It’s drill weekend and I’m camped out in Norfolk for some quality time with other Reservists. These weekends are always a fine opportunity to break away from the “real world”, if only for 48 hours or so.
But the real world always reaches in and grabs my thoughts, no matter my intentions. So, here are a few things that have happened in recent weeks and some connections between them.
First, Senators McCain and Reed wrote a letter to the Chief of Naval Operations expressing their, uh, concern about the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program. Their concern is not unjustified – you can check in with CDR Salamander about the current status of the seven ships in commission, one of which is actually available for tasking. The Navy knows stuff isn’t going well. Just a few days prior to the Senate letter, the admiral in charge of surface ships released a directive completely revamping the system for manning and employing these ships, in an effort to salvage some kind of operational value from them.
In essence, these small ships are not doing very well at basic tasks like completing transits under their own power, much less accomplishing the missions they are designed for. That mission is to control the seas near shore; its shallow(ish) draft means it can go places and do things a destroyer or cruiser can’t. That implies that a LCS will generally remain in a certain region for a long period instead of crossing oceans. Which is good, because it’s a small ship with fuel-hungry gas turbine engines, and can’t carry enough fuel to stay out for terribly long.
Now let’s shift gears.
Recently-inaugurated Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has announced that upcoming joint U.S.-Philippine military exercises will be the last of their kind, as he tries to strengthen ties with China and Russia.
Well, how ‘bout that?
The Philippines are sort of important in U.S. planning for contingencies in the Western Pacific. What happens if they back out of previous agreements? Where are our bases in that region? Where does the logistics train go to camp? Who do they invite in our place?
And what good is the short-ranged LCS in that region if it can’t use bases in the Philippines or pull supplies from there?
Are we building a surface fleet that can’t even get to, much less operate in, the new strategic environment taking shape? After all, it’s a long way from Singapore to Manila…
Let’s add a third thing to the mix.
Neither presidential candidate cares. One of them knows nothing, understands nothing, and cares nothing for the topic, except to make braggadocio-laden statements backed with little but smug vapors. The other has at least a little knowledge of international relations but no particular will to arrest American loss of prestige, and certainly no instinct for reasonable policy if past performance is taken at face value.
So, we have a strategic environment that is rapidly changing; a force that, even on its best of days, is reaching a point where it simply doesn’t match that environment; and top leadership that Will. Not. Adjust. Course.
And remember, this is not a boutique issue – sea power and freedom of the seas IS THE BASIS OF THE ENTIRE WORLD ECONOMY. Shortchange it at your peril.
That is why the Salty Wog heartily endorses the only candidate with a foreign policy that is understandable, achievable and sustainable: SMOD 2016.