The Drift

Navigation Brief

Some maniac put the Army in charge: The Drift, Vol. XLI

ALEXANDRIA – It’s morning in America.

We’ve had a dark run of news in the Navy and very little levity. And things that might have offered levity have failed to do so. Hunter Killer was a disappointment. The USS Indianapolis move sucked. But hope springs eternal, and I think we might have something to look forward to after all.

The new Top Gun movie trailer is out and it’s got a lot of things going for it. An earlier teaser poster had let on that he was an O-6, something we all called BS on for the 57-year-old cruise. We can perhaps let a few years slide for the youthful-looking Cruise, but it was a stretch. Well the trailer addresses it right out of the gate: He’s too old to be a captain and he’s apparently surviving on age waivers and a determination to keep flying in this man’s Navy.

Good start. It’s also what my friend Hope Seck over at noted was “Super Hornet erotica” of the highest order. It certainly is that. Tom Cruise termed it today a “love-letter to aviation.” And I guess even this unrepentant skimmer can be there for that. The Navy seems to have given the movie a ton of support, and that’s as it should be. I’m not here to whine about the cost of supporting the film, I’m just glad the pilots got the flight hours. It would be off-brand of me not to note, however, that even in the trailer which was head-to-toe a lot of fun, there is no escapist fantasy that can stop my war on running rust.

There is rust in the trailer! Gah!

Anyway, on to more serious business.

Someone decided it would be a good idea to put the Army in charge of the military. Both Mark Esper, the former Army Secretary, and Gen. Mark Milley, former Army chief of staff, went to the hill in recent days. And while discussion of maritime issues was cursory, I figured lets dig in to what our new ground-pounding, landlubber masters had to say.

Let’s drift!


The Army Goes Sailing Along

As I said in the intro, there was limited content for navalists in the two hearings but what there was is worth mentioning, and I’ll start with my favorite topic of all:


Wounded warrior and retired Army Lt. Col. Tammy Duckworth, senator for the great state of Illinois, has emerged as one of the Senate’s champions for sealift. She asked both Milley and Esper about it, here’s what she had to say and what they had to say:

Duckworth & Milley

Duckworth: When we sat down together we had a good conversation about the importance of logistics to project and sustain our military power. How would you advise the president and the White House on what we need to do today to prepare for the fights of tomorrow whether through funding, policy or other prioritization shifts especially when it comes to logistics?

Milley: I think logistics military professionals look at logistics as a long pole in the tent. And the ability to for us to project forces overseas by TRANSCOM, for example, the long sea and air lines of communication and keeping those open to sustain both ground, air and naval forces in a theater in an active theater all of that depends on logistics.

The ability to move and shoot and communicate all of that is kind of logistics tailed to it. So, it is a critical area of warfighting and I want to believe that we pay close attention to it, which we do. And in terms of funding, things like airlift and sealift capabilities oftentimes are overlooked because they are not the leading edge of the warfighting. But those are capabilities we need to continue to invest in.

Duckworth & Esper

Duckworth: Would you commit to me that if you are confirmed you will pay closer attention to our logistical needs, to include funding for sealift, airlift and other aspects of our logistics infrastructure and we must also include here amphibious shipping for the Marine Corps?

Esper: Absolutely senator and just to share with you for the broader audience look, the Army gets in the fight through sealift, 90 percent of its equipment goes by sea and if they can't get their it won't be in the fight, it won't be relevant and I have had this conversation as Sec. of the Army with Sec. of the Navy Spencer and he agrees we need to modernize and build capacity into our sealift.

And then second with regard to the Marines absolutely they need to have the requisite number of amphibs to do their missions, they are short now and that is something that I am committed to seeing through.

Annotated: The exchange is brief but telling. Both leaders acknowledge the importance of sealift logistics. The discussion inside the Navy, as always, is how do you pay for it? There are no magic budget fairies flying in with $10 billion to save the Navy from this bill, it’s going to have to fit into the shipbuilding budget along with FFG(X), Large Surface Combatant, two-to-three Virginias per year and, of course, Columbia.

This isn’t an easy lift.

Operation Sentinel

There was an interesting exchange on the tensions in Iran, and it’s worth keeping an eye on. Sen. Jack Reed talked about it with Esper and Sen. Martha McSally raised it with Milley. See below:

Reed: How do we take steps that would mitigate possible escalation leading to kinetic activity--how do you do that?

Esper: A couple of things. First of all, what we try to do is try and foreclose the opportunity for any miscalculation and misunderstanding by developing a concept that I [is] soon [to be] called Operation Sentinel whereby we do passive patrolling in the Strait of Hormuz, Gulf of Iran and Persian Gulf to deter any provocative acts by the Iranians or the IRGC.

At the same time, from the highest levels of government, from the President himself we said we will meet anytime, anywhere without precondition to discuss with the Iranians to get us on the diplomatic path.

Reed: So, you think that diplomatic path is most thoughtful way to proceed?

Esper: Diplomacy always is.

Here is the exchange with McSally:

McSally: Can you just comment on your views on what's going on in the Straits of Hormuz with the Iranian mission what it would take out of our forces and how that might impact our larger priorities in the National Defense Strategy?

Milley: Freedom of navigation is a fundamental principal and a norm for the international order that's been in place for now seven decades and we have a crucial role to enforce that norm. So, I think that what we are trying to do with the coalition is provide military escort, naval escort, [of] commercial shipping. I think that will be an important factor developing over the next couple weeks.

Annotated: Reuters is out with a report today that the military is struggling to piece together Operation Sentinel, as it seems our allies don’t trust that we’re not roping them into an escalation.

It’s hard to know how much credence to give that report, however, since Great Britain has already committed three warships to the region, at least two are on normal patrols. But a third was dispatched this week. I’ll be looking to see if France and perhaps Norway or Japan or even China will hop in to Operation Sentinel.


Geeze, there just was not a ton of Navy discussion, and the things that were not discussed are telling: No talk of 355, no talk of the Navy’s air wing issues, no talk of attack submarines and the shortfall there. Esper talked pretty extensively about the need to modernize the Ohio-class boomers, but that’s already in progress so it’s not clear if there is more modernization that needs to happen of if he is referencing the program of record.

I’m not sensing a big push to realign priorities and grow the size of the fleet, ya’ll.

Time for The Hotwash.

The Hotwash

Shooting down drones, but with what?

The President said the Navy shot down an Iranian drone in the Gulf this past week, but it’s very unclear the details. The Associated Press is not reporting a method. CNN reported that it was jammed, which would be super cool. But we shall see. Iran, for its part, is denying it lost a drone.

Excerpt: Iran on Friday denied President Donald Trump’s statement that a U.S. warship destroyed an Iranian drone near the Persian Gulf after it threatened the ship — an incident that marked a new escalation of tensions between the countries less than a month after Iran downed an American drone in the same waterway and Trump came close to retaliating with a military strike.

The Iranian military said all its drones had returned safely to their bases and denied there was any confrontation with a U.S. vessel the previous day.

“We have not lost any drone in the Strait of Hormuz nor anywhere else,” tweeted Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi.

Related: Looks like we are deploying troops to Saudi.

Excerpt: The U.S. is poised to send hundreds of U.S. troops to Saudi Arabia, according to new media reports.

CNN reports two U.S. defense officials said 500 troops will deploy to Prince Sultan Air Base, which the U.S. has eyed as a spot for increased presence because intelligence indicates the desert region would be difficult for Iranian missiles to strike.

The new troops would be in addition to a small number of troops and support personnel already in Saudi Arabia readying a Patriot missile defense battery and a runway.

Confirming What We Knew

Close followers of Defense News will know that we reported that Vice Adm. Michael Gilday would likely be the next CNO, and we were correct. It was the subject of last week’s Drift!

Excerpt:Vice Adm. Michael Gilday has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the next chief of naval operations, according to a senate announcement Wednesday on the nomination.

Gilday, a three-star admiral, is now the director of the Joint Staff, a position he has held since March. If confirmed, he would be promoted to a four-star admiral.

"The entire Navy should be very excited by today’s announcement,” Adm. John Richardson, the current chief of naval operations, said Thursday in a statement posted to his official Facebook page. “Adm. Mike Gilday is a true cutting edge warfighter, a surface warrior who, by virtue of his leadership at 10th Fleet, fully appreciates the challenges we face in the cyber warfare arena and the increasing pace of competition in new domains.”

Read the full article:Gilday nominated to be next chief of naval operations

More Reading

This Navy warship went down in World War II with 49 crew members aboard. Divers finally found it after 75 years

Awful: The U.S. Navy Is Searching for a Sailor Who Went Overboard in the Arabian Sea

Heed, ye: Navy brass, low budget blamed for Argentina sub tragedy

Navy kickback king going to prison

Leonardo helicopter clears final FAA approval