Home » Aviation » CNO: ‘Dynamic Force Employment’ Could Allow More High-End Training for Strike Groups

CNO: ‘Dynamic Force Employment’ Could Allow More High-End Training for Strike Groups

The aircraft carriers USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and their strike groups are underway, conducting operations in international waters as part of a three-carrier strike force exercise on Nov. 12, 2017. US Navy photo.

ABOARD USS GEORGE H.W. BUSH — As the Navy looks at shaking up its deployment patterns to become more responsive to world events and more unpredictable to adversaries, one key benefit may be more time available for high-end training closer to home.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has been stumping for the idea of dynamic force employment, which ties in nicely with the National Defense Strategy’s call to “be strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”

Navy deployments tend to be governed by a 36-month Optimized Fleet Response Plan cycle of maintenance, training, a regularly scheduled seven-month deployment and then about 15 months of being ready to surge forward if needed or maintain readiness at home. However, Richardson said this week he believes OFRP and dynamic force employment are complementary ideas rather than opposing ones, noting that OFRP creates ready forces and he’s simply looking to use that readiness in new ways.

“What we’re talking about is, once that readiness is generated, what do we do with that naval force? So I see it as being very complementary to the OFRP, injecting dynamic maneuver to naval forces at sea. I think these two are not in conflict at all,” he told reporters aboard USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) at sea on Monday.

If OFRP was already generating ready naval forces, Richardson is now interested in using dynamic force employment to create more naval power with those forces.

“If you think about all the ways you could increase the power of the Navy, it’s not necessarily going forward, disaggregating the strike group and doing those sorts of operations,” he told USNI News later in the day on Monday.
“Maybe we increase naval power by bringing the strike group back a little early and we do high-end strike-group-on-strike-group exercises or training like that, and then you really kind of enter a, I’m trying out some things that are really on the cutting edge of naval warfare. And then the strike group pulls in and they get a little time with their families, time to go to schools, that sort of thing, and then maybe they surge forward – so you’re not gone for that long period of time, maybe you can do a little maintenance, and so we see there’s opportunities.”

The Navy has conducted several multi-strike-group operations in recent years, though not all have been able to operate at the high-end of warfighting. Three carrier strike groups met in the Sea of Japan in November, but USNI News reported they were not able to practice sophisticated maneuvers together due to being so close to Chinese forces.

“It’s an aspect of the security environment that it’s getting harder to do things without being observed, no matter where you are. So we’re going to have to be clever about that,” Richardson told USNI News.

If trained and certified carrier strike groups were to spend less time disaggregated overseas providing presence and working with allies and partners on lower-end operations, and instead devoted more time to training together to advance warfare tactics, Richardson argued, that would contribute to increasing naval power.

“What about dual strike group operations on the same team? What about strike group operations opposing? And maybe as the (French aircraft carrier), Charles de Gaulle strike group comes up to speed (after its maintenance availability ends this summer), when we’re over in 6th Fleet or something we work them into the routine as well. So just a lot of opportunities there.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson watches an F/A-18E Super Hornet from the “Golden Warriors” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 87 launch from the flight deck of USS George H.W. Bush CVN-77) on May 14, 2018. USNI News photo.

Asked about second and third order effects of the shift in how forces deploy – what it means for sailors’ families, what it means for ship maintenance and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers’ fuel consumption to potentially take more trips across the ocean but spend less time on station – Richardson said those considerations would be monitored as the Navy learns more about how the fleet can support new deployment patterns.

“The logistics and the fuel consumption and all that stuff will have to be measured as we do that so that we don’t overextend ourselves in that regard, but I think there’s a lot of good that will come out of it,” he said.

The CNO said his hope is not to upend how the Navy trains and prepares for deployment, but rather “to restore even more maneuver, restore that dynamism that has honestly become a little bit predictable. We kind of deploy in a very predictable schedule, we go to a predictable place and we come back in a predictable time. And so we’re going to try to stir that up a little bit so we’re not to easy to figure out.”

Richardson also said on Monday that the standup of U.S. 2nd Fleet – and the proposal to dual-hat the command with a new NATO Joint Force Command – would bring its own set of opportunities for operational innovation with allies.

“I would imagine that we’ll get a fair amount of allied liaison officers on the (2nd) Fleet staff as well,” he said when asked how 2nd Fleet would compare to the other numbered fleets around the globe.
“A lot of people have already approached me as seeing it as an opportunity so that as we – our 6th Fleet is the forward fleet in Naples, and they do a lot of working with our European partners with deployed assets – here we can potentially do a little bit more on the training and experimentation end of business with our allies. So it really I think opens up some opportunities.”

Richardson argued soon after taking over as chief of naval operations that the Navy was facing a return to great power competition that would force the service to operate differently. He has since discussed the role of a distributed maneuvering force to counter adversary threats, and more recently highlighted agility as one of six elements of naval power.

When the Pentagon released the National Defense Strategy in January, the same themes were present.

“Be strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable,” the strategy dictates.
“Deterring or defeating long-term strategic competitors is a fundamentally different challenge than the regional adversaries that were the focus of previous strategies. Our strength and integrated actions with allies will demonstrate our commitment to deterring aggression, but our dynamic force employment, military posture, and operations must introduce unpredictability to adversary decision-makers. With our allies and partners, we will challenge competitors by maneuvering them into unfavorable positions, frustrating their efforts, precluding their options while expanding our own, and forcing them to confront conflict under adverse conditions.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis wrote in congressional testimony that “we are also changing our forces’ posture to prioritize readiness for warfighting in major combat, making us strategically predictable for our allies and operationally unpredictable for any adversary.” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford wrote in his own testimony that “in addition to investing in capabilities to increase the lethality of the force, the Department is developing concepts to maximize the effectiveness and agility of the force we have today. For example, the National Defense Strategy directs the Joint Force to ‘introduce unpredictability to adversary decision-makers’ through Dynamic Force Employment. Dynamic Force Employment allows us to develop a wide range of proactive, scalable options and quickly deploy forces for emerging requirements while maintaining readiness to respond to contingencies.”

  • D. Jones

    Basic seamanship classes would be nice too.

    As for unpredictability, the LCS has that covered. The evil enemies can never predict when or if an LCS will actually deploy, confounding their plans of evil-doing.

    • Duane

      Like a broken record …

    • Bryan

      I know you’re being a troll.

      But the reality that should anger people is that what the Navy needs right now in the South China Sea is a glorified cutter. We need a small ship there to act as a referee between little fishing boats and Chinese commercial boats.

      We don’t need a carrier in the SCS we need action to keep the next war from starting. If we had been doing that for the last 5 years the smaller countries would be banding together more. Deterte wouldn’t be mouthing off so much. Our relationship from Vietnam to Philippines to Indonesia would be vastly improved.

      It would be nice if the Navy could straighten itself out this year and get a persistence presence in the SCS from the LCS. That stupid ship will be just fine for that mission.

      As to unpredictable, that’s going to be very hard on Navy personnel. Unpredictable deployments is for times of war and tension. Unpredictable is for where you put the carrier and what it’s doing. Heck, right now we could leave the carrier in port, split the CSG into two and deploy them to two different places. That would help right away.

      It’s not about being unpredictable with a carrier. It’s about deploying effective fighting forces. China has made a plan to win a war/non-war. Put a carrier in the SCS and they will wave and continue on with what they are doing. i.e. if we keep doing what we’re doing, China already one.

      ETA: USNI, there I fixed it for you. Sorry…LOL.

  • Ed L

    Dual Carrier Ops. We used to practice that in the med ( Sardinia ) and Carib ( Vieques ) back in the stoneage

    • jack anderson

      yankee station usually had 3 decks on station with another down at dixie

  • proudrino

    “Asked about second and third order effects of the shift in how forces deploy – what it means for sailors’ families, what it means for ship maintenance and nuclear-powered aircraft carriers’ fuel consumption to potentially take more trips across the ocean but spend less time on station – Richardson said those considerations would be monitored as the Navy learns more about how the fleet can support new deployment patterns.”

    Monitored? Well that is a relief.

    Part of the selling point for the current deployment cycle is stability for the Navy family. The current cycle is supposed to deliver “high-end training” during the ramp up stages so that the warfighting platform is ready to be responsive to world events when on deployment.

    I fully support the CNO’s efforts in questioning status quo and trying to reduce the time it takes to train sailors or how the Fleets train. Nevertheless, color me skeptical that the impact on sailors’ families are going to be much of a consideration in any of these discussions.

    • Duane

      In the SSN world during the Cold War, our deployed ops were much less formalized than SuW ops today. After a major overhaul availability, the boats would be expected to perform multiple extended forward deployments (“West Pacs” for our Pac fleets boats) of about 6 months duration each, about one every 12-18 months, with a combination of Spec Ops of about 2 months duration and a bunch of weekly ops filling in the gaps. We’d do about one minor dry dock availability a year, lasting 3 to 4 weeks.

      That was very tough on families. It seemed that most of the married crew with more than 8 to 10 years service had been divorced at least once. But that was the way it shook out in the Cold War

      Is that going to be how it shakes out in the new peer power competition of the mid-21st century? Maybe. It will impose a cost on family life.

  • Bryan

    The CSG model is great for winning battles. Yes, even with China’s dreaded missiles. LOL.

    But it is not so great for actually doing anything else. It sucks up numerous ships for it’s protection. The reality is the navy needs to leave the carriers home and deploy the DDG’s etc in smaller surface action groups.

    China is actually doing actions that violate international law and eventually they will get to us. If we are not going to stop them now it would be better to just leave the ships at home and save the money. We can train away from China’s shore to be the best war fighters. Then when China gets around to us, we will be prepared for the war. Otherwise, we are just playing at being a leader on the world stage.

  • Bryan

    I took the time to read all the linked pages on this story. For all you young people out there let me give you an old time phrase, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.”

    The CNO is using tactical talk to nicely explain to the public that he is going to fix the problems of manning that the Navy has. He then plans on using those fully manned ships to go to sea more. You see we’ve done this before. You can short the manning and go to sea and kill people or you can pay for proper manning and stay at sea too much leading to death.

    Let me give you a prediction. The 7 month cruise will be followed by three months off that will be followed by a three month unpredictable training that will turn into a 9 month cruise because….well China/Russia of course.

    On that last unpredictable cruise somewhere around month 6 to 7 bad things are going to start happening. Sailors are going to die. It might be 7 here or 10 there. But it could be a reactor mistake and it’s 2,000 dead. Don’t worry CNO, the Navy has a tradition of protecting your bad decisions. We will just court martial the Captain.

    But as the quality of future Captains continues to go down just remember Admiral, it was your fault. You could have fixed it. But you decided to write a ppt instead. To shame, sir. To shame.

  • Bryan

    Hull to tasking ratio. It’s just simple math. You violate it at the expense of your sailors. You don’t have to be Sun Tzu to understand that it’s your sailors fault if they don’t follow orders. But it’s your fault if you order them to do something they simply cannot do.

    Let me SEE you reduce the tasking. Then tell us about your fancy deployment methods.

    • proudrino

      Give the CNO a little more credit. He isn’t an idiot who is unable to do simple math. More importantly, he is questioning long held tenets of faith about what is in the realm of the possible. I don’t believe he always gets it right, like the debacle of doing away with named ratings. Nevertheless, lets wait and see the details behind dynamic force employment. Personally, I think that any scheme will unfavorably impact Navy families to the point it isn’t a good idea but let us see.

      • Bryan

        Navy admirals and CNO’s have been idiots on tasking at least since the ’80’s when I was a young squid. They had around 400’ish ships at the time. I’m afraid the CNO is more than likely doing exactly what I’ve said. I would like to see him do it right. Not give a ppt. The more I see and hear from this CNO the more I don’t give him credit. Show me, is the name of the game. Otherwise sailors are going to continue to die.