You can read the text of it over at Salamander’s place. Micromanagement? Possibly. Necessary? Some folks, among which is a guy named Greenert, seem to think so. From where I sit, it seems there is some serious concern (finally) on the part of Navy leadership from the CNO on down, including SURFPAC, that our numbered Fleet Commanders don’t know how to fight their fleets, that Task Force Commanders do not know how to fight their task forces, nor Battle Group Commanders their Battle Groups, or individual COs and Officers, their warships. There is, it is suspected, a lack of understanding of warfighting at all levels. From the Operational Arts, to doctrine and tactics, down to techniques, and procedures, there is an alarming lack of understanding in areas for which we should strive for mastery. In addition, it is likely that there is serious question about the true state of readiness of our fleet and the ships and aircraft (and Sailors) which comprise it. Maintenance, training, proficiency, mindset, all these are suspect.
I think SURFPAC’s message is a very good step in the right direction. It may also shake out the most egregious impediments to training for war, both self-inflicted and externally imposed. This includes peripheral tasks that take up inordinate time and attention, maintenance and manpower shortcomings that render weapons and engineering systems non-mission capable, and jumping through burdensome administrative hoops required to perform the most basic of combat training.
I cannot say whether or not VADM Rowden dislikes Mission Command. I hope that he does not, because the ability of junior commanders to take the initiative and act boldly across widely-flung battlefields in the absence of orders has been the critical element of success for many centuries. But Mission Command requires junior leaders who are positively imbued in their craft, and senior leaders who understand what must be done and can clearly express their intent (and then have the courage to trust their subordinates). The entirety of the US Navy, more so perhaps than the other services, must rely on such leadership for its survival in combat with an enemy. Unfortunately, the Navy may be the service that has become the most over-supervised and zero-defect-laden bastion of micromanagement in all of DoD.
Vice Admiral Rowden’s message has an almost desperate tone to it. As if, to quote Service, Navy leadership realizes that it is later than you think. One cannot help but be reminded of the myriad comments from US cruiser sailors in 1942. Following initial and deadly encounters with a skilled and fearsome Japanese Navy in the waters off the Solomons, many deckplate sailors swore they would never again bitch about the seemingly incessant gunnery and damage control drills that interrupted their shipboard lives. Like 1942, a Naval clash against a near-peer who can muster temporary advantage will be a costly affair where even the winner is badly bloodied. Unlike 1942, there is no flood of new warships on the slips which can make good such losses.
Words from an earlier post of USS Hugh W. Hadley, on the picket line off Okinawa, reinforce the importance of what VADM Rowden wants:
LESSONS LEARNED, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS:
1. It must be impressed that constant daily drills in damage control using all personnel on the ship and especially those who are not in the regular damage control parties will prove of value when emergencies occur. The various emergency pumps which were on board were used effectively to put out fires. Damage control schools proved their great value and every member of the crew is now praising this training.
2. I was amazed at the performance of the 40 and 20 guns. Contrary to my expectation, those smaller guns shot down the bulk of the enemy planes. Daily the crews had dinned into their minds the following order “LEAD THAT PLANE”. Signs were painted at the gun stations as follows “LEAD THAT PLANE”. It worked, they led and the planes flew right through our projectiles.
Not the things of (fill in the blank) History Month or of SAPR or “diversity” training….