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Invest in People and Not Just Platforms
As the US Naval investigations of the two broadside collisions with much slower commercial vessels, resulting in the death of 17 sailors, Congressional inquirers are also ramping up. Rep. Rob Wittman, R-Va., (below left) the chairman of the House Armed Services’ Sea Power and Projection Forces Subcommittee,
traveled to Japan to visit the fleet and speak with Navy leaders and sailors about what Congress can do to help get the service back on track. This subcommittee was scheduled to conduct hearings on September 7th looking at Navy readiness and what it calls “underlying problems associated with the USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S. McCain.” Questions will be asked as to whether the Navy is stretched with more demands to patrol not only the Asia-Pacific region but to provide security for the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf as well as European-Atlantic areas. “They’re having to do more with less,” said Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy in the Reagan and Bush administrations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. Since the Cold War, he said, “the fleet size has been decreasing the whole time while commitments have been increasing.” And while new technology may be helpful, these are basic seamanship issues. Some basic questions need to be addressed: do we have enough people aboard our ships? Are they receiving adequate training? Are they operating as they were trained? Are our ships being maintained in a manner as to be fully ready for any encounter? We know our aircraft maintenance programs lack the time and funding to improve readiness and it’s well known the nation’s shipyards are overworked and struggling to get ships through maintenance cycles. How can we move forward with additional investment in ships and planes when we can’t take care of the one’s we have? And the same can be said for our sailors who have been asked repeatedly to do more with less. There are limits. Have we reached them? The more advanced the technology introduced into the fleet and into the hands of potential adversaries, the greater the demand on the men and women in the Navy. Not only must they be able to operate more advanced systems, they also must not forget how to operate without them. The ancient art of celestial navigation is just one of the most obvious ways the Navy has sought to ensure operational integrity regardless of how well technology is working. When you drive a car these days, it is easy to become reliant on a screen shot provided by a camera, but that doesn’t mean you should not also glance in the rearview mirror or look out the window. The same principle applies to the high-tech U.S. Navy. The service needs to maintain a high level of technical proficiency while retaining the ability to operate in a potential environment of technical denial. We need to invest in our people and not just our platforms. That’s the Fireball opinion for the day. Comments?