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Alternatives for Action

by Dr. James L  George
Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, MD 1992
ISBN 1-55750-325-7   ISBN 1-55750-326-5 (pbk)

reviewed by Dr. James J. Tritten
Naval Postgraduate School

The U.S. Navy in the 199Qs: Alternatives for Action is a welcome contnbution to the literature and should be added to the CNO’s list of recommended reading for senior naval officers. The book’s author, well-known on the pages of the U.S. Naval Institute Proceedinp and for his work at the Center for Naval Analyses, provides the reader with hard-hitting analysis of the “disarray” in some parts of Navy program planning that he then descnbes in detail. This book is not a diatnbe against the Navy from an academic lacking salt water exposure; rather it is constructive criticism by a former naval officer with plenty of hands-on Washington experience. Jim George provides us with a series of positive steps that might be taken by the Navy itself to come up with its own solutions to some of the current problems that it faces.

The U.S. Navy in the 1990s opens with an examination of the changing roles and missions that have also dominated the pages of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW for the past few years. Jim George falls into that category of analyst who believes that we should approach the questions of force structure in a decidedly top-down manner. Although the author acknowledges the budget agreements that resulted in President Bush’s top-down regionally-focused National Security Strategy and the Base Force, Jim favors an examination of alternative strategies and force structures. Due to our inability to predict, the uncertainty of the future “demands flexibility and many different alternatives and approaches.”

Although an unabashed supporter of the Navy as the force of choice under our emerging strategy (“there is some consensus that the Navy should continue receiving the largest slice of the budget”), Jim cautions the reader that “the influence of sea-power should not be taken out of context.” Jim argues that impartial mission analysis, however, can demonstrate that “the Navy should become the dominate service in … nuclear deterrenee, the still important U.S.-Russian commonwealth scenario, and Third World crisis response.”

In the area of nuclear deterrence, the author bemoans the general Jack of concern within the Navy as a whole for things strategic, and then demonstrates that the Navy can and should take on the predominant role for both strategic and theater nuclear deterrence. Jim also argues for more SSBNs with fewer launch tubes due to the increase of overall numbers of targets. Although the chapter on nuclear deterrence was updated for the June 1992 deep cuts regime that became START II, this section would benefit in a second edition from an analysis of a possible fundamental change of U.S. and Russian targeting philosophy from countervailing/force to assured destruc-tion/countervalue that might result from START II or deeper cuts. This analysis must be done before we can make the case for increased numbers of SSBNs.

In his examination of the U.S-Russian context, Jim George concludes that “the post-CFE world could well see the emer-gence of SACLANT as the senior NATO military commander, or at least the senior American leader.” Left unexamined, however, is whether this commander needs to be a naval officer under the new NATO strategic concept and U.S. program planning scenarios. This section will need updating prior to a second edition since it predates NATO’s new security concept and the leaks of the U.S. DPG European planning scenarios found in last year’s Washington Post and New York Times.

The chapter on Third World missions is well-researched and leads into the author’s recommended division of labor for ground forces: the Marine Corps for crisis response and the Army at the operational level of war. Jim recommends new ships designed for overseas presence and crisis response, including an SSGN. Although not acknowledging GEN Colin Powell’s “Contingency Force” idea, Jim recommends that the “Navy should at least be placed in charge or at least in rotation for any new Readiness Command.”

When the author wrote The U.S. Nayy in the 1990s, the Navy had not yet issued … From the Sea, exactly the type of declaratory maritime strategy that Jim recommended was needed to implement the changing strategies, roles and missions. At the January 1993 AFCENUSNI Conference in San Diego, USCINCPAC and CINCPACFLT outlined how the regional commanders have implemented the new national military strategy and service concepts in their own declaratory strategies.

The second major theme of the book is that of development of building blocks and new concepts for the consideration of reasonable and affordable alternatives for forces to accomplish the nationally~mandated missions. For the reader that is interested in and/or understands the program planning process, chapter 8 constitutes the most important contribution of The U.S. Nayy in the 1990s.

This eighth chapter offers the reader a menu of building concepts that should form the basis of Navy program planning. Jim George repeatedly delivers the message throughout The U.S. Nayy in the 1990s that “from earliest times, navies have always balanced larger warships with smaller, less expensive ones, for mission reasons as well as budgetary concerns.”

The follow-on four chapters use Jim’s recommended building concepts and his previous mission analyses to deal with naval aviation; the submarine force; the surface fleet; and auxiliaries, amphibs, mine warfare, and the Marine Corps. There are no surprises in his recommendations. These four chapters are quite detailed in their analyses of existing programs, previously canceled programs, programs from other services and nations, reserve flying squadron options, and other innovative solutions. Less of the same is simply not Jim’s answer. Generally, includ-ing for the submarine force, Jim suggests a high/low mix.

Two chapters near the end of the book discuss Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and naval arms control. In keeping with his general top-down approach, Jim might have discussed the Persian Gulf War in the section on mission analysis. Although this reviewer agrees with many of the points made in the discussion of naval arms control, this chapter appears out of place.

The conclusions to the book outline “the perils of ‘less of the same’.” His recommendation for a Navy Strategy Think Tank parallels similar calls made by others to help the Navy reform its long-range strategic planning process. There is much to chew on in The U.S. Nayy in the 1990s. The reader will probably not agree with everything that Jim George recom-mends, especially if he skips the mission analysis and building block introductions and goes right to the chapter dealing with his own platform of interest. This is a serious book about a serious subject written by a loyal supporter of the Navy. It deserves careful reading and introspection; can we do better? Jim George thinks that we can and has taken the time to explain how.  Buy it.


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