes back to logistics.

I question whether we will be able to sustain our Naval warfighting capability in the western Pacific, or any other far-distant ocean. Past solutions were to forward-deploy logistical material, and then unrep as needed. However, with the advent of conventionally-armed LRBM's, those same depots we currently depend upon will likely fall underneath the umbrella of a potential enemy. That threat will require using valuable ABM systems to defend.

Certainly, any nation with a large force of submarine assets will be able to initially sortie a high percentage of them, and should be expected to attempt to interdict the most vulnerable part of the logistics chain, our supply ships.

Depending upon the fleet's actions, those vessels will be expected to transit from more and more distant bases, as our depots are pulled back from underneath IRBM ranges. That makes escorts with top ASW skills a very valuable commodity.

The United States showed the value of a submarine force to destroying an enemy's warfighting skills via cutting off their supply routes. It must be expected that any future protagonist will also have understood and studied those lessons.

At present, we have a diminished number of escorts, even with continued ship building. Those escorts will be greatly taxed to meet both fleet defense & support missions, and logistics protection.

My own views, and they are just that, is that not only must we sharpen our ASW skills, and seek new ways to blend the forces we have, both to amplify them and cover for losses in mid and long range MPA resources, but we should also spend some time examining how our logistics plans stand up to potential threats in a sustained combat environment.

It may be that we may need to reconsider HOW we supply our fleet, and if there are better ways to manage those needs while reducing risks to the entire support chain.

Sir, I wish i had the answers, or even some of them. I draw my conclusions from what i can glean through unclass sources, and through thinking through potential scenarios. Maybe I'm way off base here, But I just don't want us to be so wrapped up in current small-scale localized conflicts like we are currently engaged in, that we forget that large-scale trouble can still easily break out. It's always what you don't expect, and at the worst possible time.

Thank you for your time, sir, and my continued good wishes for you and yours.