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Report to Congress on Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations

The following is the May 21, 2018 Congressional Research Service Report, Navy Irregular Warfare and Counterterrorism Operations: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the Report:

In the years following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Navy has carried out a variety of irregular warfare (IW) and counterterrorism (CT) activities. Among the most readily visible of these were operations carried out by Navy sailors serving ashore in the Middle East and Afghanistan, and the May 1-2, 2011, U.S. military operation in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that killed Osama bin Laden.

During these years, the Navy took certain actions intended to improve its IW capabilities. For example, the Navy established the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) informally in October 2005 and formally in January 2006. NECC consolidated and facilitated the expansion of a number of Navy organizations that have a role in IW operations. The Navy also established the Navy Irregular Warfare Office in July 2008, published a vision statement for irregular warfare in January 2010, and established “a community of interest” (COI) to develop and advance ideas, collaboration, and advocacy related to IW in December 2010.

The Navy during these years also reestablished its riverine force and initiated The Global Maritime Partnership, which was a U.S. Navy initiative to achieve an enhanced degree of cooperation between the U.S. Navy and foreign navies, coast guards, and maritime police forces, for the purpose of ensuring global maritime security against common threats. In addition, the Navy operated the Southern Partnership Station (SPS) and the Africa Partnership Station (APS), which were Navy ships, such as amphibious ships or high-speed sealift ships, that deployed to the Caribbean and to waters off Africa, respectively, to support U.S. Navy engagement with countries in those regions, particularly for purposes of building security partnerships with those countries and for increasing the capabilities of those countries for performing maritime-security operations. The Navy’s current IW and CT activities pose a number of potential oversight issues for Congress, including how much emphasis to place on IW and CT activities in Navy budgets, particularly in a context of constraints on Navy budgets and Navy desires to devote resources to developing “high end” combat capabilities for countering improved conventional military capabilities of countries such as China and Russia.

via Federation of American Scientists (fas.org)

  • PolicyWonk

    Unfortunately when it comes to irregular warfare, counter-terrorism, and/or littoral operations, the USN simply isn’t interested, and demonstrates that yet again via its publicly published desire to concentrate on the blue-water side of the navy to fight high-end peer, or near-peer adversaries.

    Repeating the mistakes of the past, and planning to fight wars you WANT to fight instead of the ones you NEED to fight has led to severe neglect of littoral operations, which includes mine warfare.

    Despite the creation of NECC, the USN didn’t even bother consulting our own littoral specialists when it came to deriving requirements for the so-called “littoral combat ship”, which is partially why it became the program “that broke naval acquisition”. The designation of the ship itself is an outright deception, because CNO Adm. Jonathan Greenert admitted in an interview on Breaking Defense that the “littoral combat ship” was “never intended to venture into the littorals to engage in combat…”.

    Anyone who bothers reading “LCS” history knows it is the result of the “street fighter” concept developed by the ONR in 2001, who determined the need for a littoral combatant. Of that concept, available on-line, the only thing that survived the original specifications, was the designation of the ship. Once the OHP’s were headed for retirement, as far as I can tell, the blue-water crowd saw a pile of money the HoR’s approved for the “street fighter” program, and simply usurped it to create these gawd-awful “Franken-ship” classes, that leave this nation without a viable littoral combat platform, after blowing more than $36B.

    Street fighter was intended to be a small combatant, costing $92M per sea-frame, heavily armed and designed to fight. These “littoral combat ships” cost ~$600M (the USN stopped publishing budget numbers 2 years ago, likely due to continued cost overruns that attract more unwanted attention to an already failed program), not including any “mission package”. They are both: built to commercial (as opposed to military) standards; woefully unarmed when compared to any peer or near-peer ships of similar (let alone half the) tonnage (even with the SUW mission package); too big for the littorals; too small for blue water operations; and, lack room for growth to add either weapons or protections of significance.

    None of this even counts the lamentable fact that virtually every promise made regarding both classes was broken, with the exception of their still-unexplained high speed requirement that jacked up the price considerably, and created a new variety of maintenance and reliability problems in the propulsion plants.

    At least there’s a “mine warfare” mission package that will hopefully one day yield something that makes these ships useful. But these won’t do much good since both classes seem to be destined to remain tied to the pier after commissioning.

    The USN desperately needs several littoral combat platforms. These are the ships/boats that are used more often for IW and CT operations – yet the USN wants to plan and purchase to fight the blue water battles they see in their (wettest?) dreams while avoiding the unpleasant dirty work that remains in high demand.

    This one major example illustrates why this nation cannot continue to leave acquisition to the service branches themselves. Purchasing weapons in absence of any overall strategy leads to redundancy, interoperability problems, and appalling waste – let alone increasing the probability that misguided purchasing priorities may take precedence. This is why this nation needs to create an overall Threat Analysis Board, comprised of military and civilian experts, to evaluate the threats to this nations (and our allies) national security, and then determine what weapons and force structure are required to defeat those threats: all the HoR’s do is vote on funding and funding alone.

    This is the only way we can create the proper balance of weapons and people, all designed to work together, at an affordable cost to the taxpayers. And the added bonus, is that we could get and sustain a much larger force structure at 2017 prices, long into the future, while still taking care of those who serve.

    • Ed L

      when special ops was considered a side bar