Something exciting is happening in the halls of the Naval War College (NWC) in Newport, Rhode Island- a healthy debate on a new maritime strategy that is! The father of Naval Strategy, Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, lives on! His renewed presence is electrifying the classrooms, the offices, and the hallways of the Naval War College as Navy and Marine Corps officers and their academic counterparts enter into lively discussions on what course our Navy should take in the 21st century.
The Current Challenge
During the annual Current Strategy Forum NWC in June 2006, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Mike Mullen, stimulated a packed auditorium of officers to think about the challenges we face, as a Navy and a nation, from globalization and the Global War on Terror. Globalization drives the need for critical thinking and the development of a new maritime strategy.
The CNO’s initiative is an important intellectual and practical exercise. Facing the kinds of asymmetric threats that we do as a modern Navy, it is absolutely imperative that this discussion be robust, thorough, and honest. In the midst of the Global War on Terror, we are at a critical crossroads in the history of our nation and we must chart a viable course for the Navy over the next few decades.
The CNO’s effort to develop a new maritime strategy is based on a sound research design and is intended to be both inclusive and transparent across all warfare specialties. Not only have line officers from all Navy communities been invited to the table to hash out the details of the strategy, but so have war-fighters from the United States Marine Corps, the United States Coast Guard and members of the Inter-agency. Furthermore, the CNO is reaching out to industry and business leaders, the academe, and most importantly, John Q. Public-the American taxpayer-for constructive feedback on the future course that our Navy should take. In a recent Proceedings article entitled, Laying the Keet for a New Maritime Strategy, former naval officer and veteran reporter Art Pine quotes an unnamed source critical of this approach as saying “that in seeking outside advice from so many groups, Navy leaders may have ‘punted away their responsibility’. I couldn’t disagree more with this statement!
There is tremendous value to opening up the aperture in the beginning of this process. This is a huge undertaking and will require much coordination, but failing to take account of the experience and insights of both the active and retired community of Navy and Marine Corps officers, outside agencies, and even our allies would be a big mistake. All parties to this process would be well served by consulting one of the books on the CNO’s recommended reading list, Thinking in Time, by Ernest May and Richard Neustadt. Not unlike George Santayana’s famous mantra that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Neustadt and May underscore the importance of understanding history and the mistakes that policy makers have made in the past by embarking upon ill conceived plans that ultimately result in costly mistakes for the nation.
In light of this important caveat, if an examination of the historical foundations of our nation’s maritime strategy is in order, then this discussion naturally brings us back to the writings of Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the father of maritime strategy. Here’s what he had to say about the subject in 1911:
I am not particularly interested here to define the relations of commerce to a navy. It seems reasonable to say that, where merchant shipping exists, it tends logically to develop the form of protection which is called naval; but it has become perfectly evident, by concrete examples, that a navy may be necessary where there is no shipping … More and more it becomes clear that the functions of navies are distinctly military and international, whatever their historical origin in particular cases. The navy of the United States, for example, took its rise from purely commercial considerations. External interests cannot be confined to those of commerce. They may be political as well as commercial; may be political because commercial, like the claim to “the open door” in China; may be political because military, essential to national defense, like the Panama Canal and Hawaii … or traditions like the Monroe Doctrine.
In summary, at the tum of the 20th century, Mahan professed three interconnected rationale for maintaining a strong navy- the commercial, the military, and the political. Now Jet’s fast forward to 2006 and review some of the CNO’s remarks at the Current Strategy Forum. Admiral Mullen affirmed that there are three major effects of globalization: The first is the undeniable expansion of interdependent world markets and economies on a truly global scale which binds nations, corporations and peoples together. 4 This mirrors Mahan’s commercial rationale.
The second is competition in the market for increasingly scarce energy resources that will ultimately play a role in the determination of our own, our allies’, and our adversaries’ national security posture. This is aligned with Mahan ‘s military rationale.
Finally, through globalization and the proliferation of technology-presumably high speed means of communication like the Internet, cellular phones, and a wide variety of television programming via satellite dish-the ability to proliferate ideas to the masses can stimulate conflict.’ Certainly, this latter thought is completely in keeping with Mahan ‘s political rationale.
Adapting to the Current Threat
One might conclude that Mahan’s strategy has therefore withstood the test of time but this is not 1911 . We live in a more dynamic environment, a century after Mahan, and there are distinct differences between his era and ours. Accordingly, our most recent National Defense Strategy, as its strategic objectives, has to:
1. Secure the United States from direct attack.
2. Secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action
3. Strengthen alliances and partnerships
4. Establish favorable security conditions.
In support of the first strategic objective, the CNO has defined a different kind of threat in the modern era. This new threat emanates from fourth-generation enemies- terrorists, proliferators of WMD and other weapons, organized criminals, smugglers, drug traffickers and pirates. 1 We must therefore modify our thinking and our approach in terms of the Mahanian commercial, military, and political order, as we counter these asymmetric threats. This will require innovation and change on the part of the United States Navy.
Change implies that we are operating from some sort of benchmark or baseline of a maritime strategy. Our last really serious effort to produce a maritime strategy occurred while CNO Admiral James Watkins and Secretary of the Navy John Lehman stood the watch in the 1980s, as we strives to build a 600-ship Navy. During this era of bi-polarity, the main aim of the strategy was to deter the Soviet Union with a powerful blue-water Navy that extended our presence in any ocean of the world and maintained control of the sea lines of communication (SLOCs). It was incontrovertibly the right strategy for that particular era.
In recognition of the differences between past and present, Admiral Mullen made the following distinction: “Where the old Maritime Strategy focused on sea control, the new one must recognize that the economic tide of all nations rises, not when the seas are controlled by one, but rather when they are made safe and free for all.”8 This is a compelling argument and wholly consistent with the second objective of our National Defense Strategy, but one that does not go without caveat- as the CNO also pointed out- that while “protecting trade routes is an absolute necessary function of a naval force, it is far from sufficient.”
In other words, there are many more reasons to maintain a powerful Navy. For example, we must also ensure that as a naval power, we can either anticipate or react quickly to protect our interests in the next conflict or crisis. This may be one involving war between two smaller states that could have devastating spill over effects on a much larger region of the globe such as another war between Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon or a catastrophic natural disaster resulting in great loss of life and a refugee crisis of epic proportions like the recent Indonesian Tsunami. We may be called upon to protect ourselves or our allies against fourth generation enemies with access to WMD as well as a variety of delivery systems. Just knowing that trouble is brewing can be enough to preempt it. For this very reason, the U. S. Navy must remain on the tip of the spear conducting Phase Zero operations (a.k.a. battlespace preparation) and developing Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) worldwide. In the event that we cannot deter aggression, we must be prepared to act- to take the quantum leap to Phase Three (combat) operations- when called to do so in any theater of operations.
Strike and Theater Ballistic Missile Defense (TBMD) are of paramount importance in such scenarios. It is easy for the planners to compile Navy Mission Essential Task Lists (NMETL), but it is harder to prioritize them and resource them. We face tough decisions on where to place the right emphasis in the Navy of the future. Can we afford a force that will be able to conduct both deep water and littoral missions? Should we invest in hybrid vessels, capable of multi-mission tasking in both blue and brown water? Some programs will ultimately end up on the cutting room floor because of resource limitations. One nation cannot do it all- hence the need for a transnational effort.
The 1,000 Ship Navy-a Global Maritime Partnership
In October 2005, Admiral Mullen articulated the desire to create a “l,000 Ship Navy”- but not one solely from our own industrial base. Rather, this venerable force would emerge from a series of free form cooperative agreements with allies and partners, capable and willing to contribute to a global effort.10 Our participation not only reduces the burden on the United States to be the World Cop, but also supports objectives three and four or our National Defense Strategy.
A prime focus of the 1,000 Ship Navy are those rogue state actors and fourth generation threats that facilitate the proliferation of WMD, smuggling of contraband, illegal narcotics, or even trafficking in persons, all of which threaten more than just our borders. This is a real problem. The International Monetary Fund estimates that the present level of global money laundering is in the realm of 2 to 5 percent of global GDP. That figure represents a whopping $2 Trillion! 11 Legitimate nation states, operating in accordance with the rule of law lose revenue, while the criminal element profits. One wonders how much of this money is then funneled into support for terrorist activity worldwide? Clearly, something must be done.
The technology that would bind the 1,000 Ship Navy together is already available on the market. It consists of two disruptive technologies-the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and the Internet. AIS is required by the international Maritime Organization (IMO) for all vessels over 300 metric tons. 12 It is similar to the Identify Friend or Foe (IFF) system currently used by military vessels and military and civilian aircraft worldwide for avoidance of blue-on-blue incidents. Similarly, AIS labels and broadcasts the name of equipped military and civilian vessels and provides a plethora of information including registry, name of the master, cargo and destination. The vision is to one day have all legitimate traffic on the high seas properly tagged- in essence, we will know who, what, and where the good guys are, thereby making the bad guys stand out like a sore thumb. Sharing of AIS information can be accomplished through widely accessible websites on the Internet. The beauty of this combination of two systems is that it is low cost, interoperable, and unclassified.
Proof of Concept-Active Endeavor and the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)
On a smaller scale, precursors to the 1,000 Ship Navy concept have existed for years. For example, the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe (CNE) and Commander, Sixth Fleet have been integrally involved in NATO’s Operation Active Endeavor at the gateway to the Mediterranean since 9/11. Since 30% of the world’s shipping traffic passes through the Straits of Gibraltar annually, it is absolutely essential that we maintain a vigilant watch to prevent the negative effects of fourth generation enemies. This NATO effort is a viable model for the 1,000 Ship Navy and one that includes the cooperation of our former Cold War adversary- Russia. Imagine the positive spin offs if this kind of effort could be expanded into other potential areas of clandestine illegal activity such as the Black Sea?
The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSD is another such effort that differs slightly from but has been equally as successful as Active Endeavor. Established by President Bush in March 2003, the PSI supports established United Nations Security Council declarations that the proliferation of all WMD constitutes a threat to international
peace and security. Like the 1,000 Ship Navy concept, PSI is intended to be a non-binding cooperative effort to make the borders, sea space and airspace of participating nations more secure, while cracking down on trafficking of materials that support the proliferation of WMD. The spin offs are great: shared intelligence, access to technology in the form of state-of-the-art detection equipment, and training by some of the world’s most renowned experts in the field of counter-proliferation.
While serving on the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2003 – 2005 and representing U.S. interests in Western Europe and the Balkans, I watched with interest during numerous bilateral Joint Staff talks with NA TO Allies or potential PfP nations in Balkans as PSI was put on the table for discussion. While some briefer enjoyed limited success in soliciting allied or PfP nation contributions for Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), the Proliferation Security initiative, on the other hand, sold itself When put in terms that clearly portray the contribution to the participating nation’s national interest, there was no need for additional salesmanship. PSI presents an important case study for the authors of the 1,000 Ship Navy. If the l,000 Ship Navy is portrayed in the same light as PSI, in other words: a non-binding agreement, with something in it for me- to include technology, training and enhanced sovereignty and security- then it has the potential to be an incredibly successful program.
Developing Dispersed and More Flexible Forces
As the new maritime strategy begins to take shape, I think it will become apparent that we are no longer a Navy solely dependent upon the Carrier/Expeditionary Strike Group concept of operations. Our inherent ability to aggregate and dis-aggregate naval forces while deployed is a force multiplier. Admiral Mullen recently pointed out that the Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict in Lebanon involved about 170 ships from 17 nations. From the perspective of a humanitarian refugee crisis, the operation was smoothly executed without significant incident and once personnel had been evacuated, the international force, including U.S. Navy assets, dispersed.
If this is to be the future face of naval operations, i.e. operating in consort with other naval forces or independently on the tip of the spear, then we must empower our unit commanders with the right training, the right rules of engagement, and the confidence to make informed real-time decisions as they navigate the battlespace. The tyranny of distance from CONUS or from the big-deck carrier will become easier to deal with as we become more network-centric and as we embrace another new idea-the Global Fleet Station.
The Global Fleet Station is a concept of operations that brings together current doctrine and contributions from the U.S. Coast Guard, other Services, the Interagency, and the 1,000 Ship Navy. The Global Fleet Station would fonn “a hub where all manner of Joint, Interagency, International Organizations, navies, coast guards and non-governmental organizations could partner together as a force for good.” 14 Strategically located throughout the world, Global Fleet Stations would lend themselves perfectly to architecture of regional cooperative security agreements with the teeth to make them work. The Global Fleet Station initiative is refreshing in that it can provide more flexible and adaptive forward presence while encouraging the Interagency, other Services, allies and maritime partners to participate in a Global Neighborhood Watch. Inter- and intra-governmental buy-in of the Global Fleet Station concept is a must for its success.
The Need for Good Intelligence a11d Intelligent Warriors
As we think through all of these options, we cannot forget that one of the most important commodities in the execution of a successful maritime strategy is the ability to gamer actionable intelligence and even more importantly, to know what to do with it when we get it. Wherever we are going to operate, we must have a thorough understanding of the region. We must not only know the order of battle of our adversaries [and our allies], and how they train and how they fight, but we must also gain an appreciation for the customs, traditions, language and culture of the region. This may require some retooling of the officer corps. It will no longer be sufficient to be just the consummate warrior and master of our weapons systems, we must become more intelligent warriors- i.e. warriors who are completely attuned to the environment in which we operate-warriors who are easily integrated into the ships, Global
Fleet Stations, the battle staffs of our allies, coalition partners, the Inter-agency, other Services and vice versa. This transformation of the war-fighter must root itself at the earliest stages of our training pipeline.
The Way Ahead-What Comes Next?
When the CNO began this project, the Navy already had a vision statement in the form of SeaPower 21. Formulated in 2002, and refined over the course of four years. SeaPower 21 deals more with capabilities and less with platform specifics. It articulates three pillars of the modern Navy- Sea Basing, Sea Shield, and Sea Strike-all of which provide a firm foundation for the development of a new maritime strategy.
Building on the vision and developing a new maritime strategy requires a robust intellectual effort and it can’t be done in short order so there will be no rush to the printing press. The CNO has allocated a year to vet different ideas and approaches. Yale University Professor and prolific author on security studies, Dr. Paul Bracken, made the following observations about the process:
The distinctive feature of the US Navy’s new maritime strategy is that it did not start with the answer. In this, it is quite different from much strategic thinking in the United States in recent years. Instead off jumping to the right answer-the global war on terror, strategic balancer, it calls for a productive conversation over the next year to identify the concepts and issues that go in to a maritime strategy. This marks a turning point in the style of American strategic thinking of giving instant answers with little attention to their risks or consequences.
The productive conversation that Dr. Bracken refers to will be accomplished in a number of different ways, primarily employing the Naval War College as the Executive Agent to facilitate debate and discussion and the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information, Plans and Strategy (N3/5) for the final writing and presentation phase. What is really special about the inclusiveness of this effort is the fact that Navy leadership has agreed to hold a series of conversations with the country to be held in major cities across the country in the next few months. The first conversation took place in Newport, Rhode Island in November 2006. The next conversation with the country was in Phoenix, Arizona in January 2007. Nationwide, these conversations give the senior leadership an opportunity to tell the community of businessmen, scholars, government and private sector employees and the American taxpayer what the future holds for the United States Navy. This grass roots effort will not only infonn, but, build trust and confidence in the process and the final product. Feedback from the audience is important and will be incorporated into the Navy’s strategic thinking.
Is There a Place at the Table for the Submarine and Submariners?
I believe that the answer is yes, and this is where you – the readership of THE SUBMARINE REVIEW – come in. In a recent Proceedings article on the subject of the new maritime strategy, Captain Roger Barnett, USN (Ret) and Professor Emeritus of the Naval War College is quoted as saying, “The prepare of the strategy should be practitioners- Navy and Marine Corps officers with salt in their veins and relevant education.”16 The Naval War College solicited nominations for officers to attend the Military Options Workshop in support of the strategy development in December 2006.
This workshop represented a high impact opportunity for Component and Operational Commanders to voice their input to the gaming process and the maritime strategy. Submariners are invited and will be present at the table.
In order to capture important feedback from all warfighters who cannot attend workshops like this one, the following Maritime Strategy website exists for you to provide direct input from the Fleet:
Additionally, you have the option to express your views, opinions, and professional experience in this forum (THE SUBMARINE REVIEW) and others like it. There is a lot of food for thought here so think out of the box and think about what the submarine brings to the table in the context of a new maritime strategy in these dynamic times.
Submarines are serving today as the maritime Scout, operating forward, where the Navy will fight. It is the premier platform for the conduct of Phase Zero operations-this includes Battlespace Preparation, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (JSR) and Indications and Warning (J&W). A common operating picture through globally networked connectivity allows the submarine the luxury of wide dispersal, yet rapid assembly by virtue of its speed and stealth. Either independently (disaggregated) or as a member of the Strike Group team (aggregated), submarines and submariners are conducting operations in support of the Global War on Terror (GWOT) and Major Combat Operations real time. In fact, during OEF and OIF, almost one-third of the Tomahawk missiles launched came from submarines.
The Submarine Force fully supports the 1,000 Ship Navy concept of building alliances in its liaison with 28 maritime nations capable of fielding a total of 228 friendly submarines. COMNAVSUBFOR’s Diesel Electric Submarine Initiative (DESI) is one such program that provides an opportunity for Latin American countries to conduct direct support operations with the U.S. Fleet assets. Furthermore, the NATO-led International Submarine Escape and Rescue Liaison Office (ISMERLO) provides a non-threatening venue with which to build trust and confidence among 35 of 40 submarine capable nations worldwide. For example, ISMERLO was critical to the recovery of the trapped Russian PRIZ submersible in August 2005. 17 We have a good story to tell. We should tell it.
The development of a new maritime strategy for the 21th century is long overdue. Whereas A. T. Mahan’s basic rationale for maintaining a powerful Navy- the military, the commercial and the political- have not changed, the emerging threats we face in the 21th century have increased in complexity. As threats evolve, so does the Navy and Marine Corps, but we are currently spread thin and must re-evaluate what we can do with what we have. It is necessary to tum to friends and allies for help in maintaining the rule of law and freedom of the seas. The continued success of global commerce depends on this. The 1,000 Ship Navy concept is advantageous because it leverages off the resources of all participating nations for the greater good. As these new concepts develop over the course of the year, several common threads of consistency emerge- the importance of intelligence and a common operating picture; the need to maintain presence, but with smaller numbers of assets dispersed over longer distances; the ability to operate in deep or shallow water; and finally, when the call for fire comes, the answer must be potent and immediate. There are many platforms that fulfill these requirements and the submarine is certainly one of them. The development of the maritime strategy will continue for the next six months. The outcome will not only affect all of our futures but the future of our Navy. Considering this, as naval officers, we should ensure that there is as lively a discussion and exchange of innovative ideas at the wardroom table as there is at the Naval War College. In the final analysis, I think A. T. Mahan would be pleased