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.
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.
Naval History Magazine December, 2012
In 1943, the author’s uncle boarded his Liberty ship in Nova Scotia with a strong sense of foreboding.
When U-610 sank the Liberty ship William Pierce Frye on 29 March 1943, among those on board was a 24-year-old fireman from Central Falls, Rhode Island, named William Joseph McHale, my Uncle Billy. The night before reporting for duty, he said goodbye to his older brother John’s girlfriend, Mary Gannon. “Be sure to marry my brother!” When Mary replied that she looked forward to all of them reuniting after the war, Billy looked straight at her and revealed a searing premonition: “No, I don’t think I’ll be coming back.” Earlier that day he’d said something similar to his sister Rita, who remembers, “It was weird when he said, ‘I thought you’d like to see me one more time.’” True to his vision, on his first voyage at sea Billy went down with the ship. When the news of his death arrived at the tenement house on Hunt Street, my grandparents were consumed by the immeasurable grief reserved for those who lose a child. My uncle Raymond, their oldest son, called it “a dark time.”
The events that sealed Uncle Billy’s fate were set in motion in the early morning hours of 8 March 1943, when U-610 eased from her mooring at the submarine pens of St. Nazaire, France. She set out to rendezvous with wolf pack Dränger (Pusher). Ten days later the William Pierce Frye departed on her maiden voyage from Halifax, Nova Scotia, as part of convoy HX 230 en route to Liverpool, England.
Built in just three months by New England Shipbuilding of Portland, Maine, and launched on 11 February 1943, she was owned by the Mystic Steamship Company of Boston. The Liberty ship carried a complement of 8 officers, 32 Merchant Marines, and 24 Armed Guards. She was laden with 7,500 tons of military stores, including 750 tons of explosives, wheat, and a deck cargo of five landing craft, tank (LCTs).
Gordon Adams is a former Clinton administration defense budget analyst and has written extensively on the current “fiscal cliff” crisis. The Naval Institute interviewed him on 28 November to get his take on sequestration and the defense budget. Adams is speaking today at the Naval Institute’s Defense Forum Washington.
Can you put current sequestration in a historical context? Has anything like this happened before?
Yes, but never to this extent.
The sequestration mechanism was lifted wholesale from a 1985 bill called Graham Rudman Hollings. When it was passed in 1985 it was the last big U.S. effort in deficit and debt reduction. The sequestration mechanism was defined in that bill. . . . There were sequestrations under Graham Rudman Hollings. They were rather small, they were not on this order of magnitude, because this one actually sets targets, but they did happen. Once they happened, Congress reversed it. Basically fixed it, patched the hole. So that happened and they went away. It maybe one precedent for what would happen in January if there is a sequester. I don’t think we will, but if we do . . .
What we have here is an unprecedented showdown at the O.K. Corral.
Rep. J. Randy Forbes is chairman of the House Armed Services Readiness Subcommittee. The Virginia Republican has held several hearings on naval readiness in the current Congress. He will be part of a panel on the looming fiscal cliff— that could result in a 10 percent reduction in defense spending—at Defense Forum Washington hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute next week.
Rep. Forbes, you said Wednesday that you’re expecting to see sequestration in some form in January. Could you expand on that?
Obviously we are still hopeful to divert sequestration from taking place. The clock is ticking. We continue to believe that defense has already paid its share and shouldn’t be cut in such an arbitrary and drastic fashion. But it’s going to take an awful lot to keep from going over the cliff.
Proceedings, November 2012
To maintain their unique capabilities, the Sea Services must master the art of navigating budgets in the Age of Austerity.
Under the authority of the Budget Control Act of 2011 and without congressional action, automatic across-the-board cuts—“sequestration”—will occur in the Department of Defense budget in January 2013. 1 The likelihood and the consequences of this event are still uncertain, but projections by the Congressional Research Service suggest total cuts to the Defense budget in the vicinity of $500 billion over the next decade; similar cuts would be made in non-Defense spending. That this would be severe is not in doubt: Employment reductions from changes in equipment procurement in California alone are projected at nearly 126,000, with national changes in employment at more than 5.8 million. 2
Austerity budgets may prove to be the most challenging obstacle the Navy and Marine Corps have seen in a generation. Yet as painful as they may be, they must be faced. And successfully facing them begins with first developing an understanding of the current macroeconomic position of the United States, and ends with developing an effective budgetary strategy. Additionally, it will be critical to remember that Defense budgets do not exist in isolation. All actions and their costs must be gauged both against the entire federal budget as well as the larger U.S. macro-economy.