Look to John Paul Jones to Restore the Navy’s Fighting Spirit

August 1, 2021 Updated: August 3, 2021


Legendary American Naval Officer John Paul Jones once said: “I intend to go into harm’s way.”

Our current U.S. Navy’s theme is, unfortunately, “I intend to sail into a safe space and focus on wokeness.”

The abject disaster that is the current Navy is shameful in light of the quickening pace of a showdown with China. I’ve personally worked on strategic cyber issues with Admiral Gilday and his staff and have a very positive impression from those days and those efforts.

However, the current state of affairs in the Navy is baffling. We have irreplaceable capital ships burning into total losses pier side, pervasive morale issues, and a loss of basic seamanship.

Retired Marine General Robert Schmidle—with whom I’ve worked—and Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery authored a recently released report that wasn’t restrained in its depiction of the current state of affairs for the Navy.

The Navy is in a shambles and in the bondage of wokeness. They’re unable to project American naval power in a fashion that’ll deter China. We’re on an unexplained holiday from the heady days where the Navy dominated the world’s oceans and went here or there at will.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a fire in the main engine room (allegorically speaking) and this misguided focus of our current Navy is a green light to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that we’ve lost resolve. The abandonment of operational art by our naval leaders is watched and analyzed in excruciating detail by the CCP. This misattention by military leadership is a key contributor to the initiation of world conflict.

Bold and Strong Navy Needed

What happened? Where did this cancer of wokeness start? I objectively point to Admiral Mullen—he started this trend. Mullen didn’t defend the military institution from politicization. Rather, he made it clear that he would conform the military institution to the social engineering policies and attitudes of an administration.

In any case, there seems to be some kind of “virus” infecting the senior uniformed leaders of all of our military services. They traipse the E Ring of the Pentagon in their togas trying to out-virtue-signal each other while the military services atrophy. The leaders of our military have lost focus and have become extensions of the religion of social experimentation.

For the good of our incredible Republic, the current administration needs to refocus the senior civilian and uniformed military leadership of the Department of Defense in a singular main purpose and focus: Rapidly build capacity to deter China from initiating high (or low) intensity conflict. If China starts a conflict, decisively defeat the People’s Liberation Army. That’s it. Everything else is an enabler or a sideshow.

Chinese regime leader Xi Jinping is in a crisis at home. There’s a food and protein crisis in China, if you haven’t heard. There’s an energy and a capital market access crisis. The internal discontent is building fast. The CCP is under extreme duress at home, and there’s one thing totalitarians always do when under duress—initiate military conflict.

In any conflict scenario with China, the joint U.S. military strategy logically points to the Navy (and Air Force) being the source of the main effort. I’m career Army, but I’m purple—devoted to the success of all the services—through and through, so I know as a seasoned and service-agnostic strategic planner and implementer that we must put the Navy on steroids—now.

If that means shaving down, transferring Army units to the Navy, and reconfiguring the Army to help fund the Navy (and Air Force), so be it. Everything else must take care of itself while we establish a World War II-like recapitalization of the entire Navy.

The shipbuilding plan established by the Trump administration and embraced by the Biden administration in a modified format must be the new religion of the Department of Defense. Our entire Navy and its entire support infrastructure must be recapitalized at flank speed. We need more ships, more shipyards, more missiles—more of everything if we want to prevent war. The more prepared we are, the less likely conflict will happen.

Sweat Now, or Pay Later

The SHIPYARD Act, which has strong bipartisan support, is a great start to enable the rapid expansion of the Navy. However, it must be carried out with John Paul Jones-like spirit and panache.

The current leadership of the Navy must be swapped out with alacrity and new uniformed leaders with the right spirit and focus must be brought in to put out the fires and rebuild the Navy with a fearless spirit in the hallowed traditions of the legends of the Navy.

We can’t wait for a naval Kasserine Pass to change leadership. The CCP isn’t impressed or deterred by Navy sailors virtue-signaling in their CCP virus masks. They’ll be deterred only by an intimidating Navy that can boldly sail into harm’s way and deftly sweep aside any opponent.

Retired Col. John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now, Great Power Competition. He’s the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense. On Gab: @ColonelRETJohn. On Gettr: @ColonelRETJohn. On Telegram: Daily Missive

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

John Mills
John Mills
Col. (Ret.) John Mills is a national security professional with service in five eras: Cold War, Peace Dividend, War on Terror, World in Chaos, and now—Great Power Competition. He is the former director of cybersecurity policy, strategy, and international affairs at the Department of Defense.