Battleships, the Congress, and national defense


Another salvo was fired in The Washington Times this morning in the fight over the reactivation of two WW II era battleships.  The author of the opinion piece is William M. Stearman, who is executive director of the U.S. Naval Fire Support Association, a former Navy officer, and a former member of the National Security Council.  He makes additional convincing arguments on why the USS Iowa and the USS Wisconsin should be retained until a suitable replacement can be found that can provide the naval surface fire support needed by Marines for amphibious operations.

No matter which side of the debate readers are on, one thing in this article is clear: the Pentagon and the Congress will make critical national defense decisions based more on legalistic maneuvers, political expediency, and monetary benefit rather than sound logic and valid military requirements.  Here we are in the middle of a global war against Islamo—fascism, and it's still business as usual for the Congress and the inside—the—beltway military.  Stearman notes the inside political moves:

So, why is the Navy trying so hard to effect this?  A Nov. 19, 2004, GAO report on NSFS [naval surface fire support] revealed that battleships are, in effect, the only potential sources of NSFS in sight.(This was reinforced by subsequent developments.)  Moreover, in the report, following the Navy's arguments against reactivation came the statement: "Marine Corps supports the strategic purpose of reactivating two battleships" in accordance with Public Law 104—106, requiring the Navy to maintain these ships in reserve until it has within the fleet an NSFS capability equaling or exceeding that of the battleships.  Since the Navy cannot possibly meet this standard, it is asking Congress to repeal the law. [emphasis added]

The GAO report came out as the Navy was (and still is) engaging in a full—court press promoting its pet project, the futuristic and very expensive DD(X) destroyer.  One can imagine that the Navy feared that eventually logic might well dictate reactivating the battleships, thus diverting funds from the DD(X).  The safe thing to do, then, was to get Congress to take them completely off the board, so neither the Marines nor anyone else could ever get them brought into active service, no matter how badly they are needed.  (Probably in the face of congressional support for the Navy, Marine Corps leadership has, sadly, given up.) Our good fighting Marines certainly deserve better than this. [emphasis added]

Whether it's the Army deliberately ignoring the law on prohibiting women from combat, or congressmen complaining about force structure realignment, it seems DoD bureaucrats and our legislators are further divorcing themselves from the reality of the battlefield and the global war our service members are fighting every day to ensure our freedom.

Without national level military leadership and congressional support, it will be a very long war indeed.

Doug Hanson  09—07—05