The CNO in Waiting
...this is a navy...
I am sure that everyone here understands that at the end of last week white smoke rose over The Navy Yard signaling that we had an official nominee for the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO).
Barring some Ottomanesque bureaucratic defenestration like we saw as Admiral Moran was set to be CNO after Admiral Richardson, the nominee to replace Admiral Gilday as CNO will be Admiral Franchetti - presently the Vice CNO.
Because people in DC can’t seem to keep their mouths shut when they should, unfortunately in mid-month there were some leaks coming out that Admiral Paparo would - surprisingly as the general consensus was the Franchetti was slotted to be the next CNO - be recommended to be the next CNO.
Read the link above it you’re interested in the state of play on the 13th, but things wound up heading as most thought with Franchetti getting the nod. Exceptionally well prepared for INDOPACOM, Paparo will head to there where he is expected to continue to do great and important things for the Navy and the nation is serves at at time where we have no luxury for a learning curve.
Back to the CNO. If you haven’t recently, take a moment to review exactly what the CNO’s job is as per 10 U.S.C. § 8033 and then come back.
We have the person, we have the job, now let’s talk about time and place.
We do not have much time left—certainly not until the year 2030, when the PRC’s navy will be double the size of the U.S. Navy For reasons laid out below, the window of vulnerability—the decade of greatest concern—begins in less than twenty-four months. If some currently unintended event does not provoke a military confrontation before then, we have until 2020—the deadline that Xi Jinping has given the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to be ready to invade Taiwan. From that point on, we can expect China to strike.
It was a dozen years ago that we warned of The Terrible 20s. That internal problem combined with Fanell’s “decade of greatest concern” should tell anyone who listens that this is a critical time for our Navy, our nation, and our friends and allies who trust in us to continue to play the role on the international stage we took on after the Second World War.
We don’t have unchallenged mastery of the seas, nor are we a nation flush with funds to spend on our military. No, the rise of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) - that we enabled and encouraged - took care of the former, and our own financial and economic myopia removed the later.
With the very real prospect of a challenge in the Western Pacific by the PRC to signal to their people and the world that a new world order is at hand - with PRC characteristics - we don’t have time for hope in magic thinking, neat sounding PPT-thick concepts, or wunderwaffe made of copium and easy buttons.
No, this is a time for a meat and potatoes, blocking and tackling CNO. In bold neon signs outlined with enough industrial scale LED lights to block out the sun, the last 18-months have done nothing but inform us that if we need to be ready to fight inside the next 5 POM cycles, we need more of what is presently under production. We need additional production shifts, more facilities. We need more ship repair capabilities and parts to enable a more combat ready fleet. We need more mobile facilities. We need an order of magnitude more logistics capabilities, large and small. We need to be able to recruit more of those who interested and able to serve.
R&D is important, but secondary. No offsets, no transformation, no 72-hr CONOPS will deliver what is needed to fight and win in this “decade of greatest concern” that we have already wasted too much time admiring without action.
All that being said, and time may prove me wrong, but this is why I am optimistic.
I’ll keep it short and simple.
Her wiki page has a nice concise summary;
Since promotion to flag rank, Franchetti has held appointments as: commander, United States Naval Forces Korea; commander Carrier Strike Group 9; commander, Carrier Strike Group 15; and chief of staff, Joint Staff, J-5, Strategy, Plans and Policy; and Commander, United States Sixth Fleet, Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO; deputy commander, United States Naval Forces Europe; deputy commander United States Naval Forces Africa; and Joint Force Maritime Component Commander.
Western Pacific: she knows Korea and all associated areas. She also has Pappy coming in to INDOPACOM - an exceptional partner. I hope they have a solid professional relationship already.
Fleet Challenges: from maintenance to readiness, her time leading CSG-9 and CSG-15 gave her a first person look at it. She knows it.
JS J5: that speaks for itself.
C6F et al: she knows Europe and has already built a working and personal relationship with many of her peers in NATO. She’s seen up close what they do and how they do it. Invaluable.
VCNO: the most important. She’s seen OPNAV and the Potomac Flotilla up close. The greatest danger to her tenure as CNO - and as such our Navy and the nation it serves - is not spotty relationships with the SECNAV and his staff; it not Congress; is not the press; is not the economy; and it sure isn’t her Sailors writ large - no - the greatest threat is the long-dwell nomenklatura in a commuting distance of The Pentagon and The Hill who do not see their job as adjusting their responsibilities to support the CNO, but to bend the CNO towards their personal agendas, projects, and job security. There are some exceptional and valuable people there to support the CNO, but the organization is worm ridden with rent seekers and bad actors. She’s seen that up close. She knows it.
Since making Flag, she managed to walk around all the rakes, had good luck and timing (part of any success), and she did a solid job as assigned. She has the right experience and performance.
I know a handful of people, some friends of mine for over two decades, who know her personally and have since they were both JOs. With one mild exception, these people I would trust my family with speak well of her. That combined with what I’ve seen in open source works for me.
All new CNOs come in with a freshly topped off basket of good will and a flush account of personal capital. Like her predecessors, she will have to determine when to use that, when to expend that, where to invest that in order to make movement.
As for what I’d like to be her priorities? You can guess from the above, but really she knows what needs to be done and will rack-and-stack accordingly. All will be revealed in time and we’ll address them as they come up.
Anyway, we have the confirmation to get through first and let’s hope there’s no last minute drama like we saw that brought Gilday in to the seat.
There is work to be done, and as the our mutual friend Bryan McGrath likes to say, “Winter is coming.”