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75 years after the Battle of Midway changed the course of WWII, its lessons remain relevant ~By Dale Lumme, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 7, 2017

75 years after the Battle of Midway changed the course of WWII, its lessons remain relevant ~By Dale Lumme, Cleveland Plain Dealer, June 7, 2017
Created by mredmon@navalengineers.org on 6/6/2019 7:49:36 AM


MCLEAN, Virginia -- The Battle of Midway is widely recognized as the decisive naval battle in the war in the Pacific that turned the tide in the Allies' favor in World War II. Much has been written about the tactical aspects of the battle and the national security strategy that empowered our Navy to execute those successful tactics. Due to its significant capability at deciphering intercepts and the follow-on communications intelligence successes, the U.S. Navy surprised the Japanese fleet during the June 4-7, 1942 battle and sunk the four aircraft carriers that had attacked Pearl Harbor just six months before. 

To master the future, one must learn from the past.

Reviewing Battle of Midway lessons learned provides a link to understanding the maritime challenges of the future.

* Command (cyber) communications channels. Before the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy did not have command of the seas in the Pacific. The U.S. Navy understood that they needed to command the communications (cyber) domain. Once they understood the battle strategy of the Japanese fleet, the U.S. Navy could plan and execute their strategy for victory.

Today we realize that the ability to deter and defeat future naval conflict is being challenged by the intelligence-gathering advances by multiple foreign navies - a significant lesson we learned at the Battle of Midway that we must urgently address in every combat-readiness mission area.

* Retain freedom of the seas by budgeting around the strategy. In World War II, America had a clear national security strategy. For too many years we have generated arbitrary national security budgets, then tried to execute a strategy based upon that budget. As we learned at the Battle of Midway, strategy must come first.

Before World War II, the U.S. Navy sailed in troubled waters for many years. But, the right military and civilian leaders, with a decisive national security strategy, and a robust American industrial base were able to quickly spin up production of ships and aircraft that provided the U.S. Navy the distinct advantage in command of the seas that returned our nation's oceans back to safe operating domains.

Our nation today has the vision from the chief of naval operations, the support from the Congress, and the capability of the shipbuilding industrial base that is ready, willing and able to accelerate ship production. But, what our nation needs is the will from the administration to accelerate these programs.

Our nation's Navy has ventured the world's oceans and has sailed into the escalating competition for command of the seas. The nation must urgently decide, and then be prepared to act as swiftly as did the naval leaders at the Battle of Midway, or the oceans we have ventured on for more than two centuries may become oceans lost - due to a loss of the freedom of the seas.

* Build more ships. Fleet size portends forward U.S. naval presence that enables freedom of navigation by ensuring safe command of the seas for the world's merchant shipping.  In recent congressional testimony, the chief of naval operations (CNO), Adm. John Richardson, acknowledged that size matters, the number of ships matter. In his Future Navy white paper. the CNO refers to threat assessments and future fleet studies that conclude that America needs a Navy of at least 350 ships.

The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman, a Virginia Republican, emphasized that the Navy's proposed Fiscal Year 2018 budget falls short in addressing the CNO's vision of moving faster in building a larger fleet, and concluded that there was a high degree of naivete in the area of ship construction in the FY 2018 budget. Ranking subcommittee member U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, a Democrat from Connnecticut, stated that the administration had proposed a 300-ship budget for a 350-ship strategy needed to continue to command the seas.

* Restore trust and accountability, and excise bloat. Battle of Midway naval leaders understood they needed to assemble the right team where it mattered, and be ready to execute the mission when it mattered. The current bloated bureaucracy directly feeds the beast of program timelines that lives in the swamp of Pentagon rings and corridors.

The WWII naval leaders learned that the key to more efficient and effective defense policy is trust, accountability (or they're fired) and empowerment, rather than to allow government bureaucrats to continue to operate as a stop on a conveyor belt of mediocrity.

The ability for the U.S. Navy to continue to command the seas is increasingly being contested by state and nonstate actors (pirates).

The time is now. As it was in the Battle of Midway, the U.S. Navy is who.

* Keep our adversaries guessing. By maintaining command of the seas, we will be able to achieve the goal of keeping our adversaries up at night -- continually worried and guessing about our nation's capabilities. As we learned from our naval leaders at the Battle of Midway, having the right strategy, the right leaders, the ability to understand and protect the cyber domain, and the requirement to be where it matters -- when it matters -- are key lessons learned for today's leaders.

Retired naval aviator Capt. Dale A. Lumme, a 1976 graduate of Madison High School in Lake County, Ohio, is current president of the Navy League of the United States, National Capital Council; maritime adviser at The Spectrum Group;  and corporate secretary at the Naval Historical Foundation.

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