Archive for the 'Navy' Category

Arguments Over the EFV and V-22

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 1 month ago

In Gates Reshapes DoD Budget Plans we observed that the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) had gotten off unscathed.  It’s budget dollars remained intact, or so it seemed.  It’s a little more murky now with Marine Corps Commandant Conway publicly arguing for the EFV.

U.S. Marines must be able to storm enemy shores in amphibious vehicles such as those being built by General Dynamics Corp, the top Marine said, defending a $13.2 billion program called into question by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

General Dynamics’ Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, or EFV, “is inextricably linked to that capability and an absolutely critical requirement for us,” General James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, told reporters at a Pentagon briefing on Wednesday.

“And, by the way, China has already fielded a similar vehicle and is building more,” he said.

As conceived by the Marine Corps, the EFV is to be able to transport up to 18 combat-ready Marines at high speeds on both land and sea. It would have advanced communications capabilities, provide increased armored protection against rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices, and deliver lethal firepower up to 2,000 meters (2,200 yards).

Part of the argument is based on the intent of the Navy and its reluctance to engage and support near the coastline.

Conway said he believes strongly the military needs the forcible entry capability provided by the EFV, particularly as the Navy plans to operate at least 25 miles from the shoreline.

“That’s a 25-mile bridge that has to be managed somehow and you’re not going to do it with our current set of vehicles,” the four-star general said. “We think the best way to do that is with a vehicle that can do it in a couple of hours, not in a day. And that’s what it would virtually take with our existing fleet” of amphibious assault vehicles.

But Secretary Gates apparently is still considering what to do with the program.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has announced major changes to many of the military’s largest development and procurement projects, has put off making a decision on the EFV, a program with a troubled history, until the completion of the Quadrennial Defense Review next year. Costs on the General Dynamics program have soared 43 percent to an estimated $13 billion while the Marine Corps has been trying over the last two years to correct reliability problems.

“We have to take a hard look at where it would be necessary or sensible to launch another major amphibious action again,” Gates said during an April 17 visit to the Naval War College in Newport, R.I. “In the 21st century, how much amphibious capability do we need?” But Conway said he believes the EFV is essential not just for a major amphibious assault, which the Marine Corps has not done since 1950, but also for humanitarian assistance and evacuation operations. “It really runs the whole gamut from peacetime sort of engagement all the way up to forcible entry,” he said. “And we think that that’s what the nation really needs.”

We also get some news on the V-22 Osprey.

Conway said he expects the Marine Corps to deploy a squadron of MV-22 Osprey helicopters to Afghanistan before the end of the year. The next deployment for the Osprey, which was first used operationally in Iraq in 2007, will be aboard a ship to test the aircraft’s “seaworthiness,” Conway said.

But then a squadron will head to Afghanistan. “We have had issues with our current medium-lift capability” in Afghanistan, Conway said. “The old CH-46 has run up against age and altitude and environment and is not doing the job that we need for our medium lift squadrons to do.”

The CH-46 will be in service for a long time to come, and is currently the only platform from which Marines can fastrope.  As Colonel Desens put it, “I think the last 46 pilot may have been born, but not yet commissioned.”  On the whole the Osprey has performed well in Iraq, but it will be the true test of its worthiness to test it both at sea in a maritime environment and in the high plains, deserts and mountains of Afghanistan.

Analysis & Commentary

Humanitarian assistance is an absolutely horrible misuse of U.S. Marines.  It’s like driving a corvette on a speedway to deliver pizza.  The Marine expeditionary concept is a good one, with all needed billets and specializations embedded with and assigned to the force.  The expeditionary, quick strike, rapid deployment concept is a good use of the Corps, as long as this use doesn’t detract from the essential deployments in support of the long war, and in the current case, Operation Enduring Freedom.

We have been moderately to strongly supportive of the Osprey V-22 program, but dismissing the helicopter fleet too soon is a monumental error.  In fact, the question necessarily arises “do we need two means of forcible entry – air and sea?”  If we continue support of the V-22 program as well as maintain the existing fleet of helicopters, along with commissioning a new fleet soon, is this a better expenditure of money than the EFV would be?  Note that we aren’t questioning the expeditionary concept or the need for forcible entry.  The question is by what means.

Finally, the Navy must be pressed to strategically engage in 21st century warfare.  The horizon – 25 miles – is a pointless distance given the increasingly available missile technology.  The Navy must find a way to counter this threat and shoulder some of the burden.

In summary, we recommend continued viability of the Amphibious Assault Docks, maintaining the existing helicopter fleet, commissioning a new helicopter fleet, continuation of testing of the Osprey V-22, and high intensity warfare and quick strike use of the Corps (as opposed to humanitarian assistance).  We remain skeptical of the EFV.

Navy and Marines to Part Ways Over Expeditionary Strike Groups?

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 2 months ago

I want to touch on several issues in this post.  First, Galrahn at Information Dissemination authors yet another interesting post on Navy strategy, or the lack of it.  It should be required reading for all of my readers.  His discussion of Navy strategy and issues surrounding the Navy is second to none.  He says that the Navy has proven that they are unable tactically to solve piracy.  But while I agree with his dismissal of the Littoral Combat Ship as being the answer, I don’t agree with this assessment.

I have said before that the things required of us to defeat the pirates are less attractive to 21st century America that the alternative of having pirates, and thus we have chosen for piracy to exist.  The tools exist: Amphibious Assault Docks, LCACs, Harriers, Helicopters associated with ESG, etc.  And just to make it clear, if we really wanted to be effective, we could deploy the newer generation of Riverine Command Boats along with the Amphibious Assault Docks, or some smaller water craft (with assault capability).  Hanging pirates on the high seas, videotaping the events and posting it to YouTube would end piracy, and it is given to the Congress of the U.S. in the Constitution to make such laws.  Finally, such laws would supersede all ambiguous treaties in this matter.  In followup to previous posts on piracy, Navy SEAL teams are not an answer.  There aren’t enough, it is too expensive, and it isn’t logistically sustainable.

Donald Sensing makes the point in the comments section that piracy isn’t a national security issue for the U.S.  Perhaps so, right now, but as the pirates continue to give honorariums to al Qaeda which is currently in control of most of Somalia, it might be in the near future.  As the problem continues it grows worse.

On to the part about Naval strategy.  I tend to believe that if the strategic thinking is there, the Navy is not doing a very good job of communicating it.  Now comes a strange twist from the Navy about the future of its participation in the ESG.

The Navy is breaking up the deployments of amphibious ships and surface combatants formerly known as expeditionary strike groups, part of a top-down review that could have far-reaching consequences for how sailors and Marines spend time at sea.

For the past six years, ESGs paired a big-deck amphib and two small-deck gators with two or three surface combatant escorts. Now, the gators and warships will go separately.

As of March 9, the gator groups were renamed “amphibious ready groups,” reviving a term that was shelved several years ago, and combined with the name of their accompanying Marine expeditionary unit, said Lt. Cmdr. Phil Rosi, a spokesman for Fleet Forces Command. Although these were the first changes to come from a joint Navy-Marine ESG working group, they won’t be the last, he said.

“The name change and the deployment construct is the first step in the process — we have, in conjunction with the Marine Corps and [the] ESG working group, been working through roles, missions, capability, training … there’s a lot more that still is being worked out.”

For example, the Navy would have called the amphibious assault ship Boxer’s group the “Boxer ESG,” but now it’s called the “Boxer ARG/13th MEU.”

But ESG isn’t going away entirely. An ARG/MEU still can be called an ESG, Rosi said, if it’s being commanded by an admiral or general officer.

Under normal circumstances, a Navy captain will command the ships and a Marine colonel will be in charge of the leathernecks.

Rosi said Fleet Forces Command and the ESG working group still are determining who will decide when an ARG/MEU’s mission requires a one-star officer and elevates the unit to ESG status.

The Navy decided to break up the previous ESGs because the amphibs and combatants usually didn’t work closely enough on their deployments to justify sailing together, Rosi said.

So surface combatants will begin sailing separately as “surface action groups” — another older term — although officials don’t yet know how that could affect their deployments. He also said it wasn’t clear yet whether the surface groups would include set numbers of ships — a certain number of cruisers, destroyers or frigates — or how their missions could change.

“There’s no definite cookie-cutter construct,” Rosi said.

Rosi said ARG/MEUs and surface groups will retain their ability to operate together when needed, but they won’t sail in groups as they have since 2003.

Retired Capt. Jan van Tol said it’s “unfortunate” that the Navy is returning to an older style of surface deployments, but he said he wasn’t surprised because top commanders never fully realized a strategy to deploy amphibs with warships.

“It’s completely back to the future. I guess ESGs weren’t as useful as we thought,” said van Tol, who commanded three ships, including the amphibious assault ship Essex, before becoming an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

ESGs were ideal groups for handling low-intensity missions such as the international campaign against piracy off Somalia, he said, because they combine the speed and firepower of surface ships with many “lily pads” for helicopters on the gators. The amphibious assault ship Boxer, for example, is operating with the destroyer Bainbridge and frigate Halyburton off the Horn of Africa.

What’s more, ESGs were a way to overcome the “artificial divorce” in the surface force between amphib and “cru/des” sailors, van Tol said. He recalled a time when he was the captain of the Essex and his ship participated in a missile-launching exercise with the destroyer John S. McCain, giving the ships’ crews a chance to work together.

Then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Vern Clark pushed for ARGs to become ESGs in the early 2000s, based on an earlier concept from the 1990s called an Expeditionary Task Force.

But with Clark retired, few top-level Navy and Marine Corps leaders stayed committed to pairing amphibs and combatants.

“It’s dying due to lack of interest, which is a pity,” van Tol said.

Several fairly brief observations.  I will reserve comment for now on the extreme expense of deploying an entire Battalion of Marine infantry on board an Amphibious Assault Dock and floating around the Persian Gulf for seven months as “ready reserve” for CENTCOM or “force in readiness.”  It deserves fuller analysis, much more than I can provide here.  The public has absolutely no idea how expensive this endeavor is.

But this account above is about as strange as it gets.  We’re bored, says the Navy, or something thereabouts.  We learn nothing useful about any paradigmatic change in strategy that caused this divorce, or some new boundary condition or external pressure that is causing the need to separate larger warships from ESGs.  It’s about personalities, or some such foolishness.  Maybe.  We don’t know.  We just learn that it’s going to happen.

Finally, as I stated in Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts, “The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities … Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.”

I am continually re-evaluating the need for MEUs, especially when there is such dire need for Marine infantry in Afghanistan.  I am only softly committed to MEUs.  Someone can try to convince me, but it may be a tall task.  But if we are going to do MEUs and ESGs, we had better consider the danger and risk of deploying Amphibious Assault Docks (AAD) without the accompanying Naval force protection.

I normally assume that the detection and defeater systems for surface-to-surface missiles on board the Navy vessels would add to the force protection for the AADs.  I also assume that an Aircraft Carrier fleet is not too distant from the AADs to provide air superiority in the case of air attack.  I am also assuming that the Navy wouldn’t hesitate to use its power to protect the Marines.

Your assignment: Think hard.  An entire Battalion of Marine infantry sitting on an Amphibious Assault Dock in the middle of the Persian Gulf like sitting ducks, with little Naval force protection, and the likely to come reduction in the Carrier battle groups by at least one.  The Navy won’t deploy with the Marines.  Can you justify this?  Seriously?  Wouldn’t it be better to deploy the Navy or find another way to use the Marines?  Why have the ESG to begin with?  What is the Navy thinking?  We don’t know – it seems as if they’re bored.  Oh wait!  As I re-read the above, there is an “ESG working group.”  Good.  I feel better already.

Concerning U.S. Defense Cuts

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 3 months ago

Following are some related but disaggregated thoughts on the upcoming U.S. Department of Defense budgetary cuts, along with some very good required reading on this subject.

Gates Readies Big Cuts in Weapons

As the Bush administration was drawing to a close, Robert M. Gates, whose two years as defense secretary had been devoted to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, felt compelled to warn his successor of a crisis closer to home.

The United States “cannot expect to eliminate national security risks through higher defense budgets, to do everything and buy everything,” Gates said. The next defense secretary, he warned, would have to eliminate some costly hardware and invest in new tools for fighting insurgents.

What Gates didn’t know was that he would be that successor.

Now, as the only Bush Cabinet member to remain under President Obama, Gates is preparing the most far-reaching changes in the Pentagon’s weapons portfolio since the end of the Cold War, according to aides.

Two defense officials who were not authorized to speak publicly said Gates will announce up to a half-dozen major weapons cancellations later this month. Candidates include a new Navy destroyer, the Air Force’s F-22 fighter jet, and Army ground-combat vehicles, the offi cials said.

More cuts are planned for later this year after a review that could lead to reductions in programs such as aircraft carriers and nuclear arms, the officials said …

Gates is not the first secretary to try to change military priorities. His predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, sought to retool the military but succeeded in cancelling only one major project, an Army artillery system.

Former vice president Dick Cheney’s efforts as defense chief under the first President Bush, meanwhile, are cited as a case study in the resistance of the military, defense industry, and Capitol Hill. Cheney canceled the Marine Corps’ troubled V-22 Osprey aircraft not once, but four times, only to see Congress reverse the decision.

And we’re glad that the V-22 Osprey program was completed.  It is already making an impact in the Marine Corps expeditionary concept.  The Captain’s Journal is still a supporter of Secretary Gates, but these defense cuts are both unnecessary and ill-advised (although not of Gates’ choosing in a perfect world).  Beginning in 2011, Russian armed forces will undergo a comprehensive rearmament to refurbish and replaces weapons systems.  While the U.S. is disarming, one of the only two near peers in the world is increasing and rearming its military.  No, wait.  Make that both near peer states.

Beijing Considers Upgrades to Navy

China’s top military spokesman said it is seriously considering adding a first aircraft carrier to its navy fleet, a fresh indication of the country’s growing military profile as it prepares for its first major naval deployment abroad.

At a rare news conference Tuesday, Chinese defense-ministry officials played down the importance of Beijing’s decision to send warships to the Gulf of Aden to curb piracy — China’s first such deployment in modern history — saying it doesn’t represent a shift in defense policy. The two destroyers and supply ship are to depart Friday for the Middle East.

But officials also made clear that China’s navy, which has been investing heavily in ships and aircraft, now has the capability to conduct complex operations far from its coastal waters — and that Beijing is continuing to expand its reach and capability, perhaps with a carrier.

It’s unclear what parts of an aircraft carrier China would build itself and what parts it might need to acquire from abroad. China has bought carriers before, but none ended up in the country’s fleet.

In some of the most direct public statements on current thinking behind Beijing’s naval policy, defense military spokesman Col. Huang Xueping said Tuesday that “China has vast oceans and it is the sovereign responsibility of China’s armed forces to ensure the country’s maritime security and uphold the sovereignty of its costal waters as well as its maritime rights and interests.”

At Information Dissemination, Galrahn makes a good observation on the importance of the expeditionary concept.

As we have noted many times on the blog, the amphibious ship is the hardest working type of ship in the US Navy in the 21st century. The data says all that needs to be said regarding the requirement.

They are flexible platforms that bring together a wide variety of capabilities that can effectively perform the range of mission profiles from soft power to forward afloat staging bases to even assault roles when necessary. They are the rapid responders when crisis breaks out on land, and best fit the most often called upon requirements of the US Navy when problems occur, whether it is Hezbollah/Israel or a natural disaster, the amphibious ship, not the aircraft carrier, is the type of platform sent into to help out people … The biggest problem with the sea basing concept isn’t the idea regarding how to get troops to land, but how to sustain troops from sea once we get them on land. The single largest factor that limits support is fuel.

The Captain’s Journal agrees with Galrahn and the importance of force projection – whether hard or soft power – with the Marines Expeditionary Units (including the “combined arms” concept of multiple naval vessels with various defensive and offensive capabilities.  But with us it isn’t a matter of either-or.  It’s both-and.  We need both the carrier battle groups and the MEUs.

We will learn the lesson, again, the easy way or the hard way.  But we must be prepared to fight both near peers and counterinsurgency campaigns.  As for China, when they want to expand their global influence, the first big ship they go after is the carrier.  Concerning Galrahn’s warning on the need for fuel, this highlights all the more the need for ports and air superiority for refueling tankers.  Concerning overall air superiority, if the sole focus of our national defense dollars is in counterinsurgency, littoral combat and small wars, the MEUs will be left to the slaughter once the ordnance begins raining down from the sky.

Concerning this issue of being able to fight two wars at one time, the current administration is toying with this age-old doctrine.

The protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are forcing the Obama administration to rethink what for more than two decades has been a central premise of American strategy: that the nation need only prepare to fight two major wars at a time.

For more than six years now, the United States has in fact been fighting two wars, with more than 170,000 troops now deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. The military has openly acknowledged that the wars have left troops and equipment severely strained, and has said that it would be difficult to carry out any kind of significant operation elsewhere.

To some extent, fears have faded that the United States may actually have to fight, say, Russia and North Korea, or China and Iran, at the same time. But if Iraq and Afghanistan were never formidable foes in conventional terms, they have already tied up the American military for a period longer than World War II.

A senior Defense Department official involved in a strategy review now under way said the Pentagon was absorbing the lesson that the kinds of counterinsurgency campaigns likely to be part of some future wars would require more staying power than in past conflicts, like the first Iraq war in 1991 or the invasions of Grenada and Panama.

In an interview with National Public Radio last week, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates made it clear that the Pentagon was beginning to reconsider whether the old two-wars assumption “makes any sense in the 21st century” as a guide to planning, budgeting and weapons-buying.

Be careful here.  This seems like a prelude to deep cuts in the men and materiel necessary for air superiority, Naval superiority and force projection.  Wait, we’ve already discussed this above, and it looks like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.

Finally, you will note that the cuts also target both nuclear refurbishment and development and the F-22 program.  The Captain’s Journal has already weighed in on these issues.

Just Build the F-22, Okay?

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

The three links above are required reading, as are the two links below (for those readers who aren’t convinced of the need to refurbish our existing nuclear weapons stockpile or continue further development).

Report of the Secretary of Defense Task Force on DoD Nuclear Weapons Management

National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century

Finally, read this:

Remember Near Peer Threats?

Kill the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 3 months ago

The EFV (Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle) has fallen on hard times.  More accurately, it fell on hard times long ago.

It’s back to the drawing board for the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle.

The multibillion dollar program, designed to deliver combat-ready Marines from Navy ships to enemy shores aboard amphibious, armored personnel carriers, is so over-budget and behind schedule that it has been blasted as an “embarrassment” on Capitol Hill and identified as a poster child for troubled military acquisitions projects.

Widespread technical failures caused the Corps to scrap its existing plans two years ago and restart the program’s entire development and demonstration phase, a move that cost nearly $1 billion. But Marine Corps Systems Command is pushing forward with the creation of seven new prototypes while testing continues on existing vehicles in an attempt to head off future problems.

Marine officials say the program has turned a corner, but critics insist the EFV’s time has passed. It’s a money pit, they say, an engineering stinker that will consume about a quarter of the Corps’ research and development budget through 2014.

Even if does better next time around in operational assessments, analysts question whether the development of an amphibious vehicle without a V-shaped hull — favored for deflecting roadside-bomb blasts — makes sense, when there is no apparent need for amphibious raids on the Pentagon’s horizon.

But it’s more than just budgetary problems that plague the program.

Things began unraveling early into the development and demonstration phase. According to reports by the Government Accountability Office and the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the Corps delayed the project’s completion date three times between November 2002 and March 2005 as numerous components failed in reliability tests.

Ultimately, General Dynamics was paid $1.2 billion under the contract, including $60 million in bonuses and fees for good performance, a 2008 congressional report said.

The GAO and Defense Department auditors blamed the EFV shortfalls on a variety of factors, including the adoption of an unrealistic schedule that rushed production, skipping a comprehensive design process in favor of having General Dynamics fix problems in a piecemeal fashion and not appointing an overall system engineer.

In a pivotal moment, the EFV failed a milestone operational assessment on numerous levels in 2006. According to Defense Department and congressional reports, the assessment was “dominated by very low reliability,” where the vehicle was able to operate only 4.5 hours between breakdowns, with 3.6 hours of corrective maintenance needed for every hour in use. Reviewers completed only two of the 11 amphibious tests and one of the 10 gunnery tests, and the gun turret support arm broke free during the assessment.

The Marines Corps is uncharacteristically willing to accept inferior equipment, even after all of the redesign has been finished.  “The Corps expects the new prototypes to last about 19 hours in between breakdown when they first receive them, which would put the requirement of 43.5 hours before breakdown within reach for the final product.”  Don’t let this fact escape notice.  Target = less than two full days of operation before major malfunction occurs requiring protracted maintenance.  This is the ultimate goal, not the interim stages while the Corps tests the vehicle.

Finally, there is the issue of the IED and roadside bomb vulnerability of the EFV, since it has a flat bottom hull due to its need to float.  The Corps has experience in the use of flat bottom craft when, in the summer of 2005, 14 Recon Marines perished in Anbar when running an Amphibious Assault Vehicle down a road in the desert.

Marine Corps Commandant Conway has a justification for the continued investment in the EFV.  “We’re optimistic that once people understand the facts and understand that the United States Navy is not going closer than 25 miles to a shore, they’ll appreciate the value of a vehicle that is really an armored personnel carrier that also planes at about 30 knots over open ocean,” Conway said. “We think that the program is absolutely necessary to what we do.”

This issue touches on a debate over the so-called littoral combat program on which the U.S. Navy has supposedly embarked.  Twenty five miles is beyond the horizon.  The Navy believes in littoral combat, or so it says, but not really.  Not if it’s a risky proposition.  So Commandant Conway’s solution is to field the EFV.  A video of the USS San Antonio, the LCAC and the EFV is below.

But the whole amphibious assault construct including the EFV rests on the propositions that it [amphibious assault] will be necessary, that the assault will be a surprise along with the corollary idea that there will be no IEDs to destroy the EFVs, and that there is no other solution to the dilemma.

Let’s challenge at least the last three of those propositions.  First, if an amphibious assault becomes necessary against a nation-state, it is not a legitimate claim that the state will not be aware of the Amphibious Assault Dock just off its coast.  The element of surprise is thus taken away, and therefore the EFV is vulnerable to IEDs due to its flat hull, just like the Amphibious Assault Vehicle shown above.

Second, if the target to be invaded is a failed state, it’s not plausible to claim that conventional equipment such as the EFV is necessary.  If there is a need for rapid deployment of Marines, along with heavier equipment and firepower, then the solution is to invest money in a new generation of assault helicopters.

The problem of a broken military procurement system and irresponsible defense contractors isn’t going to go away.  The Marine Corp Commandant doesn’t need to jettison the expeditionary philosophy of the Corps.  Helicopters can supply the needed firepower, carried on board Aircraft Carriers and Amphibious Assault Docks.  The Commandant needs to jettison the EFV.  And the Navy needs to stop bragging about littoral combat unless they prove themselves actually willing to do it.

How to Pay for a 21st Century Military

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

Defense Tech links an editorial by the New York Times on How to Pay for a 21st Century Military.  Ward at Defense Tech doesn’t like the editorial very much, and neither does The Captain’s Journal.  Ward summarizes the recommendations as follows:

End production of the Air Force’s F-22. (Recommends the use of “upgraded” F-16s until the F-35 comes into production.)

Cancel the DDG-1000 Zumwalt class destroyer. (Advises the production of the Littoral Combat Ship instead.)

Halt production of the Virginia class sub. (Recommends extending the life of existing Los Angeles class submarines instead.)

Pull the plug on the Marine Corps’s V-22 Osprey. (Recommends buying more H-92s and CH-53s instead.)

Halt premature deployment of missile defense.

Negotiate deep cuts in nuclear weapons.

Trim the active-duty Navy and Air Force.

Some, if not most, of these recommendations are stupid to the point of being dangerous.  We have already discussed the fact that existing nuclear weapons systems are in need of refurbishment in order to maintain viability, and also the fact that new nuclear weapons systems must be pursued in order to maintain deterrence and modernize the force.

While aircraft carriers can project U.S. power deep into foreign terrain, and guided missile cruisers even deeper, the Navy hasn’t given us a single viable littoral combat scenario or reason to believe that the littoral combat program is anything but daydreaming.  On the other hand, every single ship in the active U.S. Navy has produced and participated in the national defense, whether actively or passively through deterrence.

As for the F-22, we have already halted production after 183 have been purchased.  Good enough.  Continue with the 183 and halt any further production after that.  The proposal to cut the 183 that have been purchased comes from the same presupposition as the proposals to cut the nuclear weapons program deeply, pursue the littoral combat ships and halt missile defense.  This presupposition is that the only thing we will ever face in the 21st century will be asymmetric threats, guerrilla warfare and insurgencies.

The Captain’s Journal believes in fighting and winning the current campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s foolish and shortsighted to assume that the future will necessarily look like the present.  Finally, short cutting planning, training and equipping for a conventional struggle and proper deterrence might just ensure that that’s the threat that is faced in the future by creating the very weakness that larger near-peer nation states seek.

Robert M. Gates on a Balanced Strategy for the Pentagon

Sounding the Nuclear Alarm

An Aging Nuclear Weapons Stockpile

Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

The 26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio and Military Equipment

Littoral Combat and Other Navy Adventures

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 6 months ago

Sometimes the web is a wonderful thing.  Other times not so much.  We love the ability to communicate electronically, but we hate know-it-alls.  We hate know-it-alls, but we love the ability to expose them for what they are.

Every now and again a good example surfaces and it’s good to send it to our readers.  The most recent example of stupidity arises from a comment at the Small Wars Journal blog.  The wise and highly knowledgeable Frank Hoffman has written an analysis on American Maritime Power in the 21st Century.  It was linked by our friends Dave and Bill at the Small Wars Journal blog.  Now comes the stupidity with comments that add nothing to our knowledge.

This is drivel.
There has to be a better justification for spending money on big ships and expensive weapons systems than ‘to preserve our navel power’ (Fighting WW2 again).

Reaching back to the “American Century” for justification is backward looking and not a way for forward planing.

Go show us you can take care of a few boat loads of prates firing RPG’s. If you can’t do that with what you have now, we are not going to spend billions more getting more of it for you.

Ships are extremely vulnerable to air power (WWII), even the simplest missiles (Falklands), and a man in a row boat with a bit of explosive (USS Cole).

In the high speed world of today ships are slow, incredibly un-stealthy, and make wonderfully good targets when ever they get anywhere near hostile land.

The disadvantage with ships is they are not very large and easy to hit, and when hit the damage is compounded by the tendency for water to flow in through the holes.

They are really nice platforms for launching long range stand off weapons, like cruise missiles or aircraft, so long as the craft is far enough off shore to keep out of harms way.

As an off shore support system for operations in and against small backward nations like Vietnam and Iraq they are very useful.

In the age of satlights and cloud penetrating radar I am not sure that ships will continue to be a available fighting platform for use against a large modern state, like Russia or china, who have such technology.

They have one fatal flaw. You only have to get one or two good hits and the whole thing sinks. Resiliency and defensive systems are big problems for a modern navy.

No other military encampment takes down so much gear and men when when taking incoming fire. Maybe the future is not a navy as we know it now, but a fleet of much smaller fast boats that work together as a swarm.

Maybe the future of aircraft carries is a very high speed 150 foot long craft that can launch and recover automated predictor or raptor type aircraft.

To which The Captain’s Journal responded:


Yesterday Mr. Hoffman forgot some infinitesimally small amount of the information he knew on the subject about which he writes. This forgotten information from yesterday is more than you will ever know about this subject in one hundred lifetimes.

Also, your bravado concerning fluid mechanics is unimpressive. Some ships with holes sink, like aircraft with missing wings crash and tanks hit by EFPs break. And it took you some 70 – 80 words to state this fact and then repeat it for us. Wow.

As for the balance of your comment, I see nothing thoughtful about it. I, too, have concerns. Mr. Hoffman knows, like we all do, that money will be tight and that programs will have to husband their resources. I am concerned about the whole littoral combat program, whether maybe the USMC should re-evaluate their EFV program, etc. But I’ll attempt to address these issues without calling studied men out to have uttered drivel. I’ll follow this up on my own web site.

As for Naval power, the reason that China is pursuing an aircraft carrier is for force projection. We have 11, 5 or 6 or more active at any one time, and this takes cash. Maybe you should call up the Premier of the PRC and tell him your conerns about China pursuing Naval power. I’m sure he’ll listen. Let me know how it goes. Send me a note.

The only real “drivel” here is your comment. Now. I’m angry because I feel like I have wasted my time in responding to this comment. Finally, Dave and Bill are more gracious than am I. Your stupid URL http://drivel to which I am sent upon clicking on your name is enough to ban you forever from my own web site. I don’t suffer fools very well.

And we don’t suffer fools.  Smaller, faster naval craft phooey!  Small ships can be shot out of the water just like larger craft can.  But just as we don’t suffer people like JamesM, we wonder very deeply about the USMC EFV program.  We like the Osprey V-22 (although it needs more proving time), but we wonder about the notion of a floating tank, ready to swim and fight at the same time (or right after swimming).  Where are we going to perform a major amphibious assault of another sovereign country?  For what reason would we do something like this?  Really.  We understand the notion of ready reserve, and the idea of countries that go bad and embassies that have to be evacuated, and so forth.  We get it.  But the EFV?  Really?

As for high power force projection, China is pursuing an aircraft carrier because it is the very definition of power.  Guided missile destroyers can send ordnance even further into countries than aircraft can from aircraft carriers.  Yet the notion of using the 26th MEU for CENTCOM ready reserve is pushing the envelope when colleagues are suffering and dying in Afghanistan.  Ready reserve for what?  What’s going to happen that a single Marine Landing Battalion can handle?  Pirates?  The lawyers have prevented that.

Now.  Maintenance of force projection across the globe is one thing, but extravagance is another.  Should we really pursue the idea of the EFV?  Really?

In summary, we have concerns, but jamesM is an idiot and we aren’t.  We understand fluid mechanics.  So there you have it.


Danger Room on Littoral Combat Ships

Strategy Page on Shipbuilding

The Captain’s Journal, 26th MEU Stuck at Baharain

The Captain’s Journal, The USS San Antonio

The Captain’s Journal, Can the Afford the New Destroyers?

26th MEU Stuck at Bahrain

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 7 months ago

In The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment, we detailed our objections to the job that Northrup Grumman had done in constructing the amphibious transport dock USS San Antonio, with its snarled electrical cables, unreliable steering, and general poor craftsmanship throughout the physical plant. It is wasteful of time and resources, and certainly hampers the ability of the U.S. Marines to perform during their duties.

In a time when pirates are endangering shipping lanes in the extremely busy Gulf of Aden, the U.S. Marines should be engaging and killing pirates. Ralph Peters, OpFor and The Captain’s Journal have weighed in describing the solution to the problem of pirates. But the Marines are wasting time in Bahrain rather than contributing to the global war on terror or protecting shipping lanes.

The USS San Antonio has yet another major mechanical problem. It has sprung an oil leak, and is in port in Bahrain to repair and weld piping.

Their ship is stuck at a Bahraini port, but that doesn’t mean extra liberty for some leathernecks with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Marines and sailors with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based MEU who are aboard the amphibious transport dock San Antonio “continue to train aboard and from that vessel,” according to a MEU spokesman.

The ship’s maiden deployment with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group out of Norfolk, Va., was interrupted Oct. 31 when it entered a yard in Bahrain to fix major oil leaks. Navy officials projected the maintenance would be finished within two weeks. This marks the latest problem for the ship, which has been plagued with performance problems, and was delivered late and $1 billion over budget.

But problems with the ship — criticized Monday by Navy Secretary Donald Winter, who said he “continues to be unsatisfied” with its performance — have not stopped its Marine inhabitants from participating in training exercises and classes.

“This training includes leadership, martial arts, physical training, infantry and other job-skills training they would normally conduct underway,” MEU spokesman Gunnery Sgt. Bryce Piper said in an e-mail. “Accessibility to land actually expands these Marines’ opportunities to conduct physical and small-unit training outside the confines of the ship, and unit leaders exploit these opportunities whenever possible.”

Elements of the MEU’s battalion landing team, 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, and Combat Logistic Battalion 26, are on the ship, but they were not scheduled to participate in current training exercises, Piper said.

The 26th MEU set sail for a six-month deployment aboard the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima, the San Antonio and dock landing ship Carter Hall Aug. 29. Those ships are currently in the 5th Fleet area of operation.

As expected, the Marines and Navy put a good face on this, but many Marines are surely grumbling under their breath, while their brothers suffer in Afghanistan, pirates plague the Gulf of Aden, and Islamists continue their takeover of Somalia. The long war is proving to be too difficult to encounter these kinds of problems during deployment. With radiograph, dye penetrant testing, and visual inspection, there is absolutely no excuse – none – for welding problems to become manifest while at sea on a new ship. This demonstrates that there is a QA problem somewhere that badly needs to be fixed.

But this also raises the important question of whether the existing MEU structure is the best way to implement the strategic vision of the Marine Corps Commandant for an expeditionary force. It might be wise to train to perform naval-based and amphibious operations, and perhaps this should be among the regular qualifications of Marines of all billets. But first of all, the use of an MEU with all of its expense, to work out the problems associated with a new ship is a questionable value judgment. Second, the use of a Battalion Landing Team (BLT) to spend seven months aboard a ship performing humanitarian missions, shows of force and practice maneuvers while their brother suffer in Afghanistan and pirates maraud the Gulf of Aden forces the question of whether command deployed this MEU in the most efficient manner to perform the most important mission.

Russian Nuclear Submarine Accident

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 7 months ago

There are conflicting reports concerning a recent Russian nuclear submarine accident. One such report has the culprit as a failure of the fire protection system to actuate. The second account has the failure as the spurious actuation of the fire protection system.

Twenty people were killed on board a Russian nuclear submarine, the navy said on Sunday, in an accident that exposed the gap between the Kremlin’s ambitions and its military capability.

The accident, which happened while the submarine was on sea trials in the Pacific Ocean, was the deadliest to hit Russia’s navy since the Kursk nuclear submarine exploded beneath the Barents Sea in 2000, killing all 118 sailors on board.

Prosecutors investigating the latest incident said they suspected the victims died after inhaling a toxic gas used as a fire suppressant when the vessel’s fire extinguishing systems went off unexpectedly.

It was not clear why the portable breathing gear usually issued to Russian submarine crews did not save them. A navy spokesman said the nuclear reactor was not damaged and the vessel was now in port.

“Twenty people died,” the Prosecutor-General’s Office said in a statement. “Results of a preliminary investigation show that death occurred as a result of freon gas entering the lungs.”

It appears that the later account is correct. The sailors died of suffocation when freon (a Dupont brand name for refrigerant) made the atmosphere uninhabitable.

The victims suffocated after the submarine’s fire-extinguishing system released Freon gas, said Vladimir Markin, an official with Russia’s top investigative agency. He said forensic tests found Freon in the victims’ lungs.

Seventeen civilians and three seamen died in the accident and 21 others were hospitalized after being evacuated to shore, Dygalo said, adding that none of the injuries were life-threatening.

“The submarine’s nuclear reactor was operating normally and radiation levels were normal,” Dygalo said, explaining that the accident affected two sections of the submarine closest to the bow.

Markin’s agency, the Investigative Committee under the Prosecutor General’s office, has launched a probe into the accident, which he said will focus on what activated the firefighting system and possible violations of submarine operating rules.

Lev Fyodorov, a top Russian chemical expert, agreed that the Freon pushed oxygen out, causing those inside to die of suffocation. But he wondered why the individual breathing kits that everyone on board is supposed to have did not keep people from dying.

“People on board the sub may have failed to use their breathing equipment when they found themselves in an emergency,” he told the AP.

Igor Kurdin, a retired navy officer who heads an association of former submariners, told Ekho Moskvy radio that the high death toll probably resulted from shipyard workers who lacked experience in dealing with the breathing kits.

A siren warning the crew that the firefighting system was turning on also may have failed, RIA Novosti quoted an unidentified navy official as saying, so those on board might not have realized that Freon was being released until it was too late.

U.S. submarines use primarily Halon as a fire suppressant, and the combustion and thermal decomposition products are designed to be limited to less than lethal concentrations given the short bursts of release of the gas.

The design on board the Russian submarine sounds dubious and the system apparently lacked in construction quality assurance. The gap between the Kremlin’s ambitions and capabilities is wide, and this latest accident is a long line of malfunctions that have plagued the Russian Navy, not the least of which is the Kursk accident.

The 26th MEU, the USS San Antonio, and Military Equipment

BY Herschel Smith
9 years, 9 months ago

The Captain’s Journal will take great interest in the 26th MEU for the remainder of its current deployment. The 26th MEU consists of the USS Iwo Jima and USS San Antonio, are they are joined by amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall, the guided missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf, the guided missile destroyer USS Ramage, the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford.

The USS Iwo Jima, which carries the 2nd Battalion, 6th Regiment (2nd Marine Division), left the Norfolk Naval Station on Tuesday. On the other hand, the USS San Antonio has had equipment malfunctions that kept her in port.

Hydraulic problems have delayed the maiden deployment the amphibious transport dock San Antonio (LPD-17), which was supposed to leave Aug. 26 with the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group.

The ship, which has endured lengthy delays and cost overruns, had to stay back in Norfolk due to a broken stern gate that will take days to repair, said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Herb Josey, spokesman for Naval Surface Force Atlantic.

The amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima left the pier at 11 a.m. without San Antonio and is headed to North Carolina to onload the rest of the Camp Lejeune-based 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Capt. Brian Smith, Amphibious Squadron 4 commander, said the problem with San Antonio was discovered Aug. 24 and he expects the new amphib – the lead ship of the LPD 17 class – to be repaired and outbound by the end of this week.

“There is nothing that will keep San Antonio from getting underway,” he said. The problem is a mechanical failure in a ram cylinder piston that controls the stern gate, he said, crucial for conducting well-deck operations, an amphib’s very reason for existence.

San Antonio’s fleet debut has been a rocky one. It underwent two scathing inspection reports and had to miss its first shot at deployment in February with the Nassau ESG.

Smith defended both San Antonio and the San Diego-based amphib New Orleans, the second ship in the class, which was deemed “degraded in her ability to sustain combat operations” by a recent Navy inspection.

“Any new ship is going to be scrutinized and discrepancies will be generated,” he said.

But intense scrutiny isn’t really the problem. The problems run far deeper, into management of the design and construction process.

… the San Antonio had a troubled fleet debut. After arriving late and over-budget in 2005, an initial inspection report revealed major problems.

Board of Inspection and Survey officers found the ship “incomplete” and unsafe for crew members to board in a July 5, 2005, report. Inspectors found “poor construction and craftsmanship … throughout the ship.”

Wiring was also problematic.

“Poor initial cable-pulling practice led to what is now a snarled, over-packed, poorly-assembled and virtually uncorrectable electrical/electronic cable plant,” the report states.

The San Antonio made headlines again in April 2007, after the ship was deemed “unsuccessful” because of several equipment failures and “unreliable” steering during March sea trials. However, the report commends the crew for presenting the ship “professionally.”

Still, the catalog of problems prompted Navy Secretary Donald Winter to write a June 22, 2007, letter to shipbuilder Northrop Grumman complaining that two years after commissioning, the fleet “still does not have a mission-capable ship.”

Over its early life, San Antonio’s price also rose from a 1996 estimate of $876 million to $1.85 billion, once all of its discrepancies were corrected.

Unless the cable raceways and trays are done per specification, the wiring and cabling are all marked and labeled, the terminal cabinets are all labeled, the terminations are all numbered, the sliding links are all clearly marked, the relays are all labeled, and electrical engineering, logic diagrams and wiring tabulations are all certified and quality assured, the contractor has left the Navy with an unmaintainable situation.

We’ve discussed this before in Can the Navy Afford the New Destroyers, where we cataloged the demise the ship building industry in the U.S., concluding that:

Anything as complex as the engineering behind shipbuilding cannot be long sustained if a country is not actively engaged in the process. Certainly, contractors who bid the jobs believed that procedures for doing dye penetrant and radiography on welds were the same as before, and protocols for QA had not changed since the last time ships were constructed. Engineers are, after all, plug-and-play, white jumpsuit experts at everything under the sun, and also certainly the technology can be rapidly learned and applied by new, young engineers straight out of school, or who had been the understudy of engineers who had done this work before.

Only, none of this is exactly true … To be sure, accountability is the order of the day, and strict management of costs will be necessary for the Navy to be allowed to move forward with its Destroyer program. But shipbuilding is a lost science in the U.S., and recapturing it as an institution will be difficult and fraught with hidden problems for the DoD to deal with. This is not so much an issue with the Navy, or what they call the ‘Destroyers’, or how much they control the contractors, as it is with the fact that the U.S. has lost the ability to do large scale steel projects and shipbuilding.

The USS San Antonio is not a destroyer, but the basic principle remains the same. Day laborers are no substitute for professionals, hope is not a substitute for a QA program, poor design and construction practices lead to problems with maintenance, and rework always increases the cost and decreases the quality.

While at least somewhat unrelated, this brings up the issue of the refueling tanker. We have previously weighed in on this issue, but a good technical discussion is contained in a Human Events article by General John Handy, USAF (Ret.). A brief quote gives his perspective on the tanker controversy.

Somewhere in the acquisition process, it is obvious to me that someone lost sight of the requirement. Based on what the GAO decided, it’s up to people such as myself to remind everyone of the warfighter requirement for a modern air refueling tanker aircraft.

Recall that we started this acquisition process in order to replace the Eisenhower era KC-135 aircraft with a modern version capable of accomplishing everything the current fleet does plus additional needs for the future. Thus the required aircraft is of small to medium size much like the KC-135. Not a very large aircraft like the current KC-10, which may be replaced later with a comparably large aircraft.

Why a smaller to medium size aircraft? Because, first of all, you want tankers to deploy in sufficient numbers in order to accomplish all assigned tasks. You need to bed them down on the maximum number of airfields around the world along with or close to the customer — airborne fighters, bombers and other mobility assets in need of fuel close to or right over the fight or crisis. This allows the supported combatant commander the ability to conduct effective operations around the clock. The impact of more tankers is more refueling booms in the sky, more refueling orbits covered, wider geographic coverage, more aircraft refueled, and more fuel provided. A “KC-135 like” aircraft takes up far less ramp space, is far more maneuverable on the ground and does not have the risk of jet blast reorganizing your entire ramp when engine power is applied.

Just so. And TCJ wondered why, if from the beginning the specifications targeted a medium refueling tanker, extra credit would be awarded to larger air frames. It makes absolutely no sense. But regardless of this technical point, there is a more salient point that TCJ made several months ago concerning who holds a major share of EADS.

Even more worrisome is the power grab by Vladimir Putin, who is buying up the depressed shares of EADS like a corporate raider. The prospect of the authoritarian Russian leader, whose political opponents are harassed and jailed while prying journalists turn up missing or murdered, having a heavy hand in EADS affairs is deeply troubling. Russia opposed the invasion of Iraq and has sought to undermine U.S. plans to deploy a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic.

The most troubling aspect of the tanker contract is the danger it poses to U.S. national security. According to a report by the Center for Security Policy, EADS has been a leading proliferator of weapons and technology to some of the most hostile regimes in the world, including Iran and Venezuela. When the U.S. formally objected to EADS selling cargo and patrol planes to Venezuelan despot Hugo Chavez, EADS tried to circumvent U.S. law by stripping American-built components from the aircraft. Chavez is now building an oil refinery in Cuba to keep Castro’s failed Communist state afloat, funding terrorists seeking the violent overthrow of Colombia’s government, and recently meddled in the presidential election in Argentina with secretly smuggled cash contributions. If EADS had its way, Chavez would now be advancing his anti-American designs in the Western hemisphere with U.S. technology and components.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

EADS entanglements with Venezuela make the Pentagon’s decision to waive the Berry Amendment, which prohibits the export of technology that might be developed during the building of the tanker to third parties, indefensible. Given the sophisticated radar and anti-missile capabilities of military tankers, this is no small matter. Such technology falling into the hands of state sponsor of terrorism would devastate our war fighters.

And such a scenario is hardly unreasonable. EADS executives recently attended an air show in Iran and were caught red-handed trying to sell helicopters with military applications. When confronted, an EADS executive said the company was not bound by the U.S. arms embargo against Iran. EADS also sold nuclear components vital to exploding a nuclear device to an Asian company that in turn sold them to an Iranian front operation.

As TCJ coverage of the unwarranted Russian aggression against Georgia has made clear, we consider Vladimir Putin to be a gangster and international criminal. Any involvement with Putin – any involvement, including the Airbus – should be rejected without further consideration.

Technology is hard to regain once it has been lost. This is true of ship building, engineering QA, and air frame design. It is not only good for the U.S. economy and technological capabilities to have this done in the States, but it enables holding contractors accountable, something that we can never do with gangsters and criminals. It is yet to be seen how this will play out. But only the U.S. could be so stupid as to award a contract for our military refueling tankers to Vladimir Putin.

Mocking the Troops at The Onion

BY Herschel Smith
10 years ago

The sentiment where one opposes the war but supports the troops has evolved into mocking the troops regardless of any war.  The Onion (famous for satirical or fake news) released a report entitled Love Letters from U.S. Troops Increasingly Gruesome.  The Captain’s Journal hates to bring any more attention to this sophomoric tripe (it really is very poorly done and inept), but its real value might very well be the instruction it gives us about the author in contrast with its subject.

According to a Pentagon report leaked to the press Monday, love letters written by U.S. troops have nearly tripled in their use of disturbing language, graphic imagery, and horrific themes since the start of the war.

The report, which studied 600 romantic notes sent over a period of two years, found a significant increase in terrifying descriptions of violence and gore, while references to beautiful flowers, singing bluebirds, and the infinite, undulating sea were seen to decrease by 93 percent.

“Not only are U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq less likely to compare their lover’s cheeks to a blushing red rose,” the report read in part, “but most are now three times more likely to equate that same burning desire to the ‘smoldering flesh of a dead Iraqi insurgent,’ and almost 10 times more likely to compare sudden bursts of passion to a ‘crowded marketplace explosion.'”

According to detailed analysis of the letters, the longer a U.S. soldier had been stationed in Iraq the more macabre the overall tone of his correspondence became. Troops who had been fighting for less than a year lapsed into frightening allegory only 15 percent of the time, while those who had been serving between two and three years described their affection for loved ones back home as more vibrant and alive than any of the children in the village of Basra.

Troops stationed in Iraq for four years or longer composed their letters entirely in blood.

“The more often U.S. soldiers are confronted with images of carnage, the more these elements become present in their subconscious and, ultimately, in their writing,” said Dr. Kendra Allen, a behavioral psychologist who reviewed the Pentagon’s findings. “This is precisely why we see so many passages like, ‘Darling, I miss the way your bright green eyes always stayed inside your skull’ and ‘Honey, how I dream of your soft, supple arms—both of them, still attached as ever, to the rest of your body.'”

Allen went on to say that many of the harrowing details found in the love letters were linked to specific events in Iraq. A bloody clash with Islamic extremists in late March resulted in more than 40 handwritten notes from a single battalion, all of which contained some version of the message “My love for you spills out of me like my lower intestine, my gallbladder, and my spleen.”

“Getting love letters from my husband used to be my favorite part of the week. But these days, they’re almost impossible to get through,” said Sheila Miller, whose husband, Michael, has been in Iraq since 2004. “Yes, it’s still flattering to be told that you’re as beautiful as a syringe full of morphine, or that you’re as much a part of his being as the shrapnel near his spine. But I’m really starting to worry about him.”

“My husband has never really been the romantic type, but even this is strange for him,” said Margaret Baker, the wife of Sgt. Daniel Baker. “How am I supposed to react to hearing that my name is the sweetest sound in a world otherwise filled with desperate cries of anguish? I made the mistake of showing [daughter] Gracie the birthday card her father sent her from Tikrit and she hasn’t spoken for a month.”

That’s enough for the reader to get the basic picture.  It’s a sad testimony to a narcissistic generation which has no value system except self worship.  But self worship inevitably leads to the mocking and denigration of others.  This mockery of the troops could very well have been written about World War II veterans and the horror they witnessed, or any other warrior in any other war.  It has nothing to do with the campaign for Iraq or Afghanistan.  It doesn’t even have to do with whether there can be good wars.

The authors are engaged in heartless, remorseless cruelty in the mocking of the pain and sacrifice of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines on their behalf.  To be able to benefit from the pain of others, and then to mock their benefactors, is a sadistic skill that only the darkest of souls is able to master.  The warriors who fight for America, however, stand in marked contrast to this.  The physical pain, the deprivation, the loneliness and time away from family all testify to the commitment and indomitable spirit of the American warrior.

On the one hand, you have the American warrior who is committed to give his very life if necessary for our protection and freedom, while still others will live out the balance of their lives with PTSD, traumatic brain injury or lost limbs.  On the other hand you have those who would mock this commitment and dedication. The contrast couldn’t be more stark.  America has a future only to the extent that the former rather than the later constitutes her soul.

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