The Pentagon announced yesterday it would end its official policy banning women from serving in ground-combat roles, opening an estimated 230,000 positions to female servicemembers. The unexpected move by departing Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has met mixed reaction, and numerous questions remain about the practical effects of the decision.
The Thursday announcement by Panetta—who was joined by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey—settles one of the last remaining policy disparities between men and women in combat, allowing females to join infantry, artillery, armor, and other combat-coded posts previously reserved solely for men, including the special operations components. But, while the policy change topples some of the last remaining walls for women in uniform, it also poses serious questions for policy makers, chief among them being the status of women vis-à-vis the Selective Service System.
Lance Cpl. Stephanie Robertson, a member of the female engagement team (FET) assigned to 2d Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 7, in Marjah, Afghanistan, in 2010. USMC Photo
Even as the Coast Guard gets a grip on the Arctic, drug smugglers in the eastern Pacific are slipping through its fingers, Commandant Adm. Robert Papp acknowledged Thursday.
At the Surface Naval Association Symposium, Papp told reporters he has been forced to give some things up as demands on the Coast Guard increase in the warming Arctic. As he has sent the service’s new National Security Cutters into the frozen north, it has been at the expense of man- and ship-hours for other missions, including drug interdiction in the eastern Pacific.
The Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf sails in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, Aug. 28, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard Photo
“We don’t have enough ships out there to interdict all the known tracks that we’re aware of,” he said. “We intercept as many as we can.”
Navy leadership responded Wednesday to a Tuesday Pentagon report saying both variants of the littoral combat ship (LCS) are “not survivable in a combat environment.”
Rear Adm. Tom Eccles, Deputy Commander for Naval System Engineering at Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and Director Navy Staff, Vice Adm. Rick Hunt both defended the survivability of the ships during a Wednesday panel discussion on the LCS at the 2013 Surface Navy Association Symposium.
A Pentagon report claimed both versions of the Littoral Combat Ship were, “not survivable in a combat environment.” U.S. Navy Photo
“Survivability issue is one that comes up quite a bit. The question: Are all ships survivable to the same level? Clearly they are not,” Hunt said.
“That’s where tradeoffs come in. Do you have smaller things or do you have single massive ships across the board? The scaling has been different throughout the history of navies and continues to be different today.”
The head of naval surface forces fears the sea service is teetering dangerously close to an operational cliff where ships simply won’t be available to do what they need to do.Vice Adm. Tom Copeman told the Surface Navy Association Symposium on Tuesday that sailors are being pushed to keep their ships up to snuff without being given enough time, spare parts or training to do proper maintenance. The Navy, he said, has been pushing personnel harder and harder, to do more with less, for years. Copeman pointed to rampant cross-decking, where sailors are snatched from docked ships and put on board deploying ones, often hindering maintenance on the docked vessel. He also said sailors are likely as not to be unable to find the spare parts they need on board their ship when something malfunctions or breaks. Eventually, he said, a day will come when a ship that needs to deploy won’t be able to. “It’s getting harder and harder, I think, for us to look troops in the eye and say, ‘Hey, just do it and meet the standard,'” Copeman said. “Some ships can do it. Some ships can’t.” Copeman said that the surface navy’s depot maintenance budget is practically at rock bottom right now for the size of the Fleet. If the budget gets any lower, he warned that the Navy risks creating a “hollow” Fleet.
Naval History Magazine, January 2013
After more than five exhausting years of global conflict, the British Commonwealth organized a powerful modern fleet that fought as equal partners with the U.S. Navy in the late stages of the Pacific war.
For the Royal Navy, the end seemed to come quickly in the Pacific war. Less than three days after the conflict’s outbreak, Japanese aircraft attacked and sank the most powerful British warships in Far Eastern waters, the modern battleship Prince of Wales and the battlecruiser Repulse . Their loss, followed within a couple of months by the capture of the naval bases in Hong Kong and Singapore, effectively drove the British navy out of the Pacific.
But the Royal Navy—in the form of the British Pacific Fleet (BPF)—returned to make a major contribution in 1945 to the defeat of Japan. The BPF, its vital bases, and logistical support organization did not exist until late 1944, but eight months later, the fleet had become the most powerful deployed force in the history of the Royal Navy.
The BPF did not begin to come into focus until the August 1943 Quadrant Conference of Allied leaders in Quebec. Agreement was reached that greater priority should be given to the Pacific war, while retaining the “Germany first” principle. But for much of 1944, Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the British Chiefs of Staff argued over how best to implement the decisions.
Naval History Magazine, January 2013
The shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, turned out boats at a torrid pace, setting the gold standard for submarine construction during World War II.
On 27 January 1944, the Portsmouth Navy Yard achieved two things no shipyard had ever done—launching three submarines simultaneously and a fourth on the same day. The Ronquil , Redfish , and Razorback lifted off their blocks in Dry Dock #1 at 1300, and a few hours later the Scabbardfish , slid down Building Way #4 into the Piscataqua River. 1 Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox sent a congratulatory message to the yard: “In the launching of four submarines in a single day, the Portsmouth Navy Yard sets another record in the submarine program.” 2 Before 1945 arrived the yard would complete a record-setting 32 submarines. No U.S. shipyard before or since has built so many submarines in a single year. 3
Pressure-hull sections in a submarine basin at the Portsmouth Navy Yard in March 1943. The shipyard had developed and refined sectional construction in the years leading up to World War II, and when war came the yard was poised to capitalize on a sudden surge in demand and the need for mass-production methods, University of New Hampshire Library.
After averaging the completion of less than two submarines a year in the 1930s, the Portsmouth Navy Yard built 79 submarines between 1 July 1940 and 1 July 1945. 4 The average construction time for those boats was much shorter than those of the same class built at other yards. Shipyard employment also reached unprecedented heights during that time. After providing jobs for an average of about 2,000 people annually in the 1930s, in November 1943 employment peaked at 23,465.5
To examine the yard’s wartime success it is necessary to first review events in the interwar years that set the stage for the remarkable wartime production record.
Congress closed its 2010-2012 session by passing a fiscal package that delays deep cuts to the defense budget and other executive branch agencies for two months, averting the “fiscal cliff” that threatened to slash nearly $50 billion from DOD’s 2013 appropriations ledger.
The negotiations offered a very public look at the high-drama posturing that has become a hallmark of dealings between the White House and Capitol Hill. To many casual observers, the back-and-forth signaled a new low in relations between the two branches, but to many on the inside, it was symptomatic of the legislative process that grinds on every day, usually outside of public view.
The hard work of crafting bipartisan legislation may take months of talks behind closed doors but produce only a few days of newsworthy drama. The annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of those must-pass measures that enjoy overwhelming bipartisan support but take months of meetings, briefings, hearings and tense negotiations among members of the House and Senate from both sides of the aisle and DOD. The Hill and Pentagon trade budget requests, legislative proposals, cost estimates, testing data, planning documents and long-term strategy to craft each year’s spending priorities and an overarching national-security policy. The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) leads the four defense committees each year, followed by House and Senate Defense Appropriators — the HAC-D and SAC-D — and finally the Senate Armed Services Committee — SASC.
Proceedings, January 2013
A close observer of defense-spending trends takes a look at dollars and sense and the looming budget challenges in the Pentagon.
Defense-budget headlines of late have concentrated on sequestration, as hand-wringing increased about the so-called fiscal cliff. Most coverage has focused on defense officials predicting dire consequences for the Department of Defense (DOD), or industry officials warning of job losses and collapse of certain technology sectors and associated businesses. The U.S. Naval Institute recently hosted Defense Forum Washington with a program titled “The Fiscal Cliff: What Does This Mean for Defense and National Security?” The conference focused on sequestration and its impacts. Speakers and panelists offered different perspectives on impact, ranging from disaster to a mere “pothole,” and on occurrence from irresponsible to a fait accompli that should happen to provoke fundamental changes in DOD.