Monday, March 2, 2015

Call for (Sharing) Papers and Books: Political Histories of Building a Strong U.S. Navy

Carl Vinson (Image courtesy Library of Congress)
There have been several interesting articles of late that touch on the politics of U.S. naval strength. I’ve discussed the topic with a number of friends and colleagues, and unsurprisingly I’ve heard a wide range of views. One thing I think they’re all in agreement on is that we were clearly approaching a strategic precipice even before the Budget Control Act of 2011.
It strikes me that any political strategy for preserving a strong Navy ought to be informed by how that very strength was politically achieved in the first place. We know that the political path to a global U.S. Navy began with the naval authorization acts of the 1880s and 1890s, was amplified in the ‘second to none’ Naval Act of 1916, and was cemented in Naval Authorization Acts of 1934-1940. I personally can’t say I know much about how the sponsors of these acts or their navalist backers achieved what they did, though.
For example, while it’s well understood that Carl Vinson was the driving political force behind the pre-Second World War U.S. naval rearmament, how exactly did he gain the support of those in other positions of Congressional and Executive power who were necessary for passage? Granted, his efforts benefitted from the fact that President Franklin D. Roosevelt was an unabashed navalist, but Roosevelt was not always fully on board with Vinson’s initiatives. How did he obtain Roosevelt’s active cooperation when possible and Constitutional consent when necessary? What specific roles did the Navy’s leaders of the era play? The media? Advocacy groups? How did global events factor in? Did the general public play any roles, and if so to what degree did navalists reach out to them to obtain their support or otherwise get them engaged?
I find what Vinson achieved in 1934 particularly remarkable. Amidst substantial American political opposition to rearmament and overseas entanglements, Vinson and his Senate counterpart Park Trammell got the first of the major interwar naval authorization acts passed through Congress. It seems likely that selling naval investment as a Great Depression jobs program helped, but it’s not clear to me just how much that offset the arguments of those opposed.
Therefore, if you’ve read (or written) books or journal articles that contribute to answering questions similar to the ones I outlined for any of the aforementioned periods, please share the titles in the comments thread. And if you’re in college or grad school and are searching for historical naval policy topics of great contemporary relevance to write about for coursework—and then perhaps get published—I don’t think you can go wrong exploring the late 19th and early 20th Century political paths to U.S. naval strength.

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.  

Friday, February 27, 2015

Mischaracterizing a Notional Deployment of THAAD in South Korea

Last Friday, Sukjoon Yoon, a senior fellow at the Korea Institute for Maritime Strategy, published an opinion piece in The Diplomat regarding the potential implications of a hypothetical U.S. deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems to South Korea upon relations between Seoul and Beijing. I fully appreciate the political sensitivity of the issue to the South Korean government and have no comments on that aspect. The article was quite enlightening with respect to South Korean political and strategic considerations.

I take issue, though, with how some of THAAD’s capabilities were described and what the Commander of U.S. Forces Korea was alleged to have said about its notional deployment. First, there’s this:
Jane’s Defence Weekly reported in April 2013 that the first THAAD was installed in Guam that month; it is intended to provide early intercept capability for North Korean missiles during their boost or ascent phase.
I can’t find the Jane’s article being cited, but I’d be extremely surprised if it claimed that THAAD units placed in Guam would be able to perform boost or ascent phase intercepts against North Korean ballistic missiles. As noted above, the ‘T’ in THAAD stands for Terminal. It is designed to perform last-ditch, inner-layer intercepts against inbound reentry vehicles or non-separating ballistic missiles. Its coverage footprint is the immediate area surrounding a defended target. I can’t begin to imagine how close you’d have to place a THAAD launcher to a threat ballistic missile launcher in order to perform a boost or ascent phase engagement, and that’s assuming such an engagement was even kinematically possible.
Next there’s this:
Military leaders in Beijing will have noted General Curtis Scaparrotti’s infamous remarks during his keynote speech at a defense-related forum held in Seoul on June 3, 2014. Scaparrotti recommended the deployment of THAAD to South Korea as a superior option to KAMD, citing THAAD’s capability to engage all classes of ballistic missiles and in all phases of their trajectories.
It surprised me greatly to see that a U.S. General allegedly publicly denigrated an ally’s developmental system. Since the General’s speech as posted on his command’s site doesn’t even reference THAAD or KAMD, I have to assume the discussion of the topic came during the question period. So I checked the English-language Korea Herald article used as the linked citation in the above selection. Nowhere did that article attribute such a statement to General Scaparrotti. Instead, the General merely asserted that he had recommended to his leadership that THAAD deployment should be considered—while also adding the caveat that any such deployment would be subject to a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and South Korean governments. This is echoed in English-language reporting by the South Korean press here and here, and by American press here and here. If there’s reporting to support the claim made against the General, it’s definitely not prominently published in English.
Then there’s this:
What has particularly disturbed the Chinese military is the prospect of the U.S. linking individual sensors, interceptors, and communications assets dispersed all around the Asia-Pacific region into a comprehensive and integrated BMD system to interdict Chinese ballistic missiles in the boost and ascent phases of their trajectories. This would allow THAAD to penetrate and severely compromise China’s air defense zone.
Again, THAAD is a terminal phase system. It has no utility outside of BMD missions. How could it even conceivably “penetrate and severely compromise China’s air defense zone?” The only way any notional South Korea-deployed THAAD units could even conceivably be employed against Chinese missiles is if China had already launched missiles at targets in South Korea.
There’s one other set of technical points in the article I want to comment on:
Moreover, THAAD’s range will extend beyond the Korean Peninsula. The coverage provided by the existing sea-based Aegis system will be greatly extended by the planned deployment of AN/TPY-2 radars. These track inbound short- and medium-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs and MRBMs) with a high-resolution X-band (8-12.4 GHz) phased-array sensor system providing a 120-degree azimuth field out to 1,0003,000km, effectively covering the whole of mainland China.
Since it’s clear that the THAAD interceptor could not reach much beyond the Korean Peninsula, the implication of the above is that the system’s greater value to overall U.S. theater BMD would be the AN/TPY-2’s use as a cueing sensor to support remote engagements by other assets. I don’t disagree with that. But the article should have noted that the U.S. would have no monopoly on radars that monitor some volume above or otherwise the approaches to other sovereign countries in East Asia out to several thousand kilometers downrange. The Chinese Over the Horizon-Backscatter (OTH-B) system for maritime surveillance is a primary example. Or, since we’re dealing in hypotheticals, consider the radar coverage if China procures S-400 from Russia. Now that would have real effects on other countries’ air defense zones.
So while I found the author’s political-strategic analyses of the South Korean THAAD question quite interesting, I just don’t see any basis for several of his military-technological arguments…or his assertions regarding General Scaparrotti’s comments.
The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

A Weapon’s Range is not the Whole Story

Illustration of U.S. and threat anti-ship missile ranges from Bryan Clark's CSBA monograph "Commanding the Seas: A Plan to Reinvigorate U.S. Navy Surface Warfare" (pg 13).

The U.S. Navy is clearly at a deficit relative to its competitors regarding anti-ship missile range. This is thankfully changing regardless of whether we’re talking about LRASM, a Tomahawk-derived system, or other possible solutions.
It should be noted, though, that a weapon’s range on its own is not a sufficient measure of its utility. This is especially important when comparing our arsenal to those possessed by potential adversaries. A weapon cannot be evaluated outside the context of the surveillance and reconnaissance apparatus that supports its employment and the overall size of its inventory.
Here’s an example I set up in the endnotes of my article on maritime deception and concealment regarding effective first strike/salvo range at the opening of a conflict:
Optimal first-strike range is not necessarily the same as the maximum physical reach of the longest-ranged weapon system effective against a given target type (i.e., the combined range of the firing platform and the weapon it carries). Rather, it is defined by trade-offs in surveillance and reconnaissance effectiveness and in the number of weapons employable in a short time as the target’s distance from the firing platform’s starting position increases. This means that a potential adversary with a weapon system that can reach distance D from the homeland’s border but can achieve timely and high-confidence peacetime cueing or targeting only within a radius of 0.75D has an optimal first-strike range of 0.75D. It follows that if, for technical, operational, or logistical reasons, the adversary can fire only a few D-range weapons within a defined short period of time, and if his doctrine therefore calls for using D-range weapons in coordination with far more plentiful weapons of range 0.5D, the optimal first-strike range decreases to 0.5D. This does not reduce the dangers faced by the defender at distance D but does offer more flexibility in using force-level doctrine, posture, plans, and capabilities to manage risks.(Pg. 113-114)
The same logic applies following the first strike/salvo, except that the victim of that attack will enjoy much more relaxed rules of engagement for countering the opponent’s surveillance and reconnaissance efforts. In this case, let’s say that Blue possesses a long-range weapon with maximum physical reach of R. Let’s also say that both sides’ anti-scouting efforts inside a given area have neutralized or destroyed surveillance and reconnaissance sensors, not to mention disrupted or degraded sensor-to-network connectivity. Let’s stipulate that Blue’s fraction of R that is covered by high confidence surveillance and reconnaissance is x, and Red’s equivalent fraction of D is y. All other factors being equal, the basic advantage consequently goes to which multiple is greater: Blue’s xR or Red’s yD. Note that if either side's confident surveillance/reconnaissance coverage exceeds their weapons' maximum physical ranges, then that full range can be realized (x or y = 1.0).
The qualities and quantities of sensors, and the architecture and counter-detectability of the (electromagnetic through the air and space, acoustic under the water) data pathways they use to relay their measurements to ‘consumers’ matter just as much as weapon range. Under intense anti-scouting opposition, they arguably matter even more. Remember Wayne Hughes’s maxim: attack effectively first.
Now throw in the inventory-size and salvo-rate considerations on top of the sensing competition. Assuming inventory survivability against attacks is held equal for both sides, if one belligerent has many times more of its long-range weapon than the other belligerent has of its long-range weapon, the former may gain considerable campaign-level advantages over the latter such as greater operational flexibility or greater tolerance for taking operational risks. If one belligerent can salvo off more of its long-range weapon within a short period of time than the other can, then obvious tactical advantages can accrue there as well.
The bottom line is that the question of striking clout is far more complicated than a comparison of range alone. Surveillance/reconnaissance quality and weapons inventory quantity are just as important. The full picture must always be considered.

--Updated 2/26/15 10:32PM based on comments--

The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis, and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Two Cheers for the Secretary of the Navy

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus
Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has an opinion piece up at USNI News that previews his upcoming "posture" appearances on the Hill before the relevant Congressional committees.  There is a lot to like in his words, and he has been using them and others like them increasingly, and with vigor.  Those of us who have waited for the Secretary of the Navy to advocate for the benefits of Seapower had a rough first four years of this Administration, which were capped off with a Presidential debate in which the eventual winner of the race casually dismissed fleet size as a relic of the past.  At times during the first term, it seemed as if Mr. Mabus were more concerned with tangential issues than with the increasing reality of a mismatch between the nation's need for a strong Navy and the Navy it was funding.

To his credit, the past two years of Mr. Mabus' time as Secretary reflect an increasingly effective use of the bully pulpit to proselytize for the benefits of American Seapower; the USNI piece reflects this evolution.  He is spot on when he points out the sorry state of Navy shipbuilding that existed when he came into office, and he is to be commended for his recent realization that when it comes to navies, size DOES matter.

The Evolution of Ray Mabus has been encouraging to watch, and with two years left in this Administration and the likelihood of his being promoted into the Cabinet dwindling, Mr. Mabus has the opportunity to move into the first rank of Navy Secretaries for reasons other than longevity.  He has taken important first steps, but there is more to be done.

First, he must own up to the Navy's dramatically underfunded shipbuilding account.  His prediction of a 300 ship fleet at the end of the decade rests on funding levels that the Navy has not historically received and which it has been unwilling to request.  The 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan is not believable, and it is an open secret.

Second, he must own up to the growing reality that even the unaffordable Navy that is planned is insufficient to the global requirements that are placed upon it.  Put another way, we are dramatically under-funding a Navy that is dramatically smaller than is required.  Someone needs to talk about the Navy we need, not the Navy that current budget allocations can provide for.

Third, the Secretary needs to actively work Capitol Hill.  It is unfortunate for him that during his tenure both chambers have flipped, but the reality is that there are a lot of Members on both sides of the aisle in need of personal attention from the Navy's most eloquent spokesman. There is a massive education effort needed to ensure the Congress understands the link between national power and Seapower, and Mr. Mabus' famous communication skills are needed, not just with members of the four relevant committees.  Whatever his current allocation of time and effort devoted to "managing" the Hill is, it should be doubled.

Finally, he must get personally involved in acquisition discipline.  The carrier program, the enhanced FF, and the Flight III DDG programs are all at a stage where an engaged and interested Secretary can hold feet to the fire to ensure stable designs are developed and change orders are minimized, while ensuring that non-Navy influencers on cost (read: DoD) are managed.  UCLASS, SSBN(X), and the next generation surface combatant will all move forward on his watch, and all could benefit from an engaged and energized Secretary.

I am encouraged by the talk.  Now, let's see the walk.

Bryan McGrath

Heritage Foundation Index of U.S. Military Strength

Dakota Wood and his team at the Heritage Foundation has taken on the task of assessing U.S. Military Strength.  A complete download of the project's report is available here.  Of particular interest to me was the discussion begun on page 251, which includes a deft, understandable (to non-navalists), discussion of why Navy force structure planning is different from the other Services by the very nature of what it is we ask the Navy to do in peace AND war.

Monday, February 23, 2015

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense Weekly Read Board (Navy)

Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Case for Emplacing U.S. Personnel on Allied Ships in the South China Sea

Note from Jon Solomon: The article below was written by my Systems Planning and Analysis colleague, Jonathan Altman, to expand upon an idea he suggested during one of our running discussions on deterrence dynamics. Creating a credible extended deterrence ‘tripwire’ is never a simple task; this is arguably even more so at the low end of the conflict spectrum over maritime sovereignty rights or isolated unpopulated ‘rocks.’ I find Jonathan’s proposal quite interesting on that front, and offer it to you for debate.

In the South China Sea, the Chinese are using a “salami-slicing” approach to incrementally shift the norms and territorial balance to their favor, to the detriment of U.S. allies like the Philippines. Until now, the U.S. response to this challenge has been fairly muted; though calls for more transparency and respect for norms frequently come out of the Obama administration, few if any non-verbal steps have been taken to thwart the Chinese approach. However this need not be the case. The act of emplacing U.S. Government personnel aboard friendly nations’ vessels, perhaps including uniformed members of the armed services, could present a major challenge to current Chinese strategy in the region. I will talk more about why this tactic could be so effective in a later paragraph, but first I’d like to address why the Chinese salami-slicing approach has been so successful, and why other attempts to blunt it have had little effect.
To use the famous framework developed by Herman Kahn, Chinese “salami-slicing” strategy has proved effective because they have created conditions in which they have been able to establish and then sustain escalation dominance. By using fishing boats and other non-military craft to harass our allies, seize property, and increase their claims to land features in the South China Sea, the Chinese have rendered U.S. dominance in conventional arms immaterial. The U.S. cannot plausibly use military force to respond to Chinese uses of non-military power against a treaty ally. Because the US has not been able to respond decisively with tools that match the escalation level of those being employed by the Chinese, U.S. policy responses have been limited to official statements that have had little effect thus far due to the lack of leverage. A demand therefore arises for existing tools that can be easily (and cheaply) employed to symmetrically counter Chinese moves at the lowest rungs of Kahn’s escalation ladder. Though there are more tools beyond emplacing US personnel on friendly vessels, this particular tactic seems like a promising place to start. 
It’s critical to be clear up front; this is not an argument to formally dual-crew an allied ship. The legal framework and rules to enable that approach are simply too complex and ultimately unnecessary to achieve the desired effect. What is being suggested is that the U.S. should consider emplacing small groups of U.S. Coast Guard personnel or even other maritime agency personnel (such as U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials) as ‘observers’ or ‘advisers’ aboard allies’ maritime law enforcement vessels, and military personnel aboard allied warships or military patrol aircraft. These personnel should principally be armed with cameras, and their purposes would be twofold. First, raise the stakes on Chinese aggression in the region. It is an entirely different calculation to conduct dangerous maneuvers against a Philippine patrol vessel with U.S. Government personnel on board. The Chinese seem comfortable pushing around smaller neighbors knowing that these nations have little recourse beyond lengthy (and largely ineffective) public and private diplomatic complaints. This calculation becomes much different if Chinese strategists were presented with the risk of threatening American lives (whether by ramming or other action) and thereby upsetting a more powerful nation to achieve the same effects. Think back to the Cold War; American soldiers in West Germany were not reasonably expected to defeat a Soviet incursion, but their presence ensured American casualties—which therefore committed American prestige. The ‘tripwire’ forces along the Central European front therefore committed the U.S. to mobilization and retaliation against any Soviet offensive. The same principle applies with American personnel aboard allied platforms.
The second purpose of emplacing American personnel would be to document Chinese transgressions. Even if the mere presence of American personnel does not deter all Chinese actions, providing a direct and timely conduit to the most expansive media networks in the world would likely cause a rethinking of strategy in Beijing. Since the Chinese have chosen to keep action in the South China Sea low on the escalation ladder, global public perceptions of Chinese behavior and Chinese plausible deniability of illegality remain important. If all of a sudden every Chinese transgression made its way onto CNN complete with a verified video account, it seems reasonable to believe that perceptions of China worldwide would be adversely affected, and that the chorus of world opinion might begin to bring uncomfortable attention on their actions as well as a loss of stature.
The intended effect of emplacing U.S. personnel aboard allied vessels ideally should be twofold. First, help our allies by lowering their risk of operations (such as resupplying isolated garrisons) and assuring them that the U.S. is a stalwart friend. Second, negate Chinese escalation dominance by forcing them to confront Americans in order to achieve their ends. This would force them into a choice between moving to higher level rungs on the escalation ladder and therefore incurring a greater risk of conflict with the U.S., or backing off. Whatever course they chose, their incremental approach would be dealt a setback.
Jonathan Altman is a Program Analyst with Systems Planning and Analysis, Inc. who holds a Master’s Degree in International Security from the Korbel School at the University of Denver. The views expressed herein are solely those of the author and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the official positions of Systems Planning and Analysis Inc., and to the author’s knowledge do not reflect the policies or positions of the U.S. Department of Defense, any U.S. armed service, or any other U.S. Government agency.

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