Saturday, February 16, 2013

2/16/2013 Naval Interest Editor's Note 3/2/2015 Up dated :Apparently this is still a fairly routine practice



 What's wrong with this picture? To a landlubber probably nothing, but to a naval historian it is chillingly reminiscent of this picture.
Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view.jpg
This is an aerial view of Battleship Row, Pearl harbor on the morning of December 7, 1941 taken from an attacking Japanese aircraft. The plume of white smoke in the center of the picture is rising from the USS OKLAHOMA from a torpedo strike. 

We really have to ask who is responsible for this concentration of half our aircraft carrier fleet in one nice compact location? Why are they there? Well obviously the USS ENTERPRISE was there because she was being decommissioned. So it should not be surprising to see an additional carrier there while she was in, she is going to occupy a berth at Norfolk for a long time. It might be acceptable to see a second carrier there with the one additional to the ENTERPRISE for a brief period as one is finishing up and the other just starting a repair, replenishment. But after December 7, 1941 we should never have half our centerpiece capital ships within a stone's throw of each other. 

 Do we really believe that Russia or China are about to attack Norfolk? No, but then in 1941 there was only a tiny group of naval intelligence professionals who thought the Japanese were about to attack Pearl Harbor, no one listened. However we are at war with a host of non state organizations who fear and loath our carrier fleet. In a tight grouping like that a walk up terrorist attack could put half the carrier fleet out for more than a year. How hard is it for terrorist to know when the fleet is in like this. Well, we discovered it from open Internet sources that we monitor daily, but a terrorist scout wouldn't have to go to that much trouble. The situation may be readily viewed on an excursion boat ride open to the public. 

  To us this picture demonstrates that we are past due for another "Revolt of the Admirals".  After WW II a Congress about half as irresponsible as the present one wanted a "peace dividend" and was busily going about the dismantlement of the U.S. Navy. The Navy's senior military leadership marched up Capital Hill and told the Congress what the dangers were if they proceeded with their foolishness unchecked. It cost every one of them their career. Politicians don't take kindly to being publicly corrected. But it was necessary and as a result when the Cold War broke out we had the naval lead. The Admirals, their careers ruined retired to private life. 

 Notice "retired", when you are an admiral you don't get thrown out on the street because some politician demands your head on a plate. Admirals by very definition are retirement eligible before they put the stars on their collars. In the periodic officer reviews admirals get reviewed too and most get passed over and must retire, the air is thin at this level. Every admiral in fact lives on the verge of retirement. Is it expecting so much of the present generation that they stop jockeying for position for another star and tell this President and the squabbling Congress the facts of naval life? About a decade and half ago the Navy advocated multiple home ports based on the historic lesson of Pearl Harbor and even started on a program to disburse such concentrations of naval fire power as depicted in the photo above. Several budget cuts later we were right back to what is pictured and so it continues today.

 Who is responsible for this classic and totally ill advised concentration of Air Craft Carriers? The Congress is certainly the ultimate responsible party here, but the admirals have not played their parts either. Just what kind of admirals do we have today anyway? Do they "go along in order to get along? Is there a point where honoring the control of the military by civilians where general and flag officers have to consider the public good over the will of the office holders of the day, when the office holders are damaging the national security? We think so, not to the point of military intervention into the budget processes, but certainly to the point of telling truth to power even if the day you do so marks the demand for your retirement. Really given a choice would any rightly trained post WWII flag officer permit the fleet to be concentrated in mostly three large support centers? Even if it took a dozen flag retirements in a row the truth should have been shaken under the nose of Congress and thus presented to the American people. 

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