Why a President might “lose” an Aircraft Carrier Task Force

USS Carl Vinson
USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group

The Unabashed Moderate has been holding onto this one for a few weeks to avoid type-casting the new blog as a Defender of President Trump every time someone develops agita over his unconventional administration.  Whether the President unawares where exactly the U.S.S. Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group was, or “lying” about its whereabouts and movements is immaterial to this discussion.

My objective is to take to task the notion that The Media, our Allies, South Korea, or even the American Public has a right to know the deployment details of forward-deployed combat forces.  Yes … Combat Forces … in the sense that such units must always be prepared for hostile operations at the direction of the Commander-in-Chief.

At times like this, the realization sets in that many people have little appreciation for how military operations have been executed throughout history … be it during conflict or peacetime.  At the very least, they display a lack of appreciation for Strategy and Tactics.

My own personal bank of knowledge on such subjects is based entirely upon readings and civilian experience in the employ of the Department of the Navy.  No direct military experience.  Hopefully, my professional contacts within my little slice of the U.S. military establishment provides a rudimentary understanding for the objectives and reasoning of what you reveal; how you reveal it; why you reveal such things; and why you might not.

korea_peninsula1For the purposes of discussion, I refer to an article, How Did the Trump Administration Lose an Aircraft Carrier, appearing in The Atlantic on April 18, 2017 during the peak of the “lost carrier” controversy.  The article, written by David A. Graham, starts off  acknowledging “A certain amount of unpredictability is a virtue in foreign policy.”, then quickly devolves into an excoriation of the Trump Administration and The President for either lying, incompetence, or being unpredictable …

That very same quality lauded as being “a virtue”.

The really unpredictable ones in this equation however are the North Koreans.

When the tin pot dictators from Korea’s North end start clamoring for attention, …

You can almost predict North Korean what-about-us tantrums, which seem to sprout up whenever the Head TinPot there decides the North is not getting its fair share of attention from the rest of the world!

… it’s common practice for the U.S. to send a second carrier strike group into the seas around the Korean Peninsula.

That goes for China too, by the way.  In June 2016, President Obama sent the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) to WestPac to sail – along with 7th Fleet mainstay USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) – through international waters where China was attempting to claim disputed islands in the South China Sea.

North Korean missiles

Recently, the Vinson was touted as a significant part of the U.S. reaction to North Korean missile tests seen as a threat to local allies (Japan, South Korea) and eventually – should experimentation result in ultimate success – the west coast of the U.S.!  The President made much of the decision to move the U.S.S. Vinson, which was scheduled to participate in fleet exercises with the Australian Navy, to Korean waters in a show of strength in the face of North Korean agitation.

The problem was a garbling of the way the Commander-in-Chief’s order was to be carried out.  It was difficult timing for the U.S. Navy and The President, since Australia is a strong ally and there was no desire to cancel naval exercises whose opportunity might not occur again for years.

Some people interpreted the order to mean the immediate re-routing of the Carrier Strike Group.  Many had little appreciation for the importance of peacetime drilling with favored allies.  The Navy itself compounded the issue by announcing the cancellation of Shore Leave scheduled while the Group was in Australia.  (A big letdown for the sailors, no doubt!)  The Vinson Group’s Commander felt the imagery of U.S. sailors enjoying shore visits during a crisis to be counter-productive and inappropriate.

Kim Jong Un
Let’s remember who the REAL danger is here!

Good call by the CO.  But the messaging back home, which filtered to The Media via the Department of Defense suggested the planned exercises with Australia had been canceled, not just the port visit.  Undoubtedly, the communications snafu complicated the Big Picture; but it was the overly dramatic reactions by a media establishment that’s very, very, very quick to excoriate the Trump Administration over anything not fitting their Generally Accepted Rules of Oval Office Operation was – frankly – hysterical … both in the emotion and the reaction by those with little appreciation for Strategy and Tactics.

A. One view suggested The President did not know where his Carrier Strike Group was.

But The President does not need that information short of a bullets-flying, aircraft scrambling scenario.  When that time comes, any President would simply turn to his Secretary of Defense and Joint Chiefs-of-Staff to discern the wheres and what-fors of an escalating conflict,

Japan+Map+1B. One view suggested that portraying the Vinson Carrier Strike Group as heading away from the Korean Peninsula at such a time left Korea 3500 miles removed from carrier protection.

Fact is, there is a substantial U.S. military presence in Japan, less than 600 miles from Korea, and home to the 7th Fleet.  Given that the USS Ronald Reagan was down for scheduled maintenance, South Korea was hardly left naked and afraid.

C. Another view even suggested that The President was lying about the movements of the Vinson Carrier Group.  An astonishing claim, not because obfuscation seems a preferred tactic by an unorthodox President, but more so the suggestion that Openness, Transparency, and Honesty should be hallmarks of military operations!

Seriously … Thus my biggest concern in all of this emotional hullabaloo.

Are there people who really believe “Honesty is the best Policy” when it comes to moving military assets on the three-dimensional global field?  I sure hope not …

220px-Loose_lips_might_sink_shipsNo Commander-in-Chief, Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs, or star-studded Admiralty owes Truth to either the American people or its watchdog Media when it comes to these sensitive, life-or-death movement of assets where so much is at stake!  Dishonesty is a time-tested tactic when it comes to War or the potential for its outbreak, as is Unpredictability, Diversion, Obfuscation, etc.

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that there was every intention of routing the Vinson CSG to Korean waters as soon as the Australian Navy exercises were completed!

In wars past, there has been the saying, “Loose lips sink ships!”

When you have no control over the Loose Lips of Society … Be it the open-kimono Media, shipyard workers loudly enjoying post-workday libations, home-bound families sharing pride in their homegrown sailors, etc., then you must clamp down on the flow of information.

To suggest Truth in such situations provides benefit to anyone other than The Enemy is precisely why NO FOUL was committed in the way the USS Carl Vinson “incident” was handled, regardless of how such miscommunication comes about.







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