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Thursday, November 02, 2017

Military Lessons to Be (Re-) Learned from the Astros World Series Win

Let's begin with the Astros plan - About That Prediction ... How the Astros Went From Baseball's Cellar to the 2017 World Series
“When you’re in 2017, you don’t really care that much about whether you lost 98 or 107 in 2012,” Luhnow said back then. “You care about how close we are to winning a championship in 2017.” In other words, they were entirely focused on several years down the line, which meant shedding every one of their expensive assets and starting from scratch. People hated it.
The most remarkable thing of all about the Astros is this: they told everyone exactly what they were going to do—and then they did it.

So, as the old diving saying goes, "Plan your dive, dive your plan" - making a plan forces you to think of the long view, while giving you the flexibility to assess short term issues that may arise while the plan is being played out. As President Eisenhower once quoted,
I tell this story to illustrate the truth of the statement I heard long ago in the Army: Plans are worthless, but planning is everything. There is a very great distinction because when you are planning for an emergency you must start with this one thing: the very definition of "emergency" is that it is unexpected, therefore it is not going to happen the way you are planning.

So, the first thing you do is to take all the plans off the top shelf and throw them out the window and start once more. But if you haven't been planning you can't start to work, intelligently at least.

That is the reason it is so important to plan, to keep yourselves steeped in the character of the problem that you may one day be called upon to solve--or to help to solve.
War in the Pacific beginning in 1941? War Plan Orange:
[RADM] Rodgers' concept was little different from the one ultimately used in the Pacific War: a "leapfrog" campaign to conquer the Marshalls and Carolines (held by Japan before the war); liberation of the Philippines; and blockade.[3] Absent was the "decisive battle" of Mahan, and of Japanese planning.

American war planners failed to appreciate that technological advances in submarines and naval aviation had made Mahan's doctrine obsolete. In particular, they did not understand that aircraft could effectively sink battleships, nor that Japan might put the U.S. battleship force (the Battle Line) out of action at a stroke—as in fact happened during Pearl Harbor.

American plans changed after this attack. Even after major Japanese defeats like Midway, the U.S. favored a methodical "island-hopping" advance, never going far beyond land-based air cover.[7] Meanwhile, blockade was imposed from the very beginning of the war, with the first American submarine, USS Gudgeon, arriving off Japan on about 31 December 1941.[8]

A number of requirements grew out of Orange, including the specification for a fleet submarine with high speed, long range, and heavy torpedo armament.[9] These coalesced in the submarine Dolphin[10] in 1932 (only to be rejected and returned to with the Gato class in around August 1941).[11] The demand for submarines of this size also drove the development of the notorious Mark XIV torpedo (and its equally notorious Mark VI exploder), under the guidance of Commander[12] Ralph W. Christie.[13] The Navy also spent "several hundred thousand dollars" to develop powerful, compact diesel engines, among them the troublesome Hooven-Owens-Rentschler (HOR), which proved useful for railroads.
The plan is dead? Long live the plan!

Today the U.S. Navy is short of ships, the smaller fleet we have to meet too many commitments seems to have been "ridden hard and put away wet", in the classic meaning of that phrase. For the surface Navy, maintenance has suffered and it's blindingly obvious that training has suffered.
With regard to procedures, no one on the Bridge watch team, to include the commanding officer and executive officer, were properly trained on how to correctly operate the ship control console during a steering casualty.
I'm sure that firing people and many a "long green table" will be joining those already in progress.

However, what is really needed is a plan - a long-term plan to re-invigorate the Surface Warfare Community - which includes both more ships that can fight and more quality in the training of those who will fight them.

What should come first? I say more ships - and in a hurry - so that maintenance schedules for existing ships can be established while commitments can still be met.

Secondly, and the Navy is beginning to address this, better training for the surface warfare community. I assert that all non-warfare training be conducted before any sailor or officer hits the fleet. All the time wasted on non-warfare concerns eats into the time to be spent on basic shiphandling, emergency procedures and (although the crews in recent incidents have performed well in this area) damage control. If after all the "social" training has been entered into a sailor's record there is a violation of those rules, then punishment should be both swift and severe enough to warn all the others. Is being an alert watchstander so complicated that only geniuses can perform the task? Not in my experience. What is needed is the understanding that the watch team - consisting of the bridge team (OOD, JOOD, lookouts, Quartermasters, helm and after steering), the engineering watch, and those watch standers in CIC needs to know it job completely and to also needs to know when to call for help.

The Navy can rightly point to Congressional budget games for some of the issues it faces. On the other hand, it can also point to its own willingness to report "Can Do" when it should have been screaming "Can't Do" as factors in the need  to develop a new plan that matches the reality of the current fleet.

And the need to develop a long-term plan to restore the Navy to its preeminate position in the world.

An "Astros" plan.

(update - edited next to last paragraph for clarity.) (update 2 - edited again for clarity and to add that part about the watch team that I accidently left out in the original.)

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