On April 14, 2023, the US Navy launched its newest vessel in its fleet. The USS Cleveland, LCS-31, is a Freedom Class littoral combat ship. At 388 feet, it weighs in at 3,410 metric tons and can exceed 46mph on the water. Ordinarily, a ship launch is a publicized event with local coverage but rarely rises to the level of national attention. This event, however, was different and not in a good way.
Since its founding in October 1775, the US Navy has proudly and effectively served the nation in peacetime and wartime. As a maritime branch of service, it is intuitive that part of its essential existence involves building and launching ships. After 248 years, it would seem that the Navy has had time to perfect the process of putting a newly built ship made with taxpayers dollars into the water without mishap. During the mass ship building in World War 2, the Navy managed to coordinate the construction of over 5,500 ships and launch them without problems. Even 1000+ foot long aircraft carriers seem to be put to sea with routine ease, as should be expected after over 2 centuries of practice.
On 14 April 2023, the US Navy launched the USS Cleveland, the 4th ship to proudly bear that name. During the launch, the ship slid into the water and crashed into a tugboat, damaging the brand new ship that cost between $600M and $800M dollars. The launch was on time and performed in front of a planned publicly attended event. Admittedly, I am a former Army officer and not a sailor, but it would seem obvious that you don’t park a tiny tugboat at the base of a ramp where a ship larger than a football field will hurtle down a ramp and crash into the water. Numerous YouTube videos document the debacle. Here is one:
As a physician, I am in a profession that performs root cause analyses when dangerous events occur. This type of investigation is performed to see if the event was caused by isolated human error or bad luck or if it was the cause of a systemic failure/problem that could indicate that similar events could predictably happen again unless leadership, equipment, or process changes are implemented. Given that this was the 16th ship of this class built and put to sea and that the US Navy has been putting ships to see for over 248 years, it is likely this is not caused by a new ship or a brand new navy launching its first ship.
What has changed is the leadership of the Navy. While festering for years, the problem accelerated in 2020/2021 with the election of Biden and the wokeism/DEI culture that has taken hold of the Department of Defense. The Navy seems more focused on pronoun training, DEI/woke curriculum for its service academy and service members, and on forced quotas for LGTBQ+ personnel within its ranks. Contrary to repeated assertions from DoD that DEI is making the military stronger, it is actually distracting the military and making it less effective. The proof is in this video and in the recent loss of Afghanistan.
This is not a problem of lower ranking officers and enlisted in the Navy. This is a problem of the Navy’s admirals. When the most expensive Navy in the world with seemingly unlimited budgets for equipment cannot even put a ship in the water without damaging it, it is clear that it has a leadership problem that flows from the top of its ranks. When the first mission of a brand new ship is to be deadlined for repairs due to to a failed launch, it is a clear sign that the admirals of the US Navy at the highest levels have lost focus of their raison d’entre. Worse, this is not the first event and, fresh on the heels of an embarrassing loss in a foreign war and a military that refuses to do introspection, the obvious solution is that the highest ranking admirals in the US Navy have failed and need to be replaced. With a SECDEF cheering on the DEI/woke process, this will clearly only happen with elections in 2024 to put politicians in place to ‘clean house’ in DoD by firing most or all of the senior leadership that cares more for wokeism than for defending the US Constitution and fielding a competent military.
John Hughes, MD
Veteran of OIF/OEF
Co-Chair of www.americanism.org a registered superpac