Friday, October 24, 2014
Thursday, October 23, 2014
The following contribution comes from Peter Dombrwski, Strategic Research Department at the Naval War College.
As an observer and occasional participant in the naval strategy development process for more than fifteen years, I am puzzled by two trends found in the recent writings of officers, scholars, and analysts interested in naval strategy. First are the calls for the principal professional schools for naval officers to produce more strategists. Second are the criticisms that the Navy and the Marine Corps do not have a worthy strategy. Neither criticism seems particularly well suited to resolving underlying problem: the need for sustaining well-prepared naval forces to protect US national interests in the maritime realm.
In the interest of furthering both strategic thinking AND ongoing debates about the role of strategists and strategy in the naval services have several questions:
The Number of Naval Strategists
- Do the naval services actually need more officers who are by nature, education, and experience?
- Has the Navy used those strategists it has developed over the last several decades well?
How many billets require naval strategists acting as naval strategists vice strategists more broadly defined?
- Are the programs at the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College (or other institutions of professional military education) capable of educating officers in ways that will allow them to be successful as strategists?
- Are the existing specialized programs for developing strategists at the Naval Postgraduate School and the Naval War College scalable?
- Do we know whether or not these programs, however well intended, actually produce officers with the intellectual skills and background to help the naval services produce better strategy?
- What if naval strategy is inhibited by bureaucratic, organizational and cultural weaknesses rather than a shortfall of intelligent, educated, and motivated strategist-officers?
- Will the Navy personnel system ensure that newly minted strategists will be placed in the billets that both require strategists and use their unique background?
- What happens if these strategists attempt to exercise independent judgments and critical analytics skills in ways that run contrary to Fleet, OPNAV and/or USMC HQ preferences?
The Quality of Existing Naval Strategy
- Is the ability of the USN and the USMC to fulfill their responsibilities for defending the United States and serving the full range of national interests hindered by bad strategy?
- If so, how do we know this?
- Is it essential that the Navy and the Marine Corps (or for that matter the military service services) have separate and distinct strategies from the wide range of national level strategy documents?
- Have any of the strategic visions produced since the (in)famous Maritime Strategy of the 1980s fit even the most basic definitions of strategy taught in our war colleges?
- Has the current strategic vision A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century led naval programmers and operators to make serious changes in naval acquisition programs, research and development funding, or operation plans?
- If not, why should we expect that a new, presumably better or more up-to-date strategy to lead to changes in the future?
- Can the Navy and the Marine Corps overcome institutional and cultural impediments to developing effective strategies that serve both service and national interests?
- If so, what needs to be done?
For the record, I know many dedicated officers, civil servants and strategists who are working at this very moment to provide useful answers to many of the questions raised above. Reforms are already in the works. Yet, if we look back at the last several decades of naval strategizing it is hard to avoid the conclusion that we have seen this all before.
There was a recent entry on War is boring which later got published on business insider talking about trouble that China is having with engine compartment of CV-16 in recent sea trials. As usual, such articles created a lot of debates on Chinese military forums.
Now, I have actually watched the original CCTV news report that this story is based on. It mentioned that CV-16 has just completed 6 months of maintenance and overhaul at Dalian shipyard before going out to sea again. The report focused on the electrical department of CV-16. Traditionally, it has been customary of Chinese news reports to interview naval personnel, talk about one challenge they had to deal with to give audience an idea of the challenges facing these sailors and then emphasize how their great works saved the ship or mission. These kind of new reports are common and are tools used to foster patriotism in the population. So in this particular praise, this news report was trying to praise the works of the electrical department of CV-16 and give the impression to Chinese population that the Chinese navy is making great progress with its historical mission. In reality, any real life and death scenario would probably be considered confidential and never reported on Chinese news.
Back to the war is boring article, it appears to me the author does not understand the context of such news report. He summarized that China is having a lot of problems with CV-16 and especially with its engines. What we do know is that Chinese navy is at its infancy when it comes to naval aviation and working hard to improve capabilities. We also know that while CV-16 has spent a lot of times at shipyard, it has also spent a lot of times in the ocean. Currently, it has been out on sea trials for 50 days after 6 months at shipyard. Even the most competent navy USN could have engine problems on a long deployment, because complex machines like the naval propulsion systems do breakdown. So it is completely expected that CV-16 would suffer breakdowns on various subsystems while on sea trials or deployment. We know that the problem was identified and fixed quickly without delaying take off/landing training of that day. That tells us the mishap was not major. The original news report was trying to show the head of electrical department is good at identifying problems in his department and working to fix them while at sea. These are all good signs for Chinese navy going forward. That is not a surprise, since these reports are meant as positive propaganda for the population. The irony of this story is that real problems with CV-16 power plant would never get reported on CCTV.
So I think this shows that a lot of experience and cultural knowledge is needed to decipher Chinese military news. Since PLA is still lacking transparency compared to most military around the world and most of their articles are in Chinese, English articles talking about news reports coming out of China often lacks understanding and context of the original article. Depending on the bias of the author, we could get different interpretation which could either sound fear mongering or overly dismissive. Real honest truth about problems facing Chinese navy is not easy to find in the midst of their modernization and building boom. One can decipher problems facing certain programs from delays in construction and commissioning. One can also decipher problems based on the subsystems used on certain ships. And finally, some insiders are candid on Chinese forums about the issues facing Chinese navy. Contrary to popular belief, the Chinese navy does not have unlimited budget. A lot of its decisions are financially related just like they are for USN.
Posted by Feng at 4:57 PM
Earlier this year, the CNO released his 2015-2019 Navigation Plan, a document that I wrote about elsewhere. In that review, I wrote:
"The Navy stands today at 290 ships in its “deployable battle force”. With these ships, it strains to fill two combat power hubs (Arabian Gulf/Indian Ocean and Western Pacific) and provide mission tailored forces wherever else they are needed. The plain truth is that even this number is insufficient, and the mechanism of necessity for mitigating this insufficiency remains extending deployment lengths. Late in the Cold War, the Navy arrived at a six month deployment standard, which it believed was essential to retaining the talent that had “voted with its feet” during the routine eight and nine month deployments of the Vietnam era. Yet just last week, the CARL VINSON Carrier Strike Group set out from the West Coast on its scheduled ten month deployment. This is not an aberration. Eight months has become the new goal, one that is regularly exceeded."
There exists in the brain of a much better mathematician than I a formula to describe the relationship among the following variables (not inclusive): number of ships, operational availability, requirements for those ships, and deployment length. Generally speaking, in order to control deployment length--or as in this example, reduce it--one could increase the number of ships in the fleet, get more time deployed per hull (operational availability) by a number of different measures, or reduce requirements.
The six month standard adhered to during the late Cold War and after is now a thing of the past, a victim of too small a fleet spread across too large a number of requirements. Deployment length has been inching up for over a decade, tracking inversely with the size of the fleet, and the news is replete with stories like the one I cited above, in which the CARL VINSON Strike Group was deploying on a scheduled ten-month deployment.
Which brings us to yesterday's Navy Times story in which the CNO stated during an All Hands Call that lengthy eight-month deployments are no longer sustainable, and seven-month deployments are achievable, pointing to the recently announced Optimized Fleet Response Plan model which has already gotten off to a rough start.
It occurs to me that somewhere between Fleet Forces Command and the CNO's Office, a spreadsheet and PowerPoint tandem exist that depicts a situation in which if all the cosmic tumblers clicked into place, this would be an achievable goal. Yet such a brief would be the only place in nature that such a plan would work--on paper. The assumptions that support such a lock-step view of the future are sure to vary, and some of the assumptions made from the beginning are subject to great scrutiny.
The first is the size of the fleet. It is virtually certain that the Navy's 30 Year Shipbuilding Plan and its goal of a 306 ship Navy underpins the OFRP, yet without a considerable increase in shipbuilding resources above historical allocations, the 306 ship Navy is unaffordable (as discussed in the article of mine linked to above). Not to put too fine a point on it, but the current 290 ship Navy is unaffordable without an increase in shipbuilding resources. Put another way, without a change in resources, the fleet will get smaller than it is today, seriously jeopardizing the CNO's goal.
The second is operational availability. While the Navy is doing visionary things with forward stationing LCS in Singapore, DDG's in Rota, and eventually Amphibs in Australia (each of which increases THOSE HULLS' operational availability) the price to do so includes significant hits to the readiness of non-deployed units as a result of deferred and canceled maintenance. In doing so, the aggregate fleet operational availability likely remains flat at best and more likely declines. Put another way, not only is the fleet getting smaller, it is becoming less available, as forward deployed readiness will increasingly come at the cost of non-deployed and surge readiness.
The third assumption worth scrutiny is that the demand for naval forces remains stable. While I have no insight into whether this assumption was made, it occurs to me to be logical. Until it isn't anymore. Our existing force structure inadequately services the existing demand for naval forces, and as that fleet declines in numbers, it will be harder pressed to meet those demands. Yet China is rising, Iran is flexing, and the Mediterranean is roiling. It is not difficult to conjure up a situation in which demand for naval forces increases at the very time budgetary pressures create fewer resources to meet it.
Unfortunately, the prospects for success in meeting the CNO's goal are dim, but more is at stake than just an overextended Service Chief. The Navy is fraying, and it is no longer simply around the edges. It is too small to meet the current demand from its two-hub construct, even as that two hub construct reveals itself to be half-again too small to adequately protect and sustain American interests. The Navy must AT A MINIMUM be properly resourced to meet its current force structure's needs while it constructs and argues the case to grow to meet easily foreseeable increases in demand in the future.
Posted by The Conservative Wahoo at 10:50 AM
Candidate Principle #4: A Network’s Operational Geometry Impacts its Defensibility
While this area may extend from the seabed to earth orbit, and could easily have a surface footprint measuring in the hundreds of thousands of square miles, it would nonetheless be relatively localized within the scheme of the overall combat zone. If the force employs robustly-layered physical defenses, and especially if its networking lines through the air or water feature highly-directional line-of-sight communications systems where possible or LPI transmission techniques where appropriate, the adversary’s task of positioning assets such that they can reliably discover let alone exploit the force’s electromagnetic or acoustic communications pathways becomes quite difficult. The ideal force operating on interior lines of networking avoids use of space-based data relay assets with predictable orbits and instead relies primarily upon agile, unpredictably-located airborne relays.[ii] CEC and tactical C2 systems whose participants exclusively lie within a maneuvering force’s immediate operating area are examples of tools that enable interior lines of networking.
This can vastly simplify an adversary’s task of positioning cyber-electromagnetic exploitation assets. For example, the lines of communication linking a field-deployed force with distant entities often rely upon fixed or predictably-positioned relay assets with extremely wide surface footprints. Similarly, those that connect the force with rear-echelon entities generally require connections to fixed-location networking infrastructure on land or under the sea. Theater-level C2 systems, national or theater-level sensor systems, intelligence ‘reachback’ support systems, remotely-located data fusion systems, and rear echelon logistical services that directly tap into field-deployed assets’ systems in order to provide remote-monitoring/troubleshooting support are examples of resources available to a force operating on exterior lines of networking.