Sure, blogs are fun and all – but is that all you need? What is the use of subscribing to Proceedings? Hmmmm ….. interesting questions.

Well, one thing that makes it worth your time – it keeps you informed enough of developing ideas and concepts bubbl’n in the background, so when they break above the ambient noise you can say, “I know what the SECDEF is talking about – I remember reading …. ”

Case in point; SECDEF’s speech on 03 May 2010 to the Navy League Sea-Air-Space Exposition. There are more than a few comparisons to make – but I want to focus on two concepts.

First, SECDEF quote 1.

The pattern of engagement is reflected in a range of activities around the world that would no doubt leave Alfred Thayer Mahan spinning in his grave: building partnership capacity through the Africa Partnership Station in the Gulf of Guinea; training with friends and allies to secure vital shipping lanes in Southeast Asia; digging wells and building schools in Djibouti; leading multinational efforts to counter the scourge of piracy around the Horn of Africa; dispatching hospital ships to treat the poor and the destitute; helping with crises like the oil spill along the Gulf Coast; and responding to natural disasters, most recently in Haiti – efforts that demonstrate our servicemembers’ incredible compassion and decency.

SECDEF quote 2.

… aircraft carriers. Our current plan is to have eleven carrier strike groups through 2040 and it’s in the budget. And to be sure, the need to project power across the oceans will never go away. But, consider the massive over-match the U.S. already enjoys. Consider, too, the growing anti-ship capabilities of adversaries. Do we really need eleven carrier strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one? Any future plans must address these realities.

Two issues: engagement and the need for carriers.

Now something that came out last year in the APR 2009 Proceedings, CDR Henry J. Hendrix’s Buy Fords not Ferraris; gave the reader some Indications & Warnings – here’s how.

From CDR Hendrix’s article; quote 1.

Creating 16 of these squadrons, ten in the Pacific, six in the Atlantic, would allow the Navy to forward deploy six to eight squadrons at any given time, expanding American influence around the world. Pacific-based squadrons would routinely deploy to the east coast of Africa, the Persian Gulf, the waters off Malaysia to include the Strait of Malacca, the archipelagic waters of Indonesia, the waters in and around the Philippines, and the regional waters near Japan and Korea.

Atlantic-based squadrons would visit the Caribbean, South America, the north and western coasts of Africa as well as pushing up into the Black Sea to visit Georgia, the Ukraine and other partners in the region. Sometimes, however, Influence Squadrons, no matter how well they are placed, will not have the necessary concentration of capabilities to meet the emergent challenges. It would be at this point that the next force along the scale of naval response would be dispatched.

Quote 2.

Currently the U.S. Navy has 11 CSGs (although it is temporarily seeking permission from Congress to dip below the legislatively mandated 11 carriers to decommission the long-serving USS Enterprise [CVN-65] prior to the USS George H. W. Bush’s [CVN-77] entering full service). At a conservative estimated price tag of $30 billion to construct and a daily operating cost in excess of a million dollars, carrier strike groups are quickly becoming prohibitively expensive to both build and deploy. When these characteristics are considered alongside rising threats and increasingly challenging operational environments, even more questions arise.

Step one is to abandon the idea of a Navy built around 11 or 12 carrier strike groups. These have become too expensive to operate, and too vulnerable to be risked in anything other than an unhostile environment. This is not to say that the carrier strike groups must be done away with, however, but the discussion of how many and where they fit in a new strategy comes later. Suffice it to say, dollars and billets recouped from a lower number of carrier strike groups should be invested in ships that are well suited for low to medium engagement.

If you want to see what other of Jerry’s ideas might pop out, EagleOne and I had him on Midrats as a guest twice, once on the subject of Preparing for the multi-polar world and a second time to talk about International Navies. You can also read his latest work in Proceedings, More Henderson, Less Bonds. CDR Hendrix is just one example of a professional who is competing in the market place of ideas. He’s in the game. You don’t have to agree with him – but he and the rest of those in the game make you think. Thinking is what free people do.

Who is leading the way on this new wave of naval strategic thought? Well – those who are in the game are. Those who are driving the creative friction that helps get a better view. A lot of them can be found right here. In the magazines, books, and dare I say blogs at USNI.

Get your puzzl’r puzzl’n. Feed your brain and get a year ahead of everyone else – heck, you might even get promoted for it.

Posted by CDRSalamander in Aviation, Hard Power, Navy, Strategy

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  • Marcase

    If a full blown CVN is too expensive, then it’s time to seriously look at the LHA-6 USS America, combined with F-35Bs and V-22s, as alternative. Other light carriers like Navantias BPE/LHD or the Italian Cavour, or even the UK CVF could be options – if Congress would allow another ‘foreign’ design, that is.

    It annoys me that some folks keep counting beans – I have 11 CSGs and others ‘just’ the one. A CSG is not just an anti-carrier weapon (that’s what submarines are for). A CSG is a multi-dimensional tool that can influence events at sea, over land, from beyond the horizon, at the simultaneously if needed.

    I do support the ‘Influence Squadron’ concept; the USN is now (or nearly) in the position that lack of quantity will effect its quality. Bravo to out-of-the box thinkers like CDR Hendrix.

    If Millenium Challenge 2002 taught one thing, it’s that unconventional threats require unconventional ideas.

  • Hmm, hadn’t noticed that before… congratulations to the good CDR CAPT(sel).

    Nice number there, BTW.

  • Byron

    (bangs head on keyboard…) When speaking of ships as weapons systems, and carriers, cruisers, destroyers and subs as a system of systems, you must always look at the capabilities and the range at which this system of systems can affect the battlefield. Also, the distance (it’s easier to think in range circles) at which the system can effectively protect itself. Now, if we go to the VTOL F-35 (forget the V-22, it’s a troop carrier, not an offensive or defensive system)carrier system, what size circle do you have? How persistent (the amount of time this system of systems can positively affect the battlespace? Compare that the the CVN, it’s air wing and the battlegroup, and tell me which can affect (or control) the battlespace better.

    Extend that to small craft of the 1000 to 2000 ton range: How much offensive/defensive systems can this small ship carry? How big will it’s range be? How long can it dominate (if at all) the battlespace? IMHO, not long and not well. Certainly not long enough to provide a winning situation.

    And sorry, ADM Mullen, just because we’re in LIC mode now, doesn’t mean that can’t change in three short years.

  • Byron

    (bangs head again) BZ, CAPT. Hendrix!

  • Cody

    “How much offensive/defensive systems can this small ship carry? How big will it’s range be? How long can it dominate (if at all) the battlespace?”

    Another, more important step might be to define the “battlespace” first. How long can a carrier battle group dominate the battlespace when the battlespace is defined by an effective submarine force and ballistic missile capability? Granted, we can continue to develop our blue-water missile defense abilities, and attach more subs to carrier groups. But each platform we need to deploy with a carrier is one more platform that we are tying up to defend an asset rather than to complete a mission.

  • Cody

    Not to mention the constraints that this kind of structuring places on our ability to project power from the littoral regions.

  • Jarheadtalker

    A few thoughts: The QDR, and the Naval Operating Concept that is still in draft emphasize PREVENTING WAR being as important as prevailing in combat. OK, if that is so, how can an aircraft carrier build partnerships or trust with other nations? Tough to shake hands from a F/A-18.

    Reading the tea leaves of a few documents that must suffice for guidance in the absence of a National Security Strategy tells me the “perfect” weapon will be able to strike the enemy during war, but also provide security to nation in a low-intensity conflict, allow some kind of partnering capability, slice, dice and make julian fries!! Maybe we need the kitchen-master from RONCO and not aircraft carriers!

    But seriously,….you’d get a lot more partnering capabilities out of the big decks if you put a couple companies of Marines on board with a couple squadrons of helos, and routinely went ashore to shake hands.

  • Jerry

    Thanks for the notice, wishes, and discussion. I feel like the trends are coming towards a naval preventive war force right now and I am anxiously looking forward to the SecDef’s speech on Saturday.

  • Col Fastback

    Jarheadtalker, I agree with most of your points. It *is* possible to build partnership with and FA-18. We can build roads and schools and dig wells, but nations want their militaries to train with ours. A division of Hornets on the flight line in Malaysia has much greater public visibility and impact to partnership than that stellar platoon of 03’s teaching infantry tactics down the road. The sad truth is that there just aren’t enough to go around to every country that requests them for an exercise.

  • Sam Kotlin

    Until the three warfare unions are broken up, true reform cannot happen nor will alternative approaches to the shape and distribution of naval force be considered. It’s a matter of loyalty. The system requires loyalty to designator ahead of loyalty to the Navy or to national defense. Posting, promotions, and prominence attend conforming to the (warfare specialty’s) party line. Fix that, then fix the Navy.