Home » News & Analysis » Two Lawmakers Want ‘Groundbreaking’ Changes in How U.S. Navy is Organized, Communicates

Two Lawmakers Want ‘Groundbreaking’ Changes in How U.S. Navy is Organized, Communicates

USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) stands by before it is loaded onto the heavy lift transport vessel MV Transshelf. Transshelf will transport Fitzgerald to Pascagoula, Mississippi to complete repairs. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class William McCann/Released)

ARLINGTON, Va. – Two lawmakers today said the Navy needed to make “groundbreaking” changes in how it operates to avoid the readiness problems that contributed to last year’s fatal surface collisions that killed 17 sailors.

House Armed Services Committee members Reps. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.) talked to a room of Surface Warfare officers on proposed changes in how the Navy organizes its surface force, handles maintenance and certifications of its ships and thinks and speaks about its capabilities, in the aftermath of two reviews the service undertook after the 2017 collisions of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG-56).

Speaking at the Surface Navy Association’s annual 2018 symposium, Wittman, who chairs the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee, said he had spoken extensively with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer about organizational changes to the fleet based on the Strategic Readiness Review that Spencer directed and a Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Forces Incidents led by U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

“We have this mentality of an East Coast navy versus a West Coast navy, and that has to be put aside,” Wittman said. “

Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) speaking at the U.S. Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington. U.S. Naval Institute Image

The subcommittee chairman said that would require revisiting the longstanding “Inouye Amendment,” named after the late senator from Hawaii, Dan Inouye, which forbid the East Coast U.S. Fleet Forces Command from taking over manning, training and equipping of U.S. Pacific Fleet forces.

Wittman also supported a reorganization proposed in Spencer’s Strategic Readiness Review to reestablish U.S. 2nd Fleet in Norfolk and to get rid of U.S. 4th Fleet that oversees operations in Central and South America.

Today’s 3rd Fleet produces ready forces for the Pacific but has also taken a larger role in commanding and controlling forces throughout the deployment. A future 2nd Fleet could do the same, preparing deployable forces on the East Coast and hold operational control as needed. If combined with the idea of eliminating the Inouye Amendment, U.S. Fleet Forces Command would not have to directly oversee the pre-deployment training of East Coast units – 2nd Fleet would do that – but could instead focus on Navy-wide policy and funding as it relates to manning, training and equipment.

Wittman suggested that the Navy revisit some other fundamentals, too, to ensure properly trained, maintained and certified operating forces.

He suggested that all Forward Deployed Naval Forces ships return stateside every seven to 10 years for deep maintenance – a policy that the Navy already has but is not always followed, as evidenced by McCain, one of the ships that suffered a fatal collision last year, having spent more than 20 years forward deployed in Japan.

“What’s happened with that is we’ve seen a 50-percent increase in severe material casualties in forward locations. That’s troubling,” Wittman said.
“Keeping ships there for 20 years, as good as the work that happens in Yokosuka is, is not enough to make sure we are reestablishing the material readiness of those ships.”

Additionally, he noted that Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) reports used to be unclassified and but have been classified for almost a decade.

“During peacetime INSURVs should be declassified, and that makes sure there’s transparency there that we know what’s going on,” Wittman said.
“That creates, again, that direction, that focus to make sure that maintenance is being done, maintenance availabilities aren’t being missed, material readiness is being maintained. All those things are critical.”

“All of us have to look at this as an opportunity to really do some groundbreaking things in how the surface navy operates,” Wittman said.
“It doesn’t hurt for us to get to points where we feel a little uncomfortable – in fact, I would argue we have to get to a point where we feel uncomfortable to make sure we are exploring all the different avenues that we have to explore.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told USNI News this week that the Navy is undertaking an effort to combine the two reviews and work out remaining areas of difference in their recommendations. Wittman said HASC was allowing that process to play out but would also be a partner in collaborating on what he called “this reformulation, this redirection for the surface navy.”

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wisc.)

Rep. Gallagher spoke of another fundamental challenge the Navy needs to quickly overcome: it has for over a year now said it needs a 355-ship fleet, but hasn’t explained what it would do with that fleet and how those additional ships would alter how the Navy conducts its business.

“The Navy needs to be able to honestly explain to itself what it will do with 355 ships and how this will be different from the fleet today. It’s not enough to bring new technologies to bear; our warfighting doctrines must change, our culture must be a learning culture, and at the same time we must ensure that technology does not become a crutch,” he said.

Gallagher also outlined what he sees as a failure in the service’s strategic communication efforts.

“We need more than the usual talking points, generic warnings of risk, and the same communications policy that has left us seven years into the [Budget Control Act] and more than three decades removed from the last major naval recapitalization with no end in sight,” he said.
“The Navy must tell its story in a way that inspires and mobilizes popular action, explaining how the future fleet will fight, how it will be different than the Navy of today, and how it will meet our security needs.”

He cited the “41 for Freedom” drive for ballistic missile submarines in the late 1950s as an example of successful Navy strategic communication and public outreach – an effort that spanned not only seven years of shipbuilding but also the life of the boomers.

In today’s budget environment, if the Navy is ever to be successful in obtaining larger shipbuilding budgets to support that 355-ship fleet the service says it needs, “we need a groundswell of public attention and interest that will force my colleagues who don’t closely follow these issues to help play a constructive role,” he said.
“I want to hear pressure from my constituents about key Navy priorities. I want my colleagues to get calls and letters and office visits about Navy issues, in the same way they do about all the other things we care about, whether it’s DACA or the tax bill or health care.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson talks with Sailors during an all hands call with Carrier Air Wing 5 (CVW-5) at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni. Dec. 11, 2017

“I read with great concern public reporting on a memo from last March that focused on a less-is-more approach to strategic communications,” Gallagher said.
“I cannot emphasize how catastrophic a mistake that is. Despite the old adage that loose lips sink ships, nonexistent strategic communications can sink entire navies. If the bias is towards silence to prevent adversaries from finding out about unique capabilities or potential weaknesses, guess what, there will never be a public constituency for acquiring or mitigating them. And oh, by the way, our adversaries probably have a decent idea of what we’re up to anyways.”

  • kye154

    Seems like the Navy’s fight with Congress boiled down to this: Congress wants the navy to be more responsible about its ships and not wreck them. On the other hand, the Navy wants more money to build more ships to wreck them. Unless Congress convinces the president to pull some commissions from some of the top officers, under President’s Commander-in-Chief authority, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution, (Let’s not forget,, Harry Truman did it to General Douglas MacArthur), the Navy brass has no intention of changing anything about the way its organized,communicates, or operates, But, Trump is notorious for saying “Your Fired”, so warning Navy brass, you had better comply with congress.

    • Duane

      Sorry, there is no “Navy’s fight with Congress”. This is two Congressmen out of 535 who are attempting to blameshift the Navy for Congress’s own continuing ineptitude.

      • DaSaint

        Two Congressmen from states with shipyards they want to keep humming along too.

      • kye154

        Say Duane, have you ever done your homework yet, to figure out what type of homing system the DF-26 has got, to track moving targets? You seemed to have become silent on the matter.

        • Duane

          The Chinese aren’t talking. But Janes and others reports that it has a CEP of a massive 150-450 metersm and that’s against a stationary target, not a CVN that can and does steam at 35 plus knots. … nowhere near good enough to target a carrier whose deck at its widest point is just 85m.

          And the Chinese have never performed a long range test against a moving target. It is far more than likely that such a system and their DF missiles can hit the broad side of a barn from thousands of miles away. Nobody has done that yet with ballistic missiles. Ballistic missiles are very effective at hitting fixed targets, but they are lousy at hitting moving targets. The only way to provide even a decent chance of a CVN kill would be if they used a nuke. If the Chinese use even one nuke, they will be blasted to smithereens within 30 minutes.

  • Glenwood

    Navy’s communications strategy is weak and muddled. In the build up to the (almost) 600 ship Navy, everyone knew the value of a strong Navy and most could tell you what the “GIUK gap” was. Today? Not so much. You want more ships? You have to explain why, which ships specifically, for what reason, and by when. I remember John Lehman got 2 Carriers added to the defense budget IN CONFERENCE. Today there is not enough juice to add a tug.

    • Duane

      The risks were vastly higher in the Cold War than they are today. Sure, there are serious risks we face, but on a scale of 1 to 10, the Cold War was a 10+ and today’s risks are maybe a 2 or 3. It’s always far easier to politically sell defense spending when everyone is worried to death that nuclear annihilation is just around the corner.

      • Steve

        I agree the risks presented by potential foes are lower now than when the Soviet Fleet was aggressively operating in a blue water environment. Today, however, the risks are more diverse and are distributed in waters the Soviets rarely, if ever, sailed. The long-term impacts of a ship lost to hostile action today are just as profound and confidence shaking, if not more so, in 2018 in comparison to 30 years ago.

        • Duane

          Actually, no. In the Cold War days, there would have been no extended sea battles …. everything would have gone up in nuclear blasts, including ships (all our ships were equipped with both nuclear torpedoes and nuclear depth charges and nuclear missiles. We had over 50,000 nuclear warheads deployed, most of them tacticals. In the event of a real war with the Soviets, nobody would have “won”, and nothing would have been held back in reserve. Use it or lose it was the strategy.

          I was a Cold War sub sailor. We always knew that once we got to order to go after our targets – which were Soviet boomers – there would likely be nothing left to go home to if we survived the exchange. There is nothing remotely like that mindset today, even though, physically speaking, it’s still possible to have a nuclear exchange.

          In the Cold War, all out war was an existential challenge – win or we all die, and our family and friends die, and all of society dies with us.

          Today, it’s very unlikely that the Chinese would enter into an all out exchange, ditto with the Russians. It’s much more about conventional warfighting where losing a bunch of ships is expected. We lost a bunch of ships in WW Two, but we persisted and won.

  • Tony4

    Re-establish/improve SWOSDOC, cut OPTEMPO 15-20%, re-establish Sailor-manned SIMAs – this alone wouldn’t solve everything but it would go a long way.

  • Michael D. Woods

    I have an idea–get the Navy into sailor suits and out of those silly (at sea) green camouflage outfits!

    But seriously, it’s refreshing to hear Congressmen offer substantive suggestions instead of just posing and accusing. I have no idea which are good suggestions, but I’m glad they’re trying.

    In a larger context, Congress and the administration have to get together and either stop trying to run the world or pay what it costs in money and, probably, a draft.

    • old guy

      Right on. Make the CNO’s position ABOVE any fleet Commander. Then assure centralized OPNAV doctrine, Too long have fleet 4 stars considered themselves equals (or above) the CNO. Then we might reconsider a new CNM to bring the Commands together. This is not bureaucracy, It’s unified chain of command.

  • Western

    Psst. The economy is up. Manufacturing is up. Mining and drilling of raw materials is up. We desperately need a new, expanded Merchant Marine fleet to export all this winning. And we need a Navy to protect it.
    And I agree with Mr. Woods. One more uniform change into actual sailor attire, then send the tailors to the Air Force.

  • Masau80

    How about these guys just do their job – pass a budget, get rid of sequestration, and give the Navy (and the other services) some stability for long term planning and investment?

  • Horn

    Do you really want to think about how nuking another country in back-to-back wars would have changed our image?

  • Duane

    The organizational suggestions as to fleet structure, that’s OK on the surface, but the Navy should organize itself. Getting rid of the Inouye Amendment is a good thing that Congress should do. Revising and updating the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 also makes sense and that is appropriate for Congress to do.

    I disagree with the Congressman’s charge that it is somehow the Navy’s lack of loose lips that causes the current GOP controlled Congress to be so inept as to repeatedly fail to pass defense appropriations on time every year, and instead force DOD to live on CRs, or to fail to repeal the BCA of 2011 (the infamous sequester). That’s Congressional incompetence at work. It’s just blame shifting.


    Someone tell this guy there has been a war going on for almost two decades. We are not and have not been in peace time…


    A formerly forward-deployed Surface Warfare Officer

    • Curtis Conway

      Also, a previous article insinuated that “deployment” consumed Readiness. Those just back from deployment are the most trained, effective, and have the greatest operational experience. We consume supplies and use up equipment, not people. Wrong mindset. Your troops are your most precious asset, NOT cordwood to be consumed. That is the non-christian, Elite mindset who burns people up like comodities.

      • Lawrence Trevethan

        Running watches that are too small, failure to permit seniors to stand watch with juniors so they learn by example, assigning too many hours of watch and other duties to be sustained, and failure to allow time for (or temporary transfer for) training all “burn up” people. It is likely that those are the senses in which the writers wrote that deployment was reducing readiness. This has been clear in various ways for more than a decade. Alarm bells were ignored, and the flag officers in charge really should be held accountable. It is called command responsibility. Practices in the last 20 years were irresponsible, and the consequences are becoming clear. At one point 40% of ship’s crews were ashore performing what should be done by occupation government battalions – losing their specialty expertise and leaving their crews even more shorthanded than the modern standards nominally require. People are expensive – so the pressure on the bureaucracy has long been to cut them. But it wasn’t a good idea. Ships crews need to be “overmanned” for a variety of reasons – including the ability to sustain Condition II operations. They are being stretched too thin at Condition III – a very bad sign.

        • Curtis Conway

          Budgetary pressures took away training steaming days, except in operational areas. Getting underway for Engineering Drills, and Independent Operational Exercises in W-72 off Virginia Beach used to be the norm. That grows a crew, and prepares them for combat. I never thought I would see the US Navy turn into a US Army fox-hole digging induction service, and just shove them into combat, but that is evidently what they have turned into. Every ship is a Family, and qualified people are grown and nurtured, then evaluated as to their readiness for combat, not just thrown into combat, which the evidence in PACFLT indicates in our accidents.

          There was a mention in another article’s comments as to the Chain of Command’s (Flag Officers) culpability in all of this. Lack of Leadership (qualified leadership) rings through this whole episode, all the way ot the top, even to definition of the LCS design.

        • Curtis Conway

          Point taken. ‘Lead By Example’ cannot happen without examples and mentorship. Current leadership has forgotten that, if they ever knew it. This is Boy Scouts 101.

    • Lawrence Trevethan

      Actually, it is MORE important to perform full maintenance if there is a war on. In my day, we would NOT deploy a unit (or a person) known to be less than fully certified – on principle. This has not been much of a war – very few ships have been attacked and none successfully – but a real war generally involves both ideas. Maintaining the operational tempo with half the ships was unwise and dictates that training and maintenance will suffer. The captain of USS America (a rear admiral) lost his career when the ship had to be scrapped due to a lack of maintenance. It was not his fault there was not enough money. But it WAS his fault he didn’t make a fuss about the consequences of that. [She was expended as a target instead of repaired or put in storage as is SOP.] I was taught it is better to fight with a smaller force rather than an unfit force.

      • ANAVYSWO

        I am not saying maintenance isn’t important, though don’t get me started on the current maintenance cycle. The fact of the matter is our situation requires paying the lowest bidder to fix our ships and build our equipment, not personnel within the military. We don’t have enough active duty to support teaching the necessary skills to be self-reliant in terms of maintenance, in addition to manning the ships we already have. The military is spread too thin. Mattis told Congress last summer “no enemy in the field has done more to harm the combat readiness of our military than sequestration,” and it’s true.

        • Lawrence Trevethan

          I think we are on the same page. But I think a ship MUST be able to fix its own systems. I grant that training is not to the old standard – we were told we were expected to fix anything – and we would make parts at sea – or go ashore and buy things (even on the black market – complete with Federal Stock Numbers on the labels) – but the idea we had to have a contractor was alien – and I think for good cause. Logistics is vital to success in any military enterprise. Underfunding the support for a military unit is a grand strategic error.

  • Curtis Conway

    The “Inouye Amendment” was ill conceived and parochial in nature when it was enacted. When 2nd Flt went away, the ‘system put in place’ did not cover all the comprehensive training bases that had been developed and perfected since the end of WWII. The fact that the WWII veterans in Congress promoted and supported the amendment gave it undo credibility in my mind, though it was a flawed and horrible idea, and our Readiness has suffered ever since. GITMO REFTRA was Never Replaced, and there is no substitute for operational Subject Matter Experts (SMEs wearing Black Hats) with years of experience, training the crews with full authority, and much ‘focused attention’ to ‘relevant operational details’ that count. This is what we gave up, and tried to ‘just do it with COMPTUEX’ which more appropriately evaluates greater team aspects on a Battle Group level, and unit level problems can fall through the cracks. With a mentality that created ‘LCS mindset’, one is left to wonder just how deep and wide the cancer is, and we have 17 dead sailors to testify to the fact that this ‘lack of operational competency’ cancer exist, regardless of your Area of Operational Responsibility (AOR).

    Congress is right! The US Navy needs to revamp, and perhaps reconsider bringing back GITMO REFTRA, or like training. At GITMO REFTRA the Black Hats had ultimate authority with deference given only to the Commanding Officer of the unit, who was ultimately responsible. It’s his/her personal responsiblity for the ship, crew, equipment, and mission accomplishment. There is no substitute for a competent ‘Charlie Oscar’. Back to basics, and start over!

    It would not be that hard to establish a REFTRA Program on the West Coast operating off of one of California’s costal islands. Effectiveness of the training is enhanced (if not more guaranteed) with the expeditionary (sequestered) nature of the training, which should last for at least two weeks with a weekend Port Call in the middle. Every department is trained by a ‘Black Hat Cadre’ with an Evaluation Leader who reports directly to the unit under training Commanding Officer. The Trainer/Evaluators get to know the team, its strengths, weaknesses, and areas requiring improvement over a very short period of time. No one does it perfectly the first time, for there is ‘nothing as constants as change, and always room for improvement’, and ‘THAT mindset’ must persist after the training is complete. Both 2nd Flt and 3rd Flt Training Syllabus should be identical with nuances programed in to provide emphasis of the different operational environments, and an annual conference for the two Training Cadres to compare notes, and improve the training. Operational Principles DO NOT CHANGE regardless of theater. That conference can swap coast each year with the appropriate Fleet Commander sponsoring the event.

    The Pacific Region is a huge vast place where there is lots of room, and a plethora of unique operational environments. The Atlantic Region is a smaller expanse, with many AORs that present interesting operational limitations (Arctic, Baltic, Mediterranean, and North Sea) mostly driven by disparate authorities with specific interest. Operations in these areas parallel with the South China Sea, East China Sea, Sea of Japan, and the Littorals of Asia and Western Pacific (new LCS Frigate country). Both Fleets will have to provide support to 5th Flt and the Indian Ocean, and perhaps the Arctic/Antarctic, which will present their own unique challenges. The Fleet Air Forces supporting these operations can also be folded into exercises as required, particularly the VC, VRC, VP and TACAIR communities utilizing this unique training environment. Joint Element Training may also be included, but not to the extent it will reduce focus on Unit Training Evaluation. If the US Navy were ever to embrace and employ of conventional submarines, this training would incorporate a regular detachment at the training port for ASW training operations. This activity would mimic and parallel aspects of the US Army National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, California. Which means the ‘Black Hat Cadre’ would be most expert in all adversarial capabilities and limitations, not just the organic technology with which each department aboard that ship would have to content, during their combat evaluation (test) . . . in a team environment. Overall specific readiness evaluation and report would be provided to the CO, Chain of Command, and the crew will know they passed or failed.

    Though involved in the effort, this will not be a creature of NAVEDTRA. This will be a creature of the Operational Fleet Commanders with specific direction to evaluate the crew for deployment, or de-certify the command prior to deployment. The US Navy Education and Training Command is responsible with making sure current training methedologies can be provided to train and qualify the team at each command with their organic technology in which they are about to be employed. At least 30 days of ‘in home port time’ should be available after ‘Deployment Certification’ by REFTRA is received, although the training could be scheduled any time after the last Yard Period, but prior to COMPTUEX.

    Just my 2ȼ.

  • Jim

    Interesting point “… MacArthur’s plan” in Korea. Seems that, as I recall , based on the General’s assurance to President Truman at Wake (1) he had strong doubt that China would enter the “conflict”, making it almost certain that (2) “the boys would be home by Christmas”. This, of course, was followed soon thereafter by China’s showing up and Christmas became a nightmare, especially for the First Marine Division that heroically fought their way out through MacArthur’s “no-shows”.

    As for “where where would we be today if the General had been allowed to carry out his plan of (1) allowing the Nationalists on Formosa to join the war; ( 2) bombing China; (3) blockading the China coast. One can only wonder … but … the General had the clincher in his briefcase – to lay nuclear waste along the border.
    Give the half-life of much of it, good question – where would we (or they) be today?

  • Real sailor

    Agreed, the surface Navy needs to get it’s act together. But mostly they need to deepsix the “littoral combat ship” r el i g io n that firmly believes that our future enemy will only consist of swarms of Iranian fast boats armed with machine guns, and rpgs. Unfortunately this ‘religion’ has sucked the life out of training and fighting a ‘real’ naval war, it has painted our future enemies as nothing more than a bunch of fanatics on suicide missions running on fast boats yelling a l l u a a k a r.

    The LCS religion has not only sucked the fiancial and warfighting spirit out of the Naval but has poisoned an entire generation of leadership. The only way to stop this ca n ce r is to ‘retire’ every officer that uses the term ‘wa r f ig ht,’ who supports the LCS re li g i on, and who thinks p . c. training is more important than battle training.

    Naval warfare is a deadly business, you either live or die, there is no ‘run-away and hide in the littorals, as some have suggested, when the shooting starts. There is no ‘time out we need to load a different module.’ When the shooting starts we will not have time to got back to port and swapout modules and put your scary ‘w ar fi g ht’ facepaint module on-you fight with what you have with you.

    We need to get back to basics and become warriors first and foremost. The situation right now is very analogous to the Navy in the late 1930’s, we were soft, complacent, over-confident, and we thought the ‘enemy’ was inferior, but unfortunately, when war came, we got our a s s e s handed to us, in many battles, by the Japanese until we learned how to fight again. The those learnings were at great costs of thousands of lives and dozens of ships. When the next war comes, the LCS r e l i g i o n will find itself lining the bottom of the ocean with hundreds of d e a d sailors. Let’s not let history repeat itself here.

    • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot

      Well said! I’m surprised the Fleet Admiral isn’t getting his ‘spittle’ all worked up into a lather.

      • Duane-aka Sir Lockmart

        brahaha, perhaps the Fleet Admiral has the wrong title, perhaps it should be “Litto-ral Grand Priest”.

  • Pete Novick

    Back in the day, I served in back-to-back Engineer Officer billets, one in a LANTFLT FF, followed by a forward-deployed PACFLT DDG. Both ships were Battle E winners while I was aboard.

    The differences in attitude between the two fleets could not be more different. In LANTFLT, the emphasis was on assist visits and mobile training teams to improve readiness. In PACFLT, the crews emphasized self-reliance.

    Consider the difference between the Fleet PEB instructions. The LANTFLT instruction was an inch and a half thick, while the PACFLT instruction numbered about 35 pages.

    We were chronically undermanned in LANTFLT. In the PACFLT FNDF, we enjoyed manning at 105% of NMP.

    Today, the Navy sends out the MCPON to tell the sailors, “No, manning isn’t going to improve in the near term.” Well, the near term has long since become the far term.

    Senator Inouye knew from what he spoke, I can tell you that.

    Not much new under the sun here.

    CDR, USN (Ret.)

  • kye154

    Really not so sure MacArthur’s plan would have done much good, except kill off a lot of Chinese. By 1953, he had already killed off 20% of the North Korean population and laid waste to every single home, hamlet, and city there. So, what more could a few atomic bombs could have done? It’s the main reason why the North Koreans hate us today, and if we nuked the Chinese, I am sure they would be hating us more so too. (Americans don’t understand the Asian minds about “Saving Face” and retribution). Consequently, like North Korea, we would have made a perpetual enemy of the Chinese too, and wouldn’t be trading with them today. They certainly wouldn’t have bought $1.3 trillion of our debt either, in the way of Treasury notes either, to keep us afloat, and we would find ourselves in much poorer economic conditions

  • Ed L

    Bring back RefTra those six weeks we would spend at Gitmo were invaluable in the Atlantic Fleet. Plus when we went out for Back by Friday cruises the old man would drill us till we dropped