CAVASSHIPS Podcast [Jul 17, 21] Episode 6…Good Intentions or Simply a Stick in the Eye?


Welcome to the CavasShips Podcast with Christopher P. Cavas and Chris Servello…a weekly podcast looking at naval and maritime events and issues of the day – in the US, across the seas and around the world.
This week… a spate of articles and reports critical of the Navy’s management and culture appeared in media and on Capitol Hill, including a piece on fighting culture that has prompted a fair share of controversy…we discuss.

In this Week’s Squawk Chris Servello responds to the Montgomery and Schmidle Report…what happens next and for how long?

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This Week’s Naval Round Up:

Britain’s Carrier Strike Group 21 had an up and down week. After passing through the Suez Canal July 6 and 7 and entering the Red Sea, the carrier QUEEN ELIZABETH met up first with a Japanese destroyer on July 11 and then the US carrier RONALD REAGAN and amphibious assault ship IWO JIMA on July 12 in the Gulf of Aden – an impressive display of US Navy, US Marine Corps, British Navy and Air Force and Dutch naval forces. But the BBC reported July 13 a covid outbreak on board the QUEEN ELIZABETH and some ships of the task group, with as many as 100 personnel on board the carrier testing positive for the disease. All those on board the carrier have received a full two doses of vaccine and the outbreak seems to have been contained as the ship continued the deployment. Also on July 13 a sailor was reported to have died on board another ship of the task group, the British frigate KENT; unofficial reports said the death was a suicide. Meanwhile the British destroyer DIAMOND, also part of the QUEEN ELIZABETH group, apparently suffered an engine failure of some sort and remained in the Mediterranean Sea while the rest of the group headed for Suez. DIAMOND was last reported at Augusta, Sicily and may require a changeout of one of her main propulsion gas turbines. It is not clear when or if the ship will rejoin the group but the ships are designed to swap out engines relatively quickly. And just for a little icing on the cake, it was reported July 15 that about eight covid cases have been reported on QUEEN ELIZABETH’s sistership PRINCE OF WALES after a visit to Gibraltar.

Exercises – SeaBreeze exercises wrapped up in the Black Sea. On July 16 the US fast expeditionary transport YUMA exited the inland sea after a week of operations, followed by the destroyer ROSS, which spent three weeks operating in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Down Under,  the big Talisman Sabre joint exercises began this week in Australia with US and Australian forces. Unsurprisingly, a Chinese intelligence ship was reported by Australian press to be in the area observing the exercises. Further north, Taiwan media reported a Chinese intelligence ship and the US destroyer PINKNEY operating off the island nation’s east coast.

And the carrier DWIGHT D EISENHOWER is returning home to Norfolk on July 18 to conclude a deployment to US Central Command that began in February. The aircraft of Carrier Air Wing THREE returned to their home bases on July 13. Interestingly, although the EISENHOWER pre-deployment composite unit training exercises were a bit long at six weeks, the deployment lasted exactly five months, despite an announcement a couple months ago the cruise would be extended. IKE is now headed for a spell in Norfolk Naval Shipyard.

In Washington, Carlos Del Toro, the Biden administration’s nominee to become the next Secretary of the Navy, faced the Senate Armed Services Committee July 13 along with several other Defense Department nominees. There were no apparent issues during the hearing and — unless a senator puts a hold on the nomination – Del Toro’s nomination should be reported to the full Senate for a vote — which, in any case, is not expected to happen until just before the August recess.

And, for the first time, a woman has completed the Naval Special Warfare training to become a Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewman, or SWCC. The sailor – who was not named by the Navy – graduated with the other 16 members of her class July 15 at Coronado, California. Only about 35 percent of those who begin the training are able to successfully complete the course. SWCCs are a unique breed, specializing in covert insertion and extraction of special warfare teams.

This Week’s Squawk…by Chris Servello:

This week’s release of the report from Admiral Montgomery and General Schmidle drew much attention inside and outside of naval circles. 

And while I agree with many of the findings and anecdotes shared in the report…I’m disappointed with the political overtones and how it’s being used for partisan purposes. 

Look…the road to hell is paved with good intentions and despite arguments to the contrary, I worry this report will be nothing more than a stick in the eye to the administration and those trying to fix the very problems the report claims to illuminate.

But let’s assume I’m wrong…so putting politics, methodology and timing aside…the question I’m left with is “what happens next and for how long?”

I was the public affairs officer at naval surface forces in 2010 when the Balisle Report was released. And as is the case with this report the Balisle findings were held up by critics in and outside of the Navy as the answer to all the surface forces’ problems. 

And while Admiral Balisle’s report was supposed to be the roadmap to recovery…like many similar reports before it, big Navy and Congress lost steam after about 18-months of enacting the Balisle‘s recommendations…and we essentially find ourselves in the same spot a decade later. The only difference being our adversaries are larger and more capable. 

So to Senator Cotton and Reps Banks, Crenshaw and Gallagher…as well as those who claim the report to be more than just “political-hackery”…the request is simple…put your money, time and vote where your report is.

Do your part to help the Navy carry out these recommendations. Work in your caucus and across the aisle to provide the needed funding and responsible oversight necessary to actually make some of this stuff come to fruition. 

Because when it comes time to deter conflict or god forbid spill blood at sea for American values…your efforts will be judged on your actions not on the release of this report.

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