Monday, April 27, 2009

Maritime Strategy Monday: Influence?

As I am entering a period of limited time to blog (about a week and a half at first guess - one of those short notice things - I'll blog some, but not more than one or two short posts a day max) - this will wind up being a bit shorter than I wanted, but here we go.
When an organization finds itself at a pivot point in crisis, it naturally looks to its leadership for direction and a viable plan forward. The Navy is at such a point, and has been for the last two years.

A problem we have, however, is that we are on the tail end of a lost decade of false hope and forgotten promises where those in the Navy now have little faith in their leadership's ability to honestly build a Fleet, discuss its challenges, and direct a course towards a successful future. Much of that has to do with the fact to a large measure, our senior leaders have taken the Soviet model of a unified message. Essential in wartime, but in peace a sure recipe for stilted group think.

If you look at the complete cock-up that is DDG-1000, the rest of the Tiffany Navy as represented by the schizophrenic LCS Corvette, the Titanium-gilt LPD-17, the too-heavy-to-go-anywhere ACS, the "no slack because all we have is light attack" FASKE-18A-G, rolled around "1/3 good, 2/3 babble by committee" updated Maritime Strategy - looking to our senior leadership for clear direction and guidance, with a few exceptions, is about as helpful as dropping to your knees in the Temple of Jupiter and praying for the king of the gods to deliver you from the harpies that haunt your life.

An organization in need of ideas will not accept a vacuum. Into the gap will come more more junior officers, Sailors, industry, and concerned citizens with ideas to try to find a way out of the hole we find ourselves in. CDR Henry J. Hendrix Jr is one of those officers. You don't have to agree with all his ideas, I don't, but you owe it to yourself and the Navy you love to read them and think about them.

It is the ideas and proposals of smart, thinking, and thoughtful officers like CDR Hendrix that the Navy should be welcoming and examining - regardless of what discomfort they cause. Jerry comes from a line that traces its lineage to Admiral Sims. It is never an easy thing to put your ideas out there with your name attached to it - to accept the slings and arrows that come with it.

With that dose of love thrown Jerry's way and to take up the assignment from last WED - on with the show.

As a reminder, in this month's Proceeding, CDR Henry J. Hendrix Jr, has an article titled Buy Ford not Ferrari - that is what we are going to discuss today.

Let's take that thing apart and spread the bits on the table and talk about what we have here. Not a full fisking, I don't have the time (feel free to hit areas I don't in comments) - but let me comment on those areas that jumped out to me.

Like I said earlier - I don't agree with all the author puts out there, but I could be all wrong and he could be all right. Not the point - the point is that he has some solid ideas worth looking at. With our maritime future challenged going forward with very real fiscal terrain issues, his ideas need to be taken in and chewed on.

In many ways, that is the great underlying strength the article - it offers options that are realistic given the limited amount of money we have to put hulls in the water and get ships underway. The time of the PPT program has past. That wiggle room is gone. It is time to put up or shut up.
The problems that will have the most impact on the Navy's future force structure are large and can be categorized in two groups. The first is the growing expense of building new ships. The costs involved in research, development, and production of destroyers, cruisers, and carriers, each of which fields new, leading-edge technologies, have placed the price of the future force out of reach, even with four percent of the gross domestic product funding the Department of Defense.

Second is the growing mismatch between the Navy's strategic vision and its acquisition plan.
Correct. A Fleet should meet the Strategy. As we have outlined here - hope, wish, and desire have prevented that up to now.
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.
If this idea holds for 10-11, it holds for 9 - but I think I know what he means. This is one of the weaker parts of the article. It does not match with the later CVN numbers he proposes, but from a cost-mitigation perspective it holds. CVN, for all their issues, are still the only global sustained strike capability we have. I don't think his CVN critique is fleshed out well and may be worth a dedicated article - but let's move on.

Talking about SS,
Torpedoes launched from these boats, and shore- and ship-based missiles can sink outright most of the world's surface combatants and would, at least, significantly degrade the mission effectiveness of American super-carriers.
Spot on with the threat. For ASCM, it isn't the Exocet, Silkworm, Harpoon and the other subsonic threats that bother me - it is the supersonic ASCM and ASBM that keep me up at night. They are not insurmountable, but need more attention than they are getting.
The venerable deep-strike A-6 Intruder and the long-range F-14 interceptor have vanished into the boneyard with their spots on the flight deck taken by the F/A-18 Hornet variants, which were intended to be replacements for the A-4 and A-7 short- and medium-range light attack aircraft. ... we find ourselves in a circular argument reminiscent of the late Admiral Hyman Rickover, that "I must defend my force, Sir, so that I can defend my force." The CSG is, remarkably, a construct that can operate effectively only in a permissive environment, or be committed to an anti-access environment only under the most extreme conditions when national interests compel leadership to risk what amounts to a significant percentage of the Navy's annual budget in a single engagement.
The loss of a dedicated carrier based tanking asset remains a critical failure by Navy Air. Just short sighted in the extreme. Buddy tanking is a joke - doesn't count. What follows is the pull quote.
What is needed is a Navy cheap enough to be built in large numbers while remaining sufficiently effective to defend American interests on the high seas. We need Fords, not Ferraris.
Hi-Lo; the only way to go. Can't argue with him in any way on that point, however ....
Step one is to abandon the idea of a Navy built around 11 or 12 carrier strike groups.
Only for the money reasons in my book - for the reasons stated before. A larger DoD question is how do you replace the national need for global strike as the B-3 now is pushed to the right? Give it up? Tough problem.

Next, in a word, ungh.
A key tenet of post-9/11 strategic thought is that extremist religious terrorism is avoidable. Societies with infrastructural resources such as electricity, clean water, public education, and some modicum of medical care do not generally incubate extremist groups in their midst. Naval forces that have basic abilities to police the sea lines of communication while also seizing port call opportunities to build the basic communal building blocks of productive life ought to be an important component of the future Navy.
I am sorry my friend - this is just plain wrong and debunked. Read here, here, and here to start - but I cannot let that comment stand. The 911 hijackers, OBL and almost all of Al Qaeda's mid-level and higher leaders and operators are well educated sons of the middle to upper classes. Lack of opportunity, frustration, and envy resulting from living in a culture that denies basic human desires compared to the best of western culture is more of the cause. The Navy cannot do anything to counter that.

All the things that the author offers that the Navy can do helps in a broader extent our national image - on the margins - but will do nothing to negate the source that breeds Islamist terrorism. A port visit by every USN ship to Karachi doing nothing but charity work will do nothing to change what is going on with the larger cultural and religious trends in Pakistan driving terrorism.
The next step on the Navy's path to a new future should be the creation of "Influence Squadrons" composed of an amphibious mother ship (an LPD-17 or a cheaper commercial ship with similar capabilities), a destroyer to provide air, surface, and subsurface defensive capabilties, a Littoral Combat Ship to extend a squadron's reach into the green-water environment and provide some mine warfare capabilities, a Joint High Speed Vessel to increase lift, a Coastal Patrol ship to operate close in, and an M80 Stiletto to provide speed and versatility.
Sounds like a tailored Task Force, but the use of the phrase "Influence Squadron" (INFRON) is very problematic as its very name creates a significant STRATCOM problems.

Most of the leaders of the nations we would like to influence will have nothing to do with any USA force that publicly advertises that it is there to influence them. Influence is a loaded word that opens you up to charges of paternalistic imperialism. If that is what you are after, fine, just don't advertise it.

On balance though, the substance and mission of the "INFRON" as presented and constructed,
The hypothetical Influence Squadron would, in part, be composed of (clockwise from top left): an amphibious mother ship like the USS San Antonio (LPD-17); a guided-missile destroyer like the USS The Sullivans; a Littoral Combat ship like the USS Freedom (LCS-1); an M80 Stiletto; and a joint high-speed vessel like the USS Swift (HSV-2).
... is interesting and deserves to be looked at from a budgetary and sustainability standpoint - but it needs a new name out of the box.
These forces, operating every day around the world, would represent the preponderance of visible U.S. naval power. Their understated capabilities would epitomize America's peaceful, non-aggressive intent, and would carry out the new maritime strategy's stated purpose of providing positive influence forward. However, the Influence Squadron, carrying credible firepower across a broad area of operations, could also serve to either dissuade or destroy pirate networks that might seek to prey upon increasingly vulnerable commercial sea lines of communication.

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.
Well, that looks a lot like a modern day version of colonial fleets - which have a long and successful history of doing just what is proposed for the INFRON. All that being said though, I go back to the author's critique of the vulnerability of the CVN - and INFRON's are exceptionally vulnerable. Vulnerability isn't a deal killer for me, everything is vulnerable if you have a smart guy under the Red Hat, it is what you do to mitigate it that is important.

After sending spit-balls teacher's way for a while, here is where I warm up to some of the other parts of the article.
If it is accepted that the aircraft carrier, with its aviation strike packages, represents the sledgehammer of America's arsenal, then the ESG, with its Tomahawk-firing cruisers and destroyers, as well as its scalable squad-to-battalion Marine force, represent the wrenches, screwdrivers, and pliers within the nation's war on terrorism toolbox. When the introduction of the MV-22 Osprey and the short take-off/vertical landing (STOVL) Joint Strike Fighter is factored into the strategic equation, the ESG represents a force that is ideally structured to counter terrorist actions anywhere from oceanic blue water to ground operations 150-200 miles inland. The flexibility of this unit makes it the ideal candidate to serve as a critical response force, capable of dealing with threats short of those large enough to justify a surge force deployment.
Merge some of the INFRON concepts with an expanded and scalable ESG concept, and there you have something I can very easily embrace.
Instead, the aircraft carriers (nine or ten for the sake of this discussion) and their support ships and airwings will remain in home waters, exercising as required to maintain six CSGs in a high state of combat readiness. The assumption underlying this force is that one carrier will be involved in reactor upkeep, one will be coming home from either a regional deployment or a major international exercise, and another will be on her way out. This leaves roughly six carriers in standby, ready to surge at a moment's notice. Where they surge from is a critical question. A smaller carrier force needs to be redistributed to get the most out of a decreased number of ships.

Most of America's strategic interests in the decades to come will be in the Asian Pacific region, and that is where the majority of the nation's aircraft carriers should be as well. Of the force of nine or ten carrier strike groups, six should be home ported in the Pacific; two in Bremerton, two in San Diego, one in Japan, and one in another forward base to be determined. The remaining east coast carriers should be strategically dispersed between Norfolk and Mayport. This distribution scheme will both help ensure the survivability of the force against surprise attacks, and cut the transit time to crises around the globe. The bottom line is that the United States should always have six carrier strike groups ready to surge to a point of conflict within 15 to 30 days.
Here we go. Solid, solid - and you know he had me at "...carriers should be strategically dispersed...," but wait - it gets even better from a Salamander perspective.
Another critical component of the surge force will be the Expeditionary Strike Groups and their light amphibious carriers. Long considered to be the central core of the amphibious force, these highly capable aircraft carriers can serve in new roles within surge operations. Assuming one is in dry-dock for maintenance, a force of ten LHAs can provide nine small flattops for surge operations. Five of them will go to sea with their embarked Marine Expeditionary Units serving as their primary strike assets (again, the assumption would be that two of the MEUs would either be deploying or returning from deployment at any given time) while the remaining available LHAs deploy with each of their decks and hangars populated by two squadrons of STOVL Joint Strike Fighters.
Return of the CVS/CVL? Yes, yes .... solutions, yes.

Now, you 1120's get your inhalers ready,
Another area of focus for the future force should be in undersea warfare. Perhaps no place poses a greater threat to the current U.S. force structure or suggests the greatest potential for improvement in a future Navy than the underwater environment and the vessels that populate it. The first major proposed shift is the inclusion of diesel-powered submarines that incorporate air-independent propulsion (AIP) technologies. These submarines can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of a nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine such as those of the Virginia class.

Diesel/AIP boats are very quiet, and can be equipped with effective torpedoes, antisurface missiles, and even antiair missiles. These relatively inexpensive yet highly capable subs should replace the Virginia-class boats in the shallow-water environment alongside the new Influence Squadron surface force, allowing the Virginias to concentrate on their antisubmarine warfare mission in the blue-water environment. The one significant drawback of the non-nuclear design is shorter patrol intervals because of limited fuel supply. But this can be offset by forward-basing them near their patrol areas. A number of nations may welcome permanent basing of diesel/AIP submarines but have rejected nuclear-powered submarines in their ports for political reasons.
Ick. -1 point for Jerry. It is ASW not USW. Anti-X isn't bad, it is clear ... but I'll give you a pass. Let us not speak of it again. Besides that, major golf-clap - you know my 6/6 LANT/PAC split of SS/SSK dream.
Another proposed area of change is the permanent inclusion of guided-missile submarines (SSGNs) in the U.S. inventory. The advantages inherent in the deployment of these concentrated strike packages either in conjunction with a strike group, or by operating alone are only now being recognized. However, the U.S. Navy has made a mistake along the path to an SSGN force by tying the capability to a back-fit program for Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines. Future guided-missile submarines should be built new as adaptations of the Virginia class, perhaps offsetting the decreased buy of Virginias as the diesel/AIP boats come online.
More yummy stuff. This will be essential to bridge the initial deep strike gap that you will have with fewer CVN and tankers to bring the Light-Attack-Little-Legs carrier aircraft deeper .... though as all TLAM guys know - all the VLS cells in Christendom cannot match the sustained combat power of a gaggle of CVN off an enemy's shore ... SSGNs are good - even if they are not perfect. I'll never see a flight deck of new production F-14D and A-6G - so I will take what I can get.

More goodness follows,
Rampant "next-war-itis" needs to stop, and the Navy needs to commit itself to fighting the very real, and very relevant conflict of today. To be sure, the Navy will need to retain its current, high-end capabilities in such numbers and at such readiness as to dissuade future competitors from entering into conflict with the United States. The data suggest that if the Navy were to pursue a future fleet as described here, with both high- and low-end capabilities in an appropriate ratio, it could have 320 hulls in the water within 12 years for three quarters of the acquisition budget it intends to spend. This represents a net savings of almost five billion dollars a year. Again, I say the Navy needs to buy Fords, not Ferraris.
Bring back Hi-Lo? Yes, Great Caesar's Ghost, Yes!

So, there we go. That reflects some of my thoughts, how 'bout yours? Remember, you don't have to like all or agree with all. CDR Hendrix has a thick skin and the confidence in his informed decisions. Remember, creative friction without conflict.

As a side-bar, let me approach again a topic I brought up at the top of this post. We need more idea and solution pieces like the author's out there to discuss. Closed door processes and blind obedience to personal, not professional, loyalty is what got the Navy to the point it is at now. Aggressive discouragement of thought and publication needs to stop.

CDR Hendrix is the exception - he puts himself out there, not the rule. I tip my hat to him and the chain of command that supports him.

I get email all the time from Active Duty and civilian personnel who state, "I would like to bring this up, but .... " and what follows the "but" is a common story of fear of retribution, or a command/community policy that anything published must be in full alignment with official policy or community diktat.

That is sad, and in spite of Admiral Stavridis' plea, it is a reality in our Navy more often than not. I wish more of our leadership shared Admiral Stavridis' understanding of the critical importance of debate,
The process of reading and writing is important, he said, because the nation faces an “innovative” enemy like the Sept. 11, 2001, attackers and South American smugglers who transport drugs at sea in semisubmersible vessels.

“The most important reason is that the people who want to do harm to this country are doing so,” he said. “They are thinkers.”

Either through published works or through weblogs, the goal is an exchange of ideas, knowledge and information — such as on the participator-driven Wikipedia, he said.

“No one of us is as smart as all of us together,” he said. “
- but they do not - and they let their subordinates know they do not.

We should exchange ideas, and we should take those ideas apart into their constituent parts; feel them, smell them, hold them up to the light. Embrace those that we think fit and are workable, discard the perfect pipe dream, and argue publicly about what may or may not be a good idea. Whatever we do though, we need to publicly talk. More creative frictions without conflict - less Borg-like group think.

Well outside the demands of "Shut Up" we need to talk. We don't do it enough.

I mean absolutely no disrespect with the following, but it tells a story: everyone has their reasons and I do not walk in his Corframs. However, in a time when we are going to violate law on CVN numbers, we have a limited-duty non-multimission Corvette called LCS, a Fleet rotting pierside due to years of bad maintenance and oversight - we have a non-traditional enemy growing at sea and new conventional powers on the rise (just to mention a few challenges) - what do we have the Chief of Naval Operations focused on and
discussing with the Fleet?
While visiting the Annapolis High School Navy Junior ROTC program yesterday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said his top long-term priority is increasing diversity in the officer corps.

In what is believed to be the first-ever visit by a CNO to a high school JROTC program, Roughead told the roughly 90 cadets that the ethnic diversity of the officer corps must parallel the makeup of the fleet.

"If you looked at the Navy, you would say it kind of looked like America - it has the right mix of whites and African Americans and Asians," Roughead said.

But take a closer look at the officer corps, he said, and "you would see the complexion ... change to largely white male."
He isn't just saying that to the kids - I have stood 10 feet from the CNO as he told a room full of Sailors and Marines the same thing. Take that and do with it what you will. I have to work today, I have a very long two-week thingy coming up, and it is too early to drink.

Last note - CDR Hendrix has a book out - give it a look-see - if you noticed, his article is Bu11sh1tBingo free (more or less ;) ) - I would bet you a round at Trader Johns pre-Tailhook his book is even better.

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