Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, December 08, 2008

Remaking The Navy's Officer Culture?

William Lind, best known recently for being completely wrong about his prediction that the U.S. would attack Iran in 2006 and for completely misunderstanding the significance of the "Chinese Song vs. Kitty Hawk" episode, is now holding forth in a new book about what he sees are needed changes in the U.S. Navy. Not surprisingly, given his previous distaste for understanding how the world works, he wants the U.S. to be more like the British Navy:
Lind, who wrote the book’s Navy chapter, contrasts the dominance of engineers in the Navy to what he describes as the preference for tacticians elsewhere. All U.S. submarine skippers are nuclear engineers, “in strong contrast to Britain’s Royal Navy, whose submarine commanders have nuclear engineers where they belong, in the engine room,” Lind wrote.
The first step to remaking the Navy’s officer culture is remaking the Naval Academy, Lind says. The curriculum at Annapolis should focus on “war-fighting,” he writes, rather than engineering, and male and female midshipmen should be educated separately. Co-ed classes create a “stultifying air of political correctness,” Lind wrote. He also recommends sweeping changes to the fleet. The Navy should mothball its Aegis warships, he wrote, because it will never fight an open-ocean war against a peer competitor such as China or Russia. It should use aircraft carriers as cargo ships, carrying supplies or helicopters, if needed, rather than fixed-wing planes.
Lind also recommends the Navy develop its own carrier-launched low-level ground-attack aircraft. The F/A-18 Hornet isn’t built to orbit a battlefield and carry heavy ordnance loads, he wrote, even though that mission will be in ever greater demand.
So what do you think? Should we follow Lind's advice and become more like the Royal Navy? Or are we doing a fairly good job as it is?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Link seems to mistake U.S. submarine commanding officers for some sort of unicellular engineer-organisms, unvarying in content and behavior.

Yes, the competency spectrum, of course, is huge. I've worked for hard-core, ex NR CO who went to the rack during a helo-dropped, live torpedo exercise (hand raised in sign of telling absolute truth), and I've worked for a Jock who stunned his boat-school peers by not only hanging on for a CO tour, but rising to become COMSUBPAC.

Both were products of the same culture. Neither one could have been more different. I would note that the hard core ex NR type did not rise to flag rank, and dryly observe that this is simply the system working at least reasonably well.

I've come to admire the British COs, but don't see their "engineering light" approach as something to emulate, and note that Lind does not provide a compelling reason for doing so. Might just be because there isn't one.

12/08/2008 4:47 PM

Blogger Navy Blue Cougar said...

He was wrong about his prediction that we would attack Iran in 2006.

He was wrong about the significance of the Song vs Kitty Hawk episode.

Third times a charm. We should probably do what he says this time.

12/08/2008 7:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joel's quote: "Should we follow Lind's advice and become more like the Royal Navy? Or are we doing a fairly good job as it is?"

My thoughts and heartfelt thanks are with the second question here.
Granted, I still can't go into exact specifics regarding place & time and end results or who the submarine was. But I will say that a few years ago, somewhere in the vicinity of the Red Sea, we called in for fire support. It didn't come from the air.

One missile which nailed it's target (and then some) came vertically out of the water like fuckin' magic which was one of the most spectacular things I'd ever seen in life. The submarine who provided fire support that night, saved our lives and preserved the safety and security of our tactical airbase as well. I know what boat it was and I would love to thank the crew in public, for keeping me, my men and my base safe but that would be a big No-No at present. I figure someday a few years from now, I'll be able to say "Thank You for keeping us alive!!" to the USN Submarine force. But that's gonna have to wait. In the last 2 or 3 years, this is why I have such an acute interest in USN Submarines.

Getting back on track with the original 2nd question...I'd say Hell No!! The officers and crew of today's USN Subs are doing fine as is. If it ain't broke, don't fuck with it.

Thanks, J.

12/08/2008 7:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't lie, I'm not even going to bother reading his article. Based on the excerpt you posted he sounds like a raging retard and not worth the time or effort.

That being said, I do think there is something to be said for having a little more emphasis on tactics and operations vice engineering in the submarine community.

I'd argue that there's something to be said about guys who make CO who are great nukes, but not the best tacticians, and then you find yourself surrounding by a slew of incidents, or worse, a CO who runs his crew into the ground because he has ZERO people skills. They aren't the majority, but they are out there.

But it's not just the mentality of the CO. It's the mentality of the submarine force. "Acceptable risk" is always preached. Mitigating risk in the name of mission accomplishment is damn near impossible when you live in a zero defect world. More often then not, the mitigations put in place make it impossible to complete the job.

It always amazes me when we read WWII stories during dolphin ceremonies and you hear things like "we scraped the bottom on the way out, but it was ok." That was a sub community concerned about wining the war, not about the score on the last evaluation.

Personally, I'd like to see the separation of engineering and operations like the Brits have. I think our SCC course is a great idea, but I'm bothered by the fact that the first time Officers are truly exposed to that level of demand and execution is at the CO/XO level. Why not the JO/DH level? If you don't bump that level of training down, you get what we sometimes see, the CO and XO being the only twelfth level wizards on the ship. Then, when they aren't in control, something bad happens because the CO and XO were the only ones who'd received hardcore training and it was time for the Ops Brief.

12/08/2008 7:39 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

Ya know, this question has been asked since I entered the Submarine Force and ADM Trost or Crowe (old age effect here, can't remember which one said it) came out with only nuclear officers will serve onboard our submarines.

After serving on 4 SSNs and 1 SSBN, 2 instructor tours at sub training sites, I have seen the tactical abilities dissolve. Granted, it maybe the individuals or teams. My first sub, each CO had a fairly good exercise torp shot well over 75%. As time went by, my last boat the CO was 2 for 17 during his tour. I had been to sea with PCO classes. More centipedes in TMA (just one more leg) and not making very good shots then PCOs I would go to battle with.

We used to joke on my last boat, if we went to a USW war, we would go UA because it is better to be tried by 12, then carried by 6.

The two COs I had that were previous GSOs (General Submarine Officers, not nukes till force to be) and they could drive and shoot the boat and I would feel safe going to war with them.

Today's submarine officers pride themselves on how great nukes they are then how well they shoot.

A CO will lose his keys faster for a bad ORSE then a TRE. I know that for a fact. My last CO failed a TRE, the follow up tactical inspection and then another, but he completed his CO tour and put on O6. JMHO!


12/08/2008 7:52 PM

Blogger reddog said...

Answer is simple. Add 10 more years to the CO career path with the extra time devoted to tactics, weapons and ship handling. These guys are done too early anyway, most of them with nowhere to go. At least nowhere they consider fun.

This way they get to spend a lot more time on subs, which is what they love, right? The advancement timeline could be about the same as for Marines. This would also get rid of the guys who are just in the chowline.

12/08/2008 8:59 PM

Blogger Mark said...

I'm taking comp today at NNPS, and I am a little saddened to find out that this disqualifies me from command. Not on any of the recruiting posters I saw...

12/09/2008 2:24 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a graduate of the RN Submarine Command Course - Perisher.

I love the Brits.

That said, on average we ARE better.

Better forward ... and an order of magnitude better aft.

Their systems works for them but they are on thin ice in the nuclear world.

Much to the Brits amazement - US students usually top their SMCC class.

12/09/2008 3:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are you talking about????

To the rest,
I had a GSO WEPS many years ago, and he was an outstanding Submariner...even better when he was Acting XO after a medivac in Halifax.
Can't believe that the Navy got away from GSOs. You don't need to be a Nuke to be the best OOD onboard a submarine!

Grumpy Old (Nuke) LDO

12/09/2008 5:42 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let me see if I understand this. If a non nuclear enlisted man on a sub gets selected for a commision via LDO program or another avenue, then the sub world loses his skills because he can no longer serve on submarines as an officer?

What the heck do they do with them, then? There aren't too many sub tenders left to put them on. Do they ever do sea duty anymore?

God what a waste!

12/09/2008 5:51 AM

Blogger Submaster said...

Lots of good comments here. Back when I was an E-5, I had convinced myself if we got into a shooting war, I would personally kill the CO and XO and put the WEPS in charge of fighting the ship. The CO and XO were great Nucs, but could not fight the ship - one of those 1 more legs and missed anyway. Our WEPS was magnificent, CO and XO I believe were quit jealous.

Upward mobility for officer IMO is more based on your ability to be a good NUC than a great warfighter. If you can't prove you are the BEST at fighting a ship, then you should not be a CO. Imagine for a minute a leader of a Brigade who was great at understanding weapon components and how they inter-related, but could not plan and execute a battle plan. Lots of dead guys.

IMHO, too much emphasis on being a good NUC and not enough on how to fight a ship.

12/09/2008 6:40 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Anon Yank Perisher Grad:
Congratulations on your achievement. But I disagree with the top of the class comment.

American students are not the top. Worst example: who ran Trafalgar aground?

Dutch Perisher routinely failed the American. UK Perisher passes the American. Might it be the "special relationship"?

I have no doubt you were successful and deserving of your achievement. Just do not assume that the Americans are better.

12/09/2008 7:27 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lind is behind the power curve. Submarine force leadership identified these problems some time ago and put corrective action in place. There was an article in the NIP late last year that went into great detail about the problem as well as describing the "get-well" plan and progress to date.

My only nuc boat tour started in Summer of 1962. Entire wardroom had qualified and served on smoke boats. Our skipper Al Whittle Jr. had his first command tour on USS Sterlet-SS-392. Those guys were submarine "operators" first and Nuc's second. Our CHENG was "Whitey" Mack. we all know what kind of submarine operator he was.

The complex and expensive weapons we carry today precludes the kind of torpedo shooting that was done "back in the day" that was the major skill builder.

For example in 1973 we shot 118 torpedoes that year including salvo firing two MK 16-8 exercise units (requiring special permission from CSP) and the first Operational test of a MK 16-8 warshot in five years. Our heavy shooting schedule on SS-580 also allowed identifaction of the source of the Flex-hose entanglement problem with the Mk 45-2 torpedo.

I think atrophy of submarine tactical skills really hit the big time with the demise of the Soviet Union and our loss of interest in ASW.

Anyway, there is a corrective plan in place and the problem is being worked on.

My two cents, and keep a zero bubble.....


12/09/2008 12:25 PM

Blogger Mark said...

Disqualifies may have been too strong a word. But really... the idea that we are all nuclear engineers is nonsense. I was an economics and political science major, and just because my first training as an officer is how to run the plant doesn't mean I'm a nuclear engineer - it mostly means I appreciate the plant to a greater extent than "hot rock make ship go."

12/09/2008 12:35 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former nuc, I've long thought that the submarine officer career path should be bifurcated, with the ability to move back and forth at several "bridges".

That would allow great boat drivers to become CO's and XO's, while the very best Nucs became ENG (maybe 2 tours?) and then moved on to NR, tender CO, shipyard, EDO, or other duties.

I'd be in favor of all JOs continuing to go to NNPS, etc, but the first cross-over point should be PNEO.

BTW, to the guy with comp today - what are you doing on the Internet? Well, good luck - comp is easy, but don't tell anyone :)

12/09/2008 1:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the comment about non-nukes selected for LDO and being lost to submarines. I knew a really good IC chief that made LDO and ended up as movie officer on a carrier.

Overall, through 1 SSBN and 3 SSN's I saw CO's and XO's who were excellent tacticians and some who weren't. Same for good/bad leaders. I don't think it's the nuclear training so much as the individual.

My last CO, when I was COB, was a very think outside of the box guy. We were primarily a special warfare dedicated boat and his somewhat unique take on things came in quite handy.

12/09/2008 1:46 PM

Blogger John Byron said...

I remember well the comment made about Bill Lind many years back when he was then-Senator Gary Hart's military guy: "That fat faggot."

We just lost Jack McDonald to liver cancer, he of PINTADO fame. I served with Yogi Kaufman, Frank Kelso, Skip Bowman, and a number of other luminaries. Guys like these could do it all.

The choice between 'good nuke' and 'good shooter' is a false one: both are needed and there are many shining examples to say that it can be done. The real challenge is bringing nuke standards to non-nuke activities, not standing down nuke excellence.

And, as usual, the fat faggot is wrong...

12/09/2008 1:48 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yanks on Perisher

Comsublant is briefed on the results by Teacher. While we know that the results will never be officially released.

With exception the fella you mentioned on Trafalgar - every grad has been #1 or #2

12/09/2008 4:34 PM

Blogger The Mad Medic said...

The Navy is a highly technical force, So having a purely "Tactical" mindset won't work. For example many of the senior enlisted personell are brilliant, however, in a command crisis the COB would NEVER take command, unless every single officer was dead. In the army which is light on technical requirements, in certain dire cases E-9's have commanded O-2's and O-3's just by the bennifit of their experience. The same could be said for the Marine Corps.

I will agree on one thing. Political Corectness in any military is a nail in its coffin. Men (and women) of action must, by nessisity, be blunt. A PC flag officer will give a rosey picture, and not show facts as they should be represented. Likewise, in emergent situations you can not worry about feelings, especially when lives are on the line.

I think the Comand climate in theAirforce and Navy is such that often officers and even whole battlegroups can be lulled into forgetting that their job is one of deadly purpose. Despite the fact that I do NOT want to see modern Seaborne engagements, I can not help but believe, should the US Navy be engaged by a force of near equil ability, the outcoume would be in doubt.

12/09/2008 4:38 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Jay, mate! Your bloke is tactically bloody BRILLIANT! #1 in the class!! By the way, thanks very much for that EHW at Kings Bay! And those missiles. And that new SSBN R&D. And that bloody fantastic AUTEC support site. And Port Canaveral is a GREAT facility. DASO went smashingly!"

12/09/2008 5:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


Both systems have their plusses and minuses. We've always been a mixed bag. Remember: our system of growing up with background in both engineering and tactics evolved from the officer manning of CONVENTIONAL steam ships in the early 20th century (the system that ADM Rickover grew up in).

Perhaps a better thing to ask is this: do our officers spend enough time at sea? I think what the Brits do better is keeping their personnel at sea longer, but allowing them to recharge their batteries with more liberal leave policies that let people take leave for longer periods of time.

I for one would stay at sea 80-90% of my career IF I could take leave in 4-8 week blocks periodically, and switch ships more frequently. (Maybe 2 JO tours, 2 x DH tours-- culminating in ENG??), etc...

12/09/2008 5:43 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Its not culture that causes the risk adverse nature of a CO, its personality. According to Meyers Brigg, most military are none risk takers/error avoiding by nature. Nuclear Power and its "zero tolerance for error is tailor made for such folks.

Forget it. Split the engineroom or not, its personality.


12/09/2008 7:22 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think everyone has missed the point.

The submarine force has suffered a 25 year continuous loss of acoustic advantage.

The missions that once required tactical brilliance are, at this point, prohibited by physics.

So the sub force has turned inward, and, as is typical of any garrison force, has become a meritocracy of keeping the barracks painted and the parade grounds watered. ORSE grades, in short.

The end of this won't be losing a sub to ASUW, but it will be the loss of a carrier b/c the sub force couldn't, or wouldn't, engage the threat.

This is a greater problem than arguing over Coners vs. Nukes, which strikes me as pointless.

The amount of national capital the sub force is entitled to should be roughly proportional to the subsea acoustic advantage it delivers.

If you can't get it back, no amount of screwing with career tracks is going to change the outcome.

Repent, gentlemen. The end is in sight.

12/09/2008 8:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

madmedic92's Quote: "I think the Comand climate in the Airforce and Navy is such that often officers and even whole battle groups can be lulled into forgetting that their job is one of deadly purpose."

I agree with his thoughts quite a bit here. Today's USAF officers are not trained and taught to be leaders and warriors. They are taught to be managers. They are taught to be politically correct in all actions...especially as JR officers.

That really needs to change not only in the USAF but also in all the services. These simple directives and SOPs worked out fine in the mid to late 90s. But nowadays, our junior leadership needs to be taught to lead and command a detachment without worrying if they stepped on someone's dick or hurt someone's feelings. If or WHEN we get into another actual war...Political correctness will be gone completely.

That's why our leadership as a whole, needs to be able to actually lead & fight and win...instead of learning how to prance across a mind field of "politically Correct egg shells."
Gents, am I wrong about all this?

Thanks, J.

12/09/2008 9:15 PM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

What's this first, second, third, forth...generational war institutional culture...what one does captain's masts start?

12/10/2008 12:16 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The curriculum at Annapolis should focus on 'war-fighting',"

Notwithstanding that about 2/3 of the active duty officers (like our esteemed host) never go to the Academy, the problem with teaching Midshipman (or even Ensigns) 'warfighting' is like teaching calculus to someone who hasn't learned algebra - they simply lack any of the mental models (yet) to grok what you are trying to teach them.

Right after the San Fran incident (I think, it may have been one of the ones just before) (and which our host may have seen before he left) was the identification of the division between the decision making process of a junior officer, which will be algorithmic, and that of a senior officer, which will be more intuitive. This strikes me as essentially correct. Now, all levels need to have both elements. But a junior officer simply doesn't have the experience level to develop the skill set of 'warfighting' - a fundamentally 'intuitive' skill imo - by any means other than watching others and running through a few canned scenarios himself before he starts to get the feel for the patterns. And for most, (or at least for me) the gears finally don't click until you hit SOAC.

Now, I would say one of our biggest weaknesses is that we don't do quite enough to ensure our JO's are becoming leaders of men. This is especially true in the submarine force, where they have so many quality people under them that it's hard sometimes to know they're making a difference (or even how to), and DH's above them that are under so much pressure to 'get-r-done' that they too often bypass the JO and go right to the Chief (or 1st class) - I myself was very guilty of this. But I really see no easy solution to this with the way our force is structured. (what I mean by structure includes the rather long training pipelines but moreover the relatively high officer to enlisted ratio for an armed forces unit - compare a modern nuke sub to say the gang in band of brothers; both are around 130-150 people but the latter's senior officer was only an O-3)

One other side comment re Perisher. If you think about it it shouldn't be any surprise that the foreign graduate finishes close to the top. Perisher has 100% (or so) of British CO's but would have a smaller, hand selected subset of US CO's (which you would expect to be 'the best of the best' and all that)

12/10/2008 2:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...What's this first, second, third, forth...generational war institutional culture...what one does captain's masts start?

Mike, here is a wiki link on it.

Not saying it is all correct, but it explains some things.

I suppose you could get captains mast for messing up in any of them.

12/10/2008 6:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem is not that US CO's are demanded to be both engineers and tacticians. Rather, the problem is that we (some, not all) allow the creeping nukism of engineering factors and safety buffers to dominate tactical thinking. In my experience with the NL submarine service (which grew out of the RN perisher tradition), we studied the risk, understood it, and took carefully calculated steps to manage and/or mitigate. We never just applied buffers for buffers' sake. It seems that the mentality in the US is too "nuclear" in that we simply apply buffers to every situation (tactical or otherwise) and blindly expect that those buffers will keep us safe. Which is worse, Trafalgar grounding when they were knowingly navigating one of the most challenging "gaps" in UK waters, or SFO blindly grounding because they expected some (incorrectly determined) buffer or safety margin to keep them safe?

The RN officers I encountered as well as those international officers I worked with in the NL were among the finest tacticians with whom I’ve ever worked—I would not presume any superiority whatsoever for the standard US gold dolphin wearer. Such arrogance has proven dangerous.

12/10/2008 6:20 AM

Blogger Mike Mulligan said...

Wow, I couldn't find in a's not what i thought. No doubt there are groups out there who want to see our demise.

"The simplest definition includes any war in which one of the major participants is not a state but rather a violent ideological network. While this term is similar to terrorism and asymmetric warfare, it is much narrower. Classical examples, such as the slave uprising under Spartacus or the assassination of Julius Caesar by the Roman senate, predate the modern concept of warfare and are examples of the type of combat modern warfare sought to eliminate."

So here the article talks about "but rather violent ideological network"

Fighting can also be without the physical level of war. This is via non-violent means. Examples of this could be Gandhi’s opposition to the British Empire or by Martin Luther King’s marches. Both desired their factions to deescalate the conflict while the state escalates against them, the objective being to target the opponent on the moral and mental levels rather than the physical level.

Not it talks about Gandhi and MLK as combatants.

So the environmental movement, or global warming movement, turning the poor into a socialism is war, while it's OK to nationalize and socialize corporate America...seeing it through these lens I could term the elites war on the poor as a 4th generation war.

I am confused by what a war is. It's an absolutest framework of black and white..sets up the us against them...I am human and you are dehumanized's a state against a non state...I guess what would be a "Just War" in forth generation war.

I mean, what would be political competition and what would be war.

How would I know if somebody considered me a combatant?

12/10/2008 8:45 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have to agree with STSCS: we seem to weight ORSE far more heavily than TRE. I suppose the relative unlikeliness of a major naval war makes preventing a nuclear accident more important to some leaders than realistic tactical training. Interwar periods almost always see an emphasis on avoiding screwing up rather than teaching aggressiveness.

It would be nice if a CO could leave the engineroom to the ENG and concentrate on training his JOs and crew to be better warfighters. But as long as ORSEs remain so critical in determining a CO's future, the cleanliness of the ERF bilge will be a more important than tracking contacts.


12/10/2008 9:30 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...How would I know if somebody considered me a combatant?

Mike, I am sure that many people consider you to be many things, but combatant is probably not one of them. :-)

12/10/2008 10:43 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Getting back to the original question; "Should we follow Lind's advice and become more like the Royal Navy? Or are we doing a fairly good job as it is?", I think at some time during our submarine careers we have all had the "we have too much nuclear training and not enough tactical training" shoot-the-shit discussions. Lind's book just repackages this discussion to make it sound profound to the unitiated.

Most of us agree that it is indeed somewhat lopsided. I agree that running the tea kettle is extremely important, and all officers need to have a thorough understanding of its operation.

Yet, I do believe that we also need to focus more on tactics. There is not enough time spent in training tactics. When I was an instructor at Submarine School, some of my instructor colleagues at SOBC told me of the emphasis drawn away from tactics, and shifted to basic navigation. Navigation is indeed important, but not to the neglect of the basic submarine mission - destruction of the enemy.

Someone above said that the problem is training, and too short a career path. I think that assessment is absolutely correct. The only way to combat a deficiency is training, and to put that training into practice for sufficient periods of time for it to become second nature.

I like the idea of longer/multiple tours. Some of the best (meaning tactically - personality is a seperate and unrelated issue) COs I had were the full bird T-Hull COs who had previous sea commands. They knew how to shoot and fight the ship. Why? Because they had the training and most importantly, the experience.

12/10/2008 12:07 PM

Blogger Steve Harkonnen said...

Although I was not an officer in the navy I would dare venture to say neither was Lind - or at least doesn't strike me as such. Our US Navy officers are top notch; they both specialize in warfare and their specific career path and excel as such.

Lind strikes me as very bold to come across this way. Did he even think or realize, ahead of time, that naval officers will be reading what he's saying?

12/10/2008 12:47 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attempting to stay on topic, I believe that all of the superfluous crap we have/had to deal with that took time away from our real mission is a primary culprit. TQM/L, diversity training, etc. all take time away from what we really need to work on.

Too much time is spent on loony feel-good, social experiments. It isn't a nuke/tactician thing, good CO's can do both. It's all the other unrelated PC crap that can skewer a career just as fast as a grounding.

Former SSN COB

12/10/2008 1:05 PM

Blogger wtfdnucsailor said...

Since I qualified in the mid sixties, was a DH in the seventies and a CO in the eighties, I am an "oldfart." This discussion has been on going since I was a JO. What many do not realize is that the "nuclear culture" is really based on the "command culture" of the really successful COs in WWII. The attention to detail, the exercises, drills, do until you can do it asleep, write the procedure, check the procedure, change the procedure, then do the job is really a command philosophy that existed in the sub force before nuclear power. Since it is so pervasive in the nuc program, most think it originated there. I suspect that my generation of COs were better ship drivers because we went to sea more often, shot torpedoes more often, either in exercises or in the attack center, and went up against an actual opponent during the normal conduct of business. We also did not have much of a life outside the black tube. I had one tour of shore duty before my command tour. The rest of the time I was on a sub (although some of that time was in overhaul). Today, the CO has had to get his ticket punched in joint tours, and other areas rather than honing their abilities in driving and warmaking in subs. I am obviously prejudiced, but I think the current system is just fine. The current generation just needs more opportunity to hone their skills underway without the extreme at sea time my generation lived through. I have seen a VIRGINIA Class sub and am envious of the capability of that boat. Good Luck.

12/10/2008 2:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great observation skipper,

I think the long sea tours for SSN/SSBN wardrooms was driven to a large degree by the explosive growth of the Nuclear Submarine Navy in the 60's and 70's coupled with the KOG's screening/selection/training program for officers. 41 SSBN's between late 50's and mid 60's, thats 81 skippers and wardrooms alone. While long sea tours were tough on everyone I believe all that underway time did enhance tactical skill building. During that period there were still a lot of GSO's on SSBN's who learned their craft on smoke boats and were excellent submarine operators. On SSBN 619B in the early to mid 60's weps/aweps,nav,and com were all diesel drivers. I left that boat in late 66 and we still did not have a nuc officer qualified as OOD, however our Lt. medical officer and Lt. Suppo were qualified diving officers. In fact our Suppo was battle stations diving officer. Just wasn't enough of nucs to go around back then.

Keep a zero bubble.....


12/10/2008 5:54 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, Lind has never served one day in the military in any capacity. But he's a military theorist and strategist. I can't help but shake my head at that.

That's like saying that I'm an expert in all aspects of the game of hockey. I've gone to NHL games and I've watched it on TV. But I've never actually, physically played the game. Does that make me an expert on professional hockey? Should I try and get myself hired as a professional hockey coach? No, I don't think so either.

I can see why the Navy rank & file doesn't pay a whole lot of attention to Lind. Maybe Lind should return to and remain in the ivy tower and teach history and theory. Let's leave the charge and necessity of military organization, command leadership and fighting responsibilities to the real men who wear the uniform and actually know what the hell they're doing. It's been working out pretty well for us for more than 200 years, why change it now?

Thanks, J

12/10/2008 9:52 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Former SSN JO here.

I like the idea of increasing the amount of at-sea time in a sub officer's career. That would develop more experienced officers and allow for improving tactical skills despite heavy nuke training requirements. The main problems are that this model would 1) screw up the career path for sub officers due to longer time-to-flag compared to other communities and/or 2)reduce influence of the submarine force on the larger Navy due to reduced headcount in the sub officer corps. Those problems make it almost impossible that the idea will get implemented. Sad but probably true.

The base problem with the "more-sea-time" idea is that there are a limited number of subs to provide at-sea time to the sub officer corps. The result is that increasing at-sea time for officers will require some combination of a) decrease in the number of sub officers, b)increase in the number operational years an officer has before going to going to flag. Achieving either of things (through adjustments of promotion rate adjustments, recruiting targets and so forth) will put the sub force on a completely different page than the rest of the Navy, to the detriment of the sub force. It sucks organizational politics play into operational decisionmaking, but that's the way things work when you're dealing with thousands of people and billions of dollars. Smaller communities like the SEALs for example don't have to deal with these problems so much because they are left to do their own thing. But the sub force ain't the SEALs.

At the end of the day, I think leaving things as they are is an ok decision. That decision enables the sub force to keep its hull count up, which is probably the most important thing for long-term tactical capability. I'll take today's force of 70 ok-to-good COs over a force with 100% Dick O Kanes/Mush Mortons who run a fleet of 2 submarines.

Any thoughts from a Pentagon type?

12/11/2008 12:37 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about dual crew SSNs as a mechanism for more sea time, combined with a better work/life balance?

12/11/2008 9:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't that like what the SSGNs have now?

12/11/2008 11:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice idea about duel-crew SSN's. Problem is Navy manpower requirements. Subforce will have to double manning requirements. Then train all those people. What made it work in the 60's and 70's was a lot of junior smoke boat officers that were assigned SSBN tours as Nav,Weps/Aweps, and Comms. Smoke boat navy continued to crank out qualified JO's through the late 60's as training pipeline was so much shorter with a focus on boat quals and submarine operator training. There were also a number of former enlisted Nuc's advanced to Ensign/JG who wound up on smoke boats. We had two on SS-580 in 70-73 period. One was CHENG and the other WEPs. Non of these sources of qualified GSO's exit today.

My two cents, and keep a zero bubble......


12/11/2008 1:10 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

Lots of really good comments here, with lots of good ideas. I've always thought that our biggest lost opportunity for tactical training for JOs and DHs is not getting the most we can out of ASW exercises. Back in the 90s, most of them were so poorly scripted that the submarine crew got pretty much zero training out of them; I can only hope they've gotten better. (One exercise we did had us at PD, and the instructions directed us to "have junior officers perform a 'one zig' approach" on the surface ships looking for us. Whoever wrote it had no idea that we don't do ASUW that way.)

12/11/2008 2:04 PM

Blogger Unknown said...

About the 2 crew SSNs. Here is what I heard on board the USS Honolulu in the late 90s about that aspect.

Believe it or not, it has to do with the nuke plant! The reactor core is configured for a certain amount of power. If you 2 crew the SSN, then it will spend twice as much time at sea and will require earlier refueling.

SSBNs have about a 20 year reactor core. USS Alabama commissioned in 1985, and entered PSNS in 2005 for a refueling overhaul!

12/11/2008 2:36 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, the reactor plant screws us. So what else is new?

12/11/2008 6:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dual-crewing submarines would make the problem worse...if you double the number of officers on a boat, you need to double the amount of time spent at sea in order to maintain the sea-time per officer.

Since fast boats already spend well over half of their time at sea, that's just not possible.

Another option would be to increase the wardroom size (so you're getting more man-years of sea time per underway), but it's not clear that you can maintain quality experience-building with 25-30 officers fighting for limited hours of watchtime. (Although it wouldn't be much of a fight if things are the same as they were when I left.)

12/11/2008 6:26 PM

Blogger Bigbill said...

As an LDO who did 14 years on subs before defecting to carriers, it seems like the JO career milestones are what kills the tactical development of the first tour sub officers. They have to dedicate all their time to qualifying EOOW, then shift their focus to OOD, then shift it back to nuklar to pass their PNEO exams. Then they transfer to shore duty. If they don't gain the tactical basics on their first tour, they better luck into a good CO on their department head tour to fix the hole in their knowledge. If they don't, they turn into sh!tty XO's that never screen for command. After that they become a source of entertainment as NSSC commanding officers demonstrating mastery of the obvious at production meetings.

My last sub was a 637 out of Bangor that had LDO's in the wardroom. They were non-nukes who had no agenda other than driving the ship and doing their thing. They were excellent OOD's and had many opportunities to exercise their tactical prowess in challenging environments.

12/11/2008 9:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wait a minute here, I also served on a 637 about 16yrs ago and there were no LDO's on subs... Has something changed recently??? there were also no CWO's on the boats either??

12/11/2008 11:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

He said a 637 out of Bangor 16 years ago with LDO's onboard. Kind of narrow the field as to which one he is talking about.

12/12/2008 2:37 PM

Blogger GSOCO said...

Very interesting blog - just happen to find it during a search for GSO information. There are a lot great comments and insights here. Having been a GSO (maybe the last "real" GSO - finally retired in 2008), I find this discussion very interesting. In my experience there are many examples of great NUKES and great GSOs. There are also, many examples of terrible Nukes and terrible GSOs. However the bottom line is that the only reason the GSO existed at all was due to a dearth of qualified LDOs in the early days of the polaris SSBNs... LDOs were the first SSBN WEPS - there just weren't enough of them - then there was a decision to make the wardroom an "all-college graduate" (read more refined) entity... so the LDO's were winnowed out of their jobs. When I was CSG-6 / CSG-10 WEPS in the early 90's I was going through some old files and found a file of letters written by the CO's in the seventies (we used to keep EVERYTHING!). They all complained of the idiot GSOs they had for WEPS and begged for LDOs to replace them. The irony of this was that at that time (around '89 - mid '90's) the force was in the throes of replacing all the GSOs with NUKES (piggy-backing the NUKES for a patrol as part of qual process) and I was getting daily visits from COs asking how they could be assured of getting a GSO rather than a piggy-backed NUKE... the nukes did fine in the end. They were, in general, very capable and really enjoyed the opportuinity to work forward. The only problem was that the "best" nukes were always billeted as ENG, the middle of the road NUKEs were billeted as NAVs and the anchormen went to WEPS jobs. So the primary mission of the boat was manned by the worst of the NUKEs. There was something very wrong with that picture. Hopefully it has changed. Anyway, great discussion - just thought I'd add a bit of personal insight and history.

9/15/2009 9:45 AM

Anonymous posicionamiento web buscadores said...

This will not succeed in reality, that is what I think.

10/03/2011 2:51 AM

Anonymous muebles en coslada said...

For my part every person must go through this.

11/21/2011 2:34 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone above wrote... "If it ain't broke, don't fuck with it."

That kind of thinking will get sailors killed in the next war. Before the start of the last big naval war (WW2), the conventional thinking was that battleships were key; we saw how long they lasted.

What worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow.

How do we know it "aint broke"? When was the last major war with subs fought? Back when they used diesels and batteries, thats when. Nobody really knows what would happen now. Except for the Royal Navy Falklands campaign, we have no clue.

Whatever other navies are doing, ours ought to be at least evaluating if we should do the same.

10/11/2013 6:55 PM


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