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Surface Forces: Why The U.S. Navy Is Falling Apart
   Next Article → ISRAEL: Victory Without Peace
July 15, 2011: Three years ago, the U.S. Navy began to realize that the readiness of warships was deteriorating to an alarming degree. Some eight percent of them were failing inspections. Since then, it's gotten worse. Now, 24 percent are failing inspections. Currently, about 20 percent of navy ships have failed readiness inspections or are unfit for combat. About 40 percent of ships at sea have one major system broken. About half of combat aircraft and helicopters at sea are not fully functional.

Admirals and staff officers scrambled to discover what went wrong. Turns out there was a lot wrong. Crew size has been shrinking, and the navy has not adapted its maintenance needs to this. This is a trend that has been going on for over a century. In the early 19th century, a typical 3,500 ton "ship of the line" had a crew of 800-900 sailors. That was about 240 sailors per thousand tons of ship. A century later, capital ships had eliminated labor intensive sails and were running on steam, and lots more machines. The 12,000 ton pre-World War I battleship had a crew of 750 (62 sailors per thousand tons of ship). But for the last century, not a lot of progress was made. The current U.S. nuclear carriers have 57 sailors per thousand tons of ship. But the new LCS gets that down to 25. Advances in automation, as well as the introduction of the combat UAVs in the next decade, will make the thousand sailor crew for a carrier possible. That's ten sailors per thousand tons of ship, plus a lot of robots, and equipment built to require very little manpower to fix or operate. That last innovation is already happening with warplanes, greatly reducing the man hours of maintenance required per flight hour. The navy has long since accepted those concepts for missiles (delivered in sealed containers, requiring little maintenance.) These are trends that have been building for some time, and show every indication of continuing. Although these new techniques are expensive, so are sailors. Each one costs over $100,000 a year. For a carrier crew of 5,700, that's over half a billion dollars a year. That buys lots of automation, and keeps a lot of people out of harm's way.

The problem is that the civilian automation has not adapted well to military needs. That came at the same time the navy was facing major budget cuts (which crippled efforts to make ship automation work on a warship) and sailors were spending less time in the classroom (where they would learn how to make the automation work). Currently, the navy is about half a billion dollars short in what it believes should be spent annually for ship and aircraft maintenance. Lots of navy cash is going to building new ships, to replace aging Cold War era vessels.

 Then there were the leadership problems. Before the Cold War ended, if the navy found itself with a fleet-wide maintenance problem, they would ask the chiefs (Chief Petty Officers, the senior NCOs who supervise the sailors) to find the truth. That no longer works. Over the last decade, officers have been less inclined to ask their chiefs much. The "zero tolerance" atmosphere that has permeated the navy since the end of the Cold War, has led officers to take direct control of supervisory duties the chiefs used to handle. The chiefs have lost a lot of their influence, responsibility and power.

The problem is that, with "zero tolerance", one mistake can destroy a career. This was not the case in the past. Many of the outstanding admirals of World War II would have never survived in today's navy. For example, Bill "Bull" Halsey ran his destroyer aground during World War I, but his career survived the incident. That no longer is the case.

Another problem is that officers don't spend as much time at sea, or in command, as in the past. A lot of time is spent going to school, and away from the chiefs and sailors. For example, while the navy had more ships in the 1930s, than it does today, there were fewer people in the navy. That's because, back then, 80 percent of navy personnel were assigned to a ship, and had plenty of time to learn how to keep it clean and operational.

Then again maybe not. This is all just a bunch of scuttlebutt from the chiefs. Are they really the solution as they were in the past? They may not be consulted, or listened to, as much as in the past. But they can't help but notice things. It's what chiefs do. And what the chiefs notice is not enough people, and money (for spare parts) to keep the ships in shape for combat.

 

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bikebrains       7/15/2011 9:04:31 AM
"July 15, 2011: Three years ago, the U.S. Navy has suddenly realized that the readiness of warships to deteriorate to an alarming degree."   The sentence begins by stating that the event took place in the past then the sentence switches to the present tense. Next, what did the U. S. Navy realize?  Did the U. S. Navy realize that the warships were ready to deteriorate and to deteriorate at a rate that was alarming?  I think not. I think the writer intended to say that the U. S. Navy realized that the combat readiness of the warships had deteriorated to an alarming degree.    I am available as a proof reader.
 
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xformed    Correction on who grounded their DD   7/15/2011 1:52:03 PM
As a point of history, it was Chester W Nimitz who had grounded a ship early in his career and continued to move up in the chain of command.  The incident came to light when someone commented, back in WWII that that was something to end your career, and ADM Nimitz chimed in telling his story.  This comes from Potter's biography of ADM Nimitz, which is an excellent read, not only for his Naval career, but also the man who served the Nation after his retirement, at the request of the President, many times and refused to take anything other than compensation to cover his expenses.  His wife had done the same during WWII.
 
ADM Halsey was an aviator...Nimitz was the "'Shoe" ("Black Shoe" for surface officers, as aviators worn brown shoes with their uniforms), therefore would have been a junior officer with a destroyer command, if I recall, he was a LTJG at the time and it happened in the Philippines.
 
As far as the Navy falling apart, this topic is covered in detail at CDR Salamander's blog when the CNO's select panel reported out their results.  Follow this link for some hair raising discussions on this matter....
 
I served with two of the men who were part of the CNO's review in 2004, and they were both solid citizens, with plenty of experience, and one let me know the results were heart breaking.
 
I was there as the downsizing began and saw some of this on the horizon, even in the early 90s....
 
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CaseHardened    A Navy falling apart?   7/15/2011 4:53:27 PM
Why?  Here's a clue.  Go to Navy dot mil, count the number of admiral bios.  Then find the link and count the SES bios.  Combined we've got better (worse, actually) than 2 per ship.  Accountability has been diluted to the point no one's accountable and every piss ant program - regardless of how remote  from combat capability - has a 'flag' sponsor.  
Rx - return to the flag per ship ratio of 1943, eliminate SESs and focus on war at sea vice PC brownie points. SR
 
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blkfoot    Haven't they heard...   7/15/2011 7:31:29 PM
Rust never Sleeps! There was even a song writen about it...
 
Need manpower to work those Needle-guns,chipping hammers and wire brushes to scrape paint and flightdeck, apply rust-resistant coating and ever percistant underway grey! And thats just the hull of the ship...now for everything in the world that will break, like, anything with gears and electric motors topside, which just about everything that goes pop, whizz or zing on a ship. A ship can waste at least 40 sailors just on polishing brass alone per day. How are they suppose to do their "MOS" trained job if they are brassaling the nobs, plaques, dogs and portholes??? And underway replinishments? Just who's hauling the lines on that?
 
And a Navy without CPO's? My gawd...whose been drinking all that Joe and cleaning out the sandwiches at Midrats then???
 
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Hamilcar21       7/15/2011 8:15:16 PM

As a point of history, it was Chester W Nimitz who had grounded a ship early in his career and continued to move up in the chain of command.  The incident came to light when someone commented, back in WWII that that was something to end your career, and ADM Nimitz chimed in telling his story.  This comes from Potter's biography of ADM Nimitz, which is an excellent read, not only for his Naval career, but also the man who served the Nation after his retirement, at the request of the President, many times and refused to take anything other than compensation to cover his expenses.  His wife had done the same during WWII.
 
ADM Halsey was an aviator...Nimitz was the "'Shoe" ("Black Shoe" for surface officers, as aviators worn brown shoes with their uniforms), therefore would have been a junior officer with a destroyer command, if I recall, he was a LTJG at the time and it happened in the Philippines.
 
As far as the Navy falling apart, this topic is covered in detail at CDR Salamander's blog when the CNO's select panel reported out their results.  Follow this link for some hair raising discussions on this matter....
 
I served with two of the men who were part of the CNO's review in 2004, and they were both solid citizens, with plenty of experience, and one let me know the results were heart breaking.
 
I was there as the downsizing began and saw some of this on the horizon, even in the early 90s....

Halsey acted stupidly 

Herald1234 Too right, GF. 10/30/2007 4:55:39 AM


I suspect that you're about to get a belting from Herald about this....


http://www.strategypage.com/mi...

"http://www.strategypage.com/militaryforums/8-12305.aspx"

That covers some of the son of a bitch's early blunders and saves me some time.

Do you want to read about the idiot's mishandling of the fleet during the typhoons, or how he tried to coverup his gross incompetence after the "Batttle of Bull's Run"; or the ongoing jealousy he developed in a one sided imaginary rivalry he had with the finest American Admiral to ever stand on a warship deck?

Question you posed, Jessayme;

Why did Halsey want Ozawa's empty carriers?

Answer. He wanted a victory to rival Midway. Spruance got four; he wanted four. Motive? Jealousy.

Why do you think that Nimitz later sent in his best Admiral for the really tough fights at Iwo Jima and Okinawa? After Leyte Gulf you'll notice that the USN didn't send its carriers against the Japanese under Halsey again. The days of alternating commands were OVER. Nimitz had had enough. It was Spruance, thenceforward, all the way.

Where is Taskforce 34? That message Nimitz sent we get the historical propaganda line that it was just a gentle reminder from Nimitz to Halsey to keep San Bernadino Strait covered. Horsefeathers and cowflop. By the time Nimitz sent the message, his staff had shown him a very good plotted sitrep of what was probably happening to the Taffys off of Samar. Kincaid's cries for help were heard in Pearl, and people forget who was staffing all of this for Nimitz at Pearl at the time. It was SPRUANCE.

So when Nimitz sent that message to Halsey, he was furious. The poor encoder who overpadded the message knew exactly what kind of Admiral's venom was going out over the radio. It was USN politese for "Get your junior ensign dumbass back down to Samar and cover San Bernardino, like we staffed it in the pre battle planning originally, you stupid son of a bitch."

The newspapers and the public had turned Halsey into a Hollywood hero much like they did MacArthur. He was a paper mache' hero that the US command could not disown. Otherwise I believe Nimitz would have relieved Halsey, then and there. It was hard fighting and a lot of luck as well as Clifton Sprague who saved us at Samar; after Halsey opened the door to a possible great Japanese victory.

One more thing. it wasn't just Arleigh Burke who saw the outlines of Sho 1. It was Nimitz, Spruance, Lee, both Shermans, Kincaid, Bogan, Oldendorf, Mitscher, McCain, the ancestor of the Arizona Senator, Walter Krueger, Kenney, MacArthur and practically every USN and US Army staff officer who attended the pre-battle planning conferences in the 6th Army, 5th Air Force, and 3rd and 7th fleets INCLUDING HALSEY; who was so briefed and advised to watch for it, by guess who? SPRUANCE.

Af
 
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cwDeici       7/16/2011 3:04:11 AM
Informative
 
I didn't know he did bad, from reading surface stuff about Leyte Gulf.
 
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xformed    Halsey.....more than this   7/16/2011 7:25:07 AM
I served on USS CARR (FFG-52), named after GM2 Paul Carr of the USS SAMUEL B ROBERTS (DE-413).  I had the battle reports in the Ship's history files, and read them closely.  I also went to visit one of the SBR survivors, Dick Rhode, about 5 years ago.  Halsey let them to hang out for the assault and then they spent a few days in the water waiting to be rescued.  An excellent read about that entire battle, to include Halsey's fiacsos is "Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors" by James Hornfisher.
 
It gets better:  Go and read about Halsey's Typhoon, where he took the Fleet through a storm and lost about 7 ships, all due to poor planning.  That story is well told in "Typhoon:  The Other Enemy," written by one of the CO's on a Mahan Class DD that did make it out, but he reported rolling almost 90 degrees in the storm and only when the whaleboat and stack carried away, did they right themselves.  The book addresses the incident from the engineering (piling lots of AA batteries on ships after Pearl Harbor), the Staff (discussion of all the recorded weather guesser's tracks, in the Fleet, and at Pearl and by the COs using "seaman's eye" calculations), and the horror of one on a ship in such a storm and the interesting things that happen when water from the bilges can wash around bulkheads like they were decks...and the Court in Inquiry after the fact.  So, Halsey sunk many of our own ships out of stupidity and arrogance, while never sinking a Japanese carrier.....
 
Funny (an I'm a retired 'Shoe), how ADM Spruance was so vilified, yet he led our successful battles that stopped, then crippled the Japanese Navy.
 
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phrank       7/16/2011 11:15:46 PM
The truth is the navy has been going down this road for a very long time. The navy for a long time now as been making bad choices. They are pushing more and more for everything high end and are finding themselves with less and less. Soon we shall have 1 really powerful ship that can't leave the pier. I am not sure but how many of the navies personal are on ships vs shore billets? They cut the size of ships crews to a level that they can't do maintenance while under way they have to wait till they get back to shore and a contractor to do it.
 
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totsuka       7/18/2011 6:48:40 AM
The Military Sealift Command (MSC) does a better job maintaining it's fleet of ships than the U.S. Navy. They have 1/3 of the number of people and most of them have an average age of 40 years old. It is a different mindset and more cutting edge when it comes to getting the job done within MSC than the U.S. Navy.
 
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blkfoot    Totsuka   7/18/2011 6:02:41 PM
So what your saying is that the Navy should scrap it's currenty recruiting model and basically shift to 35 year olds and up?
 
I think the real problem is "those in charge" who were and are so wrapped up in the technology inside the hull of the ship, that they forgot there was a Hull of a ship hauling all that technology around the oceans...
 
Actually that might not be such a bad idea Totsuka brought up, but make the Recruitiing start at 25 years old instead...
 
1st it would add much more Maturity a 17-21 year old lacks first time away from momma and daddy, would cut down greatly on the "experimental" drug users getting the boot, most likely have a higher degree of "some collage" personal that found they aren't getting where they thought they should be but now the Navy could help pay off that school loan they got themselves trapped into. Acholol abuse might be down (have no specifics on that), but most likely a much more professional Navy with Duty and Career orintation driven.
 
And then there is the Troop reduction thing hanging over everybody's head.
 
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