If you ever wanted to see what the poor prioritization of naval policy can do, look no further than Iran’s recent seizure of two small craft with U.S. Navy sailors. According to initial reports by the AP, the boats went aground after one suffered mechanical problems. However, recent reports have raised questions about whether one of the boats suffered mechanical problems.
The boats beached themselves on Farsi Island, where the Iranian Revolutionary Guards maintain a base. The Iranians, took the ten sailors on board the boats into custody, but released them Wednesday morning. Iran did this before, to British military personnel in 2004 and 2007. Yet it seems the Navy got caught flat-footed by this incident. The American personnel were reportedly interrogated, and video acquired by Fox News shows that the sailors being forced to kneel with their hands on their head. Furthermore, one of the sailors, a Navy lieutenant, apologized for entering Iranian waters in a video released by Iranian media.
The Navy’s decline has been something I have discussed before, as well as the fact that too many people are asking the wrong questions about the Navy’s future. The George H.W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations have set up the Navy’s decline over the last 25 years, by making bad decisions like the premature retirement of the Spruance-class destroyers, the truncation of the Seawolf and Zumwalt programs, but under Obama, the sense of priorities has gone haywire.
Take, for instance, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus’s handling of the Marine Corps study on women in ground combat roles. Mabus dissed the Marines who took part in the study whose results were released last year, drawing criticism from Sgt. Maj. Justin Lehew, a Navy Cross recipient from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Yet Mabus has persisted in pushing social engineering in the Marines, even as he was rebuked by Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter last month over his decision-making regarding procurement.
It would be one thing if this seizure was an isolated incident, but it wasn’t. Consider that last month, Iranian boats fired rockets that landed 1,500 yards from USS Harry S Truman (CVN 75). They gave less than half an hour of notice. Had those rockets hit the Truman, the United States would have been short a carrier, even as those in reserve are headed to the scrapyard. One of those old carriers could have held the line had the Truman been damaged. That sort of contingency is why you keep ships in mothballs, particularly when new ones take as many as seven years to build.
A number of former Marines who now serve in Congress have been calling Mabus out over his almost obsessive push to socially engineer the 240-year old military force. Mabus’s edicts include ordering the Marines to integrate boot camps, and to re-name various combat positions, like rifleman and mortarman. Those orders were given to General Robert Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, less than a week after the Truman’s close call, in a memo that was on the verge of bullying.
Now, I have not served as a Secretary of the Navy. I haven’t even stayed at a Holiday Inn Express. That being said, I cannot fathom why a person who is responsible for the Department of the Navy would view a social engineering project to be more important than finding out how – and why – Iranian forces were allowed to fire rockets that landed within a mile of one of the Navy’s most important assets.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has a choice to make: Is the combat readiness of our troops more important, or is the social engineering more important? If the former is more important, Mabus will be shown the door. If the latter is more important, we’ll see Mabus stick around.