Since the President’s Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense came out last week, a lot has been written, pontificated, pondered, positioned, and puffed about it. A little bit of light, but a lot of heat too. Some don’t like it at all – some like me are, well, shrugable about it. This is in many ways a call to action for DoN. Let me explain.

This isn’t doctrinally perfect – but it is workable. Like all broad documents, it is the actions that follow that are important – and what money Congress decides to allocate in defense bills that follow. I go in to a little more detail over at my home blog, but let’s take some pull quotes that seem to nod toward the Sea Services the most and ponder them here.

There is nothing shocking in the document, but there is plenty “see Ref. A” quotes for people to use. For instance:

For the foreseeable future, the United States will continue to take an active approach to countering these threats by monitoring the activities of non-state threats worldwide, working with allies and partners to establish control over ungoverned territories, and directly striking the most dangerous groups and individuals when necessary.

“… monitoring … activities … worldwide;” “ungoverned territories;” “striking the most dangerous groups;” – what is the best tool the National Command Authority can use to do this? A little USAF – but that is a Navy and Marine Corps core competency. We can sell that soap.

There are echos of what regular readers of USNI’s Proceedings have already read and internalized….

Across the globe we will seek to be the security partner of choice, pursuing new partnerships with a growing number of nations .– including those in Africa and Latin America .– whose interests and viewpoints are merging into a common vision of freedom, stability, and prosperity. Whenever possible, we will develop innovative, low-cost, and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives, relying on exercises, rotational presence, and advisory capabilities. The United States will continue to lead global efforts with capable allies and partners to assure access to and use of the global commons, both by strengthening international norms of responsible behavior and by maintaining relevant and interoperable military capabilities.

Buy Fords not Ferraris sound familiar to anyone? CAPT Hendrix; call your office.

What about the Primary Mission Areas outlined in the document? Can you argue with these?

  • Counter Terrorism and Irregular Warfare
  • Deter and Defeat Aggression
  • Project Power Despite Anti-Access/Area Denial Challenges
  • Counter Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Operate Effectively in Cyberspace and Space
  • Maintain a Safe, Secure, and Effective Nuclear Deterrent
  • Defend the Homeland and Provide Support to Civil Authorities
  • Provide a Stabilizing Presence
  • Conduct Stability and Counterinsurgency Operations
  • Conduct Humanitarian, Disaster Relief, and Other Operations

Well, of course you can; the order and emphasis may be different, but Rummy or Dick Cheney could have put that list out.

If you want to be parochial about it – out of the 10, at least half are over 51% DoN, and none less than 30% DoN. Time to get you’re A-game running Navy.

… We will resist the temptation to sacrifice readiness in order to retain force structure, and will in fact rebuild readiness in areas that, by necessity, were deemphasized over the past decade.

That has Navy written all over it – especially our amphibious capabilities. It nods as well to ASW, AAW, and ASUW, as those are the core of what was deemphasized over the last decade. If you don’t agree – look at the #3 PMA.

There is more in the document. If you have not yet, get a cup of coffee, send the phone to voice mail and give it a read. It is less than 20 pages with big fonts and plenty of white space.

Going forward, if we are willing to engage with the challenge, this sets the foundation for a lot of positive creative friction. This is a great opportunity for us to make hard choices, get lean, and set proper priorities – things we didn’t do well in the fat years. It is of little use to cry and scream at the darkness that is our budgetary and political environment; light a candle. If you think more money is coming; you are intellectually lost.

To get this right in the reality we have, we need an open, loud, sharp-elbows, and thick skin discussion of the pros and cons of different courses of action, policies, systems, platforms, and accepted norms.

A2/AD, “Influence Squadrons,” Asian focus, rebuilding neglected readiness areas – these are all Navy areas. We need to embrace them and lean in to the President’s challenge. Less money is always less fun – but it can also bring rewards if you take advantage of the opportunities it can present.

There is work to be done.




Posted by CDRSalamander in Uncategorized


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  • Salty Gator

    I hope that despite the lack of intelligence currently occupying Washington DC, we are able to embrace a “moneyball”-esque way of PPBE so that we can start exploiting Chinese weaknesses in our counter A2AD strategy. This will require a large degree of “jointness” however it requires the Navy to BE THE LEADER…something that we have not done service-wise despite the abundance of Admirals serving in upper echelons of purple service.

  • Capt. HW “Woody” Sanford,MC,USNR(ret.)

    You got it, Salamander! We must pull on the boots, hang the suspenders and tighten the belts, but we still have a great Navy that is more than capable of doing many things “very well.” In my 8 years as a USN Medical Officer and 12 years in medical Reserve Units, our best performance always came when we were undermanned or underfunded in some way. When I reentered the Reserves in Sept. 1979,Navy Medicine was in sad shape, but through the outstanding efforts of a small cadre of dedicated officers and hospital corpsmen, it was not long before we had 2 new Hospital Ships, many Board Certified Specialists, excellent Courses in Combat Casualty Care and Casualty Medevac exercises. Some on board in this period later served with distinction in medical units in the Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan. I enjoyed my career as a Radiologist, but nothing could replace my service as a Navy Medical Officer. Woody

  • ShawnP

    Well we have just disarmed our enemy with some very powerful Powerpoint Bullets. As for the real bullets those aren’t needed anymore after all. Right???

  • Cap.n Bill

    Take care we don’t hoist too many sails on this topic. I’ve been around the Horn once or twice and can assure you that there is always an unhappy ending to any campaign that keeps saying that “We can Do More and more with Less and less.”

  • Grandpa Bluewater

    You can’t do more with less. You can only do less with less. So you have to prioritize, so the vital things don’t go undone, and you don’t waste resources on things that don’t need to be done. This means you have to decide what is important, and that you don’t waste resources on repeated attempts which are not succeeding to complete projects that are nice to have or are obviously ill thought out.

    Hence the coin of the realm is unflinching honesty and objectivity. You have to husband your resources, and make take care of tools large and small, simple and complex. You must eschew expensive fads and place high emphasis on making things last. Avoiding waste is key.

    Most importantly, you must realize that skilled, motivated people are your most priceless resource, and you must recruit, train, and take care of them as your highest priority.

    If you want to know how not to do it, look at the last time.

  • Byron

    Honesty? Objectivity? Isn’t the complete lack of those two ideals the reason how we got to this ugly little place.

    And Phib, one of the secondary bullet points in that document was, “To preserve the industrial base”. That means people like me that have a deep knowledge base of not only repair/construction methods but also the practices and rules governing those. There are fewer and fewer people in the skilled trades today. I know the number of skilled shipfitters (we BUILD ships) is -10,000 nationwide (and probably much lower than that, my numbers are old) while there are +1,000,000 lawyers. Never saw an over-educated lawyer build a ship.

    The fewer the ships, the less rational the repair/new build schedule, the fewer skilled people we have to do the dirty dangerous work done in shipyards. We’re getting older by the day and fewer in numbers.

  • Capt. HW “Woody” Sanford,MC,USNR(ret.)

    Thanks, Grandpa! I was trying to say what you said 5 hours later. Sometimes we have to do the very best we can with what we have, while always striving to do better, keeping the cost factor in mind. Robert McNamara’s “Cost-effective” DoD in the 1960s was not all bad. I realize it’s hard to fight a war that way, but that concept can remind you to try to get the “best bang for the buck.”

    Woody

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