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[Editor’s Note: In the political debate that constitutes defense policy of our democratic nation, it is important periodically to articulate the unique contributions that naval forces make to national defense. 1he following article develops a method for defining the junctions of today’s Navy and provides a conceptual template from which decisions for future force structure could be made. 1he authors are members of the Strategy and Concepts Branch of OPNAV; however, the views expressed are their own and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Department of the Navy.]

The United States Navy is built on action, rather than intellectual debate. It is our historical success in defeating our enemies and maintaining the peace that endears the Naval Service to most Americans, not the logic or intellectual rigor of our operating concepts and doctrine. Most Americans are simply not aware of our concepts or doctrine. Yet, the logic of our concepts in other words, our common professional view of the missions of the Navy-is indeed the cornerstone of our current force structure and our future programs.

The famous Yiddish proverb, “If we don’t know where we are going, any road will get us there but it may be the wrong there” applies to organizations that lose sight of their core ideology or fundamental concepts. As we enter the new millennium-a period in which popular focus on the new seems to give credence to the latest intriguing buzz-word in defense policy-it seems doubly important that we can define ourselves in the language of simple, straight-forward and enduring concepts.

Challenge and Attributes

Success is the greatest challenge to articulating the need for a powerful, 21” Century Navy. We have been so successful as a Navy that it is as easy for the American people to take our capabilities for granted as it is for us to take public support for granted.

The United States is truly the premier transoceanic power in the world. In the course of modem history. no Navy has enjoyed such a preeminent maritime position as the U.S. Navy does today. It is unlikely that we will face a naval peer competitor within the next twenty years. The very size and power of America’s fleet discourage rival investment in what can be described as our dominant market share.

Unfortunately, the public result is that the purpose for having a transoceanic Navy-one that can influence events in far-off lands-becomes obscured. Critics portray the Navy as an “obsolete force” whose force structure is based on “faulty rationalization” and whose missions could best be done by land-based airpower or garrison army forces. 1 These critical arguments compound the pressure on operating resources that resulted from the decision to down-size defense following the end of the Cold War. But much of the smoke of obscurity-and many of the critical arguments-can be blown away through a patient explanation of the strategic and operational concepts that are at the core of worldwide naval operations, and that are evident in the attributes of today’s Navy.

Today’s United States Navy can be characterized as a Jul/- spectrum Navy, capable of shaping the international environment and responding to crises. In the words of the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Jay Johnson, the U.S. Navy is capable of influencing events “anytime, anywhere. ” It has also become a joint Navy. capable of a high level of interoperability with forces from other Services and other government agencies, as well as in its traditional partnership role with the United States Marine Corps.

In terms of specific attributes, today’s United States Navy is a Forward Presence Navy -with roughly one third of the fleet forward deployed on operations around the globe on any given day.

It is also a Deterrent Navy–in both a strategic nuclear and conventional sense-with strategic ballistic missile submarines providing survivable, sea-based deterrence against nuclear attack, and conventional forces providing notice of American commitment and resolve against other potential acts of aggression.

Likewise, it is a Power Projection Navy-with a capability unmatched by any other nation on earth, from Tomahawk strikes hundreds of miles inland to aircraft to landing Marines ashore.

And it is a Sea and Area Control Navy-with a capability to seize control of a littoral region and maintain control of the sea and the airspace above it.

These attributes are not accidental reactions. Although not always publicly articulated in such a format, the four strategic concepts highlighted above (Forward Presence, Deterrence, Power Projection, and Sea and Area Control) have acted as the intellectual core around which current naval forces were built.

For our discussion, we accept the definition that a strategic concept is a statement of the methods by which a military service implements national policy.5 In other words, these concepts represent strategic-level capabilities that Naval forces provide America. While similar in construct and detail to the “mission areas” articulated by Vice Admiral Stansfield Turner in 1974, the strategic concepts are actually derived from the requirements of post-Cold War national security strategy.

These four strategic concepts literally describe the national security products the American people receive by buying the Navy. They are the unique dividends on America’s direct investment in the Naval service. The result has been maritime supremacy with a potential to deter or decide the outcome of military actions on land.

The four strategic concepts are enabled by four operational concepts of U.S. naval forces: naval firesĀ·, naval maneuver, cooperative protection, and sustainment. Depending on the particular blend of these four operational capabilities, naval forces can provide the Joint Task Force commanders and the unified Commanders-in-Chief with a flexible set of tools with utility across the spectrum of conflict. The operational concepts describe the products that naval forces provide in combat or operations other than war.

Thus, in articulating Navy strategic concepts, we are really describing how we as a Service carry out the current National Security Strategy and National Military Strategy objectives of Shape, Respond and Prepare Now within the overall framework of international Engagement. In articulating the operational concepts, we are describing the capabilities that Naval forces bring to joint warfighting on the campaign level-how naval forces engage the enemy. Together they provide a logical illustration of the defense products of the Naval Service.

Forward Presence Deterrence Power Projection Sea aad Area Control

Naval Fire Naval Maneuver Cooperative Protection Sustainment

Understanding the breadth of these products require an examination of each in detail.

Forward Presence
Forward presence is a term that is at the heart of the expeditionary nature of the Naval Service-we are already present in the regions of potential crisis. Because it appears to be a self-evident function, forward presence by itself has not always been classified as a naval strategic concept. During the Cold War era, the forward presence effects of the naval deployment cycle were considered a by-product of our readiness to defeat the Soviet Navy in a global war. However, in a multipolar but still crisis-prone world, the absence of a global military threat allows forward presence to be recognized as an individual strategic concept in its own right-as a method of implementing the National Security objectives of Shape and Respond, as well as ensuring that naval forces are prepared now for combat operations.

Forward presence is defined by Naval Doctrine Publication 1, Naval Warfare, as “maintaining forward deployed or stationed forces overseas to demonstrate national resolve, strengthen alliances, dissuade potential adversaries, and enhance the ability to respond quickly to contingency operations. ” 8 Through a Forward Presence posture, naval forces can shape the environment through joint and combined exercises, port visits, military-to-military support, and the psychological reassurance of security that only forces on the scene can provide. Forward presence forces can improve stability by dissuading potential adversaries from attempting asymmetrical tactics; ensuring freedom of navigation and America’s access to the world’s littoral regions; and providing a visual sign of our national commitment.

At the same time, Forward Presence is a central enabler to crisis response. The most rapid, sustained response to world events-whether natural disasters, non-combatant evacuation operations. or open acts of aggression is possible when forces are forward deployed.

Deterrence is defined in Joint Pub 1-02, DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, as “the prevention from action by fear of the consequences. Deterrence is a state of mind brought about by the existence or a credible threat of unacceptable counteraction.”

Since 1949, Naval forces have provided both strategic nuclear and conventional deterrence. Current nuclear deterrence is primarily deterrence by the threat of punishment. SSBNs on patrol remain an essential and the most survivable element of the U.S. strategic triad.

Conventional deterrence, however, can be either by the threat of punishment or the threat of denial or both. Deterring aggression by the threat of denial requires a belief by the potential aggressor that intervening forces actually possess the capability to prevent him from achieving his objective.

Forward-deployed, combat-credible naval forces provide potential aggressors with a visible reminder that they can be denied, if the United States so chooses. New technologies, such as Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (I’BMD), promise an even greater potential for deterrence by the threat of denial.

Whether by threat of punishment or denial, deterrence ultimately depends upon credibility. Credibility is defined as capable of being believed. In the case of strategic deterrence, the fact that our SSBNs are operating unlocated in the depths of the ocean give them a credibility for survival that land based systems simply do not have. In a sense, they are the forward deployed leg of our strategic triad.

There is a direct linkage between forward deployed forces and deterrence. Forward deployed naval forces are a deterrent to potential aggressors by virtue of being on stage and ready (visible or invisible, but present and secure), a combat credible threat to potential aggressors. At the same time, the potent Power Projection capability of naval forces, as necessary to warfighting as deterrence, provides the credible threat that transforms the perception of deterrence into reality.

Power Projection

Power Projection was codified as a primary Navy strategic concept in the 1970s with the publication of NWP 1, Strategic Concepts of the U.S. Navy. Since then it has remained the cornerstone of naval strategic concepts-it underpins the efficacy of naval forces to act across the spectrum of conflict. Whether in the form of a carrier-based strike, an attack by a Marine AirGround Task Force, sea-launched cruise missiles, or clandestine Special Warfare Forces, naval forces harbor tremendous warfighting capability. But, the Power Projection capability of naval forces also is central to its peacetime missions. In addition to being the credible threat behind deterrence, the ability to project power also provides means to make good on assurances of U.S. commitment and resolve.

Power Projection is currently defined in Naval Doctrine Publication l, Naval Warfare, as “The application or offensive military force against an enemy at a chosen time and place. Maritime power projection may be accomplished by amphibious operations, attack of targets ashore, or support of sea control operations.”

The full-dimensional Power Projection capability of naval expeditionary forces, coupled with Forward Presence, is a key component of the U.S. Strategy of Engagement. Naval forces are able to shape the international environment by deterring aggression and promoting stability, by maintaining alliances and by building coalitions through defense cooperation and security assistance and enforcing sanctions. The combination of Forward Presence and Power Projection is also important in the response to crises. Forward-deployed, combat ready Naval Expeditionary forces can protect American citizens by conducting non-combatant evacuations from unstable nations. Likewise, they can help keep the peace between antagonistic factions.

However, the Navy-Marine Corps Team-while a powerful combination able to project power in response to a wide array of crises-will not go it alone when it comes to Major Theater War (MTW). After making the initial entry, Naval expeditionary forces will maintain access for follow-on Army and Air Force components. To do this, naval forces will need to establish Sea and Area Control.

Sea and Area Control

Sea and Area Control is defined as “the ability to dominate sea and air lanes and then to defeat a foe’s littoral, sea and air capabilities throughout a broad theater or operation. ” 10 During the Cold War, Sea Control was also codified as a Navy strategic concept in NWP 1, with the understanding that it was a prerequisite for effective Power Projection. The term “Area Control “reflects the ability of naval forces to control the littoral region-that area of land adjacent to the sea.

The ability to project power depends upon having some degree of Sea and Area Control. The majority of troops, equipment and supplies will travel to a region of conflict by sea-dependent for safe transit upon the United States Navy’s control of that sea. Even with the enormous amount of airlift capacity enjoyed by the United States in preparation for Operation Desert Storm, over 90 percent of the war material was transported by sea.

Attaining Area Control means ensuring access and overcoming any potential area denial threat. Area denial capabilities include traditional sea denial weapons such as mines and shore launched aircraft and cruise missiles. However, weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles are also being added in some area denial arsenals. Rogue nations will be seduced by the attractiveness of denial or anti-access strategies as a means of foreclosing intervention in the conduct of aggression. While this presents naval forces with a more vigorous enemy defense to overcome, it also means that when it is overcome, naval forces will have achieved a great impact in bringing down a large portion of an aggressor’s total warfighting capability.

Area Control is necessary not only in enabling the full complement of Power Projection capability to be focused on the enemy center of gravity, but also in providing force protection. The Navy is fielding a new set of capabilities which promise to bring the vision of area control of a broad theater of operations to reality. But the strategic concept of Sea and Area Control calls for more than air and missile defense-it calls for surface, subsurface and information control as well, across the dimensions of water, land, air, electromagnetic spectrum. and space-reaching from the sea and across the shore to hundreds of miles inland.

The strategic concepts of Forward Presence, Deterrence, Power Projection and Sea and Area Control are interrelated. None stands alone. They are interwoven like the threads of a fine tapestry. multi-colored hues that individually give only a partial clue to the picture they ultimately describe in support of national strategy. Forward Presence enables conventional Deterrence. Deterrence requires Power Projection capability to be credible. Sea and Area Control enables Power Projection. If Deterrence fails, Power Projection is utilized. The capability to accomplish each strategic concept must be built into the fleet, not individually, but rather, in a balanced, total force package that provides the nation with a full-spectrum fleet capable of meeting national objectives.
Enter Operational Concepts

While strategic concepts provide the keel upon which naval forces can be built, by themselves they are not enough to define the capabilities desired in the fleet. Operational concepts further define how the Navy will fight. As previously stated, these operational concepts describe what naval forces provide at the operational level of warfare or in operations other than war (OOTW).

Through analyzing current warfare concepts, technological developments, and the requirements needed to ensure that naval forces can fulfill the four strategic concepts, we have identified four operational concepts that potentially describe the American way of naval warfare as we enter the 21st Century: Naval Fires, Naval Maneuver, Cooperative Protection and Sustainment. These four operational concepts are compatible with and are best linked together by the overarching information structure identified as Network Centric Warfare, defined as “warfare which derives its power from the robust networking of a well informed, but geographically dispersed force.”

Naval Fires

The goal of Naval Fires is to achieve a set of desired effects. While that has largely called for ordnance on target-with modern weaponry reaching farther and increasingly becoming more precise and lethal-the Information Age has unleashed a new weapon, information. Information can be used to deceive an adversary.
Information can be used to confuse and cripple an enemy with indecision and doubt. Information can be used to achieve many of the desired effects attained by conventional munitions, but without necessarily destroying an objective. Just as a Tomahawk strike can take out a critical enemy communications node, information fires may provide a non-destructive alternative as another tool in the warfighter’s set of options.

While non-lethal elements of fire-such as information-will increasingly find their way into the naval arsenal, traditional elements of fires will also remain. Marines and SEALs will continue to carry rifles. Submarines will continue to carry torpedoes and missiles. Ships will continue to carry guns and missiles. Aircraft will continue to carry missiles and bombs. The flexibility possessed by having a range of Naval Fires options is required in order to achieve the right effect-whether limiting collateral damage by use of precision weapons or instilling shock and confusion with wide area munitions. The way we will employ them, however, could also change appreciably.

Naval Maneuver

Naval Maneuver is defined as “the coherent use of networked, mobile sea forces, dispersed or concentrated, sharing a common operational picture, to gain advantage over the enemy on or from the sea.” It is operationalized in fighting doctrine as Operational Maneuver at Sea and Operational Maneuver From the Sea.

The use of the sea as a maneuver area provides naval forces with tremendous tactical, operational and strategic advantages. The mobility and reach of modern U.S. naval forces, equipped with advanced amphibious and strike capability, translates to an ability to strike anywhere in the littorals. The enemy is left to wonder where naval forces will strike, forced to either defend the length of his coastline, spreading his forces thin, or concentrating his forces in critical areas, leaving other areas lightly defended.

Naval Maneuver and Naval Fires are complementary. At times, naval forces maneuver to effect fires. At other times, fires are effected to enable maneuver. But when fires and maneuvers are conducted concurrently across the depth of the battlespace against an enemy’s center of gravity, they provide a lethal combination punch.

Before naval forces can effect Naval Maneuver, however, they must have Sea and Area Control, discussed previously. The force protection aspect of Sea and Area Control is operationalized in the operational concept of Cooperative Protection.

Cooperative Protection

Cooperative Protection is defined as “control of the battlespace to ensure joint and combined forces can maintain freedom of action during deployment, maneuver and engagement, while cooperatively defending our forces and facilities at all levels.”

Cooperative Protection is about more than self-defense of naval forces. It also means casting a protective umbrella over joint, coalition and friendly forces on land. In the case of military forces, Cooperative Protection enables freedom of action against the enemy. However, Cooperative Protection also has an important political function. Providing protection for a friendly nation, as in the case of Theater Ballistic Missile Defense used as a means to deter by the threat of denial, can have a tremendous diplomatic effect against a potential aggressor attempting to coerce a friendly nation with the threat of a ballistic missile attack.

In order to attain Sea and Area Control, naval forces will require a robust Cooperative Protection capability across the dimensions of air and space, extending to the ocean bottom, that reaches well into the cluttered reaches of littorals. The sharing of sensor information to build composite tracks coupled with the capability of any shooter in the net to shoot remotely on those shared tracks-without necessarily having contact itself-will allow optimal intercepts of threats at maximum ranges. In the case of air defense, Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) is bringing this capability to the fleet. Theater Missile Defense (fMD) will bring a similar capability to the fleet. In order to achieve a fully cooperative protection capability, however, TMD and CEC must be coupled with undersea and surface capabilities, linked into an integrated capability that delivers control of the battlespace.

Cooperative Protection will work hand-in-hand with Naval Fires. In some cases, protection will be provided by eliminating the threat entirely by Naval Fires. In other cases, either due to a target being unreachable or rendered irrelevant once bypassed, force protection will depend upon Cooperative Protection capabilities.


The sustainment is the key enabler of the Marine Corps’ Operational Maneuver from the Sea concept and is defined as “the delivery of tailored support and logistics across the spectrum of conflict from the sea.”

Sustainment enables forward-deployed forces to remain on station as long as necessary as they shape the international environment or respond to crises. On-scene naval forces, with equipment and supplies resident onboard, can commence support for anything from a disaster relief effort to a noncombatant evacuation operation to the initiation of Major Theater War. Sustained, high tempo operations are made possible by a responsive, worldwide logistics capability. But 21st Century military operations will require a new method of sustainment-no longer a logistics tail, but rather, integrated support that meshes fully with Naval Fires. Naval Maneuver and Cooperative Protection.

The Navy plays a leading role in logistical support of the joint force. By means of strategic sealift, the Navy ensures the joint force is able to get to the scene of action and stay the course. Seabased logistic support of Marines and SEALs ashore allows them to travel fast and light. Sea-based sustainment enables Operational Maneuver From the Sea at mission depths well into the littorals. By keeping the logistics footprint at sea, land forces can operate at high tempo against the enemy without concern for protecting otherwise vulnerable land-based logistic nodes.

Conclusion: Future Opportunity

Maintaining the capabilities required by the strategic and operational concepts in an environment of scarcer defense resource is a challenge. The first step in meeting that challenge is to ensure that these concepts are publicly articulated in a coherent, understandable fashion. [Editor’s Note: This is precisely the object of the Naval Submarine League.]

The next step, building a 21st century Navy based on the strategic and operational concepts, is even a greater challenge. But along with this challenge comes the unique opportunity of being able to fulfill the ultimate objective of global seapower: to directly control significant events on land. Even Mahan-often accused of advocating seapower for its own sake-recognized that the whole point of developing decisive naval power was to ensure America’s ability to influence those land areas where her vital interests may be challenged. As another prolific naval strategist, Commodore Dudley Knox expressed it in 1932:

“The supreme test of the naval strategist is the depth of his comprehension of the intimate relation between sea power and land power, and of the truth that basically all effort afloat should be directed at an effect ashore. ”

In Mahan’s day and 1932-and even in the 1974 of Vice Admiral Turner’s mission areas-the primary difficulty in influencing events ashore was technology. The technology of the day and the need to first defeat opposing fleets limited the Navy’s ability to fulfill its full promise. As we prepare to enter the next millennium, the continuing evolution of technology along with the absence of a significant maritime rival provides the opportunity. At the core of this opportunity will be the strategic and operational concepts-translating opportunity into results.

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