The “rest of the navy” consists of the Navy Department itself, the naval stations, the reserve ships and men, and also the ships and men that must be brought in from civil life. As the department is the agency for preparing the naval stations, the reserves, and the men and ships brought in from civil life, it is clear that the work of preparing the department will automatically prepare the others. The work of preparing any Navy Department necessitates the preparation and execution of plans, whereby the department itself and all the rest of the navy will be able to pass instantly from a peace footing to a war footing; will be able to pass instantly from a status of leisurely handling and supplying the existing fleet by means of the offices, bureaus, and naval stations, to the status of handling with the greatest possible despatch a force which will be not only much larger, but also much less disciplined and coherent.
In time of peace a Navy Department which is properly administered for times of peace, as most Navy Departments are, can, by means of its bureaus, naval stations, offices, etc., handle the existing fleet, and also these bureaus, naval stations, offices, etc., by labors which for the most part are matters of routine. The department opens for business at a certain time in the morning and closes at a certain time in the afternoon. During office hours the various officials and their clerks fill a few busy hours with not very strenuous labor, and then depart, leaving their cares behind them. The naval stations are conducted on similar principles; and even the doings of the fleet become in a measure matters of routine. All the ordinary business of life tends to routine, in order that men may so arrange their time, that they may have regular hours for work, recreation, and sleep, and be able to make engagements for the future.
But when war breaks out, all routine is instantly abolished. The element of surprise, which each side strives to interject into its operations, is inherently a foe to routine. In a routine life, expected things occur—it is the office of routine to arrange that expected things shall occur, and at expected times; in a routine life one is always prepared to see a certain thing happen at a certain time. Surprise breaks in on all this, and makes unexpected things occur, and therefore finds men unprepared. It is the office of surprise to catch men unprepared.
Appreciating this, and appreciating the value of starting a war by achieving some great success, and of preventing the enemy from so doing, military countries in recent years have advanced more and more their preparations for war, even in time of the profoundest peace, in order that, when war breaks out, they may be prepared either to take the offensive at once, or to repel an offensive at once. With whatever forces a nation expects or desires to fight in a war, no matter whether it will begin on the offensive or begin on the defensive, the value to the nation of those forces will depend on how soon they are gotten ready. In a navy, the active fleet may be considered always ready; but the personnel and the craft of various kinds that must be added to it cannot be added to it as quickly as is desirable—because it is desirable that they should be added immediately, which is impossible.