For the past 60 years, our Navy has been the most technologically advanced, well-trained, and most complete and capable naval force in the world. Since the end of the Cold War, other nations have not been able to compete with us militarily or economically. But as Bob Dylan said, “The times, they are a-changing.”

We are now in a time where a terrorist group like Hezbollah can not only acquire a cruise missile, but also train, launch and hit an Israeli Sa’ar 5 corvette – a capability once possessed by only a handful of militaries. This type of capability (once the purview of the nation-state, now within the reach of many non-state extremist and criminal organizations) requires us to take a hard look at all of our warfighting capabilities and how we man, train, and equip. It is no longer just about ensuring that we do not allow our traditional warfighting capabilities to atrophy – we must be able to deter and when necessary, fight and win against ALL those who seek to do us harm, including those that do not fight under a nation’s flag like terrorists, cyber-hackers, and pirates.

What are some of your ideas concerning how we ensure our warfighting capabilities like ASW / BMD / Strike, etc. keep pace with the threat, while we also ensure we are prepared to combat “irregular” threats like terrorism, cyber-hackers, and piracy? And how do we best accomplish all this during a time when the great pressure on our budgets will not allow us to just “buy our way” out of the problem?

Cross posted from US Fleet Forces Command Blog

Posted by ADM John C. Harvey, Jr. in Navy

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  • Byron

    Training, training, and more training. And the money to make sure they can do training, of course. Gotta wonder, Admiral, how we can talk about ASW when we just decom’d the last of the S-3s. A versitle bird, lot’s of range and loiter time.

    BMD? Looks like we’re practicing that alread 😉

    Cyber-hackers? Hire some of the little geek-toids, co-opt them to the dark side.

    Piracy: Talk to Eagle1, he has the best ideas so far. My prescription is 1 San Antonio, LCACs, and helos, plus one more amphip to help out with the recon work. You could then plug in Eagle1s offshore boats with RHIB and Marines.

    And ADM Harvey, thanks for taking the chance on blogging. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

  • I’ll second Byron, and point out that in my time, the best “training” didn’t come in a schoolhouse, it came at sea performing the ship’s mission. The schoolhouse was a break in the action. Being out in the environment where we were supposed to operate on a regular basis tuned our crews to the point where we could complete our missions under the worst of conditions.
    The biggest multiplier to maintaining our capabilities after training was a CO who wasn’t afraid to use them, and who insisted that his his crew knew how to fight the ship without him.
    One of my most professionally satisfying experiences on sea duty was the time I spent at GITMO doing REFTRA. Especially in the battle problems, we combined both of the above to prove to ourselves that we were ready for the next step. It was a lot of work, but we were at sea every day doing the things that Uncle Sam needed us able to do.

  • Chuck Hill

    Cyber hackers–Have a separate set of paper authentication codes to confirm validity of originator for certain types of sensitive messages/e-mails.

    ASW–Get the Coast Guard back in the game too.

  • Hezbollah can not only acquire a cruise missile, but also train, launch and hit an Israeli Sa’ar 5 corvette

    That is one lesson of recent vintage that I think needs more discussion when we talk about what we want to do with LCS.

    If you don’t mind, let me run with that thread a bit as the Israeli experience informs LCS.

    Inside 10NM of shore with the sustained watch schedule required in that environment; have we thought the pros/cons of the manning levels through to the detail needed? The damage control problem, with or without a warhead explosion; are we being clear headed on our risk management strategies? Have we had a chance to bounce our ideas off the Israeli Navy experts on the HANIT incident? If so, what have we taken away from it?

    For most of the last decade, though I think it is getting better, in so much of the literature that shows up from PPT to vignettes in the briefing room (DDG-1000 advertising was the worst in this) it often assumes a sterile littoral that simple does not exist where we need to be prepared to operate. There are very few long stretches of abandoned, remote beaches with a few huts and a dirt road. Like Israel learned in the Hezbollah-Israeli conflict, the shore where our business lies has houses, garages, businesses, and a dense urban environment where the ASCM may very well be in the two car garage attached to the nice ranch house with the pool.

    We saw Israel in Gaza during CAST LEAD execute some precise urban-littoral warfare from their ships. There is a Navy version of the fighting our Soldiers and Marines had to adjust to in urban Iraq and we are with our allies trying to refine towards a minimal “civilian casualty” outcome. Israel has obviously thought this through, planned, and trained in this to a detail that their execution was well done and done early.

    Are we thinking along those lines – to leverage what Israel has re-learned? That is a time and money saver, as the answers have already been generated to 85% of our needs by the Israelis.

    If we intend to send LCS into harm’s way as Israel has with her Corvettes and Patrol Gun Boats, then we have our benchmark.

    As for budget tradeoffs, well, priorities set that.

    One of the best investors of the last 30 years, Gill Morales stated in an interview on THU an interesting observation on what he does after he makes some big mistakes or gets hurt by over-reaching and needs to get back on a steady footing. In essence, he states “…you go back to the basics.”

    That, after a very difficult decade decision and development wise for the Navy, is what I think we should look at. Get back to basics. Ignore the siren song of the revolutionary – embrace the evolutionary. Don’t transform, execute continuous improvement. Don’t look for unproven magic cost savings pills – execute sound cost control, proper oversight, and accountable development.

    Vince Lombardi, not Deepak Chopra. Arleigh Burke, not Tony Robbins.

    …and ADM Harvey …. welcome aboard!

  • P.M. Leenhouts CAPT USN (Ret)

    Byron wrote – “Piracy: Talk to Eagle1, he has the best ideas so far. My prescription is 1 San Antonio, LCACs, and helos, plus one more amphip to help out with the recon work. You could then plug in Eagle1s offshore boats with RHIB and Marines.”

    The Long Range Interceptor boat in USCGC BERTHOLF looks to be an excellent capability (400 mile range); that, coupled with the embarked helo, has great potential to ruin more than one pirate’s day (or night).

  • Byron

    Granted, CAPT. Leenhouts…but you need a command/control, re-supply, berthing and living, barracks for Marines and launch pad for drones/helos. From one or two platforms you can sustain a presence and at the same time provide the recon and initial intercept package. Keep in mind, that if the pirates (who have a known affiliation with Al-Queda) get irritated with that helo, they’ll probably start carrying Strelas or equal.

    So you need intercept/capture/combat vessels with good speed and endurance at the ground floor(combat) level that can embark a RHIB and mount a large auto-cannon (probably smaller than a 76, maybe bigger than a 20mm), a BERTHOLF, and one or two LHA/LSDs. It’ll be manpower intensive, given the patrol zone, but good recon and decent intel (on the shore, suggest SpecFor?)you could cause the pirates to grind to a halt at best, a nuisance at worst.

    And of course, there’s our international partners in the 1,000 ship fleet 😉

  • Cap;n Bill

    Congratulations, Admiral ! I believe it is wonderful to have a person such as you aboard.

    First few ideas ring true with me on the piracy issue. But I hope that the ROE would encourage a most robust engagement, one with the intention to remove pitates at sea. Don’t waste the time and effort to bring them ashore, anywhere.


    Change the career model.

    One does not need the widest possible experience of the whole Navy before the 15 or 20 year career mark. Stop trying to stuff one person’s head with the whole picture. It doesn’t work that way. Don’t try to beat the bias out of them, but rather have them come to understand their own limitations organically. Allow that one person to develop real, non-standard expertise in their warfare area. Give them experience over time seeing how their tactical decisions impact horizontally and vertically. Let them refine their warfighting senses so that they can smell electronic emissions, hear TELs being maneuvered, notice when the fisherman working the area hasn’t caught anything and have the hair on the back of their neck stand up when they look into the dark ocean and it doesn’t look back. Then, put that person together with another person of different expertise but similar depth and they will produce results, including new strategies for these problems. It is when they combine that they achieve their strength (think three strand rope). It is when they work together from different positions of strength that they catch each others planning flaws, avoid groupthink and incorporate the whole picture. Other added benefits, since you are going to be rotating to sea more often, you don’t spend half of your unit’s time and energy doing basic level qualification, instead you are usually working at the graduate level for tactics–a higher readiness baseline. More productive sea time (for a person whose expertise is at sea this is not as hard a sell) also means reduced overall manning–cost savings. Plus, someone who knows the mission intimately is a great trainer (better output for lower cost) and a fine mesh BS filter on procurement and upgrade issues.

    In short, develop expertise, not exposure.

  • Fouled Anchor

    Admiral, great to see you here. Always good to have two-way comms between the commander and the troops…the modern CO’s suggestion box I guess you could say.

    Here’s some brief ideas:

    1. Diesel submarines – cheaper (construction, manning, and life cycle), can operate in the littorals, and if we have them, then our skippers will know how to fight with them, and should be better fighting against them if necessary.

    2. Improve and maintain technology – Sailors have more memory on their cell phones than many of our networks. Example: One supposedly high tech command I know of has a mere 30GB of public memory. I can get 500GB at the local NEX for next to nothing.

    3. FLTCYBERCOM/10th Fleet should help develop, improve, and sustain our cyber defenses…if the implementation and operations are done right.

    4. I think PERMDUINS was referring to the disassociated sea tours construct of officer career paths. I’ve yet to hear a good explanation of this philosophy. As an example, a flight student gets winged, trained in P-3s, flies that aircraft for one tour, then flies a different aircraft on instructor duty, then gets a disassociated sea tour (LSO), then finally goes back to P-3s. So this aviator flies his or her aircraft once in the first half of their career. Aviation training is awfully long and expensive for such a small return on investment.

    5. Focus on the important stuff and demand that your people do too.

    6. Ask the Chiefs! Get ideas straight from the Deckplates without the filter between them and you.

  • ADM:

    Let me underscore what ‘Phib said in the comments above re. Hezbollah and the Israeli Sa’ar5 – we’d best be thinking about non-state actors and acquisition/employment of similar weapons that require a similar-degree of requisite technical experience/knowledge to employ. Doesn’t even have to be a WMD either, but potential for second- and third-order effects far beyond the actual destructive effects of the weapon are indeed worth contemplating.
    v/r, SJS


    @Fouled Anchor,

    Indeed, the disassociated sea tour is a prime example of this, ditto on ROI. But it is by no means the only one. Many of the other ticket-punches are similarly distracting at the more junior levels (e.g. joint/staff/DC/”too junior” war college). Do you learn/accomplish something on these tours? Of course. But there is an opportunity cost. Additionally, if you develop a very deep understanding of your own specialty, later you will be a better staffer, joint officer, war college student and can add to the discussion as much as you take from it.



    There are a few things I will recommend:

    1. Scrap every “required periodic report” which does not directly aid your decision-making. Much effort goes to making the data fit the expectation=inaccurate report and dangerous habit. For the few reports that remain, require a good analysis of potential problems, causes and possible solutions. Make people think critically and creatively. Rip open the up-echelon filter. Bad news by e-mail or phone call is far better than bad news by CNN and YouTube.

    2. Show up unannounced, in total breach of protocol. You are distinguished, but you’re not a visitor, you own it. Word will spread.

    3. Push for more, smaller, cheaper ships. They may not have the fanciest hardware, but they do wonders for both the mission, the industrial base and officer development. Have the Navy own the blueprints and then license them cheap to many shipyards to begin to rebuild domestic shipyards willing to do Navy contract work. In time, shipbuilders will increase their capacity to handle more complex and risky projects. (Not jobs, capacity.) More small ships means earlier command opportunity so that, again, the basics are learned earlier.

    4. One no longer controls information. One shapes it.

    5. Don’t fight terrorism and piracy–starve it.


  • jwithington


    Cyber warfare raises some of the most interesting questions. How can the Navy gain access to the best cyber talent? Are the best IT guys interested in going aboard ships? Would they be able to pass the Navy PRT? Should these standards change in order to get the best hackers in the Navy? Or are we interested in the best Sailors?

    I realize I’m just posing questions but perhaps the rest of the blog audience could help me find answers!

  • Fouled Anchor

    MIDN Withington, you pose some interesting questions…but the answers may be even more interesting. The Navy’s cyber specialists serve in the CTN rating…from what I can tell, the absolute only rating in the Navy without sea duty billets. That raises another question: if there is no sea duty, why are these military positions and not civilian billets?

    A lack of sea duty could be a recruiting incentive for those you suggest we hire, but we don’t recruit folks with these talents, we train them in these skills. I guess that leaves more questions. Do we continue to recruit enlisted Sailors and train them in cyber skills in a shore intensive rating; or do we recruit civilian employees with a more attractive and flexible pay schedule? Or, some combination of the two?

  • Byron

    Combination; just make sure the CTN’s get to see some blue water pass under their keels. My son-in-law served 15 years and didn’t understand the “Navy” and what a “sailor” was till he did a deployment with his squadron on Enterprise. Now he’s salty as hell 😉

  • ADM J. C. Harvey, Jr

    One theme that repeats in these posts, and in many of those that were posted in response to the same question on the USFFC blog, has been the concern with what appears to be the drive to substitute more complex, technologically-driven solutions for war-fighting problems instead of focusing more on effective and practical “hands-on” training with the systems and platforms we have today. This concern resonates with me, particularly given that ASW, be it from a theater-wide perspective or a tactical situation requiring the coordination of a single ship’s actions with a dipping helo, is as much art as science and requires the patient pass-down of experience to grow successful practitioners of a complex skill-set. The same case can be made for virtually every war-fighting area, from BMD to VBSS operations.
    As with virtually every issue we deal with in our profession, the real question becomes one of BALANCE – how do we achieve the right balance between technological evolution and adoption of revolutionary capabilities (real game-changers)?; how do we achieve the right balance between what we can teach relatively inexperienced individuals and teams in shore-based trainers (of varying degrees of sophistication) and what can only be taught at sea where Clauswitzian friction and blind chance impact every action and where no plan survives first contact with the enemy?; and how do we achieve the right balance between the need to shape and prepare our naval forces to win today’s wars and the need to be prepared for the high-end fight we may face tomorrow?
    I think this search for balance throughout our Navy is significantly impacting us right now, particularly given that the nation’s economic crisis is likely to result in a decrease in the resources made available to the services after a period of prolonged budget increases following 9/11.
    There will be very few “magic-bullet” type point solutions that will solve the problems we face, so my focus is where to put the fulcrum at USFFC to get the right balance between technological solutions and Sailor-driven ones, between investing in what may be a better solution in the future and relentlessly focusing our efforts on what we have today and between training to achieve success today and the training necessary to be confident we’ll achieve success tomorrow.
    It’s all good. All the best, JCHjr

  • Byron

    ADM Harvey, I’ll say only this: It’s very hard to march into the future, if you’ve forgotten or disposed of the hard-learned lessons of the past. Those lessons must be carried with you every day, less a less-sophisticated enemy deprives you of your advantages.

    Speaking for myself, I’m quite suprised to see one as senior as yourself not only participating in the sometimes rough and tumble world of blogs, but embracing the “new” medium. It’ll take a person smarter than me to figure out what to listen to, and what to smile at.