FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018

Fired Seventh Fleet Admiral Speaks Out On Fitzgerald and John S. McCain

Navy Times is reporting the former head of the Japan-based 7th Fleet who was fired in the wake of two fatal destroyer collisions in the west Pacific last summer is for the first time offering his take on what led to the disasters, while at times questioning Big Navy’s account of what transpired.  Retired Vice Adm. Joseph Aucoin was fired as 7th Fleet commander on Aug. 23, just a few days after the destroyer USS John S. McCain collided with a tanker near Singapore, an incident that killed 10 crew members.  A few months before that, seven other sailors died aboard the USS Fitzgerald when it was struck by a merchant vessel off Japan in June.  Since then, Navy leadership has decried a lack of readiness, maintenance and training among ships based out of Japan, and across the surface fleet in general.  Writing in the Naval Institute’s “Proceedings” magazine this month, Aucoin takes issue with how Navy leadership characterized the shortcomings in a comprehensive review and strategic readiness review done in the wake of the disasters.  “The Comprehensive Review (CR), Strategic Review (SR), and some media reporting could lead one to the impression my staff and I were oblivious to or unconcerned about the manning, training, and maintenance deficiencies affecting my ships and their ability to carry out their assigned missions,” Aucoin writes. “That was not the case.”  Instead, Aucoin alleges that his bosses at U.S. Pacific Fleet knew about the negative impacts that increased 7th Fleet operational tempo was having on training and maintenance “well prior” to the collisions.  “Despite these explicitly stated concerns, the direction we received was to execute the mission,” he writes.  Aucoin also questioned the narrative that the surface fleet’s shortcomings were limited to Japan.  A San Diego-based cruiser, Lake Champlain, was involved in a daytime collision with a Korean vessel last spring, he writes, suggesting a problem that was not limited to 7th Fleet.  Japan-based ships began getting the short end of the stick in 2014, when manning levels for those warships fell because of Navy policies that prioritized stateside ships, according to Aucoin.  He writes that his staff convened a Forward-Deployed Naval Force manning summit in June, and he takes issue with this effort not being mentioned in the comprehensive review, which was overseen by Fleet Forces Command head Adm. Phil Davidson.  “While it is said that the (comprehensive review) focused primarily on training and readiness, it did not address manpower issues nearly enough,” Aucoin writes. “I do not know how one can exclude manpower in a discussion on readiness in a high-operational tempo (OpTempo) environment.” Aucoin also writes that the realities of west Pacific command and control were neglected in the reviews.  Afloat Training Group West Pacific, responsible for training and certification of Japan-based ships, reported to Naval Surface Force Pacific and not 7th Fleet, he writes.  The “Third Fleet Forward” initiative, which sends stateside ships to 7th Fleet waters to relieve the pressure on 7th Fleet ships, came to entail those stateside ships operating outside 7th Fleet’s command and taking on missions that didn’t ease the workload of 7th Fleet cruisers or destroyers, according to Aucoin.  Aucoin also wonders why he was not interviewed for the comprehensive review.  “How comprehensive is the CR when neither Commander, Naval Surface Forces (CNSF), nor I, as the numbered fleet commander, was interviewed or asked for inputs?” he writes. “For the sake of our Navy, a transparent examination of the problem should include a full understanding of the challenges with which we were faced.” Naval operations “expanded dramatically” in the Indo-Asia Pacific since 2015, Aucoin writes, and demands from Pacific Fleet and U.S. Pacific Command increased, and readiness declined as a result.  “This was known both to commanders in FDNF and across the Navy,” Aucoin writes. “Through 2016 and early 2017, my staff produced detailed data quantifying the increase in (cruiser and destroyer) operational tasking and demonstrating the consequent decline in executed maintenance and training, which I sent directly to (Pacific Fleet).”  Pacific Fleet agreed that 7th Fleet’s maintenance and training were in trouble, he writes, “yet (7th Fleet) received no substantive relief from tasking or additional resources.”  Pacific Fleet spokesman Capt. Charles Brown said several investigations into what led up the collisions had been undertaken inside and outside the Navy.  “We do not have anything to add to these numerous reviews and investigations,” he said in an email.  Aucoin writes that his command worked to stay focused on executing operations safely and pushing back when they could not fulfill a request from higher up.  “In a few cases, we were able to argue for changes that allowed ships to complete training or maintenance,” he writes. “In many other cases, our arguments and recommendations were either overruled or ignored.”  Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has said repeatedly since the collisions that commanders need to be able to say no to requests from higher up when their ships are not mission-ready.  The Navy needs to push back when combatant commands ask too much, Aucoin writes.  “It would have been reassuring if the (comprehensive review) had addressed the Navy’s organizational responsibility to act as a check against such increasing demand when divorced from the reality of readiness impacts,” he writes. “While the situation was well known by more senior leaders, this demand went unfiltered and fell to me.”  “I do not understand why our leaders do not push back on the excessive demand on our ships or exhibit more transparency on the true extent of the issues the Navy faces beyond Seventh Fleet,” Aucoin writes.  As 49 sailors had to be cross-decked in Japan to fill gaps on the ships, and five of 11 quartermaster billets were gapped, Aucoin writes that it was “frustrating” to hear of San Diego ships that were so over-manned they had to leave 30 sailors on the pier.  “In addition to a soaring OpTempo, the cumulative effect over time of not having enough people and resorting to cross-decking had a debilitating effect on readiness,” he writes. “We not only lacked overall numbers of people, we also lacked mentors, the men and women with the skills and experience that are vital to raising our next generation of experienced sailors.”  While taking Big Navy to task, Aucoin also points out his own faults near the article’s end.  “While we were able to turn off some taskings, in hindsight, I should have reiterated a ‘no’ when issued ‘force to source orders’ for operational tasking,” he writes. “I accept this mistake. At the same time, in the future I hope our Navy will listen more carefully to our commanders on the scene.”  Seventh Fleet is a hard assignment to fill, due to the rigors of overseas screening and the affects on families, he writes.  “My foremost hope is that my Navy can better support the men and women of the FDNF,” he writes. “Most sailors in FDNF find the mission exhilarating. At the same time, these wonderful people do need reasonable and consistent support for their ships, their families, and their careers.”  Comments?

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 28th through May 1st 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 22nd through 27th 2018

FOD Saying of the Day

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on – Winston Churchill

 

Sea Hunter Transferred to US Navy

The Sea Hunter is an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle (USV) launched in 2016 as part of the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) program.  It was christened 7 April 2016 in Portland, Oregon. It was built by Vigor Industrial.  (Vigor also builds all the ferries for the Washington State Ferry System).  The vessel continues the line of experimental “Sea” ships, including the Sea ShadowSea Fighter, and Sea SliceThe Sea Hunter is classified as a Class III USV and designated the Medium Displacement Unmanned Surface Vehicle (MDUSV).  It is an unmanned self-piloting craft with twin screws, powered by two diesel engines with a top speed of 27 knots.  Its weight is 135 tons, including 40 tons of fuel, adequate for a 70-day cruise. Cruising range is “transoceanic,” 10,000 nautical miles at 12 knots fully fueled with 14,000 gallons of diesel, enough to “go from San Diego to Guam and back to Pearl Harbor on a tank of gas.”   Sea Hunter has a full load displacement of 145 tons and is intended to be operational through Sea State 5, waves up to 6.5 ft high and winds up to 21 knots and survivable through Sea State 7, seas up to 20 ft high. The trimaran hull provides increased stability without requiring a weighted keel, giving it a higher capacity for linear trajectories and better operations in shallow waters, though the greater width decreases maneuverability.   It is expected to undergo two years of testing before being placed in service with the U.S. Navy. If tests are successful, future such craft may be armed and used for anti-submarine and counter-mine duties, operating at a small fraction of the cost of operating a destroyer, $15,000-$20,000 per day compared to $700,000 per day; it could operate with Littoral Combat Ships, becoming an extension of the LCS ASW module.  Deputy US Defense Secretary Robert Work said that if weapons are added to the ship, a human would always remotely make the decision to use lethal force.  Following successful initial development, it was reported on 1 February 2018 that DARPA had handed development of Sea Hunter to the Office of Naval Research.  On 22 June 2016, Sea Hunter completed initial performance trials, meeting or surpassing all performance objectives for speed, maneuverability, stability, seakeeping, acceleration/deceleration, fuel consumption, and mechanical systems reliability in the open-ocean. Upcoming trials will include testing of sensors, the vessel’s autonomy suite, compliance with maritime collision regulations, and proof-of-concept demonstrations for a variety of U.S. Navy missions.  The Sea Hunter MDUSV was adopted by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in summer 2017 for operational testing and evaluation for mine-countermeasure, EO/IR, and submarine detection capabilities. Plans for FY 2018 include adding intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and offensive anti-submarine payloads.

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day April 22nd through 27th 2018”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 14 through 22, 2017

Friends of FOD

Sorry for the delay in getting this edition out.  I had a lot of stuff goin’ on!

 

How About Those Yankees!

I wrote and then rewrote Yankee win stories three times this week, because I didn’t get around to publishing the next edition of FOD.  Home field has diffidently had its place in this year’s American League Championship Series, as every game was won by the home team.

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 17: Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees celebrates after scoring on a Gary Sanchez #24 double with Todd Frazier #29 and Jacoby Ellsbury #22 during the eighth inning against the Houston Astros in Game Four of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium on October 17, 2017 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

The Yanks certainly had opportunities along the way to win another game, but that’s baseball.  At the beginning of spring training no one imagined Aaron Judge would have the success he and the Yankees enjoyed.  In fact he didn’t make the team until the last few days.  Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird contributed mightily down the stretch and we had good pitching.  The team has excellent prospects in their minor league system and likely we’ll see new names and new faces next spring.  Until then there’s a good World Series to watch and comment on.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day October 14 through 22, 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 31st through August 3rd 2017

May You Live In Interesting Times

“May you live in interesting times.”  Well at least that seems to be true when looking at the national and international picture today.  I had always heard ‘May you live in interesting times to be a Chinese curse or to have at least originated in China.  Despite being widely attributed as a Chinese curse, there is no equivalent expression in Chinese.  The nearest related Chinese expression is “太平” (nìng wéi tàipíng quǎn, mò zuò luàn lí rén), which is usually translated as “Better to be a dog in a peaceful time, than to be a human in a chaotic (warring) period.”  The expression originates from Volume 3 of the 1627 short story collection by Feng MenglongStories to Awaken the World.  Evidence that the phrase was in use as early as 1936 is provided in a memoir written by Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen, the British Ambassador to China in 1936 and 1937, and published in 1949. He mentions that before he left England for China in 1936, a friend told him of a Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times.”

 

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day July 31st through August 3rd 2017”

FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 24th through 26th, 2017

Congratulations to the Classes of 2017

A special congratulation goes out the future leaders of our armed services and our nation.  Today, as I’m drafting this, May 26, 2017, the senior classes of the US Naval Academy, the US Military Academy and the US Air Force Academy are receiving their degrees and their commissions as officers in their respective services.  Thank you for your dedication and your efforts to date.  Your work has just begun and more than ever we value and appreciate your leadership.

 

Memorial Day Weekend

As we observe and enjoy the unofficial beginning of summer (I thought it would never get here), let us take a moment to remember all those who gave their last full measure in defense of  our nation this Memorial DayThe holiday, which is currently observed every year on the last Monday of May, originated as Decoration Day after the American Civil War in 1868, when the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Union veterans founded in Decatur, Illinois, established it as a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Union war dead with flowers.  By the 20th century, competing Union and Confederate holiday traditions, celebrated on different days, had merged, and Memorial Day eventually extended to honor all Americans who died while in the military service.  Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veterans Day; Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans.  The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from “Decoration Day” to “Memorial Day,” which was first used in 1882.  Memorial Day did not become the more common name until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967.  On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend.  The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971.  After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress’ change of date within a few years.

Continue reading “FOD Fireball’s Observations of the Day May 24th through 26th, 2017”