A clear, concise, and powerful Navy vision

A clear, concise, and powerful Navy vision

Peterson, Gordon I

“Confidence is the son of vision and is sired by information.”

Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.

The haze-gray surface ships and jet-black submarines of the U.S. Fifth Fleet that fired the opening rounds of Operation Enduring Freedom a year ago look deceptively like their predecessors of just one generation earlier.

Tomahawk cruise missiles were launched from Los Angeles-class nuclear-powered attack submarines and Aegis guided-missile cruisers and destroyers at targets more than 500 miles away to begin the first phase of the U.S.– led war against international terrorism. Meanwhile, F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters and F-14 Tomcat fighters were being catapulted from Nimitz-class nuclear– powered aircraft carriers to strike Taliban and al Qaeda forces deep in Afghanistan. The venerable conventionally powered aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk-the oldest active ship in the U. S. Navy, now in her fourth decade of commissioned service-also was pressed into action to serve as a mobile base for Special Operations Forces and their helicopters.

In November, Marines assigned to the 15th and 26th Marine Expeditionary Units (Special Operations Capable) were airlifted from amphibious assault ships in the Arabian Sea to a forward operating base in Afghanistan by CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters (aircraft old enough to have been flown by the fathers of some of the pilots now flying them).

A Different Kind of War

To all appearances, the instruments of war that the Navy-Marine Corps team used with such lethal effect on 7 October 2001 were nearly identical to those that rained devastation on Iraq during Operation Desert Storm more than 10 years earlier. In point of fact, there were many subtle but important differences evident during Operation Enduring Freedom. Navy-Marine Corps deep-strike doctrine, expeditionary-maneuver warfare, persistent combat power, information technology, and effects-based weapons capabilities-all were employed in a joint/coalition operation considerably different from any other in the nation’s history.

The remarkable achievements of that operation, the implications for the Navy of tomorrow, and the need to galvanize the Navy to accelerate its transformation based on a common vision of the future were not lost on Adm. Vern Clark, the chief of naval operations (CNO). As the operations in Afghanistan continued, Clark saw a perfect example of how seastrike operations can be used to seize the warfighting initiative to ensure success on the battlefield.

In June 2002, at the Naval War College’s Current Strategy Forum in Newport, R.I., Clark introduced an overview of a new Navy “vision”: Sea Power 21– and reminded those participating in the Forum that the United States now finds itself in a very different kind of war. He also repeated what President George W. Bush said in his commencement speech to cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in June: “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.”

Clark told his Newport audience that he wanted to share his “growing thoughts” on how the Navy must be transformed to meet the requirements of a new century. “In order to prepare for the wide array of threats facing us,” Clark said, “we have to organize ourselves around a clear, concise, and powerful vision of what the Navy will provide to our nation in the months, years, and decades ahead.”

The Navy’s new vision paper, he emphasized, is firmly based on full support for joint-service operations. “We will design a force with the full expectation that it will work in concert with the United States Marine Corps, with the United States Air Force, and with the United States Army-consciously developed to be joint from the beginning, but able to conduct warfighting roles [independently] in the future,” Clark said.

“Remember that the Navy starts with the fleet,” Clark told Sea Power in an interview. “Sea Power 21 has been developed in concert with the fleet’s leaders and the way that they are thinking.”

At the heart of the CNO’s view of U.S. naval power in the 21st century are three overarching operational concepts:

* Sea Strike: the ability to project precise and persistent offensive power; Sea Shield: the ability to project global defensive power and assure access through the battlespace for joint forces;

* Sea Basing: the ability to ensure operational independence and protect forces worldwide, and to operate continuously from an expanded and secure maneuver area at sea.

A Roadmap to the Future

The overview of Sea Power 21 that Clark unveiled in Newport has been both modified and amplified in several key respects since June-and, as Clark told Sea Power, will be further refined into a new operational strategy over the next six months. In September, Secretary of the Navy Gordon R. England, Clark, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. James L. Jones approved the Naval Transformation Roadmap to describe how naval forces will exploit nine transformational warfighting capabilities that must either be created or substantially improved by today’s Navy-Marine Corps team [see related article beginning on page 40.]

The Navy’s new vision also responds to the emphasis placed by the Department of Defense (in its most recent Defense Guidance, issued earlier this year) on probable changes in the 21 st-century national-security environment and the imperative for the U.S. armed forces to be transformed to address new challenges. “What we have set about doing is to change our global concept of operations,” Vice Adm. Michael G. Mullen, the deputy chief of naval operations for resources, requirements, and assessments, told Sea Power.

This month, Clark is scheduled to formany approve a new monograph laying out additional, and more specific, details of the Navy’s operational vision first postulated in Newport. Secretary England already has issued his own over arching document, Naval Power 21, to promulgate Sea Power 21 and Marine Corps 21 formally as the Department of the Navy’s common vision for naval warfare’s operational concepts during the first decades of the 21st century.

Mullen emphasized that new technologies will be introduced into future systems and platforms through the spiral development of transformational capabilities to meet the evolving threats of the next 10 to 15 years-including a major focus on developing “… netted, distributed, effects-based, time-critical striking capability.” The new technologies and capabilities, Mullen said, will significantly transform the Navy-Marine Corp team’s current “enabling” role as a mobile expeditionary force into a force with more robust “war-winning, decisive combat power”-what Clark describes as being able to “get in the ring and stay in the ring.”

Mullen agrees that the new vision establishes the proper framework for the Navy to develop a capabilities-driven research, development, and acquisition plan for the future. “Clearly,” he said, “that is what we are trying to do. This goes to the heart of what Sea Power 21 represents for the Navy in the construct of its three major areas.” Clark concurs that the Navy’s acquisition process also must be transformed. “That gets us to producing outputs,” he told Sea Power

“Our global concept of operations will detail a new operational construct and the requirements to develop a more distributed force and the importance of challenging our operational assumptions,” Clark said. “It is born and bred in an operational focus-and the combat capability we will be able to take to the far corners of the earth.”

Leveraging Information

The leveraging of netted access to real-time information and enhanced battlespace situational awareness are fundamental not only to achieving the vision concepts set forth in Sea Power 21 but also to developing the capabilities needed for future operational effectiveness in the maritime domain. The increased capabilities of future Navy ships and aircraft, weapons, and weapon-handling systems also will be leveraged to provide even greater operational effectiveness through the development of new targeting processes and sensors installed on surveillance platforms capable of significantly increased dwell time on station.

In Clark’s view, several revolutionary changes are already underway that will improve Navy capabilities in all operational areas. Sea Strike, for example, will see the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles, miniaturized munitions, and both ship- and submarine-launched long-range sensors to guide weapons precisely to their targets at greater ranges than are now possible, and in all weather conditions.

Sea-Shield capabilities for projecting defensive power from the sea will extend homeland security to the fullest extent by exploiting the inherent capabilities of forward-deployed U.S. naval forces. “Enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems provide critical cueing to this effort,” Clark said in Newport. He said he envisions a “rich mix” of both manned and unmanned systems.

Sustaining access to littoral waters for trade and military operations also is central to Sea Shield-a mission of growing importance in view of evolving threats. “Perhaps the most radical change embedded in Sea Shield will be the ability to project defensive firepower deep over land,” Clark said. “New technologies will allow sea-based missiles to engage enemy air targets far over the horizon, before they can threaten joint and coalition forces operating ashore.”

Clark said he believes that the Navy’s sea-basing capabilities will become increasingly important during the 21st century-for three reasons: the probability of new regional conflicts, heightened sensitivities over the sovereign rights of other nations, and increased transnational threats to U.S. national security. “Sea-based forces are free to operate forward 365 days a year,” he pointed out. He also noted that the use of sea-based forces precludes the need for creating large logistical stockpiles ashore-or, as an alternate, flying in major command-and-control elements and heavy fire-support systems.

“When viewed all together,” Clark said, “Sea Strike, Sea Shield, and Sea Basing will fully integrate naval forces into the joint team across the full expanse of a unified battlefield to a greater extent than we have ever seen in our history.”

Three supporting initiatives that encourage innovation will contribute to the realization of Clark’s operational concepts:

* Sea Trial: developing and integrating new concepts and technology on a continuing basis to improve warfighting effectiveness, in part through a vigorous fleet experimentation program rewarding innovation;

* Sea Warrior: enhancing the personal and professional growth of Navy people and the manner in which they are trained, educated, and assigned; and

* Sea Enterprise: improving the Navy’s organizational alignment and adopting best-business practices to reduce costs and allow the reinvestment of savings into critical recapitalization initiatives.

During the coming year, for example, the Navy will experiment with the pilot deployments of Expeditionary Strike Groups (ESGs)-in both the Atlantic and the Pacific-by assigning dedicated surface-combatant warships and nuclear– powered attack submarines to Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs). “This will distribute the firepower of the fleet more widely to provide enhanced presence, greater operational flexibility, and reduced response time should there be simultaneous conflicts or contingencies,” Sea Power was told.

The pilot ESG deployments have been planned by the Navy in close cooperation with the Marine Corps. Clark and Jones both say that they have been “joined at the hip” in a common effort to move the Navy-Marine Corps team forward into the 21st century with new operational concepts and increased naval warfighting capabilities.

Clark told Sea Power that the ESG concept could almost double the number of independent operational groups the Navy can deploy-from 19 today to 37 in the future. “The president said that we are going to keep global terrorists on the run,” Clark said. “I believe that in order to do that the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps have to be out and about in more places-where the global network exists.”

Similar trials will be conducted during the coming year to determine if the Navy can improve upon its sea-basing constructs. Such experimentation will allow the Navy to fine-tune its operational concepts.

“We are not going to sit around and study this to death,” Clark asserted. “We are moving out!”

Lehman: “An Intellectually Powerful Strategy”

The initial reaction to Sea Power 21 has been generally favorable not only within the Department of the Navy and the Department of Defense but also in other informed circles.

“I was very impressed and pleased,” said former Secretary of the Navy John Lehman. “It is a blueprint for a simple, logical, and intellectually powerful strategy for the next decade. It will fill a vacuum in strategy that followed the Cold War victory.”

Previous criticisms of the Navy’s “failure” to articulate its strategic vision rested in part, Lehman maintained, on there being no vision to articulate. “This was not entirely the fault of the Navy,” he told Sea Power. “The Clinton administration, unlike all of its predecessors, never put forward a comprehensive national-security strategy … priding itself instead with its pragmatic, ad hoc approach. From the Sea and its successors were admirable attempts to provide some planning framework, but they were not comprehensive strategies.”

Ronald O’Rourke, a national-defense specialist with the Congressional Research Service, was more reserved-and somewhat critical-in his assessment of Sea Power 21. “It can prove useful for summarizing and communicating the broad contributions that naval forces will make to U.S. security, both now and in the future,” O’Rourke told Sea Power. “That said, I do not think that Sea Power 21 does much to provide definition toor communicate-the Navy’s many ongoing transformational efforts.” Those officers on the CNO staff most familiar with the evolving development of Sea Power 21 are confident such concerns will be adequately addressed during the months ahead.

Dr. Loren B. Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, said he believes that Sea Power 21 is a more credible vision than earlier Navy strategy statements, but he thinks that its preview in Newport suffered, in part, from the eloquence of the Navy’s arguments during last year’s Quadrennial Defense Review. “As a concrete, concise expression of why America needs a Navy, it [Sea Power 21] hits the key themes convincingly,” Thompson told Sea Power.


Senior Editor

Copyright Navy League of the United States Oct 2002

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