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Document: Naval Postgraduate School Study on U.S. Navy Strategy Development

The following is the paper, Navy Strategy Development: Strategy in the 21st Century, published in June by the Naval Postgraduate School.

  • Rob C.

    Is this going even apply today’s Navy, will they even considered they changes?

  • Curtis Conway

    Project Background:

    First Paragraph:

    If one is to have a strategy whose goals is to use “ends, ways, and means to achieve specific objectives”, by achieving “theater, national, and/or multinational objectives”, then the combat platforms you intend to pursue those objectives with had better be capable of accomplishing the mission. Your team is as strong as its weakest link . . . I wonder which platform in our team is the ‘weakest link’?

    Second Paragraph:

    We are broke, but the job is still there and potential adversaries are growing. The obvious solution is to build less expensive ships that can still get the job done, which
    should preclude single mission ships (read things that require a mission package change to accomplish its mission). Strategy is good and necessary, but the population of the planet looks for presence. When they do not see the Red, White and Blue flying off their coast or in their ports things are different. When our absence begins to allow too much change due to lack of stabilizing presence, and something evil fills the vacuum, then something other than money is expended to regain the
    ground we have lost. Presence and capability should be our priority. This is where the comparison to the other services comes to an end. The Barbary Pirates are the proof.

    The next several paragraphs look like high pollutant excuses covering an overly polluted process of creating/preserving programs driven by the Industrial Military Complex, that has captured the money and delivered things they have sold to the ‘makers of the process’, providing the answer to the problem being pre-established. A multi-warfare and very capable platform that could outperform the FFG-7 should
    have been in the works thirty years ago, and those platforms should have been
    displacing the frigates as they came out of service. At present you are to have a smaller force, that is less capable . . . and you planned it that way!!! And . . . you bet your overly academic and bureaucratic process did us in, and it was NEVER to provide Presence and Capability, the crown jewels of any combat force anywhere, anytime! Strategy: In this austere budgetary environment building things that can still meet the need, yet cost less are required.

    The natural progression missing in the surface combatant type vessel was the Aegis Frigate. We built the Cruisers, then the Destroyers, and the Frigate was consciously
    skipped, and now we are paying the price. Everyone demagogued the issue and turned “Aegis” into an overly expensive and proprietary system (which we could not afford to put on a frigate sized platform), instead of a ‘combatant capability’, regardless of equipment set or manufacture. It’s like a deliberate myopic narcosis.

    Project Objectives:

    First Bullet – Each COCOM already has a mission within his region of responsibility. You should be concentrating on providing him/her with resources to meet those responsibilities (one of the tenants of leadership). Presence is constantly quoted during congressional hearings as a mission set that cannot be met in their AORs.

    Second Bullet – The only way the US Navy can hedge its operational responsibilities given the first bullet is to maintain as much capability as can be retained in their region. The question in the premise of the bullet should NEVER be something that
    any operational commander should ever have to worry about. Otherwise your process has broken the faith with those whom you have assigned the responsibility. So every Unified Commander is holding his/her breath every time the minimum force size to meet the need leaves his/her operational area, and continues to hold their breath until sufficient forces to meet the minimum need returns to their AOR. Wow, that’s planning to succeed!

    Third Bullet – This very paragraph is expressed in terms of a manufacturing environment or academic endeavor. We have Combat Forces in the field that must
    be supported. Your mission is to ‘meet their need’, not that of industry, or academia.
    Coordinate, cooperate, do whatever you must to meet operational force needs. Everybody is on the team to be sure, but these ‘stakeholders’ SUPPORT the combatant commands, not the other way around, although they may participate with them. These stake holding organizations are not manning ‘ships of the line’ performing the function of presence, and might have to use that ‘capability’ thing, should the need arise.

    Fourth and Fifth Bullets – actually make sense to me. Systems capabilities and force mix should always complement (mutually support) to the extent possible, and you are missing a very important, perhaps the most important factor in the future, and that is the role of Electronic Warfare. This is the time to introduce the Electronic Warfare Combatant Commander (EWCOM) to provide the function of coordinating the activity of requirements, equipment capability-interoperability, coordination, and exercising the ‘use there of’ across all services over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. This should be in the training plan of every service, for it is the wave of the future and we must be ready.

    Principle Findings:

    1. When presence is required the US Navy lacks sufficient platforms with which to meet the need. Should that presence fail to prevent conflict, then sufficient capability on ‘platforms present’ must enable our forces to be victorious, or be able to hold on until help can arrive. This premise is always on the minds of the commanders of forces underway.

    2. What was to be a process that would ensure success has turned into a menu to fill to promote whatever and whoever, but it’s national defense in name only. Our
    current results is the proof, and it’s not just the current administration policy that makes it so. This direction was determined decades ago.

    3. Budget plans and force mix …?… “….The processes that exist are anemic, ad hoc and personality driven.”… and … you want to give the Defense Chiefs greater budgetary authority? One cannot make this stuff up. The 30mm conversions going on Strykers in 2017 should have already been there (they go up against BMP/BDRs that already have them), just like we should have already had an Aegis Guided Missile Frigates coming out of two yards, on a two for one basis compared to DDGs, today. Your ‘Strategy” so far has not met the needs of the combatant commanders even at a fundamental level (presence and capability), yet more pressure has been added (BMD).

    4. “OPNAV’s processes and structures vary notably from the other services’.” We are a maritime nation. Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOCs) are what keeps this nations’ economy going and a seaborne presence spells out which service would lead this effort. The US Navy is one of the larger players in the COCOM around the planet. Unlike a strategic bomber a surface combatant can provide presence in any location on most of that 70% of the planet for an extended period (days), and that presence is capable of handling most every threat (multi-warfare) . . . unless you built
    it to do otherwise. Therefore, any platform required to provide presence should at a minimum be multi-warfare capable. This “policy priorities and strategy drive(n) program” of yours has brought us to this ! . . WITH the help of the Army and the Air Force. Presence, and capability of what is providing that presence, is sacrosanct. Even the Romans knew that.

    5. I suspect budget competing Army and Air Force strategist are responsible for the content of paragraph 5, along with some in the Navy Chain of Command who have Forgotten their HiStory, even recent HiStory like Pearl Harbor. Presence and force
    levels are the only thing that counts when things get hot. It is Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest who gives us our wise council today, and that principle of victory goes to “he who bring the mostest the fastest”. You may not like the purely American source, his politics, or his use of English, but it is as true today as it was in the Civil War. This concept is a variation of a theme authored by General George Washington who basically stated that maintaining the Peace requires a trained and ready force. The only thing that is obsolete here is the overly academic analysis of the situation at hand. When the shooting starts numbers and capability matters. If your job is to prevent that shooting from starting, then you better have the force to deter it ‘in place’. That principle is being violated in every COCOM area.

    1: The Navy’s Strategy Deficit The US Navy has had a clear and strategic direction from its inception to today. Every commander at sea looks at what he has, and the mission to be accomplished. Providing capabilities to COCOMS revolves around the nature of the threat and the lay of the land (ocean in this case). US Navy sailors, like dismounted cavalry becoming infantry, can move to shore and still accomplish a mission. The converse is not true, and the environment, equipment and mission, dictates this necessity. Taking troops to sea is a little different, ask a Marine.
    The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986,
    Public Law 99-433 was a necessary vehicle to coordinate activities amongst the
    services. The enemy is inter-service parochialism combined with budgetary pressures. Everyone has a job to do and we are All Americans. The Gulf War showed us that, and that is the reality the man holding the rifle, or manning the ship understands. What is needed here is less competition and more coordination. The Pacific Pivot has changed the focus of the force overall from land in Asia and Europe to the Big Pond which is necessarily more Navy-centric. The combination of a lack of a smaller multi-warfare surface combatants, in significant numbers, created by the absence of the FFG-7s (or like platform), combined with greater emphasis with credible presence requirements in the SLOCs, and the necessary increase in Marine Corps amphibious activity, has placed pressures on the force rotating to the Pacific. Throw on top of that the growing BMD mission set and things get a bit complicated. Some pressure can be relieved by the availability of the 1,000 ship navy, but from a political perspective US forces must always be able to stand on their own. We must, for we are in the lead. Some countries may be able to assume more responsibilities in their respective areas. Australia, India, Japan and South Korea have all shown some promise and some are stepping up to the plate. However, the United States
    has been given the lead by G-d Almighty Himself (for it is HiS-story) and who are we to shrink from the task?

    Technological Challenges:

    Regardless of life span and technologies used in surface combatants, there will always be a requirement for situational awareness, communications, speed & maneuver, and electrical power, and finally something or someone has to maintain presence. The sea change for the next generation of surface combatants will be
    Directed Energy, Railgun, increased electrical power generation-storage- transmission and distribution, and electric propulsion. Until shields, force-fields, and Warp Drive arrives, these previously mentioned are the technologies to employ on every platform. Perhaps it is time to revisit nuclear power.

    2: Programming and Budgeting Eclipses Strategy and Policy &

    3: Inconsistent Strategic Planning Processes &

    4: OPNAV’s Processes and Structures Vary Notably from the
    Other Services

    I sympathize with the overly bureaucratic and cumbersome planning mechanisms and individuals that mostly interfere with each other, and few if any are around long enough to get a grip on what they are doing . . . much more . . . actually be responsible for the role they play in the overall function of planning. Those flag officers sure get to occupy the billet and move up though the space, having actually
    accomplishing very little except add a line on the FITREP. How many flag officers do we have today, and what do they do, and yes I have my May issue of Proceedings.

    “Today, Navy strategists find themselves in a rather difficult situation when it comes to devising and explaining the way Naval Forces contribute to national defense.” This statement is made by someone who has no idea what “proactive presence” means in the greater COCOM context, and appears to not have any idea who Alfred Thayer Mahan was. The individual responsible for that sentence may have been involved in creating vacuums or removing proactive and positive presence around the planet that was filled with negative things, and made the situation much worse than when we were there. However, these individuals will certainly want the local Sheriff’s Department to be well equipped, trained, and respond in a rapid manner when needed, which is usually facilitated by the fact that one is on patrol at any given time, and nearby. US Navy combatant commanders are in great need of assets that provide presence and capability. Budget is captured to provide the platforms,
    and defense of that production, is sacrosanct. US Navy strategy and budgetary process will always be coordinated with, but separate from, the other services as a
    necessary requirement due to its unique operational environment and tasking.

    5: Historic Cycles in Navy Strategy

    “The Reagan-Lehman 600-ship Navy program that re-coupled the Navy to the general effort to respond to Soviet global ambitions” was a mistake and HiStory proves it. Since the two nuclear weapons were dropped in Japan that lead to the end of the war, and we spread nuclear power and technology all over the planet, the responsibility of monitoring the Nuclear Genie we let out of the bottle, has been costly but necessary particularly with the advent of Radical Islamic Terrorism. The concept of gaining Paradise by sacrificing oneself is beyond the grasp of the average Western mindset. However, it is becoming ever more present in the Eastern mindset (e.g., our relationship with Pakistan), and this mindset is growing. Not Good!!!

    Since the drawdown of forces after the fall of the Soviet Union, nuclear proliferation
    has increased, and strife around the planet has grown, particularly during the
    failed Foreign Policy Initiatives of this administration. Except for this, most of the lessons of HiStory are lost on the current situation, except for perhaps technological
    advancement. Protecting the SLOCS, and maintaining a presence still reigns, even in the minds of our adversaries (potential or otherwise). South China Sea is a case in point.

    Comparing USN force strategy to that of other services comes to an end when one considers the mission of Humanitarian Relief. All services participate to be sure, but no one like the USN/USMC Team. This is when the US shines, makes G-d smile,
    and the world rallies to our side. This mission is best done with large and capable platforms with lots of aviation capability. I suspect more of this is in our future. This brings us to the place where GWOT platforms and Humanitarian Aid have a huge overlap in force mix requirements. We should also look at the return for the investment. I’m sure the combat capability of the assets are not lost to the commanders in that region of responsibility. When a new Long Range Bomber, which we hope they never see, will take a while to get to the target, can only stay for a short time, cost nearly as much as a Small Surface Combatant that can maintain a positive proactive presence for days, weeks, or months, then the math starts becoming more interesting, and weighing of the impact of any given platform is skewed in a specific direction. Now there is a strategy!

    The ‘Walk down memory lane’ of naval HiStory within that context shows how much the force has grown and adapted. An all-volunteer force has solved many of our personnel problems until the federal government started using our Armed Forces as social engineering experiments. Standards are being lowered and force readiness levels are suffering, and this is within the environment of a planet growing more dangerous by the day for Democracy.

    If GWOT is the global priority then the forces that support that activity should be the focus. The smaller and faster combatant seems to have come about (LCS), but a more robust aviation support element may be required to keep situations from going from warm to hot. This is where augmented ESGs or CVLBGs, and their operational cost, would come in very handy over a full Carrier Strike Group. Technology can fill some force level gaps to a certain extent with greater reach and lethality, but this will not solve all problems. The P-8A Poseidon is a case in point. When we finally get that little surface combatant with a drop-dead accurate situational awareness (radar-ESM-passive sensors), Directed Energy Weapons, and a railgun with some reach, then we can start to breathe again. Don’t think that is happening in the next decade. There is another element for a future strategy of capable presence.

    When strategy fails the indicator is usually conflict. At that point numbers and capabilities is the only thing that counts. The process discussed in this report has expended all its efforts creating a critique of a strategy that a) doesn’t meet the need, and b) will not deter conflict. Once conflict ensues we are not ready on the low end of the surface combatant scale, and the CGs & DDGs are being pulled for BMD duty with completion of every conversion. More lower-end multi-warfare capable platforms are required. Some of us have been ringing this bell for two decades and no one has listened. The strategy here should be to have a combat system on every surface combatant that has a Tactical Ballistic Missile Defense capability to some extent, as well as multi-warfare capability.

    The CVN rotation is already stretched for maintaining force levels and something is needed to fill the gaps. The Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) or Expeditionary
    Strike Groups (ESG) can relieve some pressure, as it has in the past, particularly with the advent of the F-35B, but more aircraft will be required in each ESG deployment, and ESGs lack a long range AEW asset making them a less viable replacement, should things go from warm to hot. Consideration of Light Carrier Battle Groups based upon the USS America (LHA-6) Class vessel should be considered, along with an AEW&C variant of the V-22 Osprey (EV-22?). The capabilities of the F-35B combat system is the compelling technological argument. This advent would fundamentally change the equation, and more forces with less costs are available to meet a specific need. Again, another strategy for greater presence that is capable enough, at less cost.

    Presence, force levels, and capabilities present, is not that large of an academic analysis . . . until you turn it into one!

    Like the first sentence of the conclusion. It took several administrations reacting to
    political pressure to concentrate on domestic issues to reduce force levels and
    the corresponding budget to support that COCOM presence in the negative. The missions of the COCOMS wasn’t changed, nor has the primary enumerated function of the federal government, and that is to defend and protect this great nation physically and economically. The planet got more dangerous, then this administration doubled down on the ‘reduction in force’ process, as if the evidence indicated an antithetical answer that was not the HiStorical precedent. It will take a new administration and a growth economy to create the environment in which the US Armed Forces in general, and US Navy specifically, can be rebuilt into what is required to maintain world peace so International Trade (SLOCS) upon which our economy relies, can be kept safe.

    To temper my comments: This farm boy from Texas was a Class of ’74 Abilene High School, Abilene, TX, and attended Texas A&M University for a time, then spent 21
    years in the US Navy (Active & Reserve) and joined the ranks of the Gray Area Retires in ‘97, and during Active and Reserve service was an Assistant Test Director for Aegis Test at CESEDS, NJ for 5 years, and a Hardware Engineering Department Lead at the B-1B Lancer Bomber Simulator System, Dyess AFB, TX, for 9 years, and am totally removed from the Industrial Military Complex today. Staying up to date on what is going on in the world is easier today than ever before (except for the classified portion), which is a lot more than I can say for many who are in positions of power, and making decisions that affect us all, our security, and the safety and security of the planet (et al), and have access to the classified portion. The distractions discussed in this report miss the fundamental point of this mostly academic discussion. Once again:

    1. What is the need?
    2. What is the environment?
    3. What is the sequence of events as they will occur in our pursuit of the goal?
    4. Will we be victorious with what is at hand, or how can we be victorious with what we have at hand within the context we find ourselves?
    5. What is your Plan-B?


    CWO3 Curtis E. Conway, Jr., USNR (Ret)

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