Tuesday, April 04, 2006

" Why are you against progress?"

As you have probably noticed by my postings, I am not a big fan of the current management strategy in DOD and the Department of the Navy. Several folks have accused me of being a dinosaur (which I probably am), but at the same time they do not offer a way out of the current death spiral that the armed services seem to be in. Today I'd like to take a minute to explain why I feel as strongly as I do.

First of all, I'm not opposed to progress. Nor am I someone who feels like there is not a way the government can be more fiscally responsible in how it produces "stuff" and readiness of combat units. In Naval Aviation alone, many of the improvements that have been made like NAVRIIP and applying Lean and Six Sigma to production techniques has paid dividends. However, all of this has to be measured against one criteria: " how is this helping to produce a stable rotation of forces that will be able to sustain the pace of a 'long war' . The production techniques help improve the spare parts piece of the aviation equation, however the continuing pressure to make the Navy smaller, combined with Rummy's math that anyone who is serving should be fodder to go to Afghanistan, Horn of Africa, or Iraq; and that by their presence he can justify a smaller Army makes in the long term real problems for all of the armed services.

As currently laid out, the Global War on Terror has brought the US back to the 60's. Having to execute a long term deterrent posture (e.g. find and assist nations to reduce the terrorist threat within their borders.........Horn of Africa and Philippine ops--also there are these little matters of deterring N. Korea, China and keep India/ Pakistan in their box........) while dealing with the continuing drain of a real land war in Asia that continues to force the services to yield more and more of their manpower.(e.g Vietnam or Iraq....a running sore that wears down the military in the long run). Unlike the 60's though we: a) do not have a draft so that the nation can access all of its available manpower and b) has a management strategy that relies on making the military much smaller in terms of personnel and in their absence rely on technology to solve all of the military's problems.

Problem is the old rules of forward presence have not really changed. Ships and other units need to be deployed to the areas that they can be expected to be used. They need to be available on short notice and also by being "on scene" they provide a host of other functions that help to engage our allies and make them feel more secure that the United States really cares and is really different than other nations. In terms of numbers, it means you need 2 ships back for every one deployed so that people can enjoy time off; be able to get new personnel trained; install new equipment and train. For the Navy, it means we need more ships than we have now. And at least as many people as we have now.

Oh but wait you ask, we have FRP and we have tailored readiness now. If we need them we can surge the forces forward regardless of how long they were just out doing God's work. Retention is high, the Sailors of our beloved Navy will continue to deal with 7-8 month cruises, short turnarounds and being plucked from home and hearth to go fill Army missions while on shore duty. Retention is high! Folks will continue to respond without grumbling to things they did not sign up to do.

In my opinion, this state of affairs was, and continues to be avoidable. However it requires a willingness to do things that the Navy as of yet, has proven unable to do. We talk about down sizing personnel and making the Navy more efficient, but we don't do what is really needed. We talk about getting shipbuilding on track, and then we build gold plated frigates like the Little Crappy Ship and DD expensive............CVN-21 too................when did we become in love with perfection instead of "good enough"?

And like the proverbial passengers rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic, we continue to create staffs to manage functions across geographical lines, which has made the Navy staff organization so complicated it is only second to the Vatican in its reluctance to change.

By doing so we send a lot of hidden messages that Sailors do not miss. Here is hidden message number 1:

The Navy continues to keep EXACTLY as many flag officers as it had in 1991, but it has half as many ships and aircraft than it did then. Below 0-7 though, we are pushing folks out the door.

Hidden message number 2: Cost wise readiness vs readiness at any cost. We gold plate ships like the San Antonio, the F-18 F and the JSF, while ignoring the rest of the recapitalization problem.
They Navy needs improvements in all of its aircraft and is only now being able to realize them.

We create new Type Commanders and Flag staffs in order to show "the power of alignment". Never mind that in at least 4 case I can think of, the CAPTS running the show before were doing quite fine, "we need a flag in charge to make the 3-star happy". We continue to make the Fleet Forces Command into a monster, while ignoring the fact that coordinated strategy, with decentralized execution has worked well for a long time.

The long war has a bill. Its time to recognize we have to pay it. If we were really serious about efficiency we would:

1) Cut some flag officers. Make the jobs an O-6. By reducing flags you reduce expenses and the "personnel baggage " that goes along.

2) Do away with things like CNI and other outfits. Realize that shore stations are nothing more than extensions of the ships and aircraft that live there. Place the TYCOMS in charge of their shore stations and empower the CO's of said stations again. Make them CEO's and Mayors of their own little small towns. Hold them accountable based on how they support the fleet.

3) Make the actives manage the reserves. Do away with separate entities like RESFORCOM and CNAFR and embed the reserve units into the 3 major TYCOMS. Park the funding there as well.

4) Realize that numbers matter. More ships of reasonable cost are better than less ships of gold plated capability. Same is true for aircraft these days.

To return where I started, I'm not against progess. But real progess costs........and is not just about finding places where one can cut the budget. NUFF Said!

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