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Document: U.S. Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower 2015 Revision

The following is the 2015 revision of A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, the cooperative strategy between the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, released on March 13, 2015.

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  • Curtis Conway

    “Merging our individual capabilities and capacity produces a combined naval effect that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

    The synergistic effect of the 1,000 ship navy has merit, but . . . like all teams it is as strong as its weakest link. Therefore the capabilities of US seagoing forces must always be ready, and without question, the most capable asset present. Our surface combatants, and Coast Guard Cutters, must be multi-warfare platforms of unquestioned, and well understood capability.

    “ . . . fifth function: all domain access.”

    The United States Navy has done its best, and successfully accomplished for the most part, unfettered access to the Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) for our trade and that of our Allies for decades. All nations participating in this activity
    must be righteous actors with performance evaluated by measurable metrics.

    “As a signatory of the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), China demonstrates its ability to embrace international norms, institutions, and standards of behavior commensurate with rising power status.”

    Observance of the code is well understood and not hard to demonstrate, unless of course, you own and utilize two 10,000 ton Coast Guard Cutters that will intimidate anything short of a US Navy Aegis Cruiser or Destroyer, upon its appearance. I look forward to see how these fisheries policing vessels will be employed in the
    South China Sea.

    “ . . . the need for a global network of navies that leverages the best capabilities of participating states.”

    HiStory is replete with examples of calling upon Allies to bring necessary capabilities to which they declined to provide, or neglected to employ, in the needed manner at the required moment. Therefore, the United States should never put itself in the position where any platform we place on patrol is not capable in every warfare area. To go anywhere on the planet and not provide an able multi-warfare defense is irresponsible.

    “Transnational criminal organizations (TCO) remain a threat to stability in Africa and the Western Hemisphere, especially in Central America and the southern approaches of the U.S. homeland.”

    This is a good reason to bring in the US Coast Guard globally. However, reconstituting a major joint military installation in the Caribbean Basin should be a
    priority. It is also another good reason to equip US Coast Guard Cutters with frigate capabilities. To just redefine what a frigate is, just will not cut it in the real world. We will have to tie up two ships (LCS/SSC?FF / Coast Guard Cutter, and their capable combat escort) to maintain meaningful presence anywhere, and be safe.

    “ . . . most notably in the Arctic and Antarctic . . . the Arctic Ocean will be increasingly accessible and more broadly used by those seeking access . . “

    Every surface combatant platform, at a minimum, must be an all ocean capable vessel. Due to the distances involved. All of our new vessels should inherently be as fuel efficient as we can make them, yet maintain excellent speed capability.
    Duty in the Arctic and Antarctic will involve greater risks than normally
    encountered in typical seaways requiring more safety built into the vessels
    design, training and equipment, and support facilities.

    “Naval forces must have the resilience to operate under the most hostile cyber and EM conditions.”

    The US Navy possesses, maintains, and employs the most capable Electronic Attack capability in the free world. That superior capability must be enhanced, maintained, and effectiveness never questioned by potential adversaries. Our superiority in this arena must never be eclipsed, or eroded in any way, in any theater worldwide. The Electronic Maneuver Warfare described demonstrates the necessity of Electronic Warfare. Budgetary priorities and acquisition policies should reflect appropriately.

    “Employ modular designed platforms that allow mission modules and payloads to be swapped instead of entire ships, saving time and money. Littoral Combat Ships, which will be redesignated as Frigates (FF) in the future, are an example of this
    capability.”

    Once again we have that 3D operational ‘aviation mentality’ creeping into 2D operational naval surface warfare environment. This is dangerous, driven by budget, and ill advised, and eventually will [most likely] costs lives. A surface combatant should never steam into any situation that it is not prepared to handle, and has capable contingencies to handle. As good as our intelligence
    services are the activities around the planet are not always predictable. Therefore, every surface combatant must possess capabilities and contingencies, to handle unforeseen circumstances. Basic baseline capabilities in Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) are required. If I were to define an absolutely safe system I would add Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) capability. Availability of SM-2/SM-3/SM-6 missile family is sufficient quantities (and for an FF it would be a hand full) may require licensed production by partner nations. A discussion of the proliferation of Ballistic Missiles of all types was conspicuously missing in this document, although Ballistic Missile Defense was discussed, that will tie up US Navy assets in the future. Lack of consideration in this area of surface combat system design and specification development will result in lack of readiness at the least, and cost lives worst case.

    As recognized in the plan the ASEAN alliance is the tool to use for the Indian Ocean, Western Pacific, and specifically the South China Sea [Asia-Pacific] area. An International Maritime Operations Center (IMOC) should be established in the region. Perhaps Brunei should be approached for such an important task, then see how Indonesia reacts, since they have not enthusiastically warmed to the idea. An adjunct to that facility should be added in the Philippines.

    Presence by the Marine Corps is encouraging because the region is perfect for V-22 operations. Distances and available facilities, particularly in the South China Sea, will require V-22 Osprey support. Hopefully the Japanese do acquire them and begin patrols in the South China Seas as a partner in the region as they have
    indicated they very likely will.

    “■ Improve our capability to seize, establish, sustain, and protect austere
    expeditionary bases that enhance naval operations in anti-access/area denial
    threat environments.”

    If the US Coast Guard is to step-up into the position of greater global responsibility, and steam in circumstances that place these vessels at greater risk, they should be able to handle those risks. Therefore, the Legend Class cutters should look more like a surface combatant and be more robustly equipped. An improvement program for the Legend Class should be introduced, and consideration for growth in that force is in order. An improved version of the Legend Class Cutter with enhanced capabilities could begin with a follow-on Unit #9, and the current force of eight can rotate in for enhancement as the new vessels come on line. Growth of the force will depend on worldwide requirements (e.g., South China Sea, Arctic, and Antarctic). If this is not to be accomplished, then the USCG hulls should be removed from the list of US Surface Combatants. There is a definite and distinct difference between law enforcement and combat operations. Blurring the lines here is dangerous and when you make mistakes they will be permanent ones you can’t take back.

    The Department of Defense in general, but more specifically the Department of the Navy, should sponsor an initiative for the development of, or enhancement of ‘passive combat systems’. In the future use of active systems should be frowned upon unless conflict is certain.

    . . . in my humble opinion.

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