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Harlan Ullman, Chair at the Killowen Group, describes what he believes Fleet Admiral Ernest King would say about the Navy’s current strategy, based on his World War II experiences

The Navy will spend $10 million on the first phase of the rebuild of the USS Bonhomme Richard, which is the latest in a series of setbacks for the Navy that a chain of Navy leaders have taken on. Harlan Ullman, Chair at the Killowen Group, discussed lessons that can be learned from Fleet Admiral Ernest King.

Ullman believes that there are major institutional problems and that Fleet Admiral Ernie King “would be taking a really tough look at the Navy based on his World War II experiences.” This would include looking at the overall strategy, preparedness, people and equipment.

King became Chief of Naval Operations in February of 1942 and took the title of Commander in Chief, which meant that he was in the chain of command. Ullman thinks King would find the Navy today “undermanned, overstretched, under-resourced, and with a lot of legacy platforms.” He would probably see the possibility of the Navy taking a “hell of a beating” if a war broke out with China, and he would probably regard Russia as an “irritant.”

Ullman believes King would say that, in order to prevent getting into a hot war with China the way we did with Japan in the 1940s, we need a different strategy and more allies. He would also note that none of the admirals today have the same wartime experience as King and his peers did, because we have not fought a naval war since 1945, so he would put in place fleet problems and war games to challenge officers. King would also likely revolutionize education, as he said, “a study of the history of war is necessary to make sure we have peace in the future.”

Ullman suggested that King would probably “take command of the Tenth Fleet and use it in non-kinetic ways to take on China and Russia to include space, cyber.” In terms of procurement, he would “go for more competition” and “would not like single source.” Finally, Ullman stated, King would “write tougher contracts.”

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