The Department of the Navy oversees both the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. The Navy represents the seagoing branch of the armed services, maintaining fleets of ocean-going surface vessels and submarines capable of extending American sea and air power anywhere in the world. The U.S. Navy features some of the most sophisticated ships and weapons systems in the world. Efforts to continually develop newer and more expensive ships and planes have led to criticism by government watchdogs. Some naval commanders also came under fire for questioning the Bush administration’s strategy in the Middle East.
Even before there was a United States, there was the Navy. In 1775, a year before the Colonies declared independence from Britain, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution to procure two armed vessels, which represented the beginning of the Continental Navy. Congress also established a Naval Committee, which directed the purchasing, outfitting, manning, and operations of the first ships of the new Navy. The Navy’s first war produced little in the way of victories, owing to the small size and inexperience of America’s fledgling fleet, which was matched against the finest navy in the world at that time. The war did produce, however, the Navy’s first hero in John Paul Jones, who became famous for his immortal cry, “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Once the Revolutionary War ended, the Navy was disbanded, as was the Army, due to concerns that maintaining a standing military force might threaten the young democracy. The decision left American ships vulnerable to pirates who captured U.S. vessels during the 1790s and held American sailors for ransom. Leaders in Washington D.C., became so incensed by the attacks that funding was provided to restore the Navy. Several squadrons of ships were sent to the Mediterranean Sea to fight in what became known as the Barbary Wars around the turn of the century.
The Navy, led by Commodores Richard Dale and Edward Preble, blockaded the coast from which the pirates were operating, bombarded fortresses on the shore, and engaged in hotly contested gunboat battles. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur’s exploit in destroying the captured frigate USS Philadelphia, and Captain Richard Somers’ effort, from the fire-ship USS Intrepid, to blow up enemy vessels in Tripoli harbor, established precedents in courage for the fledgling naval service. Their actions also led to the cessation of attacks on American shipping in the Mediterranean Sea.
Decatur and other veterans of the Barbary Wars went on to lead the U.S. Navy in the next round of warfare against Britain during the War of 1812. The war was brought on in part by an attack at sea by the HMS Leopard on the USS Chesapeake, which refused to submit to an inspection by the British, who were looking for citizens to press into the Royal Navy. The Leopard severely damaged the Chesapeake when the Americans refused. The incident brought about another famous quote when Captain James Lawrence, commander of the USS Chesapeake, uttered, “Don’t give up the ship!” while British sailors seized his vessel. Much of the War of 1812 was fought at sea, and this time the U.S. Navy enjoyed greater success against the superior English force, which outnumbered American ships 50-to-1. The Constitution racked up several victories against British man-of-wars. The war also had its failures for the Navy, which failed to prevent British forces from landing near Washington D.C., and burning down the capital.
The next 40 years were fairly unremarkable for Navy exploits. It did participate in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848 by blockading the coast of Mexico. The most significant achievement before 1860 came from Commodore Matthew Perry, who successfully opened feudal Japan to American trading in 1854. It wasn’t until the Civil War that the Navy experienced one of the most influential periods in its history.
In April 1861 Union commanders burned their ships at the Norfolk Navy Yard in Virginia to prevent their capture by the Confederates. But not all of the ships were completely destroyed. The Merrimack still had its hull and steam engine, giving Confederate commander Stephen Mallory the idea of repairing the ship using iron plates. Thus, “ironclads” were born, marking the beginning of the end for wooden naval ships. The Union built its own ironclad, the Monitor, which fought the Merrimack (which by then had been renamed the CSS Virginia by the Confederates) in the famed “Battle of the Ironclads” in early 1862, which was basically a draw.
The Civil War also marked the launching of the first submarine in the U.S. Navy. In response to the Confederacy’s building the Merrimack, the U.S. Navy commissioned the building of the USS Alligator, a small sub that relied on a hand-cranked propeller for propulsion. Although the Alligator failed to participate in any naval battles, it did mark the beginning of an entirely new form of naval operations that would become prevalent in the next century.
Following the Civil War, the Navy again went through a period of decline. By the 1880s some naval officers clamored for rebuilding the Navy, arguing that American merchant ships were too vulnerable on the high seas. The federal government began investing in modern navy of steel-hull warships, such as the battleship USS Maine. When tensions began to rise between the U.S. and Spain in the late 19th century, the Maine was dispatched to the harbor in Havana, Cuba, a Spanish colony. On Feb. 15, 1898, the Maine suddenly and mysteriously blew up. U.S. leaders blamed Spain for the sinking, which provoked the outbreak of war. The Spanish-American War was a turning point in the history of the United States, signaling the country’s emergence as a world power.
When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901 upon the assassination of President William McKinley, the Navy gained an important ally. Under his administration, Roosevelt ordered the Navy to expand its fleet of warships. By 1907 the U.S. had 16 new battleships that comprised the Great White Fleet, which Roosevelt sent on a cruise around the world to demonstrate American naval power. Although far more powerful than ever before, the U.S. Navy still was not formidable enough to allow the next president, Woodrow Wilson, the ability to maintain American neutrality among European powers fighting in World War I. The war marked the beginning of submarine warfare, as Germany deployed subs in the Atlantic to attack British vessels, including the luxury liner Lusitania, killing almost 1,200 passengers, many of whom were Americans. The sinking of the Lusitania outraged U.S. leaders, and demonstrated to naval commanders both the danger and potential of this new form of warfare.
The U.S. Navy was limited in its actions during WWI, confined mostly to coastal defense. Following the war, naval leaders began investing in two new kinds of surface vessels: light cruisers and aircraft carriers. The latter would prove to be the most significant addition to modern naval warfare in the 20th century. In the 1920s the Navy launched three aircraft carriers, including the USS Lexington and the Saratoga, both of which would go on to see significant action in World War II. The addition of these new warships resulted in the Navy assuming much greater interest in aviation and the development of new fighter planes that could be launched from carriers.
Even though the U.S. Navy had invested in several aircraft carriers, the bulk of the U.S. fleet as of 1941 was still focused on battleships. This changed dramatically after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. The surprise attack by squadrons of Japanese fighters and bombers launched from aircraft carriers far offshore, devastated the U.S. fleet, sinking five of its eight battleships. Fortunately, none of the Navy’s carriers were in port at the time of the attack, leaving them to become the new centerpiece of America’s Pacific Fleet. The following year, the carriers Lexington and Yorktown engaged the Japanese in the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which the Lexington was lost. Shortly after that, the Yorktown, joined by carrier groups featuring the Enterprise and Hornet, fought a key naval battle near Midway Island. Although the U.S. lost the Yorktown, the battle proved even more costly for Japan, which lost four aircraft carriers.
With naval air power the dominant force in the Pacific, the loss of the carriers effectively ended any Japanese threat against the west coast of the United States. From 1943 on, the U.S. Navy gained the upper hand in engagements against the Japanese by dominating the skies over any battle. The war in the Pacific also marked the advent of U.S. submarine warfare, as American subs roamed the ocean attacking Japanese naval vessels and merchant supplies. Submarine warfare was also a critical component in the European Theater, as German U-boats preyed on Allied shipping. In the Atlantic, the U.S. Navy’s prime job was protecting massive convoys of “Liberty ships” carrying supplies to England and Russia to help them in the fight against the Germans. During the early phases of WWII, U-boats wreaked havoc on convoys, sometimes sinking dozens of ships at a time. But with advances in sonar and other anti-submarine systems, such as depth-charges, U.S. Navy destroyers became more effective in sinking U-boats, allowing more merchant ships to reach Allied ports.
When it came time for the Allied forces to launch the Normandy invasion in 1944, the U.S. Navy played a critical role. On D-Day, the largest amphibious landing ever attempted in the history of naval warfare succeeded in helping Allied troops establish a foothold on European soil and begin pushing the Germans out of France.
The advent of the nuclear age during the Cold War had a profound effect on the U.S. Navy. Before the discovery of atomic power, naval ships relied on diesel propulsion systems, which limited their time at sea. With the creation of nuclear reactors, the Navy realized it could dramatically expand the capabilities of its fleets, especially submarines. Under the leadership of Hyman Rickover, the Navy began building nuclear-powered subs that could stay at sea for months at a time. America’s first nuclear sub, the USS Nautilus, set new records for speed, depth, and time at sea. It also became the first vessel to cross the North Pole by sailing under the polar icecap.
With the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) carrying nuclear warheads, the Navy became a key player in the United States nuclear strategy against the Soviet Union. A variation of the land-based ICBM known as sea-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) came into service in the 1960s and 1970s, along with a new generation of larger-than-ever nuclear submarines capable of launching dozens of warheads at targets in the Soviet Union. So-called “missile boats” became the most important leg of the nuclear Triad (air, land, sea) employed by the United States, as Polaris and later Trident-carrying submarines were looked upon by American strategic planners as the most likely component of U.S. nuclear forces to survive a nuclear assault by the Soviets. This survivability of nuclear submarines formed the strategic rationale for the United States doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, which rested on the belief that as long as America’s nuclear subs could hide deep within ocean depths for months at a time, the Soviets would never dare launch an attack knowing the U.S. could respond with its SLBMs.
The introduction of naval nuclear reactors also came into play for smaller, attack submarines, such Los Angeles and later Seawolf subs, whose mission was to track, and in the event of war, sink Soviet nuclear submarines. Such high stakes underwater tactics were well represented in the film The Hunt for Red October, based on the novel by Tom Clancy.
In time, nuclear reactors replaced the conventional propulsion systems on surface vessels, including cruisers and aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, the Navy participated in the conflict through air strikes launched from aircraft carriers. Small naval gunboats patrolled the coastal and inland waters of Vietnam. But because the war proved draining on the federal treasury, the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon directed fewer dollars to the Navy for new vessels. By the time the war was over in the 1970s, the Navy had shrunk to a little more than 200 ships. The de-emphasis on naval vessels didn’t prevent the Navy from modernizing its aviation wings, as the F-14 Tomcat came online in the late 1970s.
While the U.S. saw its fleets shrink, the Soviets continued expanding their navy. The disparity in surface vessels was a major concern for the administration of Ronald Reagan. Under Secretary John Lehman, the U.S. embarked on building a 600-ship Navy during the 1980s. Not only were new aircraft carriers and submarines launched, but mothballed battleships from another era returned to the high seas. Beginning with the USS New Jersey, four battleships were overhauled and fitted with the latest new weapon—cruise missiles. Critics of the Reagan administration decried the decision to bring back the New Jersey, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Iowa battleships as wasteful and strategically pointless in an era of high-speed warfare. The experiment didn’t last long, as all four battleships were decommissioned in the early 1990s, although not before the Missouri and Wisconsin got the chance to fire their cruise missiles at targets in Iraq during the Gulf War.
With the demise of the Soviet Union, the U.S. Navy found itself without a rival on the world’s oceans. This superiority has continued even though the Navy’s overall size shrunk since the 1990s. Its overall reduction in total vessels is misleading, however, considering that the Navy still has 11 aircraft supercarriers and their supporting battle groups. In addition, the Navy’s emphasis on developing technologically advanced weapons, planes and ships gives it a huge advantage over other navies. Since the 9/11 attacks, the Navy has been working on several new classes of ships, such as the Zumwalt class destroyer, the America amphibious assault ships, and the littoral combat ship, and new unmanned aircraft, such as the $42-billion X-47B, built by Northrop Grumman Corp., General Atomics Aeronautical Systems’ Avenger, and a modified version of Boeing’s Phantom Ray.
The Department of the Navy oversees both the United States Navy and the Marine Corps. The Navy represents the seagoing branch of the armed services, maintaining fleets of ocean-going surface vessels and submarines capable of extending American sea and air power anywhere in the world.
Naval vessels fall into one of seven classes: aircraft carriers; amphibious assault ships; battleships; cruisers; destroyers; frigates; and submarines. Battleships, cruisers, and destroyers have an assortment of guns and missile systems, and aircraft carriers carry both fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft. Like the Air Force, naval aircraft are grouped into squadrons, which make up wings. Ships and submarines are grouped into fleets, which consist of smaller groupings—task forces, task groups, and task units.
The Navy’s vast collection of vessels and aircraft are organized into either functional or geographic-oriented commands. US Naval Forces Central Command includes the 5th Fleet and includes the Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. This expanse, comprised of 20 countries, includes three critical points at the Strait of Hormuz, the Suez Canal, and the Strait of Bab al Mandeb at the southern tip of Yemen. A map provided by the command shows that its area of responsibility ranges from northeastern Africa to southwestern Asia.
US Pacific Fleet is the Navy’s largest fleet command, encompassing 100 million square miles, from the West Coast of the United States to the eastern shore of Africa. The Pacific Fleet consists of approximately 180 ships, nearly 2,500 aircraft and 224,000 sailors, Marines, and civilians.
The US Fleet Forces Command, formerly the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, encompasses a massive geographic area including the Atlantic Ocean from the North Pole to the South Pole, the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, and the area of the Pacific Ocean along the coasts of Central and South America. Additionally, the area includes the Norwegian, Greenland, and Barents seas, and the waters around Africa extending to the Cape of Good Hope.
Military Sealift Command, headquartered at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington D.C., supports the Navy and other branches of the military by delivering supplies and conducting specialized missions across the world’s oceans. It operates five operational commands called Sealift Logistics Commands, or SEALOGs, in the Atlantic, Pacific, Europe, Central, and Far East areas.
Naval Network Warfare Command represents the IT component of the Navy, building and maintaining sophisticated information networks that link all naval organizations and commands.
US Naval Special Warfare Command, headquartered at the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado in San Diego, California, oversees maritime special operations forces. The major operational components of Naval Special Warfare Command include Naval Special Warfare Groups One and Three in San Diego, California, and Naval Special Warfare Groups Two and Four in Norfolk, Virginia. These components deploy SEAL Teams, SEAL Delivery Vehicle Teams and Special Boat Teams. The command includes 8,900 total active-duty personnel, including more than 2,400 SEALs and 700 special warfare support personnel.
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command is a major acquisition command that develops and acquires systems related to command, control, communications, computers intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, information technology, and space systems.
Strategic Systems Programs directs the development, production, logistic support, and engineering effort for the Navy’s Strategic Weapons Systems, including the Trident Ballistic Missile.
Office of Naval Intelligence conducts intelligence gathering on threats to the U.S. Navy.
Naval Air Systems Command, headquartered in Patuxent River, Maryland, provides acquisition, research, development, test, and evaluation for airborne weapons systems
Naval Security Group Command is responsible providing cryptology services.
Naval Seas System Command is a key procurement command for the Navy. The largest of the Navy's five system commands, it accounts for one quarter of the Navy’s budget and manages 150 acquisition programs. With a force of 60,000 civilian, military and contract support personnel, it engineers, builds, buys, and maintains the Navy’s ships and submarines and their combat systems. It also manages foreign military sales in the billions of dollars to partner nations.
From the Web Site of the Department of the Navy
Almost all of the weapons, equipment and supplies used by the Navy are provided through defense contractors. Some of the Navy contracts awarded in 2012 went to:
For FY 2013, the Navy plans to invest $13 billion in the construction of 41 new ships, bringing the total of overall battle ships to 284. The USS John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier production continues, with a completion date of 2020. Seven guided-missile cruisers and two amphibious landing ships will be retired, and numerous other programs will be delayed or reduced.
According to USAspending.gov., in FY 2007, 79,087 different companies received Department of Defense contracts totaling $312 billion. However the top six companies — Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and BAE Systems—received almost one-third of that money. All represent the top five defense contractors for the Navy, except BAE Systems (which ranks 11th). Other top 25 Navy contractors are United Technologies, L-3 Communications Holdings, Electronic Data Systems, General Electric, Textron, Carlyle Group, and Bechtel.
Some of the Navy’s key naval, air, and weapons programs, and their contractors, are as follows:
USAspending.gov also reports that the Department of the Navy spent $14.4 million on nearly 500 contractor transactions between FY 2002 and FY 2012. The top five types of products or services were maintenance and repair of communication equipment ($1,872,940), maintenance of communication, detection, and coherent radiation equipment ($1,583,977), hotel/motel lodging ($1,567,674), financial management ($1,198,000), and IT/telecom support ($1,000,000).
The top five recipients of this contractor spending during that period were:
1. Barling Bay LLC $3,456,917
2. Government of the United States $2,875,436
3. Sullivan International Group Inc. $1,198,000
4. Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corporation $1,000,000
5. CDW Holdings LLC $997,747
Weapons Procurement Waste and Delays
In March 2008 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a scathing report on the status of numerous weapons projects being developed for the Pentagon. Government auditors found programs for new ships, aircraft, and satellites were billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.
Among the major programs reviewed was the Navy’s $5.2 billion littoral combat ship, which has had such extensive troubles that the service expected the cost of its first two ships to exceed their combined budget of $472 million by more than 100%. The Navy canceled construction of the planned third and fourth ships, but production went forward and the third ship was delivered by Lockheed Martin in June 2012.
Another program criticized was Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a stealthy tactical fighter intended for the Air Force and Navy. Cost projections had put the price tag at almost $100 million per plane, up 40% since 2001. In a statement, Lockheed said that the Joint Strike Fighter was “performing solidly, making outstanding technical progress in the context of the most complex aircraft ever built” and that “the bedrock and the cornerstone” of the F-35 program have been “affordability and cost containment.” Problems had emerged in the F-35’s performance, including engine air intake restrictions and wobbling while hovering. Consequently, the aircraft was put on probation in 2011 by then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. That decision was reversed in 2012 by Secretary Leon Panetta, who claimed progress had been made in correcting the problems. A strike of union workers at Lockheed factories in May compounded the craft’s problems. Overall program delays have affected the global market for F-35 sales.
In another case, the initial contract target price of Boeing’s program to modernize avionics in the C-130 cargo plane, also employed by both the Air Force and Navy, was expected to skyrocket 323%, to $2 billion. The contract award, which finally came in at $4.1 billion, had been challenged by Lockheed Martin and other bidders after U.S. Air Force acquisition official Darleen Druyun confessed to having favored Boeing out of gratitude for jobs that Boeing gave to her daughter and future son-in-law. She was sentenced to nine months in prison and fined for a series of conflict-of-interest violations. Following the scandal, the Air Force planned to invite new bids for the contract, then made an unsuccessful attempt to kill the program in 2009. A year later, 198 of the crafts were on the books to receive the avionics upgrade at an initial cost of $14 million per plane. The Pentagon finally canceled the program in 2012.
The GAO report said the reasons for the cost overruns and delays were threefold: Too many programs chasing too few dollars; technologies not mature enough to go into production; too long to design, develop, and produce a system.
“They’re asking for something that they’re not sure can be built, given existing technologies, and that’s risky,” said a GAO official.
The GAO’s March 2012 report on Pentagon weapons projects concluded that defense acquisitions have lagged behind policy and law. It also reported that major acquisition programs grew by over $74.4 billion during the preceding year, of which about $31.1 billion was attributable to “inefficiencies in production.” It added that an increase in acquisition costs have caused over 60% of the programs to lose “buying power,” preventing DoD from using its funds for other priorities.
GAO Blasts Weapons Budget: Cost Overruns Hit $295 Billion (by Dana Hedgpeth, Washington Post)
Proposed Construction of New U.S. Naval Base in Dominican Republican Sparks Controversy
Plans by the U.S. Navy to help finance the construction of a new base in the Dominican Republic prompted local demonstrations in 2012.
Media reports said the Navy intended to spend $1.5 million to construct a base on Saona Island for the purpose of helping stop smugglers and drug traffickers in the region.
A group of Dominicans and environmentalists carried out protests to try to halt the project. They claimed building a base on Saona, which is part of the National Park of the East, could jeopardize the environment. They also objected to the plan on grounds that it would infringe on the country’s sovereignty.
Shortly after the controversy erupted, the Dominican government announced no new base would be built. Instead, officials intended to merely upgrade an existing naval station constructed in the 1960s. They added that only Dominican military personnel would man the station, and no U.S. sailors would be involved.
Groups Want Congress’s Rebuke Of US-Funded Military Facility On Island (Dominican Today)
US-Funded Naval Base Stirs Controversy in Dominican Republic (by Christopher Looft, In Sight Crime)
Naval Base on Saona Island - Update (Real Dominican Republic)
Ongoing Controversies Over Navy’s Threats Against and Use of Sea Mammals
Environmentalists have battled the U.S. Navy for almost 10 years over its use of sonar, claiming the technology can be harmful, if not deadly, to whales and other marine species.
In 2012, a dozen organizations sued the Navy to stop it from building an undersea warfare training range off the coast of Florida. The plaintiffs claimed the range would hurt endangered whales, specifically the North Atlantic right whale, whose breeding grounds were located nearby.
But a federal judge ruled in favor of the Navy, which said it needed to build the training center off Jacksonville in order to take advantage of the area’s shallow water environment for anti-submarine warfare.
That same year, the Navy admitted in a new research report that sonar and underwater explosives used in training could injure about 1,600 marine mammals each year and kill some 200. Previously, naval officials said such activity could harm or kill only 100 mammals annually off the coasts of Hawaii and California.
Alternatively, sea mammals have played important and dangerous roles for the U.S. Navy for more than 50 years. Because of their intelligence and built-in sonar capabilities, certain species, particularly dolphins and sea lions, have been put to use by the Navy to locate underwater explosives and other enemy threats, including enemy divers.
The U.S. began using these mammals around 1960, but didn’t officially acknowledge the secret program until the 1990s.
In 2003, nine dolphins reportedly helped Navy SEALS find more than 100 anti-ship mines and underwater booby traps planted by Saddam Hussein’s forces in the port of Umm Qasr.
As recently as 2012, the Navy considered using dolphins to identify mines planted in the Strait of Hormuz by Iran.
But militarizing animals has raised some controversy over the morality of training wild animals to perform dangerous military tasks. Some animal rights advocates say it is wrong to utilize marine mammals for warfare or to involve their species in our battles as if they were conscripts.
U.S. Navy Sonar And Explosives Might Hurt More Sea Life Than Previously Thought, Study Suggests (by Audrey McAvoy, Associated Press)
Whale Defenders Lose Navy Training Challenge (by Deshayla Strachan, Courthouse News Service)
Navy Starts New Controversy Over Its Use Of Sonar (Conservation Report)
Debate over Navy sonar can be uncomfortable, but worthwhile (by cdunagan, Kitsap Sun)
Sonar Fact Check (Acoustic Ecology Institute)
U.S. Navy Seals? How About Navy Sea Lions? (by Samantha Ellis, Global Animal)
Dolphins Have No Part In This Dispute With Iran (by Peter Singer, Guardian)
Re-examine Number of Aircraft Carrier Groups
Prior to stepping down as defense secretary, Robert Gates called for the Navy to reexamine its need to maintain 11 aircraft carriers and their support vessels. Gates argued it made little sense for the U.S. to have so many carriers, when no other nation had more than one in their fleets.
But Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta, disagreed with shrinking the number of carrier groups. In a January 2012 address aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, the Navy’s first nuclear-powered carrier and its oldest active vessel, Panetta promised sailors that the Obama administration would keep 11 of the warships despite budget pressures.
Members of Congress backed Panetta’s position, rejecting downsizing any carrier groups, even just one, and even passed a law obliging the Department of Defense to keep all 11.
Debate: Do We Need 11 Carrier Groups: No (by Robert Farley, Atlantic Council)
US To Keep 11 Aircraft Carriers To Show Sea Power (Associated Press)
Naming Ships after Gabrielle Giffords and Cesar Chavez Cause Controversy
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus angered some naval commanders when he announced in 2012 that an Independence variant littoral combat ship (LCS) would be named after former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), only the 17th navy vessel ever to be christened for a woman and the 13th for a living person.
The christening of the USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) was intended to honor the lawmaker who survived an assassination attempt the year before. Mabus added that Giffords was known for supporting the military and veterans while she served in Congress.
But Retired Rear Admiral George Worthington, former commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, told The Daily Caller that there were plenty of other people more deserving to have a ship named after them.
“Here is the issue. There are a lot of dead Marines out there whose names could go on anything that appears to be an amphibious ship,” Worthington said. “We think fallen Marines and perhaps supporting sailors should go on fantails before random victims.”
Mabus also caused controversy the year before. Conservative lawmakers complained in 2011 after the U.S. Navy decided to name one of its new cargo ships after Mexican-American civil rights leader Cesar Chavez. Mabus said the naming was appropriate because Chavez served in the Navy between 1944 and 1946. Mabus also argued the decision would honor those Latino shipbuilders who have contributed to the construction of the fleet.
Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter of California objected to honoring Chavez. He said it was a political move and it would be more appropriate to name a vessel after Marine Corps Sergeant Rafael Peralta, who was nominated for the Medal of Honor for action in Iraq. Republican Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri added a provision to a funding bill that would require the Navy to get recommendations on naming vessels.
Other conservatives said honoring Chavez was inappropriate because they likened his labor activism to socialism.
Decision To Name Ship After Gabrielle Giffords Engenders Controversy (by Doug Mataconis, Outside the Beltway)
Former Military Brass ‘Shocked,’ ‘Angered’ Over USS Gabrielle Giffords (by Caroline May, The Daily Caller)
USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) (Wikipedia)
US Navy Names Ship After Cesar Chavez, Controversy Ensues (by Nathan Bernier, KUT News)
Navy Names Ship For Cesar Chavez, But Controversy Hasn't Died Down Yet (by Leslie Berestein Rojas, KPCC)
The USNS Cesar Chavez: The Navy’s Name Game, Cont. (by Mark Thompson, Time)
Controversy over Allowing Same-Sex Marriages To Be Performed on Naval Bases
Following the repeal of the Pentagon’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the U.S. Navy instructed chaplains in 2011 that they may perform same-sex marriages on naval bases in states where homosexuals can marry.
Republicans in the House objected to the new policy. In a letter to Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, 64 GOP lawmakers accused the Navy violating federal law. They noted that the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which says marriage can only be between a man and a woman, still was in effect.
“Not only does this document imply recognition and support of same-sex marriage in opposition to DOMA, but it also implies that the Navy will now perform these marriages so long as they do not violate state statutes,” the lawmakers wrote. “Offering up federal facilities and federal employees for same-sex marriages violates DOMA, which is still the law of the land and binds our military, including chaplains.”
The general counsel of the Defense Department state that allowing such marriages to occur doesn’t necessarily mean the Navy endorses them, just as allowing baptisms on bases doesn’t mean the Navy endorses Christianity. Besides, chaplains weren’t being required to perform same-sex ceremonies if it conflicted with their personal or religious beliefs. Nonetheless, the protest prompted the U.S. Navy to suspend its directive to chaplains.
Right-Wingers Stoke Imaginary Controversy Over Navy Weddings (by Carlos Maza, Equality Matters)
No Same-Sex Weddings at West Point's Catholic Chapel, Says Military Archdiocese (by Pete Winn, CNS News)
Marine Corps Requires Military Spouse Clubs To Include Same-Sex Partners (by Winona Dimeo-Ediger, The Frisky)
Controversy over Burial at Sea of Bin Laden’s Corpse
Following the killing of Osama bin Laden in 2011, the U.S. Navy buried the terrorist leader’s corpse at sea under orders from the White House.
Bin Laden’s body was reportedly transported aboard the USS Carl Vinson, where it was washed, wrapped in a white sheet, and gently lowered into the North Arabian Sea.
U.S. officials said the burial conformed to Muslim tradition, which requires that a body be buried within 24 hours of death. But the burial provoked criticism from both conservatives and radical Muslim clerics.
Fox News personality Glenn Beck accused the U.S. government of showing too much respect to bin Laden.
“My problem with this is that we gave this guy a dignified burial at sea,” Beck said on his radio show. “I really would have put this guy in a meat grinder with a pig, sorry. Oh, you’re not going to get your 72 virgins? Sorry, that sucks to be you.”
The White House said it wasn’t paying respect to bin Laden, but to the rites of Islam. Analysts said the Obama administration wanted to avoid further angering Muslims and to prevent militants from finding the al Qaeda leader’s body. However, sea burials are rare for Muslims—traditionally a Muslim is supposed to be buried in a grave with his head oriented toward Mecca, something that’s impossible in a burial at sea.
Following the burial, a conservative legal group, Judicial Watch, filed a lawsuit to force the government to release about 50 photos taken of bin Laden’s death and burial. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said it would review the case in 2013.
Osama bin Laden's Controversial Sea Burial (by McKay Coppins, The Daily Beast)
Court Considers Demand That U.S. Release Photos Of Bin Laden's Body (by Josh Levs and Carol Cratty, CNN)
Bin Laden Sleeps With the Fishes (by Brian Palmer, Slate)
Killing of Bin Laden
The killing of Osama bin Laden produced more than one tell-all book by Navy SEALs, including one account that was publicly refuted in 2011 by the U.S. Special Operations Command as a fabrication.
The book, SEAL Target Geronimo by Chuck Pfarrer, contained details about the mission that were “not true,” according to a spokesman for Navy SEAL Admiral Bill McRaven.
Pfarrer, a former SEAL who did not participate in the operation, told an alternative version of the raid that claimed the SEAL team shot bin Laden within 90 seconds of arriving at the Pakistan compound where the al Qaeda leader was living.
The author accused the White House of lying about what happened that night, which made the SEALs look inept.
In response to Pfarrer’s claims, spokesman Col. Tim Nye said: “It’s not how it happened.”
“We have never come forward and gone after an author and say, ‘that is a lie,’” Nye added. “That tells you how far off the mark we believe this book is.”
Navy SEALS Call Controversial New Book About Bin Laden Killing 'Not True' (by Andy Lewis, Hollywood Reporter)
Fmr. SEAL Commander Tells Soledad O’Brien It’s Hard To Get ‘Straight Story’ Out Of This Administration (by Alex Alvarez, Mediaite)
Navy Facebook Posting on Sexual Assault Triggers Controversy
The U.S. Navy got into trouble in 2011 for posting Sexual Assault Prevention Tips on its Facebook page.
Intended to help reduce the number of rapes and sexual assaults involving naval personnel (which numbered 611 in 2010), the posting instead provoked derision and complaints over the wording of the tips.
The tips included:
“Don’t put drugs in people’s drinks in order to control their behavior.”
“If you pull over to help someone with car problems, remember not to assault them!”
“If you are in an elevator and someone else gets in, DON’T ASSAULT THEM!”
“Don’t forget: you can’t have sex with someone unless they are awake!”
Timeline Photos (Facebook)
Facebook Poster on Sexual Assault Has Navy Revamping Its Message (by Justin Fishel, Fox News)
Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office (Department of Defense)
Synthetic Marijuana Becomes Cause for Naval Academy Expulsion
Sixteen midshipmen were expelled from the U.S. Naval Academy for use or possession of synthetic marijuana between December 2010 and August 2011.
Synthetic marijuana (aka “spice”) consists of an herbal potpourri sprayed with chemicals and mimics the effects of marijuana. It also doesn’t show up in routine drug tests.
The academy considered the use or possession of the synthetic product a violation of its zero-tolerance policy regarding illegal drugs.
Some of the expelled midshipmen had to repay the Navy for the cost of their education. One former midshipman reportedly owed the service $120,000.
Naval Academy Puts ‘Spice’ Scandal Behind It (by Daniel de Vise, Washington Post)
Investigation Finds Significant Drug Use, Party Culture At Naval Academy (by Earl Kelly and Tina Reed, Stars & Stripes)
Synthetic Marijuana Controversy Hits Naval Academy (by Peter Finocchiaro, Salon)
U.S. Navy Warships Allowed in Costa Rican Waters
Some citizens of Costa Rica objected in 2010 to their government’s decision to allow U.S. warships to enter coastal waters as part of counternarcotics operations.
The U.S. and Costa Rica already had a maritime counternarcotics agreement, in effect since 1999, that allowed U.S. Coast Guard vessels to conduct drug interdiction missions within Costa Rica’s territorial waters. Despite that fact, many believe the war on drugs has gone nowhere and the naval arrangement isn’t making any friends for the United States.
The new arrangement, approved by the Costa Rican legislature, permitted up to 46 American naval warships to conduct “law enforcement” missions over a six-month period (July 1-December 31, 2010).
Costa Rican lawmakers extended the agreement another six months that carried into 2011. However, the extension lowered the number of naval ships down to 27. Even at that number, the agreement flies in the face of the fact that Costa Rica abolished its own military establishment in 1948.
Fewer US Warships In Costa Rica Waters In 2011 - The War On Drugs Remains A Farce. (by Scott Oliver, WeLoveCostaRica.com)
Costa Rica Stirs Controversy By Green-Lighting U.S. Warships (Just the Facts)
Naming of Warship Causes Controversy
The U.S. Navy was criticized in 2010 for deciding to name one of its new vessels after the late Congressman John Murtha.
Murtha, a Democrat who served 19 terms representing Pennsylvania, was critical of the Iraq war, during which he accused Marines of killing Iraqis in cold blood. Some members and supporters of the military objected to the Navy honoring Murtha by naming a new amphibious warship after him. A Facebook campaign garnered signatories against the naming and visitors to the Navy’s own Web site also noted their disapproval.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi praised the Navy’s decision, made by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus, to name the ship after Murtha, who served in the Marines during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Despite the complaints, and the fact that other ships of the same class of amphibious transport ships that had always been named after cities rather than people, the Navy went ahead with its decision.
Controversy Flares Over Ship Named For Murtha (by Philip Ewing, Navy Times)
U.S. Navy Names Amphibious Ship for PA Congressman John Murtha (by Diane Seltzer, Suite 101)
Work Begins On Ship Named For Murtha (by Philip Ewing, DoD Buzz)
Racial and Gender Diversity Controversy
The U.S. Naval Academy was criticized in 2009 for altering the makeup of its color guard at the World Series that year to demonstrate the service wasn’t exclusively Caucasian and male.
Prior to Game 2, academy leaders pulled two of the six white men from the color guard. In their place, a white female and a Pakistani male cadet were chosen.
But the Pakistani cadet, Midshipman 2nd Class Zishan Hameed, forgot his cover and shoes in Annapolis and couldn’t present the colors before the game.
This forced the academy to put one of the original members of the color guard, Midshipman 1st Class Aaron Stroud, back in his place.
The five men and one woman who finally marched all were white.
The controversy reflected an ongoing debate at the academy, which has struggled to make its cadet population more racially and sexually diverse, and which now stands at about 25% minority and 20% female.
Uproar over Navy color guard at World Series (by Daniel de Vise, Washington Post)
Naval Academy Increasingly Diverse (by Jessica Clark, U.S. Naval Academy Public Affairs)
Academy: Lessons Learned From Color Guard Flap (by Philip Ewing, Navy Times)
2-Star, USNA Professor Clash On Diversity (by Sam Fellman, Navy Times)
Navy Admiral Bush Critic Resigns
Admiral William Fallon, head of the U.S. Central Command that oversees the war in Iraq, resigned in March 2008 after a long battle with both political and military leaders of the Bush administration. In a story in Esquire magazine, Admiral Fallon was depicted as the only man standing between the United States and war with Iran.
Admiral Fallon admitted that war rhetoric from some members of the White House staff was not helpful in his effort to ease tensions in the Middle East. He also publicly opposed some other key policies, including, initially, the surge of U.S. forces into Iraq.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said it was not Fallon’s views but rather his failure to put an end to the perception he had ongoing policy differences with the administration that led to his departure from one of the most important posts in the U.S. military. Fallon also did not get along with General David Petraeus, the Army’s top leader in Iraq. The admiral called Petraeus a sycophant during their first meeting in Baghdad.
Fallon told Petraeus that he considered him to be “an ass-kissing little chickenshit.” That remark reportedly came after Petraeus began the meeting by making remarks that Fallon interpreted as trying to ingratiate himself with a superior.
The contentious start of Fallon’s mission to Baghdad led to more meetings marked by acute tension between the two commanders. Fallon went on develop his own alternative to Petraeus' recommendation for continued high levels of U.S. troops in Iraq during the summer.
The enmity between the two commanders became public knowledge when The Washington Post reported in September 2007 on intense conflict within the administration over Iraq. The story quoted a senior official as saying that referring to “bad relations” between them is “the understatement of the century.”
Admiral Fallon had been in the Navy for nearly 41 years. He had numerous operational assignments, including commands in the Atlantic and the Persian Gulf, and with NATO naval forces. He was also commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, and as deputy chief of the Navy, he was at the Pentagon when it was attacked on September 11, 2001. Admiral Fallon was one of the last active US military officers to have served in Vietnam, where he flew missions in Navy combat and reconnaissance aircraft.
US Middle East Commander Steps Down After Controversy (by Al Pessin, Voice of America)
U.S.-IRAQ: Fallon Derided Petraeus, Opposed the Surge (by Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service)
The Man Between War and Peace (by Thomas P.M. Barnett, Esquire)
Submarine Strikes Undersea Mountain
In January 2005 the USS San Francisco, a Los Angeles class attack submarine, crashed head-on into an undersea mountain that was not on navigational charts. The accident killed one crewmember and injured dozens more. Initial reports from the Navy downplayed the accident, one of the worst ever involving a U.S. submarine.
The San Francisco was sailing near Guam when it struck the seamount at top speed—33 knots, roughly 38 miles an hour. Part of the sonar dome, located in the nose of the sub, began to flood as a result of huge holes in the forward ballast tanks. Crewmembers tried to release air out of the tanks to lift the sub toward the surface, but the throttles didn’t respond, and the vessel briefly lost propulsion, leaving it to drift in the deep, its bow pointing down.
Fortunately, the thick inner hull protecting the nuclear reactor and the crew’s quarters held. Eventually, the crew was able to bring the sub under control and reach the surface. In the control room, several crewmembers had been violently thrown during the collision, leaving much blood on the instruments and on the floor. One crewmember described the scene as looking “like a slaughterhouse.”
U.S. Navy investigators reported that a series of mistakes at sea and onshore caused the accident. The Navy relieved the sub’s captain, Kevin Mooney, of his command and issued him a nonjudicial letter of reprimand. He was not charged with a crime and was not court-martialed. Six crew members were also found guilty at their own nonjudicial punishment hearings of hazarding a vessel and dereliction of duty and were reduced in rank and given punitive letters of reprimand.
The crash was the worst involving a U.S. submarine since the 2001 incident in which another attack sub struck a Japanese fishing boat off the coast of Hawaii, killing nine fishermen.
For U.S. submarine, a crash, chaos and then relief: Series of mistakes led to navy accident (by Christopher Drew, International Herald Tribune)
Officials: U.S. submarine hit undersea mountain (by Mike Mount, CNN)
Allow Women on Submarines
The U.S. Navy announced in 2010 that it would allow women on submarines for the first time in its history.
By that time, women were already serving on Navy combat ships, a change that came about in the 1990s.
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates supported the move to add women aboard subs. Advocates for female submariners pointed out that other countries, including Canada and Australia, had integrated their submarine crews without any trouble.
The first subs to add women were the ballistic-missile subs Wyoming and Maine and guided-missile subs Georgia and Ohio. With those women saying that they were fitting in well, twenty more were scheduled to join their male counterparts in January 2013.
Debating Whether Women Should Serve on Navy Submarines (by Max Fisher, Atlantic Wire)
Women On Subs Talk Mission, Working With Men (by Sam Fellman, Navy Times)
Women Say They’re Fitting In On Submarines (Associated Press)
Commander Hendrix’s Reform Proposals
Although the U.S. Navy successfully rescued an American maritime captain in 2009 from Somali pirates, the incident prompted one naval officer to call for reforming how fleets are composed to better ensure the service’s ability to respond to low-level threats.
Navy Commander Henry Hendrix detailed his suggestions in the April issue of Proceedings, saying the Navy should establish new naval formations that would possess a mixture of capabilities.
Hendrix called the new formations “Influence Squadrons.” Each would consist of destroyers, littoral combat ships, coastal patrol ships, and “an amphibious mother ship.”
The naval officer contended that the Influence Squadrons would provide multiple benefits. “Their understated capabilities would epitomize America’s peaceful, non-aggressive intent, and would carry out the new maritime strategy’s stated purpose of providing positive influence forward,” he wrote.
In addition, the squadrons would provide sufficient firepower to “either dissuade or destroy pirate networks that might seek to prey upon increasingly vulnerable commercial sea lines of communication.”
Navy’s Confrontation With Pirates Spurs Complaints From Reformers (by Spencer Ackerman, Washington Independent)
An Influence Squadron in the Making? (CIMSEC)
Admiral Gary Roughead
Admiral Gary Roughead has served as chief of naval operations since September 2007. Roughead graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1973. His initial assignment was in the weapons department on board the destroyer USS Josephus Daniels. This was followed by duty as executive officer on the patrol gunboats USS Douglas and USS Tacoma. He was the commissioning chief engineer on the destroyer USS O'Bannon and executive officer on the destroyer USS Spruance.
His tours ashore included assignments as flag lieutenant to the commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet; surface warfare analyst at the Navy’s Office of Program Appraisal; administrative aide to the Secretary of the Navy; executive assistant to the Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command; commandant of the U.S. Naval Academy; the Department of the Navy’s chief of legislative affairs; and deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Command.
Roughead was the commissioning commanding officer of the Aegis destroyer USS Barry and, upon assuming command of the cruiser USS Port Royal, became the first naval officer to command both classes of Aegis ships. He also served as commander of the Cruiser Destroyer Group Two and the George Washington Battle Group, deploying to the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea. Roughead served as commander of the U.S. Second Fleet and commander of the NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic, commander of the Naval Forces North Fleet East in Norfolk, Virginia, and commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
While commanding the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Roughead was embarrassed by an incident in November 2006 when a Chinese submarine managed to slip into the protective convoy of the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk as Roughead was making an official visit to China. Some argued that the incident was leaked to the press by opponents of Roughead in the Pentagon.
Fallout from Chinese Sub Stalking (blog, In From the Cold)
Raymond E. Mabus was sworn in as Secretary of the Navy on May 19, 2009. A former governor of Mississippi and one-time ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Mabus signed onto the Obama campaign in 2007.
The nation’s top Navy officer is a bubblehead and proud of it. In Navy slang, a bubblehead is a sailor who has served his career mainly in the submarine fleet, and that is surely true of Admiral Jonathan W. Greenert, who became the 30th Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) on September 23, 2011, succeeding Admiral Gary Roughead. The CNO is the most senior uniformed officer in the Department of the Navy (unless the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is a Navy officer) and functions as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as a military adviser to the Secretary of the Navy, the National Security Council, the Homeland Security Council, the Secretary of Defense, and the President.
Born May 15, 1953, Greenert was the third of six children born to a steelworker in the Pittsburgh suburb of Butler, Pennsylvania, where he worked two paper routes as a youth. Greenert graduated from Butler High School in 1971, where he was on the swim team and student council, and was a member of the National Honor Society, the archery club, the Latin club and the maitre d’ club, which, a high school friend of Greenert’s explained, was “a club for guys to make a little money” by waiting tables.
Accepted for admission by the University of Pennsylvania, the Military Academy at West Point and the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Greenert followed the example of an uncle he had often visited at Annapolis, earning a B.S. in Ocean Engineering at the Naval Academy in 1975 and completing studies in nuclear power for service as a submarine officer. Apparently not entirely serious in nature, Greenert’s biography in the 1975 Academy yearbook describes him as an “always colorful and almost religiously non-academic” midshipman known for “colorful weekends,” and concludes that “with his personality, good looks, receding hairline and quick wit, he is bound to be a success.”
Commissioned as an ensign upon graduation, Greenert’s early career as a submariner included assignments as electrical material officer aboard the USS Flying Fish, as electrical/operations officer aboard the USS Tautog, as engineer officer aboard Submarine NR-1 (a unique nuclear-powered ocean engineering and research submarine), and as executive officer of the USS Michigan.
Greenert’s first command came in March 1991, when he took charge of the USS Honolulu until July 1993. Subsequent commands included service as commander of Submarine Squadron 11 at Naval Base Point Loma in San Diego, California; chief of staff for the commander of the U.S. Seventh Fleet, in Yokosuka, Japan, from July 1997 to September 1998; and commander, U.S. Pacific Command, representative to Micronesia/commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Marianas, from October 1998 through December 1999.
After a stateside stint as director of the Operations Division in the Navy Comptroller Office from January 2000 through August 2002, Greenert served as deputy and chief of staff of the U.S. Pacific Fleet in Honolulu, Hawai’i, from August 2002 until July 2004, and as commander of the Seventh Fleet, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed fleet, from August 6, 2004 to September 2006.
Back at the Pentagon, Greenert served as deputy chief of Naval Operations for Integration of Capabilities and Resources, from September 2006 to September 2007 and as commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command from September 29, 2007 to July 29, 2009. From August 13, 2009 to September 22, 2011, Greenert was vice chief of Naval Operations.
Greenert and his wife, Darleen, have three grown children.
New Chief of Naval Operations a Steelers fan and a “Regular Guy” (by Diana Nelson Jones, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
Greenert Something of a Surprise as Next Chief of Naval Operations (by Robert F. Dorr, Defense Media Network)