Identity Crisis

Budget cuts, they are a comin’.

I strongly suspect that the fight for budget dollars is about to begin in earnest in Washington. The problem is, the main weapon the services have to use is Public Relations, a notoriously lacking arena for any of them, and a particularly troubling one for the Navy.

What do I mean?

I mean that there’s only so much food to go around, and the favorite son always get fed while the others fight for scraps. The Army and Marine Corps have a pretty well demonstrated need for funding. Two wars, tired forces, worn out equipment, and numerous ad campaigns (spoken: the news) about what they are doing world wide to keep America safe.

The Air Force? Slightly less well published, but no less an integral part of the wars the Army is engaged with. Got CAS? Not without the Air Force you don’t.

The Navy? SEALs kicking ass? Check. EOD working their butts off? Check. SeaBee’s rebuilding sand boxes into viable communities? Check. Pilots flying missions over land locked wars? Check. Ships and submarines maintaining freedom of the seas?

Shit.

Ever notice how those “Accelerate your life” ads are full of nothing but SEALs and Jets?

See the problem is, the Navy is doing a gread job of things near to and on land. Supporting IA’s and other forces for the wars, working in the littorals … all good stuff. But the message has been about this capability (LCS PR campaign anyone?) for so long that I wonder if people have forgotten the importance of freedom of the deep blue seas. More importantly, what it takes to maintain them.

Yes, we can bring in some amphibs and some LCS’ and rule the littorals, but without the high end destroyers, carriers, and submarines the Navy so desperately needs there’s no way those littoral ships even get to the fight that needs them.

The Navy has been horrible at explaining what deterrence means in the post-Cold War environment. Back then it was easy. You nuke me, I’ll have enough left to nuke you, so let’s not start, shall we?

But what about now? How do you define deterrence, or explain its importance, when there’s no equivalent of the Russian Bear to point the finger at? I do not think the answer is to try and create a new Bear out of someone (ala China), but rather to highlight that the seas are a global commons so we have to be able to protect them from a global list of possible competitors. As the worldwide economy gets worse, the desire for the have-nots to do frisky things like hijack shipping will increase. After all, the Gulf of Aden JV sailing team seems pretty good at the whole piracy thing, so who’s to stop the local kick-ball league from having a go at it? The answer, in truth, is probably just us.

The question that follows is, what ship type do you need to do this mission? An LCS would probably work. But what’s to protect the LCS except another LCS? I don’t know about you, but I’m not scared of one midget, much less two.

But have we been getting the message out that we’re the ones needed to go do this? No, we’ve been talking about the 1,000 ship Navy and how everyone else is going to pony up the vessels to take care of their own business. Problem is, those nations don’t have the ships and capability to do the job we need them to do. So we’re back shouldering the load. Problem is, we’re running out of the ships to do the job as well.

The Navy needs to get out and beat the drum over the importance of freedom of the seas and what is truly required to maintain that capability, or at least the necessity of the big warships to protect the little ones. And the beating better start quickly and loudly. Once the Congress starts looking at programs to cut, those that cost a lot of money come under the microscope. If we can’t justify why we need more DDG’s, or submarines, or carriers, expect to lose them.

And then try defending the mid-atlantic in winter in an LCS or JHSV.

Be sure to bring your “in flight discomfort” bags.

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