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Updating Our Defense Forces

January 09, 1990

Former Sen. Gary Hart ("Going From Cold War Firepower to Rough and Ready," Op-Ed Page, Dec. 26) merits high praise and gratitude for his expert and timely counsel urging prompt and sweeping reform within our military Establishment. The task is a daunting one indeed, requiring no less than a break with long and deeply ingrained military philosophy. The military is notorious for its religious adherence to antiquated practices, customs and tradition. Change is anathema, tantamount to heresy, and woe to liberals and progressives who preach change.

The history of the battleship is symbolic. Our Navy is obsessed with it despite the fact that it is in the category of prehistoric mammals long extinct. The battleship made no significant contribution to the war efforts of naval powers including the United States, Great Britain, Japan, France and Germany. In Vietnam and Beirut it was a flop and embarrassment and had to be withdrawn. Yet so close on the heels of such a dismal record the Reagan Administration recommissioned four battleships at enormous cost despite their greater vulnerability now and lack of reasonable mission.

How could this happen? Incomprehensible.

The recent rash of major accidents in our Navy is symptomatic of grave disorder requiring immediate and prolonged treatment. Reform. I contend that our Navy has been stretched to its limit during the long Cold War waged at hot-war tempo. Our personnel are weary and vulnerable, their morale suffering from long family separations. Reform of our operating and deployment pace and pattern is long overdue.

Our military must convert from its antiquated philosophy to a new and progressive one befitting the new and challenging era we enter.

FRANK A. ZIMANSKI

Captain, U.S. Navy (Ret.)

Coronado

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