Tags: Asia, Michael Smith, Middle East, Pacific
Much has been said in this forum and others about the U.S. Navy’s rebalance to Asia-Pacific as well as current and impending fiscal constraints. Less has been said about how these two significant challenges might simultaneously impact the Navy’s operating paradigm and investment strategy. As the Navy rebalances, we face a challenge of simultaneously maintaining a forward and ready posture—where it matters, when it matters—while continuing to invest in the capabilities that are necessary for addressing present and future challenges to America’s national interests. This challenge is neither easy nor without precedent, but it is imperative as current fiscal constraints drive the Navy to be even more judicious in directing resources. To that end, an integrated and thoughtful force design is essential if the Navy is to invest in the force of tomorrow while ensuring our current employment is scaled and configured to affordably accomplish all of our missions today. I believe there are two primary pillars to this force design – creating an affordable operating paradigm for today’s force and investing in the force of the future. I would like to address here the first pillar under a concept I call tailored global presence.
Tailored global presence is an approach to how the Navy organizes, prepares, and deploys forces. The Asia-Pacific rebalance, already underway, is part of that approach: by 2020 the Navy will have rebalanced 60 percent of its forces to this critical region. As we shift the bulk of our forces to Asia-Pacific we will continue to maintain a robust capability in the Middle East with rotational deployments of aircraft carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups as a bulwark in this volatile region. In Europe the Navy will emphasize our unique contributions to the NATO alliance through specific capabilities such as maritime ballistic missile defense using our most advanced destroyers. In the Western Hemisphere our primary focus will be on lower-cost, small footprint missions aimed at protecting the approaches to the homeland. Innovative employment of inherently flexible ships such as Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and Joint High-Speed Vessels (JHSV) will prove invaluable to maritime security and cooperative efforts in Africa and South America – an alternative to sending large amphibious ships or destroyers.
The Navy is beginning to field a wide range of platforms suitable for scalable missions of varying size and firepower. Because of this, a force design that includes tailored global presence need not result in greater strategic risk. Rather, it calls for a sensible apportionment of limited resources to best suit the regionally-specific priorities of combatant commanders. We must employ naval forces to meet today’s specific regional needs while remaining flexible and capable of responding to future crises in any region. In this way we can shift from a “one-size-fits-most” deployment construct to one that leverages a growing range of complementary platforms and units. Tailored global presence will ensure combatant commanders maintain capabilities relevant to their individual requirements.
To further enhance the benefits of tailored global presence, our force design must include the capabilities of the Marine Corps and Coast Guard to eliminate redundant activities and streamline our cooperative efforts. The Navy is already working with the Marine Corps to develop new methods to deploy tailored Marine units in a wider range of Navy combatants. These units will be ideal for the rapid and efficient deployment of discrete capabilities without having to always rely upon large tasks groups. This concept builds on the existing cooperative example of Coast Guard Law Enforcement Detachments embarked on Navy ships. Equally important, our force design should embrace deeper interoperability with partners and allies to promote a more effective approach to cooperative security. By leveraging their presence and capabilities to achieve common regional interests we can ensure that our forward posture remains affordable.
We must also consider measures that make the most efficient use of our time on-station. Rotationally crewed and forward-deployed ships allows our forces to remain forward for longer periods while reducing unsustainable stress on personnel and materiel while minimizing the financial cost and time required for transit. Increasing the number of rotationally crewed platforms – as we are demonstrating on patrol coastal (PC), mine countermeasure (MCM), LCS ships, and ballistic missile submarine patrols –will help deliver forward presence at an affordable cost. We are increasing the number of rotationally-crewed ships deployed to the Middle East, permanently home-porting destroyers in Europe, expanding the use of rotational deployments of LCS in Southeast Asia, and exploring other options for increasing our on-station time across the globe. We should also seek new ways to employ the extensive capabilities of combat logistics force ships in new ways. Intended for large-scale naval and joint force transport and sustainment, we should look at increasing the employment of these civilian-crewed naval ships to execute missions requiring a combination of persistence, cargo capacity, and modular payloads. Together, all of these force design initiatives support a model of tailored global presence that will not limit but rather improve the Navy’s ability to respond anywhere on the globe.
Implementing tailored global presence will allow us the flexibility to execute all of our forward-deployed missions, maintain our global reach, and respond to regional crises while remaining fiscally responsible. If we are smart about how we design the employment of our forces today it will free up resources for the future allowing greater investment in the technologies necessary to stay ahead of our adversaries.
In my next post, I’ll discuss the second pillar to our force design — investing in the future force. I will propose an approach that permits us to affordably invest in future capabilities in a manner that ensures we can meet the evolving security environment as we enter an era of fiscal constraint.