Commander in Chief and Chairman of JCS got this wrong!

It is inexcusable to allow our vital national defense assets to be put in potential repeat scenario of Pearl Harbor – in 2013. Photo: U.S. Navy photo

WAKE FOREST, NC, March 9, 2013 ― The lead photo to this article is surreal and mind-boggling. It shows five, repeat, five U.S. Navy nuclear-powered carriers sitting in port at the Norfolk Naval Operations Base (NOB) three months ago ‒ the Dwight D. Eisehnhower, the George H.W. Bush, the Enterprise, the Abraham Lincoln, and the Harry S. Truman ‒ as well as four large amphibious assualt ships.

Given the military importance of each aircraft carrier battle group (CVBG), and the hard and sobering lesson our nation learned at Pearl Harbor nearly 75 years ago, it is inexcusable for the Commander in Chief – President Obama – and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (C-JCS) to allow our vital national defense assets to be put in a potential repeat scenario of Pearl Harbor – in 2013. This is an egregious failure of leadership.

Most Americans were not yet born when December 7, 1941 became, in President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s words, “a day that will live in infamy.” That was the day that the United States Navy fleet at Pearl Harbor Hawaii was hit by a surprise attack. The carnage and devastation were sobering.  

 

According to the Navy, “When the 7th of December 1941 was over, it was clear that the Japanese had delivered a tremendous blow to the United States. Five battleships were sunk or sinking, three destroyers were wrecked, a minelayer and target ship had capsized, two cruisers were badly damaged and many other ships needed repairs. Hawaii-based Navy and Army aviation was also greatly diminished, feeding a sense of defenselessness and defeat that greatly exceeded the realities of the situation.” 

In the early 1990’s shortly after Operation Desert Storm, during which our forward-deployed military executed a speedy liberation of Kuwait, the Department of Defense (DoD) conducted a Bottom-Up review of forces to determine the number of CVBG’s the Navy needed in order to fulfill its mission in a variety of global scenarios. The recommendations were based on hypothetical (yet realistic) global regional conflict possibilities. The number of active CVBG’s agreed upon (in 1993) was ten active carriers

Since the 1993 Bottom-Up review, DoD has allocated eleven active CVBG’s and one reserve CVBG. Along with the eleven aircraft carriers are a powerful group of support ships that complement the full arsenal of the CVBG: Carrier air wings (50 fighter/attack aircraft each), 12 Marine Amphibious Ready Groups (MARGs), and 116 surface combatants. These include cruisers, destroyers, frigates and ammunition/oiler/supply ships, and 57 attack submarines (SSN’s).

Interestingly, the 1997 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) modified the six-month CVBG deployment schedule to use the carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) as a reserve/training platform (when it was not forward-deployed), and also melded this carrier (CV 67) in the deployment rotation with the other operational CVBG’s.

So what’s the big deal? The big deal is a matter of national security. 

In an article published ten years ago, the Christian Science Monitor reported on the assumed precarious position the Navy faced because of its deployment schedule and how its assets were being utilized. If ten years ago there was concern for the Navy’s assets with eleven CVBG’s, imagine how dire the situation would be if nearly half of the aircraft carriers (i.e., five sitting ducks in Norfolk) were rendered unseaworthy due to a surprise attack.  Consider the arguments set forth in the 2003 article, which actually makes the case that eleven CVBG’s are not excessive based on the Navy’s global mission. 

To further drive the point home of why five carriers in Norfolk at the same time is not prudent, consider the Secret Service agents who accompany the President while he’s away from the White House. Assume that a total of fifty travel with him on a given trip. Further assume that twenty of the fifty agents are inside an auditorium where the President is speaking, and the other thirty are with vehicles, monitoring the outer perimeter, working with communications personnel, etc. Would it make sense for fifteen of the twenty Secret Service agents to be clustered near the front like a football team in a huddle? No. In order to be effective, the Secret Service agents would have to be a various strategic locations around and throughout the auditorium.

Given the logic of spreading out Secret Service agents, and given the lessons we should have learned at Pearl Harbor (and even given your grandmother’s warning not to put all your eggs in one basket), there appears to be no plausible rationale for having nearly half of our active complement of CVBG’s in the inner harbor at Norfolk Naval Station. It doesn’t take a Naval Postgraduate Surface Warfare Commander to figure out that such a concentration of power is ill-advised at best, and (and previously mentioned) egregiously and recklessly irresponsible at worse. 

If you want to play the so-called Devil’s Advocate in this case, you might say, “Yes, it’s true that the carriers were ordered into port. But the commanders were just following orders. 

Really?

There is no need for me to cite countless examples of individuals who should have known better than to put those under their charge in harms way. In fact, military directives implicitly and explicitly state what is required of those entrusted with the awesome responsibility of command. The reference is taken from the Standard Organization and Regulations Manual (SORM), Operational Navy Instruction (OPNAVINST) 3120.32(series):

1.1.2 UNITY OF COMMAND. The commanding officer is ultimately responsible for the unit and the personnel assigned.

Explanation of Unity of Command: “The buck stops here … with the Commanding Officer.”

1.2.1 COMMAND. Command is the authority which a leader lawfully exercises over subordinates by virtue of rank or assignment. Command includes the authority and responsibility for effectively using available resources and for planning the employment, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling of military forces for the accomplishment of assigned missions.

Explanation of Command: Commanders have been given all the authority necessary to carry out their duties to ensure that the personnel assets and resources are used in a way to maximize mission effectiveness. 

The RIGHT thing for a military leader/decision maker would have been for him/her to challenge the notion of needlessly putting our assets in harms way, instead of being zip-lipped and pulling into Pier 12 under those conditions. Strongly implicit in the SORM is the need for leaders to lead, not to be “yes men.” There are a variety of avenues to address this and other concerns. They include but are not limited to: Flag Officer Conferences, periodic operational reports (OPREP), Commanders’ conference calls with Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), etc.

Posturing five (5) CVBG’s inport in one concentrated area at the same time is something that the Commander in Chief and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (and Fleet Commanders) should know to avoid. God forbid, but if all five CVBG’s were taken out in a surprise attack, it would seriously jeopardize the Navy’s ability to protect vital shipping lanes. It would also severly limit the American military’s flexibility in preserving national security, as well as embolden rogue nations to test our will and resolve to protect our vital interests worldwide. 

A hypothetical surprise attack would be a game-changer that our national security could ill-afford. And putting five aircraft carriers in one place is too inviting in a world of uncertainty.  Let’s hope that our leaders reevaluate this peacetime posture, rectify it immediately, and never repeat it!

For the record, here are the U.S. Navy’s operational carriers. The numbers following each cite: length, displacement (in metric tons), class of carrier, propulsion fuel, and date the carrier was commissioned.


Nimitz (CVN-68)

 (1,093 ft)

100,000 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


May 75

 

Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)

(1,093 ft)

103,200 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Oct 77


Carl Vinson (CVN-70)

(1,093 ft)

102,900 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Mar 82


Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71)

(1,093 ft)

106,300 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Oct 86


Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72)

(1,093 ft)

105,783 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Nov 89


George Washington (CVN-73)

(1,093 ft)

105,900 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Jul 92


John C. Stennis (CVN-74)

(1,093 ft)

105,000 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Dec 95


Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)

(1,093 ft)

105,600 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Jul 98


Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

(1,093 ft)

103,000 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Jul 03


George H.W. Bush (CVN-77)

 (1,093 ft)

104,000 mt

Nimitz

Nuclear


Jan 09

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The following are reserve aircraft carriers. The numbers following each cite: length, displacement (in metric tons), date commissioned, and date it is scheduled for decommissioning.

Enterprise (CVN-65)                          (1,122 ft), 94,700 mt, Nov 61, Dec 2013

Kitty Hawk (CV-63)                            (1,066 ft), 81,985 mt, Apr 61, Jan 2015

Bill Randall is a former Command Master Chief (E9) aboard USS Leyte Gulf (CG55), a graduate of the Senior Enlisted Academy (Class 67, Blue), and served on a numbered staff (U.S. Sixth Fleet) from 1989-1992. He qualified as Surface Warfare Specialist (ESWS), ESWS Coordinator, Enlisted Aviation Warfare Specialist (EAWS), Master Instructor, Master Training Specialist (MTS) and Naval Combat Aircrewman (NAC).  Bill’s extensive knowledge of U.S. Navy Regulations is an outgrowth of his having served in Equal Opportunity Advisor, Command Training Team and Command Managed Equal Opportunity (CMEO) facilitator at a variety of commands from 1977 – 2001, and garnered laudatory feedback from the highest levels of the chain of command. His recommendations via the chain of command have been reviewed, and some adopted & incorporated in official U.S. Navy instructions. Bill served on active duty from the end of the Vietnam era (1974) through post 9-11 (Operation Enduring Freedom), and transferred to the Fleet Reserve (retired) in January 2002.  Bill currently resides with his family in Wake Forest, NC.


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Bill Randall

Bill was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the neighborhood known as the Lower Ninth Ward.  His U.S. Navy career spanned from August 1974 through December 2001, during which he had a decorated and distinguished span of honorable service.  His profession and specialty was Earth Science (Meteorology, Oceanography and Geodesy).  After retiring from active duty on January 1, 2002, he entered the private sector as an Independent Insurance Agent (AFLAC) and garnered recognition as a top performer as a new member. Shortly thereafter he earned his B.S. degree in Business Management, and later earned his MBA degree.  He has also earned Information Technology (IT) Certification from Wake Technical Community College (May 2013).  Bill worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs at the Milwaukee VA Pension Center (2002 –2005), processing hundreds of benefits claims for veterans and their family members.  Bill subsequently relocated and served on the staff of a local church in Pensacola, FL (May – Dec 2005), and then accepted a business opportunity as a Generalist with a major Management Consulting Firm (2006 – 2008).  Bill now owns a private Management Consulting company based in Wake Forest, NC.  He and his family relocated to North Carolina after his wife, Wendy, accepted a job offer in there.  He once ran for Chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party (June 2009).  He has also twice run for U.S Congress (NC-13th Congressional district), winning the GOP nomination in the 2010 Primary, and losing in the GOP Primary in 2012.  He is an author and a Community Chaplain.  Bill and his wife have resided in Wake Forest, NC since October 2008.  Bill has a son and four daughters.

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