Skip to comments.Barack and Mitt: The War for the U.S. Navy Has Just Begun
Posted on 10/24/2012 7:00:58 AM PDT by Kaslin
Monday night's final 2012 presidential election debate included a brief but fierce naval battle. The candidates exchanged close-combat broadsides over the size of the U.S. Navy, then fired provocative salvos in the direction of two complex subjects, the capabilities of modern weapons and the deleterious effects of funding cuts required by sequestration on the defense budget, especially planned ship-building programs.
Gov. Mitt Romney opened the engagement. "Our Navy is smaller now than at any time since 1917. The Navy said they needed 313 ships to carry out their mission. We're now under 285. We're headed down to the low 200s if we go through a sequestration." President Barack Obama dismissed Romney's 2012-1917 comparison with a hot-shot jibe that America now deploys fewer "horses and bayonets," arguing that "counting ships" wasn't the issue, but "what are our capabilities."
Capabilities matter. One modern U.S. destroyer, armed with "smart" missiles and sensors, arguably outclasses the anti-surface striking power of a World War II U.S. carrier and its escorts -- until the Lone Ranger super-ship all-too-quickly expends its pricey missiles. The destroyer's empty magazine moment is the trenchant instant we realize that former Bush and Obama Secretary of Defense Robert Gates had a point when he said (paraphrasing Josef Stalin), "Mass of numbers has a quality all of its own."
The Navy shipbuilding plan submitted to Congress in April stated the Navy has 282 warships but would increase to just over 300 ships. However, "if shipbuilding investments are not funded," the battle force "will decline to well below 300 ships." The Navy plans to decommission over three-dozen warships between 2013 and 2016.
So both candidates had a case. Unfortunately, both candidates missed an opportunity to link very explicitly naval strategy to American economic revival and 21st century global economic security, which are, in a tandem as tight as Siamese twins, the election's pivotal issues.
That linkage would have lifted the naval debate from numbers and gotcha to the truly presidential-level of geo-strategy and America's global role.
Former British First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Jonathon Band understands the linkage: 95 percent of global trade passes through nine vulnerable maritime chokepoints. Jeremy Blackham and Gwyn Prins, in a 2010 issue of the Royal United Services Institute Journal, also credit Sir Jonathan with calling the sea the other "superhighway of the modern age."
The 21st century's best-known "superhighway" is the Internet. Blackham and Prins note that the two superhighways confront maritime bottlenecks. "Ninety percent of global email traffic is conveyed via undersea fiber-optic cables. These cables bunch in several critical sea areas (off New York ... the English Channel, the South China Sea ... and off the west coast of Japan)."
The geography-commerce-security linkage isn't new. Global sea commerce (modern oil tankers or a Portuguese carrack) must traverse the narrow straits and vulnerable canals that connect the seas. Iran ritually threatens to close the Persian Gulf's Strait of Hormuz to tankers. When it does, crude prices spike and economies gag on higher gas prices. Email-delivering undersea cables also traverse threatened straits, like the Bab-al-Mandeb, between the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea, and the Straits of Malacca, which link the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
So everyone (not just Americans) who uses the Internet, and everyone (not just Americans) whose economy benefits from international trade, has an interest in securing maritime chokepoints.
Diplomacy helps, cheap Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) may assume many sea surveillance missions (and perhaps strike missions -- several naval strategists argue that a naval technological revolution is occurring), but truly securing maritime chokepoints and the high seas requires capable ships and trained sailors -- sufficient ships and crews on station to handle the likely threat, ships and crews preparing to deploy, and ships in refit (with crews taking a break).
The candidates could have explored who should provide these ships. Gentlemen, whom do you trust to defend the U.S. economy? NATO ally Turkey controls the Turkish Straits; Denmark, Norway and Sweden handle the Baltic's Skagerrak, so they're cool. But, president, governor, do either of you trust the Chinese Navy to keep the South China Sea open to free commerce? Our allies Japan and the Philippines don't.
China casts wary eyes at the Indian Navy as it extends its reach to the Straits of Malacca. All right, India and China rely on free trade -- right now. Will they in a decade? It takes 10 years to build a new fleet. We agree no one trusts Iran at Hormuz. So, candidates, is it in America's interest to have a Navy that can patrol these distant chokepoints? To project power to defend these chokepoints? To project offensive power to open these chokepoints if a hostile force applies a chokehold?
Each of these missions requires more ships and more capabilities. Which means spending more money in an era when debt itself is a strategic threat. But if a critical maritime chokepoint closes, the economy takes a broadside. Barack, Mitt: Your foreign policy and economic revival debate, and the U.S. Navy's fundamental role in both, has now begun, in earnest.
I’m thinking Obama gets thr corpse-men vote.
The living vote for Romney.
Nice to hear that Obama can get his digs in, saying that we have aircraft carriers which planes land on. And that we have ships which go underwater called submarines. Who knew we had such cool ships (sarcasm). I’m glad Obama educated us all about that. (Sarcasm)
having served on both carriers and sub’s I’m offended by Hussein’s comments.
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of capabilities matter, how comwe we were incapable of helping Benghazi?
Obama must watch Sesame Street...cuz that’s something a 5 year old might say.
if capabilities matter, how come we we were incapable of helping Benghazi?
Obama has made various snarky and snide remarks. This one was pretty bad. And he’s allegedly such a brilliant mind and intellectual and all that.
The media is ignoring that comment. I can’t wait to see now the media reacts if Romney ever says anything sarcastic or makes any snide remarks.
Obama either had not read Mitt Romney’s Naval plan, or did not care to read it.
If he had read it, he would have seen that Romney’s plan includes a very detailed and measured methodology for maintaining both our nuclear aircraft carrier force and its embarked airwings as well as the nuclear attack submarine force...which means his snide comment about aircraft carriers and submarines would have been unnecessary and out of place...which it was.
But Obama was more interested in trying to score witty, unrelated debate points with a contemptuous put down. But for those in the know, it was wholly without substance or merit and was clearly just smoke to cover his own inability to address the US Navy’s needs.
Read my article:
Obama’s contemptuous insult of Romney’s US Navy Plan
In that article I inlude a link to the comple discussion of Romney’s Plan during a interview with Defense Week.
If you believe that the U.S. needs to defend sea lanes to avoid depending on the good will of nations that would like to see us destroyed, then you need enough ships (forming credible task groups) to be in more than one place at any one time because, gee whiz, the bad guys might come from more than one direction, Mr. President. OTOH, if you believe that the U.S. must be forced to refrain from influencing any other nation, and in fact be subservient to others as punishment for our past colonial ways, then we should eliminate the Navy and be satisfied with a Coast Guard whose only job is to protect recreational boaters and help the Customs Service by interdicting those who otherwise bring products into the country without completing their forms for duties on imported goods.
This is not new news, and it did not take a 20 year Navy career to enable me to figure this out.
A key question for the administration is:
Precisely where was the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in the Mediteranean on September 11, 2012?Either of those would have been capable of putting together and executing a strike or relief package to assist the Benghazi situation within the 6-7 hours the fight wnet on.
Precisely where was the Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in the Mediteranean on Septemnber 11, 2012?
Also, the bases in Italy would have been capable of giving relief as well.
I think they either considered and rejected all such options, or they twittled their thumbs and fretted over what to do until it became too late to do anything.
As it was, they did get a small force over to Benghazi from the Embassy in Tripoli, which landed at the Benghazi airport in the early hours of the morning and assisted at the Annex, and they did get a drone up over the fight towards the end.
But they needed more.
The only thing that would have saved the Ambassador would have been to have had the Defense Department strike team of 18 special forces there that night...which had been pulled out just 2-3 weeks before...over the recommendation and request of both the Lt. Colonel who commanded that group and the Regional Security Officer (RSO) at the Tripoli embassy.
That pull out cost the Ambassador his life...and it was done over the desperate requests of people on the ground who feared and forecast just this sort of attack well before it ever occurred...including the Ambassador's own request Someone high up needs to be held accountable for that alone...let alone the cover-up and lies that have gone on since.
Watch this video:
Ten ships patrol the oceans better than one ship. Ten ships can respond quicker to emergencies a thousand miles away than one ship. Ten ships can carry ten times the firepower that one ship does.
The proposed navy will have fewer carriers, destroyers and submarines. How will we respond to another tsunami, or an earthquake in Haiti or snowstorms in Brazil with fewer ships to defend the seas?
Oh Dilbert, our fearless leader wasn’t being sarcastic, he was displaying his new found military knowledge. Prior to training for the debate he didn’t know there were ships that went underwater nor ones that planes could land on. He’s still not quite sure what nuclear means, but it’s what they told him to say.
A-10 flights from Sicily, Attack helicopters, all possible.