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Lessons Not Learned: The U.S. Navy's Status Quo Culture

by Roger Thompson

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1511,078,975 (1.5)1
Despite its reputation as the most impressive naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy is in trouble, according to the author of this book, and systemic weaknesses could be its undoing. Here, military sociologist Roger Thompson provides a compelling, often scathing, assessment of the U.S. Navy and its learning disabilities and then presents a convincing argument for reform. Thompson points to the U.S. Navy's "up or out" promotion system, massive personnel turnover, inexperienced crews, and drug and alcohol abuse as problems that make it difficult for the Navy to build cohesive, well-trained fighting units. In a review of the Navy's recent history, he finds that its ships, submarines, and aircraft are often outperformed in competitions and exercises with other navies--and its failures are either denied altogether or perfunctorily excused. Diesel submarines--so quiet that they are rarely detected until it's too late to prevent an attack--routinely surpass expensive U.S. nuclear subs and put U.S. aircraft carriers in danger. American naval pilots, whose weapons are often improperly tested, are frequently bested by military pilots from other countries. Because the U.S. Navy doesn't have enough surface ships to protect its capital ships, American carrier strike groups now use Canadian ships as escorts. Shortcomings like these, Thompson argues, undermine the Navy's potential and should be cause for national concern. In presenting a side of the U.S. Navy that's rarely discussed, this book spells out lessons the Navy must learn if it is going to succeed in an era of asymmetrical warfare--of David-versus-Goliath conflicts. In his conclusion, the author puts forth a twelve-step program that calls on the U.S. Navy to rethink its naval strategy, to lose some weight, and to focus on the fundamentals.… (more)

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This book was apparently meant to be a hard-headed critique about how the United States Navy is living on past glories, has not prepared for asymmetric warfare, and has major problems in personnel management leading to chronic lousy performance. This would be a fine thing. What you mostly get is a grab-bag collection of some of the Navy's more embarrassing moments (with little context provided) by a writer of Canadian descent who, though he insists otherwise, is obviously carrying around a large chip on his shoulder in regards to the ol' U.S. of A. For all that a fairly good essay could probably be carved out of this book, but perhaps the failures of American civilization have also let the author down in terms of editing, as his choice of sources are often problematic, his writing can be prolix, and he doesn't do that great a job about elucidating a thesis over and above implying that the plight of the U.S.N. is mostly due to rampant careerism. What Thompson really needed to do is produce a serious analysis of the historical contingincies that have produced the current lousy situation, but he's much more interested in cultivating an image as an iconoclast. ( )
2 vote Shrike58 | May 19, 2008 |
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Despite its reputation as the most impressive naval force in the world, the U.S. Navy is in trouble, according to the author of this book, and systemic weaknesses could be its undoing. Here, military sociologist Roger Thompson provides a compelling, often scathing, assessment of the U.S. Navy and its learning disabilities and then presents a convincing argument for reform. Thompson points to the U.S. Navy's "up or out" promotion system, massive personnel turnover, inexperienced crews, and drug and alcohol abuse as problems that make it difficult for the Navy to build cohesive, well-trained fighting units. In a review of the Navy's recent history, he finds that its ships, submarines, and aircraft are often outperformed in competitions and exercises with other navies--and its failures are either denied altogether or perfunctorily excused. Diesel submarines--so quiet that they are rarely detected until it's too late to prevent an attack--routinely surpass expensive U.S. nuclear subs and put U.S. aircraft carriers in danger. American naval pilots, whose weapons are often improperly tested, are frequently bested by military pilots from other countries. Because the U.S. Navy doesn't have enough surface ships to protect its capital ships, American carrier strike groups now use Canadian ships as escorts. Shortcomings like these, Thompson argues, undermine the Navy's potential and should be cause for national concern. In presenting a side of the U.S. Navy that's rarely discussed, this book spells out lessons the Navy must learn if it is going to succeed in an era of asymmetrical warfare--of David-versus-Goliath conflicts. In his conclusion, the author puts forth a twelve-step program that calls on the U.S. Navy to rethink its naval strategy, to lose some weight, and to focus on the fundamentals.

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