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 littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in March enroute to Singapore. US Navy Photo

The littoral combat ship USS Freedom (LCS 1) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in March enroute to Singapore. US Navy Photo

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.

Posted by RDML Mike Smith in Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy
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  • Matt

    Why doesn’t the Navy utilize civilian vessels for similar purposes as the Chinese? It would seem this pillar is not being used at all despite the fact of some really large potential at a very cheap price. Surely American civilians and even allied nation’s civilians could be taught some things like launching UAVs that might be useful and cheap. Does the Navy have a problem asking for help from civilians?

    • Ken Adams

      US Navy uses civilians exclusively for the logistics tail … all of our resupply ships, the bases that feed them, etc.

      • Matt

        What do you think of using basically fishing vessels for more offensive/ active defensive purposes such as launching UAVs or even ramming where such an action may be warranted as the Chinese are now famous for. We just seem to have our head in the sand in wanting to pretend we can’t play dirty also. In times of scarce resources one must innovate to win. Hire some fishing boats for a year, boost the Navy give the fish a break and when they are done there will be better fishing. Everyone wins. Send the Alaska crab fleet with their camera crews and have some fun with the locals. Could be good practice for wartime while including the whole nation into the pivot which just might have a deterrent effect on Chinese generals. The Navy is most powerful when the whole nation is visibly behind you.

      • RightCowLeftCoast

        The merchant mariner is an often overlooked asset when the excrement hits the rotating wind creation device. Will we have sufficiant MSC and civilian merchant hulls to support the fighting force? Will our fighting force be able to adequately bring the fight to the enemy in a decisive manner and be able to defend its vital sea lanes of communication/resupply? Do we have the systems and doctrine in place to resume protected sea lane defense, or convoy, and/or armed mariner programs again?

        Also, the sales pitch sounds great for the LCS, and a lot is promised, but given present fiscal constraints will the right mission packages be available in sufficient quantities and for the right vessels when thos capabilities are needed? Or is it a matter of luck and hope that the right LCS with the right modules are on station at the time that the capability is needed? Moreover, are we getting the best capability for our tax dollars with the present programs?

  • leesea

    I would take exception to the “inherently flexible” description as applied to LCS but accurate as to the JHSV.

    And with the USN withdrawing support for LEDETs in Carib, I wonder what the author is referring to?
    Time on-station should be enhanced by tenders and/or forward logistics ships. I would use Sealift ships vice CLF as more suited for modular cargo. For reasons unclear to me, there is little capability in the current CLF for modular cargo. Kaiser have only 8 or 10 TEU spots, and the Lewis & Clarks are mainly parcel freighters up to QUADCON size.

    The German Type 702 being a prime example of a multi-product flexible logistics ship design.

  • TheMightyQ

    Assumed in this post by the RDML is the idea that rotational crews actually work. There are massive difficulties with this, as have been noted by the crews who have actually done these crew swaps. I am not referring to the Blue-Gold crews used on boomers. They know each other and know they are coming back to the same ship. Crew rotation is a completely different animal. We’re putting a whole lot of eggs in that basket, and as far as I know, haven’t done anything to address the inherent problems involved in such a policy (e.g. lack of trust of other crews, lack of ownership of the vessel) which lead to maintenance failures.

    • leesea

      The merchant marine model followed by MSC successfully rotates crews. Individuals are rotated aka repatriated vice whole or partial crews. ALL crewmembers are fully qualified, there are NO apprentices only journeymen in the unlicensed crew. Many of the CIVMARs serve on the same class ships repeatedly. But they come for a pool like is used by unions.
      That results in mariners who know their ship and their crewmates, In the USN case, sailors would be assigned to the same class of ship mulitiple times over a period of time like say 5 yrs. I think LCS could use this system?

      IF the above has worked for MSC for more than 60 years, why can’t it work for the blue water navy? Key is training and screening crewmembers before they report AND no duty seaman~

  • NavyVol

    I really like the idea of the “tailored global presence.” It certainly matches the reality that we face as a Navy and as a country (self-inflicted most of it) and tries to think through maximizing a shrinking force in the most efficient and effective way possible. I appreciate the concept of incorporating the USCG into that presence. Far too often we have security cooperation and training engagements with foreign navies that are really more interested in Coast Guard mission set than our Navy mission sets, because most of them aren’t worried with BMD, ASW, Strike, etc that our higher-end platforms are. This sets both sides up for disappointment. I would love to see more cutters and embarked USCG Law Enforcement Dets on LCS and JHSV out in the African, South American, and South Asian AORs.

    On the Asia-Pacific rebalance – I think this is too narrow of a focus and we should start referring to that concept in Navy circles as the Indo-Pacific rebalance, because that’s really how we should be thinking. The Indian Ocean is the energy, commerce, and resource lifelines to the Pacific players (think Kaplan’s work in Monsoon). So, we should start explaining how engagement in the entire Indo-Pacific region, and the partnerships and physical posture (places/bases) that emerge from that engagement (e.g. India, Vietnam, Africa, Singapore, Indian Ocean Islands, etc) will improve our geostrategic positioning vis-à-vis our strategic competitors such that we continue to “punch above our weight” (and force size) well into this century because of our geographic posture and long-term relationships with strategic partners.
    Looking forward to the Force Design discussion….