Saturday, May 28, 2011

America's 21st Century Samuel Pepys

Samuel Pepys, Admiralty Secretary, Royal Navy

Theodore Roosevelt reviewing Great White Fleet

FDR, the sailor

                                                            Raymond (Galrahn) Pritchett

At the dawn of the United Kingdom becoming a Great Power, one name Samuel Pepys, stood out as an influential voice in the creation of the Royal Navy. At the turn of the 20th Century, the United States had similar voices whose influence led to the preeminence of the United States Navy by mid-century. Men like Mahan and Corbett wrote of strategies that were interpreted by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and cousin Franklin D. who learned the value of sea power while serving as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy. History records that both men self taught in naval affairs, went on to the presidency and incorporated the lessons learned, to guide the nation as she grew from a budding Great Power to become an unmatched Super-power at the close of the century.

The lesson learned was as a nation that spanned a continent, and for all practical purposes an island; having a strong and vibrant navy is not only essential, but absolutely critical to survival. Today, the Navy is facing new challenges as it, and the nation sets course in the 21st century. The first decade has been focused on a land war that in ten years has cost almost two times what the Vietnam War cost in current dollars. This has resulted in the Navy having to fight for diminishing dollars to maintain a fleet that some are beginning to question is right for a changing world, ripe with threats that often resemble back to the future, while others only see conflict with a Sino face. All this, leads to a discussion that goes beyond the halls of power, and must enlist minds that can call on a host of experience and knowledge to form an intersection of ideas that will spawn innovation and a visionary strategy for the coming decades.

To get to the essence of the title, America's 21st Century Samuel Pepys today's blogs have replaced to age-old diary where instead of keeping one thoughts private to be revealed later, one shares their thoughts and ideas and invites discussion. One man has come to the forefront in naval centric blogging, to assume in my opinion, the mantle of being America's Pepys. He writes under the name of Galrahn, and is founder and host of the naval centric blog information dissemination. For those who don't know, Galrahn, aka, Raymond Pritchett, is self-educated in naval matters, and comes from the world of IT development and began his naval centered blog on a whim a few years ago. Today, it is a daily read for tens of thousands. Like, Pepys, and later the two Roosevelt's, Ray has proven to be a master at raising the bar of discussion on naval strategy and gaining readers from main street to the halls of the Pentagon. I don't doubt that someday in the future we will read of Mr. Pritchett being offered the post of Assistant Secretary of the Navy, so committed is his interest and demonstrated love of the Navy and the country. I don't write this to lobby in advance, or fawn at the feet of Ray, it is because he has continued to prove in his almost daily posts, cutting edge ideas and comments that prompt a critical discussion of the Navy's future.

Here is a recent example of Galrahn's ability to pierce the fog of the unknown like the strongest radar, and bring clarity to a discussion.
What is the most effective way to achieve the missions of the US Navy: sea control, sea denial, power projection or protection of open commerce?
The Janes Defense Weekly (subscription) opinion by David W. Wise posted for discussion yesterday raised several interesting questions for community comments. I appreciate those who contributed thoughtful comments in yesterdays post. As we head into a three day weekend, I thought I would add a few of my own comments to the discussion for you guys to kick around over the holiday.
I am not convinced the large aircraft carrier is obsolete, but I do believe the currently constituted capability of a modern Carrier Strike Group is due significant innovations and as a combined arms system and concept the CSG has not sufficiently adapted to the changing strategic environment - with the focus of all adaptations being vertical upwards rather than horizontal challenges towards the increased lower end requirements.
Innovations over the last several years include AEGIS combat system improvements on the escorts, cost controls towards a single F-18 platform in the Air Wing, and the addition of submarines to the strike group. The Navy also deserves credit for operational and tactical organization changes of the CSG like dispersal, concentration, and integration at the operational level that has been mostly enabled by better technology, but these tactical and operational adaptations are reaching the limits of flexibility allowed by the existing organizational design of the CSG centered around an aircraft carrier, handful of escorts, air wing, and submarine(s). If we focus on the carrier platform itself, or any specific technology, platform, or system within the CSG and not the entire strike group as an organized capability; I think our focus becomes too narrow, too tech centric, and may in fact miss the mark completely.
I would suggest that as new technologies come online, we are still missing the combined arms information system that informs a combined operational concept for how a Navy addresses the strategic environment of the future. I think if one breaks it down into just a carrier strike group, the issues and challenges are easier to discuss directly.
Galrahn continues his post by addressing Sea Control, Sea Denial, Power Projection, and the Protection of Open Commerce. He brings to the discussion questions about force structure, manpower and tactics that in reality should be shared beyond those with vested interests in continuing the status-quo of what won the last war, but might not be the platforms of the future. He invites everyone to join in the discussion or at least spend some time pondering his logic.

Read more:
The ROI Challenges of the CSG

Galrahn has filled his blog with a bridge of able first officers who add great currency to the quality of this discussion, as shown by this example from Brian McGrath.

A Day Without U.S. Seapower

In closing, these two posts by Steve DeAngelis of Enterra Solutions illustrate the importance of ocean commerce and safe sea lanes to the well being of everyone on the planet.

Shiver me Timbers: A New Age of Piracy

Ocean Carriers and Ports forecast a Bright Future

Finally, to help flesh out the area of naval affairs and what other's might be up too.
Combat Fleets of the World

Maritime Memos

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