Where have you gone, Teddy Roosevelt? Our Navy turns its lonely eyes to you…
Bryan McGrath over at Information Dissemination highlights (and provides superb commentary on) a very well-reasoned article by Noah Schachtman at Wired’s Danger Room. Mr. McGrath is right, the Danger Room article is well worth the read. In it, Schachtman discusses in unflinching terms the largely AWOL and highly partisan Secretary of the Navy and the “Green Fleet” fiasco:
Mabus has irritated many in the naval community by taking what appears to be a partisan approach to being secretary. In February, Mabus named a ship the Gabrielle Giffords, after the Democratic Congresswoman shot in the head in 2011. On Cinco de Mayo, Mabus christened the U.S.S. Cesar Chavez. (The civil rights leader once called his two years in the Navy “the two worst years of my life.”)
Some in the naval sphere see Mabus’ energy push as a similarly political maneuver. Certainly, it’s brought him closer to the White House. President Obama has publicly and repeatedly hailed Mabus’ biofuel push as a shining example of innovative government. But in Navy circles, there were questions about why Mabus spent so much of his time on energy issues while the sea service’s budget was being squeezed. The Pentagon’s latest financial plans call for Navy shipbuilding to be cut by $13 billion over four years, from 57 ships to 41. That means the Navy will have to cope with an older, creakier force — just as it’s being asked to counter a rising China in the Pacific. (Last October, GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney pledged nearly $40 billion to build more ships and “reverse the hollowing of our Navy.”)
“Where’s the Secretary of the Navy?” asks Rep. Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican and one of the most important legislators on Navy issues. “How come he’s not here pounding on the desk saying, ‘You can’t keep taking my ships away’?”
“He’s absent on all these things, and yet he’s coming in and fighting for these biofuels,” Forbes adds. “It’s what’s angering people in Capitol Hill.”
Congressman Forbes is spot-on, as is Schachtman. Mabus has replaced meaningful advocacy for sea power and a strong Navy and Marine Corps with distracting, expensive, and wasteful measures enacted in order to curry political favor. Bryan McGrath comments tellingly:
While some of the most consequential discussions on strategy and force structure were ongoing in the Pentagon, the Secretary chose to stress (repeatedly) Green Fuels, Science-Technology-Engineering-Mathematics Education, and Sexual Assault in his speeches…
Our fleet is shrinking, is poorly maintained (due in large part to the illusion of cost-savings from “optimal manning”), exceedingly top-heavy, undermanned, with an optempo that keeps it close to breaking, and has slim chance of successfully executing the Maritime Strategy even without a looming China in the Western Pacific to challenge it. Shipbuilding is a shambles, while modern and capable warships are being retired and disposed of with half their service lives remaining. The future backbone of our surface Navy is an expensive, underarmed, fragile, poorly-protected fuel hog whose usefulness is questionable, at best. The discussions and debates that are the crucial topics for our Navy’s future go unanswered by Navy leadership, beginning with SECNAV and including the CNO and the Flags who should be shaping those discussions. Just at the time where we should be preparing to meet a near-peer in what is allegedly our new geographic focus.
BUT… We do have USS Gabby Giffords, breathalyzers in the workplace, sexual harassment posters everywhere the eye can see, endless Diversity initiatives, and biofuel that costs taxpayers seven times what conventional fuel costs, and that is before the inevitable system maintenance problems which have plagued biofuel employment elsewhere. What we DON’T have is a Secretary of the Navy worthy of the title. Both Bryan McGrath and Noah Schachtman used the term “incompetence”. Tough to argue that.