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When is the last time you sat down and discussed tactics? Whether it was regarding your individual DDG or employment of Air Wing strike capabilities, I bet it has been awhile. I recently discussed these issues with Junior Officers and enlisted sailors at our Junior Leaders Innovation Symposium here at NWDC, and later with Aviation Flags at our annual training symposium. In both cases, the results were the same – there is a real concern that tactics development has slid down our list of day to day priorities.

I know it was a long time ago, but as a JO, I remember having tactical discussions all the time. What’s the best way to do X? Did we consider Y? Have you seen Z…? We stayed up late in wardrooms and ready rooms sharing the experiences and best practices that made us better tactical aviators. The threat and type of operations in those days drove us to discussions about tactics. We shared lessons and made near-continuous improvements to the tactics we employed, because we understood that the operational environment required us to create and maintain operational sanctuaries to mitigate the tactical risks.

LT Rob McFall wrote the following in his blog on USNI a couple of months ago, What the Professional Naval Conversation is Missing… Tactics:

The conversation on tactical innovation is especially important for the Junior Officers but it should not be limited to them. Senior Officers and those that have gone before us have a wealth of knowledge on tactics. They have been there and know where the sinkholes are. Only by learning what has been done before can we keep from making the same mistakes over again. We have the forums. Once again it is time for us to read, think, speak and write about tactics.

I couldn’t agree more with LT McFall. Not only should we get better at sharing the lessons, knowledge and tactics from our more senior officers, we have an obligation to continue to develop tactical solutions that counter the myriad of multi-faceted threats. We have lost the comfort of operating from our traditional maritime sanctuaries. Due to advances and proliferation of weapons technology, the anti-access/area denial capability of our potential adversaries has increased significantly in recent years. We need to identify our capability gaps and prioritize development of tactics that help create and maintain the sanctuaries required to mitigate risk in this new environment.

Earlier this year, Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) launched the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Advanced Tactics Initiative – or “CATI” – to enable the rapid development of training and tactics. “CSG” includes the Carrier Strike Group staff, CVN, CVW, and DESRON elements. CATI is an integrating function designed to synchronize tactics and training development efforts with identified gaps in tactical capability. It will formalize a collection process to capture, document and pass-on CSG lessons, tactics and best practices. Aligned to the Strike Force Training Community assessment process, CATI will socialize the identification and prioritization of emerging CSG employment gaps. Another key element of CATI is the new interactive NWDC CATI SharePoint tool that provides access to developmental projects, operational guidance documents and tactical material while enabling an ongoing discussion of ideas and best practices. It’s all about preparing ourselves, again, to be challenged at sea.

Tactics development has played a major part in the Navy and Marine Corps’ capability to fight and win wars in the past. We intend to breathe new life into tactical discussions to effectively counter future threats and leverage tactical innovation. Tactics are back – jump in and join the conversation!