21 Days

Happy Navy Birthday

I had thought about doing nothing more than my traditional Navy birthday greeting but decided that the current countdown series related to the 2020 election is pertinent to the United States Navy.

For the record, I am a volunteer with the Trump Victory team in Pennsylvania serving as the South West PA Regional Lead for Veterans Outreach. My role has been to provide help in raising awareness in the veteran community in the counties around where I live. Prior to that, I was a Chairman for District 4 for the Westmoreland County Republican Committee and I an elected representative to the Republican Party serving Sewickley Township. I have held that elected position for about five years now (having been elected three times).

But I am a third generation Navy Man and have a very strong love of the United States Navy that predates my political adventures. 

As a retired Navy Officer and amateur historian, I have spent many years writing and speaking about Navy history. Quite a bit of that time has been spent on learning and sharing stories about submarines. While the Navy has been around for about 245 years, submarines have been an important part of the Navy for 120 years which is slightly less than half that time.

One lesson I have learned from all of my studies is that while the Navy is independent of any political party, it is highly dependent on having the support of the the government which is in charge. That is why there are so many rules and regulations that prevent active duty folks from being active in party politics. When we are on active duty, we serve the entire nation, not just those we agree with. Doing anything less than that is punishable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and Navy Regulations.

But make no mistake. Everything the Navy does is influenced by political powers.

To pretend otherwise is to demonstrate a complete lack of understanding of the real world. 

Section 8 of the Constitution (yes Bobby, I have a copy and I know how to read) states: 

“The Congress has the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States…  and to provide and maintain a Navy. To make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces…

Therein lies one of the biggest challenges for the Navy’s and the nation’s survival:

Our national defense is very dependent on which politicians get elected. 

What has this meant for the Navy throughout our nation’s history?

Well, depending on the people elected, the Navy was either robust and strong or the Navy and all of the services had to play catchup when the winds of war blew.  The fortunes of the services have always been limited or enhanced by which group controlled the purse strings and policies.

My Grandfather volunteered to join the Navy in May of 1917.

This was the early stages of American involvement in World War 1. He was immediately sent back home to wait for boot camp because there was not enough capacity to train all of the men needed.

The boot camp he eventually ended up going to was a collection of tents and slapped together wooden barracks on the Jersey shore. Like many military recruits of the day, they had no rifles to train with, very little actual equipment and limited rations.

At the completion of his training, he was assigned to a coastal defense ship that had been built at the end of the Civil war. The hull of the ship sat in the yards untouched because of political wrangling until it was completed in 1895.

In other words, he was assigned to something the Navy had in inventory since shortly after my Great Grandfather had fought in the war between the states. 

 

Between the wars

The post World War era was one that was defined by the desire for a global peace on the one hand and the surreptitious desire for global domination on the other by Fascists and Imperialists.  Politicians in the United States and allied countries stripped the Navy of its growth and relegated it to a marginal force of old school steam powered cruisers. Yes there was some growth in submarines and aircraft carriers, but it was grinding. The Japanese used every trick in the book to break or subvert the treaties and build a world class Navy that shocked the world at Pearl Harbor.

American power was again not ready because of the whims of politicians. By the time my Dad entered the Navy in 1945, most of the weaknesses had been overcome. But it was only because of the enormous power and ability of the American machine that we were able to overcome the deficits.

You would think we would learn but we never do.

In the past 75 years, the fortunes of the Navy have gone up and down as much as the tide they ride on. Several times during my short twenty plus years I witnessed firsthand the ability of congress to get it wrong. But when we have had governments committed to providing for the real defense of America, we have prevailed.

This year will be no different. As a nation, we will have to decide if we are ready for a resurging Russian Naval Presence, the rise of the Red Chinese Fleet and the myriad groups of potential terrorist states that have force multipliers such as diesel submarines, missile boats that are agile and harder to protect, or rogue states that continue to develop weapons of mass destruction.

Every election is important. But this election has one critical element that is not being discussed very much. What direction will the Navy go in? What is the strategic and tactical plan? And who will best make sure we are ready to meet the emerging and existing threats?

Our nation was able to recover from the disaster at Pearl Harbor because our industrial base and distribution networks were not affected. We could build back quickly enough and make sure our armed forces got what they needed in time to turn the tide. Will we have that same luxury in the event of a catastrophic new “Pearl Harbor”? One only has to see the effects of the current pandemic to understand how vulnerable we truly are.  When you vote, make sure you understand how the people you elect to President, the Senate, and to the House of Representatives are capable of leading through crisis.

Mister Mac

 

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