Streetwise Professor

May 7, 2010

Louis A. Gates?

Filed under: Military,Politics — The Professor @ 5:13 pm

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has fired a shot across the bows of the US Navy.   He cast doubts on the Navy’s mission, and whether its procurement plans were consistent with what should be its mission or were a relic of the past.  He even hinted at reducing the number of carriers in the fleet.  This has touched off quite a firestorm in the Navy blogosphere, like this piece.

I hope to comment on the substance of Gates’s remarks, and the responses thereto later.  I just have time now to mention a historical parallel.  Truman’s Defense Secretary, Louis A. Johnson, believed that the Navy and the Marine Corps were anachronisms in the nuclear age, and desiring to cut defense expenditures overall, Johnson imposed brutal cuts on the USN and USMC, including the elimination of the first supercarrier, the USS United States, then on the ways.

This touched off the “Revolt of the Admirals” and vicious internecine fighting between the Navy and the newly-established US Air Force.  The Navy survived most of the feared cuts.

The Korean War broke out soon afterwards, and the dreadful first days of the war revealed that Johnson’s budget measures had ravaged the military, the Army as well as the Navy.  (In fairness, Johnson was faithfully implementing Truman’s policy.)  American forces were woefully unprepared.  The first Army units deployed from Japan were ill-equipped, poorly trained, and soft from garrison duty.  They paid a horrific price in the face of the NoKo onslaught.  Ironically, the 1st Marine Division staved off disaster.

Not saying that history will repeat itself, but the Johnson parallel popped into mind reading Gates’s remarks and the reaction to them.  It will be very interesting to see where things go from here.

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  1. Carriers are good for showing the flag and brow beating inferiors. So many are probably not needed. Nuclear subs are the real capital ships of the modern age. An Ohio SSGN conversion is probably the best can of whupass per budget dollar spent these days. But then Gates wants to cut the sub force as well…

    Comment by So? — May 7, 2010 @ 10:12 pm

  2. Gates is brilliant and correct, as usual. Carriers are becoming the battleships of the 21st century.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 8, 2010 @ 1:37 am

  3. Don’t worry SWP, the US will remain the most cossal defense spender in the world by a very wide margin, and US defense spending + that of US allies will continue to constitute >80% of global defense spending for a good many years to come.

    Somehow, I don’t think sailors are gonna go on short rations, or be dirven to rearm Constitution.

    Comment by rkka — May 8, 2010 @ 10:35 am

  4. I have written on the future of naval warfare here.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — May 9, 2010 @ 9:12 am

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