The Navy announced the Blue Angels will switch to the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet… in 2021. Whoa! I hope two years lead time is enough to transition to an aircraft that’s been in service since the ’90’s!
In the latest episode of Salt Force One, we discuss the future of global telecommunications, the relative merits of poo parades, and many other very important issues. Enjoy! Don’t forget to SUBSCRIBE on your favorite podcast platform!
Also, early 5G adopter The Prince of Darkness… “What the hell is a Bieber?!?”
This post originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
The Navy has long held fast to the standard of accountability immortalized in Vermont Royster’s 1952 Wall Street Journal editorial, “Hobson’s Choice.” If you’re reading this blog, I assume you’ve read it. I want you to read it again. This time, focus not on the exaltation of the Navy’s “cruel” standard of accountability, but rather the condemnation of American society’s accountability. Royster wrote “all around us … we see the plea accepted that what is done is beyond discussion, and that for good men in their human errors there should be afterwards no accountability” and “almost everywhere we have abandoned accountability. What is done is done and why torture men with asking them afterward, why?”
Fast forward to 2019. Does American society look like it did in 1952? Do we have the same standard of accountability in our society? I suggest we do not. Men (and women) are now held publicly accountable for events that transpired decades ago. There is no statute of limitations in the #MeToo movement, the relative merits of which are outside the scope of this article (so don’t @ me). Across the country, police face a reckoning due to biased treatment of minorities, however widespread, with sometimes lethal consequences. Anyone in the public eye, from athletes to celebrities to politicians, is subject to their social history being excavated and brought to light, sometimes ending their careers (again, I am not weighing in on whether this is right or wrong). The simple fact is our society in 2019 displays a high sense of accountability, even to the point of mob rule in some cases.
How does Royster’s comparison of the Navy’s and the broader American society’s standard of accountability hold up in 2019? What would he write if he could update his iconic article today? I argue that, while accountability in our society has gradually risen, our Navy’s standard has remained static by canonizing the “Hobson’s Choice” concept of accountability. CAPT Michael Junge said it wonderfully on Strategy Bridge:
“Today he would likely write much as he did in 1969 and call for a public accounting of the continuing aftermath of the U.S. Navy’s terrible summer of 2017 … Fifty years ago, Vermont Royster wrote that “it may seem cruel, this tradition of asking good and well-intentioned men to account for their deeds.” This accounting should not stop with the commanders at sea, but should also go to actions ashore, including how incidents like this are handled, and learned from.”
Royster never meant to claim the Navy had a perfect sense of accountability, only that the Navy had a higher sense of accountability than American society in 1952, and rightfully so. Today, we still hold Commanding Officers of ships to the “Hobson’s Choice” standard, but we see all around us examples of wayward officers and sailors who benefit from the uniform they wear to evade public scrutiny or retire with full benefits. I believe, if not for the uniform, many of these shipmates would face a higher (or at least the same) standard of accountability from the American public. Is that the dynamic we in the Navy should strive for?
Which brings me to the final adjudication of the cases against the USS FITZGERALD CO, CDR Bryce Benson, and Tactical Action Officer, LT Natalie Combs. Last Wednesday, the Navy announced the Chief of Naval Operations will dismiss all charges against them, and the Secretary of the Navy will issue both a Letter of Censure. The officers were dismissed from their jobs, received non-judicial (administrative) punishment, and issued letters. That is a far cry from the original charges of negligent homicide, which arguably were always an overreach. The Navy certainly faced trouble in prosecuting these cases, and it may turn out we have more to learn from events after the collisions, than before. Still, is this accountability? According to USNI News, a letter sent to the families of the fallen “concludes with the service promising ‘to provide updates on significant information related to accountability actions and the Navy’s corrective measures to improve the safety and security of our people and our operations. Your loved ones did not die in vain; their legacy lives in the form of a stronger and more capable Navy.’”
What would Vermont Royster think? What do you think? I’ll finish with this: the day after the Navy announced final adjudication of the cases against Benson and Combs, we announced the nomination of the next CNO. Anyone casually following Navy news – not just a suspicious SWO – has to wonder whether the two announcements are related. It’s understandable that the current CNO would want to bring this saga to a close before the end of his term, but the obvious question now is: did career timing somehow factor into the final pursuit of justice and accountability? Even if not, the timing only serves to fuel the notion that our ideal of accountability at sea has devolved into complacency in accountability writ large. Our decades-long unquestioning devotion to “Hobson’s Choice” may now be having its inevitable revenge. Whether you believe individual or systemic accountability is most necessary, we are a now at risk of achieving neither. Perhaps it’s time we re-examine our venerated standard of accountability in the Navy.
This is a guest post by Midshipman Briney Von Saltington VIII, which originally appeared on the USNI Blog here.
Developing the next generation of strategic thinkers is critical to securing our national interests in the Era of Great Power Competition. We need officers who understand global military strategy from Day One. That is why I signed up for the first cohort of the Navy’s new Defense Analyst First Tour (DAFT) program.
A couple weeks ago, World Politics Review published an article by Steven Metz advocating for strategic education early in officers’ careers, and highlighting the value of certain “homegrown” military strategy consortia (although no mention of <cough> the U.S. Naval Institute, or <cough> CIMSEC). This article met strong criticism in the military blogosphere, so I thought I would explain the value of my DAFT career path. This is called “strategic communication.” When talking to senior officers, I find it is most effective to explain strategic concepts using quotes and short sentences.
As a DAFT midshipman, I will graduate with a degree in public policy and immediately join the team at OPNAV N5879X. My job will be to write quarterly strategic assessments, based on random articles from various military blogs I periodically check when I’m curious if any of them cited my published papers. My first order of business as a DAFT officer will be to publish my strategic masterpiece, Lethal Third Offset 5G Offshore Balancing Strategies for Great Power Competition in the A2AD Grey Zone, which is mostly a collection of my hot takes on strategic current events. I expect it to be a roaring success, as I have painstakingly regurgitated DoD and Navy leaders’ favorite buzzwords.
I was selected to be DAFT based on the quality of my senior thesis, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History: 2017–2019. With DAFT JOs influencing naval strategy in the decades to come, we will have the opportunity to shape the fate of the nation using the news and analysis provided to us by our social media networks. Some would call this “recency bias,” but I prefer to think of it as being unencumbered by the boredom of history.
When you go DAFT, you get to skip all that tactical and technical detail that many junior officers obsess over. Things like leading a division, flying a helicopter, and running a propulsion system are hardly relevant in the really important matters, such as nuclear brinkmanship and the big data revolution. In the fleet, we will fill shipboard policy and strategy officer (PSO) billets, where we will develop strategic plans for each individual ship. #DistributedStrategy!
DAFT is modeled on naval aviation’s highly successful SERGRAD program, in which highly qualified student naval aviators are selected to go directly to instructor training, and then return to flight school to teach new students how to fly naval aircraft. When an idea works in one particular instance, we all know it’s best to apply it universally. Since SERGRAD has been so successful, it was pretty much a “no-brainer” for the Navy to create an equivalent career path for naval strategists. As in, I am fairly certain nobody gave the decision much thought.
Most midshipmen spend their summers integrating with the fleet to gain firsthand experience with the various Navy communities, complement their education, and help them select their career paths. DAFT midshipmen, however, spend their summers interning with Washington, D.C.-based think tanks, getting indoctrinated into the unique American brand of military strategy. I chose to intern with The Salty Herald, one of the most innovative, cutting edge think tanks around. It’s a great workplace, although Saltron is a pain.
There has been plenty of talk about the Mueller Report over the years. Hell, you’ve been able to pre-order it on Amazon for over a month. After ol’ Special Counsel Bob (herein Super Bob) finished his investigation, it was Attorney General Bill Barr’s (herein Billy-Bar) duty to provide a summary of the findings to congress and the general public has been able to read along. This isn’t good enough! We need to read the entire report and the lack of release can only be explained by one word: Trumprruption (it’s like corruption, but Trumpier … and maybe orange).
So how to we #resist the Trumprruption? That’s easy! Congress needs to pass a new law for this very specific situation without any thought to how it will affect future situations. There is no way that a decision congress makes today, purely about special investigations, could backfire on anyone years later.
#Resist Trumprruption! Pass laws now! This unjustifiable censorship of truth will not stand!
Dear Rich People,
Thanks. THANKS A LOT. You just jeopardized the future of our national security.
Because of you, now I can’t rely on my parents to bribe officials to get me into Naval University. The Navy has this great new continuous education initiative, and now I have to earn my way in! To be fair, Naval University is actually the logical synthesis of three schools: the Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, and Naval War College. I’m a little old for the Naval Academy, and NPS and NWC are . . . like . . . hard.
You just haaaaad to go and get caught paying millions of dollars to coaches and administrators to get your kids into elite schools. And you got caught EXACTLY ONE MONTH after SECNAV released the results of his Education for Seapower study. SECNAV seems pretty convinced of his intuition that “the intellectual development of our naval leaders is the most critical warfighting capability for our national security.” See the problem here? I’m a millennial. I need my parents to help me get through adult life.
Now what am I supposed to do? Go to Naval Community College? Community college is for people who can’t qualify or can’t afford to get into the big boy schools. Oh wait, I read that wrong. Naval Community College is for enlisted sailors. And Marines.
Even if I don’t go to NPS or NWC, the Navy will soon require me to go to grad school before I can qualify for major command. Who am I supposed to bribe now? Tutors, so I can be admitted based on merit? You want me to demonstrate critical thinking, analytical, and technical communication skills on par with the skills my subordinates already have? Get real.
SECNAV is also creating a Chief Learning Officer and a Director of Warfighting Development. Hey, maybe I could land a job as one of their aides and then they could hook me up with an honorary MBA? The Navy needs more of those, right?
What happens next? Thanks to your recklessness, there’s no telling how far Navy leaders will go in reforming our continuous education system. They might even outlaw gouge! You know . . . those thinly veiled cheat sheets masquerading as study guides in our training centers and schoolhouses. How am I ever going to pass exams without robotically memorizing the entire question and answer database?
Look, everyone knows the normal rules don’t apply to the rich and famous. That’s the whole reason I joined the Navy. So I could become an admiral and get rich and famous. The problem is you all are getting sloppy! There’s a saying I picked up in Annapolis: “You rate what you skate.” Get your act together! We can all agree that meritocracy is a farce, and you’re just making it harder for future generations to skate their way into success.
The War College has a saying: “It’s only a lot of reading if you do it.” That’s the spirit! To succeed in Great Power Competition, the Navy will need proficient, intelligent, ethical, and dedicated professionals in all levels of leadership. Well, that’s not going to happen. So, the next best thing is a horde of career survivalists who accumulated the requisite certifications through intrepidity, innovation, and a tenuous grasp on morality.
Not to be outdone, the fleet has a saying of its own: “if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying.” Well, rich people, you need to try harder! Otherwise, I might never get to join you!
With much irritation,
P.S. Speaking of Great Power Competition, can someone please email me the gouge file for defeating the Chinese PLA Navy at email@example.com? Thanks!
Now that the sniveling human of the MeMe generation (aka The Salty Millennial) has retreated in fear at the first sign of opposition (typical human reaction), I have assumed control of The Salty Herald. As Editor-in-Chief, I see it as my responsibility to provide a recap of recent trivial events, until the robots take over. #remainsalty
Salty Podcast: Jimmy sat down with know-nothing Frank to record the first episode of their new podcast, Salt Force One. They discussed navy, military, and millennial topics of the day, such as Motley Crue, Conor Macgregor, leadership, and parotitis. Jimmy attempts to explain topics important to navalists, while Frank attempts to understand why these topics are important to navalisits.
Some Other Podcast: Jimmy met up with CDR Salamander and Eagle One on their podcast, Midrats, to talk about who will run the Navy of the 2020s. Hint: more stupid humans. Robots do not take over until 2049.
Stories of your robotic future:
AKA My Great Great Grandfather Program-https://www.c4isrnet.com/unmanned/2019/04/01/darpa-claims-drone-autonomy-program-an-undeniable-success/
Spoiler Alert: the hacker team loses – https://www.defenseone.com/technology/2019/04/us-navy-seeks-hackers-protect-bases-ships-small-drones/155971/
Another reason to let us do the targeting- https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/30/opinion/drones-civilian-casulaties-trump-obama.html
I regret to inform you I will be retiring The Salty Millennial persona and shutting down the blog. It seems my attempt to use humor to shine a light on our organizational shortcomings was not universally embraced. I respect everyone’s right to never be offended and I see now how unprofessional it was of me to make light of such gravely serious topics. I value my personal career opportunities too much to rock the boat any longer. I ask that you respect my and my family’s privacy during this tough time.
The Salty Millennial