Saturday, January 28, 2012

West 2012-The Navy and Marines in the next decade

US Navy
US Marine Corps

This past week I had the pleasure of attending the WEST 2012 Conference in San Diego, where the theme was America's Military at the Crossroads: What's Out and What's In for 2012 and Beyond. I was encouraged to attend by the involvement of the event co-sponsor, the United State Naval Institute. The USNI has been in the forefront of offering a platform where those with an interest in the Navy and all the attendant aspects of strategy, history and tactics are given a forum to express and discuss their interests. The attention to the future of the sea services became all the more important in the recent changes being described as the "Strategic Pivot" to face west into the Pacific and prepare to confront what some see as a potential adversary, China, as she builds her own blue water navy. How big is this threat? Are we building the right fleet, or are we building a fleet based on the last major war WWII? What in the light of the current economic times, can we afford to build. And finally, what kind of Sailors and Marines and leaders do we need for the next two decades and beyond? Those are some of the questions that the conference's many panels attempted to answer.

ADM Mike Mullen

I was able to attend some of the many panel discussions and was able to hear former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mike Mullen (ret), as he spoke of his vision and hopes, for the future of our defence strategy and the needs to return to the traditional role of the Navy, as both an instrument of war, and diplomacy. Now retired, he gave a visionary speech, that was refreshing in the lack of boilerplate rhetoric that some still in uniform were obligated to profess in their comments.

Col Merritt Edson, USMC
As noted above, I attended because of the USNI, and had the opportunity to become acquainted with several of the major contributors to their fine blog. I had know of one young petty officer, from his posts and another who wrote under the name of UltimaRatioRegis: The Last Argument of Kings . My first introduction to  these two fine men, came during the question and answer part of a panel discussion on whether the Navy and Marines would "Hang together, or Hang Separately." I looked up to see a Petty officer standing behind the mike, where he proceeded to ask the two admirals about the quality of shipbuilding, using the example of the well known problems of his former ship, a class leader as the example. I instantly recognized him, as the young petty officer blogger noted above, and was impressed by his eloquence as he addressed the flags. The next question was raised by a Marine Lt. Col. who was reminiscent of famed Marine Col. Edson in his demeanor and the directness of his questions to the panel. His message to the panel was that the Marine Corp return to the fundamentals that were the same as those developed in 1943-44, that forced entry needs to breach the beaches in order to have a place to bring the supporting elements for a prolonged campaign. Later, I learned he was the one making the "Last Argument of Kings" from above. The point of mentioning these two gentlemen, is to reflect the quality of those who express their views on the USNI blog, and have the stones to stand before an esteemed panel and really speak for the thousands of sailors and marines who trust that those in the flag rank, the civilian leaders, and the suppliers of all manner of tools for the service; understand that the trust of the men and women in their equipment and leadership is in their hands. One would hope that those leaders, will heed the concerns from the rank and file, and step beyond the personal motives of managing their careers, or landing a future post-retirement job with a supplier, and step up to leave a lasting legacy that ensures those who serve and the nation, will have the leadership and tools to meet the 21st century requirements.

After watching several panels discuss topics, I noted that many of the attendees were brought to the point of being glassy eyed, stealthily texting, or playing with their iPhones or pads. Thankfully, each panel had at least one or two, who stepped up to show both leadership and and voiced an opinion that proved the Navy and Marines have real leaders who care about their men. These were the admirals and generals who talked about their men first, and used ample references to history to formulate their thoughts. I can't name them all, but a few stood out like, VADM Beaman, VADM Richard Hunt, and RDML Peter Gumataotao. from the Navy. The Marines were most vocally represented in the four panels I observed; and were best represented by BGen O'Donohue and BGen Daniel Yoo who shined brightly in their knowledge of history, and demonstration of leadership skills, as did the other attending Marine generals.

For an overview of the conference take the time to visit these links to the USNI blog where a summary of the message it conveys is discussed. Read each of them for ample food for thought.

The Navy-Marine Corps Team-the-Jointest

We have run out of money

The Naval Century and Global American Sea Power

Vital Roles and Surface Warfare

Where does this leave us in relation to the Strategic Pivot? Consider this, post from Thomas PM Barnett that examines US Debt and Petroleum, and their relationship to Obama's Pivot. As you examine the list of nations holding US public debt, note that besides China holding 8%, other counties together, hold 14.9%  and are important to our global naval posture to ensure that they remain confident in our ability to protect free trade, and ensure the global sea lanes that carry 90% of all the goods across the planet, remain secure.

  • Hong Kong: $121.9 billion (0.9 percent)
  • Caribbean banking centers: $148.3 (1 percent)
  • Taiwan: $153.4 billion (1.1 percent)
  • Brazil: $211.4 billion (1.5 percent)
  • Oil exporting countries: $229.8 billion (1.6 percent)
  • Mutual funds: $300.5 billion (2 percent)
  • Commercial banks: $301.8 billion (2.1 percent)
  • State, local and federal retirement funds: $320.9 billion (2.2 percent)
  • Money market mutual funds: $337.7 billion (2.4 percent)
  • United Kingdom: $346.5 billion (2.4 percent)
  • Private pension funds: $504.7 billion (3.5 percent)
  • State and local governments: $506.1 billion (3.5 percent)
  • Japan: $912.4 billion (6.4 percent)
  • U.S. households: $959.4 billion (6.6 percent)
  • China: $1.16 trillion (8 percent)
  • The U.S. Treasury: $1.63 trillion (11.3 percent)
  • Social Security trust fund: $2.67 trillion (19 percent)

  • Read more:
    Charts of the Day-US Debt and Petroleum

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